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My primary athletic outlet at this point in my life is racquetball. It's my favorite form of exercise and, when motivated, I try to play a couple times per week. I usually play against the same person, a family friend in his mid-50s.
I am intensely competitive but can accept losing when I feel legitimately bested. For a long time -- years, perhaps -- this friend of mine bested me over and over and over again. But it was OK. There was only so much I could do with the tools at my disposal. This friend had been playing the game almost as long as I'd been alive, and I was still learning the angles, figuring out how to anticipate rather than react, honing my serves and kill shots. I'd get enjoyment out of a good volley, a great shot, a close game.
But at some point those little things stop keeping you going. There was one particularly dire stretch where my friend beat me 20 or 30 times in a row. I needed a win. Bad.
Whether it's a rough go in your pickup sport of choice or a brutal week at the office, we've all gotten to the point where we no longer care about being challenged and just want the goddamned W. It's at that point you come home, load up Grand Theft Auto, slouch down on the couch and dominate any poor digital soul unlucky enough to be strolling about Liberty City. Or whatever it is you do. You know what it is.
This is what Monday night's matchup felt like from the Seattle Mariners perspective. The M's had just been swept by the Texas Rangers by a run differential of 23-3 and desperately needed to beat the snot out of an inferior opponent. Unfortunately, rules prohibit them from playing against Southern League teams so the Astros were forced into the role despite their recent series beatdown of the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Felix Hernandez struck out the side in the first inning and had five Ks through two innings. Justin Smoak drove in a run in the first, Kyle Seager smashed a two-run shot in the third, and Jesus Montero obliterated a pitch for another two-run home run in the fourth. The Mariners rolled.
- Felix Hernandez: 5 GS, 34.2 innings, 9.61 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 1.82 ERA, 2.17 FIP
- Jesus Montero's prospect shine has faded due to plate discipline and pitch recognition issues, but there are reasons why the Mariners won't be giving up on him anytime soon. Namely:
Montero got a pitch to hit and crushed it well above the 404 sign in left-center field, a blast that will surely go down as one of the longest hits of the MLB season to date.
- Franklin Gutierrez has been missing games here and there with hamstring and groin issues that he is blaming on some sort of pelvic problem. Guti played in this one but left the game after pulling his hamstring during a dive attempt (GIF). Guti could be heading to the DL and may be replaced by Carlos Peguero.
Peguero's numbers haven't been spectacular so far this season with AAA Tacoma, but it's worth noting that he's cut his strikeout rate down considerably here in the early going. Eric Thames, another left-handed hitting outfielder on the 40-man roster, has more defensive utility and has been tearing the cover off the ball this month, so it's a little surprising that he isn't getting the first call. I'm not looking forward to watching Peguero, but I am curious to see if he's made any noticeable changes to help himself get the bat on the ball with more consistency.
Peguero, Thames or whoever else, it doesn't really matter considering Michael Saunders isn't long for the disabled list. Saunders will come back, Endy Chavez will remain, and the new guy will find himself back in Tacoma. In theory.
- Up 7-0, manager Eric Wedge opted to use Carter Capps, Oliver Perez and Tom Wilhelmsen to close out the game behind Felix. This could be seen as Wedge wasting his relievers on a game that was all wrapped up, but I'd guess that he felt obligated to use them. Capps and Wilhelmsen haven't appeared since the 18th, Perez since the 17th.
I'm happy to report that I win at racquetball about half the time these days. I know you were worried.