Suddenly, it's dawned on me why so many people like to steal - there's really nothing else that feels quite like getting away with theft. The rush that accompanies being rewarded with something you didn't deserve is unique in its brand and intensity, and it's only amplified when you get to sit back later on and enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor with the knowledge that it's too late for anyone to do anything about it. With that in mind, it's a wonder shoplifting isn't more prevalent than it already is. I mean, if this is what it feels like, then a sense of common decency and a mild fear of eternal damnation are all that's keeping me from fashioning a new career as a larcenist. The upside there is just fantastically huge.
Seriously, if not for Gerry Davis's blown call at second base, I don't think the Mariners win this game. Even if someone comes up in the ninth and hits the same home run, we're only tied, and in any given inning the Yankees are far more likely to score a run than we are. In short, it would've been an unfortunate situation. And so, because of this, I'm officially putting a stop to my ten-month grudge against Mike Reilly. While the WPA numbers say that Reilly's bad call was four times as costly for us as tonight's was for New York, I think that changing each of those calls changes the winner, and so it is in that respect that I now proclaim things even. Bad calls do balance out over time, even if it takes almost a calendar year to get there. Remember that the next time somebody fucks us sideways. Eventually things'll break our way again, and when it happens, we'll have just as much sympathy for the victim as Yankees fans did for us last July.
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +33.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Vidro, -14.2%
Most Important At Bat: Beltre funk blast, +41.1%
Most Important Pitch: Abreu strikeout, +14.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +48.6%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +1.4%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%
I'd love to tell you that I came into this game all cocky and confident. I'd love to tell you that, regardless of circumstance, I was always 100% certain in the Mariners' ability to come back and take the game from a most undeserving rookie overlord. I'd love to tell you that I always believe in this team, even when all hope seems to have flown out the window, because that's who I am, and that's how loyal fans should always be, no matter what. But those would all be lies. On the heels of yesterday's embarrassment, I came into this game terrified. Despite a few early-season rallies, I have zero faith in this team's ability to come back. And when all hope seems to have flown out the window, I'm usually just counting down the outs until I can throw up a bitter, sarcastic recap and go on to live the rest of my sad depressing life. Because that's how I think the true diehard Mariner fans have to act. We can't afford to be peppy and optimistic, because it sets you up to get burned time and time again. Sure, some of us may have started that way, but over time we're all inevitably reduced to the same pathetic shell of the person we used to be. That's our evolutionary defense mechanism, and damned if it's not something we can call our own.
So yeah, as of ~6:30pm my time, I was convinced that Matt DeSalvo was going to plow through our batting order, just like Rasner yesterday and Wang the day before. It wouldn't matter how good or bad he looked; this is a lineup that loves to make outs, and they just perceive lousy pitchers as a challenge. The way I saw it, our only hope was for Batista to pitch like a freak and for DeSalvo to run into one inning of trouble, leaving us with a narrow lead for the good bits of the bullpen to narrowly protect. An outside observer may see this as an unusual stance for someone to take when his team's facing a no-talent assclown, but that outside observer probably isn't very familiar with the Mariners.
Sure enough, when I first caught a glimpse of DeSalvo, I was positively stunned by how bad he looked. I mean, yeah, the guy's K/BB since the start of 2006 is just under one, but somehow seeing him with my eyes only made him look even worse. His slider's all right, I guess, but his heater is laughable and his delivery sucks. He has this weird Japanese-style hitch towards the beginning, but I think that's probably just something he adapted to confuse hitters once he realized that he couldn't do it with stuff alone. More importantly, he short-arms the ball and basically doesn't bend his lead knee at all, which (A) stresses the joints, (B) leads to poor command, and (C) forces him to look all kinds of silly when he tries to work down in the zone. The knee thing is sort of similar to Kevin Millwood, but where Millwood's able to get on top of the ball with his entire arm and put it where he wants, DeSalvo gets under it (think Hargrove's recent criticism of Baek) and basically has to guide the ball with his fingers. Just looking at this picture makes me wonder how DeSalvo ever manages to throw a strike at the knees. It's just a genuinely bad delivery for a genuinely bad pitcher.
