Mariners Blanch Cook, Hang On In Absolute Thriller

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I'm kidding about the "absolute thriller" part, obviously, or not obviously, if you missed this game. As it happens, I also missed this game, and so I am writing a short game recap based on having personally watched zero of eight and a half innings. "Why read a game recap written by someone who didn't watch the game?" you might ask. Don't ask me. I don't know! Ask yourself! I can't answer this question!

The Mariners faced Aaron Cook and the Mariners beat Aaron Cook, and when a player with a name like Cook loses, we've all been conditioned to expect headlines having to do with the cooking process. Cook Cooked All The Way Through. Cook Gets Grilled In Loss. Hot Bats Leave Cook Charred. Or stuff better than that, by which I mean worse than that. But I can't in good conscience suggest that Aaron Cook came away well done, because what happened was that Aaron Cook allowed two runs. That's two more runs than he allowed the last time he pitched against the Mariners, but that's two runs against Aaron Cook in six innings, and that just isn't a whole lot of cooking. Cook came in having allowed 37 runs over his previous 41 innings. The Mariners allowed Cook to feel like he doesn't not belong in the majors, and honestly, once is enough.

But wait, it gets worse. Before tonight, Cook had made 13 starts, and his season high for swinging strikes was four. He missed four bats on August 6, against the Rangers, and he missed four bats on August 21, against the Angels. Remember that Cook missed zero bats when he shut out the Mariners. Cook is as hittable as a pitcher can get. Tonight, Cook generated nine swinging strikes. He doubled his previous season high, and he added one more for good measure. Ten Mariners did reach base against Cook and it's not like he didn't have to pitch out of jams, but my sense is that a lot of this game was kind of embarrassing, and what would be best for everyone would be to forget about it and move on.

This seems like a win that's cool because it's a win, and we like wins, but a win that doesn't allow us to imagine way more wins down the road. The Mariners, offensively, scored two runs in eight innings in a game started by Aaron Cook. They had seven hits, all singles, and they swung and missed too often against a hittable pitcher. Meanwhile, the Red Sox were limited to one run mostly by Kevin Millwood, and Millwood isn't a factor in the Mariners' future. Millwood might not even realize he pitches for the Mariners in the present. He might just show up where he's told to and throw where he's told to thoughtlessly because he's on veteran autopilot. It's not that Kevin Millwood is unpleasant to watch; it's that, when Kevin Millwood is pitching, we don't get to daydream about the Mariners. Either he tries to throw a no-hitter, or he's just a guy who throws half-innings in between the half-innings in which potentially interesting Mariners come to bat.

The bullpen did well, and a lot of the bullpen could stick around, but we already knew the bullpen was talented, and the Red Sox just aren't a fearsome opponent. This was a game the Mariners should've won, and they won by one, unexcitingly.

Still, always better to win than to lose, and every win brings the Mariners closer to .500. It's significant on some level that the Mariners just reached their win total from a season ago. It might be all about focusing on .500 now as the Mariners are kind of by themselves in the American League standings. They're seven games behind the Tigers, so it's not like we should think about the M's passing them by. They're four games ahead of the Red Sox, and the Red Sox probably aren't going to stop sinking. Eleven games separate the AL's eighth- and tenth-best teams, and the team in the middle is the Mariners. In marathons, they talk about the motivation to keep going that comes from having another runner ahead of you in your sights. The Mariners will have to self-motivate.

Of course, it isn't about .500. The Mariners don't get anything for finishing at .500, aside from the knowledge that they finished at .500, and how about that. It's about playing well and seeing improvement, and if wins follow, great. But there's nothing wrong with having goals to work toward so long as the goals are positive and encouraging. And there would be some sort of psychological significance to the Mariners finishing with as many wins as losses. In seasons past that modest achievement seemed unreachable.

Tonight, four Mariners reached base twice, and that's something, even if only two Mariners came around. Trayvon Robinson struck out swinging three times, and he struck out swinging twice against Aaron Cook, which is incredible. In the third inning, Cook issued a pair of walks, but he also generated three swinging strikeouts. Two were Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero. Thursday is an off day and I'm not going to be able to stop thinking about the fact that Aaron Cook struck out the side against the Mariners, all swinging, cutting down two supposed franchise cornerstones in the process. Had I been watching this game, that's probably when it would've felt the most humiliating, and I watch these games alone.

But Tom Wilhelmsen threw 18 pitches and 13 strikes. After a leadoff walk, there were two strikeouts and a weak tapper in front of the mound. Wilhelmsen seems to be getting his command back, and while he could turn at any moment, it would be reassuring to see him finish strong after that little performance hiccup. What that sentence basically says is "it would be good to see this Mariner play good." I don't know why I write anything. "Hopefully the Mariners do well, instead of not well." Did you know that reading this blog is free?

That's enough about a baseball game from which I only watched the highlights. Hey, all right, the Mariners won, and the Red Sox are bad. These crowds at Safeco to see the visiting Red Sox have been astonishingly small, which tickles me by underscoring just how loyal so many loud Red Sox fans are not. It would've been nice for the Mariners to win by more tonight, or just to win differently. Win in a way that left more young players looking better. But ultimately a win's a win and we can't just pick how we'd like them to look. Or, we can pick how we'd like them to look, but we can't not settle for other sorts of wins. We should be fine with any wins. Hoard all wins. Just win all the time, because the more wins there are, the less you care about how they actually happened.

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