There was no Word Learnin' post today, as you might or might not have noticed. There hasn't been a Word Learnin' post for a short while, but specifically, there wasn't a Word Learnin' post today. I thought about writing one, and I looked up the word, but then I wound up doing other things and then the Mariners game started and it didn't get written.
But now you're learnin' the word anyway. Today's word is "larrup", pronounced an awful lot like "flare up". I'd never heard or read the word before, and its definition is to beat, or thrash, or flog. It's a fun word and a useful word, and while to be truthful the Mariners didn't larrup thetonight - they won just 8-6 - they did larrup Angels pitching, and I really wanted to use the word "larrup" so hopefully you'll forgive me just this once.
This was a Mariners win over the Angels, and the second Mariners win over the Angels in three days. Four days ago the Mariners didn't play the Angels and tomorrow the Mariners don't play anyone, which means the Mariners just won a series against the Angels on the road. It's one of those things you don't think can actually happen until it actually happens, like just walking up to a vending machine and pressing a button and getting a free soda. That has happened for me. I didn't believe it could happen before.
One of the weird things about watching and writing about a baseball team just about every day is that there are so many things to remember that they can't all be remembered. Apparently the Mariners won a series in Anaheim at the end of May in 2009, and I must have been watching that series, but I have no immediate recollection of it. I have no immediate recollection of Ichiro hitting 15 home runs in 2005. I can't even imagine that happening. 15 home runs is not that many, but it is still a lot, enough to be considered a second- or third-level power hitter. The Ryan Ludwick, with 11. Nobody else reached double digits. 2005 Ichiro would've led that team in home runs and those memories are gone, replaced by scattered memories of Matt Thornton and Jake Woods and Munenori Kawasaki in a business suit.' team leader in home runs last season was
The Mariners won that series in Anaheim in 2009 two games to one, just as they won this series in 2012. That was the last time the Mariners won a road series against the Angels, which sounds about right, even if non-specifically. This one series isn't going to change the feel of Mariners games in Anaheim, not by itself, because that isn't how feelings work. The feelings coming out of this successful series will still be overwhelmed by the feelings coming out of previous failures. The next time the Mariners play the Angels on the road, it'll probably still feel like a game the Mariners will lose something like 7 to 2. But things'll feel just a little bit better, and then if the Mariners are successful again they'll feel just a little bit better, and maybe in time we'll be able to put all the Angels nightmares behind us.
But that's going way too far down the road, where what's most important now is what just happened. Actually, what's more important now is your health and your happiness and the health and happiness of the people you love and care about, but what a baseball blog is supposed to say is the most important is this most recent baseball game that the Mariners won. As we've talked about on a handful of occasions before, you always want to have positive carryover feelings going into an off day, and on tomorrow's Mariner off day, we'll be able to reflect on a win and a series win in Anaheim over a team that was red-hot (color joke).
In fact, we'll be able to reflect on what was a mighty successful road trip. The Mariners went to Texas, Chicago, and Anaheim, taking on a first-place team, a first-place team, and a team that fancies itself a first-place team. The Mariners won five of nine games, getting very little out of Felix Hernandez and outscoring the competition 66 to 52. The run prevention was not what we've grown used to, in a bad way, but the run production was not what we've grown used to, in a very good way. Just like with games in Anaheim, it'll take a while before we start to really believe in this offense. We've put up way too long with terrible offense for perceptions to change in a jiffy. But given that perceptions change slowly, the perceptions are changing. In April, the Mariners looked like they'd be the same old Mariners. It's not feeling quite that way anymore.
Tonight's was an impressive win, because the Mariners took on a good team with a mediocre pitcher going on short rest, and the mediocre pitcher was bad. The guy the Angels had on the hill was Jerome Williams, and if you remember Matthew's series preview from not long ago, Jerome Williams' numbers, curiously enough, compare decently with Felix Hernandez's numbers. So Williams can be a difficult guy to hit, and then the Mariners went and scored eight runs and let their guy off the hook. Not all eight runs were scored off Williams, and just because Williams has been good since coming up with the Angels doesn't mean he was that good tonight, but gone or at lest on vacation are the days where the Mariners would get a poor effort on the mound and sluggishly plod to a loss. The Mariners beat the Angels, and they didn't even need Hector Noesi to be not terrible.