So, yeah, it came as no surprise when I found out that DeSalvo went undrafted out of Marietta College. If this is what he looks like now, after 4+ years of developing in the minors, he must've been a big steaming pile of crap as a senior. It also came as no surprise that he wasn't missing any bats; in 89 pitches, he got all of two swinging strikes, with one of them coming against Adrian Beltre, roughly as difficult a task as putting your socks on without setting the house on fire. DeSalvo, like Rasner, looked like garbage, the sort that a Major League lineup sends back to AAA in three or four innings.
So, naturally, the Mariners made life easy on him. Oh, the top of the first was interesting, what with Ichiro's leadoff double and Raul's RBI single past Jeter that most shortstops turn as a routine play, but that was it, as far as success against DeSalvo was concerned. After Ibanez, DeSalvo faced 22 batters; two of them walked, one of them rolled a groundball single under three Yankee gloves, and 19 of them made 20 outs. Oh, there was one threat in the third where Lopez and Ichiro drew consecutive walks to put two on with none out, but Vidro decided to make a pair of productive outs at once by grounding a ball to short to advance a runner to third while only bringing us 67% closer to the end of the inning. Johjima predictably flew out to finish it off completely. After that, it was complete and utter misery.
Like you, I looked at tonight's lineup and thought "I like it." It seemed like a good arrangement, and arguably the best way to score the maximum amount of runs. But here's where that analysis comes up short - when we look at the lineup, we see names like "Ibanez" and "Sexson" and think "run producers" where, in reality, the both of them are completely tanking. Our brains still think of them as productive even though they're currently not. So, while we thought the batting order was pretty good today, it really wasn't, because the two main guys we're depending on to collect RBIs aren't doing that at all. Sadly, until that changes, we're probably doomed to a lot of games much like these last three. Right now this is a group that just can't hit the ball with any authority, which is why DeSalvo was able to survive despite every single one of his outs coming on balls in play.
Anyway, while the Mariner lineup was busy doing the polar opposite of its job, Miguel Batista was kinda-sorta doing his. His gaffe in the bottom of the first was retarded - with men on the corners and nobody out, he got a comebacker, looked briefly at Damon, then threw to second without actually making sure that Damon wasn't breaking for home (which he was. Seriously, if Batista's supposed to be some kind of genius, how come he can't figure out how to put hitters away with his 95mph fastball or make sure they're not breaking for home while the ball's in his hand?) - but outside of that he was wiggling out of jam after jam without pulling a Jeff Weaver and letting everyone come around to score out of common courtesy. In the fourth, it was a man on second and one out. In the fifth, it was the bases loaded and two out (one run scored earlier in the inning). In the sixth, it was two on and two out. And in the seventh, he left with two on and one out. You shouldn't escape with two runs after allowing 12 of 29 hitters faced to reach base, but Batista found a way. I don't care if it was luck and I don't care if it's not repeatable, because this is the Yankees we're talking about, and any time you keep them under six is cause for celebration.
That bottom of the seventh was pretty critical. For whatever reason Mike Hargrove decided that Eric O'Flaherty would be better than George Sherrill with men on the corners and Bobby Abreu at the plate, but O'Flaherty came through with a grounder that kept the run from scoring. Chris Reitsma followed that by getting Alex Rodriguez to lift a harmless routine fly to center to end it, inducing a few audible boos from the Yankee faithful. The lesson being that, in New York, one historically awesome month only buys A-Rod two weeks of not singlehandedly winning baseball games before people start to turn on him again. It must be nice to be able to be dissatisfied with a 1.200 OPS MVP candidate while our big money first baseman is hitting roughly half of that. Between A-Rod's homerless drought and Roger Clemens waiting a whole two months to come back, I can't imagine the kind of anguish that's plaguing the Yankee Stadium bleachers these days.
