Taken from the Yahoo game recap:
Knowing that almost serves to explain why the team struggled so much for the first seven innings. Almost. For there really can be no excuse for letting a guy like Jon Garland retire the first 19 batters he faces in a game. To Garland's credit, he came out throwing strikes and getting ground balls, but the Mariners didn't start working the count and putting together good at bats until it was a 5-0 ballgame. That's not a real good recipe for success. That they rallied to make it interesting in the ninth is a testament to both the lineup's resilience and Chicago's iffy bullpen, but this habit the Mariners have of waiting for the later innings to start hitting is driving me nuts.
Richie Sexson getting pulled from the lineup prior to game time put Hargrove in a tough spot, because he's got a crappy bench to work with, and asking one of the subs to replace a guy like Sexson can hardly be considered fair. Indeed, it wasn't fair at all, as Spiezio continued to look like an idiot for another four at bats. It all boiled over in the ninth:
-I Suzuki singled to center.
-J Reed singled to center, I Suzuki to second.
-A Beltre struck out swinging.
-D Marte relieved L Vizcaino.
-R Ibanez hit by pitch, I Suzuki to third, J Reed to second.
-S Takatsu relieved D Marte.
-B Boone singled to left, I Suzuki and J Reed scored, R Ibanez to second.
-R Winn walked, R Ibanez to third, B Boone to second.
-D Hermanson relieved S Takatsu.
-S Spiezio struck out looking.
-G Dobbs hit for M Olivo.
-G Dobbs grounded into fielder's choice to shortstop, R Winn out at second.
With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning of a 6-4 game, Spiezio struck out looking. HE STRUCK OUT LOOKING. This wasn't some full count pitch that Spiezio thought missed the zone; it was a 2-2 count, and he had to know that Hermanson didn't want the count to go full. Faced with that situation, a batter has to protect the plate. I swear to God, they teach these fundamentals at every step of the ladder, from Little League all the way up to the Majors. Striking out looking on any count that isn't full, particularly in this kind of situation, should go right up there with "never make the first or third out of an inning at third base", one of those fundamental lessons that people never forget, no matter how hard they try.
At least when Greg Dobbs did the same thing a few days ago, he had the excuse of being an inexperienced young player. It's not a particularly good excuse, mind you, but if Spiezio isn't at least an endless fountain of lessons and wisdom, then what good is he, and why the hell is he still on the team? I'm sure I wasn't the only one clamoring for Hargrove to send Sexson to the plate for Spiezio, SARS and all. Nevermind the fact that Sexson was busy passing out on the trainer's table with a high fever at the time; he could've done just as good a job of not swinging as Spiezio did.
Scott Spiezio is the only remaining Mariner position player without a hit, having gone 0-8 with four strikeouts so far. In eight combined at bats, even Greg Dobbs and the insufferable Willie Bloomquist have three base knocks.
Of course, what choice did Hargrove really have when he learned that Sexson couldn't play? Due to some bizarre fascination with having a 12-man pitching staff, he was left having to decide between Spiezio, Dobbs, Bloomquist, and Wilson. A healthy Bucky Jacobsen will have a bigger impact on this team than you realize. His presence today may easily have been the difference between a win and a loss.
You know why I hate early-season stats? In the span of two days, Wilson Valdez has gone from hitting .286 and being a pleasant surprise to hitting .241 and being a drag on the lineup. In reality, we haven't really learned anything new about him in the past 48 hours. When one hit can make a 35-point difference in someone's batting average (7/29 = .241, 8/29 = .276), you know it's way too early to be talking about his numbers.
You've gotta hand it to Luis Vizcaino and AJ Pierzynski for knowing how to handle Adrian Beltre in the ninth. Eight pitches, and each of them thrown over the outer half of the zone, with a few sliders mixed in for good measure. Beltre managed to get a piece of a few of them, but he didn't have a chance of doing anything with the ball as long as Vizcaino was hitting his spots. I'm no scout, but can we get Baylor working with Beltre on controlling the entire strike zone? Anyone who pitches to the outer black could eat him alive (see: .188/.212/.219 career line against Tom Glavine).
