If you think about it, the AL West is kind of like a modern day Bizarro Wizard of Oz. The Mariner family built itself a wonderful estate with its own two hands, but a sudden tornado destroyed part of the mansion and dropped a substantial portion of its roof onto Mariners' right arm. Knocked unconscious by the blinding pain, Mariners began to dream that he was lost in an unfamiliar landscape. Confused and disoriented, Mariners walked around and accidentally bumped into a tiger, pushing it over the edge of a cliff to the delight of a local tribe of Indians, many of whom were identical twins. Mariners apologized profusely but the locals wouldn't have any of it, thanking him again and again and assuring him that he could get his injured right arm fixed if he just paid a visit to the wizard down the road.
So Mariners set out down the path, hoping that the wizard could heal his pain. Along the way he bumped into Athletics the Tinman, who needed a new body because his old one kept falling apart, and Rangers the Scarecrow, who was an annoying little bitch that no one paid attention to. Mariners and Athletics managed to ditch Rangers by sprinting around a sharp corner, but soon thereafter they were accosted by Angels the evil witch and her aggressive but dimwitted flock of flying monkey loyalists. Angels made several attempts at their lives but Mariners and Athletics were able to survive long enough to make it to Oz, the home of the wizard. An hospitable man willing to accommodate his guests, the wizard vanquished Angels and her flying monkeys with long division and offered to hear out the problems of the wounded men at his door.
After listening to what Mariners and Athletics had to say, the wizard grinned and said "I think I have just the thing for you both." He got up and disappeared into another room for a few minutes and returned holding a fresh right arm in one hand and an athletic young body in the other. "These are for you," he said. "Try them on."
Mariners swapped out his injured right arm for the new one and squealed with glee. "It feels like it's brand new!" Athletics put on its new body and echoed the remarks. "Wherever did you find such wonderful gifts?" they asked the wizard in unison.
The wizard smiled. "The limb I got from a Korean gentleman. He said 'I'd give my right arm for a sandwich' and forgot who he was talking to. The body is that of one Chris Snelling, a young Australian man who decided that his life would be easier without it." Then he gestured towards the door. "Go, go! Enjoy your gifts. If this is all you need, then I can do no more for you here. You may return to your homes if you stand in the courtyard out front, click your heels together three times, and say 'thank God we play in the West'."
Mariners and Athletics skipped towards the door and turned to offer their appreciation to the wizard one last time. After walking down the stairs outside and stepping over a handful of bloody monkey carcasses, they arrived in the courtyard and followed the wizard's instructions. In an instant, everything went black, there was the sound of rushing air, and suddenly Mariners awoke in a bed. After opening his eyes and looking around, he got his bearings and touched his right shoulder to see if he had an arm. Sure enough, there it was, the same arm from the dream. Mariners couldn't believe it. He could move his arm and there wasn't any pain. It was a miracle.
Mariners went outside to play ball with his friends while his parents assessed the damage to the house. Mariners was able to throw and throw without ever making a mistake or ever getting sore. He went to sleep the happiest he'd ever felt in his life.
The next day, Mariners got up and went back outside to play baseball again with his friends. This time, though, something was wrong. Even picking up a baseball caused discomfort in his shoulder. None of his throws went where he wanted. It was a 180-degree change from the day before. Soon the pain became so overwhelming that Mariners collapsed on the grass and slipped into a hallucination. In his vision, Mariners saw the wizard standing above him, snorting between breaths and laughing fiendishly. "Hey dumbass, what'd you think, that I give away fresh arms for free? Never trust gifts from strangers! You get one good day and one day only!"
Mariners opened his eyes and cried out for his parents. They rushed him to the hospital, where he was immediately placed in the ICU. While Mariners was waiting in his bed for a doctor, the doors opened and two nurses wheeled in another young man with injuries all over his body. "His name is Athletics," one said to the other. "It's the damndest thing. A house fell on him a few days ago with that whole twister thing and just yesterday he was fine. But now all of a sudden he's hurt in so many places, it's like his body's trying to kill itself."
They put Athletics next to Mariners, checked his vitals, and left the room. Mariners peered over and Athletics was sleeping, but before too long he awoke, looked back at Mariners, and opened his mouth.
"Dude, I've had the most fucked up dreams."
Biggest Contribution: Jose Guillen, +25.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Vidro, -6.7%
Most Important At Bat: Guillen funk blast, +28.8%
Most Important Pitch: Granderson homer, -9.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +4.5%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +47.4%
Total Contribution by Opposition: -1.9%
To answer your first question, no, I haven't been drinking. It's not the greatest recap intro ever, mainly because I barely even get the point anymore and I'm the guy who wrote it, but after a while I'd already gone so far that I was pot committed and had to stick it out to the bitter end. I apologize.
Anyway, since (A) it's late, (B) tomorrow's an early game, and (C) that intro took an embarrassingly long amount of time, we're doing bullet points tonight. Onward!
