What can you say? With that loss, the Mariners drop to 7-13 in their streak of 37 consecutive games against quality competition. They've scored eight runs in the last five games while allowing 25. Jamie Moyer, the only member of the rotation with anything really going his way so far this year, has been bombed twice in a row. It wears on you, and you begin to forget what clutch hits and timely pitching feel like. More than anything else, I think, I'm beginning to miss that overwhelming sense of anxiety I get when Eddie Guardado inherits a save situation. Frankly, I'm sick of this.
Kick it off with the chart, so those who didn't watch the game can get an idea of just how awful it was:
Look at that. Under a 20% chance of winning in the second inning. 19% after an Ichiro single in the third would prove to be the highest point for the rest of the game. By the fourth, we were looking at a big fat 0% - the Mariners were essentially done and without a chance of victory. How do you watch five more innings of a game in which the team you're rooting for is guaranteed to lose? I'll tell you how - with particular disinterest.
But hey, those first few innings...hoowee, those were something. As it turned out, the events of the first inning had very little predictive value, as Moyer needed just seven pitches to retire the side in order. He'd need 35 in the second, as he surrendered six baserunners and three runs without getting hit hard at all. Ortiz hit a typical Monster double, Varitek was safe on a swinging bunt, Bill Mueller reached out after an unhittable pitch and dropped a blooper into right field, and Vazquez hit a grounder past Ibanez which a better first baseman would've stopped. Mixed in was a walk to Jay Payton and a Trot Nixon hit by pitch - only it wasn't a hit by pitch, because the ball never touched him. Didn't so much as graze his bat. Fortunately, Moyer was able to follow that up by getting Ramirez to ground out with the bases loaded, because it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Not like it would've mattered.
The next inning was, shall we say, markedly worse. David Ortiz led off with what at least one person determined to be a fair ball and a home run, and Mueller would later double in two more runs. Moyer's day ended after just 2.2 innings, having allowed 11 of the 19 batters he faced to reach base, and six of them to score. As good as he looked in the first, he was absolutely awful for the rest of the time, and that specter of 2004 is looming large. Like a guy in a cartoon who runs off a cliff and doesn't fall until he looks downward, the last thing this team needs is for Moyer to remember how old he is. More performances like this one would leave the Mariners without anyone even remotely resembling a stopper in the rotation, and that's just bad news for...well, for things like six-game losing streaks.
Even after tonight, Jamie Moyer has the best ERA in the rotation, at 4.70. If and when the bullpen begins pitching like we expected, you're going to see a lot of people jumping ship. When you've lost six in a row, it's hard to imagine how things could get uglier, but it's an important lesson to learn in life, just as it is in baseball, that things can always get worse.
Matt Thornton came in and did his thing for 53 pitches, lasting 2.1 innings, fanning a few hitters, and walking in a run. Although he still had his moments, it was a step down from his recent stretch of appearances. Would you believe that the RBI walk was the first run he's allowed since April 10th? He's doing something right. If you're going to issue a bunch of walks, the best thing to do is collect a bunch of strikeouts as well, something which Thornton's been doing in spades. Have Thornton and Victor Zambrano ever been seen in the same room at the same time?
Something I noticed about Thornton's pitching tonight was that, even though he was reaching the mid-90s like usual, he's not getting complete energy transference into his upper body. In his delivery, he doesn't bend his front leg the full 90 degrees, and after releasing he tends to lean and occasionally fall to his glove side. This is the kind of stuff that leads to an inconsistent release point and, thus, inconsistent command, which could go a long way towards explaining his walks. I'll leave to your imagination the thoughts of what he could become were he to make some corrections to his delivery.
Julio Mateo has only issued one walk so far this year, which makes up for a slacking strikeout rate. However, what's more important is that he's started the year with a 15.1-inning homerless streak, a significant accomplishment given his problems with the longball in years past. Surprisingly, it's not because he's recording more groundballs; his 0.44 GB/FB ratio is the most extreme of his career.
It seems like every Mariners game nowadays has to include one particular crucial at bat which could make or break the game. Ordinarily, Beltre's the guy making that out, but today it was Raul Ibanez, who struck out with two on and two gone in the third. Beltre had just smacked a single into right after Winn was beaned, and you felt like a run-scoring hit could get the Mariners going. Instead, nothing, and Ortiz led off the bottom half with a homer. By that point, for all intents and purposes, the game was over.
I might be grasping for something - anything - positive from Beltre's performance, but he hit three balls pretty hard tonight, one for a single into left, one for a fly out into right, and one liner straight at Jay Payton in center. It seemed like he was seeing the ball better tonight, which we'd all love to see translate into more hits sometime soon. For the time being, just be happy that he only had one weak grounder to shortstop today.
Miguel Olivo drew a walk today. Unintentional. His first since April 26th. Neat-o. You remember how last July, when the Mariners played the Red Sox, Kevin Millar adjusted his batting stance to look more like Olivo's, and then went on a tear for the whole second half? I think it's time to give Miguel his stance back. Millar had his turn.
Two signs that the game has become completely boring:
(A) The fans start doing the wave
(B) The announcers spend an entire half-inning laughing their asses off at lame jokes from some reporter they have stationed in the seats. Inserted for your enjoyment:
He had a hole in one.
I mean, really. That might have been the most unpleasant half-inning of my life.
The universe corrected itself with incredible speed tonight. After Trot Nixon went to first base because of a beanball that never touched him, Manny Ramirez was retired to end the inning. Later, when Ichiro was ruled safe at first on a play in which replays showed he was out, he was caught stealing second during the next at bat. Mistakes were made, but they were instantly erased.
I don't want to write any more about this. Joel Pineiro and Jeremi Gonzalez are supposed to face off tomorrow afternoon, but the game will almost certainly be rained out and made up on Sunday with a day/night doubleheader. I'm going to be in Boston through midday Tuesday (hopefully catching the game currently scheduled for 2:05pm Sunday), so don't expect long game recaps until I come back.