Today started with a bang and ended with a slow whisper, but the result is all that matters, as the Mariners knocked off the Angels to return to .500. Maybe some home cooking was just was Chris Young needed, as he threw 6 1/3 excellent innings while a batch of singles, errors, and stolen bases gave the Mariners all the offense they needed -- all in the first two innings.
Young has been considerably better at Safeco Field's fly ball depressing ways, and that was quickly evident right as the game began, getting Howie Kendrick to fly out to deep right on a ball that would have been out in a couple of stadiums during a hot summer day. In the third, Young gave up a deep ball that Michael Saunders practically robbed by standing at the back of the track, back to the wall, reaching up at the top of the wall. Think Shawn Bradley dunking flat footed, and now imagine Saunders doing the same while robbing a home run, all while baseball's version of Shawn Bradley threw the pitch. It doesn't get any more Chris Young than that.
The Mariners did all their damage early, and most of it was small ball. James Jones is going to add 20 points to his batting average a year with nibblers to third like he hit in the first, and a spinner to Erick Aybar in the 3rd forced an error. Blazing out of the left side of the box, David Freese didn't stand a chance on a tough play. The Mariners bunted in a 0-0 game in the first inning after Jones' first single, and Tyler Skaggs promptly threw it to Howie Kendrick, standing near first base, instead of Albert Pujols. It was a weird error, like playing an old video game that didn't have the fielding mechanics quite right. After Robinson Cano got down 0-2, he blistered a liner up the middle to score James Jones, one of three hits for him. Justin Smoak hit a bouncer right over the bag at third to score Saunders, but then got thrown out by David Freese thanks to his impossibly slow speed.
It was more of the same in the second, as Jones' previously mentioned knuckler got him on base, then he stole 2nd with ease. A crushed Michael Saunders triple down the right field scored Jones, and Cano quickly knocked him home with a squeaker up the middle. 5-0 early, as everything seemed to break the Mariners way early on. The Mariners stole three bases in the inning, starting with Dustin Ackley, then Jones, then Cano. Mike Blowers talked about Skaggs having only an average move to first, and Hank Conger was slow out of the gate on all three steals. The M's forced Skaggs to throw 49 pitches in the first two innings alone.
That was about the extent of the damage for Skaggs, who settled down nicely after the first few innings, handling all future innings effortlessly.
Outside of the usual warning track power, Chris Young looked remarkably more effective today than his last few starts in Texas and Minnesota, missing bats and getting some strikeouts. While Young did his usual act, full of hard hit fly balls that are land just short of the wall, he had good command of his pitches, despite getting squeezed time after time by CB Bucknor. Young made it through 5 1/3 innings without a hit until Kole Calhoun poked a liner up the middle. Pujols was the first to touch up Young on a 2-2 pitch in the 7th, blasting a big fly into the visitor's bullpen. After an Ibanez walk, the hook was quick for Young, giving way to Charlie Furbush in the 7th, who shut the Angels down.
Farquhar, sans mustache, pitched a clean 8th, giving way to Fernando Rodney to get some work in despite the non-save situation. Rodney's roller coaster was smooth enough today, and that was that.
I don't care if Mike Trout leads the league in strikeouts. Today, Chris Young was good enough to strike the best player in baseball out. Package that up with a Mariners win, and that's enough for me. Enjoy your barbecues and tall boys of Budweiser, and thanks to all of the men and women who have put their lives at risk for this country.