8-7, Game Thoughts

I feel sort of bad after games like this. I feel bad, because we used to be that team. Quite recently, as a matter of fact. We used to be the laughingstock, and as such my internal empathy switch gets activated. I don't want to be too mean, you know? They're 2-13. They're 8.5 back in the division, and their next 17 games are against the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Twins, and Felix Hernandez. Things are about as bad as they can get in Baltimore. What would my ripping into them accomplish?

So I sit down and, calling upon my own experience, try to think about what I'd want to hear if I were an Orioles fan. It's not as hopeless as it seems. Wieters, Jones, Markakis, Reimold - these are good young players, and they're playing every day. Matusz and Bell are upper-echelon talents. Tillman and Arrieta are on the way, among others. David Hernandez is interesting, and settled down tonight to throw a decent 6.1 innings. While the O's are clearly dealing with a nightmare situation in 2010 - a situation that's buried them just two weeks into the year - there's reason to believe they have good promise for the future. That organization has a lot of ability in and around the highest level.

Then my empathy switch turns back off when I remember how important it is for fans to develop thick skin. I knew this game was over when we scored in the first. Congratulations, Baltimore, you're in possession of some good players who might help you win down the road. You sure do suck now.

  • With the Cliff Lee quandary rapidly approaching, Doug Fister and now Jason Vargas have taken things to the next level. As many have asked, how could a manager look at what these two guys have done and then decide to boot one from the rotation? Fister's walked four guys in 19 innings, and Vargas' strong outing tonight bumped him to 16 strikeouts and three walks in 18.1. Vargas and Fister have been this team's second- and third-best starters so far, and it hardly seems fair that one of them might be in for a change.

    Of course, that isn't guaranteed, depending on how the team feels about Ian Snell. But it is the likelihood, so you have to admire how hard Fister and Vargas are fighting to stay where they are. Vargas wasn't terrific tonight - he seldom is - but he's beginning to engender within the observer the kind of comfort level and confidence that we used to feel about Jarrod Washburn during one of his good runs. You know what I'm talking about. Vargas throws just enough strikes, misses just enough bats, and works just fast enough to keep people positive. Even when he gives up a home run, it's behind him so quickly that you don't dwell on it. When it comes to winning fans, strikeouts are a pitcher's best friend, but tempo is like a decent acquaintance, a guy you don't really hang out with but whose notes you still borrow when you oversleep and miss class.

    Fister and Vargas have combined for 25 strikeouts, seven walks, and 11 runs against in six starts. The Mariners are 4-2 in their outings. While you never want to go a month without an ace pitcher, there is a very real possibility that Cliff Lee could return with the team not really having missed him.

  • The Orioles were 8.5 back just 14 games into their season. The Mariners have been worse off just once before in their history, dropping to 9 games back 13 games into their season in 1981. The M's were 4-9 at the time, and dropped all the way to 4-12 and 12 games back before things started to stabilize. For the record, the problem wasn't only that the Mariners were 4-12. It was also that the A's were 17-1. At the end of play on April 26th, Oakland's run differential was 111 runs better than Seattle's. Thanks a lot, Glenn Abbott.

  • As you've likely heard by now, Milton Bradley was pulled early with calf soreness after hitting an RBI single. He's going to sit out tomorrow, which will give him a nice break what with the scheduled offday on Thursday. As we've told you before, this is something you'll want to get used to, and as we've told you before, this is why we really don't want Milton Bradley playing the field all the time. He's shown that he can manage it, kind of - he did play 124 games in the National League a year ago - but it's just an unnecessary risk, because he isn't playing the field to make room for a good DH. He's playing the field to make room for Mike Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. It's not worth it.

    The roster picture is what it is, though, so for the time being, the M's will play tomorrow with Matt Tuiasosopo as their backup. And that's it. The bench will feature one of the catchers, one of the relics, an injured Bradley, and Matt Tuiasosopo. Better hope Kevin Millwood doesn't bean anyone in a funny place.

  • The top of the second ended with Jose Lopez finally turning the Adrian Beltre Barehand Special on a Cesar Izturis swinging bunt. Replays showed that Izturis was actually safe - yeah, we benefit from bad calls, too - but more important than the result here is the process. Lopez's process was sound, and though he wasn't as quick and though his throw wasn't as strong as what we became accustomed to, he did everything right. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a guy with Jose Lopez's physique and Jose Lopez's agility would be able to turn a play like that, but here we are. In fairness, my wildest dreams usually aren't about baseball. A more appropriate sentence would be "never in my wildest dreams did assaulting the black valkyrie with a hydrogen flamethrower turn out as I'd planned."

  • According to Bill Krueger, good hitting is contagious. However, the only good hitters on the team so far have been Casey Kotchman, Franklin Gutierrez, and Ichiro, so the infection pretty clearly hasn't spread. It's April 20th and already we have evidence that the team has divided into isolated cliques. So much for team chemistry.

  • The bottom of the fourth saw Griffey bounce out into the Griffey shift for the second time in two days. I feel like this might be deserving of a post all its own. As I consider it, check out Mike Salk's post tonight on the same subject. Worth noting that Griffey pulls two-thirds of his groundballs to right field. This may be significant, or it may be normal. I don't know anything about the league average for lefties.

  • In the top of the eighth, Mark Lowe got ahead of Adam Jones with back-to-back heaters over the outer half, then put him away with a low slider off the plate. Three pitches, three strikes. Lopez's play earlier wasn't the only thing tonight reminiscent of one Adrian Beltre. Given that Jones is a free swinger who accumulates a lot of his value in the field, I imagine that, like Beltre, had Jones remained a Mariner, we would've grown frustrated by now reminding people that he's good.

  • Jack Wilson is on pace to hit 43 doubles, of which zero will come close to leaving the park.
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