I overreact to sports. Sometimes I get way too into the game (ask Devin), and - given the teams I choose to follow closest - it rarely pays off in the end. There's so much disappointment involved with the cycle that I probably should've learned my lesson several years ago, but I just keep coming back and getting bit in the ass.
This was another one of those ass-biting days. Remember the Emotion Chart from last game? Flip it over and it fits pretty well with this one. My spirits were lifted to extraordinary heights before they were dashed, three sudden blows (Pow! Error. Pow! Homer. Pow! Homer.) taking their toll on my emotional well-being. This one hurts. In the end, the 80-odd losses the Mariners accumulate will all blend together, but for the time being...ouch.
(I'm going to try and tackle this one chronologically as best I can.) At the start of the game, Niehaus and Fairly were talking about the Boeing Kids Weekend promotions at the stadium. They're handing out player t-shirts for all three games of the series: Beltre on Friday, Sexson on Saturday, and Wilson on Sunday. Pity the poor children with tickets for tomorrow.
Top of the 1st, Jamie Moyer vs. Hank Blalock, 2-1 count
Pitch low and on the outer black: Ball 3!
Pitch low and on the outer black: Strike 2!
Pitch low and on the outer black: Walk!
Someone hypothesized that Jamie might throw more pitches in the first inning so that he can feel out the umpire and get a sense of his zone. Given that he threw three consecutive pitches in exactly the same spot and got different calls, I don't think it worked.
Moyer really didn't have his best location today. The stuff was there, as he struck out five hitters and induced a bunch of blind flailings with his changeup, but he was missing spots left and right. The good news is that he was missing low, keeping the ball out of the wheelhouse for the most part. The next home run he allows will be his first of the season, which can only be considered a good sign. Myself, I'd be content with Moyer issuing more walks and fewer homers, rather than the other way around.
When I say he was missing his spots, I really mean it. Jamie walked Mike Young twice - the same Mike Young who's drawn 145 unintentional walks in 2533 plate appearances. The odds of him walking two times in the same game are...they're...well, pretty slim. I don't know if that's better or worse than walking Rod Barajas on four pitches, but it's close either way.
At one point early in the game, Ron Fairly launched himself into a discussion about how Moyer throws too soft to get hammered. The theory behind this is that most pitchers throw in the 88-92 range, and that this is what batters are prepared to hit; guys who throw below or above this range give hitters fits, because it screws with their timing. If you listened to him long enough, you almost started to buy into it, until you remembered that Jamie Moyer allowed the fifth-most home runs of all time last season. That's not just getting hit hard, that's getting historically destroyed. Had the timing been better, last year's Moyer would've had a part at the end of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
The list of pitchers against whom Sandy Alomar "Jr." can get by with his bat speed is down to Moyer and Tim Wakefield. Looking at the box score and seeing a 3-4, 3 RBI line next to Alomar's name will haunt me for the rest of my years.
A Richard Hidalgo groundball in the fourth was headed straight for Wilson Valdez when Adrian Beltre, apparently harking back to the eighth inning last night, swooped in to cut him off and make the play. There's nothing I like better than an infield that doesn't trust one another. But then, who can blame them? Bret Boone dropped a relay throw that same inning, for chrissakes. An unfortunate sign of things to come later.
Adrian Beltre ripped three hits today, and two - two! - of them came on those nasty low-and-away pitches he struggles with so much. He's hit some balls real hard up the middle and to right field so far in the early year, alleviating some of the concern that his power numbers as a right-handed hitter would suffer in Safeco. Of course, he hasn't hit a homer yet, but he also hasn't started pulling the ball, so I'm not worried quite yet.
A dialogue from the fourth inning:
Dave Henderson: "Lots of experts in the preseason said that the Mariners had to play perfect baseball to win. Of course, that's not true."
Dave Henderson: "..."
Dave Henderson: "..."
Dave Henderson: "..."
Me: "SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT!!"
A lot of pitchers shake off a sign by moving their heads. Pedro Astacio shakes off a sign by violently wiggling his right arm. The first time I noticed it, I thought he was having a focal seizure. You have to wonder if he uses that kind of body language at home. If he accidentally hits has hand with a hammer, does he shake his head?
At one point, Ryan Bukvich was warming up in the Ranger bullpen. I was hoping that one of the announcers would notice and, without thinking, comically mispronounce his name, but no such luck.
I have to say, it's been five games and Richie Sexson's batting eye hasn't impressed me much. He has all kinds of power when he gets a ball low in the zone, but he's swung at a lot of balls up and in, and other way off the plate outside. That's not the same discipline he had in 2003 when he walked 98 times. Hopefully he's just pressing to try and make something happen, and this isn't some kind of permanent adjustment.
Rick Rizzs: "Justin Leone is on the bench today, just called up from Tacoma."
Dave Henderson: "Don't forget about Dobbs!"
Well, I can't really capture the way he said it in plain text - it was hasty and excited, like when you walk out of the restroom after dinner at a restaurant and notice that the group of friends you came with are already near the door, and you shout at them to wait up while running in their direction and stumbling over other peoples' feet. If I were in the booth with Hendu, I probably would've replied with something like "Yeah, and what if I do forget about Dobbs?" And then we'd start bickering, and the rest of the broadcast would be brimming with sarcasm and awkward silences.
