Game notes — 9/22/20

Happy fall, everyone. Well, "happy" adjusted for 2020, anyway.

Following last night's Marco Gonzales work of art in Seattle's 6-1 defeat of the hated Houston Astros, we now turn to rookie Ljay Newsome to keep the Mariners' playoff hopes alive. OK, let's be real, to stave off the Mariners' inevitable elimination. At three games back of the Astros with six games left in the season, and with Houston owning the tiebreaker, the M's would basically have to run the table from here to make the laughably large playoff field.

But, you know, one game at a time and all that. Newsome to take on the Astros in the penultimate home game of 2020. Let's see how it shakes out. He's up against lefty Framber Valdez, who's been pretty good this year. Fortunately, the Houston lineup has been sucking it up lately.


1st inning, 0-0

I see Dylan Moore is shut down for the rest of the way after taking that fastball to the head last night. Not the best way for it to happen, but at least that brings Jake Fraley back to action. Fraley's absence for most of the mini-season was inexcusable.

Nice attempt at a double-play by second baseman Ty France here in the top of the frame; one of the challenges next year is clearly going to be finding a regular place in the lineup for France. Assuming Seager remains at third and the team once again tries out Shed Long or Moore at second, there's no obvious fit for him except DH, which is kind of a waste. Plus, Marmolejos will probably be considered for DH too, for good or ill.

Kyle Tucker drives in the first run of the game by taking advantage of an ill-advised infield shift. Yes, yes, there are metrics that say the shift works more than it fails, but I still maintain it's overused. Shift on Joey Gallo? Sure. Kyle Tucker, though? Really? They did, and he served an outside pitch right through the shortstop position for an RBI hit.

No more damage, though; we'll see what the guys can do with Valdez.

J.P. Crawford beats the shift as well, bouncing a single through the left side for a leadoff hit. I wouldn't shift on J.P. either, at least not so severely.

Whoa, Kyle Lewis nearly puts one in the seats, falls just short for a flyout. Nice at-bat, really, he showed a really good approach. Lewis is going to need to make a solid late push this week is he's going to win Rookie of the Year over Chicago's Luis Robert even though it shouldn't be close. Robert's OBP is terrible, but voters like power hitters and, frankly, winners, and the White Sox will finish first. Lewis should win it in a walk in a just world.

Seager gets the M's even, though, doubling off the wall in right, then Luis Torréns is robbed with a fantastic play by Houston 2B José Altuve. Wow. That ends the inning.


2nd inning, 1-1

Nice, quick 1-2-3 inning for Newsome here. Good to see.

Evan White grounds out to lead off the bottom of the inning; I'm really hoping for a strong final week out of Ev. He's progressed pretty well, all things considered, but the strikeouts are a concern. He homered on a curveball last night, though, so hopefully he's figuring out how to handle breaking stuff.

Lopes and Fraley go down quietly. That was fast.

3rd inning, 1-1

Another quick 1-2-3. Newsome is looking decent, taking advantage of Houston's aggressiveness and getting quick outs.

Phillip Ervin leads it off here for the M's and I was about to make a snarky remark about how picking Ervin up off waivers was another slap in the face of Fraley and company, but I just checked his splits, and since joining the Mariners Ervin's posted a .341 OBP. He bounces out here, though. (Still think it was an unnecessary move.)

4th inning, 1-1

Whoa! Fantastic catch by J.P. on a liner from Alex Bregman.


Tucker with another hit, pounding a fat fastball into the RF corner. That's going to be Newsome's problem, leaving pitches in batter's happy zones; I haven't seen him throw a good breaking pitch yet, though he's varying speeds pretty nicely. I think he's going to need a decent curve or slider or split if he's going to succeed as a starter long-term.

No further damage, though, Newsome's managing pretty well despite that lack of curveball.

Hits from Seager and Torréns here in the bottom half. I really like what I see from Torréns, at least as a batter. As a catcher he has one issue which I hope will get some attention, and it's not really his fault, it's the fault of home-plate umpires—he tends to set up low regardless of where he's expecting the pitch and thus moves his glove a fair amount when catching any given pitch, and more than a few umps pay too much attention to the catcher's reach than whether or not a pitch actually hits the strike zone, so he's cost his pitchers a few strikes.

Both runners stranded. Bleh.

