A few years ago, on June 28th, 2008, the held the without a hit. It's a game that might not stick out in your memory, and for a few reasons:
(1) It didn't involve the
(2) No-hitters are kind of passe, or at least they're not the earth-shattering events we thought they were growing up
(3) It was a combined no-hitter, as Jered Weaver yielded to Jose Arredondo for the seventh
(4) The no-hitter only lasted eight innings
Why did it only last eight innings?, you might ask. Was the game stopped by an unlikely thunderstorm? No, it wasn't stopped by a storm. The no-hitter only lasted eight innings because the Angels lost.
The Angels lost, and the Dodgers won, even though the Angels held the Dodgers hitless. I thought it was just the funniest damn thing. In the fifth inning, Matt Kemp reached on an error, stole a base, advanced on another error, and scored on a sac fly. And that was it. That was all the Dodgers got, and that was all the Dodgers needed, since Chad Billingsley and the bullpen shut the Angels down.
It was funny because who the hell loses a no-hitter? I know it's happened before. Obviously, it's happened before. It happened on June 28th, 2008. It was just the idea that a team could beat another team without so much as a single. It didn't hurt that it happened to Weaver and the Angels. But more important was the fact that one baseball team held another baseball team to zero hits, and the first baseball team lost.
Well, if it's ridiculous to lose while allowing zero hits, it's only a little less ridiculous to lose while allowing one hit. And tonight, against Jerome Williams and Jordan Walden, the Mariners scratched out one hit. That one hit held up. It held up until the bottom of the eighth. But then the Angels rallied, and it didn't even feel like a punch in the gut, because up until then, it felt like the Mariners were getting away with something. They had a chance to win, but they didn't deserve to win, because they had one hit to their credit.
It's worth noting that, in that no-hitter the Angels lost, the Dodgers managed five baserunners. Tonight, the Mariners managed two baserunners. In the history of Major League Baseball, teams have gone 44-966 when held to one hit, and 15-472 when held to two baserunners. Granted, the Mariners' one hit was a home run, and they had a late lead, but it's hard to look at this box score and conclude that the Mariners blew it. It's much easier to look at this box score and conclude that the Angels almost blew it, but didn't.
Viewed through the lens of the Angels erasing a late deficit, you could say this was payback for the Mike Carp games last week, or the Carlos Peguero games earlier in the season. Viewed through the lens of the Angels only allowing two guys to reach base, you could say this was just the Angels winning a game they ought to win. Baseball games are nine innings long. There are nine innings available for things to balance out. Things balanced out for the Angels in the eighth. Hard to be too upset. The M's put two dudes on. The Angels put seven dudes on. Seven dudes > two dudes.
Charlie Furbush had reached 97 pitches. There was one out in the bottom of the eighth, there were two guys on, and the Mariners were clinging to a 1-0 lead. The first guy had reached on an infield single, while the second guy had reached on a walk. Maicer Izturis was due up, and Tom Wilhelmsen was ready in the bullpen. Eric Wedge decided to stick with Furbush. Furbush allowed a two-run double to the gap, and the game was basically over.
Now, this being a pretty meaningless game for the Mariners, it didn't really matter. And this being a pretty meaningless game for the Mariners, that was a good opportunity for Wedge to see if a tired Furbush could navigate out of a jam. That's the kind of thing a manager likes to see in a young starter. That's what Wedge was going for, right? That's why he left Furbush on the mound?
"I wanted to give him the opportunity, I felt like he'd earned it,'' Wedge said. "Plus, Izturis is a lot better from the left side, so I didn't want to turn him around right there.''
Wedge later repeated: "That was the main reason. I didn't want Izturis left-handed up there in that situation.''
I want to reiterate that it doesn't really matter. The Mariners are 59-83. We are way beyond it making sense to criticize the manager's in-game decision-making. But this is bad. This is a bad thought process.
Maicer Izturis is a switch-hitter. For his career, he owns a .731 OPS as a lefty, and a .727 OPS as a righty. This season, he owns a .680 OPS as a lefty, and an .814 OPS as a righty. But we shouldn't care about single-season splits too much. More meaningful are career splits. And Izturis' career splits show that he's pretty much dead even.
So I have no idea what Wedge is talking about here. Absolutely no idea. He had the option of having Izturis bat righty against a tiring lefty, or having Izturis bat lefty against a fresh righty, and he went with the former. He got burned. Furbush put a not-bad-but-still-centered fastball over the plate, and Izturis stung it into the gap.
Maybe Wedge is lying about his reason. Managers don't always tell the truth. They have no obligation to tell the truth. But I don't know what he'd be trying to keep secret. Wilhelmsen was clearly good to go, since he came in after the double. And if Wedge just wanted to see if Furbush could get out of the jam, he could be honest about that. He wouldn't catch any flak from fans, journalists or players for trying to see what a young player could do in September of a development season.
Weird. It's not like Furbush was running on fumes - he was starting to lose it, but his last fastball was 90 miles per hour. And it's not like Wilhelmsen is some bullpen ace, recent stretch be damned. But still, weird. There's an explanation I would've readily accepted for Wedge's decision, and instead he offered an explanation that is inarguably untrue.
Alex Liddi made his Major League debut tonight. You want to read about how he did. There's just this one problem: Liddi only batted two times, and he only handled two grounders. So he didn't get much of a chance to show anything. Plus, Major League debut. I don't like to give players excuses for freaking the fuck out, but I'll happily excuse a player for freaking the fuck out in his Major League debut, which Liddi might well have been doing.
Liddi's highlight was a backhand stop he made in the field in the seventh. That ensured that his debut wouldn't pass without any positives. At the plate, he fell behind 0-2 in his first at bat before grounding out, and he struck out in his second at bat on five pitches. Four of his five swings whiffed - all on low cutters - but, again, debut. We know Liddi has a thing for swinging and missing, but I'm not going to be too critical about his performance in his first-ever game in the bigs. At least the first time he went up, he put the ball in play. That's better than you could do!
The rare uncontested souvenir grab: