In fairness to David Aardsma, that pitch to Adrian Gonzalez wasn't bad. Throwing a 96mph 2-2 fastball on the inner black will get a roller or a pop-up against most of the hitters in the league, and Adrian Gonzalez just happens to be among the best hitters on the planet. That's good hitting over bad pitching.
The rest of the frame was bad pitching over good hitting. Aardsma fell behind Will Venable and grooved a slider. He got a bunt from David Eckstein, but then drilled Chase Headley in a two-strike count. He threw three straight balls to Scott Hairston before opting for the intentional walk. And his first pitch to Nick Hundley was a belt-high fastball over the middle of the plate. Aardsma was unlucky when Gonzalez touched him up, but Aardsma was still a bad pitcher tonight. He earned that blown save, and took the loss in a game that must just drive a stake through the hearts of whichever Mariners still believe. It's one thing to get blown out. Then you can say that you just ran into a hot team. Losing like this doesn't work the same way. Losing like this makes everyone feel like this slump will never end.
What's funny, though, is that after it ended, I felt bad, but I didn't feel bad because the Mariners lost. I felt bad for the Mariners, who felt bad because the Mariners lost. I'm at this weird stage of fanhood where it isn't the losing that bothers me. It's watching the players get bothered by the losing that bothers me. Even though the team blows, I'd still rather see these players happy than sad. In some ways I wish they could be as indifferent as I am. It actively pains me to watch these guys suffer.
I wonder if I haven't stumbled across the lowest stage beneath the Tropic of Cairo. I'd assumed that indifference was as low as it got, but it seems that I've arrived at a kind of blend of indifference and pity. Indifference towards the results, and pity for the team.
This has to be the true mark of a seasoned fan of a loser.
- Jason Vargas threw 101 pitches. He generated 16 swinging strikes. Granted, five of them were against the starting pitcher, and the Padres don't make a whole lot of contact as an offense, and the Padres have a bad offense, but it's starts like this that convince me that Vargas could probably serve as an effective #2 in the National League. He induced a lot of funny swings, and were it not for a couple bloopers, he might not have allowed a run. Naturally, he didn't get the win, because, Mariners.
- You might've missed something incredible if you weren't paying attention in the fourth inning. Because with two on and two out in the fourth inning, Jason Vargas struck out David Eckstein.
Jason Vargas is a lefty who doesn't get a lot of strikeouts. David Eckstein is a righty who makes contact with 92% of his swings. Eckstein is one of the hardest hitters in baseball to whiff. Especially for southpaws, who've put him away in fewer than 6% of his plate appearances over his career.
And Vargas did it. Jason Vargas struck out David Eckstein swinging, and for good measure he did it with fastballs after falling behind 2-0.
It was an achievement deserving of far more recognition than it received, as it was one of the more improbable turns of events we've seen all season, right up there with Matt Tuiasosopo hitting a home run off of an outfielder on the warning track, or Sean White getting a grounder.
- It's kind of gone unmentioned, but in case you hadn't noticed, Milton Bradley came in having batted just .203/.250/.257 since returning from the restricted list. That's bad, and worse, it's not like he'd been hitting the ball hard at defenders. He was making poor contact. So it was nice to see him pull off a 3-4 game with a homer to right. He was animated and enthusiastic about his performance, and it's hard to blame him, given how long he's had this sort of game coming.
No matter how little I care anymore, I did have to cheer from my sofa when Bradley's drive cleared the fence. Anyone who read Dave's post the other day knows how many question marks the M's have looking ahead to 2011. Given that Bradley will still be under contract, it would be really, really nice if he started hitting and playing more like a legitimate everyday asset. This team needs as many of its question marks to provide positive answers as possible. For Bradley, tonight was a step in the right direction.
- Something I noticed during the daily EQC Tracer promo:
As the camera pans around the batter, in the background we very briefly see "Sportvision" and "PITCHfx" on the animated wall. Sportvision, of course, being the company behind PITCHfx, which supplies the information for the EQC Tracer. But EQC doesn't seem to want to admit that this is all someone else's work, as the promo doesn't actually mention Sportvision or PITCHfx outside of those quick logo glimpses. They just call it the EQC Tracer and hope the viewer credits Emerald Queen Casino for the technological development, presumably only noting Sporvision and PITCHfx in the background for legal reasons.
I got you, Emerald Queen Casino. You are not as cool as you want people to think you are.
- Eliezer Alfonzo hit a long double to right field in the fifth inning. As the ball came down, kids rushed forward and crowded the fence by Petco's right-center sandbox. I guess this is how the kids in the sandbox area respond to a ball hit in their direction. This is remarkably dangerous, in that a home run could conceivably hit a kid on the head, but then any kid that rushes forward to crowd the fence and gets hit on the head by a home run is probably an idiot. Neat little architectural feature in the ballpark right there. Helps knock out the tards.