As I noted on Twitter last night, the Mariners’ hitting with runners in scoring position has gone up 40 points in the last two days. Shocking, right? They should change the sport’s name from Baseball to Regression To The Mean.
All it took was going 8 for 19 with RISP to bump it up from .157 to .197. They still have a way to go to get back to league average, so it’s probably reasonable to expect many more fine offensive days to come.
I fully understand that nobody who’s anybody really cares about batting average with RISP as a stat, because they see it as just hitting. Good hitters are going to be better with RISP than bad hitters, and it all evens out in the end. But, I think it’s important. We talk all the time about pitchers – particularly relievers – in high-leverage situations. Well, what’s a batter walking to the plate with a runner on second or third base if not a high-leverage situation?
The fact of the matter is, every hitter has the same goal: get on base. Take what the pitcher gives you and work a walk, bloop a single, line a double, or destroy a homer. But, there are always variables. What’s the score? A guy is apt to try a little harder in a 0-0 game than he is in a 10-0 game, regardless of whether his team is winning or losing. Is a runner on base? Well, that’s an RBI opportunity! Say what you will about baseball players, but they love batting runners in. Is that runner on second or third base? Well, shoot, then all the batter needs to do is hit a single into the outfield to get him home! Your approach changes depending on the situation. And, factoring in game score, time of the year, whether your team is in contention for the playoffs or not, the pressure is ramped up.
On the flipside, the pitcher doesn’t want to give up those runners in scoring position! They’re trying to preserve their ERAs! So, they’re going to bear down, so to speak. They’re going to focus a little bit harder on making good pitches to get the batter to do what they want them to do.
And, since the name of the game is to score more runs than your opponent, I’d say hitting with RISP is a pretty important aspect to the game of baseball. So, I think keeping track of the day-to-day on this thing brings value. If nothing else, I hope to gain a little more understanding about the game I’ve been following for so long.
Last night, the Mariners came to play from the jump. Dyson walked to lead off and Cano ended up bringing him home with a 2-run moon shot to right-center. Cruz followed that up with a blast of his own to make it 3-0. Thankfully, the Mariners were able to add on, with two more runs in the fourth and one more in the fifth.
In the fourth, Martin got a single and stole second, before advancing to third on a poor pick-off move by the pitcher. From there, Dyson hit a double down the line the other way, then proceeded to score on a double by Cano that was very close to being his second homer of the night.
In the fifth, Taylor Motter joined the party with a towering homer to left field in the upper deck. Good golly Miss Molly is this kid fun to watch.
On the pitching side of things, Ariel Miranda had his best outing of the season. He was perfect into the fourth inning, got into a little bit of a jam with 2 outs in the sixth (giving up back-to-back singles), but got out of it and made it through seven scoreless innings, with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks, on only 4 hits. Outstanding!
It’s too early to get too excited about Miranda’s performance last night, particularly after his first two underwhelming starts. But, he’ll be one to watch going forward. With Smyly injured, with Iwakuma hit or miss, and with Gallardo not likely to impress too much, it’ll be important for Miranda to pick up some of the slack. For what it’s worth, he looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last night. Fastball touched 95, he was locating well, and for the most part he kept his off-speed stuff down in the zone. The key is to do that every time, or most every time. Up next for him is a game in Oakland; they don’t strike me as an offensive juggernaut.
Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner each got an inning of work. They were the only two bullpen guys not to appear on Sunday, so that’s fine. Scribner gave up a hard-luck homer the opposite way in the 9th. I thought his stuff looked good, I just thought the guy hit a quality pitch out of the park.
I hope the offense continues its hot streak tonight, with Gallardo on the mound. I’ll never know what to expect from him, but hopefully he’s able to get on track a little bit.