Behold the second consecutive game where absolutely nothing was even close to going well. If this game were a person, it'd be an out-of-shape guy in his late-20's who lives alone in an apartment building across the hall from three attractive young co-eds who he knows for a fact get some of his mail by accident, but who won't return it because they don't want to have to interact with him. He's too poor to buy an oven and he can't afford a new microwave, so he's stuck heating up all his meals in the old one with a problem door that's hanging off its hinges. He wakes up one morning with a headache and a tingly arm so he goes to the neighborhood clinic, which refers him to a hospital, where it's determined that the constant, steady microwave exposure has somehow given him an inoperable brain tumor, which earlier wasn't thought possible. And the tumor has AIDS.
Biggest Contribution: Yuniesky Betancourt, +3.3%
Biggest Suckfest: Jeff Weaver, -35.8%
Most Important At Bat: Betancourt double, +3.4%
Most Important Pitch: Crisp double, -11.4%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -38.5%
Total Contribution by Position Players: -11.5%
Let's be honest with ourselves for a moment, here - I don't think anyone was feeling particularly optimistic about our chances today. With the long layoff, the mediocre starter, the formidable opponent, and the Home Opener inspiration, odds were long from the get-go. Pretty much the best possible legitimate scenario would see Weaver survive a few line drives and scatter his extra-base hits while an opportunistic Mariner lineup strung together enough knocks to keep it close going into the later innings. No one foresaw an easy Mariner victory today, and for good reason; it just wasn't possible. A win would have to be tight, it'd have to be dramatic, and most of all, it'd have to be unexpected. So we tuned in almost reluctantly, the only saving grace of this game being the fact that it was the first game we'd had in almost a week. After all, while losing baseball sucks, it's better than no baseball, and as long as there was a glimmer of hope today, you just had to watch.
The glimmer of hope was gone after about eleven minutes, by which point Josh Beckett had made two good athletes and one sorry fatass look foolish while Jeff Weaver had allowed the first four guys he faced to reach base. They weren't lucky baserunners, either - Weaver was missing all over the place and getting his strikes drilled into the outfield. The best pitchers in baseball have both good stuff and good location. Weaver had neither, and he had it in spades. For the most part, his fastball was hanging out around 85-87, his slider looked like a changeup, his changeup looks like an eephus, and his command was having drinks with Jose Vidro's dietary willpower in a bar at the end of the universe. Weaver just looked really, really bad, and even his first out would've cleared the bases were it hit to any other part of the ballpark. He eventually wriggled his way out of the first having given up four runs instead of five, thanks to the intervention of one of Boston's patented dumbshit spectators, but the take-home message was blatantly clear - Weaver sucked, and the rest of the game wasn't going to get any better as long as he was pitching. (Fun fact: Weaver's 47-pitch first was the longest inning of his career, by nine pitches.)
Sure enough, things got worse in the second. Back-to-back doubles made it a 5-0 game, and even with a surprising strikeout of David Ortiz - one of I believe two swinging strikes Weaver registered in the game, although one was a foul tip and I don't know how those get recorded - he still managed to screw things up worse with a two out, two-run homer by JD Drew to straightaway center. Drew seemed way ahead of the pitch and it looked like a pop-up off the bat, but you don't hit balls 430 feet to center if you're way ahead of them, so I guess looks can be deceiving. Weaver, for what it's worth, was also shocked to see the ball sail as far as it did, staring out at center with a priceless facial expression as the ball landed in the black, but he had the same reaction when John McLaren playfully "got his nose" in the clubhouse before the game, so we probably shouldn't read too far into it.
I never like to judge players by their first appearance, especially when they're coming off this kind of break, so I'll give Weaver another few starts before I start calling for change. The early returns, though...this was about as unimpressive as any pitching performance I've ever seen. He threw a few funky fastballs in the second, but even with a little movement they were still 85mph and over the plate, so they're nothing worth celebrating. Weaver just didn't fool anyone with any of his 70 pitches, and if he keeps trying to survive with the same awful stuff he showed today, he's going to be out of a job by June. On a one-year contract with no Mariner history, the team has no obligation to be loyal to Weaver if he struggles, so if he has trouble getting outs, he'll be gone. I'd say "he needs to add another two miles to his fastball" or "he needs to figure out where at least 75% of his pitches are going," but honestly he needs to do both, and today he did neither. Perhaps we need to reconsider our definition of Joel Pineiro's Suck Pitch. In a rotation with five leashes, Weaver's is the shortest.
Top of the third inning:
Red Sox Announcer: And we're back, the score 7-0 Sox...
Red Sox Announcer: ...the Mariners hitless through two against Beckett...
Red Sox Announcer: ...they haven't been able to pick up the slack for a starting pitcher who clearly doesn't have his best stuff...
Me: GOD. Seriously.
Red Sox Announcer: ...we're joined now by a member of the '67 Sox, Hawk Harrelson.
