Mariners Almost Win And Then Lose

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There are times that it feels like your brain works very slowly. I'm going to have to call upon personal experience, because mine is the only brain that I know. Oftentimes, when I first wake up in the morning, my brain feels particularly sluggish. Pretty much every day between 2:30-3:30, my brain acts like it's biking uphill. If I'm out socializing, and then I've had my fill of socializing, but I'm still out socializing, my brain basically abandons me and I have to forage for words and for the strength to feign interest.

And there are times that it feels like your brain works very fast. For example, while driving. I'm constantly making instantaneous decisions when I'm driving. If I'm out socializing and I'm in a rare groove, openers and replies just spill out of my mouth. When I'm filling out a win expectancy spreadsheet, I pick up incredible speed. There are different processes that explain the sensation of a faster brain and a slower brain, but I abandoned neurology for chemistry, and then I abandoned chemistry for blogging, and now I'm here blogging, ignorant of science.

Today in the eighth inning of the Mariners/Rays game, I became acutely aware of how quickly the brain can whirr. The Mariners were behind 5-4, and they had runners on the corners with two out. They had runners on the corners with one out, but then Alex Liddi popped out in foul territory, because if you're going to pop out, or if you're going to foul out, you might as well do them both at once. Up to the plate walked Justin Smoak, and on the mound, looking in at Smoak, but mainly looking in at Jose Molina, was Joel Peralta.

Immediately, I was pessimistic, because I had just written about Justin Smoak's struggles, and because I've been conditioned to believe the Mariners can't get the big hit. It's irrational but it's there. Then Smoak worked a 3-and-1 count. Michael Saunders was standing on deck. I grew more optimistic, because I know all about 3-and-1 counts, especially when facing opposite-handed pitchers. I had a good feeling.

The good feeling went away when Smoak proceeded to swing and miss at a splitter down and out of the zone. In that count, as a hitter, you're looking for a fastball that's a strike. Smoak didn't get a fastball, and he didn't get a strike, but he made it a strike, which made me feel like he wasn't seeing the ball. The next pitch - also a low splitter - was fouled off, and I braced for the inevitable swinging strikeout. I've seen Smoak do it a million times. Why not a million and one? As Smoak stood up there with a full count, I assumed that the inning was over.

That's how I felt as Peralta delivered his seventh pitch. I recognized it as another low splitter. All seven pitches he threw to Smoak were off-speed. Smoak began to swing, and I didn't even need to prepare for the out - I was already prepared for the out. All that was left was for Smoak to make it. He'd call it autonomy. I'd call it fate. It was out of his hands.

Then Smoak hit the ball, and he hit the ball hard. Peralta's splitter had stayed up a little, and Smoak applied a near-perfect swing. Or an actual perfect swing, hell, I don't know. He launched the ball into right field, and off the bat, I thought he had a homer. I thought Smoak had hit the ball out, and that the Mariners were going to pull ahead 7-5. I lurched forward on the sofa. I wanted to know how far it was going to go.

As the camera cut from home plate to the outfield, it became evident that Smoak's drive didn't have enough altitude. But it still had velocity and location, and though Ben Zobrist is a quick one, I didn't think he was quick enough. I thought the ball would settle down for extra bases, and that the Mariners would take the lead, unless the ball took an unfortunate hop over the fence. The game would at least be tied. I mentally flashed back to the post I wrote this morning. I didn't think anything about it; I just thought about it. "Justin Smoak is presently hitting a clutch double." "I just wrote about Justin Smoak."

Then the ball hung up, or Zobrist sped up, or something. Zobrist closed in, then he slowed down, and I realized he was going to make the catch by the line. He made the catch by the line, and held on, even though he was nearing a low wall. I might be spooked by a low wall but Zobrist is a professional with experience with high and low walls. Zobrist made the catch and I accepted it. I didn't feel bad about Smoak - he'd hit the ball hard - but I felt bad about the Mariners. That was it, I figured. They wouldn't rally in the ninth. (They didn't rally in the ninth.)

So many different feelings during that pitch and line drive, feelings of which I was consciously aware. I realized that my brain was processing dynamic real-time information and jumping to instant conclusions. How long did that sequence take? Four seconds? Plus or minus one second? I'm talking a few instants before Smoak swung to a few instants after Zobrist caught the baseball. It lasted no time at all, relative to, say, a pop-up, or a commercial break, but during that sequence my brain drafted a novel. A suspense novel, full of twists and turns and a dark conclusion.

The human brain is capable of so much in so little time. I'm reminded of that every so often, and today I was reminded of that during Justin Smoak's unfortunate line drive. If you were watching, your brain probably also went through the same gymnastics. If you weren't watching, you can probably figure out what it was like based on the description above. That sounds arrogant, let me try again. If you weren't watching, you might be able to figure out what it was like based on the description above.

Sometimes we get hung up on the impossibilities, but the human brain is absolutely amazing for what it can do. It can connect so many dots in a literal nanosecond. And elsewhere on the spectrum, it can have us continue to follow the Seattle Mariners on an everyday basis, even though almost all of the time that just bums us out. "Why do we do this!" we might ask ourselves. Because of our human brains. Our amazing, evil human brains.

