56-46

One expression you'll hear pretty often is that a team is never as good as it looks during a hot streak, and never as bad as it looks during a slump. This is absolutely true; pretty much by definition, a streak or a slump require certain things to break abnormally in order to exist. Therefore it can be mighty difficult to properly evaluate a roster when it's occupying either of the extremes.

That's all well and good. For most teams, then, you just try to focus on how they play in between the extended runs. For the Mariners, though, it's a little different, because most of the time it feels like they just have an on/off switch. Either they look like crap and drop a bunch of games in a row, forcing everyone off the bandwagon, or they pick it up and start ripping off win after win - several of them by slim margins, the kind that get everybody's emotions flowing. Because of their streaky, unpredictable nature, it's incredibly difficult to get a good read on these guys. From one day to the next we don't know if it'll look like they need one new player or ten new players. You can try to look at the overall picture, but even that doesn't tell you everything you need to know, since it's never one guy making us win or one guy making us lose. Frankly, sometimes I don't know what the hell to think of this team. Fortunately it isn't my job to know. (Unfortunately, I don't trust the guy whose job it is to go and make the situation any more clear.) My job is just to respond to what I see, and what I saw today was a fun little win with as flashy a conclusion as any all year. I'll give the Mariners one thing: they're not dull.

Biggest Contribution: JJ Putz, +26.6%
Biggest Suckfest: Ichiro, -7.0%
Most Important At Bat: Johjima funk blast, +20.6%
Most Important Pitch: Murphy double, -19.5%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +39.8%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +10.2%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%

(What is this chart?)

We're doing the bullet points today, since, Saturday night! Yeah!

...

  • Two of today's starting pitchers had iffy command. One of them has a box score line that shows it. Guess which? Sure enough, in a matchup of two completely polar opposite lineups, it was the A's who managed to draw walks and get on base, while for the most part the Mariners flailed away at offspeed stuff that Gaudin hung in the zone. The good news for us is that the A's can't hit and the M's can't miss mistakes forever; when Ho threw strikes, Oakland couldn't do anything, and Gaudin wound up having to pay the price for just two of his several mistakes. This was hardly an inspiring victory, but beating a team we're supposed to beat is a welcome step up from the past week.
  • Speaking of Ho, while he's 6-0 at home with a 2.63 ERA, don't buy the hype - it's a fluke. His K/BB in Safeco is still right around even, and of the lineups he's faced in Seattle, only the Yankees have one that doesn't suck. It's neat that the M's have gone a remarkable 6-5 in his starts, but you can only push your luck for so long. Ho couldn't post good peripherals in Tacoma, and with any luck we'll have a new #5 by next Tuesday.
  • During a pitch change in the eighth inning, this guy ran out onto the field to give Ichiro a hug. Said the game recap:
    A fan came on the field during a pitching change in the eighth inning and talked in the outfield with Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez before security realized what was happening.

    How woefully incompetent. I prefer to think that one of the security guards is a blog reader and understood perfectly well what was going on.

    Guard #1: Hey, there's a man on the field!
    Guard #2: He's not supposed to be there!
    Guard #1: At last, Safeco houses an unruly fan! This is our time to shine!
    Guard #2: -wait, hold on, he's approaching Raul.
    Guard #1: ...
    Guard #2: ...
    Guard #1: ...isn't this dangerous?
    Guard #2: ...
    Guard #1: Couldn't he do something? We don't know what that man has in his pockets!
    Guard #2: ...wait for it...
    Guard #1: We can't just sit here! Raul Ibanez could get assaulted!
    Guard #2: ...
    Guard #1: I'm going to do something!
    Guard #2: No, you sit the fuck down and wait for my lead.
    Guard #1: ...
    Guard #2: ...
    Guard #1: ...
    Guard #2: ...
    Guard #1: ...
    Guard #2: ...okay, now he's going over to Ichiro. EVERYBODY MOVE IN! MOVE IN!

  • Thanks to his home run today - his first since May 22nd - Yuniesky Betancourt now has a 13-point OPS lead over Jose Lopez. This isn't so much a statement of pleasant surprise as it is a criticism of a second baseman who's been coasting by for too long on prospect reputation alone. Lopez is still very very young, absolutely, but he shouldn't have the third-worst OPS among second basemen in baseball. He has more than 350 Major League games under his belt. It's time to show something. If he's still adjusting to the big leagues, then how come Robinson Cano didn't have any problems like this despite possessing a similar (arguably inferior) skillset? I still like the potential in Lopez's bat, but I can only hold out waiting for the theoretical for so long before I run out of patience. Jose, please do something tomorrow to remind us why we like you.
  • Chris Reitsma made a seventh inning appearance today. Why? Because much to my utter shock, John McLaren decided to use Mark Lowe in a high-leverage situation in his first game back in the Majors. I wasn't expecting this for at least a few weeks - I thought we'd see Lowe throwing harmless mop-up work to ease him back in until it was clear he had everything working. This, this I never foresaw. Before I could get too uneasy, though, I watched Lowe pitch and instantly got swept back to a year ago, when I first fell in love.

    Lowe only threw nine pitches, walking a guy and getting a fly out, but it's not the results that matter. His five fastballs were around 94-97 and he had no trouble going to the breaking ball when he wanted to change things up (a substantial mental hurdle for any pitcher coming off elbow surgery). Yeah, his last three sliders all missed, but they all missed in the same place - low and away - telling me that he was just consistently releasing the ball too late. I'd much rather see a guy miss in one place than miss all over, and Lowe's last three sliders today made me think he was simply trying hard not to hang one and make a mistake in his first game back. That's no trouble, and I imagine it'll get straightened out pretty quick.

    In short, I was impressed. Given the nature of his surgery, I don't know how long we'll get to enjoy Mark Lowe before he's back on the shelf, but as long as he's hanging around, he's going to help, and he's going to be fun to watch. His return to the 8th inning is important, too, because it probably means we won't be looking to add a reliever at the deadline. Why would we? When your fifth-worst guy in the bullpen is better than everyone in Detroit's, there's no need to be greedy. It's nice to have you back, Lowe.  If you have to get hurt again, don't do it for at least a week.

  • That might've been the most dominant appearance of JJ Putz's career. As mentioned in the game thread, this was JJ cordially inviting everyone who was worried after Texas to kindly blow it out their asses. It was his first four-strikeout save, and of the five guys he faced, not a single one so much as nicked the ball twice. In Eric Gagne's 2003 - considered by many to be the best relief season of all time - batters made contact (in play + foul) on just 56% of their swings. Today against JJ? 25%. Twelve swings, three fouls, nine misses. The walk to Swisher was uncharacteristic, but I imagine JJ didn't want to risk giving him something down in the zone to hit, since he's been pretty hot. Outside of that sequence, his location was good, his velocity was great, and the 0-1 splitter he threw to Mark Kotsay was fall-out-of-your chair amazing. As soon as Jack Cust took his first awkward swing in the eighth, I couldn't stop laughing at Oakland's feeble attempts to strike up a rally. Literally. Sitting in a room by myself, I was laughing out loud whenever an Oakland player swung the bat. I'm pretty sure that's a sign that you have a good closer.

Tomorrow's the big one. Win and we're officially back on the rise as we head into a massively huge series against LA. Lose and it could be argued that our slump still isn't over. Be on your game, Jarrod, because we already know what DiNardo's gonna do, and it's not not going to be annoying.

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