This was a tricky game, this baseball game. This baseball game between the Felix Hernandez taking on the Padres and 41 losses, and while you should never feel overconfident about any individual baseball game, this was one to be confident about, even with Felix coming off a minor injury. The Padres have baseball's worst record and worst run differential, and the Mariners are coming off a stretch during which they played mostly good baseball against very good teams.and the was dead-set on making Mariners fans feel as lousy as possible. It began with the Mariners and
In the sixth inning, the Padres went ahead by four. Prior to that, the Padres had one run and the Mariners had one run, but Felix didn't look to be in control, and everything boiled over in the sixth. Five out of six Padres reached base to start off, and suddenly we were staring at something right in between a blowout and not a blowout. Ordinarily, 5-1 doesn't qualify as a blowout, but you always have to consider run environment, and Safeco treats runs like Dr. Kelso treats favors. At 5-1, in Safeco, the game felt nearly hopeless, and that's an unpleasant feeling to feel when you're watching your team play the Padres.
I was away when the Mariners dropped 21 runs on thein Texas. I"m guessing that, from a Rangers fan's perspective, that game was a little humiliating. I'm not going to sit here and say that the Mariners were humiliated by the Padres, but it felt a little like getting almost-blown out by the 2010 or 2011 Mariners, and those teams didn't almost-blow other teams out very much.
The score stayed at 5-1. In the bottom of the sixth, Michael Saunders batted with the bases loaded and two out, but he flew out in front of the track. Nothing happened in the seventh, and nothing happened in the eighth. By the time the bottom of the ninth rolled around, I was watching as closely as the sofa cushion next to me was watching. I was well beyond resigned to the loss; I just needed the Mariners to make it official.
So that's when the Mariners decided to rally. A home run made it 5-2, then a double and a single made it 5-3. A single put runners on the corners with one out. Then Dustin Ackley worked a full count, and did this:
Ackley chased a changeup in the dirt and whiffed. The ball got away from the catcher and both runners moved up, closing the deficit to 5-4, but instead of having the bases loaded with one out, the Mariners had one on with two out. Up came Jesus Montero, and he did this:
Not shown is the first pitch. That's because the second pitch completely overlapped the first pitch. They were both 85 mile-per-hour sliders, and they both went to the same spot. Montero took the first one for a ball. Ahead 1-and-0, he swung at the second one, and grounded out weakly to second. In a hitter's count, in a big spot, Montero chased the same pitch he had just moments earlier laid off in an even count.
Tonight, I got my hopes up, then I wound up resigned to a discouraging loss. Then the Mariners got my hopes up, then I had to come to terms with a discouraging loss. As has been the case a few times before, this one loss felt like two of them, and as little as the individual wins and losses matter in this season, it doesn't take a lot to make the positive stretch feel like ages ago. In this game, Mariners players we'd like to depend on now and in the future didn't do well enough.
Games like this are why I insist that you savor the highs when you can, as if one can properly savor on command. I suppose I should be thankful that the Mariners at least made things interesting in the ninth, instead of going down with nary a whimper. It did lift my spirits, and I'll go to bed having seen the Mariners show life as recently as their final frame. But I really can't stand when games end because Mariners hitters swing at bad pitches. Especially when they're cornerstone players like Ackley and Montero. It's all about the younger players having better second halves than first halves, I get that, and I get that none of them are finished products. But Jesus, Ackley, that was a 3-and-2 pitch in the dirt. Jesus, Montero*, I don't even know what to say about that two-pitch sequence. I'm looking at Montero's plate-discipline numbers, and they're not as bad as I thought, but sometimes it feels like Montero decides whether or not to swing before a pitch is even thrown on the advice of an imaginary cockatoo that's perched on his shoulder. Its name is Pete and he's mean when he's hungry.
I jotted down some notes for some bullet holes, but the roster moves set me back and now I'd rather just go to bed than write a whole lot more about one baseball game against the Padres. Let the record show that there are now just double-digit games remaining in the Mariners' 2012 season, as this was game number 63. That total will stay in double digits until later September. So on one hand, this is a sign that the season is going very quickly, and on the other hand, this is a sign that the season is going very slowly. How quickly the season seems to be going is up to your individual perception. In reality the season is proceeding at the same rate as every other season. It is your individual perception that is wrong, whatever it might be, and there's a lesson you could learn from that.
Really, really quick: Felix looked rusty, as one might've expected, missing and elevating his pitches more than he'd like. Just six of the Padres' 20 balls in play were grounders, and so while Felix's next start will tell us more than this one, when he's back on normal rest, this wasn't a breakthrough we were holding out hope for. Not in terms of performance, and not in terms of velocity.
After Chone Figgins grounded into a double play in the third, the fans started booing him, and Dave Sims remarked "those fans booing Figgins need to back off a little bit." I get what Sims is saying, and I think he's opposed to booing home players in all circumstances, but seriously, if anyone has earned boos on this team, it's Figgins. And that was an irritating double play, in a 1-and-0 count after Michael Saunders worked a hell of an at-bat.
Sims also began to talk in the sixth about the hazards of leadoff walks, before remembering that Carlos Quentin - who led off with a walk - was erased from the basepaths. The Padres scored four runs in the inning, but the leadoff walk did not come around as one of them!
Sticking with the broadcast while simultaneously transitioning back to the team, it's odd to me how ... almost angry people get over concern about Felix's velocity. Announcers and coaches alike publicly dismiss it like it's nothing, and speak derisively about those who are worried. We all understand that velocity isn't everything, and we should all also understand that pitchers usually don't just lose miles per hour for no reason.
In the fifth inning, Michael Saunders stretched a single into a double with great baserunning and an awesome slide, and then he stole third with great baserunning and an awesome slide. Earlier, he singled to center on the ninth pitch of an at-bat. In the sixth, he came within earshot of slugging a grand slam. With one out in the ninth, he blasted a solo shot to dead center against a side-arming lefty. I don't have anything new to say about Michael Saunders at the moment, but I know how much it lifts all of our spirits to get these positive updates on his progress.
So much for "really, really quick". Seriously, really really quick: Jesus Montero hit another single off the wall, this time to left. In the ninth, Charlie Furbush struck out Logan Forsythe on a fastball that got away from Miguel Olivo, and then instead of throwing Forsythe out at first, Olivo threw out Everth Cabrera at home. I haven't kept score for a while but I think that would be K 2-1. Finally, Munenori Kawasaki pinch-hit in the ninth and delivered a sharp single after taking some mean swings. Somebody was emboldened by a certain three-run double. That is enough about this baseball game.