5th inning, 1-1

Servais is relieving Newsome after he strikes out Madonado to start the inning. Why? Pitch count. Scott Servais is so freaking inflexible—he just won't adapt to the circumstance of the game. This is Newsome's final start of the year, he's thrown some solid innings after a somewhat rocky first frame, and because he's topped the 65 pitch mark, he's coming out. Let the man finish five innings, Servais, let him qualify for the victory. Sure, if Houston puts a couple runners on or if it looks like he's getting smacked hard, then OK, but otherwise let him finish the inning. Drives me up the wall. Especially given the state of the Seattle bullpen. Casey Sadler is the guy coming in, and he's been surprisingly OK, but pulling Ljay now is just being a jerk.

Sadler gets the last two outs quickly, at least.

Marco Gonzales is being interviewed as the bottom of the inning plays, and I remain so impressed with the guy. Not only is Marco an excellent pitcher but he's a really smart dude, very good with the language, and has a fine sense of humor, going with Aaron Goldsmith's tease about how things must be falling to pieces because Marco walked a batter last night (his sixth walk of the season). I don't know if he'd even want to, but I bet he would make a good manager when he's done pitching.

Meanwhile, Valdez has a brutal curveball against left-handers and gets Fraley on strikes with it. Really good pitch. Ervin gets a hit on the curveball, though, as a right-hander. France aboard the hard way, getting hit by a pitch, but both are left on again.

6th inning, 1-1

Michael Brantley golfs one into the RF seats to lead off the 6th and put Houston up 2-1. Followed by a deep fly out and now Tucker pulls one just foul that had plenty of distance on it before lining a hard single. Even the better Mariner relievers are still Mariner relievers.

Tucker steals second base thanks to Sadler not paying any attention to him, then a walk brings the pitching coach out for a chat. Didn't work, first pitch after Woodworth goes back to the dugout is a wild pitch. Anyone warming up in the ’pen? Blowers says Brandon Brennan is. I guess there are worse options.

Big second out as Correa pops up to deep short/shallow left, but another wild pitch brings a run home to make it 3-1. Sigh.

Another thing about too many infield shifts: They're shifting now on Josh Reddick with a runner at third base. That runner can take a 45-foot lead if he wants to. Don't like the shift in that circumstance. Reddick draws a walk, so no matter this time. That gets Servais out to make a change, Brennan coming in.

Goldsmith just described the baserunner situation as "runners on the edges." I've never heard that variant before, always "runners on the corners." But "edges" is more accurate, second base is technically also a corner of the diamond while first and third are, in fact, at the edges of fair territory. Huh.

Maldonado greets Brennan with a gargantuan home run. Nice to see the formula still applies, more or less. The 3rd out finally arrives, but too little too late. This game's basically over.

Meanwhile, Framber Valdez is still going strong. Gets through the 6th on just seven pitches. Way to make him work, M's.

7th inning, 6-1

Nothing like the Seattle relief corps to give an ailing lineup a boost. Brennan walks Brantley, then serves up a hit, then Brantley steals third at a gentle trot as Brennan had basically forgotten anyone was there. This crop of relievers, Hirano excepted, is just...I don't know what. Moderately capable but scatterbrained? Overmatched in the bigs? Both?

Brennan gets through it without anyone scoring, though.

Valdez just strikes out the side, though, mowing 'em down. Good grief.

8th inning, 6-1

Lail in to pitch now. Sure, why not. His first pitch is blasted to the wall in left, caught by Fraley; had he not caught it it would have hit just under the yellow line atop the fence. He walks Maldnonado, but no other scares.

Finally, Valdez is out of the game. Man, he was good. Paredes in. The Houston 'pen is pretty good overall, but JP starts it off with a base hit. Double-play takes care of that, though. Lewis is putting up a good fight here in his likely last AB of the game, but he goes down on strikes anyway.

9th inning, 6-1

I'm assuming this game ends 6-1, everyone looks like they're just phoning it in now. Except Kyle Tucker, he's having himself a game. Fourth hit of the night for him. And Kyle Seager makes a hell of a play to get the 3rd out on a hot smash. Hawt Corner...

Josh James pitching for Houston. He's got abysmal numbers (7.71 ERA), but I expect nothing from these sleepy M's down by 5.

And so it goes, a 1-2-3 ninth with no drama whatsoever.

Too much Framber Valdez tonight, not enough relief pitching. Again. M's will likely be eliminated tomorrow.