Mariners Win Game In US Cellular, But Fail To Destroy It

I think it's fair to say I've developed a certain hatred of the White Sox. We probably all have. I approached the game tonight more impassioned than I usually do, because I wanted quite badly for the Mariners to win in Chicago in a demoralizing way.

It's weird, because I have no long-standing or permanent reason to feel like this. The White Sox aren't a division rival. The Mariners beat them in the playoffs. I haven't had to listen to Hawk Harrelson in years. I don't live in or near Chicago, I have practically zero interaction with White Sox fans, and the ones I've known have not been unusually rude. I like that Ozzie Guillen exists. I don't feel much of anything for any of their players, aside from Matt Thornton.

The reason I've developed a certain hatred of the White Sox is that lately the White Sox have had the Mariners' number. It's that simple. Which makes this a strange and conditional kind of hate. I didn't hate the White Sox. Then the White Sox started beating the Mariners all the time. So I started to hate the White Sox. And I will continue to hate the White Sox for only as long as they continue to beat the Mariners.

With teams like the Angels, Red Sox and Yankees, I will hate them now and forever, and there's nothing that could make me feel any different. But with the White Sox, just a handful of Mariner wins could nudge me back to indifference, the way I am with the Tigers and Royals. So it's another kind of hate. A potentially fleeting kind of hate.

I am confident that, if the Mariners beat the White Sox a bunch of times and put the slump in the past, all will be forgiven and mostly forgotten, and I won't care about playing them anymore. At that point, I won't go into the games riding extra emotion, and I won't come away feeling extra good about a victory.

But we're not at that point yet. I still hate the White Sox. I think we all still hate the White Sox. So tonight's win felt superb. The White Sox may be a one-sided and temporary rival, but they're all the same to the brain, and beating a rival is a total delight.

Straight to the bullet holes:

  • Despite pitching in one of the worst possible parks for his skillset, Jason Vargas turned in 7.1 strong innings, marking the sixth time he's made it through at least seven in 13 starts. His last seven starts now read like this:

    Strong
    Gem
    Gem
    Disaster
    Disaster
    Gem
    Strong

    I don't know what the difference is between successful Vargas and unsuccessful Vargas. I can guess, and I can guess some more, but I can't pinpoint any one or two things. All I can say is that, when unsuccessful Vargas drops in for a visit, he does so with little warning, and doesn't stay very long.

  • In the top of the eighth inning, Ozzie Guillen called on Jesse Crain out of the bullpen, and Miguel Olivo immediately took him yard on his third pitch. In the top of the tenth inning, Ozzie Guillen came out for a mound meeting with Sergio Santos, and after the game resumed, Olivo immediately knocked Santos for a double on his first pitch, forcing Guillen to bring in Brian Bruney. When Guillen replaced his reliever, he got burned. When Guillen left in his reliever, he got burned. There is no right way to manage against Miguel Olivo.

    Olivo's slugging percentage is now the highest it's been since the second game of the year. Since April 26th, he has slugged .524. You'll remember that April 26th was also the morning the Mariners woke up at 8-15. Miguel Olivo's hot streak is not the single reason behind the Mariners' surge toward relevance, but the two are rather strikingly linked.

  • One of the interesting things about Franklin Gutierrez is that I've felt so good about having him back in the lineup that I hardly noticed that he came into play today with a .505 OPS. I'd seen some good swings, I'd seen some solid contact, and I just assumed his numbers were fine. They were not, so his two-run double today - in a 1-2 count, no less - was a welcome sight. He stayed back on a low curve and ripped it down the left field line. At this point, I am minimally concerned about Guti; while I don't know how he's physically feeling, he looks just fine at the plate and in the field, even if he doesn't quite have the numbers to show for it.

  • The Coors Light Freeze Cam roll in the later innings showed a bunch of attractive, busty women. It showed attractive, busty women at the park, it showed attractive, busty women at the beach, and it showed attractive, busty women at the game. It then very briefly showed a big fat guy in the stadium drinking a beer, but it immediately cut to the play-by-play camera, presumably hoping that no one would notice. I'd be critical, but, Coors Light. Coors Light is currently running two commercials based around the exact same bar exam joke. Like, the exact same.

  • Sleep Country:

    These deals aren't just hot - they're explosive!

    A deal can be neither hot nor explosive. An active land mine, on the other hand, can be both hot and explosive. I do not think I want to sleep on a Sleep Country mattress.

  • Matt Thornton throws 98% fastballs or cutters. Tonight, he threw 17 pitches, 16 of which were fastballs, and one of which was a cutter. Matt Thornton is also one of the more dominant left-handed relievers in baseball. Maybe we've had it all wrong the whole time. Given the Thornton and Mariano Rivera examples, maybe it isn't about developing a breaking ball or a dependable changeup. Maybe it's just about gas. Gas gas gas. Forget everything we've been telling you, Brandon League. You had it right the first time.

  • One does note that, after sitting and watching Thornton throw 1.2 perfect innings, League came out for his save opportunity and threw 10/10 fastballs. Monkey see.

  • Tonight provides the latest opportunity to remind everyone that Jamey Wright is neither a good reliever, nor a bad one. He is right in the middle, making up for his miserable strikeouts and walks with his sprawling vineyard of groundballs. Jamey Wright is a useful sinkerballer who is being forced to throw about one or two innings too late.

  • Between May 5th - May 29th, Brendan Ryan batted .424, so Eric Wedge moved him up to the second slot in the lineup. Since reaching the second slot in the lineup, Ryan has batted .174 in nine games. What have we learned about singles hitters and hot streaks?

  • In a 3-0 count in the top of the sixth, Carlos Peguero got the green light against Gavin Floyd and crushed an inside cutter foul, but impossibly deep. I will insist until I am blue in the face that there may be analytical value in tracking individual hitters' and pitchers' foul balls. I would be interested in seeing if there's anything predictive.

    Peguero wound up working a walk, by the way, taking a 3-2 curve in the dirt. For most hitters, individual walks are not necessarily signs of progress, but Carlos Peguero is not most hitters, and I literally do not expect him to draw a walk ever. "He's learning!" I type with a nervous, uncertain laugh.

  • In the fifth inning, Mike Carp fell behind Floyd 0-2 after three consecutive pitches to the same spot over the outer edge. Floyd then tried to bust him inside with a fastball off the plate. Carp turned on it for a line drive double.

  • The Mariners' entire tenth inning rally started when Justin Smoak dropped a bloop double between Juan Pierre and Brent Morel in shallow left field. The ball hung up forever, and only landed on grass because Pierre had been playing Smoak way deep. It's not every batter that gets that kind of respect to the opposite field.

Doug Fister and Justin Verlander tomorrow as the M's kick off a four-game set in Detroit. Last time the Mariners faced Verlander, they somehow scored four runs in six innings. And those Mariners didn't have Mike Carp on the team. I can't see how this possibly ends up good for the Tigers.

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