I've been thinking about "What the fuck?" lately. See, the thing about "What the fuck" is that it's probably just a little too intense. If you respond to dropping your bagel face-down on the floor with a "What the fuck?," you're really going to be screwed when you run outside to find that someone has siphoned all the gas out of your car and slashed your tires with a butcher knife. You've gone from 0-100 in a heartbeat, and while exaggeration is all the rage on the internet these days, you don't want to leave yourself out of options when circumstances truly call for extreme language. I've been trying to use "What the shit?" lately, because one, it sounds funnier, and two, it's a little more tempered and suitable for the times I need to use it.
Now that that's out of the way, I can start recapping tonight's game with a solid What the fuck?
Felix Hernandez pitched seven innings, striking out nine in the process. Bats were singing through the strikezone, touching nothing and drilling the feet of Rangers hitters into the ground like they were screws being shoved into the hard Texas dirt. He was untouchable. Unstoppable. Vicious. Cruel. Then...what the fuck?
The Mariners always seem to have Yu Darvish's number, and today was no exception. A few early hits got the M's on the board, but once Darvish started to settle in to retire seven Mariners hitters in a row, he looked down at his hand in the seventh and saw nothing but a bunch of blood. One one hand, this is kind of cool, like something in a comic book if you have a superhuman X-men pitcher or something, but on the other you don't really want pitchers to be leaking bodily fluids in the middle of the game, regardless of their club affiliation. And you could see it on his face as he looked down, thinking...what the fuck?
It all started off quite nicely. Abraham Almonte, who ended up 2-4 on the night, led the game off with a single, stole second after two quick outs, and then the inning was over with a Kyle Seager groundout. Felix gave up a two-out double to Alex Rios in the first, but then he was Felix and shook his head, saying whatever and got out of trouble with nothing doing. That's what Felix does. Remember this part of the story.
The Mariners' only two runs came in the top of the second, when Nick Franklin, fresh from Tacoma in his new road grey Seattle uniform, ripped a first-pitch triple (!) into the gap and slid into third with a look in his eyes that simultaneously said send me down you morons you don't even know what you're missing and also looked just like Wednesday night, which makes me scared for when he's traded and playing the Mariners. I don't know if it was because the team was on the road without it, or if I'm just used to how it looks now, but it appeared he was without his usual oversized C.H.I.P.S. motorcycle cop helmet on the day. That, combined with the extra muscle he has put on, makes him look a little more terrifying that the action figure he was last season. Embrace meaninglessness, friends. Like a warm blanket.
After Justin Smoak Justin Smoaked for the second out of the inning, Dustin Ackley walked and Mike Zunino scored Franklin with a shallow drop into centerfield, immediately followed up by a single from Almonte. Ackley roared home, sliding between the legs of Rangers' catcher Robinson Chirinos, who blocked the plate probably out of a brain fart seeing as these guys have been doing things one way for like 25 years and are suddenly expected to just change muscle memory at the drop of a hat. It didn't matter, because the throw was off, Ackley scored, and Almonte and Zunino advanced on the paths. Up to the plate walked Brad Miller, who grounded out to end the inning. Something looks wrong with Brad Miller. It's still early, but damn. This is not what we expected in spring. This is not what he looked like last year. This is not what he is supposed to do. It's far from disaster, but...What the fuck?
The game settled into a nice groove here, where Felix and Yu traded strikeouts and random singles through seven. Here, it looked to be all Mariners, as Felix was being Felix and making everyone he faced look quite foolish. At one point, an Idiot On The Field ran out seconds into a strikeout windup from Felix, causing him to noticeably curse in frustration and shoot daggers out of the same eyes that spot deadly 90MPH changeups into Mike Zunino's glove. I wasn't listening to the Rangers' feed, but part of me likes to imagine that they were talking about oh, another idiot out there or something like that, but the reality was that it was probably the best tool the Rangers had to get Felix out of a rhythm at the time. As is the usual modus operandi, the camera remained on the infield players, refusing to show the guy running around like an idiot. But it also refused to show what was going on in the Rangers dugout, which probably contained Ron Washington hiding on his personal cell phone, directing the next line of reinforcement streakers to the 108 section to disrupt Felix's next batter.
But then the wheels fell off. No need for those extra streakers. LLoyd let Felix come out for the eighth (again), and The King promptly gave up a triple to Leonys Martin, who is very fast and can hit triples as easily as I can fall into feeling nihilistic about the M's. Now, we've seen this a thousand times in the past--Felix gets into trouble, says some bad words into his glove, and then gets out of a bases-loaded jam with three filthy, ball-in-the-dirt violent strikeouts. He walks off the mound sideways and does that slow-motion roar with his arms flexed so tightly all the blood flows to his head, and he descends into the dugout carrying the knowledge that he is the best pitcher in the game.
But it seemed that all LLoyd could think about was Felix's past two starts that saw him going back out for eighth innings that were probably bad ideas, promptly giving up doubles off a fatigued fastball that probably should have waited until the next start to be thrown. You can honestly absolutely understand why LLoyd did what he did. Felix was tired, plain and simple. Look:
Felix said he and McClendon had been discussing his fatigue level going into the eighth. Admitted he was tiring.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) April 17, 2014
It may have not been the most satisfying decision, but the last thing it was was illogical. If LLoyd left Felix in the game to give up two quick runs after this hit, the conversation around the internet would be a whole hell of a lot different, and you know that's true. People would be referencing the Oakland games, the bullpen meltdown, the fact that it's April and totally okay that Felix shouldn't be throwing 120 pitches yet. Why did he let him come out again? Why didn't he replace Felix for the eighth?
But instead, we all (rightfully so) remembered the times Felix got out of scarier situations, demanded LLoyd leave him in the game, and promptly watched Charlie Furbush and Yoervis Medina surprisingly get out of the eighth still holding onto the lead despite Martin scoring on a sac fly. Look--Felix could have stayed in the game. He was dealing. But LLoyd was well within reason to pull him, and his past two starts made the idea make sense. I'm actually arguing that pulling Felix was a defensible idea. What the fuck?
But while Felix probably had that inning, it actually didn't even matter because Fernando Rodney came out in the ninth and Brandon Leagued himself into the first blown save of the season for the Mariners. The worst part? He had two quick outs. He was inches away. After Alex Rios and Prince Fielder were retired in order, Kevin Kouzmanoff singled off a ball Brad Miller almost had, and Mitch Moreland walked. The game was over when Donnie Murphy grounded right back to Brad, but he bobbled the ball and threw it to Robinson Cano to get the force, except he threw it about twelve feet in the air. Cano jumped off the bag to save the throw, and everyone was safe. Miller looked frazzled even before the throw, and I have no idea what to make of it. There comes a point when "Small Sample Size!" turns into something that's actually going on, and I couldn't tell you that it's after 13 games or anything, but boy this feels stupid right now.
Oh yeah, then Rodney sent a run in on a wild pitch, and gave up a walkoff single to Leonys Martin, owner of the Felix triple. The M's walked back to the showers in shame. Another Felix start blown. The M's are at .500, its still week three, many of the offensive problems have been BABIP related, but boy it feels like things are a lot worse. And in a way, they are. The M's are back in third place. Taijuan might be seriously broken. The Mariners don't have a fifth starter, and Brandon League is back. It's not the end of the world, and the Mariners are still in great shape, despite all the crazy things that have happened in the past month. But still...
What the fuck.