Growing up, my brother and I frequently had to improvise our own forms of outdoor entertainment after getting sent outside for roughhousing. This was before either of us really got into sports, but kids are generally pretty good about keeping themselves occupied, so we usually decided to go in the backyard and throw iceplant at each other or crawl into the cylindrical trash can and roll down the street on the hill out front. Mom wasn't a big fan of these activities, but the way she figured, as long as we were outside the only things we could break were ourselves, so she lived with it until we were able to throw iceplant hard enough to hurt and we both outgrew the trash can. When that happened, we didn't really want to keep doing those things either, but by that point we'd set up a basketball hoop in the driveway that could keep us busy for hours, so Mom would keep sending us outside, and we'd keep finding ways to enjoy it. My brother and I would play one-on-one almost every day, going so far as to set up a motion-activated floodlight on the garage door so we could play in the dark. That's how it went for a few years, until we started getting into more organized sports with team practices and games at the school. And I don't know if it ever would've played out like that if Mom hadn't been so insistent on getting us out of the house as kids.
The point is that sometimes I like to write things that have absolutely nothing to do with the Mariners whatsover because just thinking about them is enough to make the vein in my forehead act up, and rambling at length about something completely irrelevant and off-topic is the only way I can calm myself down. Thinking about my childhood usually works. Nostalgia is funny like that. The problem is that it's only a temporary cure, and that when I snap out of it I slip right back into a state of bitter dissatisfaction. That's not good for me or anything near my left fist. Just ask the door to my closet.
Biggest Contribution: Willie Ballgame, +3.1%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Lopez, -16.8%
Most Important Hit: Bloomquist single, +2.6%
Most Important Pitch: Ellis single, -13.8%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -0.2%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -59.6%
The player who made our biggest positive contribution on the day is a guy who hit a single and tried to send our third baseman to the DL with a knee injury on a pop-up down the line. Of course, maybe the latter isn't such a bad thing after all, considering said third baseman has been the least valuable player on the team through the first seven games to the tune of being 13.7% worse than JJ Putz in total Win Probability Added. Knocking Adrian Beltre out of the lineup might be the quickest way to get these guys back on the winning track, although, having watched the last three games, you could probably say the same for pretty much anyone who's gone up to the plate with a bat. Except Roberto Petagine, who rocks our worlds (even if you don't know it yet).
I'm not sure which was funnier - the way Rich Harden marked his territory all over our lineup for seven innings, or the way we continually rebuffed Oakland's efforts to let us back into the game. Observe:
- With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fifth, and the Mariners trailing 2-0, Bobby Crosby hit a tailor-made DP ball to Adrian Beltre, who couldn't make the simple play to end the inning. A run scored, and Eric Chavez drove in another in the next at bat to double the deficit.
- Later, in the seventh, the A's tried to tell us that Pineiro was out of gas by beating the crap out of two singles, but Hargrove decided to leave him in to face Chavez, who went deep to make it 6-0.
- In the bottom of the eighth, Oakland pitchers suddenly lost control of the strike zone, walking two, drilling one, and allowing a hit to load the bases with the gap reduced to 6-1. With Richie Sexson standing on deck as the tying run, Raul Ibanez worked the count to full against Joe Kennedy before swinging through a fastball at his shoulders to end the inning. To make things worse, the pitch just before was way up and in, and easily would've plunked Ibanez had he not made such a remarkable effort to get out of the way and thwart his own rally. Take notes from Jose, Raul, and don't move when the ball's coming at you.
- Finally, the enduring memory of this game has to be the bottom of the ninth, where Oakland did everything in its power to give the game away while the Mariners did everything in theirs to decline the generosity. After retiring Richie Sexson to lead off the inning, Kirk Saarloos issued a pair of walks and threw a wild pitch to put two men in scoring position. A Jeremy Reed fielder's choice left the Mariners with but one out remaining, but Saarloos made a bad pitch to a cold Kenji Johjima and then allowed a base knock to Willie freaking Ballgame to bring the tying run to the plate. Macha called for Huston Street to close things out, but after stabbing an Ichiro comebacker on a hop, Street underhanded the ball too high to first base for Swisher to make a play, allowing Ichiro to reach on what easily should've been the final out of the game. Ichiro then stole second base on Jason Kendall to put the tying run just 180 feet away, but Jose Lopez made the mistake of following that up with a groundball to the one Oakland player who actually wanted to end the game, and that was it. No miracle comeback; just another loss.
Joel Pineiro's entire gameplan is all about deception right now. After getting just eight swinging strikes in 97 pitches in his first start against the Angels, he got two - TWO - today. Joel threw 115 pitches, and Oakland hitters swing through only TWO of them. I can't even fathom that kind of hittability. By contrast, Mariner hitters swung through 17 of Harden's 100 pitches this afternoon. As Dave pointed out a few days ago, Joel's essentially a junkballer now, no longer able to throw through bats with stuff in the 90s, and it was wholly apparent today. Don't get me wrong, the fact that he was still able to rack up his share of called third strikes is nice, but I'm not the least bit convinced that this is as repeatable a skill as actually getting guys to miss. As long as Joel is pitching like this, he'll need to keep his GB/FB somewhere near 2.00 if he wants to survive the season without killed. If only we had a better idea what happened to his repertoire...
In case you were wondering, the Mariners went 27.2 innings between runs and 38 at bats between hits. If you want to take it a step further, though, they went 57 at bats between hits that didn't bounce off of Mark Kotsay's glove before hitting the ground. For the sake of comparison, back-to-back no-hitters span 54 at bats. This weekend was, without question, the worst display of offense I've seen from one team in my entire life. So it wasn't a total loss, I guess.
I don't know if you've ever actually paid close attention to an interview with Mike Hagrove, but this guy has to be the unquestioned overlord of stammering and monotonous run-on sentences. Unfortunately, today's archived MLB.tv footage doesn't include the pregame show during which Hargrove answered a few questions about the state of the team, so I can't transcribe what he said, but I don't think the guy's used a period or even a semicolon in his life. His mouth is kind of like the bus in the movie Speed, where you feel like something horrible is going to happen if it ever stops moving, so you just have to keep it in motion without the least bit of attention paid to what it's actually doing, just so long as it doesn't stop. It's no wonder the team occasionally shows up looking flat and unmotivated; they have to listen to that guy give inspirational speeches for an hour and a half before taking the field.
The Mariners are off tomorrow, which is nice, because it'll be the only day over the next week on which they aren't favored to lose.