More On The Mariners And Nationals!

I just couldn't leave you baby birds without some kind of proper recap, so let's see what else I've got.

The part of me that's bitter and doesn't like when other people are happier than I am, which is the biggest part of me, is delighted by the fact that Jim Riggleman up and left in the middle of a hot streak that's introduced the Nationals to big-picture relevance for the first time since the move. Instead of all those Nationals players and fans celebrating a thrilling series sweep, almost instantly they had to start wondering whether this will be some kind of turning point in the opposite direction. I don't know how important managers are in general, and I don't know how important Jim Riggleman was in particular, but a sudden resignation doesn't seem like the kind of thing that's in the team's best interests.

But even though I'm amused by the Nationals' predicament, that doesn't make up for the disappointment I feel about the Mariners getting swept. Now, it's important to understand that there's nothing embarrassing about this sweep. The Nationals have a better record and run differential than the Mariners do. The Nationals were playing at home, by NL rules. And all three losses were by one run, and easily could've swung the other way given one or two breaks. The Mariners met an even opponent under suboptimal circumstances, and played three even games.

But one doesn't have to be embarrassed to be disappointed, and now the M's are under .500 for the first time in almost a month. They're 2.5 behind the Rangers, and they've almost been caught by the Angels. Any fantasies that Dustin Ackley would be the savior of the lineup went out the window when the M's got shut out by Jason Marquis, and while nobody should be throwing in the psychological towel, this has been an unseen step in the sidewalk. It's hard to remember what the feeling was like after last weekend.

If there's a silver lining, it's this: it's easier to shake things up when things are going poorly than when things are going well. Ackley batting second was a shake-up. Now the team's been swept. Its weaknesses have been thrust into the spotlight. There's an opportunity to, say, demote Carlos Peguero and/or bring in a bat without having to worry about disrupting any flow. I don't know if the front office is going to do anything, but they could.

In Washington, the Mariners wasted three brilliant pitching performances, which sucks. The starters can't possibly keep pitching this well. But then, the lineup can't possibly keep hitting this poorly. I guess the best thing to do is to remind yourself that things are never as grim as they seem after a sweep. A win or two would fix so much, at least in our heads.

Your Thursday afternoon bullet holes:

  • It was just during the podcast - either during the actual recording, or maybe before it while we were warming up - that Matthew mentioned how Michael Pineda hadn't been so dominant lately. He worked on that no-hitter against the Phillies, sure, but in terms of missed bats, he'd missed a total of 22 over his previous three starts. That's fine for most pitchers, but below what we've come to expect from Pineda, and so we weren't sure if it was a sign of fatigue or hitters adjusting or something else along those lines. It was something to which we decided we ought to pay attention.

    Well, any concern we had can be put on the shelf, because Michael Pineda just dominated the Nationals. He started out with an alarmingly slow fastball, but that fastball worked, and so did the faster fastball he eased in later on. Pineda threw 97 pitches over seven shutout innings. 70 of those pitches were strikes. Nationals hitters took 58 swings, and of those 58 swings, 21! of them - 36% - missed. 21 swinging strikes! And only two of them against the pitcher. The hitters just couldn't catch up with even his B-grade fastball, which made his slider a weapon, which made his game a great one.

    You can really tell from a lot of the swings he gets how difficult Pineda is to hit, presumably because he's releasing the ball so close. If Pineda released the ball any further forward he'd have to throw it backwards.

  • With one out and a runner on third in the bottom of the first, Ryan Zimmerman lifted a very shallow fly ball to the outfield. Franklin Gutierrez made the catch, but Jayson Werth decided to challenge him, and Gutierrez threw him out at the plate. Only replays suggested that Miguel Olivo didn't connect with his sweep tag. So Werth was probably safe, which might make you feel a little better about losing 1-0. Or it might make you feel worse I guess.

  • Jason Marquis is one of those guys who, even when he's working on a no-hitter, leaves you thinking "yeah there's no way this schlub is throwing a no-hitter." But still, he took one into the sixth before Pineda hacked at a first-pitch high fastball and dropped a flare between three guys in shallow center field. Michael Pineda and Carlos Peguero have been responsible for breaking up potential no-hitters.

  • Michael Morse made good contact on this slider and lined a single into center.

    Morse1b_medium

  • It was a quiet day for Dustin Ackley at the plate. He drew a walk in the fourth, but he also went 0-for-3 with three easy groundouts, with two of them being outside pitches pulled to second. Additionally, he swung through a pitch for the first time (31 total swings). But Ackley did make a notable play in the field on a Danny Espinosa bunt in the seventh. Espinosa pulled a bunt sharply to the right side that Ackley had to charge. As he got the ball in his glove, Espinosa was nearing the bag, so Ackley tried to flip the ball from his glove to Justin Smoak. The flip was on target, but Smoak couldn't make the catch, and Espinosa was safe. I'm not sure if Ackley had time to transfer the ball to his throwing hand to make the play easier, but the way he tried it looked good.

  • With two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh of a scoreless game, Jim Riggleman let Jason Marquis bat against Michael Pineda, even though Marquis had to that point thrown 94 pitches. Riggleman didn't formally resign until after the game was over, but apparently he'd made up his mind much earlier on.

  • Last year, Miguel Olivo drew 18 walks in his first 41 games, and nine walks in his last 71. This year, Olivo drew 16 walks in his first 45 games, and has drawn zero in his 20 games since. I have no idea what could contribute to this. I don't understand how fatigue might be related to plate discipline, but here we are, and I've no other clue.

  • Today, Jack Wilson made his second appearance of the season at shortstop, and first since April 5th. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth, he made a diving stop on a Jerry Hairston Jr. groundball and made a perfect throw to home plate to get the force and keep the game going. Ultimately it didn't matter since the M's still lost, but Jack Wilson has not forgotten how to play short.

  • Chris Ray's ninth inning: groundball, perfect bunt, bunt on which Adam Kennedy made the wrong decision, groundball, fly out. ERA: up!

Felix Hernandez and Ricky Nolasco tomorrow in the first of three home road games. I'm trying to think of the perfect Marlins attendance joke but now I'm thinking it's actually kind of played out, so I'll write this sentence instead and move on.

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