clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

But hey, our Pythagorean record is 13-14, so we're just unlucky.

I can't tell if these are getting easier or harder to swallow. One of the ways I compare between games is by taking the most important/memorable event from each of them - be it an at bat, a pitch, or a defensive play - and gauging my responses. In this case, I think it's safe to say that I was much more upset with Beltre's strikeout than I was with Ichiro's catch on Monday, so last night was definitely a step down on the ladder of satisfaction.

I want to show you the chart before getting too deep into this:

Our best odds of winning came before the first pitch. From that moment on, it was all downhill. After the top of the first was over, the Mariners never had more than a (roughly) one-in-three chance of victory. That's two nights in a row that the team has rolled over and died early in the game. Watching them play right now is not an enjoyable activity.

Wilson Valdez and Richie Sexson made the only positive contributions to the team last night with a single in the fifth and a mammoth blast in the second. 429 feet to deep center. Seriously. Randy Winn had two hits and Matt Thornton was terrific for an inning, but one of Winn's singles and all three of Thornton's strikeouts came in garbage time, so their contributions are negligible. Once again, Adrian Beltre hurt the team the most with an ugly 0-4 effort (now riding a 12-AB hitless streak), including the Worst Strikeout of All Time.

I'd like to share something with you that I was hesitant to show earlier in the year, but which every team appears to have figured out already. It's the official book on How to Pitch to Adrian Beltre. Observe:

Note: pitching chart also applicable to Miguel Olivo and Wilson Valdez. If a good fastball is not available, it may be substituted with more low-and-away sliders.

Earlier today, Dave posted the numbers of a bunch of other good hitters who are struggling this year, the message obviously being that Beltre is not alone in his funk. I'm inclined to agree with him; before the year is done, I expect Beltre to have very good offensive numbers. The problem is that, in the here and now, I don't have any confidence in him getting a big hit at the plate. I know he'll end up collecting a whole bunch of them over the course of the year, but I don't expect anything from his at bats right now. I think people are growing impatient with Beltre because we're just not seeing good at bats. I can't tell you how Eric Chavez or Jim Thome have looked at the plate so far this year, but I can tell you that Beltre's going up and swinging (and missing) at the same junk in every game. He's not hitting line drives right at defenders' gloves. He's either striking out on that same low-and-friggin'-away slider or grounding out to third base.

To me, it seems like the main problem is that Beltre isn't forcing pitchers to throw him strikes. By going after the outside breaking balls or the up-and-in fastball, he's letting the pitcher control his at bats. I don't know if he's going to just wake up one morning with a better idea of the strike zone, or if Baylor'll have to coach his ass off, but that's what needs to change before Beltre can really start stinging the ball. All he looks like right now is a slumping Alfonso Soriano.

Something else I've noticed - Beltre has this habit of turning away/bailing out from breaking balls from right-handed pitchers which catch the inner part of the zone. I don't know if that's just a trick to confuse the umpire or if it's a genuine problem with pitch recognition, but it's pretty irritating either way, because it's not making things any better.

During the game, Dave Niehaus mentioned that Beltre, Sexson, and Olivo were at Safeco a little early to take some extra batting practice. Result: 1-11 with four strikeouts. Maybe they didn't get there early enough.

Niehaus also had his own problems with pitch recognition in the first inning. The following is a sequence of three pitches, followed by what Dave had to say:

Pitch 1: Fastball. "There's a change over the outer part for strike out."
Pitch 2: Curveball. "There's another change that catches the plate."
Pitch 3: Changeup. "That curveball misses down and away."

Gil Meche didn't do a real good job of Avoiding The Big Inning. In the top of the first, the Angels were taking good swings at everything he threw, and before anyone knew it, the score was 3-0. After Cabrera's RBI single, though, Meche got into a groove and retired 21 of the next 24 hitters he faced.

...then a single and a homer. 5-1. It was like watching Gil Meche's entire career boiled down into eight innings. He showed the good stuff people always knew he had (94mph fastball, sharp curve, changeup in the high-70s), and had a stretch of excellent success, but he also made some mistake pitches that got hammered. Before it was all said and done, Meche had allowed five runs in eight innings, a poor result despite leaving the impression that he really didn't pitch too badly. You'd like to say that, as those mistake pitches become more and more infrequent, Meche will turn into the ace people always swore he'd be, but he's working on his fifth year of Major League experience, and he's making the same mistakes. Perhaps it's time to accept the fact that Meche will have a career as a decent starter who's always just one fatal flaw away from being a real good pitcher.

Of course, it's not like Meche got much help in the first. With the score 1-0 and a man on third, Gil threw a fastball over the outer black that Miguel Olivo sort of waved at as it flew to the backstop. It's one thing for a catcher to allow a passed ball; it's quite another when that passed ball is a borderline strike. It allowed Chone Figgins to hustle and grit his way to third base, forcing the infield to play in. Garret Anderson cooperated with a groundball to Boone, but he made a bad throw home which allowed both Figgins to score and Anderson to reach first base safely. My sources at the stadium tell me that the crowd was saying "Boooo", and not "Booo-oone".

Ron Fairly was having all kinds of trouble last night. In the first inning, he compared John Lackey to Gil Meche in saying that the fastball determines their success., that's bad timing, because Meche had a great fastball in the top of the first that was getting the snot beat out of it every time it found the strike zone. Fairly later said that the key for the Mariner lineup is to "hit better" - I'm dead serious - and offered the following jewel in talking about Vladimir Guerrero:

"Half the time, he swings at the first pitch every time up."

Of course, perhaps his simple suggestion for the offense is right on - they do need to hit better, and there's no way around it. In talking with Devin last night, I decided that the proper way to arrange the current lineup is as follows:

  1. Ichiro
  2. Winn
  3. Ibanez
  4. Sexson

  5. Beltre, Valdez, Reed, Olivo, Boone
It would take some creativity on the part of Mike Hargrove, but it might give them the jolt they need to get it going.

There's been some talk about why Meche was left in there to pitch the eighth, but I think it's unwarranted - he was at 92 pitches (about 13 per inning) after seven, and he retired Figgins and Guerrero without much trouble. He had settled into a comfort zone, and there wasn't much indication that he was about to surrender a two-run homer. That's the problem with Gil's unpredictability, I guess. Regardless, I don't have any problem with Meche going back out there for the eighth. I do have a problem with Hendu talking about how Meche "won't allow the longball" immediately before Finley took him deep, though.

In the bottom of the ninth, Hendu pointed out that Dobbs leads the AL in RBI for a pinch-hitter, with three. Nevermind that all three of those came on one play, where Eric Byrnes let the ball get by him, and that Dobbs also leads the AL in pinch-hit at bats by two.

Shin-soo Choo picked up his first Major League hit and RBI with an opposite-field single in the ninth. Getting that hit against Scot Shields is no small feat. Up next on the To-Do List: get Rick Rizzs to stop pronouncing his name like a sneeze.

The final bit of good news was Matt Thornton blowing through three Angels (albeit three Angels hitting a combined .177) in the ninth. Of the 13 pitches he threw, 11 found the strike zone, and he's currently fanning more than a batter an inning. Progress.

Aaron Sele goes up against Paul Byrd this afternoon at 6:35pm EDT.