this is intimate
There aren't a lot of things that make me happy to be awake at three in the morning. It's miserable to wake up that early for a hike, no matter how exciting the hike. I loathe early-morning flights, no matter how short the flight. Even that one reason to be awake at three in the morning is usually unwelcome at first, assuming that I had been asleep. I don't have a child. I've grown accustomed to sleep. I'm a man who needs his sleep.
It would be one thing, I suppose, if I had a job where I didn't need to think very much. Then I wouldn't be afraid of the consequences of interrupted and limited sleep. But this is my job. Writing is my job, here and elsewhere, and even though it doesn't seem like it sometimes writing requires a lot of constant, connected thought.
So, to cut this short, I've been dreading this opening series in Japan for some time. I've been simultaneously looking forward to it, of course, because it's meaningfulbaseball, but I figured that my Wednesday and Thursday and probably Friday would be shot to shit as a result of my insistence to watch the games live. Three in the morning. Two in the morning. It's an experience I'll look back on warmly, but it's not the greatest experience at the time.
Thank God - thank God - the Mariners won. I don't know how I'd feel if I got up for this and watched them lose. Bad, probably. I don't have anything personal against any A's fans but I'm glad they have to deal with that instead of us, not that those in the Bay Area could watch the game live anyway. It would feel like such a waste. When my alarm went off and I walked to the living room the birds outside were like "fuck you turn off the lights." I looked at the TV, and then I'd say it was probably 45 minutes before I was actually watching the TV. What if Josh Reddick hadn't hit his line drive in the sixth right to Mike Carp? What if Eric Sogard hadn't hit his line drive in the seventh right to Felix Hernandez? The A's very, very easily could've won this baseball game. And then it would've been six, and I would've thought, dang, that was the worst breakfast I've ever had.
The A's didn't win this baseball game, because the Mariners did. It's the Mariners' sixth straight win on opening day, and seventh out of the last eight. I have to confess that, as close as the A's came to winning, I was never that concerned. A part of that is because I was never that mentally aware. Still not. Gonna be a doozy of a Wednesday. A bigger part of that is because I've developed this opening day overconfidence. The Mariners don't make me overconfident at any other times, like literally any other times at all, but on opening day, especially with Felix, it's not even in my head that the Mariners could lose. It takes a little of the fun out of being a winner, but it's a day that I get to feel like I follow a winner. I knew when I went to bed and I knew when I stumbled out of bed that the Mariners and Felix were untouchable.
I think every year after the Mariners start 1-0 I write that early wins count the same as late wins, and that there's no better way to start than with a victory. If you had the Mariners pegged for, say, 76 wins before, you have them pegged for 76.5 wins now. The Mariners, no matter who they are, are in a better position now than they were when we went to bed. I write this every year because every year it's true. One game is but a drop in the bucket, but there's only been one drop, and it was a...good...drop? While the Mariners are incredibly unlikely to hang with theand , the odds are slightly better now than they were, and that allows us to keep on dreaming.
Speaking of dreaming, I wonder if that's all that this was and is. Maybe I'm having a very realistic, uninteresting dream. A dream in which I'm blogging about the possibility that I'm blogging in a dream. It would be among the most meta of dreams, but I am a product of the Internet. Here, let's see, I'll pinch myself. Ow. Okay, either I'm not dreaming, or you can't actually shake yourself from a dream by getting pinched in the dream. This has been science, from Jeff Sullivan.
I don't even know what I'm typing anymore. 2am tomorrow. Sweet mother Mary I'm going to feel like absolute crap so I can get up to watch Jason Vargas. But I'll get up with the knowledge that the Mariners have a win and no losses. That's a hell of a lot better than a loss and no wins, when there's only been a game. For those like me who are making sleep sacrifices, an opening day win is the best treatment you could ask for.
Bullet holes now. I'm pretty sure that's how this works. It's been an awful long time. Once the normal regular season gets going I think I'm going to adjust the way that I recap in an effort to shift my hours, but it's 7:51 in the morning. I'll proceed with the bullet holes even though my brain feels like it has bullet holes in it.
- It's weird to have a regular season game without any PITCHfx data. I usually mine that data every single day so today it's kind of a relief and kind of not a relief. It feels so 2006. Someone might as well start playing Daniel Powter in the parking lot outside. We have batted ball information, and we have pitch result information, but we don't have pitch information itself. I don't know what Felix threw or how well he threw it.
To the eye, his movement was fantastic. He didn't have a great feel for his breaking ball early, but it came around, and his fastball and changeup were darting. Somewhat troubling are reports that his velocity was down, following a spring in which it appeared his velocity was down, but if you combine the spring and Felix's outing today, he has 23 strikeouts and two walks, so don't be alarmed just yet. Felix's velocity is just something to keep an eye on.
This was the fourth time already that Felix has pitched on opening day against the A's. His most dominant effort was in 2007. His most pedestrian effort was in 2010. His effort today was a lot like his effort last time, when he allowed two runs in a complete game. I wouldn't say it was Felix at his best, but you can't expect Felix to always be at his best, and Felix at a little shy of his best is one of the best pitchers in the world.
Felix didn't get a win, and that's unlucky. He came close to losing and didn't, and that's lucky. Felix pitched well and the Mariners won after he left. He's probably okay with that.
