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There's a certain added thrill you get in baseball from watching close games. The way I figure, it's all about the emotional swings from nervous to enthusiastic; the more of those you get, the better the game-watching experience, because they add up to create this sum total feeling of euphoria after the final out is recorded. In that respect, a 13-2 blowout is way worse than yeterday's tight 10-8 contest, because while the former probably put any doubt to rest in a hurry, the latter allowed for the repeated release of internal pressure in an emotional event not unlike a volcanic eruption. To put it another way, would you rather have a vending machine accidentally give you one free box of Gobstoppers once, or give you one free box of Gobstoppers during five successive visits? (Don't answer if you aren't a fan of Gobstoppers. Do they still make Gobstoppers?)

So, yeah, yesterday's game was a thrill. But before we get into that in more detail, it's Win Expectancy chart time!

Biggest Contribution: Richie Sexson, +18.7%
Biggest Suckfest: JJ Putz, -6.2%
Most Important Hit: Johjima homer, +11.2%
Most Important Pitch: Rivera homer, -14.0%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +9.8%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +37.4%

(What is this?)

Putz gets the honorary distinction of being the team's Biggest Suckfest two days in a row. That said, for all of his troubles, the impact of his appearance really wasn't that significant, as the Mariners still stood an 87.1% chance of victory after his inning. Giving up runs late in the ballgame is never a good idea, but as long as you're able to keep the lead, you're in pretty good shape, because even the slimmest of margins is able to hold up pretty well. For another bit of evidence, just look at Guardado - when he came in, the win expectancy was 99.4%, and after Rivera's double made it 10-8 and brought the tying run to the plate, it was still 96.3%. Emotions easily and often cloud rational thought, and I don't think there's a better example of this than the bullpen. It's not as easy to blow a lead as Matt Thornton made it seem.

Speaking of Matt Thornton, Jake Woods was up and throwing in the bullpen in the top of the sixth, and I couldn't help but think back to the second game of the season a year ago, when Thornton turned a two-run lead into a three-run deficit in the span of four batters. If you don't remember what that felt like, read this excerpt from a conversation Devin and I were having at the time. Needless to say, that appearance set the tone for an awful season by both Thornton and the Mariners, and the last thing I needed was for that to happen again yesterday. Fortunately, the totally awesome Rafael Soriano came in instead, and things were okay, at least for a little while. I'm sorry, Jake, but you're just always going to make me nervous even if not through any fault of your own, thanks to the enduring memory of your predecessor.

Joel Pineiro got the start and, while I thought his motion looked less violent and sudden than it did a year ago, his command was off for most of the game. Perhaps because he's been focusing more on the two-seam fastball, Joel's curveball looked rusty and was missing all day long, allowing Angel hitters to sit back and look for the heater (he was also throwing a good changeup, but you know what I mean). As a testament to both the power of the sinking fastball and the crappiness of the Anaheim lineup, though, Joel survived, recording 11 groundball outs and allowing three runs in 6.1 innings despite a paltry 2:2 K/BB ratio. He wasn't missing any bats, but the contact was rarely all that solid, and not too many guys were able to send the ball deep into the outfield (Garret Anderson not included because, wow, that ball flew). We can't extrapolate very much from one game, but Joel didn't look horrible, which is something. You know how much I love grounders, so it's hard to criticize a guy who got as many of them as Joel did last night.

Next in line was Soriano. While we're still waiting on his 98mph heat to return, I think the list of more entertaining relievers to watch has to be a short one. His fastball has so much movement that it's almost impossible to strike with any degree of authority, and he's able to spot it so well that it always comes as a surprise to hitters when he brings the slider, frequently resulting in hysterical at bats. The low tailing fastball he used to retire Vlad on a foul pop-up was the perfect pitch for that situation, which is a credit to both Johjima for calling it and Soriano for throwing it. I'm with Dave - I have more confidence in Raffy than I do in any other non-Felix pitcher on the staff. And you know what? In two games, Mike Hargrove has used arguably his best reliever in high-leverage seventh inning situations. Big, big plus, even if he did go to Putz instead of Guardado in the ninth inning of the opener.

Putz. If someone else doesn't start sucking real quick, this guy's going to become the fans' favorite post-Thornton whipping boy. Despite his relative success a year ago, all anyone remembers are the home runs, so when his first two appearances of 2006 are as bad as they've been, you have to know that people are going to start getting on his case. It's unfortunate, because he's not a bad reliever by any means, but he's not really helping himself out right now. It's hard to say just what kind of role he should have - while his walk and strikeout rates against righties are below average, lefties are able to make much more solid contact, whereas righties tend to drive the ball into the ground. So, as far as the numbers are concerned, he seems like a decent guy to spot against right-handed batters in the seventh inning if Soriano is unavailable. If you ignore the numbers and just watch him pitch, though, you're left wondering how it is that he's even made it this far. His fastball is hard but incredibly straight and his other stuff goes wherever it wants, meaning that in a 3-1 count or any other tough situation, he's coming with a flat four-seamer. Hitters know this, and they're able to do some damage. I wonder if the first-pitch strike is more important for Putz than it is for anyone else on the staff, since his stuff can get him into all kinds of trouble when he's behind in the count.

