Jesus Christ, after a game like that I don't know where to begin. Thankfully now I don't have to worry about it. Mission accomplished! All right, moving on.
When I was in high school, I played baseball, and when I played baseball, I pitched. I didn't really do a lot of anything else. Pitching was my specialty - not because I was good at it, but because I was a hell of a lot better at pitching than I was at hitting or fielding. I wasn't blessed with arm speed and I wasn't blessed with the ability to control a curveball or a change, so all that kept me from being kicked off a team that wasn't allowed to kick players off the team was a fastball that had a lot of movement. Not because I was consciously doing anything, but the way I naturally applied finger pressure made the ball run and sink. Pitching was fun when the movement was there. There was one day that the movement wasn't there, and in the bullpen while I was warming up the pitching coach observed "your movement isn't there," but that's a separate and more humiliating story.
When I would come in and start warming up off the actual game mound, oftentimes the opposite dugout would watch and talk trash. They could see that I didn't throw very hard and that I didn't throw with much variety, so they'd say out loud "this guy's got nothing!" They'd tell each other "we got this guy!" They talked loud enough for me to hear them, which was both rude and the whole point.
Sometimes, they would hit me around. More often, they wouldn't. After all, a team that would have a pitcher like me wouldn't be playing against really talented teams. I loved the feeling of striking a guy out, or getting him to bounce a weak grounder. Not just because it meant I was successful; also because it meant all of those shit-talkers had to return to the dugout staring at their feet. I got to make myself feel good, and as an additional bonus, I got to make those overconfident shitheads feel bad.
I wonder how Aaron Cook is feeling right now. Terrific, probably. Aaron Cook just threw his first complete-game shutout since 2009. It's not like he got to quiet a bunch of trash-talkers for nine innings, because it doesn't work like that in the Major Leagues. Players aren't so outwardly inconsiderate. But Cook knows that he has one strength and one strength only, and he knows that each time he takes the mound he'll be considered the underdog. The knew exactly what they were going to get from Aaron Cook all game long, and they probably formulated an optimistic game plan. They probably figured they could get Cook out by the fourth or the fifth or the sixth. Complete-game shutout. 81 pitches.
I don't know what I find the most remarkable about Cook's outing Friday night. It's rare that you see a guy manage a complete game on just 81 pitches. Of those 81 pitches, Cook threw 73 sinkers and eight curveballs. To put it another way, Cook threw 90 percent sinkers, and ten percent curveballs. The Mariners swung 39 times, and all 39 swings made contact. Cook didn't generate one single swinging strike. Complete-game shutout. 81 pitches.
I'll say this - not because I'm coming to the Mariners' defense, but because it ought to be said. Cook is an extreme groundballer, and he always has been. That's his strength, and that's the whole reason he's carved out a lengthy big-league career. When a groundballer is on top of his game, the opposing team looks unusually feeble, because they can't help but drill the ball into the ground. Sinkers generate grounders for a reason, from good hitters and bad hitters alike. Additionally, I know the Mariners were having quick at-bats tonight, but it wouldn't have done them much good to sit back and take pitches. Cook was throwing a lot of pitches in the strike zone. There's usually no sense in taking strikes instead of swinging at them. I'm not upset at the Mariners for swinging early against Aaron Cook, and based on his post-game remarks, neither is Eric Wedge.
But it isn't about swinging or not swinging. It's also about the quality of the swings, and the quality of the Mariners' swings tonight was pathetic. I don't know what their hardest-hit ball might've been, but I think it could have been Brendan Ryan flying out to the right-center gap. Your hardest-hit ball shouldn't be Brendan Ryan going to the opposite field. Some of this, maybe a lot of this was because of Aaron Cook, yes. This is what sinkerballers can do. But this should not have been an impossible game for the Mariners to win. Coming in, Cook had a 5.62 ERA over his previous 43 games, with 56 more hits than innings. He was throwing the same sinker. Aaron Cook hasn't changed, and other teams sure as shit figured him out. The Mariners didn't figure him out in the first inning, and they didn't have him figured out by the ninth.
Two hits. Two hits, and one of them was an infield single that Ichiro barely beat out. You can talk about Safeco Field all that you want, but Safeco's park effects should in theory be minimized by a sinker specialist who keeps the ball on the ground. Safeco is death to runs, but, specifically, it's death to fly balls. The Mariners didn't lose because fly balls died. They lost because all the players swung like they themselves were dead.
Last night, the offense was let off the hook. The Mariners scored one run in about nine innings off Franklin Morales and two relievers, and that's terrible, but because the one run was enough and because it scored at the end and because it supported Felix Hernandez, people didn't mind the bats. People wanted to talk about Felix, and about the heroics. The offense was given a break.
