I was sitting at home the whole time, watching Philip Humber throw that perfect game against the Mariners that one beautiful Saturday afternoon. Maybe wherever you were, it wasn't beautiful. Maybe wherever you were, it wasn't the afternoon, or even Saturday. But I remember exactly what it was like outside in Portland when Humber was dealing because all I could think about was "I would really like to be outside now instead of watching this." For a while, anyway. Then reality dawned that Humber could make history, then Humber made history.
Humber threw his perfect game, and I remember one instance that a Mariners batter made what I'd consider solid contact. Dustin Ackley pulled an elevated line drive into right field that hung up long enough to be caught. That was it. The rest of the contact was terrible, and on a number of occasions there wasn't contact at all. Come the later innings, I assumed the perfect game, or at least the no-hitter. I figured Humber was going to do it because the Mariners gave no indication they were going to stop him. Many of you felt the same way. When it was all over, my first thought was "wow", and my second thought was "yep, about time".
(My first thought was actually "Brendan Ryan didn't swing" but I'm telling a story here and as a storyteller I'm allowed to take certain liberties.)
The day of Philip Humber's perfect game, I don't think I really appreciated Philip Humber's perfect game. He made it look too easy. The Mariners batters all looked too miserable, except for Ackley that one time. I was surprised it hadn't happened until then, and I was surprised it hadn't happened more than once. Humber made real history and statistical history, and I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't actually that much of a challenge.
Oddly enough, it's a game like tonight's against the Jon Lester, and while Jon Lester hasn't quite been himself, he's still Jon Lester, and tonight he looked more like himself. The Mariners fell behind early and then it was on them to try to generate some offense, which they couldn't do.that makes me appreciate Humber's effort more than actually watching Humber's effort did. The Mariners went up against
Lester went through the Mariners 1-2-3 in the top of the first. He went through the Mariners 1-2-3 in the top of the second. He went through the Mariners 1-2-3 in the top of the third. He retired the first two batters he faced in the top of the fourth. The Mariners weren't doing anything. Eleven batters into the action, they had three strikeouts, six groundouts, and two pop outs. They weren't just not getting any good results against Jon Lester - they were getting nothing but ugly results against Jon Lester.
We all started thinking it. Jon Lester has thrown a no-hitter before, the Mariners have been no-hit before, and tonight's early indications were not positive. Or they were very positive if you are a fan of baseball history or the Red Sox or baseball history and the Red Sox. A no-hitter is never likely until the final batters of a game, no matter the identity of the pitcher or the identity of the opponent, but this one had a certain feel. It had the feel of the Humber game, and it had the feel of several other bids that were eventually snapped.
Then, as the Mariners' twelfth batter, Ichiro singled. It was an infield single, off of Lester's own glove, but it was a single, and the no-hit bid was over. So, obviously, was the perfect-game bid. There would be no shot at history, or at least that particular brand of history. There was still a shot at other sorts of history.
In the fourth inning, the Mariners got a hit. In the sixth inning, they got two more. When it was all said and done, Jon Lester went the distance on 119 pitches, but he allowed eight knocks. After the first 11 Mariners went down, the team batted .348 the rest of the way. One of those hits was an infield single by Justin Smoak that could've been ruled an error, but that isn't important. What's important is that, at one point, it looked like Jon Lester could no-hit the . An hour and a half later or so, Jon Lester finished a game in which he allowed eight hits to the Seattle Mariners.
The hits came just like that. There were some weak grounders, some solid grounders, and some line drives. For kicks, Dustin Ackley also flew out to the track in dead-center field. That was excellent contact that would've resulted in a hit had it been aimed almost anywhere else. Out of nowhere, the Mariners had hits.
And now I think I understand better. Until Humber, I'd never before seen the Mariners go hitless. I'd seen them try to go hitless, but every time until Humber, they managed to do something before the final out was recorded. You know what's really hard to prevent? Hits! Against even terrible lineups! It's one thing to allow few hits, but no hits? In 2010, the Mariners as a team batted .236, with a .298 OBP. On average, the odds of retiring nine .298 OBPs in a row are 1-in-24. The odds of retiring 12 in a row are 1-in-70. The odds of retiring 15 in a row are 1-in-202. Okay, there, you're through five innings. Do four more.
I mean, it's not like I really need to be taught that no-hitters and perfect games are really difficult to accomplish. They're special occasions for a reason. But at least for me, tonight's game hammered that point home. Here were the Mariners looking feeble against a dominant pitcher, and then you look up and the Mariners have a whole bunch of hits. Not runs, because that's a whole other challenge, but hits. Hits just kind of happen - sometimes on their own, sometimes in bunches. Yawn and close your eyes and you might miss a single to left field. Hits are quick, sometimes unremarkable, sometimes unassuming, never uncommon. To prevent hits for an entire game is crazy. Two Mariners had multi-hit games today. Four others didn't go hitless. There were twice as many Mariners who finished with at least a hit as there were Mariners who finished without a hit.
I've now spent more than a thousand words explaining that throwing a no-hitter or a perfect game is hard to do. This is a proud moment for my college degree. If you'd like to hear less about no-hitters and perfect games and more about the Mariners' game against the Red Sox tonight, the Mariners were behind 2-0 after one and 5-0 after four and in the top of the seventh what might've been a promising rally was stringed up and bled to death when Kyle Seager lined into a double play. You know who feels good about line-drive double plays? Nobody. They're pretty much the worst. It's just like when a hockey shot hits the goal post except you don't get that clangorous ping. Ugh, line-drive double plays, you really suck.
