On Thursday night, the Tacoma Rainiers faced the Las Vegas 51s. It was a typical Washington day, with rain on and off, somewhat threatening the game. This was no normal game, in fact, it was a sellout. Prospect Danny Hultzen faced former Mariner Jamie Moyer.
Got a couple of big whiffs on Adeiny Hechavarria on 92 MPH fastballs and then put one on the corner that Hechavarria just looked at for strike 3. He quickly got ahead of Anthony Gose 0-2 but then threw a pitch way out of the zone before throwing a nasty breaking ball low and away that Gose swung at for some reason, striking out. A fly-out ended a pretty dominant 1st inning in 10 pitches. Travis Snider hit a ball relatively hard through the hole between 1st and 2nd to lead-off the 2nd with a single. Hultzen then began having control issues, falling behind 3-1 (and getting lucky on the strike call) and walking Yan Gomes. He totally lost fastball command, but hit 96 MPH on the radar gun. He picked up his 3rd strikeout on pure velocity alone. He walked Eric Thames, someone who doesn’t walk very much to load up the bases. He continued to throw purely fastballs, and continued to be extremely wild. He walked in a run, the ultimate sign of control issues. He jammed a hitter with a fastball to get a weak foul out followed by a weak grounder to end the inning. Anthony Gose has shown basically no contact skills this year, which is frustrating for a speed guy. Hultzen made him silly with a slider for a strikeout. The control issues persisted though, as he just couldn’t consistently throw strikes with his fastball. I would like to see him throw more changeups and sliders, as he was missing bats with those pitches. When you just watched his breaking pitches and his fastball velocity readings, you would think that Hultzen is ready to step in and be a well above average starter in the big leagues. He gave up a ball to the warning track in the 4th on a high fastball to the number 9 hitter in the order, but it turned into an out. That seemed to be the hardest contact Las Vegas had against him.
He got Ford to whiff on a 81 MPH fastball and fooled him on a breaking ball, but Ford somehow made contact with it, hitting it weakly to shortstop. With Ford’s awesome speed, he beat it out for a lead-off single. Ford stole 2nd easily, then 3rd easily. Nick Franklin, who continues to look very mediocre in AAA, struck out on a 2-2 changeup. Alex Liddi probably looked the worst against Moyer. In the first at-bat, it looked like the umpire had a big zone, with 2 called strikes on inside pitches leading to a strikeout. PCL All-Star Luis Jimenez had no such problems. The first pitch Moyer threw to him turned into Jimenez’s 13th homer of the year. Mike Wilson also hit a ball very hard. I don’t think Moyer is a big league caliber pitcher at this point, and Adam Moore showed this by driving a 2-2 pitch (after being fooled by a change) way out to left field. Adam Moore has been awful since coming back from injuries and it is nice to see him pull a ball like that, even if it was basically a batting practice fastball. The breaking pitches do provide some insight on how ready the hitters are for advanced MLB pitching. Carlos Triunfel is clearly not ready for this, as he looked awful. Nick Franklin did have an encouraging triple though. Moyer got some help from his defense, but he was getting some rather weak contact from Jimenez, Wilson, and Peguero in the 3rd. Carlos Peguero looked absolutely silly on a breaking ball. Moyer had a stretch of 9 of 10 batters retired as Tacoma had problems laying off his breaking pitches.
Tacoma then went to Steven Hensley to start the 5th, as Hultzen threw 90 pitches in 4 innings. A bad luck grounder turned into a double thanks partly to bad left field play by Carlos Peguero. He was falling behind hitters though and walked the 2nd hitter he faced. His slider looked very mediocre, even when he threw it for strikes. After a wild pitch, a ground-ball snuck through the middle for a couple of runs. His fastball looked good though, and he got a nice looking whiff on it from Yan Gomes. Carlos Triunfel then made 2 throwing errors in a row which he showed impressive range and arm strength. Of course, the accuracy wasn’t there. The inning just got worse for Hensley, as a ball was pounded off the wall for another run. Steve Delabar came in and was bad Delabar, walking the first batter he faced. More bad infield defense (this time Franklin and Liddi) cost the Rainiers another run. After Delabar allowed the first 2 runners of the 6th to get on, Liddi made a brutal error on a ball that looked pretty routine at 1st. The wheels absolutely came off the bus for Delabar. Brian Moran came in and looked pretty good, making a left handed hitter look bad, but didn’t have much command over his pitches. He gave up a monster home run to Gomes.
Tacoma would lose the game 11-4.