And so, for a day, Ryan Franklin can shut up about not getting any run support, and Mariners fans can sleep easy with the knowledge that today's solid win won't be spoiled by a bad loss tomorrow.
The first three innings were completed in 35 minutes, which really tells you all you need to know about most of the game - it was both quick and slow at the same time, with the hitters flying by and blending together into one big heap of boredom. The Mariners got on the board in the top of the fourth when consecutive seeing-eye singles by Sexson and Boone pushed Reed around from first to home, but for the most part, there really wasn't anything particularly entertaining about the game until the eighth.
Unless, of course, you're a big fan of economical pitching. Ryan Franklin didn't throw a ball until the third inning, And it seemed like he was pitching on autopilot. Which is really how you want Ryan Franklin to be pitching, because he gets into trouble when he starts thinking about every pitch he makes. He settled into a groove today and wasn't derailed until the end of the game.
Franklin finished the day with but a single strikeout in his name, and one of his post-game quotes sounds like something you'd expect from Voros McCracken:
Over a larger sample, he's dead on - it's impossible to have continued success with a really low strikeout rate. However, at least for today, Franklin had the Royals completely off balance, and they were taking ugly hacks as a result. There was really only one defensive play that stands out in my mind as a robbed hit, and that was when Jeremy Reed dove to snare a Ruben Gotay liner in the first. Other than that, Franklin's performance was characterized by weak grounders and lazy fly balls.
Mike Sweeney did tag him in the first, drilling a low fastball into center field, and watching Reed try to run the ball down was one of the more entertaining moments in the game. Later, in the ninth, he let a bloop single drop right in front of him. Yeah, it's kind of funny, but it sucks for the pitchers to have that kind of route-runner in center, and it's just another reason why Hargrove should never play Ibanez in left unless he absolutely has to.
There was a sold-out crowd at Kauffman Stadium today, but you wouldn't have known it from listening to them. You wouldn't have thought it was the home opener by listening to the Royals' announcers, either. I mean, come on, this was a close game for seven innings. Maybe Franklin's dull pitching style helps him pitch on the road, taking the hostile crowd out of the game by lulling them to a deep sleep. By the time Beltre connected for his first homer of the season, the stadium was completely dead. Ryan Franklin, official sedative of the Seattle Mariners. Baseball is part winning and part entertainment; it's amazing and enjoyable when the two overlap, but when you only get one of the two, you feel like you're missing something.
The Beltre homer was an absolute blast, made that much sweeter by the fact that I said "c'mon, hit this one out" immediately before the pitch. That I was saying that before every pitch to Beltre during the game kind of lessens the thrill of happy coincidence, but I like to think that I had a hand in making it all happen. It was a no-doubter, flying over the 385 sign in left-center and hitting a wall up on a hill near the waterfalls. I'm glad that Beltre's first shot wasn't a cheapo, and I look forward to several more of the same.
There were a few middle-aged women in white sunhats sitting behind home plate. I think they were filming Pride & Prejudice at the game.
Something I'd never seen before: when he was jogging out onto the field for warmups before the top of the third, Mark Teahen pulled up lame and was removed from the game. It didn't turn out well for the Royals, as the replacement, Tony Graffanino, would go 0-3 at the plate and let two grounders by Sexson and Boone roll right past him the next inning.
Runelvys Hernandez looks like the love child of Joel Pineiro and the devil.
Richie Sexson had a rough at bat in the second; he watched a meatball go by, barely got a piece of the low fastball that he usually loves, then struck out looking. Whenever you have a known low fastball hitter at the plate, and you see a pitch headed for the wheelhouse, your eyes widen and your heart skips a beat. Apparently, the same thing happened to Sexson.
