Tired of endless summer, the sun beams its wary face upon us for at least one more day thanks to Taijuan Walker, who makes his second start half a nation away.
Alex flung a robust, FDA-approved heap of knowledge at you earlier about Walker's auspicious beginning to his career. But if you're hoping for a light pre-dinner snack, I've prepared a quiz over at Sporcle that will cause you six minutes of mental hardship. Walker is, as you well know, in his age-20 season. Only fifteen Mariners starters in franchise history have ever started a game in their age-21 season or younger. Do you think you know them all? You don't. Seriously. They didn't even make baseball cards of some of these guys. But if you want to give it a try, you can do so here. Come back and tell us what your score was. And don't cheat, you jerks.
Meanwhile, back in Kansas City, where the grass is tan and the barbecue sauce is apparently impossible to stop talking about, the lineups:
|1||Brad Miller||SS||Alex Gordon||LF|
|2||Franklin Gutierrez||RF||Emilio Bonifacio||2B|
|3||Kyle Seager||3B||Eric Hosmer||1B|
|4||Kendrys Morales||DH||Billy Butler||DH|
|5||Raul Ibanez||LF||Mike Moustakas||3B|
|6||Justin Smoak||1B||Salvador Perez||C|
|7||Dustin Ackley||CF||David Lough||RF|
|8||Mike Zunino||C||Jarrod Dyson||CF|
|9||Nick Franklin||2B||Alcides Escobar||SS|
|SP||Taijuan Walker||Ervin Santana|
Both teams are putting out close to their strongest lineups, give or take an Ibanez. Nick Franklin is hitting ninth because there are only nine slots. He's broken out of his two-month slump by going into an even deeper slump, with two hits in his last 39 plate appearances, and 4 walks and 16 strikeouts. Dave posted a poll over at USSM asking whether we'd rather see Franklin or Ackley at second next year, and the fans are sticking to Franklin so far. I can't help but think that the question is moot, because unless the team picks up three outfielders this offseason, Ackley's going to see plenty of time out in the grass again next year. But maybe the Mariners sign everybody! There's way more than three free agent outfielders.
I could profile Ervin Santana as if we want to beat him, but the fact is, we really don't. David Schoenfield wrote a piece about the incentive to tank, and boy is there ever one. Simply put: teams with the first ten picks don't lose them if they sign a Type A free agent. It's the reason the Mets, who stand a game "ahead" of the Mariners in the standings, signed Daisuke Matsuzaka and dear friend Aaron Harang to start games for them down the stretch. Currently, the M's have the 8th worst record in baseball, but the 11th-worst Mets are only a game back.
Talking about tanking is gauche in the baseball writing world. We're supposed to want to win every day and watch our teams score 99 runs. But they won't, and given that the Mariners basically have to sign an Ellsbury or a Choo this offseason, that first round pick is really important. That's why I'm surprised we didn't see more wheat called up for the chaff in September. But instead, we get semi-watchable games! So make sure you watch them. This is what you get instead of nice things.