Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Coming into today's game the Mariners have had, all things considered, a lousy opening home stand. The record (3-6), the offensive production (3 or fewer runs in 7 of the 9 games) and the health of the roster (Michael Saunders, Stephen Pryor and Michael Morse injured) all took what felt like very familiar turns the last week and a half. Last night the Mariners tortured their fans with a drop of ecstasy, showcasing the Rembrandt of their collection as Felix savaged a stellar Detroit line up while the offense squandered seemingly endless chances to provide him with a much deserved victory. Felix Days have become the equivalent of a novice bartender trying to make a cocktail out of Highland Park 30. The core, essential ingredient is world class but everything surrounding it is sub par and put together without much expertise. As a chaser to this bitter concoction the team faced Detroit's own priceless masterpiece: Justin Verlander. Optimism, we did not have it.
Baseball then provided us its greatest and most repeated allegory. Too many words and too many writing careers have been shaped crafting baseball as an allegory for life. Its length, its beginning with Spring, its overly romantic soliloquies by the "blogger in their mom's basement" set have ruined the concept. The truth is that baseball IS the best sporting analogy we have for the human experience. The truth is that baseball is bat shit crazy. The inferior can defeat the superior any day. It happens when an old ass centerfielder flashes back to the 2006 ALCS, It happens when Eric Wedge snaps out of thinking that life is a Clint Eastwood movie and correctly uses a pinch hitter. It happens when Carter Capps digs deep and overcomes spotty command and shitty umpiring. None of it is predicative. But it's fun as hell when it happens. The Mariners beat Justin Verlander 2-0. It's why I watch even though, you know, Mariners. Sometimes Mowgli does light that fearsome Sheer Khan's tail on fire. It's good too, because last night was damn cold.
- Our beloved Emeritus wrote eloquently about the screw job Carter Capps has received thus far from umpires. Since last night's game drained the bullpen and Hisashi Iwakuma's ongoing blister issues keep him on a Little League pitch count it was left to Capps to tread through two innings of relief work tonight. He did so as he always does: with below average command and face-meltingly good stuff. Capps threw 40 (!) pitches, getting credit for only 23 strikes. However:
- The end is nearing for Endy Chavez. The 35 year old didn't spend Spring Training with the team and was only signed to a minor league deal as injury insurance. Thanks to Canadian hockey mentality and Tanner Scheppers that insurance was needed. Once Michael Saunders is healthy Endy Chavez is probably not sticking around. But today he reached base 3 times against one of the 2 or 3 best pitchers in baseball and showed the defensive acumen that's built a career.
- Speaking of Chavez it was his bizarre pinch hitting performance in the 8th inning last night that led to many other unfortunate decisions. Eric Wedge has been frequently and justifiably criticized for his seemingly fluctuating philosophy on pinch hitting. Tonight, however, he got it right. When Robert Andino reached base with two outs in the 7th Wedge realized that Brendan Ryan vs. Verlander was hopeless and put in Kyle Seager to pinch hit. While the left-handed Seager sitting for Andino was puzzling in the first place it was pleasant to see the skipper actually use a real bat off the bench as opposed to give up an unnecessary out freely in the name of saving his bench. Seager smacked an RBI double and the constant headache that Eric Wedge's decisions give me was momentarily reduced to a dull throb.
- Hisashi Iwakuma had, by his 2013 standards, an average start. It's going to be really interesting what the rest of the year will look like for Iwakuma once he actually has a working epidermis on all of his fingers. Through 4 starts against 4 quality offenses he's at 14 baserunners in 26.2 innings with a 18/2 K/BB ratio. There's obvious BABIP regression coming and his walk rate will never stay THAT low. But it doesn't really have to for Iwakuma to be an effective and above average major league starter. He gets groundballs. His splitter works as an outpitch. He doesn't walk batters. Hisashi Iwakuma is all kinds of neat. His age makes him temporary and his shoulder could explode at any moment but for now I choose to enjoy him. I recommend you do the same.
- Dustin Ackley Watch: 3 hits in the last 2 games against elite pitching. 5 balls hit hard. Among all the Mariners' disappointing young hitters no one confuses more than Ackley. As college teammates Kyle Seager had to listen to endless series of articles and bios of Dustin Ackley. I'm sure there's a part of Seager, however small and petty, that finds satisfaction in his outperforming Ackley in the majors. May Ackley wipe that imperceivable and most likely largely imaginary smirk off his face.