What the Mariners are looking like is the team we wanted them to be. Not a playoff team, but a team that's fun to watch despite not being a playoff team. We're on board with the player-development angle, and there's enough visible development to keep us thinking about better days ahead. Not every player is rolling at all times, but enough of them are to keep the product watchable. It's a difficult thing to be below .500 and entertaining, but the Mariners are finding a way.
Of course, when the Angels swept the Mariners in four games in Seattle not long ago, everything felt shitty. At least, I gather everything felt shitty - I was on vacation. The way we feel about the Mariners now is heavily influenced by the way the Mariners have performed lately, and the next time the Mariners slump people will go right back to questioning the plan and the efficacy thereof. We're all just pens on a seismograph, swinging about in response to greater forces we can't control. Even those who focus on the big picture can't help but stare thoughtfully at the little one.
But on Wednesday an improving Mariners team concluded an impressively successful road trip, and on Thursday we get to think about it. The thing about a baseball season, or about any season, is that you want to maximize the number of days that you give a shit, and thanks to the Mariners' performance, right now we can give a shit. That hasn't always been the case. In recent years, that's very seldom been the case. The 2012: good enough for you to give a shit sometimes.
7pm start times can be rough enough on a writer, but it's easier to get a handle on things when the Mariners play like we're more accustomed to them playing. It makes things more difficult when the Mariners play like the new Mariners, for two reasons. For one, the games take longer, because there are runs being scored, instead of being distributed retroactively on the commissioner's whim after nine scoreless innings. For two, busy box scores mean an overload of material. If the Mariners lose and end up with three hits, I can write about the guys who had those three hits. Today the Mariners had a dozen hits, and five guys had multi-hit games, and one guy had a one-hit game that still included an important hit. And I might also want to talk about a guy who went hitless. There's too much to write about when runs were scored and it's already past midnight. Bless you and damn you, new Mariners! There must always be a catch. Either you're terrible and easy, or decent and overwhelming.
Because there are a lot of things to talk about, I will select just a few things to talk about that I think are the most important things. You can discuss other things in the comments, or maybe I'll get to them tomorrow, or both. This world of ours is full of surprises and opportunity. Bullet holes:
- This game began with Hector Noesi pitching pretty poorly. Technically, it began with Hector Noesi pitching decently, but then he started to pitch poorly and he was removed with nobody out in the fifth inning. I should remind everyone right here that Noesi was pitching on short rest. He threw just 68 pitches the last time out, sure, but he threw more than that in the bullpen and warming up, and it isn't just about pitch total - it's about the routine between starts. Noesi had a different routine, and who knows what effect that might have had.
Whatever effect it did have was a bad one, though. Noesi's major problem has arguably been that he hasn't thrown enough balls in pitcher-friendly counts. Tonight he threw too many balls, finishing with 44 strikes out of 76 pitches and five walks. If nothing else, Noesi's been a strike-thrower, and tonight he wasn't even that, with predictable results.
Not that that stopped Noesi from running into familiar problems as well. With a man on in the third inning, Noesi threw a first-pitch strike to Kendrys Morales, then got Morales to swing through an excellent low curveball out of the zone. That brought the count to 0-and-2, which has too often meant trouble, and here it meant trouble again, as Noesi missed over the plate with a fastball that Morales launched to the bleachers. Noesi wanted to throw a fastball lower and more inside, but it ran into a dangerous area.
Immediately after that, Noesi threw a questionable 0-and-2 curve to Mark Trumbo that Trumbo hit on the ground. In the fourth, an 0-and-2 slider to Peter Bourjos hung up, but Bourjos hit it on the ground. Not every 0-and-2 pitch has to be out of the strike zone, but I wouldn't mind seeing Noesi throw an 0-and-2 pitch that sails to the backstop, just as proof of concept.
In the past, I've made fun of pitchers for struggling to throw consistent strikes without help from the hitters. It would appear that Noesi can't help but throw a strike when he's ahead 0-and-2. Which makes me wonder how Noesi came away with five walks in 4+ innings tonight. Whenever Noesi got to three balls he should've just tried to throw a quality ball. Presto, something thigh-high over the plate. Hector Noesi is a weird one.
