Miguel's revenge! Who needs Eddie when you have a better arm behind the plate?
With yesterday's game still fresh in our minds, this one seemed to drag along, even though it fell short of lasting three hours. That said, there was still plenty of excitement, from the two first-inning homers to every pitch Gil Meche threw to Beltre's game-winning single to Olivo's gun at the end. For better or worse, this team doesn't play too many dull games, and that's going to make them fun to follow.
There were some questions regarding whether or not Meche would be available to pitch today. Not only did he get the start, but he was staked out to a quick lead after Ichiro led off the game with a homer, and Ibanez did the same thing three batters later. It may not sound like much, but those two runs were important, because this lineup has been developing the unfortunate habit of taking the first six innings off. All five Seattle runs today came in the first five innings. Nothing like a little Freddy Garcia to cure what ails you.
This was the best start of the young season for Gil Meche, but he still didn't look very sharp for much of the game. You could tell that he wanted to come out throwing strikes to find a comfort zone, so much of the first two innings consisted of fastballs low in the zone. However, he started to elevate his pitches a little more as the game progressed, and he was falling behind hitters left and right.
Fortunately for Gil, both the White Sox and the umpires were bailing him out. Chicago's aggressive lineup was swinging at a lot of bad pitches all day long, either putting weakly-hit balls in play or missing them completely. Other times, they went to the plate with the wrong approach; after Gil Meche walked the first batter he faced, Tadahito Iguchi laid down a sac bunt on the first pitch. Finally, when it seemed like Meche was on the verge of disaster in the sixth inning, with men on second and third and just one out, Carl Everett was called out on a check swing when he didn't come particularly close to going around.
Not to say that Meche was bad - it was an encouraging start, as he got into the seventh inning without throwing 100 pitches. He just wasn't as good as the line score suggests. I really don't know what to think about this high fastball strikeout pitch he's using, because sometimes he can blow it by a hitter, and other times you wonder if it's the root cause of the home run problems he had in the second half of last season. At least for today, it was working well. Another good sign is that Meche was working quickly all game long, keeping both himself and his defense focused on the batter at the plate. The one time that he lost concentration, when he kept throwing to first base to keep Iguchi near the bag in the third, Carl Everett homered off a fastball that caught too much of the plate. So, when Meche was focused, he pitched well. That's something to run with, I guess.
Today's Ricoh Scouting Report on Meche:
- 0-0, 7.88 ERA in 2005
- 4-2, 4.01 career against White Sox
- 2-1, 4.02 career in Comiskey/US Celluar
Seriously, these are some of the most worthless scouting reports I've ever seen.
It felt good to watch Freddy Garcia struggle on the mound and not be angry about it. He wasn't finding the zone with his curveball for much of the game, and as soon as there were runners on base, he slowed to a glacial pace. It's the same kind of stuff that drove all of us crazy when he was with the Mariners. He's got all the potential in the world, but he's still prone to losing focus when things don't go his way, and that'll continue to keep him from ascending to the ranks of the elite until he makes some changes. Changes which apparently haven't taken place since he was traded.
Just how slow was Garcia working when he got into trouble? The top of the fifth took something like 29 or 30 minutes. As exciting as it was to see the Mariners push three more runs across the plate, there were times when I felt like screaming "get your ass in gear!" to Freddy through my monitor. He's going to be one of those guys who carries a perfect game into the eighth or ninth inning, and as soon as someone breaks it up he'll completely fall apart. A lot like Jon Garland the other day, actually.
Ichiro's commemorative 262 bobblehead doll bears a striking resemblance to George Lopez.
Jeremy Reed's only batting .205, but you shouldn't be worried as long as he's having at bats like the one he had against Freddy in the top of the fifth. With a man on third and two down, Ichiro was intentionally walked so that Garcia could try to get out of the jam against Reed instead. A great eye let him get ahead in the count 3-0, and after Freddy came back to make it 3-2, Reed fouled off a tough pitch before laying off a biting low curve to draw a walk. Beltre followed with a two-run single, and the rest is history. When a guy has that kind of knowledge of the strike zone, the hits will come. Jeremy Reed is going to be one hell of a #2 hitter.