- There'll be some talk about how the A's managed the top of the 11th inning. With the score even 1-1, Brendan Ryan led off with a double to the gap. It was obvious that Chone Figgins was going to try to bunt Ryan to third, and Figgins successfully bunted Ryan to third. That brought up Dustin Ackley, with Ichiro behind him. The A's elected to pitch to Ackley, with the right-handed Andrew Carignan, and Ackley singled home the winning run. When Ichiro came up, Bob Melvin inserted the left-handed Jerry Blevins.
The A's could have walked Ackley and then drawn in the infield. They could've walked Ackley and Ichiro and set up a force everywhere. If they were determined to pitch to Ackley, one figures they could've used Blevins there instead of whoever Carignan is. I'm going to guess that Melvin has an explanation for why Blevins came in one batter too late but it looked weird on TV. I don't think the A's did what they should have done, and that half-inning wound up being the difference.
I had forgotten how confident I feel when Dustin Ackley is batting.
- Ackley drove in the winning run, and it was Ackley who drove in the first run when, leading off the top of the fourth, he took Brandon McCarthy out to right-center, far enough over that Gameday calls it center. This isn't a new observation but Ackley hits the ball harder than somebody his size probably ought to be able to. Scouts will frequently say about certain hitters that the ball just jumps off their bats, and the ball jumps off of Ackley's bat. It did today, and it did at times last year, too. There's nothing wrong with old observations in a new season. Consider this an opening day reminder that Dustin Ackley is amazing, and we are all blessed.
Michael Saunders had a positive sequence of events in the third when he led off with a first-pitch single and then stole second base. He was subsequently thrown out at third base when he tried to advance on a grounder hit in front of him. That was the end of Michael Saunders' positive Wednesday. Moments later, Brendan Ryan was thrown out trying to steal. Sometimes I honestly feel like the Mariners are bad baserunners because they're not used to being baserunners.
- MLB.com's Gameday really wants you to know about MLB.com.
- We've advanced to this point: during the middle innings, ROOT Sports showed a graphic declaring that Brendan Ryan led all shortstop with 17 Defensive Runs Saved. Dave Sims repeated it on air. Defensive Runs Saved is a metric available at FanGraphs, sort of an alternative to or companion of UZR, but no explanation was given on TV. They just said "Defensive Runs Saved" and let the audience mull it over.
- In the second inning, ROOT Sports cut to Jen Mueller somewhere in the stands. A Japanese fan behind her noticed the camera, smiled, and started humping the air. We have exported our baseball, and we have exported our culture. The bright(er) side of this moment was that my laughter woke me up.
- This was the first meaningful Major League Baseball game played by Yoenis Cespedes. In his first at bat, he struck out chasing a nasty breaking ball. In his second at bat, he got drilled. Yoenis Cespedes could not have had a more rude introduction to the league. I was going to write some more jokes but then in Cespedes' third at bat he slaughtered a breaking ball to center for a double. He struck out chasing a nasty breaking ball again in his fourth at bat though so after one game Yoenis Cespedes is living up to expectations. He didn't jump over anything but I don't think he was presented with the opportunity to jump over anything.
Brandon League closed out the bottom of the 11th and Seth Smith drilled a comebacker that passed in between League's face and glove. Slow-motion replay indicated that the ball nearly struck League in the teeth. At one moment, Brandon League almost lost his teeth and lower jaw and could've become another Jeff Karstens. At the next moment, Brandon League struck out Kurt Suzuki swinging to finish a baseball game. Closers really are fearless. It's a wonder more of them don't die doing stupid shit they weren't afraid of.
Casper Wells was inserted as a defensive replacement for Mike Carp in the 11th. It's hardly remarkable, but Oakland's one run scored on a double that a better left fielder might have caught, so it'll be interesting to get a better idea of Carp's defense, and it'll be interesting to monitor how much patience the Mariners have assuming it is not very good. Not that the Mariners are super high on Casper Wells at the moment but let's not pretend that Mike Carp has established himself as a big and permanent part of the puzzle.
- Shortly before the game began, the Tokyo Dome PA system started blaring Republica's Ready To Go. This is notable because it wasn't blaring the Black Eyed Peas' Let's Get It Started. It might have blared the Black Eyed Peas' Let's Get It Started before I turned on the TV. I'm pretty sure stadiums are contractually obligated to play the Black Eyed Peas' Let's Get It Started when something is about to get started.
- The new and improved No. 3 Ichiro beat out an infield single in his first at bat, and beat out an infield single in his second at bat. In his third at bat, he grounded a single up the middle. After a fly out, he singled to center again in his fifth at bat. It was a four-hit day for Ichiro, who looked like classic Ichiro, and while he didn't look like some new power-hitting Ichiro, nearly 45,000 people showed up in Tokyo to see Ichiro look like he did in his prime. I don't think I can properly express just how cool that is, especially in my current mental fog. It was cool and I think it was cool.
- It is such a wonderful scam that these are considered Oakland home games.
Brandon Allen looked terrible in his first two at bats. In his third at bat, he was asked to bunt a runner from second to third, and he popped out.
Allen: /returns to dugout
Allen: What's the deal?
Melvin: Call from above.
Allen: I'm not a bunter.
Melvin: I think that's the point.
Melvin: It was a test.
Beane: /flashes thumbs-up
Beane: /is outdated caricature of self
Whew. So many words. Don't be too critical of any of my writing over the next few days please, because I am presently brain dead and considering drugs. Jason Vargas starts against somebody tomorrow mere minutes after 2am PDT. I can explain to people why I got up for Felix and opening day but it's going to be harder to explain getting up an hour earlier for Jason Vargas and a not-opening day game against the.