ALDS Game 3: Astros AT Mariners – Welcome Home

marc w · October 15, 2022 at 10:40 am · Filed Under Mariners 

George Kirby vs. Lance McCullers, Jr., 1:07pm

Playoff baseball in Seattle. It’s been a while. Given how the first two games have gone, there’s not a ton of optimism regarding the series, but the thrill of having a game like this at home will make this a party and give the M’s some much-needed home field advantage.

So, before the first game, I went through some keys to the series. The first had to do with Yorda- okay, no. I don’t want to talk about that, and I think we’re all Yordaned out at the moment. I’d say put it to the side, but we all know it’s looming over everything. Damn it. Ok, the second concerned bullpens, and this has been the story of the series thus far, or, at least, it WOULD be if we weren’t talking about that one guy (I try to not talk about it, but it’s just THERE, in everything). The M’s have had chances against the Astros all-righty pen, but they haven’t been able to break through. The next key was free passes, and neutralizing the Astros exceptional patience. By and large, the M’s have done this – they’ve won this competition. They drew SEVEN walks against the Astros in game 2, and while the Astros only gave up 1 in game 1, that’s just because the M’s racked up so many hits. The M’s are NOT making it easier on the Astros by putting them on, and it’s a big reason why the series has been so close.

That would figure to continue today with George Kirby on the mound. Kirby’s stinginess with free passes is a huge part of his success, and his K:BB ratio is elite because of it. Like his rotation mate Logan Gilbert, he’ll give up his share of hard contact, but he will make you hit your way on base. That trade-off, that combination of hard contact but no walks, plays perfectly in T-Mobile park, where the hit-suppressing park makes him somehow even more aggressive with the strikezone. It is not, however, a panacea. His HR rate was higher at home, where he yielded 9 of his 13 HRs.

And that brings us to a key to this pitching match-up, and the 4th key to the series: platoon advantages. George Kirby has been much, much better against LEFT handed batters in his first 130 MLB innings. He’s given up 9 of his 13 HRs to RIGHT handers, though it must be said he’s given up all of one home run since June. Why would a guy like Kirby have reverse splits? The answer lies not in his four-seam fastball, which is deadly to righties and plenty effective against lefties. Instead, something weird is going on with his breaking balls – a slider and a curve. Both remain works in progress, and the lack of a wipe-out breaker has limited his ceiling somewhat. But they haven’t limited his effectiveness against lefties. Lefties have 13 total bases off Kirby’s breakers and have struck out on them 17 times; they’re hitting under .150 on them, combined.

Now, he’s not getting them to swing and miss. His best swing-and-miss pitch remains, bizarrely, his fastball, and that’s true for righties as well as lefties. But lefties can’t do anything when they put his breaking balls in play. Meanwhile, righties – who SHOULD struggle against them – are slugging over .600 on them, with 6 HRs. Against this line-up, Kirby needs to be aware of this, and pitch accordingly. He’s always relied heavily on his fastball, and he needs to stick with it to right-handers and be stingy with the breaking balls he throws them. Again: make the Altuves and Bregmans hit their way on, and trust that his fastball’s good enough to get those guys out. Against lefties, everything’s fair game. Give Alvarez and Tucker plenty of sliders and mix in some curves. We talked about Logan Gilbert’s reverse splits before game 1, and I think Gilbert did a solid job for the most part, really only one bad pitch to….:sigh:

Lance McCullers offers another view on how to beat platoon advantages. As a righty with a low 3/4 delivery, McCullers *should* have wide splits. His sweeping, diving curve helped minimize them when he came up, but it’s worth remembering that McCullers is very, very different from the essentially two-pitch guy he was back from 2015-2018. After returning from injury this year, he features a sinker, sweeping slider with tons of horizontal movement, and a slower curve – each of these pitches are thrown about 25% of the time. The balance is a change and a newfangled cutter, both of which he reserves for lefties. Why does a sinker/slider guy with his arm angle have reverse splits this year, and indeed for his entire career? Because against lefties, he’s not a sinker/slider guy at all.

