Today’s contest was a delightful win by the Mariners over their division foes the Athletics, but it was also a clear object lesson in the diverging fortunes of these two teams. The Mariners are a team that is, by most accounts, on the #Rise; the A’s are...not that, and today’s game demonstrated that in spades, as the Mariners starters outplayed the A’s 40-man fringe, and Mariners pitching struck out 14 batters in a decisive 7-1 win.
Popular Mariners Armchair GM trade target Frankie Montas opened the game by giving up a double down the line to Adam Frazier. Probably Matt Olson makes this play, but like a skillfull hairdresser the A’s have gone from a surfeit of Matts to no Matts in one off-season.
Ty France followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Jesse Winker chopped one on the ground for a double play, which scored the run but put two outs on the board quickly. The double play was especially unfortunate, as the next batter, Mitch Haniger, got a hanging breaking ball and tattooed it into the left field corner for a double that would have scored even the lead-footed France from first. Alas.
“Excuse me? I said good vibes only.”
Eugenio Suárez unloading on 95 MPH from Frankie Montas for his first HR in a Mariners uniform. pic.twitter.com/tavuYJlwqu— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 27, 2022
The Mariners added another run in the second to make it 4-0 Mariners with a little two-out-so-whatness. J.P. Crawford worked a walk and Adam Frazier turned on an inside fastball and shot it through the infield before Ty France, swinging on the first pitch, went the other way to score the fourth Mariners run of the day on his second hit. The Mariners probably could have added on with a couple of deep fly balls by both Torrens and Winker, but Oakland’s outfield combo of appropriately-named speedster Skye Bolt and Christian Paché, the highest-rated prospect they received from Atlanta in the Olson trade, were all over the outfield in Mesa today, consistently battling deep fly balls and the high sky. Oakland will still miss defensive star center fielder Ramón Laureano, who has 28 games remaining on his suspension and might also need some additional ramping-up time after suffering a sports hernia, which required surgery this past October; Paché won’t be any step down defensively from Laureano, but is far from as proficient with the bat, today going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ starting pitching—which could be described as a twin start for prospects Matt Brash and George Kirby—looked much sharper. Flipping their positions from last week’s twin start, Brash went first this time and was the sharper of the two, delivering an utterly dominant performance where he mowed through the A’s lineup of semi-starters, striking out six in three innings and allowing just one batter to reach base (scored as an error on Eugenio Suárez on the throw, which came in low and Ty France couldn’t pick it; it’s hard to just without Statcast numbers to tell you how spicy the grounder was, but I wouldn’t classify it as an egregious error).
Brash sat at an easy 96-98, consistently clocking in at 97 and touching 99. He featured the nasty slider, of course, racking up the whiffs and collecting strikeouts on it. Here’s Brash whiffing Elvis Andrus on a slider:
But Brash also ripped off a few curveballs that showed some heavy sink, flirted with a changeup, and when he needed to, ripped off some upper-90s fastballs and threw them right past Oakland batters for strikeouts. Will that approach work facing Mike Trout and and Corey Seager instead of Seth Brown and Skye Bolt? With that slider, I would say 100% yes in limited exposure, like out of the bullpen, but keeping an eye on the curveball’s development (and the changeup, although that seems to be a newer addition to the arsenal) will be key in figuring out where Brash settles on the pitching staff.
Brash’s six-strikeout performance didn’t go unnoticed by Pitching Twitter, where he’s become somewhat of a spring darling:
Matt Brash is gonna be a problem. pic.twitter.com/fAbH3wURgL— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 27, 2022
Following Brash was George Kirby, and it’s kind of a tough act to follow, so let’s avoid comparing American apples to Canadian ones (what do Canadians even call apples? something weird I bet, like tree-balloons) and instead compare Kirby to himself. Kirby was much sharper than in his past outing, showing better command of the zone while still showcasing that good velocity.
Kirby started strong, hitting 97 while striking out Andrus on three pitches, before hanging a pitch to Sean Murphy that was a couple inches away from going out. Kirby rebounded to strike out Seth Brown chasing after 97 MPH, and then got victimized by some poor defense when Chad Pinder, who is somehow still an Athletic, topped a slider over to Adam Frazier, who absolutely airmailed the throw. That seemed to rattle Kirby some, as he walked Kevin Smith (the baseball player not the wide-leg jorts enthusiast) to load the bases before getting Billy McKinney to fly out harmlessly.
