The Mariners have fallen out of the razor-sharp mode that we'd all basked in so luxuriantly the last few weeks. The main culprits here: a failure to punish 7+ ERA fish Matt Moore with BB and HR, and an implosion of the "2nd bullpen" to botch a sloppy 4-2 lead in the middle innings. Lots to enjoy even in this one, though:
JAMES PAXTON showed signs of tiredness, as D-O-V had expected to see shortly. He threw 117 pitches two games ago, sandwiched around two 105-type pitch count games before and after. Of course "signs of tiredness" in Paxton's case results in the joyful enemy jailbreak totalling 2 runs scored.
He simply failed to land his curve ball at the knees. His fastball lacked the real good spin and life. His foshball moved exactly nobody's back foot. His BB/K ratio was 4/5. It was just a Grade C performance, which in his case meant that --- > he was a Garden Variety "Opening Day Starter." Other guys have their C games and get KO'ed in the 3rd.
Dr. D was thrilled to see Scott Servais pull Paxton after 85-ish pitches and 5 innings. Give the guy a blow once in a while. Perhaps next game kicks off another four, five games worth of tectonic spin rate and torturously-commanded off speed pitches.
When the stRangers loaded 'em up in the 5th nobody out, they had baseball's Perfect Scenario. There, the average MLB team scores 229 runs in 100 innings. Another way of looking at it: their chances of scoring at least one run is 87%. Nothing in baseball is an 87% chance. In the NBA, the #14 foul shooter in the league hits 87%; James Harden hits 86%. The Rangers were standing at the foul stripe 15" away, just grab it on the laces and throw it through the hoop, as Red once said.
Paxton took on Shin-Soo Choo, who happens to be the one Ranger willing to attack Paxton, and mortified him on a senior-class pitch sequence:
- Knuckle curve thundered info for a knee-high called strike, krak-oom, 0-1
- Knuckle curve in dirt, garbage swing, 0-2
- Barely tipped off a foshball, 0-2
- Buried a curve, Choo held up, 1-2
- 97 fastball middle middle, Choo started walking back to the dugout before Zuumball closed his mitt, K
The next two hitters went down meekly, popup just over the infield and a 2-bouncer to Segura that first-bounced the dirt cutout. Chances of scoring, better than a Harden foul shot? Maybe not when Paxton is annoyed. Juusssst like the Big Unit, can I get an amen from the congregation?
On TV they fret about 14-pitch AB's vs Paxton, foul after foul. You might think that Matt Blowers, at least, would mention that this is because the opposing batters are taking defensive, late, pepper swings. Did YOU see any balls caught on the warning track Wednesday? Thought not.
DENARD SPAN's chase rate is as advertised. In particular, he has an almost supernatural ability to smell out a LH-on-LH temptation pitch 2" outside. He had several gorgeous takes, particularly on the juuuuusssssst-outside pitches we're talking about.
In the 4th, with men on 1B 2B and 1 out, he got a 2-2 fastball at 93 MPH and authoritatively laced a hard single into LF -- loading the bases and rattling Matt Moore into two consecutive wild pitches / passed balls to give the M's a dominating 4-2 position with Zeus on the mound.
Into the bargain, he had a most enjoyable dash in on a marginal fliner over the SS that Dr. D had already written off on a hit. Wonder whether it was a 50% catch, 25% catch or what.
And while we're at it, Span was on 3B in the 4th when Segura hit a short CF fly that the OF came way in on. Span took off. The CF made a lousy throw that was actually cut off. A slower runner doesn't even consider attempting it, but Span cashed in the run with impunity.
JEAN SEGURA is hitting .333, about #5 in the AL, despite a .348 OBP. But his SLG is .477 and as James pointed out, the slagged AVG stat has one important thing about it: UNIQUELY, it gives you most of OBP and SLG, BOTH.
Clemente had an 0.50 EYE in an era when the average hitter was much closer to 1.00. Segura is playing at his best when hacking away Vlad-style in a busy lineup.
DAN ALTAVILLA is of course an exciting young pitcher. His big weakness is BB generally and hanging his slider specifically. He walked 3.9 men a game last year, quite bad, and is walking 7.1 this year. Our "second bullpen" failed us this time. He led off his 6th inning by wildly slinging a power slider into the leadoff hitter's back foot, and then slinging another one to the backstop.
The feeb Ranger came around to cut the M's lead in half, 4-3.
RYAN COOK gave up 2 runs, got 1 out, and notched a hold. The problem? Just real high with both his fastball and slider.
ZIP outdid him, giving up 2 runs, got 0 outs, and blew the hold/save. TJM heartily recommends a DFA yesterday. Dipoto would take a lot of egg to the face, but it's almost getting to that point. This was another easy win, embarrassingly thrown away. They're trying to hide him, a $6M Dipoto move, so let's use him for an out or two when we're behind. Even that is getting too obvious.
JUAN NICASIO isn't quite there yet; Mal pointed out the "fix" was more lower body and better finishing -- which is about as obvious as an NBA shooter saying "elbow in, follow through."
To Dr. D's eye he IS lowering his CG a LITTLE, and IS driving his CG forward a little better. Not that he's getting the POWERFUL ACCELERATION of the CG you want to see, but... much better. What he IS doing, is extending really nicely. He scored 4 K (!) in 1.2 innings, but the last thing to come around -- command -- is *not* there yet. Still.
TJM pointed out that Nelson Cruz was getting beaten by low sliders; the mind's eye agrees. He'd swung through several of them weirdly. Dr. D had fretted that maybe the roids were deserting him and he wasn't seeing the spin?
Not so! Lately he's been seeing the curves well. He's been getting hard-hit singles, and the TV dudes predict a hot streak of HR's to come shortly.
Mal and I kidded each other about Gordon Beckham, but he had a nice game tonight. He socked a 95+ launch single into CF to lead off one inning, and then very daringly took a 1B-to-3B right in front of the center fielder coming in on a short Jean Segura single. Fun to watch tonight.
Moral of the story? Baseball's a "game of inches" and in the 21st century we unnerstan' that is the same as saying it's a "game of luck." But we can overstate this. In Dr. D's view, the M's had been playing celery-crisp ball for two weeks and now, for a few games, they're playing a fair bit sloppier.
So the M's WC lead topped out at -4.5 games to the pesky rodent Angels and has now fluctuated to -3.5 games. But tomorrow we've got The White one, LeBlanc, and Mal has me looking forward to it highly. The offense has seen some weaker pitching and has springboarded same into a much better rhythm.
Happy LeBlanc Day,