Also known as "only six more days until these games are actually somewhat interesting and worth paying attention to" baseball. But who cares? Jeremy Reed didn't break anything after all and Felix still has a pulse, so all things considered, today was pretty good to us.
It wasn't good to Eric O'Flaherty, though. The Mariners lost to the Cubs 4-3 this afternoon, and while it was Stephen Kahn who got pegged with the loss, O'Flaherty's the one who gave away a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning on a three-run homer by Angel Pagan, who seems to be making a habit of destroying some of our lesser arms. Kahn would enter the game just in time to allow a go-ahead homer to Michael Barrett to lead off the ninth. This is the kind of game that would drive me absolutely crazy if it weren't March, and if the guys who blew the lead had actually earned roster spots somewhere above A-ball. At least Thomas Oldham gets to go to bed feeling pretty good about himself after tossing three scoreless frames against a half-decent lineup.
Between Oldham and O'Flaherty came a string of pitchers who're looking to leave a lasting impression in this final week of Spring Training. First was Rafael Soriano, who's trying to re-establish himself as the go-to guy in the eighth inning of a tight ballgame. So far, so good, as he's been one of the only reliable relievers all month. Next came Jake Woods, who's fighting for a bullpen spot in case Hargrove feels less than confident in George Sherrill out of the gate. Today was a much-needed strong effort for Woods, who entered the day as just another one of those fringe guys who's had an awful spring. After Woods was Aaron Looper, who made his 2006 debut after missing the better part of the previous two seasons due to injury problems. He's never been anything particularly special, the very essence of a replaceable commodity that you can stash away in AAA in case of emergency, but he has the stuff and the delivery of a guy who can be pretty tough on righties, so I expect his name to come up if the bullpen has problems early on. Finally, there was Luis Gonzalez, who's pretty much been as bad as possible so far - the Rule 5 acquisition needs to pitch lights-out over these final few days if he wants to stick, because his recent hittability and poor command hasn't done him any favors.
Here's the peculiar thing - at least for an afternoon, all four of those guys actually got the job done. Each of them had something to prove, and all four of them did it. Nevermind O'Flaherty and Kahn; they know they won't see the Show for years. Soriano, Woods, Looper, and Gonzalez are fighting for something, and we finally got to a day where the guys feeling pressure managed to exit a game without having blown it open. It could be a random statistical blip, but whatever, it's something worth noting in a spring full of terrible, terrible pitching by the guys with jobs to earn. Yay.
Beyond that...well, I guess now that I've gone and attempted to dismiss the relevance of ST batting stats, there's no sense in me paying too much attention to that part of the box score. Two-hit days for Borchard and Ibanez, for what it's worth, with Beltre picking up a double. Betancourt stole a base and hit what was apparently a pretty lucky home run, although I couldn't care less how a ball gets out as long as it gets out. That's just about it. One thing I don't get is where Hargrove gets off saying that the team "received some timely hits" when questioned after the game, considering the lineup stranded 18 baserunners, but whatever, that's hardly a big deal.
Moyer, Mateo, and Putz tomorrow against the (:snicker:) Royals.