Mark Kotsay sheepishly requests an autograph from a little boy
Sometimes I'll take a step back and try to figure out for which people I'm writing game recaps. Am I writing game recaps for people who watched or listened to the game? Am I writing game recaps for people who followed some of the game, but not the whole thing? Am I writing game recaps for people who missed or avoided the game entirely and want to catch up? The answer I always settle on is "yes, all of them, you are writing for all of those people," and then I write whatever I want, regardless of the expected audience.
I know exactly who I'm writing for today. I'm writing for people who missed the game, because not a one of you bothered to watch that. This isn't me blaming you; if anything, this is me envying you. Why would you watch Hector Noesi and the against Edinson Volquez and the on a Sunday afternoon? Or just on a Sunday, depending on where you live. The smart money was on watching Felix last night, if you were going to watch any game in this series. Today's game was just a game that had to be played between bad teams because bad teams can't just call the commissioner's office and be like "actually we'll pass." Maybe they can, I don't know, I don't know all of the rules, but if they could then I don't know why the would've played so many consecutive 162-game seasons.
You missed this game, and you've come to Lookout Landing to figure out what happened in it so you don't fall behind. It's not important if you fall behind, by the way, even though it might feel like it is. It absolutely isn't important. It's not important to keep up with everything that happens in baseball, and it's not important to keep up with everything that happens on Facebook. But you're here, and I should give you what you're looking for. What of interest happened during the Mariners' game against the Padres this Sunday afternoon?
The Mariners lost to the Padres 2-0. The Mariners collected five hits, and two of them were singles by Hector Noesi. Both runs scored on the same play, a fly ball to the left-field track off the bat of Alexi Amarista that Casper Wells had trouble tracking. Immediately prior to Amarista's bases-loaded double, Hector Noesi nearly lost his life. Charlie Furbush was outstanding over two innings of relief that one just knew weren't going to matter. Dustin Ackley struck out two more times and Kyle Seager was doubled off second base in the eighth when Justin Smoak hit a line drive at a second baseman playing in a funny spot. Not comical-funny, but unusual-funny, like a traffic cone stuck in a bush. Not funny at all, really, so I don't know why we say "funny". In the end, the Mariners lost their fifth of six games against the Padres, who now have 26 wins. The Padres are 5-1 against the Mariners, and 21-46 against everyone else. Remember when the Mariners had that really promising stretch against contenders?
You could say that the Padres got lucky when Wells got turned around on Amarista's fly ball. Ordinarily, I think you expect Wells to make that catch. But even if he makes that catch, the Padres score a run on a sac fly, and one remembers that the Mariners didn't score any runs. And the Padres got unlucky moments before Amarista came up, when Cameron Maybin batted with the bases loaded and had this happen.
Maybin drilled what should've been an RBI single, a lethal headshot, or both. But while Hector Noesi has drawn criticism for a perceived lack of focus, he was at least sufficiently focused in this situation, as a little less focus might've rendered him incapable of focus for the rest of his life. That ball left Noesi at 92 miles per hour and just about embedded itself in Noesi's skull at a similar speed.
It's funny the way we deal with close calls. We usually laugh them off, as if to say "boy would there have been egg on my face!" One time as a kid I slipped climbing up to my tree house and fell about 25 feet through a network of branches. I landed on a stump on my butt, completely unharmed. I laughed, I gathered myself, and I climbed back up again. I could've broken my arm or my leg or my coccyx. Noesi could've suffered severe brain trauma, or even died. There was no time to think about that. No time for Noesi to consider what nearly happened to him and collect his bearings. Dave Valle kind of chuckled as ROOT Sports aired a slow-motion replay of Noesi's reaction, and then the game continued as if a pitcher hadn't almost died before thousands.
Noesi's very next pitch was a fastball to Amarista. He wanted it to run away, and it did run away to the outer edge of the zone. I don't know if it was exactly the pitch Noesi wanted to throw or if it broke just barely not enough, but Amarista swung and that swing won the ballgame. I'd be interested in knowing the results of pitches thrown immediately after a comebacker like the one Noesi fielded. It'd be just about impossible to research so I'm not seriously proposing anything, but I'd like to know if the results would indicate rattled pitchers. Do they give up more hits? Do they throw more balls, afraid of putting a pitch over the plate? Is there no difference at all, because pitchers are good at getting over things quickly? Noesi's first pitch after the comebacker was all right, but it wasn't terrific, and those runs were the only runs.
Overall, Noesi had his positives. Over six innings, he had to work out of trouble, but he generated 16 swinging strikes. He's had three consecutive high swinging strike games against NL opponents so we'll see if this keeps up against real teams. Importantly, PITCHf/x indicates that Noesi threw 24 sliders, with seven whiffs and five groundballs. The course of Noesi's development won't be determined entirely by the progress made by his slider, but that'll be a big component.
So that was Hector Noesi. Also he singled twice. The rest of the Mariners singled twice, and doubled once. You think of Edinson Volquez and you think of a guy with quality stuff who can be hard to hit, but the thing about Volquez is that he's not a good pitcher and so it's not good to be shut out by him, no matter the ballpark. I didn't come away frustrated with any Mariners hitter in particular, but I can't help but notice that Dustin Ackley's average is down to .243. He's now struck out in just about 22 percent of his plate appearances. He's got the same strikeout rate as Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero, and a very slightly higher strikeout rate than Miguel Olivo. The ninth inning saw him get punched out on a fastball away just off the plate. At some point Ackley will need to learn that that pitch is usually called a strike to left-handed hitters in the Major Leagues. It doesn't matter that it shouldn't be a strike. That's not a battle that Ackley's going to win.
On a positive note, Charlie Furbush recorded a strikeout for the 16th consecutive appearance. That's not anywhere close to the longest streak in recent history for a reliever, but it's still a good streak, and longer than most. Also on a positive note, Hector Noesi is conscious and not bleeding anywhere in his brain. That's literally the worst possible place to be bleeding so kudos to Noesi on avoiding that. His quick reaction time came from a signal sent by his brain. That is how a brain acts in self-defense. I don't know why my brain didn't send as fast a signal when I got hit by my line drive. I guess my brain is masochistic. Which would explain the Mariners. And now we've come all the way around!
Tomorrow the Mariners kick off a home series against the A's that won't have Felix Hernandez in it. Does anybody out there have a blog about saltines? I might rather write guest blog entries about saltines.