After watching Miguel Olivo pop out in the third and strike out in the fifth, I was ready to make the obligatory comparison to Ben Davis, but he came back with a double and a two-run single in his next two at bats. Perhaps more importantly, both hits came versus righties, against whom he's struggled in the past. That earns him a few criticism-free days. I will say one thing: if Olivo ever develops into a pretty good offensive threat, he's probably going to be underappreciated just like Mike Cameron was, because people will only remember those at bats when he looked clueless at the plate. Olivo's a guy who'll hit two home runs one day and strike out four times the next, which makes him a high-risk/high-reward kind of bat when the game's on the line. He'll get his share of big walk-off hits, just as he'll get his share of embarrassing late strikeouts.
Don't look now, but Wilson Valdez is hitting .278. .278/.316/.333, to be exact. After 18 at bats, that offensive line shows pretty much what you'd expect from him over an extended period of time - a decent but empty batting average to go with solid defense. When Pokey Reese comes off the DL, you won't be able to tell the difference between him and Valdez with the naked eye.
Can somebody get Randy Winn a new personal baserunning coach? Please?
In the top of the fifth, Ichiro hit a textbook routine double play ball to short, where it was fielded properly and a good relay was made to first. He beat the throw. If you're Kansas City, you couldn't have drawn this up any better, and it still didn't work. The man is impossible to double up unless he hits the ball directly into a fielder's glove and the baserunner is caught napping.
Every time I hear the new Aflac Trivia Question, I wonder if there's some guy sitting in a cubicle somewhere, coming up with different Aflac Trivia Questions to be used for each team's broadcast every day of the season. So today I had to wonder about the question, "Who holds the Royals' team record for hits in a season?" If there's this guy who comes up with all the questions, how did this particular question go so long without being asked? It seems pretty basic, probably one of the first questions you'd think of for a team if given the same task. Is he repeating himself? By which I mean, has this question been featured as the official Aflac Trivia Question at some point during a prior season? If so, did someone lose his job over this display of needless redundancy? Or maybe they hired a new Aflac Trivia Question guy who doesn't know what Aflac Trivia Questions the previous guy already came up with? Just how boring was the game today?
In the top of the fourth, former Royal and current injured Oriole Jason Grimsley joined the broadcast booth. It got me thinking about a better way to use Matt Thornton.
Kansas City's mascot is a lion wearing a crown. Which makes sense, given that the lion is the king of the jungle, and that the alternative would be hauling in Prince Charles or the newest Hapsburg 81 times a year. The problem is that this lion ("Sluggerrr") is regularly featured next to TV screen graphics, doing a little dance and making complicated motions that are supposedly intended to correspond with objects within the graphic. I'm going to have nightmares where I'm stuck in a room with Sluggerrr the dancing lion and the Burger King king.
Something that bugged me: well, no, two things that bugged me: first, Ryan Franklin being taken out of the game after 8.2 innings and 83 pitches. The batter before he was yanked hit a weak groundball that snuck through the infield. That's not a sign of fatigue, that's a sign of bad luck. He should've been left out there to finish the complete game.
Anyway, the second thing was JJ Putz pitching with two men on and two men gone in an 8-2 ballgame, and stepping off the mound to look a baserunner back to second. It's a six-run game and there's one out to go. Why worry about who's on base? All that does is make it harder to focus on the task at hand, ending the ballgame.
Fun With Numbers: the Mariners have scored 39 runs in seven games this year. According to the Runs Created formula, however, they're 13 runs above where they "should" be, based on their raw offensive statistics. The reason? Incredible hitting in run-scoring situations. With nobody on base, the team is hitting a woeful .222. However, they're hitting .347 with men on, and .404 with men in scoring position. This isn't an ability, it's luck. Over the course of the season, all these numbers will meet somewhere in the middle, and you won't see the kind of dead-offense-gets-runners-on-and-suddenly-everything-is-clicking performance that's characterized the first seven games of the year. For now, just be glad that the lineup has provided ample opportunity for Rizzs and Fairly to talk about how this year's team has the knack for clutch hitting that was missing last season.
Off day tomorrow, followed by Sele vs. Greinke at 2:10pm EST on Wednesday.