After that the Red Sox scored a run and the Mariners scored a run and the Mariners lost the game by five. You know what else is really hard to throw? Shutouts. From one perspective, Jon Lester was absolutely brilliant tonight. From another, the Mariners prevented him from having the best possible night he could have had. The Mariners got a loss in the standings, but whether this was also an emotional loss depends on how you define an emotional win, and we've learned in our years to set the bar low.
Bullet holes! That exclamation point is a lie, there's nothing here that's exciting. I don't know why I just lied to you. I guess all I can do now is strive to be more honest in the future. Or just delete these sentences and replace the exclamation point with a period, but it's all the way over there, and then I'm wasting keystrokes, and I'm already too inefficient as it is. For the sake of greater efficiency, this paragraph will remain as written.
- Jason Vargas was absolutely outstanding his last time out, and he'd allowed four runs in his last three starts, so one might say he was due for a start like tonight's if one wanted to be wrong but convey a not-inaccurate impression. He's not a guy who's built for Fenway Park, and while much was made during the game of how the Red Sox were fielding a depleted order, the guys missing were lefty Carl Crawford, lefty Jacoby Ellsbury, and Kevin Youkilis. Switch-hitter Daniel Nava can hit, rookie Will Middlebrooks can hit, and Marlon Byrd isn't incapable of hitting. Vargas still had a challenge in front of him, and he...did he fail the challenge? Did he pass, but barely? Does he have to repeat? God I hope he doesn't have to repeat.
The runs scored against Vargas in a hurry. In the bottom of the first, David Ortiz doubled home Dustin Pedroia. Ortiz hit a decent low changeup, and Pedroia wouldn't have scored if Casper Wells had played the ball better off the Monster, but pre-game rain prevented Wells from getting defensive reps. And on the next pitch Adrian Gonzalez doubled anyway. So that was the first inning.
Then in the fourth, Nava homered on a first-pitch fastball down the pipe that wasn't supposed to be down the pipe. Jason Vargas isn't a bad starting pitcher but when he misses down the pipe with a fastball, he's throwing an 87-mile-per-hour fastball down the pipe. Two batters later, Kelly Shoppach destroyed a high changeup. The weird thing about the high changeup is that I guess Vargas was supposed to throw a sort of high changeup?
Kelly Shoppach misses a lot, but he didn't miss that one. Strangely, it was Shoppach's first-ever home run in a Red Sox uniform, even though I always picture Kelly Shoppach in a Red Sox uniform. I know he spent all that time with the and , but I remember him as a Boston prospect.
What we learned tonight about Jason Vargas is nothing. I guess we learned that he had this performance. So Jason Vargas is now Jason Vargas, plus this game.
- In the top of the sixth, Michael Saunders led off with a line-drive single over Dustin Pedroia's head. What I want to do is make a joke about how it was a groundball, and Dustin Pedroia is really short. This joke is presently undeveloped and not yet ready to take public. I am going to let it all simmer together and see what I have in a few hours. At that point I will not be writing, so I will either save the joke for later, or say it out loud in the middle of a conversation about something else.
- Also in the top of the sixth, the Mariners had two on with one out, and Casper Wells batting against a lefty in a 2-and-0 count. Lester gave Wells an elevated fastball over the plate, and Wells mis-hit it, popping out to short. Wells was visibly upset with himself and this is an important reminder that pitchers get away with bad pitches all the time. Not that a 91mph Jon Lester fastball over the plate is the worst pitch in the world, but that was exactly what Wells was looking for in that count. Wells is a pretty good hitter, and he missed it. It happens, so often. Hitters hit good pitches, and hitters mis-hit bad pitches.
- Tonight's Banner Bank Building To The Future infographic focused on Tacoma Rainiers slugger Luis Jimenez. Luis Jimenez has a four-figure OPS this season. Luis Jimenez is also a 30-year-old DH. I am all about the TV broadcast calling attention to players like Luis Jimenez, and I am all about these segments being sponsored by Banner Bank. I am certain that they need to change the name. Even just "Down On The Farm" would work fine, even though I guess that doesn't have anything to do with banks. Banner Bank Player Of Note. This is a play on "c-note", which is money, which has to do with banks. This is harder than I thought it would be.
- If you are a pitcher and Jesus Montero is on first base and you pay him a lot of attention or attempt a pick-off throw you should probably just go to jail.
- It was in the eighth inning that Dustin Ackley took Jon Lester to straightaway center field. Ackley hit the ball very hard and sent Marlon Byrd back to the track, where he made an athletic catch against the wall. Ackley rounded first base, saw that the ball was caught, and jogged back to the dugout, never changing his expression. No frustration, no exasperation, no slight grimace, nothing. Is Dustin Ackley actually just severely depressed? You don't feel other feelings when you're severely depressed.
- In the bottom of the eighth of a 5-0 game, Shawn Kelley fell behind Daniel Nava 2-and-0, which was fine with the fans. Kelley then gave up and intentionally walked Nava to load the bases, which was not fine with the fans. The fans booed when Jesus Montero got up out of his crouch and stood to catch the intentional balls. I get booing an intentional walk of Barry Bonds. You want to watch Barry Bonds hit. I get booing an intentional walk of Ichiro. You want to watch Ichiro hit. Tonight, Red Sox fans booed an intentional walk of Daniel Nava. The game at that point was lopsided, and the walk set up a potential grand slam. Maybe by that point even the Red Sox fans were just coasting on autopilot.
Tomorrow Blake Beavan opposes Josh Beckett at 1:05pm Pacific. And apparently this Yahoo! Full Count video is going to try to autoplay every time I go to a new page in the Yahoo! MLB portal. If there's one thing that encourages me to give a new product a chance, it's an autoplaying video that you can't disable. I know that Yahoo! is a partner of ours but seriously, fuck off, you guys.