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9/9: Open game thread

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Roenis Elias vs. Collin McHugh.

Mariners re-enacting the last supper
Mariners re-enacting the last supper
Otto Greule Jr

The Seattle Mariners recovered from a demoralizing one-game losing streak last night and defeated the hated Astros of Houston by a score of 4-1. They face the same team today in the same place at the same time. Tonight we get to witness two of the most surprising rookies in all of baseball.

Current Playoff Odds:

ESPN: 67.2%
FanGraphs: 59.3%
Baseball Prospectus: 55.7%
The two woodpeckers, three crows, one blue jay, and three squirrels simultaneously in my back yard yesterday afternoon: 100%

The Starters: Roenis Elias starts for the 28th time for the Seattle Mariners, which is kind of amazing. Since his little meltdown in the beginning of July, when he gave up 16 earned runs in three starts and pitched like a character who took an extended walk in the rain in a Jane Austen novel, he's yielded 10 over the last eight. He's also made it through six innings in exactly once out of those eight tries, because his strikeouts and walks are both up. In general, though, the post-All-Star break signals are encouraging: his percentage of out-of-zone swings, first-pitch strikes, and swinging strikes are all up, and his contact rate is down. His fastball velocity is holding and is actually up half a tick or so. What an interesting pitcher he's become.

Facing him tonight is the diabolical Collin McHugh, who went through his own rough patch in July. In his last seven starts, however, McHugh has a 1.79 ERA and 2.19 FIP, making it work with an impressive 1.19 BB/9 over that span. It's particularly impressive because the guy throws nothing but breaking balls: 58% on the year and 65% since he retooled in August. We tend to think of junkballers as trying to lure batters to swing out of the zone, but McHugh actually puts more pitches in the box (47.8%) than the average starter (45%).  If he goes in hitting his spots, the M's may need to make some good swings to produce offense tonight.

The Lineups: Both clubs are basically at full strength, minus Dustin Ackley, who's still recovering from a tweaked ankle. The Mariners are stacking lefties in that way they do so naturally. Both bullpens are fairly well-rested.

Scoreboard watch: Oakland visits the White Sox (Lester v. Danks, 5:00) in what seems like a criminal mismatch. The Royals and Tigers continue to beat up on each other (Vargas v. Scherzer, 4:00). The big story is that if the Mariners win and the Athletics lose, they will find themselves in a tie for the first Wild Card spot. Thirty-nine games ago, on July 27, Oakland was 65-39, and the Mariners were 11.5 games back. If it weren't for the stupid Angels, this would be a hell of a narrative.

It's still a hell of a narrative. The #6org kids with their grumpy GM, retread manager, overpaid second baseman, and assortment of busted prospects are nineteen games from the playoffs. The ribbon is in sight.

Today's Lineups

HOUSTON ASTROS SEATTLE MARINERS
Robbie Grossman - LF Austin Jackson - CF
Jose Altuve - 2B Endy Chavez - LF
Dexter Fowler - CF Robinson Cano - 2B
Chris Carter - DH Kyle Seager - 3B
Jason Castro - C Kendrys Morales - DH
Jake Marisnick - RF Logan Morrison - 1B
Jonathan Singleton - 1B Mike Zunino - C
Matt Dominguez - 3B Michael Saunders - RF
Jonathan Villar - SS Brad Miller - SS
Collin McHugh - RHP Roenis Elias - LHP