I don't have a big problem with Jerry Remy or Don Orsillo (Boston's two announcers); I hate their team, but I think they do a pretty good job of calling the game without sounding stupid or flagrantly displaying any rooting interests. Basically, I can stand them, which is more than you can say about most broadcast teams around the league. When they brought Harrelson into the booth, though, I lost it. All of a sudden it was like they completely forgot about the event on the field and decided the top of the third would be a good time to talk about the clubhouse atmosphere of the "Miracle Sox" of 1967, who went all the way to the World Series before thankfully losing to a team that didn't suck. Cue a half-dozen senile Harrelson anecdotes. The discussion then shifted to the current dynamic in the AL Central, with Harrelson offering up such unique analytical insight as "(the White Sox) didn't have the killer instinct last year, but they do now," and "Ozzie, Ozzie's good." It was a ridiculously retarded conversation about the AL Central in a game featuring teams from the AL West and the AL East. I was crossing my fingers for the Mariners to make another quick three outs so Harrelson could leave the booth and fall down the stairs walking back to his seat, but even then they couldn't do what I wanted, insisting on scoring a run before rolling over. In an afternoon full of nightmare half-innings, this was the worst of them all.
After Beltre flew out to end the top of the third, I essentially lost interest in the game. I left it on and kept watching, but the failed rally attempt left me pretty much hopeless and waiting for the end. Time passed and the Sox kept piling on, and the only consolation I got came in the bottom of the fourth when a catchable foul pop-up eluded Sexson's glove and landed on a beer, drenching an unfortunate-looking woman in the front row. The Mariners may not have been able to send 35,000 Sox fans home upset, but they sent at least one home with a smelly jacket and sticky hair, which is something.
And so on and so forth. Brandon Morrow made a fifth inning appearance and looked awful, basically walking the first three guys he faced (Pena was beaned on a 3-0 count) before finally finding the strike zone. He allowed two runs and probably deserved worse than that, because his control was terrible and his body language was less than encouraging. Not that it's fair to call someone else out for their body language on a day that Jeff Weaver pitches, since he takes the cake as far as "guys who look like they couldn't give a rat's ass" are concerned, but when Chaves came out for a mound visit, Morrow stared back and looked visibly frustrated, like he couldn't figure out why nothing was going where he wanted. He seemed like a guy who was one more walk or big base hit away from just totally losing it, but fortunately he was able to induce Lowell into a double play to make things easier on himself. I gotta say, this was about as low-pressure a situation as you're ever going to get in the Majors, and Morrow couldn't handle it. I'm going to give him time since he's still brand-new and not accustomed to relieving (he seems to be over-compensating and rushing himself on the mound), but if he isn't an impact 7th/8th inning guy by the middle or end of May, it's time to ship him to the minors and let him resume developing as a starter. The only reason to keep him in Seattle is to help the team win, and if he isn't doing that, then you need to end the experiment.
It was a 14-1 humiliation when we got to the top of the eighth, where Jose Guillen was set to lead off and Brendan Donnelly was coming in from the bullpen. As you may already know, Guillen's the guy who told Frank Robinson to check Donnelly's glove in a Nationals/Angels game two years back, an incident which resulted in a bench-clearing episode and Donnelly's ten-game suspension for pine tar. The two guys hate each other in every sense of the word, and for once I saw the potential for something interesting to happen.
Then Guillen struck out on three pitches. That looked like the end of it, but no! What's this? After the third strike, Donnelly must've said something witty and sportsmanlike, because Guillen took offense and turned around, mouthing off and gesturing with his bat. The umpires managed to restrain both players before Donnelly got shanked, but we finally saw some of that Guillen emotion that makes him such a firecracker, and it was glorious, if only because by this point in the game a lot of us were bitter and just wanted to see something happen. Don't be surprised if tomorrow, when Guillen's warming up in right field between innings, he turns around and beans Donnelly in the bullpen.
Donnelly hit the next guy he faced in the inning, and while it sure seemed completely unintentional, it was enough to get his cheating ass ejected and sent walking to the dugout to an inexplicably moronic and immature standing ovation from the crowd. Boston really is the pinnacle of class. It felt like the Mariners might retaliate in the bottom half with Putz on the hill and the game out of hand, but nothing wound up happening. Which is great news in the long run, but at the time, I think a little part of all of us was hoping for a mêlée, if only on the off chance that Hawk Harrelson felt a sudden onrush of Red Sox brotherhood and stormed the field, where a waiting Jose Vidro devours his head and chokes on the skull.
Speaking of Vidro, he hit a fly ball today in the ninth. He is currently 1-15 with one fly, zero line drives, and twelve grounders. Emiliano Fruto threw six no-hit innings in AAA yesterday as a starter.
So this all brings us to tomorrow, where the Mariners will look to stave off sinking under .500 for at least another two days as they send Felix to the mound in the best pitching matchup of the young season. Since the lineup's collected all of 20 hits in four games and generally looks terrible as a unit, Felix'll need to be at his best, but there's no one else I'd rather go to in a situation like this. Felix showed all of us what he can do on Opening Day; now it's time for him to show the country.