Bit of a mess today, as the Mariners drop the first game of the road trip and series to the Minnesota Twins. The good was that it was competitive until the last at bat, and the middle innings saw the Mariners claw back from a decently sized hole, eating away at the Twins' lead with good at bats and good focus.
The bad? Corey Hart and Chris Young. First, Chris Young. Young stepped onto the mound today with...well, not his best stuff. The problem with Chris Young is directly related to what is so right about Chris Young. A bizarre, nine-foot tall pitcher who has a mid-eighties fastball that looks like its in the nineties, with a vertical release point three humans tall, with solid, slow, and steady secondary stuff that fools hitters just enough, because all the other stuff about the guy is so different.
It's like that episode of the Simpsons where Mr. Burns gets sick and has to go to the Mayo Clinic, entrusting homer to look over his home while he's gone. Well, of course, our favorite cartoon TV family have their fair share of hijinks staying in a multi-billion-dollar mansion for a few days, but while Mr. Burns is at the Mayo Clinic, he is met with a terrifying prognosis. Turns out that he is so old, he has everything. Everything. Everything at the same time. He has pneumonia, juvenile diabetes, hysterical pregnancy, all of it. But the good news is that all of his diseases are in perfect balance, so none of them can get through the "door to his body." See, look!
(The Simpsons Season 11: The Mansion Family)
As long as Mr. Burns just stays exactly the same, nothing can get to him. And that's what Chris Young was like today. See, Chris Young is the kind of pitcher that seems like he should be sent to whatever the Mayo Clinic of fixing his on-paper mechanics. But his door is jammed too. His 85mph fastball is lodged right in there with his 6'11" frame. His insane, absolutely terrifying fly ball percentage is stuck right next to Safeco's outfield and early spring's generally tepid air. His secondary stuff is that little blue guy in the corner, stuck with everything else to make hitters just say fuck it and head back to the dugout.
Well, today, something got through. Brooks Baseball is down so I can't double check, but Jeff says that Chris Young had zero swinging strikes today. Zero. He hit 85 a few times, but managed to have difficulty with his fastball in the third, as he started settling right in around 83. And his command? It was like that whole being-tall thing didn't even matter. He was throwing all over the place and on top of it, throwing slow. Here's an at-bat to Chris Parmelee in the third that actually ended up in a fly-out, despite giving up three doubles in that inning alone.
His line on the day was 7IP, 10H, 5R, and 2HR with five doubles.
At the very least, this outing wasn't typical Chris Young. It's easy to point to that line and say, Wow! Well, Chris Young was clearly not himself today, so everything is okay. While that is certainly true, it kind of obfuscates that a lot of Chris Young's problems today were related to his usual stuff. Velocity problems: check. Leaving things hanging in the zone: check. Crazy, towering fly balls: check. We often forget that BABIP is a skill, and think that it will always magically revert back to .300, but his was at an incredibly unsustainable .179 coming into today.
Still, this is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Chris Young has been an incredible surprise this year, for pennies on the dollar. More than that, actually, because that whole Randy Wolf thing was a blast leading into it all. But while Paxton and Walker are hopefully coming around the corner, and with more hot weather on the way, it will be interesting to see how Young fits into the rotation for the rest of the summer.
So yes, Chris Young pitched a bit of a snoozer today, lasting seven innings, with LLoyd presumably not wanting to wreck his bullpen on the first day of the road trip. Bu the Mariners strung together a series of great at-bats and kept fighting all game. Their first run came in the fifth with a two-out walk to Michael Saunders, who was sent home by a Robinson Cano double that looked like it was going to leave the park. Then, in the eighth, the baseball gods smiled down on the boys in grey, starting with a one-out single to Justin Smoak followed by a walk to Kyle Seager, and finally a roaring triple from Dustin Ackley, who scored moments later on a deep popup from Mike Zunino. 5-4 Mariners.
And then, yes, the rally died. The ninth saw a leadoff single from Michael Saunders, who took second on a passed ball from Twins' pitcher Glen Perkins. Cano grounded him to third, and up walked Corey Hart. Hart looked at the first pitche, and popped an 84mph slider to first base to effectively kill the game. It added twenty percent to the Twins' win probability alone. Justin Smoak came up and grounded out, just missing the throw and the game was over.
So not the start the Mariners were hoping for on the road trip. They fall below .500, but still look like they are in good shape to get some wins soon. Jones, Smoak, Ackley all had a single hit, with Ackley getting that triple in the eighth. Michael Saunders went 3-4 with a walk, looking incredible in the process. Cano was Cano, going 2-5 with a walk. And Brad Miller, slumping Brad Miller had a hit and a walk on the day. The next couple of games could be pretty big for getting some momentum for this club. At the very least, we should hope they run just fast enough to not knock out all their diseases lodged in their system keeping a seemingly overperforming club in a state of stasis. Wins, folks. Wins are all that matter.