What a difference an inning can make, huh? The final score of 6-2 certainly didn’t reflect the fact that through six innings, tonight’s Mariners game was as frustrating as any that came in the five previous days, if not more so, because they were actually putting runners on base. Houston’s pitching completely shut down the Mariners, not even giving them chances to score, but Mike Minor and the Rangers were all about walking the tightrope tonight, putting ten baserunners on in the first six innings. Of those ten, only the very first one, Dee Gordon, would score.
Give Texas some credit—a diving stop from Jurickson Profar turned a Robinson Cano RBI single into an RBI fielder’s choice, and a diving catch by some guy named Drew Robinson in center field robbed Nelson Cruz of a hit. The Mariners easily could’ve had four hits in the first inning, but had to settle for one and a 1-0 lead.
Felix Hernandez did his best to hold on to that 1-0 lead, and actually looked pretty good today. His command was lacking, throwing just 56% of his 91 pitches for strikes, but he managed to rack up five strikeouts against just two walks in 5.1 innings of two-run ball. Unfortunately, Texas’ pitch tracker malfunctioned for a couple innings tonight, so only 75 of Hernandez’s 91 pitches were able to be classified by Brooks Baseball. So, this data is incomplete, but of the 75 pitches tracked today, 33 of them were fastballs—about 44%. So, unless he was very fastball-heavy in the other 16 pitches not tracked today, it appears Felix is sticking with the strategy of throwing fewer fastballs.
Hernandez allowed one of the two runs charged to him to score on a Nomar Mazara single to left field. He then hit Adrian Beltre, and Scott Servais came out and got his starter. He replaced him with my least favorite player on the roster, Marc Rzepczynski. For being a lefty specialist, he sure doesn’t seem to be that good at getting lefties out. Scrabble allowed a base hit to Joey Gallo, then an RBI groundout to whatever a Ronald Guzman is—and it took a pretty nifty play by Cano to keep it from rolling into right field. Rzepczynski has now faced 17 batters in 2018, and seven of them have reached base. Opposing hitters are batting .375/.412/.750 off of him.
Really, it’s just time to let Rzepczynski go. Since the start of last season, he’s allowed opponents to hit .272/377/.394 against him. Even against lefties, his .289 wOBA against ranks 172nd among pitchers who have thrown at 10 innings against lefties. For those that are unfamiliar with wOBA, left-handers’ standard slash line against scrabble as a Mariner is .250/.317/.333. Those numbers wouldn’t be bad if they were overall numbers. But, unfortunately, they’re not good numbers for the handedness of hitter you’re supposed to be best again. Former Mariner Steve Cishek, for instance—someone who was definitely NOT known for being great against lefties—has held left-handers to a .208/.309/.354 line in the same time span. If you’re a lefty specialist who can’t get lefties out consistently, there shouldn’t be a roster spot reserved for you.
Luckily, none of that shit mattered. Mitch Haniger continued to be awesome by tying the game up with a solo homer to center in the 7th inning (making up for a horrible TOOTBLAN earlier in the game). Then, the Mariners finally were able to string some hits together—clusterluck, as Jerry Dipoto has called it. Vogelbach singled off the 345 sign in right field, just barely missing a homer. Guillermo Heredia then bunted him (argh don’t bunt runners to second, especially not with good hitters!) pinch-runner Andrew Romine to second, and advanced to third on a Dee Gordon single to left field. Mean Jean Segura broke through with a double to right-center field, brother, and finally the frustration the M’s had been feeling the past five days was slightly alleviated.
The M’s would get two more on back-to-back singles from Seager and Haniger, and Edwin Diaz would work around a walk and a hit by pitch to give the Mariners the 6-2 win. Fun fact: Edwin Diaz now has allowed six times as many walks + hit by pitches as he has base hits. When you just strike everyone out, I guess that’s fine.
James Paxton will be opposed by Bartolo Colon in a duel of the most opposite pitchers ever, probably, tomorrow at 5:05 p.m., and I for one can’t wait to laugh at the absurdity of it all.