It's all coming back to Felix now
This recap begins by talking about a Friday night baseball game that wasn't the Clayton Richard and the Dodgers were starting Aaron Harang, and while Richard and Harang aren't equivalently good pitchers, they're each sufficiently unawesome that nobody thought it was a mismatch. It'd be like a game between Bruce Chen and Nick Blackburn. It's not exactly even, but nobody looks at that and thinks, "daaaang, the are fucked."' game because as long as I'm writing about another Friday night baseball game, I'm not yet writing about the Mariners' game. The were playing the , on the road. The Padres were starting
Of course the thing about the Padres is that a lot of the time they hit like the Padres. Cameron Maybin led off with a single, but then nine batters struck out in a row. Even though the Padres were facing Aaron Harang, Aaron Harang struck out nine consecutive Padres batters. He came one strikeout away from tying the record. It's an old record. Harang did good.
Implied is that the Padres got off to a bad start. After four innings, they were behind 8-3, and the score remained 8-3 through the fifth inning and through the sixth inning. Then the Padres started to rally. They got three in the seventh. Two innings later, against an oft-unhittable Kenley Jansen, Chase Headley came up with one on and two out and blasted a game-tying dinger. The Padres came all the way back to catch the Dodgers at 8-8. The Padres came all the way back. It was a spirited effort.
In the bottom of the ninth, the first two Dodgers batters made outs. It looked as if the Padres had successfully forced the game to extras. Then disaster struck:
-M Ellis walked
-M Ellis stole second
-M Kemp walked
-J Loney walked
-J Thatcher relieved A Cashner
-A Ethier walked
The Padres came back. Down five with three innings to go, the Padres came all the way back against a talented bullpen. Then shortly thereafter they lost it when a couple relievers combined to issue four consecutive two-out walks. The Dodgers won on a walk-off walk.
Take that game, for the Padres, and then take this game, for the Mariners. You're a fan. We're all fans. Which game would you have rather watched your team play? Maybe this is a grass-is-greener situation. Maybe the Padres game is preferable, because even though the Padres lost, they provided the memory of Headley's home run. But then the memory is forever tainted by the catastrophe of a conclusion.
It's hard, because with one game, there are emotional peaks and valleys, and with the other game, there's just emotional flat-lining. I don't know which one I would've rather watched. I know that I wish I hadn't watched the Mariners tonight. I don't know if experiencing a game like the Padres' game would've been better or worse. At least the Mariners aren't alone in going to bed Friday night feeling all miserable.
I don't know how to describe the baseball game the Mariners just played. "Bad" would be a good start. I came away from last year's home opener convinced that it was the worst live game experience of my life. This might've been a contender, had I been there. I've seen the Mariners lose in person lots of times, but it's different when shit's all ceremonial. The stakes are higher, the expectations are higher, and so there's farther to fall. Of course, I was also at the 2010 home opener, which the Mariners...lost to the A's, 4-0. In that game, the Mariners had two hits. In this game, the Mariners had three hits. They should've had four hits, but an umpire took one away, and what's pathetic is that's one of the bright highlights.
This game was a Friday night for thousands upon thousands of people. It was an event. I'm lucky in that I only had to go to my living room. People took their families to the ballpark. People traveled great distances to get to the ballpark, and braved unending lines and suffocating crowds. The Mariners did almost literally nothing. People devoted at least their Friday nights to this, and the experience felt more like a Saturday morning. Not a bright, refreshing Saturday morning where you want to be awake to seize the day. A Saturday morning after you have the kind of Friday night you're supposed to have on Friday night. This game was a hangover. This game made me want to sit down in the shower with my head on my knees.
