The Mariners, didn’t walk on Sunday, but, at least on Sunday, it didn’t matter. They beat the Rays 2-1 behind a great outing behind Blake Beavan.
It is notable though, as the Rays top pitching prospect coming into the year, Matt Moore, has struggled with walks all year, as 12 % of the batters he faced before Sunday reached via the walk. Instead, the hack-tastic Mariners struck out 8 times and walked 0 times in the game. Kyle Farnsworth pitched the 9th for the Rays, and it took him just 13 pitches (9 strikes) to dispose 3 Mariner batters for a 1-2-3 inning. This is worth noting because Farnsworth has walked a batter per inning so far this year (in a small sample size coming off an injury).
In many ways, this was a typical Mariner game. Ichiro looked bat at the plate for the most part, yet made a great defensive play. John Jaso sat against the left handed starter and Jesus Montero had a good day at the plate (he has a .402 OBP against lefties, but is slugging just .309 against righties). Miguel Olivo struck out in all 4 of his at-bats and Justin Smoak went 0-3 with a strikeout. However, in may ways it wasn’t a normal day for the Mariners. They made an error for the 2nd straight game, after 13 straight games without an error (while errors and fielding percentage are certainly not complete statistics, the Mariners have been unquestionably good at most defensive positions, catcher being the obvious exception, this season). Even more strange, it was Brendan Ryan, the best defensive shortstop in the majors, who made that error.Tom Wilhelmsen gave up a double and then a walk, which he rarely does, before getting the corpse of Hideki Matsui to fly-out to Ryan to end the game. Of course, the weirdest part of this game was Blake Beavan being awesome. He struck out 5, walking none, and gave up just 1 run in 8 innings. After his 5th start in Tacoma after being demoted, I wrote “I don’t think Blake Beavan belongs back in the Mariners rotation”. So how much does this start mean when it comes to Beavan?
He got 8 whiffs on his fastball, which was 13.79 % of the time he threw it. In his MLB career, his four-seamer has gotten him whiffs just 8.36% of the time. In 2012, it has actually been worse, as he is getting whiffs just 7.17% of the time. However, it is worth remembering that the Tampa Bay Rays lineup is awful. Despite a mediocre 5/3 K/BB ratio on Saturday night (and the fact that it was a road start) Jason Vargas basically shut the Rays down. In the nearly 5 hour affair on Friday, the Rays had several chances off Josh Kinney, who was pitching terribly, and yet they couldn’t score. On the hand, something is clearly different for Beavan this time around. Here is the movement Beavan got on his pitches in his last start before being demoted:
Here is Beavan on Saturday:
So whatever has happened, whether a mechanical adjustment etc., Beavan is clearly a better pitcher than he was in the first half of the year. Is he a 1.82 FIP pitcher like he was today? No. But could he be an effective starter for the Mariners for the rest of the year with this kind of movement on his pitches? Maybe.
As well as the Mariners pitched this series, they didn’t hit very well either. They faced some good pitching for sure, but the Mariners were due for some regression on the road as well. The 434/140 K/BB ratio on the road they had coming into the game is not going to be sustainable for decent road statistics (they had a 99 wRC+ coming into the game). Just as they are due for better hitting at home (I wrote about the Mariners’ home/road splits here), they are due for regression on the road.