Boring games have their advantages. They keep your blood pressure down. Your neighbors won't have to deal with your screaming. If you win, it means that your team rather comfortably disposed of its opponent without incident. They also mean that your team probably isn't being no-hit, which would totally suck.
However, about half of the time, you lose those boring games, and there's nothing worse than observing your team's gradual demise (except, I suppose, observing a sudden demise). Your team falls behind early, but instead of crawling back into the game, they roll over and play dead until the last out is recorded. To make things worse, they trap you into continuing to watch - several times, you ask yourself why you're still following the game, but you're so starved for something exciting to happen that you can't tear yourself away from the screen, because nobody likes to acknowledge the fact that they completely wasted three hours of their day on eventless television.
Occasionally, you subconsciously attempt to justify your masochistic dedication by tricking yourself into getting excited. "Look at that," you say, "two baserunners in the ninth! It's only six runs, after all..."
More often, though, you just become increasingly bitter, as you begin to feel like the team isn't really holding up its end of the bargain. You station yourself in front of a TV or a computer for three hours to watch a baseball game, and in return you expect to be entertained. When that doesn't happen, you start to get more and more pissed off at everything, no matter how harmless it may be. It's like you try to create excitement where none exists. Psychologists might call it "displacement".
Thise phenomenon is made all the worse when you're watching your favorite team lose a boring game to the hated Yankees on MLB.tv's YES Network feed. Everything gets on your nerves. Michael Kay could mention in passing that Hideki Matsui is playing shallow in center while Jeremy Reed's at the plate, and you'll invariably get defensive and assume that he's being derisory. Unless something interesting happens in the game, then there's really nothing you can do about it. I found myself in that situation tonight; when A-Rod came to the plate in the seventh, the feed cut to a replay of his earlier home run, and I couldn't stop shouting things like "It's just one home run! Big friggin' deal!!" and "My God, can't you guys go ONE DAY without over-glorifying everything Yankee?!" I knew it was stupid at the time, but words were just pouring out of my mouth, as the active part of my brain tried to figure out why I was still paying attention to a 6-0 ballgame.
As it turned out, the most interesting thing a Mariner did all day was probably Ichiro's shoe-string catch in the fifth, but even that was just standard Ichiro - hardly worth hooting and hollering over, particularly given the deficit. That's how bad things were.
Here, look at the chart:
The high point of our day was Mateo retiring Sheffield to end the top of the first. After that, it was all downhill, and we saw the last of even a 30% chance of winning by the third. You'll never win a game getting shut out, and the Mariners seemed determined to get as thoroughly shut out as possible.
To Julio Mateo's credit, he wasn't bad in his first Major League start. It did look like he lost something around the 50-55 pitch mark, but he managed to get through five innings on 72 pitches, which is probably all Hargrove was looking for. He came in with the obvious game plan of conserving pitches by pounding the strike zone (75% strikes) and letting the guys behind him do the work. A guy who's averaged 3.58 pitches per plate appearance for his career, Mateo was at 3.0 sharp today, as New York came out swinging. Unfortunately, pitchers who allow a lot of balls in play will also allow a lot of hits, and Mateo (predictably) struggled with that very problem. Some of the hits just found the holes, while another was a simple bloop into center which Reed misread...these weren't particularly well-hit balls, but Mateo had nevertheless put his team behind by three entering the fifth. Then came the sudden recurrence of his past home run problem, and everything went ka-blammo. All in all, I don't think Mateo did too bad of a job, but given that four effective innings is probably his absolute max, he doesn't belong in the rotation. Kudos to the club for trying something different, but it was always more of a temporary solution than anything else.
On a related note, as Goose mentioned in the gameday comments thread, the Mariners called up a starter from Tacoma a day before Mateo took the hill, just in case he needed long relief. Wouldn't it make more sense to let Campillo get the start and allow Mateo to continue pitching long relief, where he's been effective? Why change two pitchers' roles when you don't have to change any? Of course, it didn't really matter, since Campillo (surprisingly) didn't make his debut.
You know, I want to sit here and say that Matt Thornton did a good job to strike out five Yankees in three innings, but...another home run? To a lefty? Who hasn't hit at all? Four of the six longballs that Thornton's allowed this year have been hit by left-handed bats, something he'll have to fix if he ever wants to become a dependable reliever. It would be better if he weren't serving up homers to 7% of the batters he faced in the first place (league average: 3%), but baby steps, I guess...
Take a look at the Win Probability Added numbers in the chart above. We were a Raul Ibanez single away from having no one make a positive contribution to the team. Ron Villone came in second at .000, thanks to a 1-2-3 garbage inning. This was a team loss, very much unlike the Putz losses that we'd seen in two of the previous three games.
While talk of Miguel Olivo's resurgence may have been premature, don't be thrown off by his 0-3 line today - he smoked two balls pretty well, just straight at Alex Rodriguez. I think he's one of the rare cases of a guy whose batting stance really does make a dramatic difference in his success at the plate.
Is anyone else as bothered by the "Looking back, looking forward" Yes Network slogan for Yankees baseball as I am? I can't put my finger on why, exactly, it irks me so, but there's something wrong with it.
You want some stats? The following is a list of the 2005 LD% for most of our hitters - the frequency with which they've hit line drives:
The league average LD% is somewhere around .177. Adrian Beltre's is actually up from last year's .184. Wilson Valdez is hitting as many liners as Randy Winn. Richie Sexson is damn near last on the team, even though he's among the league leaders in home runs. Definitely some interesting stuff.
Jamie Moyer looks to help the Mariners avoid a sweep tomorrow night at 7:05pm PDT. Thursday's an off day, but it would be nice to build a little momentum going into a weekend series against our natural rivals.