It's only one game, of course. The 2010 home opener was a nightmare, and then the Mariners came back to win the next four, and seven of the next eight. This isn't a game that you should necessarily read into as a sign of whats to come. But it felt like such a familiar game. Such a 2010 game, or a 2008 game, or a 2011 game from the second half. The Wednesday Effect we were just talking about? Pretty sure it's worn off. If it wasn't completely worn off already, it wore off when Chone Figgins came up with two on and none out in the eighth and bounced into a 1-6-3 double play. You have a pitcher who just walked Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan back-to-back to start an inning in a close game. Those are opportunities you need to take advantage of like few others. Over in a heartbeat. Wednesday's forgotten. We're back to what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, and what the Mariners have done for us lately is light a bag of dog shit on fire and put it in a heating vent. Thanks Mariners, now everything smells like dog shit on fire.
Here's the thing - the Mariners know how to throw a ceremony. I loved watching Randy Johnson throw out the first pitch a few years ago. I loved the Dave Niehaus tribute and Macklemore performance last April. I was smiling like I didn't think I'd smile when Mike Cameron came out today and lobbed a Randy Winn special to Ichiro behind home plate. The Mariners know how to get people up for the home opener.
But the Mariners - the actual Mariners - are mastering the art of letting people back down. This was a dreary performance, and with Felix on the mound against a beatable opponent in front of a potentially electric crowd. People put their trust in the Mariners a little bit, again, and the Mariners blew it. Now the Mariners will have to try extra hard to make this night a distant memory. I don't know, though. The image of Figgins grounding back to the mound seems like it'll stick. The Mariners really, really, really need to start scoring runs, because nobody wants more of this. People would be driven insane by more of this. People could be driven to murder by more of this. Or maybe that's a little too out there, but, say, Mariners, do you really want to take that chance? Score runs, prevent murder. Let's try that one for a few days and see.
I have such a pathetic assortment of bullet holes here. Appropriate, given the three-hour horn solo I just watched. (I don't like horns.)
- Three Felix starts in, and we're still not seeing the old velocity. We did see a few 93s tonight, which is encouraging, given where I think Felix was hovering in Japan. He could be working his way back. He's not the only well-known pitcher throwing below his normal standards at the moment.
What I'm personally kind of sick of are people trying to downplay Velocity Watch 2012. That's not right - there's nothing wrong with trying to downplay it, if people are treating it like a crisis. Nobody should be in full-on panic mode. But I don't want to hear Eric Wedge say that Felix's lower velocity is nothing to worry about. Eric Wedge is a baseball manager. That's great for him. Eric Wedge isn't a scientist. Eric Wedge will say things about how Felix can succeed if he mixes his pitches and hits his spots, and Eric Wedge has said those things, but what he might not be getting is that velocity doesn't just go down for no reason. It's the cause that people are nervous about. Okay, so Felix is throwing a little slower. Why is that? Even if he can still be successful, why is that? Is it reversible? How successful can he be, relative to his old level of performance?
Now we're drifting from Felix's effort tonight. Felix started incredibly strong. In front of the King's Court for the first time, Felix opened with consecutive swinging strikeouts and a soft flare to left. He looked like he was on track for a dominant outing. And the second was fine, too, but then Felix came unglued just enough. Cliff Pennington pounded a pitch for an RBI double. After a walk, Coco Crisp drove in another run with a line-drive single. Felix wouldn't re-gain his early dominance.
Dave Cameron observed at one point that Felix still wasn't getting groundballs. Of Oakland's first 12 balls in play, nine were in the air. But then of Oakland's last eight balls in play against Felix, seven were on the ground. In the end, Felix ran a groundball rate of 50 percent, which is fine. He just got to that mark in an unusual way.
As before, we'll see what to make of Felix as he makes more starts. He's three starts in, now, but all three starts have come against Oakland, and oddly they've all come in different stadiums. It'll be good to see Felix face a new team. Felix Watch is still on. Felix Watch is not instructing people to gather supplies and head for the storm shelter, but Felix Watch has observed that there are still some suspicious-looking clouds in the area. Something just seems...a little bit off, and we could all stand to be reassured.
