Mariners Do Something You Won't Believe In Loss To Rays

This is what Kevin Millwood looks like

I'm just kidding, you would believe everything the Mariners did today in their loss to the Rays. The Mariners scored a small number of runs. They allowed a slightly greater number of runs. They struck out too often, they didn't walk enough, and they stranded some promising baserunners. They got swept in four games by a team without Evan Longoria, who is all-around amazing. I just had to lure you in with a deceptive headline because otherwise why would you bother reading this? And now that you're in, you might as well read the rest. I don't know what it's going to say but stick with me, it might be all right. I apologize for resorting to trickery but I learned this from celebrity gossip websites when they're talking about celebrities who aren't very popular.

Come to think of it, the Mariners probably did do something you won't believe today. In every single baseball game, the Mariners probably do something they've never done before. In every single baseball game, the Mariners probably do something interesting they've never done before. The trick is identifying what those somethings might be. If the Mariners scored like 30 runs in a game, then it would be obvious. In a game like this, which the Mariners lose 4-3, it's a lot less obvious. There's something in there, I'm sure of it, but I don't know what it is and I don't know where to start looking.

It's...different to write about a game like this, which began just after ten in the morning. I was able to watch most of this game because it's my job to watch baseball games, and most specifically Mariners games. Very few of you have the same job. Actually none of you have the same job. I don't think many of you were able to watch along. You guys have jobs, and even if you're out of the market, your job probably doesn't let you open MLB.tv. If you're in college, you might've had class. If you're in high school, you definitely had class. If you don't have a job or if you work weird hours or if you're retired or something, you might've watched, but that's probably a small fraction of the LL audience.

So where with a game like yesterday's I can discuss some of the emotion, I probably can't do that so much here because most of you can't relate. You weren't watching so you can't relate to my emotional experiences. But now I'm thinking about this even more, and how many of you watch the games even when they're played at night? How many of you just read LL and barely watch the Mariners at all? Why should I write differently based on the time of day?

Now I'm thinking that I shouldn't. I'm also thinking that at some point in this recap I should start talking about today's baseball game between the Mariners and the Rays, but to be honest I'm just typing right now and seeing what comes out because I don't know what there is to say. I'm hoping that eventually something will click, if I type for long enough. The Mariners have lost six games in a row. They've fallen to five games below .500. They got swept in four games by the Rays, where I guess the silver lining is that all four games were close. Overall, the Rays out-scored the Mariners 15-10, which isn't dreadful, and the first game went to 12 innings. This series could've gone different.

But four straight close losses are four straight losses, and now look what this skid has done to your psyche. Remember last Friday night? If you were watching or listening, it was unbelievable. If you only found out about it later that night or the next morning, it was still unbelievable. That was a miraculous win that pushed the Mariners to 11-10, and while we weren't exactly thinking playoffs, we were thinking, this is fun. Of course we were thinking that - the Mariners had won four in a row.

That was last Friday. Less than a week ago. As fresh as the memory is, it's also still so distant, like the memory of Milton Bradley. Milton Bradley played for the Mariners as recently as last May 8. Not even a year ago, barely. Worlds away. Bradley and last Friday feel like worlds away. The Mariners haven't won since the opened in Toronto. They've lost their entire division lead over the Angels, which isn't important, but which is kind of stunning. You're starting to get that gnawing feeling again that you should pull back, pay less attention, make less of an investment. Today is May 3.

Of course, what the Mariners have demonstrated is that they can turn around in an instant. It felt like this when they lost four in a row and got swept by the White Sox. They responded with four wins in a row and by sweeping the Tigers. Then these six losses. The Mariners could rip off a winning streak and suck us back in again. They could start it tomorrow, against a Twins team that's essentially several piles of crap dressed up in baseball uniforms. We're not so far gone that the psyche damage is irreversible.