Kirby’s second inning of work saw him giving up some hard contact on a flyout, plus two ground balls, one that went for a hit as Tony Kemp snuck a ball past a diving Frazier, who did not cover himself in glory defensively today. Kirby came back to strike out Andrus again, blowing some high heat past him for his third strikeout of the day (Andrus’s, not Kirby’s). That hard contact on the flyout could have started the inning with significantly more damage for Kirby, but [consults notes] a strong defensive play from [consults notes yet again] Jesse Winker [double checks notes] tamped Oakland’s offense down right out of the gate.
Jesse Winker displaying some athleticism in the outfield with this nice leaping catch: pic.twitter.com/MimaV1YDEk— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 27, 2022
Kirby’s third inning of the day was his best, as he mowed through Christian Bethancourt, Seth Brown, and Sheldon Neuse, striking all three out looking. Is there a baseball term for striking out the side looking? Both Bethancourt and Neuse went down looking at the fastball; Brown was caught admiring a big bender of a curve.
George Kirby striking out the side in the sixth on 13 pitches. pic.twitter.com/3qVBSlQIwa— Gravel (@Gravel_sense) March 27, 2022
The remainder of Mariners pitching had a tall task to uphold the lofty standards set by Brash and Kirby, who combined for 12 strikeouts in six innings; Anthony Misiewicz and Wyatt Mills both had redemption innings, with Misiewicz striking out Bethancourt on a dirty slider and getting two groundouts to third baseman Abraham Toro, who handled both capably (ignore the box score that charges him with a hit, it was a chopper mishandled by Patrick Frick at second). Mills closed out the game and showcased much sharper command with a 1-2-3 inning with some weak-contact fly balls and a strikeout.
Mariners pitching shut the A’s out until the eighth, when Pile Member Ryan Buchter gave up a leadoff double to Christian Lopez and then walked former Mariners prospect Drew Jackson. A flyout and an RBI groundout allowed Oakland’s first run of the day to score, and then Buchter walked Sheldon Neuse, prompting a pitching change. 26 pitches against the dregs of the A’s lineup is not the move. Scott’s favorite cleanup man Michael Stryffeler was summoned and quickly disposed of Christian Bethancourt on a flyout.
Meanwhile the Mariners tacked on a couple more runs against the Oakland bullpen; Oakland reliever Zach Logue struggled with his command, walking Winker and hitting Haniger; Jarred Kelenic almost had a base hit but Kemp robbed him, but he got the RBI anyway, and made contact off a lefty, so win-win. 5-0 Mariners.
In the eighth, Domingo Acevedo gave up this moonshot to Cal Raleigh, who’s been having a quiet spring; not so quiet now. 6-0 Mariners.
Only partial credit to the A's broadcast for calling this a "big boy" home run instead of a "beef boy" home run but regardless Cal Raleigh smoked this ball pic.twitter.com/BKklXqivsw— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 27, 2022
In the 9th, Austin Pruitt was greeted very rudely by Dylan Moore:
Spring training garbage time BUT boy oh boy does it feel great to see Dylan Moore get his power stroke back pic.twitter.com/zY7BIiYdtD— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 27, 2022
That was the Mariners’ seventh and final run of the day, although Billy Hamilton came thisclose to knocking another one out or at least getting another base hit but Paché, who I’m preemptively deeply annoyed by, once again bailed out his pitcher.
Prospect notes, non-pitcher edition:
- First, a bummer of a note: Taylor Trammell grounded out in the eighth, and seemed to come up hobbling as he ran through first; he was replaced by Tanner Kirwer in the next inning.
- Julio’s line of 0-for-3 with a strikeout isn’t inspiring, but he also hit the ball hard twice and just missed doing damage once, and was the victim of some light robbery by Skye Bolt the second time.
- Kelenic’s line of 0-for-4 with two strikeouts is even less inspiring, as both of the strikeouts looked terrible (three pitches from Montas, and another at-bat against Ryan Castellani where he was ahead 2-0 to start and wound up striking out), but he also made contact against a lefty for an RBI groundout, so, small victories. The smallest, but still.
- Kelenic had center today and Julio right; on that inning-ending bases-loaded flyout from Billy McKinney in the fourth, they were both charging towards the ball but showed some good communication as Kelenic hollered for it early enough that Julio could peel off harmlessly.
One last interesting tidbit from the broadcast, via Rick Rizzs: apparently in one session of infield work, Perry Hill has already eliminated a bad habit by Jesse Winker, who used to tap his glove to the field before fielding the ground ball, leaving his hands in a poor position to field the ball. Winker has apparently cleaned it up already thanks to that Perry Hill magic, so that’s something to keep an eye on next time Winker is stationed at first.