- This is what happens when the pitcher on the mound is putting everything precisely where he wants. If your stuff isn't very good, you need to have borderline perfect command if you want to succeed, and that's what Baek was showing us tonight. Not only was he getting ahead, but he had his changeup and curveball working all game long. Not only did he manage to throw ~70% strikes (the average is 62%), but in the sixth he was even able to go up against Granderson/Polanco/Sheffield and strike out the side. Polanco, in case you didn't know, is one of the most difficult batters to strike out in the league (6.6% career, 2.9% 2007). Of course, those were three of Baek's four whiffs on the night, so it's not like he was dominating, but Detroit's got a good lineup that doesn't get itself out very often. Put simply, tonight's version of Cha Baek is a version that can help a competitive team win games. The fact that he can throw strikes when he wants to is what makes him better than Ho Ramirez (who, in turn, is better than Jeff Weaver, who's exceptionally bad). Given that Baek's better than 40% of our current starting rotation, it's going to make it awfully hard to tell him to go away again when Felix comes back.
Will he always look like this? Of course he won't, but tonight was a better representation of his true talent level than the start in New York, and after four games Baek's FIP stands in the mid-4's. For a lot of teams, that's pretty good. For us, it's a godsend. It's not so much that he's a good pitcher as it is that he's better than our worst, and that swapping them improves the team. Hopefully the Mariners are able to see that and demote Weaver to middle relief when Felix comes back.
- Felix's rotation spot (Baek) has come up four times since he went on the DL. The Mariners have won all four of those games. In other words, we can't blame Felix's injury for the team's mediocre start unless you believe that Baek would've been starting in place of Ho or Weaver instead. If Felix really does come back at 100% in a week, then his whole terrifying episode really couldn't have possibly played out any better.
- As soon as Detroit got its second out in the bottom of the ninth, I got my finger ready on the "Prnt Scrn" button to capture Baek's reaction to his first career ML complete game. Would he continue looking distressed, or would he break character and show some teeth? The immediate result: holy crap he still looks upset. Maybe there's something seriously wrong with him after all, and baseball's just a mindless distraction to keep his thoughts away from the terror that looms around every corner in his personal life.
...but wait! What's this? Has a burden been lifted? It seems that Baek's dark psychological clouds may be parting!
Now that was the most rewarding moment of the entire ballgame.
- By the way, Kenji Johjima in the top of the fourth? Totally safe.
In the end, it didn't matter at all, but at the time it was pretty egregious, causing a 15.3% win expectancy swing in Detroit's favor. Kenji knew he was safe, too, the way he flipped out Dan Iassogna after seeing the call. Whatever. I'll just go ahead and pretend that Iassogna's bad call is what motivated the team to score another six runs to put it away.
- A lot of people dislike Jose Mesa for a lot of reasons - his 4.27 ERA in a career spent predominantly as a closer, his blown save in the World Series, his getting a girl pregnant when he was 13 (or when he was 7, according to MLB.com) - but me, I'll never get over what he did in Safeco Field's debut, back on July 15th, 1999. With the Mariners having rallied for two in the eighth to take a 2-1 lead over San Diego, Lou Piniella called on Mesa to slam the door. And slam the door he didn't.
R Rivera walks
R Rivera steals 2nd
J Vander Wal walks
E Giovanola walks
D Magadan strikes out looking
Q Veras walks, 2-2
Mesa was relieved by Paul Abbott, who allowed a sac fly to Eric Owens to put the Padres in the lead. The Mariners couldn't rally against Dan Miceli in the bottom half, and that was that. A sellout crowd of 44,607 got to watch Jose Mesa walk four of five batters and blow what was supposed to be one of the most memorable games in franchise history. Some might point to this game as the day our rivalry with San Diego jumped another level, but no, it's just the day that Mesa truly revealed himself as a no-good filthy son of a bitch.
- Kudos to Richie Sexson on his first multi-hit game of the season. Hell, it was a good day for the lineup all around, as they collected seven extra-base hits as a unit and Jose Guillen upped his season line to .258/.317/.441. It's nothing spectacular, but getting a .760 OPS from a right-handed hitter who spends half his time in Safeco isn't too bad. In slightly less optimistic news, 33 of our DH's 36 hits this year have been singles. How can something as visibly full and overflowing as Jose Vidro put up such an empty batting line?
- Coming into the day, THT ranked the Mariner outfield defense as -11 (plays made) on fly balls. Assuming that Ichiro's been great and that Guillen's been roughly average, it was pretty big of Raul to come up with a three-hit game today, because he was starting to look finished. This team badly needs for him to put up a three-homer week and alleviate our growing concerns.
Weaver and Verlander bright and early tomorrow, 10:05am PDT. Which means Sean White should be pitching by the time you wake up and get around to checking the score. So that's...well I don't know what that is. Whatever.