Let's try some bullet holes. Part of me's like, no, relax, skip the bullet holes, there's another game tomorrow morning at 10 so how many people are really going to read about this game before moving on to the next? Part of me's like, no, don't relax, do the bullet holes, do them do them do them, you have to do the bullet holes. I'm obeying the second part because the first part is relaxing and so it isn't putting up much of a fight. The human brain can also be not amazing sometimes.

  • Blake Beavan pitched. Of his 86 pitches, just 51 - or 59 percent - were strikes. Ordinarily we expect Blake Beavan to throw something like two-thirds of his pitches for strikes. This doesn't tell you he was missing his spots, but it suggests to you that he was missing his spots. It suggests that, today against the Rays, Blake Beavan didn't have his desired location. Do you know what happens when a pitcher like Blake Beavan doesn't have his desired location against a lineup that's pretty good, even when it doesn't have Evan Longoria? This game happens. Or sometimes maybe worse than this game happens. But for those of you who are really interested in reading about Blake Beavan - tonight he wasn't putting the ball where he wanted to so much, and the predictable took place.

    As a flyball pitcher who doesn't miss bats, it's Beavan's nature to hang out on the fringe of acceptability. Sometimes he leans one way, and sometimes he leans the other. Beavan's like a tourist standing by the edge of the Grand Canyon. He probably feels pretty confident, standing there by the edge of the Grand Canyon. But sometimes there are these gusts of wind, and you can't see them coming, and they can get to be strong. If only he weren't standing so close to the edge.

  • The obvious star of the game from the Mariners' perspective was Kyle Seager, who lifted his OPS to .809 with a single and a pair of home runs. The single looked like it could've been a big one in the top of the eighth, as Seager beat the shift with a line drive the other way, but it wound up not mattering, so we look to the home runs instead. Once again, the Mariners only scored via home runs, but they're not just solo shots anymore, as Seager's shot in the first was a three-run dinger.

    James Shields is no stranger to the longball, but he's still a good guy to take deep. As it happens, in Seager's first at-bat he probably swung at ball four. He worked a full count and pulled a low fastball, so instead of drawing his second walk, he hit his second home run. This is a trade-off I will accept. In Seager's third at-bat, in the top of the sixth, he pulled a low 1-and-0 cutter. Neither that home run nor his first home run were particularly enormous, but they were home runs, in a tough park. Seager really does have pop.

    Seager's season numbers look good right now. Alex Liddi has earned more of a look than people probably thought that he would. Mike Carp is back with the team, and he needs to play. Chone Figgins has a .579 OPS. We're still at the point where stats can move around in a hurry, as Seager just demonstrated, but you have to figure that Figgins' number is almost up, right? Right? I mean you have to, right? How wouldn't it be? How much patience can Eric Wedge really have? Even God started taking shit out on people, I'm pretty sure.

  • In the bottom of the seventh, Charlie Furbush faced off against Carlos Pena. In a 2-and-2 count, Furbush got Pena to swing and miss at a slider. Pena stayed in, and the home-plate umpire didn't say anything. Furbush spoke up, and then the crew chief chimed in and sent Pena back to the dugout, but instead of being happy about Furbush's awareness, now I'm just annoyed again about last year's team's awareness. How did they let that happen!

  • Ichiro set a Mariners franchise record for putouts by a right fielder, with ten. And to think that he did that in just eight innings instead of a full nine. We weren't sure if he would get there, as he stood at eight after seven, but then Elliot Johnson flew out to right to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and Jose Molina flew out to right to end the bottom of the eighth. In honor of Ichiro's record-setting achievement, the Mariners will politely inform him about his record-setting achievement, and give him a nod, or a pat on the back. Probably a nod, because I don't know about Ichiro and touching.

  • Jered Weaver just threw a no-hitter so now I'm rushing through the rest of this because I have to write something about that fucking game. After Seager tied the game 4-4 in the top of the sixth, Luke Scott led off the bottom of the sixth with a long drive to straightaway center. In an empty outfield, the ball would've hit off the top of the wall and remained in the field of play. But Michael Saunders was in the outfield, and as he attempted a leaping catch, the ball bounced off of the end of his glove and over the wall for a go-ahead dinger. It wasn't nearly as bad as Ryan Raburn giving Miguel Olivo a dinger last season, but Saunders effectively turned two bases into four bases. He's really improved his power game, both at the plate and in the field.

  • Going into the top of the sixth, Joe Maddon removed B.J. Upton due to some kind of mild strain or stiffness or whatever. Instead of putting a new player from the bench into center field, Maddon inserted Elliot Johnson at shortstop and set off a cascading sequence of five other defensive switches. There's no way Joe Maddon doesn't have a complicated contraption like something out of Wallace & Gromit at home to help him make his toast.

  • Jose Molina has a career .627 OPS, and a career 66 OPS+, but with his bulk, and with his wide-open stance, he looks extremely threatening when he's up at the plate. You think you haven't been conditioned by video games but you've been conditioned by video games.

Baseball tomorrow morning. You could watch if you want to. Even if you have work or other obligations, you could watch if you want to. It would not be impossible for you to watch. If you don't watch, you will choose not to watch.

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