Well, if not a "kill shot," certainly a buffer shot. From the position they're in, the Angels can do little damage to the M's lead. On the other hand, from the position WE are in, we can do great damage to their deficit. As GM Mikhail Tal once said, "I don't know if I could win this position with White. But I do know that with Black I could lose it, and in only a few moves."
That's point A. The M's have begun operations by pulling the fangs of the tiger before it can get close enough to bite. That's just good chess, brotha. And in related news, the Angels start Jaime Barria Tuesday rather than Shohei Ohtani. Recalled from Salt Lake to make the start. Ain't it something to have the other guys doing that kinda thing?
|WILD CARD||+ -||GB|
We're technically 1/2 game up on the Astros; the Mainframe expects them to take the division by 6-8 games right now. Next update tomorrow.
The Blue Jays have fallen off to -6 below .500. Pleasingly, the worst teams in the AL have muscled up a bit, from .300 to .350-.400 or so, and that has caused some of the "rivals" to drop back. Also the Twins are -6 and if you don't want to do the quick calculation in your head, that puts them -12.0 full games behind the Mariners, bordering on a prohibitive deficit. How's that grab yer.
Playoff odds at BP, 6% for the Twins and we've got two weeks to the halfway point. 66% for the M's! and they've got Houston at 98%, LOL. Gimme som'a that action.
The goal remains simple. Stay +3, +4 up on LAA so we can manipulate Zeus into the WC game. Well, him or Felix, depending on who you ask.
The key at-bat, if you weren't watching, occurred in the 5th inning. M's up 5-2, but three (3) Angels on base and their #3 hitter Justin Upton to the plate. Two out, Trout having just been IBB'ed.
Chasen Bradford is warm in the bullpen, RH-on-RH, and Wade LeBlanc has thrown 89 pitches. The pitching change is obvious. Except! Scott Servais' intuition (as well as a short matchup track record) tells him that Wade LeBlanc can handle this -- even with 77-83-87 left hand pitches against the slider-speed Upton.
The count runs to 3-2. LeBlanc chooses a pitch that Upton cannot believe: an 83 MPH cutter right down the middle. Swinging late (?!), he misses completely. LeBlanc's 5th strikeout in 5 IP.
I don't know if Wade LeBlanc can continue to suppress opponents by out-guessing them with 83 MPH cutters. But I do know that Roenis Elias can fail to suppress them, and in only a few pitches. Whether he throws two more good games or twenty, you've got to give LeBlanc credit for "makeup." When he is on the mound I like the FEEL of the competition, like the way he represents my city. There are $20 arms with 10-cent heads, and there are the reverse. Enjoy LeBlanc's pitching for his personality. Like Moyer, he's got "the stones of a burglar." There have been, and are, quite a few Mariners who do not.
Postscript: some cutters have a wrinkle, a 4-inch gloveside break. Dr. D has an aversion to these, for no good reason. Other cutters have 9-10 inch gloveside swerves, like sliders except faster. Dr. D has a real affection for these.
LeBlanc throws the latter. His 87-mph slowball has a good swerve, 6" rise by 9-10" armside (nice movement considering the lack of velocity to help it move). His 83-MPH cutter has real bite, 6" rise by 0-1" armside.
Super Wade mixed 'em at a 33-27-23 ratio, fastball-change-cutter. That pitch to Upton made us 18-5 over the last three weeks, redonkulous but I don't notice that bad Mariners teams ever go 18-5 for three weeks.
Both Mike Trout and Nelson Cruz homered 2x apiece. We have no more words for Cruz' launch velocities. Except you know who he reminds me of ... the rookie Richie Sexson. Everybody would back wayyyyy up and even his singles whistled by the infielders a yard away. With Cruz, it's just a question of whether he gets the right angle any more. Ball after ball after ball leaves his bat at 100-115 MPH.
Wow, two weeks ago we weren't sure. Now we've got our cleanup hitter back. That's kinda big. Is there a July 31 move that's going to matter more?
Here's a StatCast on one of his HR's Monday. Same velocity as Trout's 457-footer but a lower angle, 16 degrees vs. 19.
Guillermo Heredia, it had seemed, had been having some trouble at the plate since stepping onto the fulltime stage under the bright lights. Turns out he too clocks in at a 92 OPS+ the last 30 days. :: hip hip hooray :: That of course is despite the scouting and emphasis against him now.
Plate discipline the last 30 days: still a wonderful 23.7% chase rate (against the 30% average). He's even pulling the trigger on strikes at a 69.1% rate (vs. 67% average). Apparently he's going to be fine. It COULD be that these numbers are precisely the ones that emboldened Jerry Dipoto to start the advisories as to Robinson Cano's return.
At D-O-V the thought was floated that the solution is easy: Cano to 1B this year, to DH next year. Very easy except for Robinson Cano's feelings about it: "I signed a contract to play second base for ten years." Perhaps he can play it in Oakland for the last five, with us footing 40% of the bill, naturally.
3 hits for Sudden Jean Segura: 89, 90, 91. His re-emergence as a 200-hit man (.343/.365/.483) gives the Mariners a clear 4 offensive stars, and the other guys are 90-105. Grant me a continued Big Three (very tenuous) and a continued star bullpen (not at all tenuous) and I'm glad to call this team the equal of those Royals teams that won it...
Segura has 1.7 WAR the last month. A 10-WAR rate of production.
On TV they were struggling to explain why it matters that he doesn't stride. Some how, some way, he gets average-mediocre MLB launch velocity off a golfer's putting motion. That "some how, some way" correlates with Teddy Ballgame's first principle of busting a slump -- Be quick, quick, quick.
You can sock me in the mouth more quickly with a lead jab than you can by pulling your back hand back to full extension and throwing it from there. Jean Segura has a clean, short motion. As a completely separate issue, he's got special reflexes. And as a completely separate issue from that, he's willing to let the ball travel an extra 2 feet (taking a pitch out of the catcher's mitt for a RF single), which is an extra 5-10% to his decision time.
In other words, everything about Segura's approach turns a 94-MPH fastball into an 89-MPH fastball. It's a pleasure to watch him hit. A living embodiment of Teddy's First Rule.