The official caption for this photo reads "Seattle Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley (13) gets a hit against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning at US Cellular Field."
If one of your favorite things to do on a Saturday afternoon is stay indoors and watch a last-place baseball team for four and a quarter hours, then today the Mariners delivered a game that was right up your alley. Theand got started around 1:10 in the afternoon, and they finished around 5:26 in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on where you draw the line between afternoon and evening. I feel like we've talked about this before, and we're talking about it again either because we didn't reach a consensus, or because I forgot the consensus. I think, with the sun up as late as it is, we can say this game ended in the late afternoon, locally. The endpoint of the afternoon is seasonal.
Thankfully, this was a marathon that the Mariners wound up winning, even though they had to hand a narrow lead over to Hisashi Iwakuma to protect. Iwakuma is not a bad Major League pitcher, but we've seen him get hit around enough that he doesn't inspire much confidence. Even though we've gotten to the point where the Mariners' win/loss record doesn't mean a whole bunch so long as young players are showing signs of improvement, there's something about getting deep in extra innings that makes you badly want a win, because you don't want to think about having invested all that time in a loss. Today the Mariners forced White Sox fans to invest 256 minutes of their Saturdays in a loss, which them fuckers have had coming.
Incidentally, I think the desire for a win in extra innings increases steadily only to a point. Get to the tenth and you want a win more badly than you might have in the innings before. Get to the eleventh and you want a win more badly than you might have in the tenth. Get to the twelfth and you want a win more badly than you might have in the eleventh. Get to the, I dunno, eighteenth, and everything goes insane. The outcome doesn't matter anymore. Baseball doesn't matter anymore. What's taking place on the field is hardly baseball anyway. All you want is for shit to be weird. But we didn't get to that point today, and while there's no better day for a game like that than Saturday, I'm not too disappointed that on this particular Saturday, the teams fell short.
I haven't thought this all the way through but a fun new rule might be awarding teams fractional wins and losses based on game duration. A standard nine-inning game could be worth a win and a loss. A twelve-inning game like today's could be worth a win and a third and a loss and a third. An eighteen-inning game could be worth two wins and two losses. You could increase the stakes and make the games more intense than they already are. If adopted, this rule could apply to all sports, and if adopted, I say we call it the Ben Broussard Rule, because I miss Ben Broussard even though he wasn't very good.
It's always satisfying to win a game like this, but it's extra satisfying to win it over the White Sox, who have caused the Mariners such trouble. I don't have a whole lot of video game experience, at least outside the realm of hockey video games, but I know a common feature of action video games is to make the big bosses incredibly resilient and tough to bring down. You can deal blow after blow after blow, and only after a great deal of effort will the boss be left dead. Fail to act quickly enough and the boss might regain its life. Fail to act quickly enough and the boss might kill you with one or two strikes. The bosses don't behave like normal enemy characters, nor would you expect them to, because they are bosses.
Today the Mariners led the White Sox 2-0, and the White Sox came back. The Mariners led the White Sox 3-2, and the White Sox came back. The Mariners led the White Sox 5-3, and the White Sox came back. The Mariners led the White Sox 8-7, and the White Sox came back. Finally the Mariners were able to hang on to their 10-8 lead, but only after the tying run came to the plate in the person of Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn, who's mashed 17 dingers on the season. Adam Dunn, who's one of the very strongest hitters in baseball. Adam Dunn, who pounds righties, against righty Hisashi Iwakuma, who's allowed enough solid contact to make you think there's something about him that causes him to allow more than an average amount of solid contact. This game felt like a boss fight, in swings, difficulty, and duration. I don't know why the White Sox would be a boss instead of a normal enemy character but it's not like the Mariners are going to be facing bigger bosses in the playoffs.
So many times in the past, we've talked about whether it would be better to watch a lot of low-scoring games or a lot of high-scoring games. We weren't given much in the way of high-scoring games, or at least mutually high-scoring games, but now we're getting there and getting a feel of what some considered greener grass. There is something to be said for the higher-scoring games, as it's just easier to stay interested when runs are scoring. You don't want to miss any action, whereas with a lot of Mariners games from years past, you could watch all the action and feel like you didn't see a thing. So right now, I'm liking these more frenetic contests. But we'll have to see if it sustains, or if high-scoring games just feel like more fun because they're still novel. If the Mariners have a legitimate offense, it's going to take a while to mentally adjust to that. High-scoring games are longer games. The Mariners start a lot of games after 7pm.
