AL Wild Card Series Game 2: The Ray Game

marc w · October 8, 2022 at 10:29 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Robbie Ray vs. Kevin Gausman, 1:07pm

Well, Game 1 could not have possibly gone any better. Luis Castillo has been good for the M’s since the trade, but the kind of performance he had yesterday is exactly why you trade so many prospects for him. In the playoffs, on the road, against one of the best line-ups in baseball, Castillo stole the show. He had everything working, and utterly destroyed the Jays spirit. I will remember the sinker running in that got Vlad Guerrero Jr. swinging *while also nearly hitting him in the gut* for the rest of my life. This is the kind of game that makes fans for generations, and justifies the focus on the playoff drought. Even I have been a bit dismissive about ending the drought through a newly-expanded wild card while the team’s line-up still isn’t elite. This felt like sneaking in the back door as opposed to winning 100 games and running away with the AL West. But yesterday reminded me that the playoffs are the playoffs – every game is capable of delivering the kind of instant-classic, memorable performance we just saw. It’s been a focus of M’s fans because we’ve never had the possibility of a player going thermo-nuclear on some unsuspecting opponent.

On the other side of the coin, the M’s *clearly* didn’t read my post about Alek Manoah’s contact management. They hit him hard, and often. But in all honesty, the game was over at the end of the first inning. The M’s scored three in the top, and then Castillo calmly brushed aside the Jays in the bottom of the inning, and that ended up being that. How did the M’s jump out to that early lead? It felt oddly…familiar. Manoah’s slider was working yesterday, as seen in the three-pitch K of Julio Rodriguez. But in the first, it was a weapon he generally kept holstered. By the end of the game, he’d thrown 29 sliders, more than any other pitch type. But in the first, he really attempted that age-old pitching advice that rings a little different for long-time readers here: he tried to Establish the Fastball. He had lead-off man Julio Rodriguez with two strikes, and hadn’t thrown him a slider. What did he do? He threw a sinker up that ran in and hit Julio on the hand. He got France on a breaker, but then Suarez hit a fastball 103 MPH into right for a double. Cal Raleigh lofted a fastball out to right right for an instant 3 run lead, before Manoah got Haniger to ground out on a fastball, then struck out Santana…on a fastball.

He made the adjustment, and went to the slider more often, and had generally good results. I’m still pretty amazed by this. The M’s line-up isn’t great, but they can do one thing: hit fastballs. Sure, Julio and Suarez have been good against sinkers, and Julio in particular is better than average against breaking stuff, but the overall team lives on fastballs. This is the kind of approach that, had it worked, would’ve been lauded – “He doesn’t care about the other team’s strengths, he’s just focused on his own game plan,” or “He wanted to shove it down their throats,” or some other aggressive cliche. But it backfired big time, and now the Jays are a game away from elimination.

Today, they’ll send second ace Kevin Gausman to the hill. Gausman’s splitter is every bit the weapon that Manoah’s slider is, and I don’t think he’s going to shelve it early, no matter what the pitching coach’s advice may be. Gausman is a three-pitch guy, with a four-seam fastball that’s got some armside run, a show-me slider with plenty of gyro spin and thus not a ton of movement, and that big, diving 85 mph splitter with the armside run of a sinker, but the drop of a breaking ball. As you probably know, the splitter is my favorite pitch type, and Gausman shows why: it induces a swing over 61% of the time, even though he throws it at and under the bottom of the strike zone. There are many ways to become an effective major league pitcher, but among the easiest is somehow getting major league batters to swing at balls out of the zone. Gausman is among the best in the game at this. Batters swing and miss at about 45% of these splitters, and are *slugging* .293 against it. When they put it in play, the average ball in play comes out at 83 mph.

So with all of those swings at out-of-zone pitches, surely Gausman benefits from a low BABIP, right? Ha ha, no. Well, he did in his 2021 renaissance in San Francisco, but his BABIP this year is an unreal .363. Among qualified starters, that’s the highest by 35 points (his teammate Jose Berrios is second at .328). You can probably guess what his problem has been – that four-seam fastball he throws about 1/2 the time. Park factors are useful, but there are some times I think they can vastly underestimate an impact on an individual player. Gausman’s fastball doesn’t LOOK any different than the one he had in San Francisco. It’s actually coming in slightly faster, with fractionally more rise. It’s just not working the same, as batters have a .371 wOBA against it this year, a far sight from last season’s .335. Batters are swinging a bit more often, and putting the pitch in play slightly more often, and from there, the park can help them out. Moving from San Francisco to Toronto is one of the more extreme park effect shifts a player can make, and it’s been costly for Gausman. Batters exit velo on fastballs is up over 2 MPH from 2021 to 2022. No, his home park is not the only reason why his BABIP is sky high, but it is definitely A factor, and it’s one I hope the M’s can use to their advantage today, just as they did to Manoah. It’s fun to hit in Toronto, and I want the M’s to have a lot of fun.

1: Julioooooo, CF
2: France, 1B
3: Suarez, 3B
4: Raleigh, C
5: Haniger, RF
6: Frazier, 2B
7: Santana, DH
8: Kelenic, LF
9: Crawford, SS

Because of that devilish splitter, Gausman has pronounced reverse splits this year. Lefties have a .258 OBP against Gausman in 2022, with righties way up at .328. Righties success in general is a big reason why Gausman’s struggled with balls in play this year. Righties had a .262 BABIP last year, but it’s at *.399* this season. I had to read that three times before feeling confident that it was correct. If you’re wondering why the line-up is essentially unchanged, and because Raleigh’s a switch hitter, features five straight righties at the top? Well, that’s why.

As I mentioned in the series preview, this is the biggest game of the series. If Ray can put a quality start together in a somewhat unfavorable match-up, the M’s are moving on. I don’t mind the match-up tomorrow with what looks like Logan Gilbert going up against Ross Stripling, and Castillo’s gem has turned down the pressure on the M’s. But with momentum on their side, I certainly wouldn’t mind the M’s throttling the Jays today and saving Gilbert for round 2.


26 Responses to “AL Wild Card Series Game 2: The Ray Game”

  1. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 3:14 pm

    Comong in late… doesn’t look like Toronto had any problem solving Ray, unfortunately.

  2. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 4:29 pm

    Good time to get that first postseason hit, Crawford!

  3. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 4:31 pm

    I did NOT see this Mariners team overcoming an 8-run deficit to tie this game!

    Hope the two Jays aren’t badly hurt though.

  4. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 4:35 pm

    With that intentional walk … now I REALLY want Julio to score!

  5. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 4:59 pm

    10-9 now! Wow!

  6. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:01 pm

    Yeah yeah yeah!

  7. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:01 pm

    Marc, Fangraphs, pretty much everyone mentioned that the one area the Mariners are unarguably better than Toronto is in the bullpen. This game certainly supports that idea.

  8. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:05 pm

    Based loaded… wow.

  9. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:05 pm

    How about a little more insurance here?

  10. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:06 pm

    Cimber may walk in a little more insurance… haha.

  11. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:07 pm

    It’s kind of annoying that the radio broadcast stream is consistently lagging Gameday by 30-60 seconds.

  12. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:10 pm


  13. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:12 pm

    They really want to win this game, apparently. But I’m surprised to see Kirby, too.

    Apparently Randy Johnson wasn’t available. 😛

  14. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:13 pm

    Joined late … didn’t realize how much of the pen they burned through.

  15. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:20 pm

    One out away!!

  16. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:20 pm

    Kirby is battlin’ … making me sweat!

  17. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:21 pm

    What a comeback! Holy cow!

  18. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:22 pm


  19. Westside guy on October 8th, 2022 5:22 pm


  20. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:22 pm

    Houston, here we come!

  21. eponymous coward on October 8th, 2022 5:42 pm

    It just continues…

  22. kmsandrbs on October 8th, 2022 5:47 pm

    According to FanGraphs, Blue Jays had a 99.2% win probability near the end of the 5th … and over 90% still in the top of the 8th!

  23. LongDistance on October 8th, 2022 10:48 pm

    My oh my…… ?

  24. LongDistance on October 9th, 2022 12:29 am

    Meant: !!!!

    Feels so good, although I don’t think people should be mouth on the floor amazed that the M’s could beat the Jays in 2022, regardless of stats.

    Although that game … absolutely speechless……

    Go M’s !

  25. EnglishMariner on October 9th, 2022 5:09 am

    I hope somewhere Derek and Dave are smiling

  26. Westside guy on October 9th, 2022 3:57 pm

    @EnglishMariner – I believe Dave is actually employed by the Mariners now… so I imagine he is smiling.

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