I guess we were due for one of these - a complete dud of a game that just didn't feel quite right from the start. Ichiro went quietly to lead things off, Byrd made Beltre look stupid on three consecutive pitches, and the first two "Anaheim" batters reached thanks to Sele mistakes. It was a rough game to watch, but take solace in the fact that it's the first time we've had one of these in two weeks.
Every pitcher is made up of two simple components: good and bad. As he develops, the good overwhelms the bad and makes the most frequent appearances. However, as a pitcher ages or otherwise begins to decline, the bad makes a comeback, emerging from the woodwork to eventually take center stage (at which point the pitcher retires). This is what's been happening to Aaron Sele. Bad Sele began showing up more and more often over the past few years, culminating with an incredibly lousy final two seasons with the Angels. The Mariners tossed him a bone, hoping that he would rediscover Good Sele, and that's what we saw last week in Kansas City. Monday night in Anaheim, though...that was Bad Sele all the way.
There aren't very many good things to say about Sele's performance last night; his velocity was down, he was missing with his curve, and when a pitch caught too much of the plate, the aggressive Angels hitters went after it and drove it somewhere. I will say that the Darin Erstad home run was more good hitting than bad pitching, but that shouldn't serve to completely absolve Sele of blame. Last night is what many of us were afraid of when we heard that Sele was headed for the rotation; now our fears have been realized.
But hey, relief pitching! Moderately effective relief pitching! Matt Thornton came on to pitch the sixth and seventh innings, and it was pretty easy to see why he has both ambitious supporters and vehement detractors. Thornton has the innate ability to look terrific against one batter and copmletely lost against the next. Unlike with Sele, when you know which version you're getting by watching how he pitches in the first inning, Good Thornton and Bad Thornton come and go between batters, which can make him both tantalizing and hazardous in high-leverage situations. You'd think that comparisons to Arthur Rhodes were apropos by watching Thornton strike out Garret Anderson in the sixth, but he was channeling Erik Plantenberg when he walked the next batter (Finley). With that said, he looks a lot better than he did a year ago, when he didn't really have much of anything, so I'm hopeful that these perceived improvements stick around and give us a power lefty in the bullpen. I'm going to need to see a lot more of it to be convinced, though.
In a 6-0 ballgame, why take Thornton out after two innings, anyway? The guy's been starting games since 2000, so I don't think 36 pitches exceeded his endurance threshold. Better to leave him in there and see if he can get the job done for a third (and fourth?) inning than throw Hasegawa into the mix.
Something that really bugged me: at 10:06pm (my time), Paul Byrd was ready to pitch and Ichiro was ready to hit. They weren't allowed to begin the game for another minute, though, to go along with the scheduled start time. Maybe it's only a problem for me, since I was dreading having to stay up until one in the morning to watch all nine innings, but God forbid a baseball game actually begin ahead of schedule...
"Anaheim" fans booed Ichiro when he was announced. Note: you're not Oakland. Shut up.
"Anaheim" fans booed Adrian Beltre later in the inning. Note: you're not Los Angeles. Shut up.
"Anaheim" fans cheered for Scott Spiezio when he pinch-hit in the eighth. They can have him.
Last night was a mixed bag for Beltre at the plate - in the first inning, Paul Byrd struck him out on three chances and it didn't look like Beltre had much of a chance on any of them, but he went on to hit a fly out to the track in center and a double off the wall the other way. Hopefully the little skid he had been in was a function of his sore back, because it was nice to see him show that kind of power. In more favorable hitting conditions, he might've had two home runs. That's the kind of pop we'll need from the middle of the lineup while Richie Sexson recovers from losing nine pounds over the weekend due to illness.
To be fair to the lineup, Paul Byrd was getting ahead of everybody - he never once had a three-ball count on a hitter, and at one point went 0-2 in five straight at bats. The Mariners made some adjustments and started picking up a few more hits before getting too deep in the hole, but Byrd pitched himself a strong game (75% strikes). It should be noted that last night was one of the rare instances so far this season where the Mariners didn't suddenly start hitting with men on base. Law of Averages at work, I guess.