There's no break for the offense this time. If anything, now people are going to overreact to the offense, although I'm not certain what would qualify as an overreaction. This is problematic. The break tonight is for Hector Noesi, who was not good, but who will avoid being the focus as people complain about the hitting. A team can, of course, have countless problems at any one time, but fans and media types can only focus on so many of them. Right now the offense seems like it's more pressing, but, man, Noesi. Noesi wasn't ever going to be in position to win this game the way the Mariners were swinging, but he is one frustrating son of a bitch.
Afterward, Eric Wedge talked about how Noesi was down early and then got in trouble when he crept up in the zone. Through three innings, Noesi allowed eight balls in play, with four of them grounders. Thewere scoreless. Between the start of the fourth and Noesi's removal, he allowed 12 balls in play, with zero of them grounders. He allowed four home runs. And a double, too, for good measure. In Safeco Field, Noesi allowed four home runs, and he allowed them in the span of eight hitters. He didn't strike anyone out.
Will Middlebrooks hit the first home run. In a 2-and-2 count - two strikes! - Noesi tried to throw a low slider, and indeed he did throw a low slider, but it was what they call a cement-mixer instead of a quality breaking ball and it hung up at the knees. Middlebrooks killed it.
Cody Ross hit the second home run, in the next at-bat. In a 2-and-1 count, Noesi came with a fastball, and he needed to throw a strike. What he threw was a fastball down the very center of the strike zone. I'm not going to bother taking and uploading a Gameday screenshot, because you know what a rectangle with a dot in the middle of it looks like. Take a rectangle, and then draw two lines connecting opposite corners. You'll get an X, with the lines intersecting in the middle. X marked the spot for Hector Noesi's fastball. Ross destroyed it.
Noesi mustered the strength to retire a couple batters in a row, but then Daniel Nava hit the third home run. In a 1-and-2 count - two strikes! - Noesi tried to tie him up with an inside fastball. He missed up, he missed to the right, and Daniel Nava wound up swinging at a 1-and-2 fastball at belt-level over the middle of the plate. That's a 2-and-0 fastball, a 3-and-0 fastball, not a 1-and-2 fastball. Nava hit it out.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit the fourth home run, in the top of the sixth. This one came on the first pitch of the at-bat, and John Jaso called for a fastball in that low away corner. Righties are always throwing to that low away corner against left-handed batters, and it's predictable, but pitchers keep going back there because it's effective. Noesi's fastball didn't make it to the low away corner, though, because he missed up and he missed over the plate. Saltalamacchia drove it out to the opposite field. In this case, at least Noesi didn't throw away a pitcher-friendly count, but he missed his location. He missed his location in a dangerous way. Noesi's main strength coming over from the was supposed to be his command, but I guess his strength is control, and control ain't good enough, as Hector Noesi keeps on showing.
I came to Noesi's defense after that one ugly start in New York, because I thought he allowed some big hits on some decent pitches, but we just haven't seen him make anything in the way of consistent progress over the weeks and months. No, he wasn't going to win tonight, but he could've been better. I don't know what the problem is. A lot of people would tell you it's mental, that Noesi doesn't focus enough, and maybe that's right. Maybe it's his focus, maybe it's more mechanical, maybe it's both of those. What Noesi is right now is a guy who can throw strikes with his fastball and who can't generate consistent movement on his secondary pitches. It's not just that Noesi can't consistently locate his slider and his change; he can't even always make them move the way he wants them to. Maybe I'm being unfairly negative about Noesi right now but that was the kind of baseball game that turns a guy sour. Remember last night? Last night was peaches. At least we had last night.
No silver linings here. Hector Noesi allowed four home runs in Safeco Field and the Mariners got shut out on 81 pitches by Aaron Cook. It's difficult to imagine a worse baseball game that doesn't involve players getting injured. I'll leave you with what I consider to be a delightful collection of John Jaso screenshots following all four of Boston's home runs. Oh by the way, I forgot to mention that David Ortiz's double to lead off the sixth against Noesi came in a two-strike count. All right, now, Jaso.
One of John Jaso's things is leaving his glove where the pitch was supposed to arrive sometimes, even after the ball's been hit hard in the other direction. I can't get enough of it. It seems so forlorn.
Because this is a screenshot instead of a .gif, you can't see that Jaso is looking away and dropping his arms to his sides in exasperation. "Welp, that pitch was shit and a half."
What killed me about Jaso's reaction on this one is that he kept his glove where the pitch was supposed to arrive, and looked up at the ball in flight. Then he looked at the mound, still with his glove frozen in place. This was probably my favorite part of the baseball game. The part right after a Mariners pitcher allowed a home run. It was that kind of baseball game.
John Jaso had the worst night.