Maybe you’re the type of person that lives for pitching duels. I’m right there with you. Watching Cliff Lee pitch in 15 straight 1-0 games for the Mariners in 2010 held a mesmerizing allure. Maybe you’re the type of person that lives for Spring Training pitching duels. If that’s the case, you’re a much bigger baseball fan than me, and have you considered therapy?
If you are the latter and you’ve had yet to make gains in therapy, you’ve probably enjoyed the last two games (if not the results). Today’s game saw the Mariners run up their scoreless inning streak to 19 innings — and they’re the ones being shut out. They ended up dropping the game to the Padres 3-0. Though the game itself wasn’t available on TV, there were some interesting nuggets to parse. After all: it’s about the process, right?
The most interesting person to watch in this game was Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi made his third start of Spring Training today, and he appeared to build upon the gains that he’s shown thus far. In case you don’t remember, his first start appeared superficially to go poorly. Kikuchi gave up 3 runs over 1.1 innings. His mechanics, however, showed signs of improvement. His fastball topped out around 95 MPH; last year Kikuchi’s fastball averaged just under 93 MPH.
His start last week was more of the same. His fastball touched 96 MPH, and his slider was up to about 91 MPH. The results were a little better: he gave up a single run in 2.1 innings.
Those starts showed significant signs of improvement from last year, but today’s start may have been his best yet. He was a bit shaky in the first inning, walking two. Kikuchi bore down, however, and managed to retire the side without giving up a run. His next two innings were perfect, and his final line was extremely pretty.
Kikuchi done for the day. 3IP 2BB 5K.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 5, 2020
Velocity was there once more, struggled with the slider a bit. We saw a little more of the curve including strike 3 to his final batter. Struck out his last 2 batters on 6 pitches.
As Drayer mentions above, Kikuchi’s command of his slider was erratic. However, it topped out at 92 MPH at one point, and his fastball was once again up at 96 MPH. This performance was about as good as the Mariners could have hoped for at this stage of Spring Training. Hopefully this demonstrated improvement has been a portent of good things to come.
The bats, unfortunately, were not as good as the Mariners could have hoped for. The Mariners hitters managed to combine for just four hits against rejuvenated Padres righty Dinelson Lamet and a squadron of relievers led by ex-Mariner Emilio Pagán. Two of the hits were provided by Dylan Moore and Kyle Seager, who each continued relatively hot Spring Training performances.
Finally, the Mariners got several good performances from the ‘pen to go with one not-so-good one. Carl Edwards Jr., Yohan Ramirez, Gerson Bautista, and Sam Delaplane each threw an inning of relief without giving up an earned run. Ramirez did give up a run courtesy of a Mallex Smith throwing error, but induced weak contact from Manny Machado.
Ljay Newsome was the only Mariner pitcher who ran into some trouble, and even his outing wasn’t too bad. His first inning was scoreless, and his second inning saw him give up a single and a dinger. However, he too induced weak contact from Manny Machado.
In his second inning of work Newsome gives up a home run to Greg Garcia with Hunter Dozier aboard but rebounds to get Abraham Almonte to line out in an 0-2 count. Newsome also retired Hosmer and Machado that inning on weak fly balls.— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 5, 2020
Have we considered that perhaps Manny Machado is just weak? Hmm.
This loss sent the Mariners to the bottom of the Cactus League table with a 3-9 record. While it’s possible that some could be calling for manager Scott Servais to get fired if they do finish at the bottom (this is satire, please do not email me), they do have a chance to redeem themselves on national television tomorrow.
That’s right, tomorrow’s game against the Dodgers will be televised on MLB Network. It’s a night game that starts at 5:05 PM on a Friday, and the Mariners are starting Nick Margevicius, but still! Television!