Continuing with the scattered thoughts, the Mariners are 24-31, but they now have a run differential of +1. They have a better run differential than the, the , and the . They have the same run differential as the . A year ago, the Mariners finished at -119, and the year before, they finished at -185. The Mariners haven't finished with a positive run differential since 2003, when Ichiro was 29 years old. The Mariners have lost a lot of games, but if they've felt more enjoyable to watch, there are reasons for that. There are reasons for everything. "Everything happens for a reason," people like to say, deeply. Well of course! That is true by definition!
I didn't take notes during this game because I'm still not where I need to be mentally for normal recapping. Consider this a minor-league rehab assignment after a stint on the seven-day disabled list. Here are a few bullet holes that are coming off the top of my head, by which I mean I'm scouring the box score for reminders of things I should talk about.
- More than the final seven innings of this game were played without Hector Noesi, but Hector Noesi played a part in the first five innings, as easy as that is to forget. Working in Noesi's favor is that all of the late action will allow him to slip from peoples' minds. But he's not going to slip from Eric Wedge's mind, nor am I going to ignore him, because right here I am writing about him. His performance was not very good.
It wasn't terrible, if you selectively look at the numbers. A whole three-quarters of Noesi's pitches were strikes, which is straight-up Cliff Leeian. Better than a quarter of the White Sox's swings against Noesi missed. He had some swing-and-miss stuff and he had some control, and ordinarily that's enough to let a guy succeed.
But Noesi couldn't survive the bottom of the fifth, as he allowed three more home runs. You look over in the line score and you see zero walks and five strikeouts, and that's encouraging, but there's another column after those. Noesi did at least do one better than Gavin Floyd, who allowed four home runs, but we don't care about Gavin Floyd. If Gavin Floyd fell ill tomorrow, we wouldn't care. If Gavin Floyd's water heater broke, we wouldn't care. If Gavin Floyd's dog ran into the street and died, some of us would care, but only because it would be a dog, and not because it would be Gavin Floyd's dog.
Home runs in Chicago aren't like home runs in a lot of other places, of course, but they do all count, and today Noesi had some familiar issues. A.J. Pierzynski went deep in a 2-and-2 count. Gordon Beckham went deep in an 0-and-2 count. On the year, Noesi has surrendered 26 extra-base hits and 13 home runs. Of those, 15 extra-base hits and six homers have come in two-strike counts. Looking at things another way, 11 extra-base hits and five homers have come with Noesi ahead in the count. Not all of those have come against bad pitches, but some of them have come against unforgivably bad pitches.
Against Beckham, in the fifth, Noesi got ahead with two strikes, and then John Jaso came out for a mound conference. Jaso signaled for a low slider. Noesi threw an elevated slider, over the plate, in the same place that Felix threw some pitches that Beckham drove on Friday. That was a mistake, and Noesi paid the ultimate price, although not literally the ultimate price.
With Erasmo Ramirez, one of the things the Mariners wanted to work on was getting him to throw balls. Sometimes it's like Noesi needs to remember to do the same thing. Noesi isn't a guy with such good command he can put the ball wherever he wants, but a guy who gets ahead as often as Noesi does shouldn't get hit like Noesi does. You could say he needs to learn some pitchability, I guess, but you could say anything. Anything, really. It wouldn't even have to be words. We all have so much freedom.
Brandon League appeared in relief and threw 20 pitches. Just ten of them were fastballs. Three of five first pitches were offspeed pitches. Eric Wedge tried to keep things mysterious when he was asked what the team wants League to work on, but it's pretty evident what the team wants League to work on.
Stephen Pryor debuted with two on, two out, and Paul Konerko batting in the bottom of the seventh. The at-bat:
Jaso asked for Pryor's first big-league pitch to go right down the pipe, and it went right down the pipe. On 2-and-1, Konerko couldn't catch up to a high fastball, and then on 2-and-2, Pryor badly missed his spot, but Konerko chased and swung through a triple-digit fastball away. Pryor clearly pitched with a little adrenaline, and his first at-bat went exactly like you'd hope it would go given Pryor's fastball.