But it's awesome how quickly baseball can turn around, and it's shitty how quickly baseball can turn around. It's no wonder baseball people make such a big deal out of consistency. Not that I'm a big believer in consistency being a thing, but it's a nice idea, to be consistent and confident about what you're going to see. Provided you're consistently good, or consistently acceptable. We've seen consistently bad. I'm a believer in the existence of consistent badness.

Last Friday, the Mariners were down 5-4 with two outs in the top of the ninth. Kyle Seager batted with the bases empty, and grounded to third, where Brett Lawrie prepared to end the game. His throw was poor, an error was committed, and the rest of what happened happened.

Today, the Mariners were down 4-3 in the top of the ninth. Mike Carp led off and grounded to short, where Sean Rodriguez prepared to record the first out of the inning. With plenty of time to set and throw, he dropped the ball. Sean Rodriguez just flat-out dropped the baseball, and Carp reached safely. It was a huge swing - instead of having a 9 percent chance of winning, the Mariners had a 28 percent chance of winning. Approximately. Given life, the Mariners took no advantage. Justin Smoak flied out. Michael Saunders grounded into an easy double play. Rodriguez doesn't have to live with the regret that Lawrie does. Not that I think Brett Lawrie lives his life with many regrets.

These two events are unrelated, and just because the Mariners took advantage of the first one doesn't mean one should've expected them to take advantage of the second one. In fact, one should have very much not expected them to take advantage of the second one. But the Rays did open the door. An error gave a chance to a guy who was supposed to be a good hitter, and to a guy who has been a good hitter. Two batters, three outs. Twins tomorrow. Thank goodness for the Twins tomorrow. Unless the Twins clobber the Mariners. Then those'll be new depths. Maybe not as low as allowing Philip Humber's perfect game. Maybe lower.

Here are some bullet holes on a baseball game that was profoundly uninteresting. That isn't fair, we've seen some spectacularly uninteresting home openers. This baseball game was just kind of uninteresting, and I'm just being a lil bitch because I wasn't in a great mood while I was watching it. But then at least part of that is the Mariners' fault. Friends are supposed to help cheer you up. That's kind of one of the main responsibilities of being a friend. I'm getting that the Mariners aren't good friends of mine. Are we frenemies? Is that what this is? Are we frenemies with the Mariners?

  • Next time Kevin Millwood takes the mound for the Mariners, assuming there is a next time, one of his keys to the game will probably be "avoid the big inning". I think it's a key to the game for any pitcher to avoid the big inning, because allowing a big inning is bad for any pitcher, but it'll come up because Kevin Millwood allowed a big inning today. Overall, Millwood pitched into the seventh inning, and he allowed nine baserunners. In the bottom of the second inning, he allowed six baserunners, all in a row. Four runs scored, and those were the Rays' only four runs. They held up for the remainder.

    Outside of that inning, Millwood was perfectly good. He actually generated a ton of swinging strikes, for Kevin Millwood. In some ways, this was encouraging, if it's possible for us to be encouraged by Kevin Millwood. He looked like a Major League pitcher. That's a pretty important quality for a Major League pitcher.

    That inning, though. The two big blows were a homer by Jeff Keppinger and a triple by Desmond Jennings. The homer came on a fastball that was supposed to be in the low-away corner but which missed over the plate. The triple came on a fastball that was supposed to be in the low-away corner but which missed over the plate. I present to you Kevin Millwood immediately after Jeff Keppinger made contact:

    Keppingermillwood_medium

    It's one thing to know when you've made a mistake and allowed a home run. It's another thing to know when you've made a mistake and allowed a home run to Jeff Keppinger. You can really tell that Kevin Millwood is a veteran.

  • Jeff Keppinger has been around since 2004. Since 2004, 482 different hitters have come to the plate at least a thousand times. Among those hitters, Jeff Keppinger's contact rate ranks fourth-highest, between David Eckstein and Marco Scutaro. Keppinger's career contact rate of 92.9 percent beats Ichiro's career contact rate of 89.4 percent. You know how the Mariners had that commercial about how Ichiro can hit anything? Jeff Keppinger can hit even more anythings. Although a smart team would probably never try to build a commercial around him. "Tampa Bay Rays baseball, brought to you in part by Jeff Keppinger" probably wouldn't draw too many fans to the ballpark. Actually, hold on, maybe that's the thing, maybe they've built their ad campaigns around Jeff Keppinger this whole time.