Bottom of the 7th, Scott Spiezio at the plate:
Announcer: "Here's the pitch, and - ooh, low and in."
Me: "It hit his foot."
Announcer: "Did that hit his foot? Spiezio says so."
Me: "It hit his foot!"
Announcer: "The umpire's going to check it for shoe polish."
Me: "It hit is foot!"
Announcer: "...of course, cleats these days aren't shined with shoe polish..."
Me: "IT HIT HIS FOOT!!"
Announcer: "Aaaaand Spiezio strikes out on a changeup. End of the seventh, the Mariners get one but strand two..."
The bottom of the eighth was all kinds of strange, starting with Wilson Valdez leading off against Brian Shouse. Was Valdez really the best bat for that situation? Didn't they just call up Justin Leone, that righty who has the convenient habit of destroying southpaws? Doesn't he play a little shortstop, too, making the situation all the more ideal? By this point in my thought process, Valdez had already reached first base after hitting a line drive single.
Next up was Ichiro, who sent a single into right. It was all well and good until Valdez stopped on the way to third base. He stopped. You could have taken a picture of him standing absolutely still in between second and third base. Luckily, he made it back to second in time, before Hidalgo was able to gun him down.
The following at bat was interesting; not because Reed bunted, which everyone knew was coming, but because the play made it abundantly clear that Alfonso Soriano has never played first base in his life. With Reed barrelling down the basepath towards first, Soriano stood directly on top of the base, awaiting Shouse's throw. Soriano didn't move, and so he got knocked down when Reed finally reached. It looked bad at full speed, but it really wasn't much of a hit judging by the slow-mo replay.
With the score 4-3 Mariners and with men on the corners, Richie Sexson hit a tapper back to the pitcher. Jeremy Reed took off on contact and immediately got into a pickle, but he managed to stay alive long enough for the baserunners to advance to second and third before he got tagged out. It was a heads-up play that the broadcast booth couldn't shut up about, and before long Dave Henderson had awarded Reed the prestigious Darin Erstad Award for Achievements That Don't Show Up in the Box Scores. In response, I went on to give Adrian Beltre the Adam Dunn Award for Achievemants That Do Show Up in the Box Scores, like getting hits and driving in runs. Seriously, "he does things that don't show up in the box scores" is just a fancy way of saying "he sucks." Oh, and Reed got the obligatory "plays the game right" label before the end of the inning.
Me, I'm still trying to figure out why Doug Brocail was pitching the 8th. With men on second and third and no outs in a tie game, shouldn't you bring in the best relief pitcher at your disposal to try and get out of the jam? Doug Brocail sucked yesterday, and he was damn sure going to suck again. Cordero, meanwhile, can get you the big strikeout and get out of the jam without allowing too many runs. For the 2004 Manager of the Year, I'm not real impressed by Showalter's tactical skills.
Speaking of whom, it's "Corr-dair-oh", not "Corr-dorr-uh". That's for you, Hendu. Take notes.
To the top of the ninth, as Eddie Guardado enters to Hell's Bells. Unfortunately, Eddie's no Trevor Hoffman. In fact, the more I see him, the more he begins to look like Mike Fetters. Anyway, he had an easy time with Sandy Alomar "Jr." to lead off the inning, and induced a routine grounder to Bret Boone for the second ou-NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Boone candyassed another easy play, letting Alfonso Soriano's grounder sneak into the outfield. It was horrible timing, as you never want to put more men on base than is absolutely necessary when due to face the core of Texas' lineup, and sure enough, they made the M's pay. In the span of four batters, a three-run lead turned into a one-run deficit. As much as I'm annoyed at Boone for starting the rally, it was Eddie who surrendered both of the home runs, and that's just a piss-poor job of closing a ballgame. He had a problem with homers last year, too, and it's really unsettling when you're trying to protect a slim lead and the team puts that kind of arm on the mound. With a guy like Hoffman or Mariano Rivera, you can be pretty certain that the other team will need at least two baserunners to erase a one-run lead; with Guardado, it's always just one pitch away. That's nerve-wracking, and I'm just a guy. Imagine what it's like for Hargrove.
So they went to the bottom of the ninth, which was a pretty horrible half-inning in its own right. Pinch-hitting Spiezio for Olivo in the seventh forced Hargrove into sending Dan Wilson to the plate to lead off against Cordero; you could make the argument that he should've sent up Leone and used Wee Willie as the emergency catcher should the game go on, but that was never going to happen. Everyone knew that Wilson didn't stand a chance, and he went on to have one of the more pathetic at bats I've ever seen.
Wilson was promptly followed by Greg Dobbs, who has a sweet swing! A sweet swing that is, evidently, only for limited use, as he STRUCK OUT LOOKING. I'm sorry, but unless you've got a full count, there is absolutely no excuse for not protecting the plate against borderline pitches in that situation. Strike (foul), Strike (swinging), Strike (looking). He didn't have a clue.
The inning was prolongued, for some reason, before Beltre finally put us out of our misery by going after a first-pitch ball and lofting it lazily to center field. And with that, the recovery process would begin.
Ryan Drese and Gil Meche go tomorrow at 4:05pm EST.