I will say this, though - he seems to have a problem rolling over on pitches up in the zone. He has a tendency to hit slow grounders on high pitches that most batters like to drive. The good news is that Reed does a good job keeping his bat level on low pitches, resulting in liners like the one he hit off Mike Wood last Thursday. But then, I'm not a professional scout, so don't make fun of me when Reed homers off a fastball above the letters tomorrow.
You know, we might have 50 more runs scored this season if not for outs on the basepaths. It feels like it, anyway. Not that I'm complaining about anything that happened today, because the only reason Olivo got gunned down at second was because Timo Perez made an incredible throw, but still, it's a buzzkill to hear Line drive to left field and it falls in for a hit! Here comes Winn to score! Perez is up with it and his throw is in time to get Olivo at second.
Why should I care that Coors Light is brewed in the Rocky Mountains, where you don't see chimneys outside the brewery windows? For that matter, why should anyone care? What kind of idiots do they take us for? Whose bright idea was this ad campaign in the first place?
The Opening Day bench consisted of Dan Wilson, Willie Bloomquist, Greg Dobbs, and Scott Spiezio. They're hitting a combined .150 with three walks and a double. I'm just saying.
Speaking of Dobbs, he may have a sweet swing in batting practice, but the problem of having to watch him hit is compounded by the torture of having to watch him play first base. His accomplishments today included dropping a relay throw on a potential double play and failing to track down a foul pop-up in the ninth. To make matters worse, he's growing the Scott Spiezio chin caterpillar, which is serious bad mojo. But hey, don't fret, because, according to Dave Henderson, he's got the most difficult job in baseball! Pinch-hitting must be even more of a nightmare when you have no concept of the strike zone. I'm really getting tired of all the love and excuses he gets from the announcers when Justin Leone didn't get that kind of respect last summer. No, I'm not bitter.
Hendu giggles like a little girl. He went into little fits when the camera panned to show a puppy in the bleachers (it was Dog Day at the stadium), and later when it showed some fat kid eating Dippin' Dots. You know how when other people are laughing, it makes you want to laugh as well? Yeah, well, to the guy in the room next to mine, the seventh inning must have sounded like the funniest thing I've ever seen.
Here's something I've always wondered about. Whenever a guy makes a transition to a new league (AL to NL, NL to AL), you hear a lot about how he has to adjust to the new pitchers. By the same token, don't those same new pitchers have to adjust to the new hitter? Wouldn't that serve to even things out? Why should we automatically assume that Adrian Beltre has it tough because he hasn't seen much American League pitching, when American League pitching hasn't seen much Adrian Beltre? If there's a legitimate reason that I'm missing, I'd love to hear it.
Miguel Olivo loves his arm, and he likes to show it off. I don't have any official stats to back myself up when I say this, but my first impression is that he probably leads the Majors in snap throws to try to catch a baserunner sleeping. Taking it that much further, he tried a snap throw to second base today that went between Wilson Valdez's legs and into the outfield, allowing both baserunners to advance. Yeah, Valdez needs to knock that ball down, but if you're going to throw through all the way to second base, you need to be sure that you can get it there without short-hopping the infielder. After what Olivo did to end the game, though, I'm not about to complain.
Here's something you never like to hear when your closer's pitching:
"(Batter) knows he missed one right there."
Eddie Guardado didn't look good, again, but Miguel Olivo bailed him out with a perfect strike to second base. Aaron Rowand killed a ball to lead off the ninth, and later, when men on the corners, Juan Uribe hit a fly ball deep to center that might've spelled disaster had the wind not been blowing in. Eddie was leaving pitches up and away again, and I have to wonder if he's having some problems with his release point (when you're releasing too early, balls usually wind up high and away). Don't get me wrong, I love exciting baseball, but I'm not a big fan of my team's closer providing said excitement, so either Guardado needs to get his act together, or he needs to go under the knife and come back with a real strong 2006. I can tolerate JJ Putz, because at least he throws hard.
It's back to the left coast tomorrow, as Aaron Sele goes up against one of his former employers at 10:05pm EDT. The Angels, like the White Sox, have a pretty hacktastic lineup that should work to our pitchers' benefit, but I'm more than a little concerned about Vladimir Guerrero bringing death and destruction to the Mariners during this little two-game set. It would be nice to see Richie Sexson back in the lineup and Adrian Beltre hitting well, feeding off the RBI single today that he absolutely needed to have.