Speaking of Beltre, he was looking a little sore today. He practically jogged to first base on his single in the seventh, and you could see him struggle as he rounded the bases to score later in the inning. Forget the pitching staff; this is the injury to watch right now. There's no reason to worry about Beltre's back being in worse condition than the team says it is, but these kinds of things are easy to tweak, so I'd appreciate it if he didn't go 100% intensity for a few days until it's all healed up.
The good news is that a sore back didn't take a toll on Beltre's defense. He made a spectacular stop to start a double play in the bottom of the fifth, backhanding a short-hop off the bat of Paul Konerko. In the eighth, he almost started another double play, but Boone juggled the ball before he could get off a relay and, in so doing, allowed a run to score.
Jeff Nelson has three appearances this year, and each of them have been at least a full inning in length. And Ron Villone is a situational reliever? What's going on?
Ron Fairly: "When you're a pitcher, and you're up 0-2 in the count, you don't like to make it 3-2."
Joel Pineiro was nothing particularly special today, but there reasons to be encouraged by his performance. He was having good success spotting his pitches and getting outs on balls low in the zone in the first inning, and there was a lot of break on his overhand 12-6 curveball. There were pitches that got away from him, like the one that Uribe tomahawked into the left field seats, but the Jermaine Dye homer wasn't his fault, as that was just a good piece of hitting. Joel probably should've been pulled after the Rowand triple after Dye went deep, but Hargrove didn't leave him out there too much longer and yanked him before the 100-pitch threshold, so I'm not too disappointed.
That second inning, though...boy, that was ugly. After starting Dye off 0-2, Pineiro proceeded to throw eight straight balls. AJ Pierzynski then got the bright idea of attempting a sacrifice bunt against a wild pitcher, and he bunted two more bad pitches foul before he abandoned the strategy and wound up striking out looking on a fastball down the middle. Joel then walked Joe Crede on four pitches before Juan Uribe lifted the first pitch into left field for a sac fly. It's hard to say this about an inning in which they drew three walks, but overaggressiveness on the part of the White Sox helped Pineiro escape that inning without further damage. He could've been out of this one early. Thankfully, he was pitching against one of the least-disciplined lineups in baseball.
Jeff's Official Matt Thornton Hypotheses:
(1) He sucks all the time.
(2) He sucks in close games.
(3) He sucks spontaneously.
(4) He doesn't suck.
Based on his first two appearances of the season, we're inclined to eliminate option #4 from the group. To further refine our collection of potential explanations, Thornton put on a terrific display today (4 batters! 3 strikeouts! 0 baserunners!) which serves to reduce the likelihood of #1. Stay tuned for more Thornton appearances, and watch the scientific method in action.
Seriously, the more Matt Thornton looks like Arthur Rhodes, the less I'll complain about him. He bought himself a criticism-free weekend by virtue of looking amazing today, although that doesn't mean that I won't still get sick to my stomach if I hear that he's warming up in the bullpen.
Joel Pineiro looks like what would happen if Prince went to George Michael for a haircut.
It's been one game, and I'm already sick of hearing about how the White Sox traded in power for speed over the winter in an effort to become a better team. Note to Kenny Williams: your offense scored the third-most runs in the league last year. The problem was with that 4.91 team ERA, not a shortage of bunting and putting the runners in motion.
In the bottom of the sixth, there was a strange, intermittent buzzing sound coming through the MLB.tv feed. At first, I thought that a bug might've settled on one of the microphones in the broadcast studio. However, the buzzes came at constant time intervals, so I decided that it probably wasn't a fly. My next thought was that Dave Valle was just trying to be annoying, but he wouldn't need to make buzzing noises to do that.
Another game with a two-strike RBI hit, another moment of wondering why Boone doesn't use his special two-strike stance all the time. Hello? Has anyone suggested this to him?
Ryan Franklin goes up against Mark Buehrle tomorrow at 2:05pm EDT. Franklin takes on the team who smacked him around for four homers in 10.2 innings last season, but they "upgraded" from power to speed this year, so look for him to have better luck this time around. As for Buehrle, this is an instance when it will pay for the Mariners to be aggressive, as he doesn't walk too many hitters. If the lineup manages to put a bunch of runs on the board tomorrow, it'll be because they jumped on Buehrle before he could get ahead in the count.