McCullers has had problems with his sinking fastball this year, and the M’s need to jump on it when they get one. Batters are hitting over .400 on his sinker this year, and it’s been trending that way for a while – it was easily his worst pitch last year. So when a left-hander’s in the batter’s box, McCullers just…doesn’t throw it. For all of its nuance and complexity, sometimes baseball can be simple to understand. Against righties, he’s overwhelmingly a sinker/slider guy – a slider/sinker guy, actually. Against lefties, he has a completely different approach, throwing curves half the time, and then mixing in change-ups and cutters. He threw all of three curveballs to righties this year, and nearly 200 to lefties.

The curve has always been effective against lefties, but he added a sweeper to be better against right-handers – and it’s worked. RHBs are slugging .234 off of it over the past two seasons. The M’s right-handers need to take advantage of the sinkers he gives them, and the left-handers need to be patient. That wouldn’t work against Justin Verlander, and thankfully, their aggressive approach paid off. They DID need to make Framber Valdez throw strikes, and they worked three big walks off of him in less than 5 IP, setting up an early lead. McCullers has always been wild, with pitches that move and dive out of the zone. They need to swing at strikes, and they know it. McCullers doesn’t induce swings very much – he’s the anti-Kirby in that respect. Get in good counts, M’s.

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

With McCullers coming off of injury, I’d expect we’ll see another 4 IP from the Astros bullpen. The day off may have helped them recover, but the M’s bats need to do something especially now that they’ve seen many of these guys before. On the M’s side of things, I’m kind of at a loss; I’d still give Andres Munoz high leverage innings, but I no longer feel confident about it. Paul Sewald will probably still get to pitch, but I think he’ll be used early, as he was in Toronto. We haven’t seen Erik Swanson yet, but I think Matt Brash might get a later-inning, higher-leverage appearance today.

I’m very jealous of all of you with tickets who can go and make T-Mobile loud. Playoff baseball really is special, and even despite the best efforts of that one guy in a Houston jersey, it’s been exhilarating to watch.


44 Responses to “ALDS Game 3: Astros AT Mariners – Welcome Home”

  1. Stevemotivateir on October 15th, 2022 12:22 pm

    I’ll be drinking Ginja & beer (separately) and playing board games while watching the game with a buddy from Germany and three cats.

    I can’t be there, but this is a solid alternative plan.

  2. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 12:42 pm

    I’ll hopefully be watching from Washington DC (wink wink nudge nudge).

  3. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 1:05 pm

    Un-freaking-believable. It’s not enough to have an subscription, you have to have a TBS subscription to watch this game?!

    Sometimes it seems like MLB as an entity is actively trying to destroy itself.

  4. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 1:21 pm

    I’ve said it before, but the 1+ minute lag of the radio stream when compared to the live status on Gameday is highly annoying. There’s no good technical reason that has to be the case.

    Given how the stream seems to “catch up” to GameDay as the inning goes on, I’m pretty sure it’s an intentional decision made to squeeze two more advertisements into the stream.

  5. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 1:51 pm

    It’s good that they’re taking walks, but they’re still having trouble bringing those baserunners home.

    I’m a bit concerned this umpire’s bad strike zone judgement may impact the final result.

  6. Goob on October 15th, 2022 1:54 pm

    At least Kirbs is dealing!

  7. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 1:55 pm

    For sure – Kirby is nails! And I am definitely feeling good about the team’s future.

  8. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 2:26 pm

    Phew! Escaped a jam there.

    Come on guys, but a couple runs on the board!

  9. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 2:55 pm

    Damn. I really hoped Julio would knock one out of the ballpark there.

  10. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 3:24 pm

    Scattered 6 hits through 7, no walks, no runs, good game for Kirby … but some offense would be, you know, a good idea …

  11. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 3:24 pm

    Oh man, Kirby is pitching an awesome game. Let’s get him some runs, guys!! He deserves a win.

    (haha a good idea indeed, @kmsandrbs)

  12. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 3:39 pm

    Okay, it worked that time … but can we please not pitch to Alvarez the rest of the game?

