A victory so unexpected that it even took ESPN by surprise:
Good teams struggle against other good teams and beat up on the softies. Bad teams struggle against the softies and get the snot beat out of them by the good teams. Guess which one suits the Mariners. After an awful May almost entirely spent facing quality competition, the M's strolled into Tampa Bay and fought their hardest to pull out a series win, putting them at a respectable 7-8 over their last 15 games. While it would've been both pleasant and reassuring to escape with a pair of easy victories, winning in dramatic comeback fashion is always good for the spirits, and besides, we're really not in position to be picky.
I'm pressed for time, so I can't write out all my thoughts about the game, but I know what you guys came here for:
Take a look at that one. For a better idea of what you're looking at, consider the following Win Expectancy numbers from specific events during the game:
.804: Ibanez single, top 4
.021: Gonzalez advances on fly out, bottom 6
.842: Dobbs walks, top 8
.358: Crawford HBP, bottom 8
.848: Reed double, top 9
Probably the most up-and-down contest we'll play all year. By the top of the eighth, everyone had forgotten just how bad Joel was earlier in the game, but the memory of the go-ahead rally soon disappeared when the Devil Rays scored and loaded the bases just minutes later. When Villone escaped the jam and Reed doubled home a run, though, nothing else mattered. As the old-timers say, every win counts the same in the standings, so there's no sense in complaining that this one wasn't comfortable enough.
Biggest Contributor: Jeremy Reed, +69.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Joel Pineiro, -53.7%
Most Important Hit: Reed RBI Double, +32.4%
Most Important Pitch: Hollins RBI Double, -15.5%
Total Contribution by the Pitchers: -63.7%
Total Contribution by the Hitters: +105.9%
This game was won by offense. Or, perhaps more accurately, by Jeremy Reed, who had what I believe was the biggest "clutch" day for any Mariner on the year. He's sitting on a park-adjusted line around .279/.367/.406 as a rookie who's faced better pitching than the league average so far. Reed's up against some tough competition for the AL Rookie of the Year award when you consider some of the arms (Chacin, Street, Wang, etc), but he looks like the best position player of the bunch, showing a terrific eye with developing power and surprising defense. There are few players on this team worth watching right now - Reed is one of them. It won't be long until he's the fan favorite that so many people thought Chris Snelling would (and still could) become.
In his last two starts, we've seen Wild-Ass Joel with good velocity in Baltimore and Control Joel with reduced velocity in Tampa. While I haven't done a video analysis of today's start, since I couldn't watch much of it, what little I did see made it seem as if Joel had a more fluid delivery, which is an improvement over his marionette mechanics of a week ago. Of course, he still got bombed by a bad lineup, allowing seven runs in 4.2 innings to leave his ERA at an intriguing 6.66. In talking about Jerome Williams, John Sickels had this to say:
Oftentimes, when a pitcher's ratios deteriorate this sharply, there is some sort of underlying health issue. If I were a betting man, I'd lay good odds right now that Williams is either hiding an injury, or is about to suffer an injury.
Don't be surprised if Pineiro's got a similar deal going on. There's a significant problem here that's bigger than an inconsistent release point, and the Mariners owe it to both their fans and their chances of competing in 2006 to find out what it is and get it fixed before it's too late. If Joel needs to go under the knife, fine - we were prepared for that kind of news when he hurt his arm last summer. Just cut him open soon, before you put too much of his 2006 season in jeopardy.
Adrian Beltre's running out of excuses. It's been two months, and both Sexson and Reed have adjusted pretty well to their new surroundings, so that doesn't work. He's as healthy as he was during his monster season a year ago, substituting a sore hamstring for bone chips in his ankle, so that one's out. Safeco's really not much worse on hitters than Chavez Ravine, so there's nothing there. All we really have left is the desperate suggestion that moving him around in the lineup could get his bat going, but I don't think that really ever works. Not that it's not worth trying, mind you, if only because his low OBP is hurting the offense from the #3 spot, but any improvement he'd show from another lineup spot would almost certainly be coincidental. God, it pains me to write this.
When Bret Boone's Bat Flip Is And Isn't Appropriate:
Yes: Mammoth home run
No: Fly out to the track
Yes: Game-winning, walk-off double
No: Foul flyball that reaches the seats about 40 feet short and to the right of the foul pole
Yes: Saves abandoned child from oncoming traffic in busy neighborhood street
No: Opens tightly-fastened jar of household pickles
Jeff Nelson has faced 71 batters this year and walked or beaned 11 of them, for a 15% frequency. Ron Villone's at 82, 14, and 17%. Matt Thornton, 95, 13, 14%. That's bad, and it's really going to come back and bite Mike Hargrove in the ass one of these days if he keeps insisting on using these guys as high-leverage relievers. Yes, I am much more comfortable with Mateo, Putz, Guardado, or even Hasegawa to get the big outs. I suppose using Villone is sort of inevitable, since the only southpaw alternative in the middle innings is Thornton, but it'd be real nice to shove his control problems to the back of the bullpen once George Sherrill is back and pitching in a few weeks.
That's all I've got time for. Back home tomorrow at 7:05, as Jamie Moyer goes up against the suddenly-streaking Ted Lilly. Bret Boone is 11-28 in his career against Lilly with two doubles, a triple, and a homer, so it'd be nice to see him have a good series and immediately get shipped off to a contender before he reverts back to his standard suckitude.