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It seems like only days ago that the Mariners were impressing everybody by playing well in Cleveland against a hell of an Indians team. Probably because it was. Even with that series, though, the M's have dropped eight of 11 games, and it feels like last place has come out of nowhere. Struggling against teams like Oakland, Anaheim, Cleveland and Boston is one thing, and it's perfectly understandable, but losing at home with Felix on the hill to some clown named John Koronka? That's cause for concern. The M's badly need to win tonight to keep this whole thing from snowballing, because the last thing we need is to know that the season's over by the middle of May for the third straight year.

Anyway, I'm going to breeze right through a quick recap, so let's get to the chart:

Biggest Contribution: Willie Ballgame! +4.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Felix, -21.5%
Most Important Hit: Bloomquist single, +8.0%
Most Important Pitch: Nevin homer, -19.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -15.5%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -35.6%

(What is this?)

You might be wondering how Jake Woods escaped with a positive rating despite walking five and allowing three runs in 1.2 innings of work. The answer: blame Richie Sexson. In the top of the sixth, after walking the bases loaded and retiring Rod Barajas, Woods got Laynce Nix to hit an easy DP grounder to Sexson at first, but the ball got under his glove and rolled into the outfield, scoring two runs. The official scorer inexplicably ruled it a single instead of an error, but I'm not as totally baked as he must've been, so as far as I'm concerned, that one's on Richie. Woods got credit for a double play, which would've ended the inning.

Anyway, while a lot of people deserve a lot of criticism for the outcome of last night's game, I don't necessarily think that Felix is one of them. Stuff-wise, he pretty much looked as good as he ever has from the first batter to the last, pumping his heater up to 97mph and mixing in a good change and a devastating breaking ball. You don't strike out nine of the 22 batters you face by accident, after all. I have no complaints about how Felix looked. Where he ran into trouble was predictability - he wasn't changing speeds nearly as often as he should've. I didn't keep a tally, but for the first few innings it seemed like he was throwing 80-90% fastballs, with the occasional offspeed pitch that took the hitter by surprise. It almost felt like the Rangers were deliberately laying off of the curve/change in the early going and sitting fastball, which turned out to be an effective strategy (if it was indeed what they were doing). It took a little while for Felix/Johjima to change their approach, and by that point it was already 4-0, but once they did, the Rangers didn't have a chance. Nobody can hit Felix's curveball. They have only a slightly better chance of hitting the change. Felix's fastball is - velocity aside - his worst pitch, and while this is unusual, I think it's definitely something the bench and battery need to take into consideration when thinking about how he should be challenging the batters. While I'm not advocating abandoning the fastball entirely as the primary pitch, I'd like to see it around 50-60% instead of 80-90%. I can just about guarantee you that taking that approach would make Felix a better pitcher.

Here's the take-home message for people who missed last night's game: four runs aside, Felix looked terrific. His command was sharp and his stuff was awesome. The only problem was poor pitch selection, but this is a minor issue that can be easily resolved by his next start. Be encouraged.

Dave Henderson was in rare form last night. In the span of about ten minutes he talked at some length about each of the following:

  • Felix doesn't pitch with enough of a "mean streak", which lets the batters stay comfortable in the box
  • For every ten breaking balls a guy throws, three of them will be hung
  • When hit by a bat, curveballs travel farther than fastballs
I'm dead serious. It was about as unbearable as I've ever heard him. At one point I thought he was finally going to shut up, but then Niehaus spoke up:

Dave: (to Hendu) "So what do you think of the Bonds situation?"
Me: "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"

Aside from Sal Fasano and everybody on the Red Sox, there might not be anybody in baseball who looks like he enjoys the sauce more than Phil Nevin. I'm not talking about weak girly drinks, either; I'm talking hard stuff, the kind of drink that can get you smashed when you smell it down the hallway. I was talking to someone recently about the worst shots he's ever taken, and he came up with two - the "Coalminer's Phlegmball," which is Jagermeister and mayonnaise, and the "Floormat," which is when the bartender empties the mat on which he poured all the drinks over the course of an evening into a shotglass. Phil Nevin seems like he enjoys a few of these every night before he goes to bed.

Kevin Millwood and Jamie Moyer tonight at 7:05pm PDT.