The Seattle Mariners lost a baseball game today, a baseball game where they started an All-Star pitcher named Hisashi Iwakuma for the third time all year. In this game, Hisashi Iwakuma did the following things:
- Give up a hit in the first (a double to David DeJesus), and then get through two outs in the fifth before giving up another hit, to Matt Joyce. By the end of the eighth, he ended up giving up only four hits without a single run, earned or unearned.
- Strike out Yunel Escobar, Jose Molina, Wil Meyers, Evan Longoria, and then Wil Meyers again, while racking up ten ground-outs for a GB% of 52.2%.
- Walk no one.
- Post a FIP of 1.85 on the day, bringing his season FIP to 2.48.
- Do this to a near seven-win hitter who had a 133 wRC+ last year, and somehow make him look silly:
Yes, so what happened today was a game where Hisashi Iwakuma pitched like the incredibly impressive pitcher he was. Unfortunately, the Mariners had themselves a bit of a double-sided sword today, watching the Rays counter this defensive mastery with a little interesting pitcher of their own named Daniel...no wait, Davey...er...uh David Pryce. Or something. Oh, David Price, that's right. Cy Young, 20-game winning David Price.
Here's the thing about David Price. I'm not going to tell you that David Price isn't a good pitcher. I'm not going to do that because that sentiment is incorrect. David Price is a great pitcher. In 2012, David Price was a great pitcher on a great team. It got him twenty wins and the highest pitching honor in baseball, putting up four-win seasons with strikeout per nine rates around eight over his past four seasons. David Price is a good pitcher. But what David Price had today on top of that was the fact that he had only faced the Mariners one time before in the past four years, in another game that saw Seattle's closer blowing a save. This was in August of 2013. The time he faced the Mariners before that? Oh, wait never. NEVER.
Not that it really would have mattered. Cano faced him a bunch over in the AL East, and he went 2-4 against the Rays' ace today. But pretty much everyone else who had an at bat this evening wouldn't have been on the Mariners had Price faced them in 2009, and it's so random that it could really go either way. Regardless, Price shut the M's down because he's David Price. Only James Jones, Cano, Ackley, and Mike Zunino had hits off him, with Ackley getting two. Nobody walked. Price pitched a complete game and had twelve strikeouts.
You are probably going to see a bunch of people talking about how the Mariners need to respond to great outings from their All-Star Iwakuma with more offense. This is true--but the bigger truth is that they faced a dominant pitcher today, and he dominated because almost none of them knew what to do against the guy. It was like the bump from AAA, now facing 99MPH heat and bendy things. Another level. If the Mariners were Major League hitters today, Price was whatever is above Major League pitching. Or something, I don't know.
But, of course, we can't really avoid talking about what has the entire Mariners internet in a frenzied fit. David Price may have been dominating the Mariners, and Hisashi Iwakuma was certainly making the Rays look foolish as well. But what about the score? Yes, the Mariners took a 1-0 lead into the ninth, carrying their sole run from a first inning sequence that turned a James Jones leadoff double into a run after two groundouts from Romero and Cano.
So in the top of the ninth, with Hisashi Iwakuma expressing his Bedardish desire to call it a day, LLoyd put in proven closer Fernando Rodney to close out the game. Then, the following sequence to David DeJesus in the top of the ninth, in classic, terrifying Rodneyesque fashion turning borderline balls into diving stops from Zunino and strikes into holy-shit-how-didn't-he-hit-that-out-of-the-park and finally the last pitch into an oh...
A mess, in other words. Tie game. Blown save number two for our crooked-hat-wearing fireball extraordinaire. Rodney wouldn't escape the inning without three more hits and a walk, and by then, the game was over. Farquhar came in to get the final out with a strikeout in three pitches, and the Mariners blanked the bottom of the ninth to lose the game.
Yes, anger, tumult, anxiety. Lots of jokes about the Fernando Rodney experience rollercoaster. One thing is true about it all, though. Rodney has probably been pitching above luck all year. He has been worth half a win, holding onto a sexy 12.12 K/9 and wearing a 2.34 FIP stat line that mirrors his record-breaking 2012 year. He has done all this with his highest BABIP ever, which suggests that it was only a matter of time until things came back to earth. But you know what? Rodney has eleven saves. He has only blown two so far. In fact, he has been nothing short of what the Mariners expected when they signed him this offseason--an erratic, albeit exciting closer able to offer some solid ninth innings while pushing everyone's apparently preferred closer into a setup role (although, yes, LLoyd hasn't been using Farquhar that way yet).
As mentioned before, the last time the Mariners faced the Rays, their closer blew a one-run lead to lose the game. This closer was Danny Farquhar, whom everyone was wishing was the closer today. Closers blow saves. Mariano Rivera almost single-handedly gifted the Red Sox an unprecedented 0-3 comeback in 2004 with a bunch of ninth inning blowups, and yet he is the best closer of all time, and those games mattered a whole hell of a lot more than some dumb May match against two teams in different divisions. Relief pitchers are volatile and unpredictable. I don't say this to say that Rodney is the best closer in the game, or that the Mariners are going to the playoffs because he's on the roster. I'm not saying this to say that he needs to be the team's closer. I'm saying this to say that Rodney blowing the save today does not mean he is a waste of money and should be demoted. I mean for crying out loud, I've been seeing this everywhere, on twitter, other threads, facebook, what have you.
Look, I'll give you all this: If/when Rodney has blown his tenth save in June and is sporting a walk rate higher than the Rainier sign next to I-5 just south of SoDo, I'll agree it's time for LLoyd to make a move. He will too. But one blown save isn't time to burn the ship down, remembering the Brandon Leagues of yore. The Mariners are still over .500 and currently hold the fourth-best record in the American League. Lets save our anxiety for a time when it's really warranted.
As for now? There is a lot of baseball left to be played. The weather is getting warmer, and the Mariners aren't going to face David Price again for a long time. They get to play the Twins this week. Paxton might be back soon. Today was a bummer, but save that energy for being pissed off at something else. Like, I don't know, Jose Fernandez's injury, or Chone Figgins still playing Major League Baseball, or the fact that the new Batman movie is probably going to be stupid and bad. As for baseball? We'll talk in July. I'm sure we will.