Pryor actually wound up in position to win when the Mariners took the lead in the top of the eighth. Pryor remained for the bottom half and struck out Alex Rios with pure gas. Unfortunately, with two outs, Pryor hung a slider to Dayan Viciedo and he knocked it out the other way to tie the score at eight. The broadcast didn't like that Pryor got beat on something other than his best pitch, a sentiment with which I disagreed - you can't expect a guy to throw his best pitch all of the time. The idea of Pryor throwing a slider is fine. But that slider wasn't very good, and Pryor paid for it. Opposite-field home runs bother me less than pulled home runs, and today Pryor showed more positives than negatives. He should be good, quick.
Tom Wilhelmsen was outstanding for 37 pitches and three innings. I don't really have anything to say about his outing but I felt like I should at least note it here for everyone else. Way to go, Tom Wilhelmsen, I'm glad that you are on the Mariners.
- Ichiro homered to lead off the first and third innings. In his second game back at leadoff, he slugged twice as many home runs as he hit as a third-slot hitter. This was the sixth multi-homer game of Ichiro's career, but it's weird to think that he's ever had any, since, you know, Ichiro. Both of his homers narrowly cleared the right-field fence because Ichiro's power swing is a mega-power swing for Ichiro, but an unremarkable power swing for a baseball player. The first pitch he knocked out was a high fastball over the center of the plate. The second pitch he knocked out was an inside fastball at the thigh. Ichiro's batting average is basically even with where it was a year ago, but his slugging percentage is up 54 points. Ichiro might not be having the bounce-back season you imagined, but he's having a heck of a bounce-back season for a 38-year-old.
Justin Smoak homered on a 1-and-1 cutter over the plate and has now pushed his OPS over .700 for the first time all season. The Mariners did not trade for Justin Smoak hoping that people would write about the day he pushed his OPS over .700, but on May 2nd, his OPS was .535. Once Smoak fell into a deep hole it was clear it would take a lot of work to get out of it, but we couldn't ask for more from Smoak than he's been doing lately. At the start of the year a part of me wished I could just fast-forward six months to see where Smoak wound up, and this is why. The ups and downs can be more confusing than women. Am I right, men?
- The fourth Mariner home run came off the bat of Michael Saunders, in the top of the fourth. Saunders worked a 3-and-1 count and drilled an outside fastball deep and out to right-center. Some of the home runs we've seen in Chicago have been Chicago home runs, but Saunders' was unquestionably legitimate. It was also a long time coming, as Saunders hadn't homered since the first day of May. After that slump dropped his numbers, his OPS is comfortably in the mid-.700s, after 200 trips to the plate. In spring training, I was excited to see what Franklin Gutierrez would be able to do, having gotten healthy. I'm still excited to see what Franklin Gutierrez will be able to do when he's back, but I'm pretty unexpectedly thankful he tripped over so many hurdles. Michael Saunders has been standing the test of time.
Brendan Ryan's game-tying double in the top of the eighth probably shouldn't have gotten past Orlando Hudson down the third-base line. The throwing error that allowed Brendan Ryan to score the go-ahead run moments later probably shouldn't have gotten past Orlando Hudson down the third-base line. Orlando Hudson was once considered one of baseball's great defensive second basemen, when he was younger with the . Now he's 34, and after getting dropped by the , the White Sox are having him play third for the first time in his big-league career. Maybe that's a valid excuse, or maybe even at a new position, Hudson should be expected to knock down moderately fast grounders and moderately wild throws from catcher. This was not a banner day for Orlando Hudson, who tried to hand the Mariners a win. He must think he's on the Tigers.
- John Jaso walked, singled, and doubled, with the double plating the winning run in the top of the 12th. Addison Reed jammed him with a 2-and-2 94mph fastball, and Jaso drilled the pitch into the right-center gap. In some ways John Jaso reminds me of an aging John Olerud, except that Jaso is a catcher and only 28 and the Mariners got him for Josh Lueke and he's under club control through 2015. Dustin Ackley isn't yet having the at-bats we wanted him to have out of the gate. He still has some things to learn. John Jaso is having the at-bats we wanted Dustin Ackley to have. That should tell you a lot about the quality of John Jaso's at-bats.
A chance at a series win tomorrow morning. But the game's against the White Sox so you know what you should do with your expectations. Keep 'em down. No, lower. Lower. Lower. A little bit lower. A little bit lower. Lower. A little bit lower. There you go. That's where your expectations belong. See you Sunday!