Game 36, Mariners at Blue Jays

marc w · May 16, 2022 at 3:18 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Chris Flexen vs. Yusei Kikuchi, 4:07pm

The M’s head to Toronto to continue their swing through the east, but crossing the border means some teammates have to be left behind. The M’s had rearranged their rotation to give Robbie Ray the start in yesterday’s game in New York, and now we know why. Ray won’t be with the team for this series, and hasn’t been placed on the restricted list. Apparently, MLB was worried that teams would game things to essentially allow them to gain an extra player when facing Toronto, so starters who’ve pitched within the last 4 games aren’t eligible to be on the list. But as a reliever, Drew Steckenrider *was* eligible, and to the restricted list he goes. That move allows the M’s to add a pitcher, and they’ve done so by recalling old friend Roenis Elias from Tacoma.

Elias hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2019, and has spent the past two seasons hurt, but was off to a…perfectly decent start in Tacoma. I don’t think they’ll keep him around, but he’s depth and a known quantity, so it makes sense. But what about Ray? How did he avoid the vaccine while pitching in Toronto last year? Apparently, there was a waiver for professional athletes and others in Canada that expired on January 1st of 2022. That kind of makes sense, and shows why 2021 was a different story than 2020, when the Jays had to play elsewhere.

Today’s game allows the M’s to check in on yet another old friend, today’s Jays starter, Yusei Kikuchi. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Kikuchi’s looked good, averaging 95. He’s throwing a lot of his slider, and slightly less of his hard cutter. He’s striking out more than a batter an inning. Aaaand he’s still struggling with actual runs coming across, with 15 given up in 26 innings. In a weird inversion of his Seattle tenure, his ERA isn’t too bad, though 4.15 isn’t what it used to be with baseball’s run scoring deflation. But his FIP continues to rise, this time more due to control issues than his old bugaboo of the long ball.

The Jays as a team are in something of a weird spot. Some elements of their plan have worked: Kevin Gausman would get plenty of Cy Young votes if the season ended today, Vlad Guerrero is hitting, Santiago Espinal is breaking out. But others aren’t: they didn’t get the good version of Matt Chapman, apparently, and Kikuchi may need more than a change of scenery. They’re not a bad team, but they are seriously underperforming, and with the Yankees running away with things and the Rays still…the Rays, they need to break out of that rut quickly.

So, when Kikuchi first came to Seattle, he featured a curve as his third pitch, and it occasionally looked solid – you may recall him freezing Joey Votto on one in his first spring. The results on the pitch sucked in 2019, but, well, they kind of did on his fastball, too. But in any event, he came back the next year with new mechanics and plenty more velo. But he never threw that curve again. Since that time, his slider has looked great occasionally, and bad at times (like now). Same with the cutter. I just don’t know why he hasn’t tried it again, especially as part of the problem with it originally was that he had a much shorter stride while throwing it. The stride length thing was fixed in 2020, but the curve remains MIA.

1: Toro, 2B
2: France, 1B
3: Crawford, SS
4: Rodriguez, CF
5: Winker, LF
6: Suarez, 3B
7: Torrens, C
8: Souza, DH
9: Moore, RF
SP: Flexen


4 Responses to “Game 36, Mariners at Blue Jays”

  1. Stevemotivateir on May 16th, 2022 5:38 pm

    If they wanted Adam Frazier to have a day off because he was due for a break, fine. But I really hope they weren’t just trying to stack RHHs against Kikuchi. Frazier has hit LHPs. Toro hasn’t really hit anybody.

  2. Stevemotivateir on May 16th, 2022 5:51 pm

    It probably sounds stupid that I would even question the lineup. Surely this wasn’t some stubborn old-school decision, right?

    Thing is, he had the 9th off and the 12th was an off day. Unless there is a nagging injury or soreness/stiffness/whatever, it’s hard to understand the need for a break.

    Anyway, it’s 2-0 Toronto and not a lot happening offensively apart from Winker’s double, so I’m nitpicking.

  3. bookbook on May 17th, 2022 4:39 am

    Difficult to root for players who haven’t been vaccinated at this point.

  4. Stevemotivateir on May 17th, 2022 7:03 am

    Abraham Toro has a lower OBP than Jarred Kelenic.

    He doesn’t strike out much, but he’s not cutting it.

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