Baseball

VS sea captain

 

Records: Sox 64-82  Mariners: 60-86

Game Times: Fri 9:10/Sat 8:10/Sun 3:10

TV: Fri/Sun WGN  Saturday NBCSN

Tis No Man, Tis A Remorseless Eating Machine: Lookout Landing

It’s always fun at the end of a season to have two rebuilding teams throwing whatever they can at each other. This matchup between the Sox and the Mariners promises to be no different, as they’re both basically in the same spot as each other in their rebuild. The both made big splashy moves in their off-seasons for the past few years, and now they’re both just sitting in front of the stove, waiting for the water to boil.

While the White Sox water may be bubbling more than the Mariners right now, it’s not by much. The M’s have a pretty interesting group of position players ready to take the next step in their major league careers, mixed in with some aging veterans who have been providing decent pop for the team. The Mariners as a whole are a better hitting team than the White Sox so far in the season, with their big bats being lead by Kyle “Not Cory” Seager and Dan “West Coast Palka” Vogelbach.

Seager missed the first 3 months of the season with a pretty nasty ligament tear in his hand. Before that he scuffled through the 2018 season, enduring his worst stretch of his career that saw him slash .221/.273/.400 and post an 83 WRC+, down almost 50 points from 2016-2017 seasons. He’s back at it this year however, as he has a .248/.331/.503 line thus far in 90 games, with 22 home runs. He’s been on a tear since the all star break, having hit 14 of those 22 home runs in the months of August and September. His .256 BABIP suggests that it’s pretty real, and actually he’s getting some bad batted ball luck in there as well.

The issue for the Mariners is not on the offensive side, as it’s their pitching that has let them down thus far in the season. They’re second worst in the AL, and third from the bottom of the league behind the BP machines that are the Marlins and the Orioles. Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi has not had the effect the Mariners were hoping for, as he’s gotten routinely shelled with a 5.24 ERA and 1.48 WHIP so far on the season.

Softball pitcher Mike Leake is gone, as he got shipped to ‘Zona at the deadline. The ghost of King Felix is here, who just returned from his 33rd trip to the IL since 2017 related to his shoulder which is “fine” and “structurally sound” and not at all “made from paper mache and balsa wood.” I joke here, but I actually love King Felix and were he on any other team than the Mariners would’ve had a pretty decent shot at being a Hall of Fame pitcher. Sam had a pretty great take a few weeks ago when they played the Cubs, check it out here. He’s also responsible for one of my favorite GIFs of all time, which is from last season when he struck out Adrian Beltre (who is also a national treasure) with a nasty change that resulted in a hideous swing, which Felix saw and prompted this reaction:

The only highlight for the M’s pitching staff is ace Marco Gonzalez, who came over from the Cardinals and almost immediately became the pitcher St. Louis had drafted him to be. Thankfully the Sox will miss him this time through the rotation. They will see Justus Sheffield (son of Gary) on Sunday, the prized rookie that came over from the Yankees in the Edwin Encarnacion trade. Sheffield was up earlier in the year and got knocked around pretty good. He got called back up a few weeks ago and has fared a bit better since then but still has a 4.43 ERA.

For the Pale Hose, the story remains the same. The Bullpen needs to be ready tonight, as they trot Dylan Covey out again to get decimated. Perhaps this time he makes it out of the 3rd inning, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Dylan Cease gets a chance to work on his fastball location again, and perhaps keep the walks down under 3. Nova goes again on Sunday. If the Sox pitching can keep the M’s off the board, the bats should have a good chance at feasting on sub-par Mariner’s pitching.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Mariners 58-80   Cubs 73-63

GAMETIMES: Monday 1:20, Tuesday 7:05

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday

FRANCES FARMER: Lookout Landing

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Mariners Spotlight

If the Cubs actually plan on recovering from their weekend-long attack of the hiccups against the Brewers, you couldn’t ask for better fodder than two games with the Seattle Mariners. There is no such thing as the free spot on the bingo card in baseball, but this is just about as close as it gets.

The Mariners gave their soaked and jaded fans a cheap thrill to start the season, when they started 13-2 behind an avalanche of home runs. As you can see, they’e 45-78 since. And this was always the way it was supposed to be, as the Mariners had long ago signaled their intention to rebuild by punting Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to Queens. Other trades like Jean Segura to Philadelphia, James Paxton to the Bronx before the season, and Edwin Encarnacion as well to the Yankees midseason were just more of an indication what the plan was in Seattle. And now they’re at the bottom part of the cycle, which is the ugly part of the plan but the plan nonetheless.

Offensively, this is still a team that can jump up and bite you if you’re not paying attention. And you have the flu. And you’re blindfolded. And someone cut a beer fart right in front of you. Kyle Seager has been good when healthy, which has only been about half the time. Dan Vogelbach, who will be force-fit into first base for at least one of these games so get your Benny Hill theme ready, can put one onto Sheffield. Though he has cooled off from his hot start considerably, and hit .130 in August when we can only assume had pink-eye in both. The only players currently on the roster who might, might matter when the Mariners matter again are J.P. Crawford and Jake Fraley, and that’s giving Crawford the best of it. Otherwise, these are all just place-holders and people who go lost that the Ms handed a bat.

