All the wins, all the improved play we've seen over the past few weeks, and it's been wiped out in one day. With a loss in San Diego and an Oakland win against San Francisco, the Mariners have slid back into last place, sitting a half game behind the A's. This team has gone 15-11 since bottoming out on May 27th, but Oakland's gone 17-10, and Anaheim's gone 15-9. Sure, we've gained some ground on the Rangers, but while I project raw hatred in the direction of Anaheim and Oakland, I'm pretty ambivalent about Texas, so that doesn't really matter to me.
Maybe there's a lesson here, that the Mariners need only worry about themselves and let the rest of the chips fall as they may. The standings are pretty discouraging, but there have been a ton of things to get excited about of late (at least, compared to how we started the year), so why get too upset when the team falls further out of contention, when few of us expected them to make much noise to begin with? If nothing else, it keeps those "2005 ain't over yet!" loonies at bay.
One of those things to get excited about is the fact that this lineup put up five runs in five innings against Jake Peavy, less than a day after driving home 14 runs on Friday. The batters aren't getting by with seeing-eye stuff, either - these are legitimate, well-struck balls that're finding the holes or finding the seats. Now, Peavy threw 124 pitches five days ago, so you could pose the argument that he may have been a little fatigued and lacking his best stuff, but the point remains that the Mariners slapped an ace all over the park, and that's meaningful. With solid hitting and inconsistent pitching, these last two games have pretty much mirrored how I expected the season to go back in March, and I have to say, it's been fun to watch.
On to the chart:
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +11.6%
Biggest Suckfest: Aaron Sele, -46.6%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez homer, +6.9%
Most Important Pitch: Burroughs double, -14.4%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: -42.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -22.9%
There's no beating around the bush, here: when you score five runs against Jake Peavy, you have to win that game, but Aaron Sele let everyone down with his worst performance in a month and a half. It was clear from the get-go that Sele was without his best stuff (which, incidentally, is similar to Jon Rauch's worst stuff), and that's just a recipe for disaster when you're talking about a guy who can't get by with power and deception alone. Sele's a standard-delivery pitcher with an average repertoire and underwhelming velocity; if you take away his pinpoint control, he's easy to blast, and that's just what we saw this afternoon. The pitch that Nady shot over the left field fence was really more good hitting than bad pitching, but I still hold Sele responsible for the other two homers and several line drives. That Sean Burroughs two-run double in the first was a real killer - it looked like Sele might be able to escape a bases-loaded-none-out jam by allowing just the one run, but he put a pitch in Burroughs' wheelhouse (which, based on today's evidence, does exist) and it got pulled deep into right field. This is a guy who finished 2nd-to-last in isolated power last year in the NL. Giving up extra-base hits to those guys is a good way to lose ballgames.
So, what does it mean? Is this the end of Aaron Sele, Possessed, and the return of Aaron Sele, Normal Guy? When you have a guy who's been on the edge for so long, you're going to hear a lot of that kind of chatter whenever he has a bad game. To me, the answer is a resounding "maybe", with a side helping of "he's still been the best starter in the rotation, so lighten up." For one thing, Sele was fantastic in six of his previous seven starts, so he's probably earned himself another few chances, and for another, how would you replace him? There's no one currently in the bullpen or Tacoma staff ready to step up. No, we're stuck with Sele for at least another few weeks, and I'm being perfectly honest when I say that, after having seen how the rest of the rotation has done this year, that may not be such a bad thing.
Adrian Beltre today: 2-4 with a single, a double down the line, and a long opposite field fly ball that, from my admittedly obscured vantage point, looked like it might've had a chance in Safeco. Updated June numbers: .338/.427/.446. It's been pointed out a million times that he still isn't hitting for power, but you can't deny that he's a completely different hitter than the one we saw earlier in the year, so if that kind of complete transformation is possible, is it so difficult to believe that he could make another sudden improvement where balls just start flying off his bat? Was I in the sun too long?