Yesterday's paid attendance was the second-lowest in Safeco Field history. If you only count the people who showed up, though, it probably gave #1 a run for its money. Clearly there's a distinct lack of buzz about the season in the PNW, because there's no way that an interested fan base has such a poor turnout in the second game of the season (and against a division rival, no less). A year or two ago, this would've made me smile, kind of like Seattle's big "up yours" to the organization, but now it actually makes me a little upset - it suggests that people don't really recognize the potential for this team to do great things. I understand that it's coming off consecutive terrible seasons that were a chore to watch, but those years are behind us, and the current roster has a ton of young talent in a ton of places capable of lifting the Mariners to the top of the standings if everything clicks right. They might also fall short of 80 wins, but how is this not something that many people want to watch? I suppose the casual fan doesn't know as much about the Reeds and Lopezes on the team as readers of the blogosphere do, but here's hoping that, as the M's play spirited, exciting baseball for the first few weeks or so, people begin to show up again. This could be a real good year.

A typical baseball season will have a handful of decisive moments where the one thing you really really want to see happen actually happens, sending you into a jubilant frenzy. Last night's Richie Sexson at bat in the eighth inning was one of those moments. With two men on base and a rapidly disintegrating lead needing a little insurance, I sat in my chair, stared intently into Richie's face, and said "you're hitting a God damn home run." And when Esteban Yan threw him The Pitch, Richie delivered, and I almost fell to the ground. That pitch - the outside fastball that tails conveniently right back over the heart of the plate - was made specifically for purposes of killing a guy in the outfield bullpen, and there's no one in the lineup more capable of doing his part to help out than Sexson. His home run was as spectacular as Jacque Jones' blast a year ago was heartbreaking, and it's really what made yesterday's game complete. That and the comedy of errors that was Anaheim's team defense.

It's been two games and already I'm getting the sense that nothing about Adrian Beltre has changed. Now that I sort of have an idea of what his problem is, it's a lot more apparent than it was a year ago - he gets way out in front of breaking balls, and when he tries to sit back and wait for them, he ends up either way behind the fastball, or just not swinging at all. I can forgive him for yesterday's embarrassment, since Lackey is a damn fine pitcher who's made better hitters than Beltre look stupid, but at the same time, I'd really like to see some indication that he's gotten better. Adrian actually argued a called strike on a fastball right over the heart of the plate in the middle of an at bat yesterday. All that tells me is that he really has no idea where the pitches are going. But hey, it's still early, and I'm sure I'll be singing a different tune when he hits his first homer.

Bottom of the fourth, Mariners up 5-0, and there are men on first and second with nobody out. Jose Lopez laid down a sacrifice bunt. I have absolutely no idea why he did that against a pitcher on the ropes, other than perhaps Hargrove wanted to see if his second baseman learned anything during an ST in which everyone had to re-learn the fundamentals. This strategy was only a little less peculiar than Mike Scioscia intentionally walking Raul Ibanez on two separate occasions to get to Richie Sexson. (Lopez would lay down another sac bunt in the eighth, although that one is a lot easier to understand, even if I don't like it.)

The biggest letdown of the season so far has to be cutting off the announer mics between innings so we can't eavesdrop on our idiot broadcasters when they say stupid things about a team who they think really sucks. They did manage to leave them on during the announcer switch in the middle of the fifth inning, though, which let us listen in on Rick Rizzs rehearsing his various catchphrases ("Holy cow! Holy cow! Ho-ooooly cow!"). In a sense, it seems even worse to me that these things are premeditated. Previously I'd been able to rest easy humoring myself into thinking that Rizzs is a normal, tolerable person who just happens to accidentally slip in an occasional "Holy cow!" or "Hello friends" the way some people snort when they laugh, but no more. He actually is that big of a tool.

Hendu (repeating what Everett had said to him earlier): "Judge me by what I do on the field between the white lines."
Me: "That's the exact opposite of why you were brought here in the first place."

Jeff Weaver and Jarrod Washburn today. First pitch at 3:35 PDT.

Update: the following is a compilation of all the current Rally Dinosaur submissions, in no particular order:

From MFanInAlaska
From Scruffy Lefty
From Gomez
From me
From Trent
From manyoso
From Anthony Goins <---easily the best one
From OBF (#1)
From OBF (#2)
From OBF (#3)
From OBF (#4) (avert your eyes)

I think that's all of them.