Mariners Beat A’s, Return To .500 in AL West


May 5, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners shortstop Brad Miller (5) slides safely into second base in the sixth inning of their baseball game with the Oakland Athletics at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get this out of the way real quick and easy here: Chris Young has not been pitching well. He’s been extremely lucky with that 3.03 ERA, which is perhaps less a reflection of his true performance than any other ERA on the team. Young’s walking more guys than he’s striking out, which is obviously a huge issue. During Jeremy Bonderman‘s time starting for the M’s last year, he was the only major league starter with more walks than strikeouts. We all remember how he turned out.

Young’s stranding a lot of runners, which is not something he can continue to do going forward. His BABIP allowed is .193, and that too will not keep up. Young’s been almost impossibly lucky, but fortunately baseball is a team sport. And as fans of the team Young’s overperforming for, we’ll take it, even while anticipating some serious regression. Young will allow more runs going forward, but his performance to date is in the bank. The process sucked, but the results were fine. Cool.

The Seattle Mariners just won their third straight and their eighth out of the last ten. A couple of these wins came against the Astros, who are the Astros, but a lot of them have come against real baseball teams like the Yankees and Rangers. This most recent win came against the Oakland Athletics, who have the AL’s second best record and the best run differential in all of MLB by a significant margin. There’s a pretty good argument to be made that the A’s have been the best team in baseball so far, and that the Mariners beat them is no small feat.

This victory was largely fueled by Chris Young, who was underwhelmingly good for six innings. His line was typical of his season to date: two walks, two strikeouts, a homer, two runs, and a shockingly low total of three hits. The homer was hit by Brandon Moss, who is a homer-hitting guy, and aside from the two runs that scored on that swing, Young kept the A’s off the board. He’s succeeding with luck, but we don’t have to view his outings like that. He’s succeeding, and it’s really fun. Other teams get to enjoy good luck all the time. Why not the M’s? Why not now?

Scott Kazmir started for the A’s, and if you don’t realize how unlikely and awesome that is, let’s reflect. Kazmir was an ace-level young star for the first good Rays teams, then showed sudden signs of decline in his mid-twenties and was shipped to the Angels for Sean Rodriguez, amongst other parts. He completely fell apart, finding himself out of MLB only a couple years after being considered one of baseball’s elite young talents. He went to independent ball and was among the worst players in the league there, too. He started to looked good all of a sudden and resurfaced with the Indians, posting a quietly spectacular 2013 comeback season. The A’s gave him a multiyear deal, and so far he’s been throwing like an ace. Of course.

Kazmir was ugly against the M’s, allowing four runs in six innings with only three strikeouts and two walks. Michael Saunders and Stefen Romero opened the game with back-t0-back singles, with Saunders scoring on a Corey Hart single and Romero coming home on a Kyle Seager groundout. Romero added his first MLB home run in the fifth, which is just so neat. Congrats, Stefen! Brad Miller drove in a run with a single, and that’s always nice to see, as it seems to indicate that Brad Miller probably doesn’t have two broken wrists. Since, you know, he’s been playing like he has two broken wrists.

Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect ninth, and hey, let’s talk about him for a second. As much as we rag on Rodney (and all closers) for being too, erm, excitement-prone, we often overlook their positive contributions. And looking at the relief pitcher leaderboard, we find Fernando Rodney right up near the top, part of a twelve-way tie for sixth in WAR. He’s running a 13.5 K/9 rate, which is fantastic. The walks are right up there at 4.26 BB/9, but that’s just who he is. Rodney rules despite his walks if he can run a high K rate, which is exactly what he’s doing. The result is one of the best relievers in the game, which is what the Mariners signed up for when they signed him. So far, so good, despite all the excitement.

Game two at 7:05pm. This is an interesting pitching matchup: Roenis Elias vs. Jesse Chavez. Neither was expected to make their team’s rotation, now or any time soon. Yet here they are, both enjoying successful seasons to date. Chavez was a reliever, but made the rotation based almost solely on team need. So far his stats are amazing: 9.71 K/9, 1.89 BB/9, 1.89 ERA, 2.62 FIP. He’s been an ace, in short. With a good pitch mix, perhaps one shouldn’t be too hasty to regress his future performance all the way back to previous expectations. Elias is so damn fun and you and I both know that already. With a win the Mariners move above .500 and back into positive run differential territory. Fingers crossed!

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