Anyway, that took us to the eighth, where only all kinds of hilarity was able to save the Mariners from themselves. Lopez and Ichiro appropriately made two quick outs, but then Jose Vidro shattered his bat and ran out his unbelievable sixth infield hit of the season. Sixth. Jose Vidro is presently among the Major League leaders in infield singles, surrounded by players like Derek Jeter, Ichiro, and Hanley Ramirez. Either Mariner coaches are hiding sandwiches behind first base or Vidro spreads bacon grease up the baseline before the game so he can slide his gelatinous way to glory a few hours later. With Vidro having passed out after sprinting his 90 feet, Hargrove inserted Willie Ballgame for the predictable steal attempt, and even a bad jump and perfect throw couldn't deter Willie from igniting the playing field with another money bag. Not that Willie was anything other than 100%, totally out, but I don't think Gerry Davis was able to mentally process what had just happened in time to make the right call. Willie isn't a man who gets gunned down stealing. Willie makes his outs at first, not second. It really is incredible to me just how much of Willie's mystique is built upon good luck. From plays like this one to his handful of clutch late-inning blooper hits that manage to just barely elude a diving outfielder, it's like there's someone watching over us who's determined to make Willie a star, despite Willie's every attempt towards an opposite fate. That's both comforting and a pretty sound reason to become an atheist.
Surprisingly, there wasn't any kind of protest from Cano, who had to know that Willie was out by three feet. Nor did Mattingly come out of the dugout to argue, since he knew that getting ejected would leave the managerial responsibilities to Ron Guidry, who'd been doing tequila shots off of Andy Pettite's shirtless back for the better part of the weekend. And no sooner did Farnsworth get the ball and throw another pitch than Johjima tied it up with a sinking liner to right that left Abreu with no prayer of throwing Willie out at home. Just like that, the Mariners were back in the game despite having run themselves out of the inning.
I think we were all kind of taken aback. Even with the break at second base, nobody expected the tying hit. And after we got it, I think a lot of people thought that Sherrill would find a way to give it back in the bottom half, just since that's how it seems like things should go. But it didn't happen. Outside of a walk, Sherrill dominated, fanning two and jamming Posada into a soft lineout to short. We went to the ninth and, with a very vulnerable and human Mariano Rivera on the mound, things looked better than they did fifteen minutes earlier.
Rivera got his two quick outs, but then instantly learned the lesson that Adrian Beltre tries to teach every pitcher with every swing: you shouldn't throw Adrian Beltre high fastballs over the inner half of the plate. If there's one pitch that Beltre actually knows what to do with most of the time, it's exactly the one that Rivera used to start off the at bat. The ball was slaughtered, Rivera mouthed bad words, and as the dugout jumped to its feet in celebration, Mariner fans around the world shouted and did the universal "holy hell no way holy hell" dance by raising their arms with open palms and shaking them back and forth while opening their mouths wide enough to devour the screen on which they were watching. A lead. A late lead. This was new.
It was all up to JJ Putz, and while he carelessly dicked around with Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu's comically lethargic bat was no match for JJ's fastball. The awesomeness of the eventual called third strike was tempered a little bit by Johjima dropping the ball and having to throw down to first base (seriously dude, anticlimactic), but as soon as Sexson gloved the ball, the series was over, and we'd taken a split to stay above .500 even though there was no way we deserved to come out of this smiling.
It's funny how much a bad call at second base can influence how you feel about the state of the team. A loss tonight would've left me as dry and sarcastic as ever, but with the win, I'm suddenly looking a little forward to this series in Detroit. Miracle run be damned, I'm still not buying the Tigers as anything special, even if Jeremy Bonderman is one of the best pitchers nobody talks about. And we get to see him tomorrow! It seems like that should suck, but given that we've been shut down by the likes of Wang, Rasner, and DeSalvo the last three days, it's not like Bonderman can conceivably do any better. Hello, upside!