In general, fans of every team in baseball are convinced that their team struggles to a disproportionate degree against soft-tossing lefties. Guys like Jason Vargas, Wade LeBlanc and Jeff Francis, among so many others. It isn't true, of course, for two reasons:
(1) Every team cannot struggle against a certain pitcher type to a disproportionate degree
(2) If every team struggled against soft-tossing lefties, soft-tossing lefties would be amazing
But it feels true, because fans of every team in baseball have seen their team struggle against a soft-tossing lefty at least once or thrice, and those games tend to leave an impression. Fans remember those games more than they remember the times that their team does well against a soft-tossing lefty, because the former is more notable. Teams are supposed to hit soft-tossing lefties. When they don't, it looks bad.
Charlie Furbush is not a soft-tossing lefty in the way that Jeff Francis is a soft-tossing lefty. Furbush, for example, is capable of throwing a baseball faster than a dog runs. Every so often his fastball will creep up to 92-93mph, which is pretty good. But he spends a lot of time between 88-90, which at least partly qualifies him as a member of the group. Furbush is one of those pitchers that opposing fans look ahead to and think "our team always struggles against guys like this."
And after today's outing,fans are going to keep on believing that for at least the next little while. The Red Sox entered the day with baseball's #3 OPS against left-handed pitchers. They came in with baseball's #2 OPS against finesse pitchers. Suffice to say the Red Sox have been good against pretty much everybody. But, for seven innings, Charlie Furbush completely shut them down, and this is a game that, directly or indirectly, is going to linger in all those fans' minds.
It's funny - fans whose teams are facing softer-throwing lefties are afraid their teams will be shut down. Fans whose teams are pitching softer-throwing lefties are afraid their teams will be blown out. I had very low expectations of Furbush today, especially given his previous outing against Texas. Boston is an incredible team, and Furbush is not an incredible pitcher. I expected him to nibble, I expected him to fall behind too often, and I expected him to prove entirely too hittable to get through five innings.
And then he came out and whiffed six over seven one-run frames. Furbush got a little help from his defense. He threw a few too many balls. But a third of the Red Sox's swings against him missed, and he only got into one legitimate jam. Furbush did better against that team than Felix did. Furbush did better against that team than almost anybody has.
On a Sunday that saw Doug Fister get knocked around by the , the got seven strong innings against a great team from Charlie Furbush, they got another home run from Casper Wells, and they beat the Red Sox to wrap up a series that saw them take two of three from arguably the best club in baseball. As M's fans, we've evolved to enjoy days that simply don't suck. Today was legitimately good. Legitimately enjoyable. This has been a fun day, and a fun weekend.
Let's see what I've got for bullet holes:
- Here's what we've seen from Furbush now, through three starts as a Mariner:
(1) Good against mediocre offense
(2) Bad against good offense
(3) Good against good offense
In Matthew's series preview on Friday, he expressed a desire for Furbush to turn in a start somewhere in between his first two starts. I don't think he did that, as he instead established a new bookend. Which is weird on Furbush's part. He came in with two bookends. Now he has a third bookend. Who needs three bookends? Charlie Furbush uses bookends to keep his other bookends in place.
- The postgame broadcast cut to Angie Mentink standing on Lookout Landing (ed. note: what what!), and she remarked on how much fun she was having looking down on all the unhappy Red Sox fans leaving Safeco Field. She spoke with unmistakable contempt for the infectious plague to which Safeco played the host body over the weekend, and she went so far as to use the term "bandwagon." She spoke on-camera the way I like to think Brad Adam speaks off-camera.
Jeff Gray has now allowed seven runs and 11 baserunners over his last four appearances, spanning 4.1 innings. He must be worn down from overuse.
- Casper Wells' latest home run was just another where you watch the swing, then you watch the fly ball, and you wonder how that swing generated that fly ball. Wells sat back on a low-inside knuckler and then knocked it out to left, over the tall wall, with what looked like a flick of the wrist. I'm not an expert on swing mechanics and I'll state for the record that I was DH'd for in high school, but Wells' swing to me looks to be both quick and powerful, which is the ideal combination. Long and powerful would be Michael Saunders. Quick and weak would be Juan Pierre. Long and weak would be you. You are terrible at hitting!
- Ichiro legged out an infield single in the fifth, he pulled a single between first and second in the sixth, and in the top of the sixth, he sprinted to his right to rob Kevin Youkilis of what he and many others probably thought would be a double. Between this effort and his homer and throw last night, Ichiro's looked like the Ichiro of old this weekend, and though I'm less convinced than ever that the Ichiro of old will ever return on a consistent basis, it's nice to see it emerge on occasion. The Ichiro of old was a spectacular showman.
Miguel Olivo has reached base 33 times in his last 45 games. Troy Tulowitzki has reached base 34 times in his last 17 games. Prince Fielder has reached base 33 times in his last 14 games. I supported Miguel Olivo earlier in the season, both because he's signed to a reasonable contract and because that version of Olivo actually hit a little, but he's been a nightmare for months, now. Just an absolute nightmare. He hasn't even homered since July 24th. I don't understand how Olivo can look like he did and look like he does in the same season, but this version of Olivo is a pile of crap. Sure, he's a leader. Sure, pitchers like working with him. But this version of Olivo might be the worst hitter in the league.
- As he was last night, Brandon League was terrific today, working a 1-2-3 ninth with a pair of strikeouts. Brandon League throws a hard tailing fastball in the mid- to high-90s. He throws a devastating splitter that falls off the table, then off the chair, then off the cat. He throws a slider to give hitters a third look. And he now has 34 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. He has a strikeout rate of 18.3%, which is below average for a reliever, and equal to J.A. Happ. J.A. Happ throws four pitches that are like the pictures that come inside store-bought picture frames. "Sure, you could use these pictures, or you could use real ones." Don't get me wrong, League has been effective, but baseball is weird.
Tomorrow brings the, and with them the usual horde of Blue Jays fans. As such, this'll be a good transition series from playing the Red Sox to going back to boring pointless baseball again.