Mariners Help Those More In Need

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Sorry for only now being able to get something written on this. On the other hand, I can't imagine that too many of you care, or that too many of you even noticed. This was game #159 on a Sunday afternoon, the last day of September. The Mariners lost for the 86th time. I think people might feel a sense of obligation to check in on the website after the regular season is completely finished, and that'll be Wednesday, but this was Sunday, and, just, why? I'm writing a small, delayed game recap for an audience that might well not exist.

I was talking to my mother on the phone this afternoon, and this is how you know this is going to be a worthwhile blog post. At one point she started telling me about a recent program she'd watched that was all about happiness, and examining how people achieve it. Many people think they feel happiness when receiving; many people know this to be hollow. It turns out one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to come to the aid of others. Giving, helping, provides fulfillment, provides a sense of purpose, provides a sense of community. Doing good is not the only road to happiness, and one might still never arrive at the intended destination, but science is science and helping helps. It helps those being helped, and it helps those doing the helping.

So the Seattle Mariners might now be one of the happiest damn ballclubs around, having helped the Oakland Athletics to achieve a three-game weekend series sweep. For the Mariners, these wins would've meant precious little; for the A's, these wins meant so much more. At the start of the series, according to Cool Standings, Oakland's playoff odds stood at about 80 percent. At the end of the series, according to Cool Standings, Oakland's playoff odds stood at about 98 percent. Oakland isn't now assured of a spot in the playoffs, but pretty much everything remaining would have to go wrong. Oakland didn't need a sweep, but the Mariners gave one to them anyway and made their road that much easier. How kind of the Mariners to do for a team that once was projected to play like the Mariners.

The whole story here is about the Mariners playing spoiler by not at all playing spoiler. They just got swept by the A's, losing a winnable game Sunday, and losing a game they were leading in the ninth Saturday. The Angels might feel like they have every reason to be pissed off at the Mariners for not showing up. Now what the Angels need is to sweep the Mariners while the Rangers sweep the A's, and even that would only leave the Angels tied with the A's, and the Angels were supposed to be World Series favorites. The Angels are on the brink, and it's partly the Mariners' fault.

But let's not pretend like it isn't mostly the Angels' fault. Maybe the Angels shouldn't have, I don't know, gone 1-9 against the Rays. Maybe the Angels shouldn't have waited to call up Mike Trout. But most importantly for our purposes here, while the Mariners finished just 7-12 against the A's, the Mariners have also so far gone just 6-10 against the Angels. At present, the Angels are three games back of the A's. Take away the Mariners and the Angels are 2.5 back of the A's. The Mariners have been roughly equally generous overall, and let's face it, the Mariners are probably going to lose the one three-game series left.

If anything, overall, the Mariners have helped. They won just seven games against the A's, and they've won just six games against the Angels, but they won nine games against the first-place Rangers. The Mariners have helped to make first place in the AL West more achievable. For the Angels and their fans to be upset over this weekend sweep would be to be short-sighted. The Mariners aren't the villains here. The main villain for the Angels has been the villain within.

This particular Sunday game, the Mariners' last Sunday game, ended 5-2 in Oakland's favor. It was 2-2 in no one's favor entering the bottom of the eighth, and it remained 2-2 in no one's favor in the bottom of the eighth after one batter and four more pitches. The fifth pitch to the second batter was the decisive one as Yoenis Cespedes got into another Shawn Kelley slider. You remember this? How could you not remember this?

Cespedeskelley1

That was Thursday, March 29, although it was barely Thursday and it was barely March 29. That was the second game of the regular season, the one that started just after two in the morning, so this pitch was thrown somewhere around four in the morning. This pitch turned a late 1-0 lead into a late 2-1 deficit, and it was the first time in 2012 I thought "oh, right, baseball." You always hold out hope that nothing will go wrong until you see the first thing go wrong. Kelley's slider to Cespedes went wrong and Kelley was almost immediately demoted.

This afternoon:

Cespedeskelley2

In between his first appearance and today's appearance, Kelley made 45 appearances. He posted a 2.86 ERA, he allowed just three dingers, and he generated five strikeouts for every unintentional walk. Yet people aren't going to remember Shawn Kelley for his good pitching. My sense is that people are going to remember Shawn Kelley for one or two of his pitches to Yoenis Cespedes. In this at-bat, Kelley was ahead 1-and-2. He'd already gotten Cespedes to swing through a slider away off the plate. He tried to throw another one and he missed over the inner half. Shawn Kelley generates a remarkable strikeout rate for a guy who never seems unhittable.

Cespedes' towering fly ball stayed just fair, and Kelley was removed. Kelley promptly kicked over a water cooler in the dugout, because the water cooler told him Cespedes would be sitting on heat. Immediately following Cespedes' home run in Japan, the Mariners called on their lefty specialist and Josh Reddick took him deep. Immediately following Cespedes' home run on Sunday, the Mariners called on their lefty specialist and after a Brandon Moss single, Josh Reddick took him deep. The pitch was supposed to be outside and instead it was thrown inside. It's like, why do the catchers even try giving advice, nobody ever listens to them.

Prior to this game being blown open, this game was very close. Erasmo Ramirez was pretty effective in his final start, and while he walked four batters, it's meaningful how surprised people have been by that. Ramirez's previous high for walks in an appearance was two, and his previous high for walks in a start was one. So four walks is highly uncharacteristic, and presumably not really anything to worry about. Blake Beavan's career high for walks in an appearance is three, and three is lower than four, but the two times Beavan walked three batters, he struck out three and two batters. Today, Ramirez struck out six batters, and picked up 13 swinging strikes. Ramirez excelled despite the walks, which can get you excited about his upside when he doesn't have the walks, which is most of the time.

Offensively, what we'll say is that at one point today the Mariners were out-hitting the A's 11-2, and the score was tied. Nobody went yard, which is apparently something I take for granted now, and while Franklin Gutierrez drilled a pair of doubles, and while a pair of doubles combined is basically like going yard, Gutierrez was also removed with groin discomfort. There are three games left and we might not see Franklin Gutierrez in any of them. I think a good sign of my own personal maturity is that I know Gutierrez was removed with a groin problem, and I know his previous problem was neck stiffness, and I can't come up with a workable joke. Five or six years ago, I would've kept at it until something clicked. I would've been that dedicated to a dick joke. Now I'm an adult! A regular mature adult, who simply hints at dick jokes instead of making them.

Brendan Ryan led off the top of the seventh with a double to the opposite field, which was only his second extra-base hit to the opposite field of the season. Trayvon Robinson followed by trying to bunt Ryan over to third, but repeated failures by either Robinson or Ryan Cook led to Robinson swinging away and drilling a single to put runners on the corners. The next three batters were the Mariners' 2-3-4 and they all struck out. This could have been a very different game had one or two at-bats gone differently. This is a sentence that sounds profound but really is not profound at all.

There's nothing else I feel like saying and there's probably nothing else you feel like reading. The Mariners are about to begin their final series of the 2012 regular season. During this series, we will either learn that the Angels have been eliminated from playoff contention, or we will watch the Mariners allow the Angels to pull off the improbable. Either way, after Wednesday we won't have to watch the Mariners play the Angels anymore. Not for a long time.

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