  13. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 3:54 pm

    Allright France, let’s make that double count!

    Sigh. Or not.

  14. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 3:56 pm

    DAMN. Another opportunity wasted.

  15. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 4:11 pm

    And another challenge overcome … sheesh.

    Just 1, M’s. JUST. ONE.

  16. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 4:12 pm

    Another escape!

    Okay bottom of the ninth – COME ON!!

  17. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 4:27 pm

    Ugh. I didn’t need a pitcher’s duel right now.

  18. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 4:29 pm

    Walk. Alvarez.

    Sigh. Okay. Playing with fire.

  19. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 4:54 pm

    Oh man, this game is exhausting. Great, but exhausting.

  20. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 4:58 pm

    Ugh. Yeah. Still JUST. ONE.

  21. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 5:02 pm

    Who’s our long reliever in this situation, and when do we put him in?

  22. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 5:11 pm

    Robbie Ray haha

  23. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 5:32 pm

    I know Gameday isn’t perfectly accurate, but I can’t figure out this ump’s strike zone.

  24. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 5:35 pm

    @kmsandrbs – neither can the broadcasters. Rizz, Blowers, and Goldsmith have made a number of remarks about the bad calls against both teams.

  25. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 5:36 pm

    PLEASE guys – just one run!!

  26. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 5:37 pm

    Maybe we should have brought Swanson in in Game 1 …

    And Hero Julio would have a nice ring to it!

  27. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 5:52 pm

    Let’s make it count!

  28. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 6:14 pm

    We really don’t need the record for longest postseason game …

  29. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 6:32 pm

    Maybe they should rethink that “no runner on second at the start of extra innings in the playoffs” decision. 😀

  30. Shizane on October 15th, 2022 6:54 pm

    This is crazy! Wish we didnt have 3 black holes in our lineup but we’ll ride these horses as far as we can.

  31. Shizane on October 15th, 2022 6:57 pm

    We need a Stevemotivateir from germany….if he is watching at 4am, we can summon the energy to rally!

  32. Shizane on October 15th, 2022 7:01 pm

    We need some dmz, jmb, or dave c magic here!

  33. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 7:04 pm

    Well, back from the store with eggs … surprise! The score hasn’t changed …

  34. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 7:08 pm

    Taking side bets … whose going to finish their game first, the Astros/Ms or Cleveland/NY?

  35. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 7:09 pm

    And since we are getting two ballgames worth of innings (at least), the eventual winner gets two wins, right? 🙂

  36. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 7:12 pm

    Well, there goes the shutout … now for the glorious comeback!

  37. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 7:13 pm

    Uh oh.

  38. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 7:14 pm

    Sheesh, 88mph fastball right in the middle of the zone – no wonder the guy homered on it.

  39. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 7:18 pm

    NOW we bring in Ray?!?

  40. Stevemotivateir on October 15th, 2022 7:25 pm

    Who would have guessed that Seattle could hold Houston scoreless for 17 innings?

    This game–this series–has shown us that Seattle is perhaps closer than we realized.

  41. kmsandrbs on October 15th, 2022 7:31 pm

    UUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHH … it was a good run, M’s

  42. Westside guy on October 15th, 2022 7:33 pm

    Oh well, that hurts. But they’re in good shape for next year.

    Just goes to show you, though, that they need to solve Houston if they want to get the the World Series – the Astros aren’t going anywhere.

    Thank you Marc for all your writing and analysis again this year!

  43. Shizane on October 15th, 2022 7:35 pm

    Top offseason targets – real dh, 2b/ss, rf. Hitting only as this pitching was quite encouraging. Good season overall but disappointing to make playoffs and get swept.

  44. Milendriel on October 15th, 2022 7:38 pm

    Each game was a letdown in its own way, but I can’t feel too upset overall. They gave it everything they had. You don’t have to strain the imagination too far to imagine a handful of pitches having different outcomes and we’d be celebrating an M’s sweep.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.