Yesterday's game - at least the good parts of it - belonged to Adam Moore. And today's game belonged almost exclusively to Luke French and Matt Tuiasosopo. It was French who turned in 7.2 innings of shutout baseball, and it was Tuiasosopo who drove in all four of the ' runs. That's good work from two guys who weren't expected to get a lot of 2010 playing time at the start, and in its short life, this series has seen some different players step up from the norm.
Tuiasosopo in particular shined tonight, as the guy who didn't know he'd be starting until 20 minutes before first pitch went 2-4 with the game-winning double and a ninth inning insurance home run. I won't say it was a statement game, since I'm not much for believing in statement games, but it was an eye-opening performance from a player that so many M's fans seem ready and willing to write off. Not only did the late dinger give Brandon League all kinds of breathing room - it also gave Tui his first big league home run of 2010 that actually left the park on the fly.
With that said - and I swear I'm not trying to be a wet blanket, as I rather enjoyed this game for the duration - I think this series, and this game, help to shed some light on something that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. And that's the matter of quality of opponent.
Quality of opponent, like home-field advantage, is one of those things that's very easy to understand. But quality of opponent, like home-field advantage, is one of those things that tends to get glossed over. Maybe because it's just always present. In any given game, one of the two teams will have the home-field advantage. In any given game, there will be matchups of higher and lower quality. It never goes away. People know, for example, that it's easier to beat thethan it is to beat the , but they don't necessarily take it to the next step. If it's easier to beat the Indians than it is to beat the Yankees, then it's easier to get good performances against the Indians than it is to get good performances against the Yankees.
Now, understand I'm not saying that the Mariners are any good. They're not. I'm not trying to say that the M's are superior to the, because that may not be true. But the Orioles are bad. And that's something that we absolutely have to keep in mind when we talk about how players did when they faced them.
Look at Luke French. French went 7.2 innings, with three hits, three walks, and three strikeouts. That's pretty all right. He also faced a lineup with a .317 OBP. He faced a lineup whose two best hitters are left-handed. French wasn't facing a spectacular challenge, and we have to remember that when we discuss his performance. He's had four moderately effective starts in a row, but three of those starts came against Baltimore, Kansas City, and Oakland. That has an impact on his stat line.
And look at Matt Tuiasosopo. I'm happy for Tui. I think he gets flipped too much shit in these circles, although I acknowledge my role in bringing that about. Tui had a big game, a game that can do wonders for his confidence. But Tui also hit his double off a version of Kevin Millwood that's hardly at its best, and his home run came against some guy named Armando Gabino. Gabino's a 26 year old non-prospect reliever who's been good but hardly dominant out of a AAA bullpen, and who has all of seven innings of miserable Major League experience. Sure, the homer was the third of Tui's big league career, but should it really count like that? The only thing that made it a big league homer was the fact that it happened in a big league game. I wouldn't say it came against a big league opponent.
The Mariners - a bad team - have had some players take advantage these last two days of facing another bad team with players all its own. It's wonderful to see guys like Moore, French, and Tuiasosopo have some success at this level. It really is. Hopefully, they'll be able to get into a groove and continue on forward with wind beneath their wings. But it is absolutely vital that, when we look at their numbers, we don't just take them at face value. We have to remember the opponents against whom the successes and failures took place. Though it's nice to see guys succeed against the Orioles, that isn't enough to convince me of anything. It isn't home runs against the Armando Gabinos of the world that get me excited about Matt Tuiasosopo. It's home runs against the Andrew Baileys, the Carl Pavanos and the Jon Lesters.
With luck, those will come. With luck, the success will sustain. For the time being, I suppose I'll take what I can get.