Heading into the eighth inning, I thought I had this recap in the bag. At that point, the Mariners were up 6-0 against an impotent A's lineup and James Paxton was sitting on just 75 pitches through seven, three-hit innings. Then things started to unravel. A single and a walk later and Paxton had his first base runner in scoring position. He was able to get Geovany Soto to hit into a double play -- thanks to a fine play by Kyle Seager -- but after another walk Paxton's night was over.
Hand it over to the best bullpen in baseball and call it a night, right? Well, Yoervis Medina and Fernando Rodney had it in mind to remind us that no lead is safe, no matter how good your bullpen is. It was a rough outing for Medina who allowed both inherited base runners to score and the Fernando Rodney Experience was in full effect tonight. After two quick strike outs, Rodney allowed three straight doubles to get the A's within one run with a runner on second. Luckily, he was able to get a weak groundout off the bat of Josh Reddick to end the game. Arrow.
How did we get to this point? Up until the 8th inning, it was a pretty complete performance by the Mariners. As I mentioned, James Paxton was in complete control tonight. He was only able to get two swinging strikes on the night but he was able to locate both his fastball and his curveball when he needed and the A's didn't stand a chance. Take a look at his strikezone plot organized by batter handedness:
It doesn't look very good -- there are a lot of pitches that are elevated in the zone. Now take a look at the same plot organized by pitch type:
A lot of those points up in the zone were curveballs. When you're locating your best secondary pitch in the strikezone and there's a 15 mile per hour difference in velocity, you can afford to make a few mistakes with your fastball up in the zone. The A's certainly couldn't take advantage.
Offensively, the Mariners broke out of their funk in the third inning and were able to put up three consecutive two-run innings. Austin Jackson had a nice two-run single to score Endy Chavez and Brad Miller (both of whom reached on back to back walks). The next inning, Chavez was able to squeak the seeingest eye grounder up the middle, past the drawn in infield, for a two-run, hustle double. Kyle Seager finished off the scoring with a two-run blast in the fifth.
On to the bullets!
- Paxton was able to face the minimum number of batters through six innings thanks to some excellent defense by his infielders. Kyle Seager had himself an excellent game tonight. He made a number of great plays in the field - two in the first, one in the fifth, and another in the eighth - and added that two-run blast with his bat. When I was researching for the series preview, I was comparing Kyle Seager and Josh Donaldson. I posted their offensive lines together as a comparison but their defensive lines are pretty close too:
Seager: 9 DRS, 10.9 UZR/150
Donaldson: 20 DRS, 13.5 UZR/150
Obviously, DRS likes Donaldson more than Seager but they're pretty even according to UZR. Either way, they're the top two defensive third basemen in the AL. I don't think Seager gets enough credit for the amount of work he's put in on the field to get to this point.
- After Chavez and Miller walked to leadoff the third inning, Lloyd McClendon had Jesus Sucre bunt them over into scoring position. It was a pretty obvious move and Sucre executed very well. I was curious about the win probably added with that bunt so early in the game -- it was just -.002 WPA. Not as detrimental as I thought.
- After his two-run single in the third, Austin Jackson stole second on a delayed steal. Delayed is putting it lightly. Geovany Soto, the A's catcher tonight, had received the pitch and was preparing to throw the ball back to the pitch when Jackson took off for second. Mike Blowers noticed that Soto's mechanics behind the plate were pretty wonky which allowed Jackson to pull off the delayed steal. I couldn't find the highlight on MLB.com but if you were watching the game, you probably noticed this too. After Soto received every pitch, he would fall to his knees and lob the ball back to the pitcher in an awkward, single motion. It almost looked like he was losing his balance after every pitch and had to catch himself from falling as he threw it back to the pitcher. Jackson obviously noticed these weird mechanics and exploited them. Soto's caught stealing rate has been right around league average for his career but I wonder if his knee injuries have affected his mechanics behind the plate.
The Tigers won tonight so the M's didn't gain any ground in the Wild Card race but the Angels lost so we gained some ground in the West. The Mariners finish off the series with the A's tomorrow afternoon as Felix and Jon Lester will go face-to-face.