Mariners Play In Miserable Heat, Complain Little

Yuniesky Betancourt

I used to live in San Diego, and our house didn't have air conditioning, because it hardly seemed necessary. San Diego is warm, but it's very seldom hot, and one should be able to deal with warm. I could deal with warm, in that I got used to it. But there was one week in...I'm pretty sure it was August or September 2007 that temperatures skyrocketed. It was one of the hottest weeks in San Diego history, and I was inside, trying to blog. On this very blog! I managed some posts, but it was nearly impossible to concentrate on anything. I composed my posts by carefully dripping sweat on my keyboard. I felt like Mojo the helper monkey, basically sitting around in my own increasing filth, unable to do much more than open my mouth and complain about how hot it was.

The temperature at first pitch tonight in Kansas City was 103 degrees. Room temperature is something like 70 or 72 degrees. I think the average person starts to feel warm around 80 degrees. The average person probably starts to feel somewhat uncomfortably warm around 90 degrees. Take that and add 13 more degrees. This wasn't the hottest game in Mariners history - tomorrow will be closer - but it was a very hot game, and if I were the Mariners I would've just thrown up my hands and said "nope". No game today, guys.

So forget that the Mariners lost. It doesn't matter that the Mariners lost. It's incredible enough that they remained on the field for nine innings underneath Satan's broiler. Man, heat is just the worst. This game probably shouldn't even count because the conditions were so unbearable. But then you have to count the game because otherwise all that intentional melting served no purpose.

Anyway, I don't go out of my way to read the comments underneath stories posted on Mariners.com. I can tell you that I have in fact never once sought out those comments, and I remember the first time I noticed them I was surprised to learn that a comments section even existed. Occasionally I will read a comment or two by accident, though. I'll scroll down too far without realizing what I'm doing, and what mental peril I'm about to encounter.

Tonight I accidentally read a couple comments below the game recap. The Mariners, of course, lost to the Royals 8-7 when Billy Butler led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer against Josh Kinney. Going into the bottom of the ninth it was even at seven, and some commenters were wondering why Eric Wedge hadn't called upon his closer instead of some guy just up from the minors. Maybe putting it that way makes it sound polite and innocuous. The commenters weren't so polite and innocuous. Commenters usually aren't.

On the one hand, yeah, if the Mariners were contending, it would probably suck to lose a game with Josh Kinney when an available Tom Wilhelmsen was never used. Wedge specifically said that he was saving Wilhelmsen for a save situation, and that's one of the more frustrating managerial tendencies in modern-day baseball. Wilhelmsen's the best reliever, the situation was important, and the Royals had the heart of their order due up. If the Mariners were really trying to win, it would've been better to call on Wilhelmsen. So what if he didn't have a lead to protect? He could've gotten only so used to his new job since he hasn't had this job very long. Several weeks ago Wilhelmsen was a middle reliever. The kind of guy who pitches in tie games.

So, sure, there's an opening for managerial criticism. I get that. I just genuinely didn't know there were still people who cared that much about the Mariners' wins and losses at this point in the season. And you know, now that I think about it, maybe those commenters don't actually care - maybe they're just looking to complain about something, because commenters are always complaining. Commenters are never content (ed. note: except you guys <3 ). But that's me applying my own interpretation. What we can conclude from the words actually written is that these people were upset. The Mariners are now 39-54. Who knows, maybe they could've been 40-53. The Twins are 38-53, and tied with the Mariners for the worst record in the American League.

This particular game was a winnable game that I just can't get upset about. It helps that it came after a pair of somewhat comfortable wins that featured plenty of offense. This game also featured plenty of offense. And that's the thing. It isn't only that the Mariners are way out of the race. Where Monday and Tuesday they played against triple-A-caliber pitchers, today they faced Bruce Chen, who actually belongs in the Majors. They knocked him out in the sixth and scored four runs. They got a run against Jose Mijares, who isn't bad. They got two runs against Aaron Crow, who isn't bad. They nearly scored against Kelvin Herrera, who's very good. We don't have to talk about Greg Holland.

The Mariners' offense was fine, and the Mariners' pitchers were Kevin Millwood, Steve Delabar, Oliver Perez, and Josh Kinney. Millwood allowed seven of the eight runs, and while I suppose this didn't help his trade value, what trade value was Kevin Millwood ever going to build? We don't have to be as concerned about him as we were about, say, Erik Bedard. Millwood's value can fluctuate only so much, because so much of his value is based on his age and track record. Those things aren't changing. At least, those things aren't changing very fast.

The Mariners lost on a walk-off, and there's a part of me that even feels genuinely good for the Royals and their fans in attendance. The fans had to sit through all that Monday and Tuesday bullshit, along with all of the other bullshit that's ever come with being a Royals fan. Last week it was made abundantly clear how much Royals fans are in love with Billy Butler. What's the harm with throwing 'em a Butler walk-off, just for the hell of it? It doesn't make any difference in a playoff race. The fans get an opportunity to express their adoration of a lovable slugger who's apparently right-handed. Butler gets to add to his list of career achievements. This is a memory. It's not quite like when Ichiro homered off Mariano Rivera, but it's a similar kind of thing. You remember with fondness not the greater meaning of the home run, but the home run, a winning home run by a player you love.

Everything is so casual now. We're used to it, but it gets like this every season. In a better season, we might be mad at Eric Wedge about Tom Wilhelmsen. In a better season, we'd definitely be mad about Brendan Ryan. With the score tied in the top of the eighth, Ryan lined a one-out triple. He then ran home on a Dustin Ackley grounder to second. Ryan slid ahead of the attempted tag, and he appeared to be safe, but Jim Joyce called him out. I thought it was a blown call but replays showed that Ryan kept his lead foot slightly off the ground, never actually contacting the plate. A late lead with one out was instead a late tie with two outs, and the win expectancy swing there, as you can imagine, was substantial.

But, oh well. And then in the bottom of the eighth, Alcides Escobar pulled a two-out grounder to Ryan's right with a runner on second. Ryan ranged way over to keep the ball in the infield, saving a run that wouldn't go on to score. So the eighth saw Brendan Ryan probably cost the Mariners a run and probably save the Mariners a run, and though he cost the Mariners a run with a mistake and saved the Mariners a run with his normal play, it's just almost impossible to get worked up about. Ryan probably won't make that mistake again. I don't think I've ever seen that mistake. In the big picture, it was an irrelevant mistake.

If you're going to be upset about anything, be frustrated that Dustin Ackley went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, and that Justin Smoak went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. We hoped that we were seeing signs of improvement. But this was only one game for each of them, and Casper Wells homered, and Kyle Seager homered and doubled. Not everybody is going to hit in every game. And Felix Hernandez pitches tomorrow. Unusually early tomorrow, at that. Everything seems better when Felix is coming. It's like we just ordered a good steak, and we're simply waiting for the steak to be prepared. I bet the steak is going to be delicious.

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