I guess, again, the important thing to keep in mind is progress. We want to see Noesi making progress toward being a good starting pitcher. He doesn't have to be a good starting pitcher right now. I don't know that Noesi is making progress at all but lowering expectations for a developing pitcher softens the frustration.
- Brendan Ryan batted four times and popped up once in the infield. I'm not saying that like it's a good thing, like "oh he only did it once, that's fine." Did you know that Brendan Ryan is the league leader in infield pop-up rate? You probably did, actually, just from having watched him. Sometimes there are statistics that take you by surprise to learn, and sometimes there are statistics that say Brendan Ryan is the league leader in infield pop-up rate.
- Mike Trout singled to lead off the bottom of the first. He took off for second with Maicer Izturis in a 2-and-1 count, and Izturis swung and popped to second base. This is how fast Mike Trout is:
And this is how fast Mike Trout is:
Mike Trout is fast. During that brief sequence, he covered just shy of 180 feet.
- Overheard on the broadcast while Erick Aybar was batting in the bottom of the fourth with a man on first base:
Fan 1: Why do you keep swinging, let him take second!
Fan 2: It's a hit-and-run.
Fan 1: Who cares if it's a hit-and-run!
- In the middle of the fifth inning, in the press box, some Angels PR guy announced "congratulations to the Seattle SuperSonics for advancing to the NBA finals." Sometimes people ask me why I hate the Angels so much and hopefully now I'm not going to have to answer that question again for months. I wasn't even in Seattle or that invested in the Sonics upon their end of days and still that statement broils my lasagna.
- Stephen Pryor appeared in high-leverage relief and I'd stop short of calling him fantastic. However, his results were fantastic. Inheriting one out and two runners in a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth, Pryor got Maicer Izturis to ground to first, where Justin Smoak started a sparkling double play. The double play probably wouldn't have been completed if the Mariners had a different shortstop, but the Mariners don't have a different shortstop, for better or for worse.
In the seventh inning, Pryor played with fire. Albert Pujols nearly took him out of the yard to lead off, but settled for a double. Kendrys Morales threatened to homer on the following fastball. But with one out and men on the corners, Pryor threw a fastball to Howard Kendrick that Kendrick rolled to short for an easy 6-4-3. Two double plays in two innings helped an un-dominant Pryor earn more of his manager's trust.
Pryor didn't miss a single bat. On the other hand, he only threw 12 pitches, four of which were intentional balls. So maybe I'm being greedy. Pryor's first intentional ball was 75 miles per hour, and his last intentional ball was 82 miles per hour, so Pryor is showing some promising variation in his intentional balls. You don't want to be too predictable with those intentional balls.
- Here's the offensive lightning round: Mike Carp swung 3-and-0 in the top of the second and drove an outside fastball the other way for a two-run double. Kyle Seager slammed a first-pitch fastball off the right-center wall for a two-run double in the fifth. Ichiro sliced an RBI single the other way in the sixth, and with the bases loaded later on, Seager hit a sharp grounder up the middle to score two runs. The last run scored in the eighth when Ichiro yanked a first-pitch changeup over the right-center fence.
All eight Mariners runs scored with two outs, which isn't something that's sustainable, but which is something that feels good at the time. In the top of the fifth, when the Mariners were trailing 4-2, the first two batters made outs, and the third batter reached when Erick Aybar fumbled a routine grounder. Then a double and a double evened the score. It's satisfying to make Erick Aybar pay for such a mistake because you feel like it must drive Erick Aybar crazy, and close to another bee .gif explosion.
Seager was the hero. Michael Saunders picked up just another three hits. Dustin Ackley doubled the other way, singled, and walked. Even Jesus Montero had two hits. I don't have anything creative or witty to say about any of this because there is too much of this, and I'm overwhelmed by the numbers. It's all I can do to just regurgitate the players' performances - if I tried to say something different about all of them, I would suffocate in virtual text.
Off day. The schedule doesn't get easy with thecoming to town this weekend, but the schedule gets very easy on Thursday. The Mariners don't even have to do anything on Thursday! They just have to be themselves, find their ways home, and not get arrested. I wouldn't mind if a particular one or two of them got arrested, but if the Mariners have a failure of a Thursday it will have to be a failure of quite legendary proportions.