Young Mariners Beaten By Old Yankees

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Felix Hernandez came into action tonight with a pretty good track record of success against the Yankees. You knew that. Maybe you didn't know the specifics off the top of your head. Felix came in with a career 3.29 ERA against the Yankees. He came in having made three starts in the newest Yankee Stadium, and having allowed one run in those three starts combined. Those starts lasted a combined total of 24 innings. Felix's success against the Yankees has been a talking point when Felix has been scheduled to face the Yankees, and the media and the broadcasts have certainly publicized the numbers.

Now, it's all well and good to talk about Felix's track record against the Yankees, and about his track record against the Yankees in New York. Statistics are facts. All of those numbers above, and others - Felix owned those, they reflected his performances, and they couldn't be changed except by an unusually committed and slightly insane official scorer. There's never anything wrong with noting statistics.

But there's noting statistics, and then there's trying to weave a story out of them. Felix has had a lot of success against the Yankees - that's demonstrably true. A lot of people weren't satisfied to leave it there, though, and they took things further. They declared that Felix ups his game against the Yankees. Which, well, I'm sure that Felix gets a little more up for starts against the Yankees than he does for starts against most other teams, because the Yankees are the Yankees, and that isn't unique to him. But it was implied that Felix therefore does something to boost his numbers. It was implied that his success against the Yankees was sustainable.

You can see how that would be a dangerous position to assume. No matter how good Felix has been against the Yankees in the past, they're the Yankees, and at home they're especially tough. Over time, one would expect the numbers to start to balance out, and tonight Felix didn't channel his old self in New York. Tonight Felix got hit a little bit, he allowed four runs, and he lost. Which isn't in any way to suggest that he was bad, but he got tagged. The Yankees can do that.

Felix has had a lot of success against the Yankees in the past. He has had a lot of success in New York. Especially if you count all of New York, since that's where he hit his grand slam. But that wasn't really about Felix and the Yankees; that was about numbers behaving strangely. Now the numbers look less strange.

That headline up there isn't just a general statement, by the way. Felix is 26 years old. He's somewhat newly 26, as five weeks ago, he wasn't 26. The Mariners got a home run from Dustin Ackley, and he's 24 years old. The Mariners got a home run from Jesus Montero, and he's 22 years old. Starting on the mound and winning for the Yankees was Hiroki Kuroda, and he's 37 years old. The Yankees got a home run from Raul Ibanez, and he's 39 years old. The Yankees got a home run from Andruw Jones, and he's 35 years old going on 60. Robinson Cano had himself a big game of his own and he's only 29 years old, but I didn't want to include Cano for a reason, and besides that's still quite a bit older than the noted Mariners. Sometimes when an older person is playing a game against a younger person, the older person won't try very hard and will simply let the younger person win. That applies when the younger person is in the lower half of elementary school. That doesn't apply when the younger person can purchase and handle his own alcohol.

This is a bit of a tough loss to swallow, because it's a loss, and the Mariners never have a better chance than they do when they have Felix on the mound. Losing with Felix, against the Yankees, in New York, on a Friday night - none of those are things that we'd want. But then you look at how the Mariners scored, and they got a leadoff home run from Dustin Ackley that probably shouldn't have gone for a home run, and they got a home run from Jesus Montero that probably shouldn't have gone for a home run. When each of those homers were hit, the announcers were surprised when the ball left the yard. Then you look at how the Yankees scored, and they got a three-run home run from Raul Ibanez that...probably shouldn't have gone for a home run. I'm used to Safeco Field's unforgiving dimensions, of course, and not every stadium is Safeco, but none of those homers were jaw-droppers. I don't know where this was supposed to go. This isn't making any point. Annoying long fly outs are a part of the game in Seattle. Annoying short homers are a part of the game in New York. The game is the same, but the game is different. Baseball is so weird for not having standardized dimensions. Right? When you actually think about it, it's weird, right? Let's get back to tonight's baseball game now.

Montero's home run gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. At that point, it didn't feel secure, but it allowed us to think ahead to how great a storyline it would be for Montero to drive in the winning run in his return to Yankee Stadium. Michael Pineda is out for the year. I wish that he weren't, but them's the facts. Jose Campos is on the minor-league disabled list with an elbow problem. If Montero's homer could've been the difference, it would've been aggressively sweet, just really driving the point home that, yeah, the Mariners are pretty fond of that trade right now.

But of course Montero's homer wasn't the difference, because Raul Ibanez saw Montero's revenge and raised him. Not that Montero should have anything against the Yankees and not that Ibanez should have anything against the Mariners, but "revenge" is so much more fun to think about than "coincidence". For half an inning, we got to laugh at Jesus Montero shoving it down the Yankees' throat. Then Raul Ibanez shoved it down the Mariners' throat. That is very graphic and inappropriate, and I wish that that weren't an expression. It makes the people seem like bad men. Jesus Montero and Raul Ibanez are very nice.

If there's an upside to this loss, it's that, if you were watching or following on the west coast, it was over at 7, so it left you with an entire Friday night to do something else. Losing a 4pm game on a Friday is a hell of a lot more tolerable than losing a 7pm game on a Friday. You never want a Mariners loss to be your night's big event. Thank you for losing more conveniently than usual, Mariners!

