AND HIS EYES WERE CLOSED
Examine your life right now. There are annoyances. There are things that you wish there were not. Maybe your car is in need of some fairly expensive repairs. Maybe your bicycle is in need of some fairly expensive repairs, because you don't own a car, and we know that you don't own a car, you don't need to keep reminding us that you don't own a car, we get it, you're green. Maybe you owe phone calls that you don't want to return. Maybe you're feeling sick. Maybe you are sick. Maybe you're facing a deadline for something and you don't know how you're going to get it all done without consecutive all-nighters. You're a little stressed out. All of us are at least a little stressed out.
Pull back. Examine your life within the bigger picture, to add some perspective. You've got things to deal with that you wish you didn't have to deal with. Other people in other places have a lot more to deal with that they wish they didn't have to deal with, and some of that shit's severe. Poverty. Hunger. Bloodshed. Incurable illness. All things considered, you've got it pretty good, right? Hell, be thankful you were born in the 20th century, instead of the 19th or the 18th century. Now this is getting kind of deep, but: you're lucky. You don't feel like it, because you're stuck in your own little world, caring about you.
And now to relate that philosophical introduction to a Tuesday night baseball game. It's hard to be sure whether to focus on the little picture or the big one. Sometimes I get caught in between, and that's where I am tonight. The Mariners lost to the Tigers 6-4, and the game's been over for hours, and I'm still not really sure how I feel.
You look at the little picture. The Mariners had themselves a real chance. For the second night in a row, they had themselves a real chance to erase a late deficit. Channeling his inner Octavio Dotel, Jose Valverde walked the first two guys he faced in the bottom of the ninth. The lineup turned over and the Mariners had Dustin Ackley at the plate. Dustin Ackley, who's left-handed, against Jose Valverde, who's right-handed. Dustin Ackley, who we believe to be good, even though his current numbers are mediocre. Dustin Ackley, against a guy struggling to throw a strike, with Brendan Ryan on deck.
We would've liked Dustin Ackley to swing away. He twice tried to bunt, the call presumably coming from the bench. The bunt attempts failed. The 0-and-2 pitch struck him out. That whipped some people into a pother right there.
Then later on, the Mariners still had life. Jesus Montero batted with two outs and the bases loaded. The tying run on second, the winning run on first, the unnecessary pile-on run in the batter's box. Montero lifted a foul pop-up into the right field seats, and rather than interfere with Don Kelly as was their right, the area fans got out of Kelly's way, allowing him to make a sensational game-ending catch. Another pother. I'm going to keep using the word pother. Maybe it was just an extension of the first pother.
The Mariners lost to the Tigers, and the bottom of the ninth had people upset. Upset at Eric Wedge, upset at the fans in foul territory, upset that the Mariners couldn't complete another comeback. The little winning streak was over, and people didn't want for the winning streak to be over.
You look at the big picture. The Justin Verlander on the mound, and Verlander was the 2011 Cy Young and MVP. The Mariners had Kevin Millwood on the mound, and Millwood in 2011 signed minor-league contracts with three different teams. Millwood put his team behind by one in the first. He put his team behind by five in the second.are supposed to win the AL Central. The are supposed to finish third or fourth in the AL West. The Tigers had
Recent success against Verlander aside, this was a lopsided mismatch before it got going, and then after it got going, it only grew even more lopsided, like Ryan Miller's face (hockey joke). When the Mariners trailed Verlander and the Tigers 5-0 in the second, that should've been it. We should've known then that the Mariners were going to lose, and that they were probably going to go quietly.
They rallied. They worked Verlander a little bit, they knocked him out after six innings, and even with the Verlander factor, and even with the Millwood factor, the Mariners put themselves in position to win this baseball game. The bottom of the ninth saw the winning run reach base. The bottom of the ninth saw the Tigers sweat a little bit, and even though it didn't happen for the M's, it almost happened. Safeco was one hit away from a frenzy.
The Mariners played a game they should've lost by several, they fell behind early in a game they should've lost by several, and they did enough to make it exciting. They did enough to make people care and get invested, after this looked like it was going to be three hours of nothing. Tonight the Mariners didn't reward their viewers with a win, but they gave them entertainment. All the Mariners are supposed to be for any of us is entertainment.
In the little picture, this was rough, and there's reason to scream. In the big picture, we should be more happy than anything else. How am I supposed to know which one's more right? How much weight should I give to the little picture, and how much weight should I give to the big picture? How does it balance out in the end? How should it balance out in the end? I'm spending all this time typing about how one might feel, and I don't know how I feel. Because I don't know how I ought to feel, and I only want to feel how I ought to.
