How Justin Smoak felt in April
If they only see him like this, they won't want him anymore!
Much has been made of the degree of success Felix Hernandez has had against the in the past. Before tonight, Felix had faced the Yankees ten times. Over those ten starts, he allowed 24 runs in 73.1 innings, with a 6-3 record. Even more impressive, Felix had allowed eight runs in his most recent six starts against New York, dating back to 2009.
It's not like Felix has had more success against the Yankees than any other team. The 2.82 split ERA ranked sixth out of all opponents Felix has seen more than once or twice. He's actually had the most success against the, at least as far as ERA is concerned. But that's sixth, against the Yankees. For most pitchers, you'd expect their career ERAs against the Yankees to rank near the bottom. That wasn't the case with Felix.
And we built some narratives around it. Felix became a big-game pitcher. He became a guy who reached back for something extra whenever he went up against pinstripes. He became the Evil Empire's worst enemy, an ace for whom they just didn't have an answer.
Well, Felix might still be a big-game pitcher. I think he is still a big-game pitcher. And he might still reach back for something extra whenever he goes up against pinstripes. But most constructed narratives begin to collapse under the weight of a growing sample size, and tonight, Felix faced the Yankees and got hit.
I don't mean to suggest that Felix got thoroughly clobbered. He was good in the first. He was good in the second. He was good in the fifth. He was good in the sixth. The two hits he allowed in the third were on grounders. It was really only the fourth that was bad, and even that wouldn't have looked so rough had Chris Dickerson not caught up with and turned on a high fastball one wouldn't ordinarily expect him to rip.
But still, six runs and nine hits in six innings. Tonight, the Yankees treated Felix Hernandez the way they've treated so many other starting pitchers - very rudely. They're dicks. They're complete dicks. They've been complete dicks for a long time. But they're very good at what they do, and a pitcher can only sustain success against them for so long before all their Yankeeness catches up with him. No matter who the pitcher is.
Felix Hernandez is most excellent. He's a terrific starting pitcher, and thehave a better chance of beating the Yankees with him than they do with anyone else. But Felix doesn't own the Yankees. He doesn't have their number. Though he's kept them quiet in the past, you just couldn't rationally expect that to keep up to the same degree in the future, and tonight it was the Yankees who prevailed. That's kind of what they do. That's kind of who they are.
Monday night bullet holes because that's just what I do here:
Tonight in Sitting By A Hypothetical Fan Prone To Results-Based Analysis:
Fan: Felix just isn't himself tonight
Fan: COME ON FELIX SHUT THESE GUYS DOWN
Willis: /emerges for mound conference
Willis: /holds mound conference
Felix: /throws pitch
Dickerson: /hits first-pitch home run
Fan: What the hell was that!!
Fan: Great job coach!
Fan: Way to give literally the worst coaching advice of all time!
Fan: Fire that coach!
- The Mariners, obviously, got whipped - they were outscored by six, out-hit by six, and out-total-based by ten. But they did still have some opportunities to make this game competitive. In the fourth, Trayvon Robinson flew out with two on and two down. And more upsettingly, in the sixth, they loaded the bases with one out and left them all stranded when Miguel Olivo popped out, and then Robinson flew out.
The one pitch I remember from that sequence was the first pitch to Olivo, from Phil Hughes. Hughes had just walked Justin Smoak. He wanted to get ahead of Olivo. So he went with a fastball, but missed his spot. Hughes placed a 92mph fastball over the plate, middle-in, right at Olivo's thigh. Olivo swung through it for strike one. Gameday tells me the remaining four pitches Olivo saw in that at bat were all away.
We all know that Miguel Olivo can't hit balls. His contact rate against would-be balls is the fourth-lowest in baseball. His contact rate against would-be strikes is the third-lowest. Miguel Olivo does little to convince me that his occasional solid contact isn't complete blind luck.
- So I guess it was blind luck when he homered in the eighth. Timing!
- When Scott Proctor came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh, Mike Blowers introduced him by reciting his name and saying "ERA over five" before hesitating and saying "...only three and a third innings," as if to suggest he regretted not reading the latter statistic before noting the former.
What's sad is that a lot of other announcers don't hesitate. A lot of other announcers are happy to say a guy has a 13.50 ERA in four innings, instead of just saying he's allowed six earned runs in four innings. I appreciate the rates, but we don't always need rates.
- On a night with little that was encouraging offensively, we can celebrate the fact that the M's snapped their streak of striking out at least 11 times. Their paltry six whiffs were tied for their lowest total of the month. We can also celebrate the fact that Justin Smoak drew a pair of walks - his first multi-walk game since June 17th. He also struck out and grounded into a double play, so it wasn't all whipped cream and Chipwhiches, but discipline is discipline, and it's good to see Smoak looking a little more comfortable. It isn't easy to draw a close six-pitch walk with two outs in the eighth inning of a 9-1 game.
- In the bottom of the sixth, Dustin Ackley tapped an 0-2 curveball to second base off the end of his bat. He seemed to lunge forward as he swung, he sprinted out of the box, and he narrowly beat the throw from Robinson Cano to first, legging out an infield single. It was all very Ichiro. Which I think we can only consider a good thing.
- It was 9-3 Yankees in the ninth when Robinson Cano argued a called strikeout. Nick Swisher then argued a called strikeout a minute or two later. In the bottom half, Brendan Ryan led off with a chopper to second, and he busted his ass all the way down the line, lunging in vain for first base even though the throw had already beaten him. This is more evidence to suggest that Major League Baseball players don't really take at bats off, or at least that they take at bats off far less often than people accuse them of doing. If ever there were at bats to take off, they were these. The players still cared. A lot.
Dan Cortes came in to pitch the top of the seventh. He allowed a leadoff line drive single to Austin Romine. Derek Jeter followed with a line drive single. Curtis Granderson followed with a sharp groundball single. That brought up Mark Teixeira, and Cortes fell behind him 3-1 before getting a whiff on a high fastball. Then 3-2, Cortes looked to throw a fastball down and away, but he instead missed way up and in and only survived because Teixeira gave him a pity swing at a ball. The next batter was Robinson Cano, and he cleared the bases with a double off the left field wall. That would be it for Cortes.
On the one hand, Cortes did strike out Teixeira, and Trayvon Robinson took a really bad route after Cano's line drive. On the other hand, the Teixeira strikeout was basically an accident, and Cano's deep line drive was a deep line drive. I'm still waiting on Dan Cortes to show pretty much anything.
- It was 9-1 Yankees in the seventh when Kyle Seager drilled an opposite-field shot to left. It looked like it had a chance to sail over Brett Gardner's head, but, Brett Gardner. Instead of Seager pulling up at second with an RBI double, he returned to the dugout, because Gardner had run the ball down with such effortless grace that the announcers hardly noticed how great a play he'd just made.
Charlie Furbush tomorrow night.