And, in two hours and 19 minutes, the streak was over. To some, it was a pretty meaningless win - this remains a bad team with a questionable future, and they've still dropped 10 of their previous 13 games - but to others, it was refreshing, as the pregame roster news brought about something of a renewed enthusiasm for the team. Myself, I was leaning towards the latter; while, in the grand scheme of things, it probably was a meaningless win, it was a fun one to watch, and I'm glad that we're 1-0 in the post-Boone era. Of course, that the Mariners were facing a scumbag lefty only boosted my partisanship.
Being a sports fan is all about context. It's a lot easier to root for a good team than a bad one, because following a good team has the potential for a greater reward down the road. After all, if you like the Patriots, then you're always thinking that every victory gets you that much closer to a championship. If you're a 49ers fan, though, what's the difference between finishing 3-13 or 4-12? The key to rooting for a bad team, then, is to erase the context of the season and to concentrate on what's taking place on the field. If, this afternoon, you were able to forget for a few hours that the Mariners are a last-place ballclub and just focus on the nice crowd and terrific start by Jamie Moyer, you probably had a good time watching the game. The alternative is sitting back in your chair and thinking about how nothing that happens in the game could possibly make this a 90-win ballclub, and that's too distant and depressing. You can't enjoy sports - baseball in particlar, given the size of the schedule - if you're just going through the motions and can't get excited about what happens in each game because you follow a bad team. Sometimes, like with these 2005 Mariners, you have to lie to yourself to get up for the game, but if you haven't tried it yet, I think you'll be surprised by the kind of psyochological impact it can have. It is possible to enjoy a bad season; all it takes is a little conditioning.
To the chart:
Biggest Contribution: Jamie Moyer, +45.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Scott Spiezio, -13.2%
Most Important Hit: Borders single, +14.7%
Most Important Pitch: Young double, -9.9%
Total Contribution by Pitchers: +71.1%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -20.8%
Clearly and easily a game won by the pitchers. Jamie Moyer had arguably his best start of the season, tossing eight strong innings and shutting out the Rangers over the final 106 of his 107 pitches. Eddie Guardado came in to close out the ninth and, despite Pat Borders' best efforts, got the job done for his 19th consecutive save. I'm being serious when I say that Borders' dropped third strike with one gone in the ninth was really important - look at the win expectancy numbers:
Blalock out: 92.7%
Soriano out: 97.5%
Soriano reaches on strikeout, PB: 84.6%
Borders took a -.129 Win Probability Added hit for that one dropped pitch. Put another way, that passed ball was more than twice as important as Gary Matthews Jr.'s leadoff home run. If Pat Borders can't hit, can't catch, and can't throw, what purpose does he serve? At 42 years old, I don't know if you can even call him "a warm body behind the plate" anymore. Maybe "a heap of deteriorating organs and nasolabial folds behind the plate" would be more appropriate. So, kudos to Eddie Guardado for recording four outs in the inning. Eddie rocks.
I don't have too much time on my hands right now, but I do want to touch on a few things. First of all, today was so totally vintage Jamie, it's not even funny. He was getting slapped around in the first inning, and it looked like the Rangers might send a few more into the seats before his day would end, but he made an adjustment and stayed away from the middle of the plate for the rest of the game. He had that early-2000's command over the outer half of the plate with his changeup, leading to a bunch of pop-ups and weak grounders off the end of the bat. No, Jamie's not back. No, Jamie's not completely done.
During a Mark Teixeira at bat sometime late in the game, Rick Rizzs launched himself into a discussion of batting splits for switch-hitters. His words (paraphrased): "The most balanced hitter I've ever seen from both sides of the plate was Eddie Murray." He and Hendu talked about how Murray's numbers were virtually identical from the left- and right-hand sides of the plate. Only, no. Murray from the left side: .296/.377/.499. Murray from the right side: .278/.346/.453. Between this and his later statement that Richie Sexson deserves to be an All Star, I think it's high time for Rick Rizzs to go on vacation somewhere dangerous. He could even take his grandkids.
Mike Morse: hitless in his last 15 at bats. His OPS has dropped from .974 to .829. 80% (24) of his 30 hits have been singles, and he's not drawing many walks, getting a healthy OBP boost from five (!) beanballs. I think it's safe to say that he's officially returning to earth. The good news (or bad news, depending on how much you like him): if Morse matches his PECOTA projection from this point forward - over, say, 300 plate appearances in the second half - he'll end with a final line of .263/.321/.401, good enough to earn consideration for next year's starting shortstop. Behold the benefits of a hot start.
In the bottom of the eighth, Pat Borders was behind 0-2 in the count against Kenny Rogers when he got buzzed by a fastball way up and in. To the casual fan, it looked like nothing more than an accident, a slip of the finger, but in this case, it helps to know that Borders once dated a 23 year old Frances Perkins while she and Rogers were having a tough time in their relationship. Make no mistake - this was a message pitch.
Scott Spiezio blows.
Back tomorrow, as Ryan Franklin takes on some guy I've never heard of in Kansas City at 5:10pm PDT. Have a safe and happy 4th.