I think this counts as a "miracle performance against Anaheim."
As it turns out, we don't need to go into the All Star Break with the bad taste of that Kansas City series in our mouths, because one of the worst teams in baseball just swept one of the best on its own field, and it's something to celebrate. Nevermind that we're still on pace to finish 73-89; go out, be merry. There's a real good chance that we don't see the Mariners play this well again for the rest of the season, so you might as well take advantage of the emotional high while you can. Hell, the schedule makers even gave us an extra three days so that what just happened can sink in. Cool guys.
I always get a kick out of hearing what players and coaches have to say after dominant performances. For example, Mike Hargrove, after the game:
The Mariners hit .313/.383/.473 in the series, outscoring the Angels by an average margin of 8.25-3.25. Randy Winn hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, Willie Ballgame reached base seven times, and Miguel Olivo pulled a ball into the left field seats. Meanwhile, Jeff Nelson retired Vladimir Guerrero in two absolutely critical situations, while Joel Pineiro went the distance and Ryan Franklin got some run support and kept the ball in the yard. This doesn't seem out of the ordinary to Hargrove? Either he doesn't pay attention to the words that come out of his mouth, or his expectations for this team are a little too high.
Of course, it's hard not to fall into the same trap after watching these last four games - the Mariners played almost flawless baseball, and it takes only the slightest stretch of imagination to think that they could keep it up for an extended period of time. Had they not entered the series 13 games below .500, it might actually have turned out to be a little dangerous, with the front office getting mixed messages from the ballclub and being unwilling to sell off bits and pieces at the deadline. Because they're still 39-48 and 12.5 games out of first, though, I think the powers that be within the organization understand that this is a team that needs to be thinking about 2006, rather than trying to compete in 2005. So, don't worry about any misguided ripple effects - this was just an incredible series in the middle of what will remain a rebuilding season. And oh, how incredible it was.
To the chart:
Biggest Contribution: Raul Ibanez, +18.6%
Biggest Suckfest: Jeremy Reed, -12.4%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez double, +22.4%
Most Important Pitch: Molina single, -11.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +3.8%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +48.5%
Perhaps a more interesting chart than the others that we've seen from this series, if only because this one involved a comeback after the odds of winning had slipped to a low level. Bloomquist's double to lead off the fourth spelled the beginning of the end for the Angels, as the Mariners took control from that point forward. Not that there weren't a few hiccups along the way...
Izturis out: 93.1%
DaVanon out: 94%
Kennedy doubles: 92.3%
Figgins walks: 91.3%
Erstad reaches on strikeout, WP: 85.7%
...but the Mariners were able to recover quite nicely:
Guerrero strikes out: 94.5%
Although Nelson's slider that got Guerrero in that seventh inning didn't turn out to be the most important pitch (by a Mariner) of the ballgame, it definitely felt like it - even with the three-run lead, there's a certain sense of discomfort inherent in every Vlad Guerrero at bat, made all the more intense in potentially game-changing circumstances. As soon as he went around and the crowd fell silent, you knew that the game belonged to Seattle. It was Anaheim's last stand, so to speak, and they fell well short.
Something I decided to do was to go ahead and create a Win Expectancy chart for the whole series. To do this, I took the WE numbers for each game, put them side to side in a spreadsheet, found the averages, and plotted them on a graph. The end result:
Biggest Contribution: Raul Ibanez, +40.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Ichiro, -15.3%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez double, +22.4%
Most Important Pitch: Figgins double play, +13.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +65.1%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +138.2%
What this chart shows is that, for the series, the Mariners did well to get ahead early and keep Anaheim off the board until the middle innings, when everything took off. To show this in numerical form, rather than as an image, what follows is the average score after each inning of the series, along with the average run differential:
First: 1 - 0.5 (+0.5)
Second: 1.75 - 0.5 (+1.25)
Third: 2.25 - 1 (+1.25)
Fourth: 3.75 - 1.25 (+2.5)
Fifth: 5.25 - 1.25 (+4)
Sixth: 6.5 - 2.25 (+4.25)
Seventh: 6.75 - 2.75 (+4)
Eighth: 7.5 - 2.75 (+4.75)
Ninth: 8.25 - 3.25 (+5)
That's just pure domination. There's really no other way to put it.
Gil Meche looked good, much better than the Meche we've seen for the past month or so. His curve was working well, he had consistent location of his fastball, and he walked fewer than two batters for just the third time all year, and the first time since May 3rd (which, incidentally, was also against the Angels). There's not really much else you can say about Meche, since he's made a career out of mixing these good starts with a bunch of crappy ones, but it's a small step forward, which is something. His only real mistake was a breaking ball to Guerrero that hung up there way too long; it flew about 730 feet, and Gil learned a valuable life lesson. Since the Angels hit a pair of comebackers off various parts of Gil's body during the game, maybe we've uncovered the key to making him a more successful pitcher: hit him with stuff.
Miguel Olivo homered, which is nice, but let's be honest - that was a mistake pitch by a rookie who didn't know better. Ervin Santana left a fastball over the middle of the plate and Olivo pulled it into the seats for his third bomb of the year. As Steve Physioc remarked soon afterward, that's probably the only pitch Miguel can hit right now. He looked absolutely terrible the rest of the day against offspeed and breaking stuff, and if I'm an opposing pitcher or catcher, there's no way I throw him anything fast and straight until he proves that he can sit back on pitches that move. Right now, it looks like he's guessing fastball on every swing - when it curves or slows down, Miguel is just way out in front. He doesn't try to re-adjust mid-swing or shift his weight to his back foot or anything. An inability to recognize different pitch types, along with an uppercut swing, make for an ugly package. Olivo needs to spend the next three days working harder than he ever has in his life if he wants to come back and have a respectable second half. It could mean the difference between having a playing career and becoming another once-promising washout.
With men on the corners and one gone in the top of the eighth, Hargrove let Olivo hit against righty Scot Shields. Miguel, predictably, went down on strikes. If this wasn't the perfect time to use Chris Snelling, I don't know what is. That's just sloppy managing.
Jose Lopez hit his fifth double of the season today, upping his Major League extra-base hit percentage to 39%. Total in the minors: 33%. Improved pitch selection will make the difference between Jose growing up to be Alex Gonzalez and Jose growing up to be Felipe Lopez (the good version). Given that he's still just 21 years old, Jose's going to have a bit of a lengthy learning curve, so it'll be important to remain patient. If the reward is Felipe Lopez's 2005, it'll be worth it.
Quite frankly, the sweep took a lot out of me, so that's it for today's recap. If you're looking for more ways to enjoy the Mariners' recent performance, feel free to participate in the photoshop contest listed as a diary to the right. The winner is rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing that he/she is funnier than a bunch of other people who hate the Angels.