In the context of the season, and certainly in the context of the last few weeks, this was just another game. Another loss. Another blown opportunity for the M's to pick up a win that might give them some momentum. After the last two losses in Anaheim, this was a game that made people sigh and ask "well how long is this slide going to last?"
But let's face it. This was a game between the Doug Fister and Francisco Liriano. We were the underdogs. We were the underdogs by a pretty significant margin. If anything, you'd think we should be encouraged by the fact that the M's pulled within a run and nearly tied it on Casey Kotchman's game-ending hard smash. This was a pretty solid effort, and if the M's weren't sitting where they are, everyone would be feeling a little more cheery.and the . Between
Alas, no one cares about moral victories when you're 19-31. Even when they're sensible. All people care about anymore is winning, just winning, and it's at that point that losses blend together. That Saturday feels as bad as Sunday, which feels as bad as Monday. People are tired of seeing the M's lose. They want them to start playing better baseball. But playing better baseball doesn't mean losing 5-4 to Liriano and the Twins. Not anymore. It means winning. And though that isn't quite fair on nights like this, the M's have only themselves to blame.
- From a it'd-be-nice-to-maybe-win-a-game perspective, pinch-hitting Ken Griffey Jr. for Rob Johnson in the ninth was the wrong move. Michael Saunders was both available and the better bet, and even if Wak has lost a little confidence in him with his struggles as of late, Ryan Langerhans was available, too. So what if Langerhans hasn't hit since the 18th? Griffey hadn't hit since the 23rd. Neither of them was fresh.
On the other hand, I'm just about out of hope, and if you're going to keep Griffey around on the end of the bench, you're pretty much obligated to use him sometime. So while this was a move I didn't like, it hardly made me upset.
- I'd like to emphasize that, while Casey Kotchman got a game-ending double play in the box score, his was an absolute shot down the line that Justin Morneau was able to glove because Justin Morneau is a good defensive first baseman. A lot of the time, that ball gets into the corner and Saunders comes around from first to tie the game. Tonight, no dice. As Matthew has pointed out on several occasions, Kotchman's low numbers are the result of both mediocre performance and really, really bad luck. He hasn't been a great player, but he's deserving of an OPS well north of his current .599. That's just criminal.
- Brandon League threw three pitches. They were all 94/95mph tailing fastballs over the left side of the plate. They were all grounded weakly to Jose Lopez.
- More than anything else, I want to highlight tonight's performance by Doug Fister. Fister allowed two doubles and three home runs, including back-to-back shots by Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel in the fourth. The word on everyone's tongue was 'regression,' and for a while it didn't seem like Fister was long for this game. Then he retired ten consecutive batters and 11 of his final 12 before coming out in the eighth. A start that saw Fister allow five early extra-base hits still saw him go at least seven innings for the eighth time this season.
It was impressive. Not that Fister allowed the Twins to tee off. That he was able to bounce back. And that he was able to bounce back despite fighting through a dead-arm phase that saw his velocity down by nearly two ticks.
Doug Fister doesn't have much stuff. Tonight, he had even less stuff than usual, and while he allowed some home runs, he faced one of the best offenses in baseball and limited the damage while striking out six in 7.2 frames. That's a start to be proud of, no matter what the three homers say.
Fister ended the night with 72 strikes out of 98 pitches. Cliff Lee is awesome because he throws strikes, works fast, and is dominant. Doug Fister is likable because he throws strikes and works fast. It's a glorious combination. By throwing strikes all the time, Fister avoids those frustrating, unwatchable bouts of wildness that occasionally plague some of his peers, and he's able to keep runs down by limiting free passes. And by working fast, he's able to move on from things like back-to-back home runs without everyone dwelling on the negative. It's a terrific approach, and an approach that gives Fister a bit of a longer leash. Fister allowed five runs tonight. A lot of people would still say it was a good start. The second half of it was certainly good, and the dead arm thing is an interesting twist, but he allowed five runs. People are just more positive and forgiving with him because he's never a chore to watch.
Doug Fister's 2010 numbers regressed tonight. And yet, even as they did so, he still found a way to wow me.