I blame Kevin Towers for this.
If it weren't for his remarkably ill-advised and pointless Mark Loretta/Doug Mirabelli trade last winter, Eddie Guardado could've nailed down the save today against some clown like Tony Graffanino or Mark Bellhorn and we'd all be thrilled that the team was back to .500 after a 4-3 road trip against a pair of high quality opponents. Instead, Towers flipped us the finger and now as an indirect consequence we get to wallow in our own misery and depression for the solid 90 hours or so between this morning and tomorrow night's ballgames. I guess the good news is that the team didn't embarrass itself on the home fields of a few World Series contenders, but still, the only thing worse than having to play in Boston on Patriot's Day is losing there. What kind of genius scheduled a west coast opponent to play in Fenway today, anyway? How does that even begin to constitute a good idea? Wouldn't it make more sense to get the childish Boston/New York rivalry under way a little earlier instead? There are just so many things I want to complain about right now. Playing teams I dislike really brings out the worst in me.
In the end, I suppose I shouldn't be too upset about the game today; while the whole "if I didn't see it, it didn't happen" thing is a little too Carl Everett for me, the fact of the matter is that I had to leave with the Mariners up by one in the middle of the seventh, and not having had to endure what was undoubtedly a hammer-to-the-crotch ninth inning helps take some of the sting away. Still, though...ouch. Blown saves have to be the most deflating event to witness in all of baseball, narrowly beating out blowing a bases loaded, nobody out situation and any given Adrian Beltre plate appearance at any point in any game. You may or may not agree that closers need to have some kind of special "mental makeup" on the mound to do their jobs well, but when something like today happens, it's the closer who has to deal with the fact that he lost it after being one strike away from the win. It may not have to be like that, but either way, that's a lot of pressure, and it never feels worse than it does in the aftermath of a walk-off home run.
Sucks for Eddie.
Biggest Contribution: Jake Woods, +18.2%
Biggest Suckfest: Eddie Guardado, -77.2%
Most Important Hit: Everett homer, +27.1%
Most Important Pitch: Loretta homer, -89.2%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -86.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +27.6%
Yesterday, it was the offense that failed to come through when the pitching put it in position to take command. Today it was the reverse, with the hitters making gains and the pitchers - without fail - giving them right back. Just look at the following list of leads the Mariners had during the game:
1st inning: Up 1-0. Boston tied it in the bottom half.
2nd inning: Up 2-1. Boston tied it in the bottom half.
6th inning: Up 4-2. Boston tied it in the bottom half.
7th inning: Up 5-4. Boston tied it in the bottom half of the eighth.
9th inning: Up 6-5. Boston wins it in the bottom half.
Five leads. Five leads! Each of them blown almost immediately. The Red Sox are the kind of team you're supposed to put away when you have the chance, because if you let them hang around long enough, sooner or later they're going to flip out and ruin everything. Gil Meche and the bullpen couldn't hold onto any of the momentum they inherited from the offense for more than a few batters, and the result was another incredibly frustrating Mariner loss. Rafael Chaves owes Jeff Pentland a steak dinner or something.
Poor pitching mechanics can contribute to two things - (1) injuries, and (2) lousy performance. Gil's mechanics were were pretty normal as far as #1 is concerned, but #2 brought some problems. Now, different types of fastballs aside, Gil is a three-pitch pitcher: he's got a "heater", a changeup, and a curveball. Fairly typical repertoire. The key to being successful with that kind of arsenal is to make sure the hitter doesn't know what's coming until you let go of the ball, at which point they can begin to read its spin. Gil wasn't doing that very well today. He was doing a decent, if slow and deliberate job of throwing his offspeed stuff, reaching forward and pulling down so as to keep the ball lower in the zone, but his fastball mechanics were different - his body moved faster, his stride wasn't as long, and he kind of short-armed the ball to home plate, getting little juice behind the ball from his trunk or upper body.
Since MLB.tv doesn't come with side-view cameras, I think the best way to look at what I'm talking about is by examining Gil's follow-through. The further forward you reach during release, the more you pull your throwing shoulder down and the more your back becomes parallel with the ground. If you short-arm the ball, your posture will be more upright. So let's take a look:
(Please note that this isn't just an example of selective photography; the trend was consistent for the duration of the game, but I didn't want to saturate the website with pictures of the same stuff.)
You can see in the fastball picture on the right that Gil's back is roughly 25 degrees or so above parallel, whereas with the changeup and curveball, he's almost perfectly flat. That's a significant difference, and if I can spot it, you better believe that David Ortiz saw it as well. It's probably not a coincidence that both of the pitches he sent out of the yard were two-seam fastballs. Hitters can look pretty amazing when they know what's coming.
This isn't something I've seen from Gil very often in the past, so I wonder if he and Chaves are currently working on a mechanical adjustment that has yet to be worked into his muscle memory. Watching the game today, one got the sense that Gil was really trying carefully to get a good feel for his offspeed stuff, which might explain why his delivery looked slower and longer (ask a kid to throw a breaking ball for the first time and he'll take forever to get the ball to the plate, since he's trying his damndest to consciously spin the ball out of his hand) than that of his fastball, which at this point is kind of still in the grip-it-and-chuck-it stage. It's also worth considering that today was a pretty chilly morning in Boston, and cold weather makes it difficult to get a good feel for the seams. If you watch a replay of the game you'll see Gil blowing on his right hand pretty often after release in the early innings, trying to get a little warmth and feeling into his fingers. If it's option #1, then we'll probably see Gil working on this for a little while. If it's option #2, it should be sorted out as soon as warmer weather rolls around. Whatever the case, Gil was telegraphing (to use dlinsley's word) his fastball today, which negated what looked like a spectacular changeup and made for a pedestrian outing in the end. How long has Gil Meche been pitching professionally again? If it's not one thing with this guy, it's something else. What a mess.
Various mispronunciations of Kenji Johjima's name during the weekend NESN broadcasts:
...and my personal favorite, jo-JAH-mer
Anyway, writing about Gil Meche has a way of making me exhausted, so I'll end it here. I guess the last two things I'll point out are that (A) Carl Everett's home run sails a good 20-30 feet foul in any other stadium with a right field foul line that isn't totally retarded, and (B) if there's one thing Adrian Beltre can actually do at the plate right now, it's hit the fastball on the inner half. Only problem is that he almost never actually gets it. God bless Lenny DiNardo, who apparently was never given a scouting report.
Back home tomorrow, with Felix getting the 7:05pm PDT start against John Koronka and the Texas Rangers.