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Hypothesis:

-This loss really, really sucked.

Argument:

-Lost with one of the best young pitchers in baseball getting the start
-Blown 2-0 lead
-Blown shot at .500
-Blown shot at sweep
-Took step back in division
-Couldn't muster much offense against contact groundballer
-Potential rally stifled by horrible call at first base
-Loss stands chance of killing recent momentum

Counter-argument:

-All losses suck, and this one wasn't uniquely tragic
-M's took the series despite the loss
-Sweep in Oakland didn't kill the momentum, so neither should this
-Felix lost to a guy with a significantly better ERA
-Kept things close, didn't collapse after losing the lead
-Faint signs of life in the later innings
-Game tomorrow presents opportunity to bounce back quickly with huge confidence boost

Conclusion:

-This loss sucked, but in the grand scheme of things it probably isn't as bad as I thought it was an hour ago. Overreaction likely due to sudden lack of familiarity with losing.

Biggest Contribution: Yuniesky Betancourt, +6.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Felix Hernandez, -33.3%
Most Important Hit: Betancourt homer, +12.2%
Most Important Pitch: Martin single, -26.1%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -27.8%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -22.2%

(What is this?)

On the one hand, tonight's loss stung in no small part because the Mariners blew a two-run lead in the second half of the game with their most talented pitcher on the mound. On the other, the pain we all felt when Jeremy Reed grounded into the final out signals a return to relevance for this ballclub after years of triviality, which is something to celebrate. We don't need to get ahead of ourselves just yet, not when the Mariners are still playing sub-.500 ball and lingering four games out of first, but despite the loss it's still finally becoming clear that the franchise is headed in the right direction. No more arguing in the abstract about how Bill Bavasi's plan to improve the talent level of the roster while simultaneously making it younger would pay dividends in the long run - now we can actually see that plan in action, and while the current edition certainly isn't without its flaws, it's still a much better brand of baseball than that to which we've become accustomed in recent seasons.

If the Mariners have to lose a bunch of games, I hope they all feel as awful as tonight, because only when a team is performing up to par will I let myself get this emotionally invested on a daily basis. The moment you stop caring as much as you used to is the moment you know the team is in bad shape.

Unless you were holding out irrational hope for a huge first or second inning, it was hard not to like the way this one started - while Lowe had some early success, Felix looked spectacular, and a little instant offense from Yuniesky Betancourt and Raul Ibanez gave the Mariners a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth. At that point, with Lowe leaving a few balls up in the zone and Felix pitching around the bats, you had to feel pretty good about our chances of finishing off the sweep and finally reaching .500.

I guess that's when God thought he'd teach us a lesson about overconfidence, because while Lowe buckled down, Felix came back out looking like a different pitcher, having apparently lost (A) a few miles off his heater, and (B) a comfortable grip of his breaking ball. The fastballs started coming in droves - and predictably so, as usual - and the Dodger bats started sending them right back from whence they came, rolling along with a 14-single assault that knocked Felix out of the game in the sixth with the score 4-2 Los Angeles. While Felix's final line of 5.2 IP/11 H/0 BB/6 K hints at a certain degree of bad luck, it's important not to absolve the kid of all responsibility for the outcome, because tonight he just didn't pitch well after the second inning. "Luck" was only a secondary factor, here.

As infuriating as the bottom of the sixth was, though (five singles! and a walk!), the real lowlight of the game came a half-inning later. With two outs and a man on base, Carl Everett rolled a slow pinch-hit grounder to the left side and beat the throw to the bag, but first base umpire Brian Runge awoke from his daydreams about soup just in time to call Everett out. It's not like it was a judgment call - Everett looked safe in real time and very safe in slow-motion. Everyone was surprised by the ruling, Vin Scully included, and Everett looked like a man out for blood when the game cut to commercial. Instead of having two men on base for the red-hot Ichiro, a very favorable matchup against the groundballing Lowe, the Mariners lost an out and their best chance to erase the deficit. There's really no other way to put it - that was a killer. Win Expectancy puts the cost of the bad call at -6.5%, which is rough enough before you even consider who was on deck. Russell Martin's two-run single was four times as damaging as the ruling on Everett's groundball, but my enduring memory of tonight's game is still going to be Runge taking a baserunner and giving an out. What a dick.

A Standard Vin Scully Batter Introduction:

So here comes Richie Sexson to the plate. Richmond Lockwood "Richie" Sexson resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, Kerry. He graduated from Prairie High School in Brush Prairie, WA, in 1993, earning All-State honors in football, basketball and baseball, and also set the school record for RBI during his scholastic career at Prairie High. Sexson enjoys golfing, fishing and attending NBA games regularly in the off-season, while his wife Kerry is an avid photographer.

The pitch on the way...no, Lowe steps off.

In 1993 Sexson broke into professional baseball by appearing in 97 games for Class-A Burlington. He only hit one home run, but he came back a year later to hit 14 Columbus of the Sally League. In 1995 he won Cleveland's Lou Boudreau Award as the top minor league position player, spending the entire season at Kinston, and he was the MVP of the Carolina League and named to the Post-Season All-Star team. Sexson led the Carolina League in hits, total bases, doubles, RBI and extra base hits, while finishing second in average, runs, slugging percentage, tied for third in games, at bats and finished fourth in home runs. He also led all Carolina League first basemen in total chances, putouts, assists and double plays. Sexson was named the Carolina League's "Best Batting Prospect", "Best Power Prospect" and "Best Defensive First Baseman" by Baseball America.

And the pitch...no, Lowe steps off again. He and Martin seem to be having some trouble communicating.

In 1997, Sexson had a banner season at Buffalo, earning a berth on the Mid-season All-Star team and a place on the American Association Post-Season All-Star Team. He became the first Bison to lead the league in homers (31), while his 88 RBI ranked third in the league and his .530 slugging percentage ranked second. He earned Buffalo co-MVP honors with Bruce Aven despite missing over a month of the season after suffering a dislocated right shoulder in the second game of the year April 5, going on the disabled list until May 6. Sexson was recalled to Cleveland on September 12 after the playoffs and made his Major League debut 2 days later in Comiskey Park in a pinch-hit appearance, collecting a hit in his first at bat with an infield single off Tony Castillo in the eighth inning. Later, he played for Arecibo in Puerto Rican Winter League after the season.

The 0-0 delivery is low for a ball.

The next season, Sexson...

Jeremy Reed SLG: .393
Yuniesky Betancourt SLG: .426
Richie Sexson SLG: .395
Adrian Beltre SLG: .375

Something isn't right.

I'm starting to hit the wall so it's probably in everybody's best interests that I wrap this up now before I fall asleep on my keyboard. I will say two more quick things before I go, though:

(1) Felix's pitch sequence to Martin in the bottom of the second was phenomenal, as he struck him out without letting him see a single fastball. For whatever reason, he and Johjima deviated from this later in the game, and Martin burned them with the biggest hit of the night...

(2) If you didn't laugh when Grady Little left Derek Lowe in the game after visiting the mound in the top of the ninth, you are clinically dead.

Gil Meche and Jake Peavy tomorrow night at 7:05pm PDT in Petco Park. While much of Meche's success thus far has been a mirage (ERA 4.10, xFIP 4.89), Peavy has been the complete opposite (ERA 4.81, xFIP 3.71). But then, Gil's the king of interleague domination, so here's to him and the rest of the team giving me a good show to watch from the nosebleeds. I hardly ever get to see the Mariners in person, so, dammit, they'd better not do this again.