After a while you just run out of ways to say "that felt like a kick in the balls."
Biggest Contribution: Jose Lopez, +23.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Jake Woods, -27.8%
Most Important Hit: Lopez single, +24.9%
Most Important Pitch: Ozuna homer, -48.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -44.9%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -41.2%
Win Expectancy tells the story in this one. A handy little rule of thumb I like to use is that any play that swings a team's WE at least 20% in either direction is hugely important, and the team that gets more of them by the end of the night is way more likely to end up on top. There were six such plays tonight, with four of them going in Chicago's favor - Konerko's double, Crede's grand slam, Uribe's single, and Ozuna's homer. Four potentially game-changing plays in the last five innings. The reason this one stings so bad is that, watching the game, it felt like the Mariners lost three or four times instead of once.
I guess the upside, if there is one, is that with the way things turned out, at least we won't have to hear about how great Gil Meche looked for the next four days. While his pace was up (which is much appreciated, since a quick Gil Meche is much less traumatizing to watch than the slow methodical suckass we've come to expect), his performance just didn't come with the air of repeatability, as he exited having allowed zero runs in 6+ innings despite walking four to just one strikeout. In that respect, Soriano's first pitch was simply a case where the universe had to right itself as fast as possible, charging Gil with three runs that by all accounts he probably should've allowed much earlier. Hargrove tried to keep it from happening by going to his best reliever to get out of the jam, but there's a very short list of things capable of overcoming the infinite power of the cosmos, and Mike Hargrove's intellect isn't one of them.
The Mariners were able to rally against Freddy Garcia, a Matt Thornton who looks way less different than I expected, and a struggling Cliff Politte, getting a little help from the World Champion Infield Defense in the process for good measure, but I don't think there was a soul among us who felt good with a one-run lead in the eighth inning, because a one-run lead in the eighth inning often turns into a one-run lead in the ninth inning, and that just means we get to watch ol' Tub o' Goo blow the game with one pitch. The only surprise is guessing which is going to be the pitch that sticks the dagger through your heart and out your back, but whether you guess right or wrong, the outcome is always the same, and having the foresight to know which opponent is going to deliver the longball is like somebody forcefully drowning you in a pool of delicious ice-cold Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail. In the end, sugarcoated death is still death, no matter how you look at it, and I don't know too many dead guys who take solace in the fact that they saw their demise coming ahead of time.
Pablo Ozuna's first Major League home run in 315 at bats. I could sit here and tell you that it wasn't that bad of a pitch, that it wasn't hit that well, and that US Cellular has crazy home run park factors (right-handed hitters swat 37% more home runs in Chicago than the do on the road), but all that's just pussyfooting around the bigger point that, for the quintillionth time this season, Eddie Guardado blew a lead with two outs in the ninth inning. With a half-decent closer the Mariners would be better than .500 right now, but instead they're 12-17, mired in last place and failing to take advantage of a real lull in the quality of AL West divisional play. It hurts to even think about.
Honestly, what good is a closer when he doesn't have stuff, control, intimidation, or health? There's an old saying that's something along the lines of, if a manager is able to give the ball to his closer in the ninth inning with a lead, he's done his job, but at what point do you begin to put the blame on the coach instead of the player? I can understand Hargrove going back to Eddie for the first few weeks of the season to try and work him out of his rut, but even without so many blown saves he's still been shaky lately while Putz has been fantastic, and Putz only faced one batter in the eighth tonight. This was the first time all season where I really thought that Hargrove made a bad decision to go with Guardado in the ninth. Hopefully it's also the last, at least for a few weeks/months while Eddie tries to get things going in lower-leverage situations. I just can't envision a scenario where Guardado gets sent back out there to protect a one-run lead in the next few days and Hargrove expects to keep his job.
They say celebrities always die in threes. The way I figure, the same should also go for celebrity attributes. We've already seen Guardado's career and Mike Hargrove's job security kick the bucket. What's going to be #3?
The game would continue into extra innings, but with a bunch of slop coming out of the Mariner bullpen, I think all of us knew how it was going to end. A Paul Konerko error in the eleventh put the go-ahead run just 90 feet away, but Willie Ballgame wasn't about to get around on a Bobby Jenks fastball, so nothing ever materialized. Into the bottom of the inning it went, when a lazy defensive play set up the game-winning rally and some terrible positioning capped it off. There's no excuse for Reed candyassing Ozuna's grounder up the middle, considering how awful he's been at the plate over the last few weeks, but at the same time there's also really no excuse for the outfielders to be set up in a deep alignment in the next at bat with the winning run on second base. Sure enough, Uribe hits a blooper that lands between everyone and the White Sox win the game. I usually don't like to blame the manager for outcomes since it's the players who actually have to execute, but between the way he handled the bullpen in the eighth, the way he handled the bullpen in the ninth, the way he handled the bullpen in the tenth, the whole Petagine/Bloomquist pinch-hitting thing (even if it did work out), and the defensive positioning in the eleventh, Mike Hargrove was just terrible tonight. There's no other way around it. It is my belief that he made a fairly significant contribution to the losing effort.
I have a few other notes written down, but it's morning now, and writing about this game certainly doesn't do anything to help me relax, so I'll just leave you with something I found enjoyable. All night the Seattle broadcast was able to pick up some loudmouth fans near the booth with remarkable clarity. The following is a brief sequence from the bottom of the first inning:
Loudmouth Fan: "Hey Jimmy (Thome), he's only getting the fastball over! Sit on the fastball!"
Niehaus: "Curveball for a strike."
Two innings later, I could swear this was the same guy:
Loudmouth Fan: "Look for the curve! He's only got a curve!"
Day game tomorrow, with Felix going up against the red-hot Jose Contreras at 11:05am PDT.