Going to try to make a point of flying through these bullet holes, because it's Friday night for me, too. Usually when I try this the bullet holes end up being just as long as usual, if not even longer for some reason, but tonight's the night I turn over a new leaf, maybe. Let us see how this goes!

  • After several starts in a row of Felix looking absolutely brilliant, tonight he looked fine, or good, or whatever is a compliment but still below Felix's usual standard. He threw strikes - that wasn't a problem. He got some grounders - that wasn't a problem. He didn't allow much in the way of solid contact until his outing neared its end. But the whiffs weren't there like they have been. The location wasn't as terrific as it has been.

    The big blow, obviously, was the homer by Ibanez. It came with two outs and the Mariners in the lead, and it came on the first pitch. Felix tried to throw Ibanez a fastball on the outer edge. The pitch caught more of the plate than Felix wanted, as it didn't get the sink and tail that Felix wanted. Ibanez yanked it in a way that's long been familiar, but in a way people didn't think Ibanez could do so much anymore at his age. Ibanez is up to six home runs on the season. That's more than any Mariner has. Baseball has a funny way of letting you know when some careers are over, and when some careers are not.

    The third-to-last batter Felix faced was Derek Jeter, leading off the bottom of the seventh. It was Jeter who delivered today's requisite line drive at Felix's head. As has been the case with all other line drives at Felix's head, this line drive narrowly missed Felix's head, and I wonder if Felix even gets spooked anymore. The first time that happens, it makes you realize that can happen, and you no longer feel so invincible on the mound. Felix has probably cycled back to feeling invincible again. "They haven't hit me yet!"

  • At one point, Mike Blowers started talking about a conversation he had with Carl Willis, where Willis told him that Felix throws multiple changeups. He throws a circle change, but then he also shifts the ball around in his hand to make it do other things. This is one of the reasons Felix's fastball velocity drop hasn't hurt him, I'm guessing - it's not like he throws a few distinct pitches. Felix covers an entire broad spectrum with his pitch movement, so velocity is only one contributing factor. When you throw pitches that can move so differently, extra split-seconds might not make things that much better.

  • At another point, in the bottom of the fifth, Mike Blowers took to explaining PITCHfx movement information on the air. ROOT Sports showed an infographic displaying the horizontal and vertical movement on some of Felix's pitches, and Blowers explained what the numbers meant, and also the effect of gravity. You could point out that some of Felix's changeups were presumably mis-classified by PITCHfx, so the numbers on the air weren't perfect. Or you could appreciate the fact that Mike Blowers was talking about PITCHfx. He was talking about PITCHfx! The Mariners' broadcast talks about PITCHfx, and UZR, and Leverage Index, and yet still employs Bill Krueger. Something for everyone!

  • Hiroki Kuroda came in having never allowed a grand slam in his Major League career, and then in the top of the fifth he loaded the bases. Remarked Dave Sims, "there's a first time for everything." No there isn't.

  • With two on in the bottom of the fourth, Mark Teixeira dropped a single in front of Mike Carp, and the Yankees' third-base coach waved Alex Rodriguez around. Carp threw him out by several feet at home, taking the legs out from under a potential Yankees rally. There might've been another outfield assist, in the bottom of the first, when Robinson Cano singled to right with Curtis Granderson on second. Granderson ran home and Ichiro came up firing, but Justin Smoak cut the ball off and threw to second, where Cano was easily tagged out after Granderson had scored. Blowers noted that the ball might've been on line, and that Granderson might've been out had Smoak not interfered. It would've been very very close and there's no way to be sure, but here's an opportunity to pile on Justin Smoak if you feel like piling on Justin Smoak.

  • When Ichiro came up against Kuroda, Sims said he's "1-for-3 against his countryman." It would be funny if broadcasters said that whenever an American player faced an American player.

  • Speaking of Kuroda, I don't know how many of you care, but he established a track record in Los Angeles of throwing about 65 percent of his pitches for strikes. So far with the Yankees, he's thrown just over 60 percent of his pitches for strikes. Tonight, he threw just 59 of his 105 pitches for strikes. One wonders what his line might've been had Brendan Ryan not turned in a ghastly at-bat with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth.

  • Montero hit his home run in a 2-and-2 count by going down and getting a low-away slider. It was exactly the pitch that Kuroda wanted to throw to Russell Martin and still Montero knocked it out to right field. It wasn't the deepest opposite-field home run I've ever seen, but it was an opposite-field home run, and further evidence that Montero can cover the plate without sacrificing his strength.

  • Dustin Ackley homered down the left-field line on the game's third pitch. Sims, transcribed:

    Ackley, a fly ball down the line, Ibanez chasing, that's got some CARRY IT'S GONE! Ackley hits one out!

    Dave Sims didn't think that ball was leaving the yard until it was in somebody's hands. In Safeco, that probably would've gone for a double, if not a deep fly out. But Ackley hadn't homered since Opening Day, and that was in a whole other continent. I will be happy to see that Ackley's no longer stuck on one, and in a short amount of time I will forget what this newest one looked like.

  • Justin Smoak chipped in with three groundball singles, one of which was rolled to the third baseman. "Justin Smoak is back!" say fans who have Justin Smoak confused with Ichiro, and 2012 confused with 2011.

Hector Noesi and Phil Hughes tomorrow afternoon. This is where I should insert another quip about the trade backfiring on the Yankees but instead I am going to publish and leave! See you, suckers!

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