Some people might be tempted to suggest that beating the Red Sox when they have guys like Adam Stern, Alex Cora, JT Snow, Josh Bard, and Alex Gonzalez in the lineup hardly feels like beating the Red Sox at all. For me, though, if the game's in Fenway in front of 36,000 people and the Mariners end up on top, it counts the same as any other win, with the added benefit of knowing that a bunch of obnoxious Boston fans dropped three figures to watch a handful of backups go down quietly against a guy who hasn't pitched well in three years. Imagine the way seeing the starting lineup to loading the bases with nobody out to being shut out at home for the first time since the Mayflower landed must've toyed with their emotions. It's nice to be able to look at that kind of thing from the other side, especially when you have absolutely zero sympathy for Sox fans whatsoever.
That said, it still feels better to beat the Angels.
Biggest Contribution: Joel Pineiro, +29.3%
Biggest Suckfest: Ichiro, -7.8%
Most Important Hit: Sexson single, +6.8%
Most Important Pitch: Pena double, -9.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +51.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -16.8%
Kind of a weird game, in that we might still be going in a scoreless tie had the Sox played better defense in the top of the third. The offense didn't really deserve its three runs - those were gift-wrapped by Tim Wakefield, Josh Bard, and Wily Mo Pena (who is deceptively fat). I guess Yuniesky Betancourt's leadoff double was legit, but just look at what happened after that:
-Ichiro strikes out, ball gets by Bard, Ichiro reaches and Betancourt advances to third
-Ichiro steals second, dusts off the base, and begins composing his self-titled autobiography while Wakefield's pitch flutters towards the plate
-Knuckler gets by Bard, allowing Betancourt to score and Ichiro to move up to third
-Jose Lopez lines out
-Pena momentarily confuses baseball with tennis and refuses to make a play on a Raul Ibanez fly ball until it hits the ground
-Richie Sexson drills a single into center
-...rest of the inning plays out, Mariners don't add to lead
If Bard catches the third strike to Ichiro and Pena makes an effort to camp himself under Ibanez's floater, Wakefield escapes unscathed, and the game remains scoreless. Instead, lousy defense allowed the Mariners to put up a crooked number, one which could've been even...crookeder...if smart and conservative baserunning were mentioned in the Bible. I feel a little bad for placing so much blame on Josh Bard, since a properly-thrown knuckleball is incredibly difficult to catch, but his job is to keep balls in front of him, and he failed to do that this afternoon. Not that I'm complaining. It helped the Mariners, and besides, any team that voluntarily flanks its center fielder with Manny Ramirez and Wily Mo Pena deserves all the crappy defense it gets.
Obligatory Notice Regarding Rene Rivera: for those of you who missed the game and just read the box score, don't be misled by Rivera's two doubles - each of them were towering pop-ups to left field that glanced off the Monster on the way down. Those are fly outs in pretty much any other stadium in the big leagues, and not particularly deep ones at that. Again, I'm not going to complain that Rivera slugged 1.000 this afternoon, but he's still a terrible hitter, and should be treated as such.
Kudos to Joel Pineiro, who looked about as good today as Jamie did the day before. After a lengthy at bat resulted in a walk to Josh Bard to load the bases with nobody out in the second, Joel retired 15 of the next 16 batters he faced, quieting a crowd that was looking for any reason to get loud and enthusiastic. His velocity was way down again (at what point do we stop referring to it as "down" and start referring to it as "normal"?), topping out around 87-88, but he was getting a ton of movement and sink on everything to keep the big bats in check. His current GB out/FB out ratio of 1.94 would've ranked tenth in baseball among qualified starters a year ago, and while it's still way too early to say with any degree of confidence that he's officially become a groundball pitcher, it's certainly an encouraging trend. Consistently keeping the ball on the ground is a great way to make people forget that you used to throw in the mid-90s.
Like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I've developed a passionate hatred for Geico in response to their current ad campaign, but as much as I want the talking gecko to get stepped on by a fat guy, there's actually another commercial I find even more unbearable, the one where the Coors Light train comes speeding through the station, relieving the discomfort and quenching the thirst of several sweaty people waiting on the platform. These people have obviously been working all day, and by this point the only thing they want to do is get out of the hot sun and relax at home for the rest of the night, so they wait patiently at the station for a train to come by and take them closer to where they want to be. Just when it looks like they might be able to get off the platform and board a coach with a little air conditioning, though, the Coors Light train comes flying by, spraying everyone with a thick wall of snow and freezing everything in its path. Suddenly the people on the platform in skirts and short sleeves find themselves considerably underdressed for the occasion, presumably forced to huddle together for warmth seeing as nobody would've thought to bring a jacket. As a double whammy, everyone also finds themselves holding a silver can of pisswater without a single trash can or recycling bin anywhere in sight, which, as you can imagine if you've ever had to blow your nose at the beginning of a meeting and hold onto the tissue the whole time because you couldn't interrupt the proceedings by getting up, is pretty inconvenient. And just to top it all off, the train didn't even stop! It just sped on through the station without so much as opening the doors and letting people try to time their jumps. What kind of asshole is driving this thing, anyway? And why would I want to purchase a beer from a company that endorses such rude, impolite behavior?
JJ Putz has struck out 14 of the 28 batters he's faced this year. If you squint hard enough you can see a potentially dominant right-handed reliever for the later innings, but by the time you get your eyelids set just the right way he's allowed another lead-changing home run, and everything's back to square one. If nothing else, though, watching him pitch like he did today makes it easy to see why the organization has and may still view him as a closer down the road. I wonder if there's anyone more hot-and-cold in baseball than Putz, both on the field and with the fans. Remarkable how much fluctuation you can get in the popular opinion of Mariner relievers.
Daily^ Eddie Guardado Update: he will continue to make me nervous every time he comes into a close game, regardless of how well he's pitched in recent weeks. That's just how it is, and nothing's ever going to change it. Mariner baseball raised me to never trust a closer, and it's virtually impossible to un-learn that kind of early conditioning.
Daily Ichiro Update: currently struggling, still awesome.
Daily Adrian Beltre Update: currently struggling, hopeless.
Anyone notice this?
SEATTLE CENTER FIELDER JEREMY REED SINGLED IN THE TOP OF THE SECOND INNING TO EXTEND HIS HITTING STREAK TO 10 GAMES.
Jarrod Washburn and Josh Beckett tomorrow at 11:05am PDT.