Scott Boras was in attendance, sitting in a box behind home plate. No word on whether or not Pat Gillick had snipers set up around the stadium.
It was funny watching how Jeremy Reed could look so good and then so bad on two Garret Anderson fly balls. In the bottom of the first, Anderson hit a long line drive to the wall in straightaway center, but Reed was tracking it the whole time and made a good catch. Two innings later, Reed almost tripped over himself going after a lazy fly to left-center. Everything about that guy is exciting to watch.
Sometime in the not-too-distant future, Reed is going to get that "gritty guy who plays the game the right way" label. Look no further than his at bat in the ninth inning for an example. With a man on third and two down in a 6-1 game, Reed took Brendan Donnelly to eight pitches, fouling off four tough ones before hitting a liner right at Vlad Guerrero for the final out. I was simultaneousuly cheering his effort and cursing his dragging the game along when I wanted to get some sleep.
On the Guerrero home run in the third:
Fairly: "I think Aaron may have hung this pitch."
Thanks, Ron. In 13 games so far this season, there has been no better example of The Pitch than the hanging gift curve that Sele gave to Vlad. I knew it, Aaron knew it, and before long, everyone in the stadium knew it. I hate The Pitch.
You know that Mariners commercial with "all the Grover classics"? I'm pretty sure they all came up in the span of two batters in that third inning:
Aaron Sele walks Darin Erstad on four pitches.
Hargrove: "Just throw strikes, son."
Aaron Sele faces Vlad Guerrero.
Hargrove: "Let's get this guy."
Aaron Sele gives up a homer to Guerrero.
Hargrove: "Stay focused."
Randy Winn gunned down Chone Figgins trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth inning. Hee.
Something else that rubs me the wrong way: you know those little ads during commercial breaks featuring individual Mariners players going through certain motions, and the voiceover says "You are watching FSN Northwest"? During the Guardado bit, it shows him throwing a pitch, then craning his neck as if to follow a long fly ball. Prescience, or eerie coincidence?
Dave finally stopped calling the Aflac Trivia Question duck "Clyde". I never quite got that.
The Angels badly screwed up two hit-and-runs, and only a bad throw to second base kept them from running themselves into two outs. Twice, Sele threw a pitch way outside when Scioscia put the runners in motion, forcing the batter to take an awful swing in a futile attempt to put the ball in play. Olivo gunned down McPherson once, but the other time he delivered a bad throw to Valdez, letting Cabrera get back to first. I wonder if it's ever wise to call for a hit-and-run against a flyball pitcher who's been missing the zone all game long.
Good news: the Angels brought the infield in during an Ichiro at bat in the third inning, and he lined out to McPherson at third base, who threw to first to get Valdez for a double play (he didn't have a chance to get back). Why is this good, you ask? Managers have been screwing around with their defensive alignments since Ichiro came into the league, and in the past few years they've had a tendency to move the fielders in so that they can cut down on Ichiro's infield singles. The result is fewer infield hits, but a lot more grounders and liners that reach the outfield because the infielders can't take good angles on balls hit through the gaps. So, as long as managers keep playing shallow infields, Ichiro's at even more of an advantage than usual.
Mariners' broadcast crew in the booth, prior to game time:
Dave: "Hey, Rick, what's up?"
Valle: "I'm not Rick."
Rick: "Holy smokes!"
Hendu: "Have you tried this juice? I really like this juice. Heehee!"
Ron: "Juice is wet."
Tom Paciorek: "Wow!"
Today's afternoon game is "radio only" for the Mariners, meaning that MLB.tv users will be subjected to Rex Hudler's weed-inspired inanity. As much as I hate Hawk Harrelson and Darrin Jackson, I think Hudler occupies a universe all his own. (And that can mean one of two things.)