Mariners Play As Sleepy As We Feel, Lose First Of Many

islanders

I understand that it's still early enough for people to want to dream*, so that headline might be unpleasant. But before you jump on me for being needlessly cynical or negative, consider what the definition of "many" is. According to Dictionary.com, it's "constituting or forming a large number; numerous." All right, that isn't very helpful, but I've had this conversation with people before. "A couple" is two. "A few" is often three or four. Then you start getting into the "several" range, and then you start getting into the "many" range. "Many" does not have to refer to that large of a number. For example, I might say this about a box of a dozen granola bars:

Me: Inside of this box there are many granola bars.

I probably wouldn't say it like that because that sentence would make people suspect that I'm an alien, but basically, "many" doesn't have to be huge. The 2001 Seattle Mariners finished 116-46, and I would say that they lost many games. They also won many more. So take heart! This headline might look like a negative headline, but it is not necessarily a negative headline! It could be a negative, neutral, or even positive headline! Oh my god, it is so early. It won't seem that early by the time this post is published, but it's early right now. I'm so sorry for subjecting you to whatever words my fingers are creating.

* double meaning**

** writing technique

This was always going to be the more difficult of the two regular season games in Japan, for the Mariners and for us. For the Mariners, because the first game had Felix Hernandez in it. For us, because the first game had Felix Hernandez in it, and because this game started an hour earlier at a time I didn't even know existed. Many (there's that word again) were willing to get up for the opener, because it was the opener, with Felix. This was not the opener, and it offered Jason Vargas against the Oakland Athletics. Around the first game, people are over-the-top thrilled to have baseball back. The second game feels like the eighth game, or the 30th game, or the 110th game. The second game is just another baseball game.

So for those of you who didn't watch live, ultimately you made the right call. For those of us who did watch live, it was hard not to feel like the whole thing was a waste of time. The Mariners scored one run and lost to the A's. Nothing particularly exciting happened, for the Mariners. This could've been any game between the Mariners and the A's from the past several seasons, and for the past several seasons, we've been complaining about games between the Mariners and the A's.

But - well I'll try to break this down as best I can.

Immediate response
Complete waste of time. Dull game. Scoreless until the seventh. Disappointing loss. Not at all worth sacrificing a good night of sleep after sacrificing a good night of sleep.

Rationalization #1
But, you know, from a humanitarian perspective, it's good that the A's won. The A's have crazy fans who woke up early, too, and they didn't deserve to watch consecutive losses. The Mariners won the game that their fans could watch live. The A's won the game that their fans could watch live. (The opener wasn't shown in the Bay Area.) There's no need to be so greedy so soon. The Mariners and A's both went to Japan, and they both return having done something.

Rationalization #2
And it was a split. Nothing wrong with a split. In 2000, when the Mets faced the Cubs for two opening games in Japan, they split. In 2004, when the Devil Rays faced the Yankees for two opening games in Japan, they split. In 2008, when the Red Sox faced the A's for two opening games in Japan, they split. Now we have four two-game opening series in Japan, and each has been split. Evensies! Everybody's sharing!

Rationalization #3
The 2000 Mets were good, and the 2000 Cubs were bad. The 2004 Yankees were good, and the 2004 Devil Rays were bad. The 2008 Red Sox were good, and the 2008 A's were bad. Based on the pattern, one of the 2012 Mariners and the 2012 A's will be good while the other is bad, and have you seen the 2012 A's? There's no way they'll be the good one!

So the rationalizations didn't actually make the experience of getting up and watching that game any better. But they'll make me feel better once I've recovered from all this sleep loss, and hopefully I can do that in a flash since I've scheduled a nap for immediately following this post. On a related note, I'm done with this post!

I guess I'm not done with this post yet since I still have all that thrilling action to cover. NOT. I mean, I do still have action to cover, but the NOT was referring to "thrilling", indicating sarcasm. Like in a Borat way. These are the jokes that I make when I wake up at 1:50 in the morning to watch the Mariners lose to the A's. May that never happen again, for all of our sakes.

I do think I have less to talk about today than I did yesterday, which is hardly a surprise. And which means the nap is fairly close! I'm going to write these bullet holes all sloppy-like so they go faster! I have no respect for you, audience!

  • Last Monday - or actually two Mondays ago - Jason Vargas pitched in Arizona against the Cubs and recorded two outs. He faced 11 batters. Everything was much more normal this time around, and it's almost as if spring training performances aren't reliable indicators of regular season performances. Vargas was hardly superb, and he came out after 85 pitches, but most of those pitches were the pitches that he wanted them to be, and when he came out the A's were scoreless. The run charged to his name was mostly the fault of Shawn Kelley.