I really didn't like Dustin Ackley trying to sacrifice bunt in front of Brendan Ryan. I really didn't like the fans all but clearing a path for Don Kelly to end the game. It's also hard to get too worked up over Kevin Millwood and the Mariners losing by two runs to Justin Verlander and the Tigers. Delmon Young's second-inning double dropped the Mariners' win expectancy to 11 percent, and that doesn't account for the fact that the Mariners had Millwood and the Tigers had last year's Most Valuable Player.
This was a baseball game you might think about entirely differently, depending on your mood. If you're in a good mood, you might care more about the big picture. If you're in a dreary mood, you might care more about the little picture. If a baseball game can be interpreted differently depending on your mood, then is there even a right way to feel about the baseball game in the first place? I just want to know how to feel after a loss. When did this get so complicated! I didn't have these dilemmas when I was a child. Child Jeff had it all figured out, because he had nothing figured out, and he didn't give a shit.
Bullet holes! About a baseball game started by Kevin Millwood! Admit it - you're not very interested when the Mariners hand the ball to Kevin Millwood. So the fact that tonight's game turned out to be interesting is an overall plus. When the Mariners hand the ball to Kevin Millwood, you're expecting something...I don't know, bland and uninteresting. Weak lukewarm coffee. The band Cake. Tonight we were given...Neon Indian? Dubstep? Even if it's not really your jam, you can't call it bland and uninteresting.
- I missed the first inning, and in the first inning, Kevin Millwood allowed one run, and he also allowed three hits and two walks. He retired Jhonny Peralta for the third out. I like to think that, as Millwood walked to the dugout, the broadcast gave him credit for being a veteran pitcher who knows how to work out of trouble. Because in the next inning Kevin Millwood got into trouble and allowed four runs. Where's your veteran experience now! The thing about guys who have a knack for getting out of trouble is that the act of consistently getting into trouble is more sustainable than the act of getting out of it. Guys who get into a lot of trouble are unsuccessful pitchers.
But to Millwood's credit, while he allowed five runs in two innings, he went back out there knowing the team didn't have a long man, and he turned in three more scoreless frames to make his evening more respectable. It would be too strong to say that Millwood salvaged his start because he still allowed five in five, but five in five is oodles better than five in two, and when Millwood left, the Mariners were back in the game. "Kevin Millwood can keep his team in the game," say people, uninterestingly.
It was rocky. Millwood didn't throw enough strikes. A guy like Kevin Millwood can't average a walk an inning. No pitcher can average a walk an inning, but Kevin Millwood especially cannot. Millwood would be the first to tell you he was scuffling. But he's Kevin Millwood, and he's 37, and he's signed to a very small contract, well removed from his glory days. No one should be surprised that Millwood was scuffling. He's going to scuffle with gradually increasing frequency until one day he doesn't have a job. Unless he has a job as a professional scuffler. Dictionary.com tells me to scuffle is to "struggle or fight in a rough, confused manner." I should hope that Kevin Millwood doesn't become a professional that.
So what did we learn? Kevin Millwood has flaws. He has strengths. He isn't amazing and he isn't beyond terrible. I personally enjoy watching Kevin Millwood more than I enjoy watching Blake Beavan but, yeah, there are more interesting pitchers to write about.
- In the top of the second inning, Prince Fielder drew a six-pitch walk. The sixth pitch was a curve in a full count that missed high and away. Fielder had practically tossed his bat and started to first before Jesus Montero even caught the baseball. One interpretation: the pitch was that much of a ball. A second interpretation: baseball players have unbelievable reaction times. Fielder didn't only identify that the pitch would be a ball before it got to the catcher - he identified that the pitch would be a ball and he processed and acted upon the consequences before it got to the catcher.
- In that same top of the second inning, Carl Willis visited the mound once, and Jesus Montero visited the mound like four or five times. Most of the visits were too quick for meaningful information to be exchanged and I think people just like hanging out with Kevin Millwood. He seems like a cool guy who can tell impressive stories without sounding like he's bragging. Jesus Montero just wanted to hear some stories and Kevin Millwood was like, later, I have to throw baseballs, please stop coming out here.