The rotation is where the real adventure is, and you know it is because the Mariners have gone with an “opener” 47 times this season. Justus Sheffield is up, and he’s someone they’ll hope can catch the torch when Felix Hernandez passes it down (or more accurately, hangs it and watches it belted into the gap). Sheffield had serious walk-problems in AAA though and that hasn’t stopped in his two MLB starts. Felix will get the second game, as he’s recently back from injury to take one last lap around the track before he’s sent to the farm upstate for aging pitchers with no velocity anymore.

As you might guess with any bad team, the Mariners have had a parade of the bewildered out of their pen, with Cory Gearrin moved along after showing competence. 17 guys have thrown at least 10 innings out of the pen for them, and if you can pick any of them out of a lineup then we weep for you and your family. It’s a Make-A-Wish out there. However, they have discovered some whosits that have found some success of late, possibly because hitters are trying to figure out who they are and if they’re that dude who did that thing to their lawn and ran off a while ago.

The Cubs are behind the eight-ball now, but this is also the time for them to put up a big streak/number if they’re ever going to .(they’re not). The Ms, followed by a second chance to do to the Brewers what they should have done the first time, and then four with the Padres before a homestand against the Pirates and Reds before shit gets real. The Cubs should be harvest organs in the next two weeks. More likely they’ll just continue to let theirs melt and slowly leak out their pores. But if it’s ever going to happen, it’s now.

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Cubs 14-12   Mariners 18-13

GAMETIMES: 9:10 Tuesday, 5:40 Wednesday

TV: NBCSN Tuesday, WGN Wednesday

FRANCES FARMER WILL HAVE HER REVENGE: Lookout Landing

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Cole Hamels vs. Felix Hernandez

Jon Lester vs. Marco Gonzales

CUBS PROBABLE LINEUP

Daniel Descals0 – 2B

Kris Bryant – LF

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Jason Heyward – RF

Willson Contreras – C

Albert Almora – CF

Kyle Schwarber – DH

David Bote – 3B

PROBABLE MARINERS LINEUP

Mitch Haniger – CF

Domingo Santana – LF

Dan Vogelbach – DH

Edwin Encarnacion – 1B

Jay Bruce – RF

Tim Beckham – SS

Omar Narvaez – C

Ryan Healy – 3B

Dee Gordon – 2B

 

When they designed inter-league play, this wasn’t a matchup they were thinking about. Still, the way it’s worked out it’s become kind of intriguing, and not just because the Cubs end up in Seattle twice a decade. The Mariners are the surprise team in the American League, if not the whole of MLB, and the Cubs are rounding into sharpness.

So what are the Mariners doing crashing the private party that the AL West was supposed to be for the Astros again so far? Well, they’re pretty weird. They’ve had an offensive bonanza, with basically every fly ball they hit landing out beyond various walls. Four players are currently seeing a quarter of their flies turn into homers, and six are seeing 20% or above. That’s almost unheard of, even in this era of baseball where they’re using swollen Titleists as baseballs. You’d think that has to come down at some point. Jay Bruce’s .192 average and yet .552 slugging is particularly goofy.

And yet, there is some validity to some of it. Bruce, large adult son Dan Vogelbach, and Brewers castoff Domingo Santana are all hitting the ball extremely hard and aren’t benefitting from a bloated BABIP or anything like it. Santana has done this before in Milwaukee, and then was squeezed out by the Yelich and Cain acquisitions, as well as Jesus Aguilar‘s emergence (how’s that look now?). Vogelbach always threatened this in the Cubs’ system, he just needed a DH spot to do it at the top level as putting a glove on him would cause various air-raid sirens to sound off.

Tim Beckham might see his bubble burst, but Omar Narvaez’s on-base skill aren’t on luck either. Edwin Encarnacion is apparently not dead. and Mitch Haniger has been a plus-plus as well.

The flip side to this is that the Mariners are one of the worst defensive teams in recent history, as they have three or four players who should be only a DH for their own safety but only one spot occupied by Vogelbach. So Encarnacion has to be in the field. So does Bruce. Dee Gordon has to be at second, and he played himself out of there once already in his career. You know what Tim Beckham at short looks like. They’ve given up an unearned run per game so far this year.

The staff that has to work around this includes yet another undead ballplayer in Felix Hernandez. There was a real fear of what watching Hernandez this season could be in spring training, such has been his decline since being maybe the best pitcher in the American League for a minute. But Felix has been able to be better than simply a seat-filler or place-holder so far by cutting his walks down to next to nothing and upping the grounders he gets. He’s using his curve more for both, and pounding the strike zone with the rest of his arsenal.

The other hurler the Cubs will see is Marco Gonzales, who’s been magnificent through not giving up homers at all. He doesn’t get a lot of grounders but a lot of harmless flies. Gonzales flashed this a bit last year with a 3.5-fWAR season no one noticed, and being let down by a dreadful defense. The last part is still there of course, but he’s doing even better by also throwing nothing but strikes.

The pen is something of a cast of thousands, with six different yahoos collecting at least save. Old friend Zac Rosscup is here but he can’t hit a bull in the ass with a snow-shovel at the moment, which has helped him collect Ks but a ton of walks. Roenis Elias and Brandon Brennan have been the best out of there. The rest have benefitted from fortune, and this is the unit probably headed for a collapse first.

The Mariners have been fun thanks to all the fireworks, but they’re likely to not out-homer their Python-esque defense or Felix’s age for too much longer. But until then, it’s a fun ride.