    Again, without PITCHfx data we can break Vargas down only so much. We can't, for example, see if he's still drawing benefits from the twist in his delivery. But realistically I can't imagine that many people would be interested in a PITCHfx breakdown of Jason Vargas. He's Jason Vargas. We know what he is, and he's not a man of surprises. The most surprising thing about Jason Vargas is that he talks in a normal voice instead of in a gravelly smoker's voice, but I learned that a long time ago.

    I think my favorite pitch that Vargas threw today was a low-and-away 2-2 changeup(?) to Yoenis Cespedes in the bottom of the fifth that Cespedes swung through for a strikeout. But I wasn't paying close attention to all 85 of Vargas' pitches, and I'm biased in favor of swinging strikes because they look so awesome. I want to make fun of Cespedes' approach so bad but in two games he has a ringing double and a ringing homer so I think that I'll wait.

  • This was not a banner day for the Mariner bullpen. I guess it could have been a banner day, if the banner read "HEY YOU'RE TERRIBLE". Shawn Kelley, George Sherrill, and Steve Delabar all pitched in relief of Jason Vargas, and Shawn Kelley, George Sherrill, and Steve Delabar all allowed home runs. Kelley's was the worst, because it turned a late lead into a late deficit. Sherrill and Delabar's were less significant, but they weren't exactly helpful.

    Trying to protect a 1-0 lead in the seventh, Kelley got ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, and found himself two strikes from the end of the inning. Two pitches later, he came with a 1-1 slider, but the slider was just a bit too elevated, and Cespedes blasted it out to left-center. It was clearly gone off the bat - Kelley reacted accordingly - and I wouldn't even say the pitch was badly hung since Cespedes practically hit it from his back knee. It was hung a little, and Cespedes is strong.

    Really strong. The A's chased after Adrian Beltre when he was a free agent. They missed out, but they might now have the outfield version for the next four years. We'll see what Cespedes can do in the field but he did glide over to snare a Justin Smoak drive to the gap with notable ease.

  • Smoak was the Mariners' offensive positive. The team had three hits and a walk. Two of those hits were unremarkable groundball singles. Smoak hit that liner to the gap that Cespedes ran down, and in the top of the seventh he put the M's ahead when he took Bartolo Colon out to left field. For anybody who wasn't watching, it wasn't a moonshot or a particularly impressive dinger. It was a line drive to the opposite field that cleared the Tokyo Dome's charitable dimensions. But then there is something impressive about hitting a line drive to the opposite field hard enough for a homer, no matter the environment. So Smoak's on the board. He probably wouldn't be on the board had he been playing in Safeco, but now the pressure of hitting that first one is gone. I assume that is not insignificant what with Smoak batting cleanup.

  • My brain is shutting down and I think my sense of humor was the most recent thing to go. Sorry guys, hopefully it comes back in time. While this game ended with a simple and fairly dull 4-1 decision, towards the beginning Colon was flirting with something special. Thanks in part to Jemile Weeks' defense, he retired the first 13 batters he faced, and I had my second no-hitter freakout in two days. But Bartolo Colon strikes me as probably a very unsuccessful flirter, and this flirtation was also unsuccessful as the 14th batter singled. So thankfully the Mariners avoided making history, although if they were going to make history by finally being no-hit, they couldn't have chosen a much better time than today, with an American viewing audience numbering in the dozens.

  • That 14th batter was Jesus Montero, who rolled a slow grounder between first and second base. We told you he had power to the opposite field.

  • Quote Mike Blowers:

    The Mariners need to find a way of creating more opportunities.

    Not quote Mike Blowers:

    The Mariners need to reach base sometimes instead of no times.

  • Ichiro was called out on strikes in the top of the fourth, and he really didn't like the call. The home plate umpire was Jeff Nelson (no), and while I'm glad Nelson didn't toss Ichiro from the game, I'm kind of super curious about what might have happened if he did.

  • I'm a little uncomfortable calling attention to this but in the later innings the Japanese fans started doing the wave. You could interpret that as tasteless, or you could interpret that as a sign of unified strength in the face of tremendous adversity. Or you could interpret that as a wave at a sports game.

  • Thanks to the last two broadcasts, I can tell you everything there is to know about Japanese vending machines. I'm pretty sure I'm qualified now to be the CEO of them.

  • Japanese baseball fans are just as bad at judging fly balls as American baseball fans. Maybe worse. I think the loudest I heard the crowd all game was when Ichiro lifted a regular fly ball to center that wasn't deep in any way. All of us, we're bad at judging trajectory. Evolution has not stopped here. It will continue. There will eventually be things better than us, because we kind of suck a lot. Unless we suck so much that we just destroy the whole planet.

Here comes that nap. Oh god, I am so ready for this nap. The Mariners are done playing baseball in Japan, which is sad, but also a lot more convenient, and they made their mark. They did good off the field, they did okay on the field, and Ichiro got to show off for the adoring masses. Mission mostly accomplished. Now it's back to spring training! Like none of this ever happened! It really was all a dream!

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