  • Leading off the top of the sixth, John Jaso lifted a towering fly ball into foul territory down the left-field line. Jeff Keppinger ran over in pursuit and couldn't catch the fly ball because he stumbled on the bullpen mound. I bet this is more than you expected to read about Jeff Keppinger. It seems dangerous to me that bullpen mounds can be in the field of play, given their potential to ruin knees and ankles. And then thinking about that only makes me think about how Houston has a big giant bullpen mound in dead center field. I so look forward to complaining about that. And the flag pole! It's so ridiculous! Houston's like, well we can't beat you at baseball, so we're going to try to beat you at baseball on moguls.

  • In the bottom of the sixth, some Rays hitter lifted a high pop-up and Justin Smoak called everybody off to make the catch. Wednesday there had been some confusion on a similar pop-up and the ball dropped for a hit. After Smoak made his play, Mike Blowers said "I like the way he did that," hoping to explain further during an instant replay. Instead of cutting to an instant replay, ROOT Sports opted to show the Mariners' upcoming calendar, which Blowers then had to deal with. I don't know if there's a petty rivalry between Mike Blowers and the guy in charge of ROOT Sports broadcast graphics but my day is more interesting pretending that there is.

  • Sometimes the camera will cut to shots of defensive players standing around between pitches. Pay close attention next time. It's comical how either lethargic or over-prepared they look. There is no in-between. Although at one point the camera cut to Michael Saunders and he was talking to himself. So they look lethargic, over-prepared, or mentally unstable.

  • From across the water, the Tropicana Field dome looks like a rising or setting sun. I bet that's really disorienting, once.

  • This was John Jaso's first game behind the plate for the Mariners, and while he didn't surrender any passed balls or wild pitches, he did go 0-for-2 throwing out base-stealers. In the sixth inning, Elliot Johnson stole second, as Jaso's throw was high. In the seventh inning, Matt Joyce stole second, as Jaso's throw was high and wide. So Jaso's control of the running game didn't look good. But Jaso's control of the running game has never been a strength, and perhaps his abilities have atrophied somewhat considering these were his first in-game innings behind the plate all season long. Accept that Jaso is defensively limited. The thing about him is his plate discipline and line-drive bat. He hit two doubles today, one of which was a legitimate double and one of which was a Brandon Allen double. That's between two and four legitimate total bases!

  • In the bottom of some inning, there was a check-swing appeal to third base, but third-base umpire Jim Wolf was busy chatting with Kyle Seager. Mike Blowers immediately started talking about how it was a good idea for Seager to build up some goodwill with an umpire, and while it sounded like he was half-joking, I don't know if he was half-joking. Umpires know who's at the plate when they're behind it. Umpires have players they like, and players they don't like. Umpires are human. It would be interesting to compare the called strike zone for a good guy against the called strike zone for a complete asshole.

  • When the Mariners are trailing going into the ninth, Dave Sims usually says it's their "last licks". I know that's an old baseball expression, but it also makes me think about dessert, and I find dessert to be a lot more pleasing than losing in the ninth inning of a baseball game. I don't know where this bullet hole was supposed to go. I left myself an incomplete note. Does anybody else like dessert?

  • Chone Figgins has batted 108 times and owns a .555 OPS. Chone Figgins is far from being this team's only problem. He is still a problem, and he's a problem with no upside and no future. I really am starting to think that it's over. Or nearly over. I don't want to get my hopes and your hopes up too high, but there has to be something to feel good about with regard to Chone Figgins, and what I choose to feel good about is that he should be nearly out of a job. Hooray, he can be rich with free time!

Twins. Save us, awful Twins.

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