Felix Hernandez is a young, fireballing ace with a career ERA of 3.41. Kyle Davies is a slightly older machine programmed to be generous, a machine with a career ERA of 5.52. The were media darlings over the offseason and are expected to contend for the playoffs. The are a running punchline with a Process and a Podsednik. This evening, Kyle Davies and the Royals defeated Felix Hernandez and the Mariners by a score of 3-1 before several dozen witnesses.
That's wild. That's why I can refer to my days of gambling on individual baseball games in the past tense. Who saw this coming? How many of you looked at the first two pitching matchups of the series and concluded that we'd split? How many of you took this game for granted? I know I did. I'm not a player, so this doesn't mean anything, but I was totally overlooking this game so I could think about the next one. I mean, Felix vs. Kyle Davies? What's the point of even playing?
But baseball is just unpredictable enough to stay entertaining. We don't want baseball to be predictable. We don't want the better team to win every game. We watch to be surprised, to see things we don't expect, and for better and for worse, we get it. We can say what we think will happen, and we can say what's most likely to happen, but we can't say what we know is going to happen, and while that sucks on a day like today, consider the bigger picture. If Felix won every game he was supposed to win, it wouldn't be fun anymore. We'd grow bored. Unentertained. We'd get mad at him for not throwing no-hitters. Felix Day would cease to be any grander occasion than driving to the store. You know when you're happiest to drive to the store? The day after your car stops working and you take it to the mechanic.
The Mariners could've won today. One could argue that they should've. But there's upside in everything, and the upside here is that, if Felix throws well against Texas next weekend and the Mariners win, you'll savor it just a little bit more than you would've otherwise. Life is full of surprises, and it's the good ones and the bad ones that together make this life a life worth living.
Great. Now that that's out of the way, holy shit we lost to the Royals?
- A lot of people would say that a loss like ours today is embarrassing, that it's humiliating to get shut down by Kyle Davies, but I don't like that. It's demeaning. It assumes too much of your own team and is completely demeaning to the other. The Mariners are better than the Royals, and Felix Hernandez is better than Kyle Davies, but even the worst team in the Major Leagues is made up of the best baseball players in the world, and at that level, the difference in ability between players and teams is slimmer than you might think. Losing to the Royals shouldn't embarrass us any more than Cuvee de Tomme tasting better than Black Butte should embarrass Deschutes.
A better word, I think, would be 'stupid'. A loss like ours today is stupid.
- Felix was fine. Great, even. He walked a few people early, but it's impossible to say what role the rain might've played, and he did a standard job of missing bats and keeping the ball on the ground. His biggest mistake was throwing away a comebacker in the first inning that wound up costing him a run, but when you're going up against Kyle Davies and the Royals, you never imagine that a run in the first inning could end up deciding the game. Felix will probably be mad at himself for letting KC get on the board and for allowing that Billy Butler home run in the seventh, but Felix very clearly wasn't our problem tonight.
- According to the win expectancy numbers, our biggest problem tonight was actually Jose Lopez, who did the team in by flying out with two down and the bases loaded in the sixth. This was an interesting at bat. The M's were down 2-0, and they'd loaded the bases after an exhausted Kyle Davies walked Franklin Gutierrez on nine pitches. Up came Lopez, and everyone's first thought was "make him throw you a strike!" So when Lopez swung on the first pitch and made an out, there were roars of disapproval rivaling the mighty bellows of Consiguina.
As far as I'm concerned, though, the criticism here is undeserved. There are two factors:
1) The pitch Lopez swung at was a thigh-high fastball over the plate.
2) Lopez hit it hard.
#1, of course, is the key. Remember that the most important thing about hitting isn't drawing walks. It's laying off balls and swinging at strikes. Lopez got a strike - a very hittable strike - and swung at it, as he should've. Lopez thought he could punish that pitch. Had he taken it, he would've fallen behind 0-1, and that would've put him at a considerable disadvantage. A year ago, the average batter hit .236/.279/.362 after falling behind 0-1. It's a bad situation to be in. Which is why, if you get a first pitch you think you can drive, you should try to drive it.
And note that Lopez did drive it. He hit that pitch about as hard as he hit his grand slam in Chicago. He just hit it in a bigger ballpark, in worse environmental conditions, with the wind blowing away from the fence. It was a tough break. Solid contact doesn't always mean a base hit.
There are plenty of reasons to be frustrated with Jose Lopez. Valid reasons. This isn't one of them. Swinging at the first pitch is only a problem when the pitch itself is a tough pitch to hit.
- In the top of the ninth, with one out and none on in a 3-0 ballgame, Milton Bradley dropped a ball into shallow right-center for a hit. Not satisfied with a single, Bradley pushed it, and slid into second just ahead of a throw from David DeJesus. The field was wet, Bradley just came back from a leg problem, and with the score 3-0, the break-even rate of advancing there was astronomically high. I have no idea what the point of that was. All it did was introduce a ton of risk, because the upside was just about negligible.
Bradley doffed his batting helmet after arriving at second, which is another one of those little Milton Bradley gestures that makes me think I'm missing something.
Mike Sweeney may be a bit of a hacker, but he hit a solid line drive single today off the bench. He's hit a number of balls hard so far in limited time. How many balls has Griffey hit hard? Two? Mike Sweeney has demonstrated that he isn't completely hopeless in the batter's box. Ken Griffey Jr. has not.
- Both Bradley and Chone Figgins are flashing contact rates well below their career averages. Now isn't the time to freak out, but it is important to understand that, no matter how often we may whine and bitch about our situation at DH, the lineup isn't going to produce until Bradley and Figgins figure out what's wrong and get themselves on track. DH is a problem too, of course, but we're sunk until the people who're supposed to hit start to hit.
- I've had two nightmares in my life that I can remember. One was that I was getting chased around a department store by an invisible Predator. The other was that a then-current girlfriend called me to say she was pregnant. Yuniesky Betancourt striking out on a curve in the dirt but reaching base anyway on a Rob Johnson throwing error was like getting chased around a department store by an invisible Predator while my girlfriend calls to tell me she's pregnant.