These Houston Astros sure are annoying. Sure, they're supposed to be one of the league's worst teams. Yet somehow, they seem to have the M's number lately. First it was last year that the Mariners had trouble with the Astros and people began to wonder if maybe the M's were just nervous because they felt pressured to win every single game against them. Now that this continues to be a problem this year, I'm beginning to become a little suspicious.
The Astros won 5-4 today in 11 innings. The Mariners threw out every member of the 'pen besides Fernando Rodney and I was really hoping to see a position player on the mound (as evil as it might be to hope for such a thing).
Sans the Kyle Seager heroics (which I'll get to later), this might have been one of the more frustrating M's games to watch. It didn't feel like Felix Day. Felix wasn't his dominant self. He only threw 89 pitches over five innings and allowed three runs to score (two earned). He wasn't fooling anyone. While the low pitch count may have been concerning to some (myself included) at the time, Ryan Divish cleared everything up with a tweet after the game went final:
McClendon confirmed that Felix was fighting the same flu bug that had hit Zunino earlier in the week. Felix said he's lost 9 pounds
McClendon confirmed that Felix was fighting the same flu bug that had hit Zunino earlier in the week. Felix said he's lost 9 pounds— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 3, 2014
So perhaps that's why Felix wasn't really Felix today. It sure would be relieving to blame the flu for his ineffectiveness and as fans I'm sure we all want to do that. However, this is the second time out of two this year that the Astros have gotten to Felix.
The Astros clearly came into this game with an attack plan. The hitters were aggressive early in the count and didn't let themselves fall behind. They saw the movement on Felix's pitches and laid off the bad ones. They didn't look like the team that leads the majors in strikeout percentage against the ninth best strikeout pitcher in the game. Rather, they looked like advanced hitters who worked the count and were in command. Sure, they didn't exactly shell Felix, but they certainly didn't look over-matched like Felix usually makes hitters look.
At this point, I'm starting to wonder if the Astros just have really good scouting reports on The King. Sure, it's probably too early to say that as an absolute with the small sample size of two whole starts but it's enough to make one concerned.
In actuality though, Felix wasn't the reason the Mariners lost. When Felix left, the M's were up 4-3, and it wasn't until Yoervis Medina stepped in in the eighth that things began to get a little dicey. Medina struck out Jesus Guzman to open the inning but then followed that up by walking
Elvis Alex Presley (who?) and allowing a Matt Dominguez single which advanced Presley to third. Jonathan Villar grounded out to send Presley in and the game was tied, 3-3.
It's easy to argue that Medina shouldn't have been the one to come in in the eighth inning in the first place. Ideally, you'd prefer to see Danny Farquhar in that role. Or perhaps Dominic Leone, who has more than earned the right to pitch in high-leverage situations. Instead, LLoyd entrusted Medina with this role tonight and he blew it. Farquhar is undoubtedly the best reliever on this team, and it's pretty frustrating to see him get overlooked in situations where he's needed most time and time again.
There would be a bunch of scoreless innings to follow until Charlie Furbush came on in the 11th and gave up a single to Jose Altuve, a bunt single to Dexter Fowler, a
sacrifice bunt by Carlos Corporan which resulted in a hit after Furbush tried to get Altuve out at third, and a single by George Springer, who had already struck out four times in the game.
The bullpen (except for Farquhar, who was great by striking out four in two scoreless innings) blew another Felix start. Felix also kinda blew it but probably blew chunks after the game was over so maybe we can forgive him for that. Here are some various other observations about the game:
- Home plate umpire Bob Davidson was pretty damn awful today. There were plenty of questionable calls on both ends of it and close losses are always exacerbated by an umpire who does a poor job. There weren't any dramatic game-changing calls like there were with Sean Barber, but I sure hope we don't have to see him again any time soon.
- Kyle Seager did his Astro-killing thing once again, with a bases loaded double that was probably a foot away from being a grand slam in the sixth. Maybe Seager has some good scouting reports on the Astros. If so, why does he not share them? Maybe it's super-secret and he isn't allowed to talk about them. Maybe it's super-secret and I'm not allowed to talk about them. Oh crap. I just did. Please don't hurt me.
- Brad Miller had two hits! Yay! He's still hitting .191 because average is everything and you should only judge a hitter based on that but actually his wRC+ is 57 so my snarky remark no longer serves its purpose. Sigh. It's certainly nice to see progress from the guy and he didn't make any huge defensive mistakes this time around. So uhh...keep it up Brad!
- Abraham Almonte was charged with two errors in center field today. One was on a deep fly ball that went over his head that he simply misjudged and took some really funky routes on. This was the cause of Felix's one unearned run tonight. The other was a ball hit out to him that he bobbled which allowed a runner to advance. I remember when there was a time that the M's had a guy who made playing this position look like a...a walk...in...the...p-park *cries*.
- Mike Zunino hit a homer off of Brad Peacock in the top of the fifth on a hanging curveball (!) that actually didn't look like much off the bat but just kept going. Even though he may not be physically capable of not swinging at a curveball, when he gets into one it can be pretty scary. The kid has some sweet power for sure.
The Mariners are back at it again tomorrow at 1:10pm PT as Hisashi Iwakuma is set to make his season debut against Dallas Keuchel. Here's to hoping tomorrow brings more joy than tonight did!
P.S. Get well soon, Felix.