On the one hand, the Mariners lost, and that sucks no matter how you look at it. On the other, they came into the game with Gil Meche facing off against one of the top pitchers in baseball so far, a clear disadvantage, so perhaps a loss was to be expected.
But then - no, go back to the first hand, because no matter how bad the starting pitching matchup may have been, the Mariners had a chance to win this game, and they failed. Maybe it was the fact that they couldn't bring in a run after getting two-out hits - three for extra bases - in each of the first five innings. Maybe it was Gil Meche grooving a few too many pitches on the rare occasion that he found the strike zone. Maybe it was Julio Mateo walking in a run in the sixth. Avoidable mistakes, all of them, ones that may have changed the eventual outcome for the better. You can talk all you want about how the Mariners didn't stand much of a chance on paper, but once the game started, all anyone cared about was scoring runs, and the M's just didn't do it as often as Florida.
One unfortunate play the Mariners couldn't do anything about came in the top of the eighth, when Mike Morse hit a foul fly ball down the right field line with Bret Boone on first. Juan Encarnacion ran after the ball and made the catch, falling into the seats in the process. Boone tagged up, ran for second, and - noticing that Encarnacion had only just then come to his feet - sprinted for third, making it safely. With a man on third and one out with a contact hitter (Reed) at the plate, you had to feel good about the Mariners' chances of tying the game.
Only, no, not so much, because Boone was sent back to second base by the umpiring staff. After much confusion, it was revealed that there exists an official rule - number 7.04(c), to be exact - stating that a runner may advance only one base on a ball caught out of play. Which, when you think about it, still isn't much of an explanation, because it's the defender's choice to pursue the fly ball into the stands, and one can only assume that he is aware of the potential consequences of making the play before he begins his pursuit. The rule essentially penalized Boone and the Mariners for Encarnacion's decision to fall into the stands like an idiot after making a catch in foul territory. Not that there's anything to argue about, because a rule is a rule and you can't make exceptions for one game, but whenever I think about what happened, my mind always wanders back to Office Space. Why should I change my name? He's the one who sucks. The Mariners were hurt because Encarnacion decided to look like an ass in right field, and that ended up being an important play in the game. Given that Encarnacion had already committed two errors by that point, you'd think that the umpires might give Boone the benefit of the doubt, but no dice.
Let's see a chart:
That makes the game look pretty ugly - which it was, really, considering the Mariners fell behind 4-0 and didn't get on the board until the sixth. They peaked before the first pitch, never again having as good a chance to win as they did prior to Ichiro lining out to lead off the game. Despite Beltre, Boone, and Sexson's best efforts, Carlos Delgado stole the show, driving in all five runs with a double, a homer, and a walk. If there's good news in all this, it's that JJ Putz tossed a rare 1-2-3 inning, the kind of performance you'd like to see repeated, oh, another four dozen times until Hargrove realizes that he's a better pitcher than Jeff Nelson, grand slams be damned. We also saw Mike Morse hit a few balls hard and Adrian Beltre's first three-hit game since April 20th, so it wasn't a total loss.
Biggest Contribution: Bret Boone, +28.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Gil Meche, -22.3%
Most Important Hit: Sexson double, +10.1%
Most Important Pitch: Delgado homer, -18.1%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: -22.6%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -16.0%
Although the pitching staff was more responsible for the loss than the hitters, the bats still didn't do as much as they could have, going 4-18 with men on base and 2-10 with runners in scoring position. Looks like you need more than four runs to win after all, Ron Fairly.
Gil Meche was not himself tonight. Or maybe he was, in the way that an atom is always itself despite its electron cloud perpetually changing shape and arrangement, a property that's accounted for by the laws of atomic randomness. So, if Gil Meche is, by nature, characterized by frequent unpredictability, then he most certainly was his usual self today, yielding five walks, 11 baserunners, and four runs in five innings of work. It was like the complete opposite of Good Meche; Bad Meche routinely missed the zone without missing bats, leaving the ball at belt-level and higher whenever he found the plate. Last year, Meche was sent down to work on his command and came back throwing strikes and giving up extra home runs as a result. Today, we got the first half's command and the second half's penchant for getting drilled, and the sum product was one hell of a mess. 100 pitches in five innings - just 53% for strikes - without enough strikeouts to show for it? No thanks. That's a real step back for Gil, who had looked "all right" in recent starts leading up to this afternoon. At 17.6 pitches per inning on the year, Meche is tied for fifth in the majors (out of 109 qualified starters). Right now, you're looking at a guy who isn't likely to be back next year unless he really turns things around.
Number of Mariner starters with a K/BB at or above the league average (2.01): Zero.
Pat Borders is hitting .188 on the year. To match that figure, Rene Rivera would have to go hitless in his next 21 at bats (the kind of milestone personal achievement you'd expect from our original starting catcher). Say what you will about Borders' ability to call a good game (a dubious claim at the best of times); the fact of the matter is that he hasn't hit, he hasn't thrown out many baserunners, and he hasn't looked comfortable with balls in the dirt. How much could it possibly hurt to give Rivera a little more playing time over the next few weeks until either Wiki heals or Olivo figures things out, and he's sent back to San Antonio? He's not going to hit .545 for the rest of his life, but he's not going to do things much worse than Borders, either, and you might as well give him the everyday experience while he's around and find out if he's got anything up his sleeve. It's probably not that important, but I like to be entertained when I watch baseball games, and I have a lot more fun watching Rivera play than I do Pat friggin' Borders.
Bret Boone in June: .333
High point of Boone trashing on LL: June
A statistician might say that there's a correlation here. Or he might not. But statisticians are nerds, anyway. Moral of the story: talk as much trash as you can about Boone, and reap the rewards!
Oh, how tempted I am to sit here and type "Adrian Beltre broke out of his slump by going 3-5 with two doubles." So tempted, in fact, that I did type it, right there, earlier in this paragraph. Only, no, I can't. Beltre's .635 OPS is exactly where it was about a month ago, and he hasn't homered since May 21st. You can talk about how he's had bad luck so far, hitting line drives right at people and such, but he's getting paid to be a 30+ homer lineup anchor, and all the bad luck in the world won't take that guy and stick him with five home runs a week into June. I'm not going to sit here and say that I'm not even a little bit excited, because I've been looking for anything positive to say about Beltre and he came through with a big game today, but I've taken the bait a few too many times this year, and he hasn't followed through with a hot streak. Why don't we just leave it with this: Today's game could signal the start of a tear, but a hot streak is only as good as the next day's performance, so Beltre could just as easily revert back to what we've seen through 2+ months. But hey, he's finally laying off some of those outside pitches, so he's got that going for him.
In Darnell Coles' world, the sky is brown, kittens bark, trees recite poetry, and baseball teams draft for need, exclusively selecting middle infielders, catchers, and southpaw fireballers in hopes of finding that elusive diamond in the rough.
We've always known that Mike Morse's strongest tool is his power, which really helped him burst onto the scene a year ago in AA. We might've witnessed the first of that power translating into the Majors today, as he hit a pair of rockets into center field, one of which Juan Pierre tracked down for a spectacular catch. It's not much, but after having prepared myself for a year of Pokey Reese at shortstop, and then living through two months of Bloomquist/Valdez, these kinds of line drives are enough to keep me up at night, giggling like a little girl.
Rubber game tomorrow, as Aaron Sele goes up against :sigh: Josh Beckett at 4:05pm. I'll be out of town for the next week, so there won't be any extended game recaps like this one until I get back, but the site will still be updated daily.