Why I hate National League baseball:
Seattle - Top of 8th
Akinori Otsuka pitching for San Diego
A Otsuka relieved R Seanez.
R Ibanez grounded out to second.
B Boone singled to center.
M Morse struck out swinging.
R Winn hit for P Borders.
R Winn walked, B Boone to second.
W Bloomquist hit for S Hasegawa.
W Bloomquist struck out swinging.
I will mention that there's no shame in getting shut down by the Padres' bullpen. It's a group that, even with a struggling closer, still has four main cogs with ERA's at or below 3.15, and which maintains a composite strikeout rate near one an inning. Rudy Seanez in particular has been fantastic, facing 134 batters and striking out 54 of them (40.3%). Think about that for a minute.
Jeremy Reed is a really, really good defensive center fielder. I take back everything I've ever said a million times over. He still gets a bad jump on a ball from time to time, but if you had the chance to watch him in Tacoma last year, you'd understand just how much progress he's made in such a short time. His long-term value has to be soaring now that he's a virtual lock to stick in center.
Being a Mariners fan in San Diego, I've gotten used to being on my own in a hostile environment. Even with a lot of situational experience, it can still be a little awkward to be a fan of the visiting team, because you're never quite sure how to act. Aside from keeping a low profile, it's difficult to offer many suggestions on how to best enjoy your stadium experience as a fan of the visitors, so what follows is a list of people not to be:
The Vocal Minority. This guy usually goes to the game alone, donning as much team apparel as possible, determined to have his voice heard over that of the oppressive majority. If you ask him why he's making so much noise, his answer will be some variation of "I have to speak for my people and make their grievances known." (Note: real-life Vocal Minority individual may not actually speak like a Native American.)
The Social Drinker. This guy will show up with some friends, usually in team jerseys or T-shirts, and become increasingly loud and obnoxious as the game goes on until the seventh inning, where he plateaus. A Social Drinker can ruin the experience for every other fan of the visitors seated nearby - home fans will become annoyed, so in the event of a win, a cordial "good game" offer will be refused, and in the event of a loss, said other fans will be berated mercilessly until they leave the stadium.
The Total Asshole. Unlike Social Drinker, this guy doesn't have an excuse for his behavior. He starts talking trash as soon as he shows up, increasing in intensity if the road team takes the lead. If his team falls behind, he will typically respond to heckles with either "You still suck!" or "At least my team isn't gay!" If, at any point, the stadium gets pretty silent, don't put it past Total Asshole to try to start a "Let's Go (Road Team)!" chant.
The Ticking Time-Bomb. This guy gets to the game, finds his seats, and makes nice with the people around him. However, this is just surface behavior, and isn't indicative of the fury which lies below. The Time-Bomb can get set off by anything, from a big inning for the home team to an error by his team's second baseman or a bad move by the manager. Once this happens, the Time-Bomb erupts, flying into an extended episode of pure, unadulterated verbal wrath. Such an event will immediately corrupt any nearby persons under 13 while annoying the fans sitting directly in front, who have to deal with all the angry spit landing on their necks. If I'm anyone on this list, it's this guy.
The Lonely Greeter. This guy senses an immediate bond with anyone else he sees in the stadium wearing his team's colors. He will frequently approach such strangers and offer either a high-five or a "Nice shirt!" Lonely Greeter does this to give himself a feeling of camaraderie, which his social life outside of the ballpark so sorely lacks. This guy is usually harmless, but he can be annoying, especially when he interrupts a conversation you're having with your friend or family to slap hands in celebration of a road team home run.
There are more, but those are the most prominent offenders. As long as you don't act like any of those, you should be able to enjoy going to a ballgame and rooting for the visitors without pissing off the people around you. And if you do act like one of those people, don't come down to Petco when the Mariners are in town.
Back tomorrow afternoon, as the Mariners look to take the season series from the Padres. Joel Pineiro goes up against Woody Williams at 1:05pm.