Mitch Haniger at leadoff! Denard Span second! Jean Segura hitting third! Mike Zunino at sixth! Dee Gordon at the bottom of the lineup!
Tonight’s was a weird lineup, but not weird like Lloyd’s Wacky Lineups, weird like...Scott Servais do you read LL? We’ve been talking about shaking it up like this for ages. Gordon has been struggling for a while, and Mitch currently has one of the higher walk rates on a team that has almost categorically refused a free pass. No, they say with gritted teeth on a 3-0 count, I don’t need your stinking charity. I’d still like to see Span at the leadoff spot at some point this season, but in the meantime this was good progress.
Not only was it good progress, it paid off in a big way, with an offensive explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen in ages. There were home runs and triples galore, not to mention the first four batters hitting for the cycle in reverse, a feat which hadn’t yet been done in the live-ball era.
Servais says change of lineup with Haniger leading off and Gordon ninth is chance to shake things up, but not necessarily permanent. “Maybe if we score eight runs tonight ...”— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) August 9, 2018
Ask and you shall receive, Scott.
It wasn’t James Paxton’s finest outing. He labored a bit, going deep into counts and walking three in his 5 2⁄3 innings of work (helped not at all by some missed calls and an egregiously incorrect foul ball call by home plate umpire, Nic Lentz). Fortunately the bullpen was able to cobble together something resembling serviceable baseball, barring Zach Duke’s continued efforts to cast a rose-colored lens on our memories of Marc Rzepczynski. Alex Colomé carried on his scoreless innings streak and, though Edwin Díaz gave up a solo shot to Tyler on a real bummer of a mistake pitch, everything ended in a fairly low-stress manner.
The baseball was great, winning is good, we’ll see you all tomorrow, bye!
Opposing teams don’t read this.
Mariners fans, hello.
Here’s the thing about tonight. Was it fun, and glorious, and wonderful? You bet your boots. But was it surprising? No. At least, not really.
The Mariners are a fastball-hitting team. The bendy stuff gives them, well, the bends, but when it’s coming in fast and straight they’re all over it. Or, rather, they were all over it until recently, when they’ve been bad at hitting, well, everything and became the third-worst team in baseball at hitting fastballs since the start of the second half. Farewell, sweet narrative.
They’ve been terrible when it comes to the results of their fastball-hitting, but they’ve also been the second most unlucky team in all of baseball when making contact with said fastballs. Their xwOBA has them as the tenth best fastball-hitters. Narrative (somewhat) intact!
Anyway, Justin Verlander is primarily a fastball pitcher - it’s part of why his loss of velocity a few years back looked to be such a career-ender. Tonight 39 of the 52 pitches he threw were fastballs, and the Mariners pounced on those offerings like a cat on a laser pointer.
For the Mariners to replicate their success from the first few months of the season they need to return to their fastball-mashing ways, and tonight demonstrated a step in the right direction for both their contact and results.