I'm fighting a headache, so this will be shorter than usual. Snarky comments about how either (A) publishing this post at 2:30am or (B) the Mariners are responsible won't really help anything, so keep them to yourself.
Ordinarily, when your team scores three runs before making its first out, the game itself is pretty entertaining. Not so tonight. In what is beginning to look like a trend, your 2005 Seattle Mariners turned a potential barn-burner into a real snoozer, at least until the sixth inning thunder. Starting at the end of the first, Brian Lawrence retired 13 of 14 hitters before getting beaten twice by the $114 Million Men. That would cap the Mariner offense at five runs (I set the pregame over/under at 4.5, so you optimists can give yourselves a pat on the back), which recently hasn't been enough to pull out a win. However, strong efforts by Gil Meche and the bullpen were enough to pull the team out of the cellar. (Sort of. Shut up.)
Time for the image:
Pretty much the polar opposite of Friday's game, as Seattle's chances hit a low point in the first inning. They took off from there, never settling under 60% after Ichiro's leadoff double. While things were still somewhat up in the air during the middle innings, thanks to a suddenly anemic offense and an inconsistent Gil Meche, the Mariners remained in relative control, and sealed the deal with the back-to-back shots in the sixth.
Points of note: every pitcher made a positive contribution to the winning effort, and the same was true of the top of the lineup. However, nobody below Richie Sexson was any help, which I suppose is to be expected from a group of guys who went 2-16 at the plate. While you'd think that a double, a homer, and three RBI would be enough to earn Sexson the #1 spot in Win Probability Added, it was Ichiro who took the honors, thanks to his homer-saving catch and Sexson's seventh inning error.
With the headache becoming more fierce by the second, it's time for the Lightning Round:
- People aren't supposed to hit a ball as hard as Adrian Beltre did for his home run. It flew an estimated 443 feet before bouncing off the face of the left field upper deck (flashes of Justin Leone, circa summer 2004). Beltre should really be thrilled with this series so far - despite just having the two hits, he's hit the snot out of five balls, with three of them just being right at a guy in the field. You'd like to say that a little National League pitching might've been all he needed to get going, but he's been hitting the ball better since going to Fenway two weeks ago. Since May 6th (first game against Boston): .275/.302/.510. It's not great, but it's an improvement. If nothing else, tonight's home run shows that even if Beltre's 2004 success was a one-time deal, he's still got the same power.
- As for Sexson...well, I guess you sort of expect him to do that every so often. Nevermind the opposite-field double in the first (who says that he's a pull hitter?); he hit a ball over the patio behind center field. Devin can only remember that happening once before, by Edgar Martinez. It's rare enough for a Mariner to hit a no-doubter, but two of them? In a row? On consecutive pitches? That just doesn't happen. Of note: Sexson's performance is starting to resemble last year's stunded season in Arizona. But, man, you gotta love that power.
- Ron Villone escaped. There's just no way to beat around the bush. With two on and two out in the seventh inning of a 5-3 game, Villone threw a 2-2 fastball to Brian Giles that was called strike three. Giles would complain, which was perfectly justifiable, because the pitch looked a good half-foot off the plate outside. But hey, you have to get a little lucky to win ballgames, so there's certainly no reason to complain.
- Sexson is one of those guys who can look amazing while diving to grab a line drive at one moment, then screw up a slow roller hit right to him the next. We saw that tonight, as he dove to knock down a potential run-scoring hit by Phil Nevin in the first, then let a Mark Sweeney grounder bounce off his glove in the seventh. It's an irritating little problem of his, but consider what you're asking of the guy when you expect him to make that play. At 6'8, how could his knees possibly be in good shape? You think he likes to bend over in order to retrieve little grounders? Richie really is too tall to make certain plays, as it's just a hell of a problem to coordinate and contort so many enormous bones and muscles to field a routine grounder. Better that he just goes full extension after whatever he can reach, because his wingspan makes up for the dribblers that he boots from time to time.
- I'd say something about Ichiro's home run-saving catch, but those kinds of things just don't surprise me anymore. He makes the field bigger. Make no mistake - Meche allowed a homer for his seventh straight start. Ichiro just brought it back before it went up on the scoreboard.
- We should trade Jeff Nelson right now, because he's never going to look better than he did in the eighth inning tonight. I wonder how it feels to know that your season just peaked.
- Gil Meche did well to limit the damage tonight, allowing "two" runs in six innings of work, but he didn't look right until the fifth, at which point he acknowledges that he found his curveball. He was short-arming everything, staying up and away from most of the hitters while undershooting his typical velocity and getting into deep counts too often. After throwing 73 pitches in the first three innings, it seemed like there was no way that he'd even make it through the fifth. As it turned out, he lasted long enough to pick up a quality start, although the cost was Meche's highest pitch count of the season (117). Although an offday on Monday should help Gil's arm recover, keep a close eye on how he does against Tampa Bay next week.