Some games are important to win because they improve your team's chances of winning a championship. Some games are important to win because they set or approach some kind of record or involve a notable personal achievement. And some games are important to win because you're tired of hearing about somebody's nap.
The sooner the team starts playing good baseball, the sooner we can put this whole story and its completely disproportionate reaction behind us. There's plenty of actual significance to talk about. Let's talk about it.
- A few weeks ago when we played Baltimore, I remarked that the games are kind of all downside. You're expected to win, so the wins don't feel great, and if you lose, it feels awful. Funny how things change when you're 12-19. All of a sudden, the games feel big. You still expect to win, but you're a lot less certain, and the uncertainty adds some excitement. So what if it was Cliff Lee vs. David Hernandez? You just never know with these guys, and with the team in a rut and in need of some wins, there's an intensity and sense of desperation that's normally absent. The sent the O's to 9-24 today and I actually celebrated, because this game was important. All these games are important. With the lack of wiggle room the M's have given themselves, every game is important.
- Business as usual for Cliff Lee, who just threw strike after strike after strike. No, he didn't record a ton of whiffs, but he got ahead of just about everybody, and on a wet, cold day against a feeble lineup, there wasn't much danger of balls in play doing a lot of damage. If you're ever going to pitch to contact, tonight was the time.
Plus, Lee pulled out the strikeouts when he had to. With one out and two in scoring position in the bottom of the fourth, he struck out Ty Wigginton. And with one out and men on the corners in the bottom of the seventh, he struck out Nolan Reimold. Only a weak opposite-field blooper by Garrett Atkins came between Lee and a scoreless 7+ innings. Lee has made three starts with the M's, and already we might be spoiled.
Miguel Batista is the most unwatchable pitcher I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. Batista has decent stuff, but he can't control it. He takes forever to throw. He has long at bats. He doesn't make the most of his weapons. And he frequently seems to have a bad attitude.
Cliff Lee can control his pitches. He works very quickly. He has short at bats. He absolutely makes the most of his stuff. And whenever they show him on camera, he's smiling. Cliff Lee is the complete opposite of Miguel Batista, and the complete opposite of the most unwatchable pitcher I've ever seen must therefore be the most watchable pitcher I've ever seen. You know how people used to say that they liked watching Washburn, even though he wasn't very good, because he was aggressive and worked quick? Lee is like that, only with talent. Dare I say he's even more watchable than Felix. Though Felix is more unhittable, he's prone to these frustrating spells of inconsistency the likes of which I can't even imagine Lee going through.
I hate a weak chin. Josh Wilson has a weak chin. Ewww
- In the top of the fifth, trailing 1-0, Dave Trembley elected to intentionally walk Ichiro to get to Chone Figgins. The are 9-24. There is an analytical angle to questioning this decision, and there is a "you're terrible and you should just let your pitcher get some experience" angle, too.
- Orioles fans have a lot to be disappointed about, but how disappointed must they be in David Hernandez? Hernandez has three pitches, a fastball in the mid-90s, and a minor league strikeout rate of 10.4 per nine, including 11.1 in the upper levels. Over 26 starts in the bigs, though, he's been lost, his command deserting him and his swinging strike rate dropping to less than half what it was in AAA Norfolk. Hernandez has always walked his fair share and he's always had a tendency to seed the clouds with his balls in play, but there's promise in there, promise he hasn't begun to display with the O's. Without missed bats, he doesn't have any of the things you need to be an effective Major League starter. He isn't even cute.
- With two on and one down in the bottom of the eighth, Brandon League really wanted a double play. So what'd he do? He did this to Miguel Tejada:
That's four pitches low and away. Four mid-90s tailing fastballs low and away, to be precise. Sure enough, Tejada bounced the fourth one to Chone Figgins to end the inning. What are you supposed to do with that? Brandon League threw the perfect at bat, and took the stick almost completely out of Tejada's hands. Tejada's been a decent hitter for a while, and he didn't stand a chance.
- First, the good: Jose Lopez fielded a killer short-hop in the seventh and made a difficult play off the bat of Tejada look easy. We can't use these numbers for any predictive purposes, but in the early going, Lopez leads the league in UZR and places second in +/-, suggesting that he's certainly done a phenomenal job at his new position. If there was any adjustment period, we sure as hell haven't seen it. Or maybe this is the adjustment period and he's going to be completely flawless. Hmm...
Now, the bad: it's May 11th, and Jose Lopez has a .523 OPS. He went 0-5, and 0-4 in hitter-friendly counts, failing to make solid contact. The ninth inning saw him get ahead 2-0 and then fly out on a fastball down and in off the plate. We've always known that Lopez has a bad approach, and with his inability to hit the ball hard anywhere but left field, the last thing we need him to do is start pressing, which is a real danger given the lack of support elsewhere in the lineup. I don't know what the solution is for Lopez, but this is getting the feel of more than just a normal little dry spell.
- Josh Wilson swings like he means it. He swings with the conviction of a lumberjack, or a grown-up. A lot of slap-hitting guys like Willie Ballgame or David Eckstein will go up and just try to play pepper, spraying it around the infield. Josh Wilson swings as if the baseball weren't bigger than his head. It's the damndest thing. Josh Wilson is a generous 6' and 175 on Jupiter, but one of these days he'll swing himself right out of his L.A. Lights.
- Ryan Langerhans also swings like he means it. We know that Ryan Langerhans likes to hunt. From the way he swings, one wonders if he hunts with a gun.
- Langerhans went deep and hit another ball near the track today, while Michael Saunders smacked his third extra-base hit in what was his eighth trip to the plate. Saunders now has hits - and extra-base hits, for that matter - in three consecutive games, which is made all the more impressive considering how much we saw him struggle a year ago. He's also made contact on 18 of his 21 swings. With Langerhans flashing power and a ton of patience while Saunders shows off the ability to translate his Major League skillset into Major League success, things are going to be mighty interesting upon Milton Bradley's return. I don't think anyone's in any kind of hurry to see either of these two players go.
- With Griffey on second in the sixth, Rob Johnson lined a single to left field, advancing Griffey to third base. Nolan Reimold bobbled the ball, though, allowing Griffey to score and Johnson to move to second. It's one thing for an outfielder to bobble a ball when he's in a rush to make a play. It's quite another for an outfielder to bobble a ball when it's Ken Griffey Jr. and a catcher on base. Griffey wasn't a threat to round third. As a matter of fact, he came to an almost complete stop. And it's not like Johnson was going anywhere. But Reimold still went and got himself in a big damn hurry, fumbling the ball and giving away two bases. There's a guy with little situation awareness. Granted, it was raining and I'm sure the ball was wet, but with Griffey going to third and Rob Johnson going to first, Reimold could've stopped the ball, taken off his glove, picked the ball up with both hands, and dried it on his jersey. Nobody was going to run.
- Watching Griffey run is not as fun as watching Lopez run.
- Says the promo: If you're not watching the Mariners in high-definition, here's what you're missing. I won't spoil the ad for those of you who haven't seen it, but needless to say, it's deceptive.