- It's interesting the way I felt when Mike Cameron walked to the mound from center field to throw his ceremonial first pitch. I was overcome with happiness to see him, and to see him smiling. I've never really felt that way when the Mariners have trotted out older team stars, but I got to watch Cameron and root for Cameron so seeing him return collapsed a mental dam and unleashed a devastating flood of memories. So when the Mariners talk up Alvin Davis, older Mariners fans get to feel happy, remembering Alvin Davis. I get it now!
- A little girl who's battling cancer got to run around the bases before the game started. I think there are few better measures of emotional maturity than the way you responded to that sentence in your head, just now.
- For the record, just before Coco Crisp lined an RBI single in the third, Felix probably struck him out with an inside tailing fastball. I mean, Felix obviously didn't strike him out, since Crisp lined an RBI single, but Felix probably should've had him struck out. I think this might be the first time I've complained about an umpire so far this season. Complaining about umpires so infrequently makes me feel un-American.
- But as long as we're complaining about umpires, Kyle Seager led off the bottom of the seventh with a line drive to shallow center that Yoenis Cespedes didn't catch but was ruled to have caught. Replays showed that the ball hit the ground first, barely, so Seager had a single taken away and the Mariners had an out needlessly piled on. This isn't a situation where you blame the umpire. I thought Cespedes caught the ball, too, and it wasn't a classic trap. The ball barely grazed the ground. This is a situation where you blame the system that doesn't allow for that play to be reviewed, because it could've been reviewed and overturned in ten seconds. And then Jesus Montero would've batted as the potential tying run, and then Jesus Montero would've grounded into a double play, and then we'd be like, well shoot.
- In the top of the seventh, with one on and none out, Jemile Weeks hit a grounder to first. Justin Smoak threw to Brendan Ryan for one out, and then Ryan lobbed the ball back to first, where Smoak made the catch with Weeks completely out of the picture. I assumed that Weeks had sprinted down the line and beat Ryan's lob by a full second. In truth Weeks had barely even left the batter's box because he thought the ball was foul. This description isn't funny at all but I thought it was funny at the time and I'm doing a poor job of turning synaptic firings into words. Here, hold on, maybe if I put my brain closer to my keyboard. Let's see if this works. So Jemile Weeks didn't budge, and - and no I don't think this is going to work. But it was worth it to try, for science. I still think the situation was funny and ultimately I don't care how you feel because I'm surrounded by only my own thoughts.
- In the latest commercial in which Ice Cube is seen arguing with a container of Coors Light, Cube and the container are in the tropics. Cube asks the container something like "so you still think you're colder than me", implying that Cube thinks he's established his dominance, but in all previous commercials in the series, the container has presented a more compelling case. Also Ice Cube must have ordered the Coors Light, unless he brought it from the mainland, which seems unlikely. So he ordered a Coors Light specifically to argue with it. Then Ice Cube introduces a big beefy guy named Tiny, who cracks his knuckles in an attempt to intimidate the container of Coors Light. The bartender then brings out another container of Coors Light, which nobody ordered, and this container isn't the same as the other container. What bar serves Coors Light in two different containers? Maybe Ice Cube brought the first container with him after all. And then the second container of Coors Light pops open spontaneously, and even though Ice Cube managed to duck out of the way, Tiny gets covered in shards of ice. Nobody opened the container! Coors Light is marketing a container of beer that just opens by itself and makes a mess! I don't understand! Here's a better commercial I just came up with: the camera shows Ice Cube sitting in a chair, and he's drinking a Coors Light, and then he sets the bottle down for a moment and says "mmm Coors Light," and then he picks the bottle back up.
- Oakland's third run scored in part because Josh Reddick was on second, and then Miguel Olivo couldn't catch a fastball just off the plate, and then Josh Reddick was on third, ready to score on a sac fly. Miguel Olivo doesn't only mess up the hard ones. They're all hard for Miguel Olivo.