- Not that this sort of thing really comes as a surprise anymore, but in the top of the sixth inning, ROOT Sports showed an infographic comparing Justin Verlander to Felix Hernandez based on their respective FIP, xFIP, and WAR. I'm dead serious, all of that sentence is serious. There were three men in the booth and none of them really knew what to do with the numbers, and I get the sense that the producer was putting the broadcasters on the spot as kind of a joke, but unless I'm mistaken, you can mark down May 8th, 2012 as the day the Mariners featured xFIP on a television broadcast. The announcers were eventually able to reach the correct conclusion that, based on the numbers, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez are good.
- There was an interesting sequence in the bottom of the third. Verlander threw Kyle Seager a 2-and-1 inside fastball that Verlander thought caught the edge, but that umpire Brian Knight ruled a ball. Verlander was visibly upset, and Seager ripped the next pitch for a two-run single. The next batter was John Jaso, and Verlander threw him a 2-and-2 inside fastball that Verlander thought caught the edge, but that Brian Knight ruled a ball. Verlander was visibly more upset, and the entire Tigers infield converged to keep him away from Knight, and to express their own complaints. Gerald Laird was forced to play peacemaker. You don't often see pitchers get that emotional in the middle of an at-bat.
If you remember when Felix Hernandez was still brand new, one of the things he supposedly had to work on was his in-game composure. They said Felix was prone to losing his cool when he didn't get a call. Verlander kind of lost his cool when he didn't get a couple calls and nobody's going to call Verlander immature or unfocused. If anything they'll give him credit for his fire. I guess you're allowed to get really emotional as long as it doesn't knock you off your game? I don't know what the rules are. All I know is that Verlander was hardly cool and collected.
Somewhere in that same sequence, Jim Leyland got ejected for chirping from the dugout. He probably wasn't literally chirping but I would love it forever if he were literally chirping.
Knight: What is that chirping?
Leyland: chirp chirp
Knight: You're outta here!
Jim Leyland, manager and bird. I swear to you I don't know where these bullet holes are going to go any more than you do.
Shawn Kelley worked two innings in relief of Kevin Millwood. At one point he tried to throw Prince Fielder an inside slider, but it wound up being an outside slider, and it wound up being somebody's thing to take home from the baseball game. But outside of that home run, Kelley really looked fantastic. Most of his pitches were strikes, he got all the way up to 95 miles per hour, and he generated nine whiffs. Nine whiffs, on 17 swings. Seven whiffs on 12 swings at his slider. Kelley struck out Austin Jackson, he struck out Miguel Cabrera, he struck out Delmon Young, and he struck out Jhonny Peralta.
The explanation given for Kelley's quick demotion to Tacoma was that the team wanted him to work on getting depth on his slider. In Tacoma, Kelley started feeling the strongest he's felt since going under the knife, and now look what we have. Shawn Kelley is back, and Shawn Kelley is ready to help keep Tom Wilhelmsen and Steve Delabar's arms from falling off and decomposing and eventually turning into rich healthy soil. Way to look out for the environment, Shawn Kelley.
- In the bottom of the eighth, John Jaso took a wild swing at a 1-and-1 changeup and missed, spinning around in the process. Afterward he shared a laugh with Tigers catcher Gerald Laird. You ever realize that baseball fans hate the other team more than the players do? You ever realize that a lot of baseball fans take baseball more seriously than baseball players?
- Though the Mariners' attempted rally in the ninth was unsuccessful, it appeared for a time as if the Tigers badly wanted for it to be successful. As mentioned before, Jose Valverde walked the first two guys he faced. With one out, Brendan Ryan bounced an easy 6-4-3 double play ball, but Prince Fielder flat-out dropped Ramon Santiago's throw at first base, keeping the Mariners alive. So Ryan was the tying run, on first. Shortly thereafter, Ryan bolted for second, and not only did Gerald Laird fumble the baseball and fail to throw down - nobody in the Tigers' infield ran over to cover second base anyway. The Tigers' infield gave the Mariners an extra out and an extra baserunner, and then the Tigers' infield gave the Mariners an extra base. As was the case on Monday, Tuesday's bottom of the ninth had something to do with the Seattle Mariners, but it didn't have a lot to do with the Seattle Mariners.
Who's pitching tomorrow? I'm asking a question even though you can't respond, and even though I'm looking it up right now. Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas are pitching tomorrow. I wonder how my life would be different if my last name were Smyly. I wonder how my life would be different from that life if my last name were Smiley. I do not wonder how my life would be different if my last name were Vargas. I will never wonder that.