How about that Michael Pineda trade, eh? Jesus Montero had a homer and a double while Hector Noesi shrugged off a rough first start and threw eight scoreless innings, striking out six. It doesn't quite erase the left-over disappointment after a lackluster home opener, but tonight's win puts the club back at .500, and it was nice to see key contributions from a number of the younger players on the roster.
Let's start with Noesi. Noesi isn't an overpowering pitcher, and when his control completely deserts him, he is liable to toss a stinker like he did in Alrington last Monday. Today, armed with pinpoint command and a beautiful changeup, the results were quite different. He allowed just five hits and one walk, needing only 105 pitches to get through eight innings. Oddly, he only induced five ground balls and stranger still, got nine pop up outs. While Noesi is a slight groundball pitcher, this isn't really cause for concern, as Noesi generated weak contact all night.
The only less than totally awesome part of Noesi's night was that he tallied just six swinging strikes. While this isn't meant as criticism, it is worth noting that Noesi walks a fine line as a pitcher. He doesn't have swing and miss stuff, particularly on his fastball(s) which resulted in just two whiffs in seventy-three tries. His command was nearly perfect and that allowed him to get a lot of taken strikes on pitches near the corner, but on nights where he doesn't have his best feel, he might look pretty hittable.
Quietly, Jesus Montero is off to a slow start this year. Coming into the game, he hadn't walked or checked in with an extra base hit. Making up for lost time, he lined a rocket over the center field wall in his first at-bat, and added a bases loaded double to plate two runners in the sixth. The double was a trademark Montero swing in which he muscled a pitch the other way into short right field.
Behind the plate, Montero demonstrated some of the reasons why scouts are skeptical of his ability to play catcher. Josh Donaldson probably stole second on Hector Noesi, but Montero's throw was high, wide, and he took a long time to release the ball. He has a strong arm, but his feet are slow and he never got in a good position to throw. Moreover, he's noisy behind the plate as the ball is coming in, and seminal research on pitch framing suggests that such movement is bad for getting called strikes on close pitches. I still think the M's should do all they can to try and turn Montero into an at least passable catcher, but after watching him for two games, it's easy to spot why most scouts would pencil him in as a DH.
Couple more thoughts:
- I've written about it before, but Brendan Ryan is a tremendous base runner. He has a gem on the bases seemingly every week (his slide last week to score a run in Oakland immediately comes to mind) and he was at it again tonight. With one out, he was on first when Chone Figgins dumped a single into left-center. Ryan had the play in front of him, never slowed down, and beat the throw to third by inches with a hard slide.
- After Coco Crisp popped up to end the eighth (and hilariously reduced his bat to slivers in frustration,) Noesi went over to get a high five from Montero. Montero refused and instead appeared to have some pointed words with his pitcher. It was a weird sequence, and while I couldn't tell what the gist of the interaction was, it appeared as if Montero had been crossed up on the pitch. Otherwise it looks like Montero doesn't like Noesi, which is kinda funny I guess.
- On a more troubling note, the Mariners continue to stub their toe in the PR department. After another ninety loss season in 2011 and some strange rumblings surrounding the prospect of a waterfront arena, the M's didn't really need any more bad publicity. Unfortunately, the concession stands lost their ability to accept credit and debit cards last night, and a lot of fans were very unhappy about it. The machine failures caused long delays, standing room only traffic, and in a related technical failure, one family left the stadium and couldn't get back in. To top it off, the Mariners normally dependable social media team was MIA throughout the incident.
This is bad. The M's are already feeling an attendance crunch (just over 20,000 people bought tickets today, compared to over 30,000 for game two last year) and a bad customer service night on the one sell out of the year is not a good way to rejuvenate a dwindling fan base. Hopefully the M's can find some way to make it up to the fans, but given the sheer number of people affected by the glitch, that's probably impossible. Just bad news all the way around.
Game tomorrow at 1:10. Graham Godfrey takes on Blake Beavan in a pitching matchup that fairly well encapsulates the excitement of another A's and Mariners showdown.