Anyone who tells you that the current state of the AL West is bad for baseball doesn't know what it feels like to be able to watch a 48-51 team and still be excited for the next day's game. Or maybe they do, but far more likely is that they're just bitter Twins or Yankees fans sick of watching their guys fight for their playoff lives against the class of the league while the Mariners run laps in the Special Olympics. But whatever, to hell with them, it's not our fault their cities were built in the wrong part of the country.
To the chart!
Biggest Contribution: Kenji Johjima, +19.0%
Biggest Suckfest: Ichiro, -3.8%
Most Important Hit: Johjima single, +11.7%
Most Important Pitch: Hinske homer #1, -8.1%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +7.9%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +39.6%
One of the duller Win Expectancy charts of the season, although at least this time it went in the right direction rather than sloping downwards as the lineup gets Joe Blantown3d. The Mariners had the edge for good after Joel retired Eric Hinske in the top of the second, and their chances of winning never dipped below 76.2% following Johjima's two-run single in the bottom half. It almost felt like our first comfortable victory since the end of June - and it probably would've been if Joel weren't the kind of player that makes you use regular dish soap instead of Drano because you're afraid of what you might do if you're watching him pitch while unclogging the sink. Even so, I'll take an anxious four-run win over the nerve-wracking one-run variety eight days a week.
Believe it or not, Firefox just ate my recap - again - after I tried to boot up the MLB.tv archived footage - again - so I'm pretty pissed off right now. But hey, I like the bullet point format anyway, so off we go.
- I can't remember the last time I saw a pitcher have as bipolar of a game as Joel Pineiro did tonight (although Cole Hamels probably has him topped). At times his curveball looked spectacular and he was positively unhittable, but at others (by which I mean for 90% of his outing) he was making mistakes and getting hammered. Of the ten hits he allowed, I don't remember a single one as being weakly struck, and even some of the outs were annihilated line drives. The top of the sixth had the potential to be a disaster as Eric Hinske, Aaron Hill and John Mcfriggin'Donald all hit the snot out of the ball, but fortunately two of the three fly balls found gloves, and Joel was able to escape with a "quality start." He was pitching out of jams all game long and remains the hands-down weakest link in this rotation. Yanking him now and giving his slot to Francisco Cruceta, Mark Lowe, or anyone else who isn't Julio Mateo or a member of Joel Pineiro's bloodline makes the M's at least a game or two better over the rest of the season, which could make a world of difference in the end. Here's hoping a Yankees scout caught Joel's first two innings, suddenly contracted food poisoning, spent the next four innings locked in a bathroom stall, and left the stadium with a notebook full of happy scribblings.
- In the top of the second, Aaron Hill hit a scorching foul ball down the left field line that just barely avoided permanently incapacitating Bengie Molina, who was standing on third base. Said play prompted the following list:
Things That Are Less Elusive Than Bengie Molina:
Buildings whose names begin with "Ramada"
Jimmy Durante's nose
Joel Pineiro's fastball
- In the bottom of the second, Carl Everett attempted a bunt but knocked it foul. Two innings later, he was praised for "hitting behind the runner" and advancing Richie Sexson to third on a groundball. In case you weren't aware, Carl Everett is the team's designated hitter.
- I was going to make a parody of a Being John Malkovich movie poster, with the edited version reading Walking John McDonald, but I decided against it when I realized that the only people who'd get it pitch for the Mariners. The man has a career OPS of .589 and we've given him two walks and a homer in the past ten days.
- It's always depressing when a long-time beloved team announcer approaches the end of his career, but even after they start to lose it they're still able to warm your heart with their charming voices and eloquent narrations of dramatic events that take place on the field. Such was the case with Dave Niehaus' call of Kenji Johjima's fourth inning homer:
...the 2-2 pitch - swung on and a foul hit deep down the left field line. I believe it is foul...it iiiiiiiiissssssss FLY AWAY! IT'S FAIR!
It's new news to absolutely nobody that Dave Niehaus is terrible at judging fly balls, and it's beyond the point of being a little tiresome. That said, the ways in which he misjudges fly balls are frequently hilarious, and should be enough keep him gainfully employed until he finally knocks off, at which point he can take Hendu's spot as the color guy.
- I love Yuniesky Betancourt. Love him to death. Wouldn't trade him for anything short of a world-class package of talent. With that necessary preface out of the way, don't let yourself be misled the next time someone tells you he's a legitimate .300 hitter - while technically that's true, the implication is that he's a great hitter, which he isn't. After tonight his season line stands at .299/.319/.407, which is pretty much the emptiest .299 imaginable. He doesn't walk, he doesn't hit for power, and he's not the kind of guy who gets killed by Safeco Field; he's just a fantastic defensive shortstop who helps out a little bit from the bottom of the lineup by hitting three singles every ten at bats. It's perfectly acceptable to have a completely heterosexual mancrush on Yuniesky, but let's not make him out to be something he's not. Just take solace in the fact that we get to watch him play more than anyone else in the world. And take a little less solace in the fact that he's outhitting our everyday DH.
- Tonight's four Blue Jay pitchers seemingly appeared in ascending order of hair length. 1: Casey Janssen. 2: Brian Tallet. 3: Jeremy Accardo. 4: Scott Downs. This observation is posted without commentary. I seriously don't have anything to say about it.
- Every time Mike Hargrove calls for a hit-and-run and ends up with a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play on his hands, God cockpunches an orphan.
- Based on how he so frequently manages to track down attractive young women while the FSN feed is shut off between innings, it's long been an assumption of mine that the Safeco MLB.tv cameraman is a sex-starved, lonely old man who'd kill himself if not for mid-inning pop music at the ballpark that makes teenage girls stand up and dance with each other in front of their seats. That said, he's occasionally able to catch some interesting things that regular TV viewers miss - most frequently things in the dugout. Tonight's example was brought to my attention by Dave:
So, I'm guessing this didn't make it on the regular broadcast, and only our crappy mlb.tv camera caught it, but between innings, Lopez and Beltre got in a huge argument. Lopez was clearly barking at Beltre, and Felix finally separated the two. Beltre looked pissed, then ran into Ron Hassey and gave him a shoulder block without even acknowledging he was there.
The altercation in question took place during a pitching change in the bottom of the sixth, with the MLB.tv feed coming back just in time to catch the tail end of what looked like a heated argument.
It's probably all kinds of illegal, but since not very many of you are MLB.tv subscribers, I decided to use crude methods to capture and upload a video clip of the incident, which you can view here (I'll keep it there until Selig's legal posse makes me take it down).
Update - longer clip now available here.
Honestly, I don't know what to make of this. On the one hand, Eduardo Perez is seemingly laughing as he watches the whole thing, and Raul Ibanez and Ron Hassey appeared to get a kick out of it aftewards. On the other, Beltre berated Ryan Franklin in the dugout just last summer, and he looks crazypissed in the video, so who knows. I just thought I'd share what many of you probably missed.
- :obligatory Kenji Johjima worship:
Gil Meche and Roy Halladay tomorrow at 7:05pm PDT. A win gives the Mariners (A) the series, (B) at least a .500 record on this twelve-game swing, and (C) a shot at a sweep.
I can't believe the Mariners are only three out of first.