It wasn't the biggest win of the season. It wasn't the most exciting, either, but unless you're the Red Sox, you can't win in dramatic, heart-stopping fashion every day. Sometimes there are just games that you can't let yourself lose. Nice of the Mariners to realize that this was one of those games before it got to be too late.
Biggest Contribution: Kenji Johjima, +15.0%
Biggest Suckfest: Ichiro, -10.3%
Most Important Hit: Ibanez single, +23.0%
Most Important Pitch: Markakis homer, -14.4%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -3.3%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +28.7%
I'm in a total rush, so it's straight to the bullet points:
- For the second consecutive start, Gil Meche didn't know where his pitches were going. He was able to escape with a reasonable looking line (six strikeouts, seven groundball outs) thanks to bad swings and timely location, but he was a mess - his fastball was straight and erratic, his slider got elevated and lost its break, and his curveball was all over the place. His first three strikeouts were all of the looking variety, and I think Gil was just as surprised by each of them as the hitter. So far this year he's frozen a lot of batters with two-strike yakkers because the pitch has a ton of bend in it, but too often he leaves it up or bounces it in front of the catcher (incidentally, I don't recall him missing with his curve to the left or right very often, suggesting that it's a problem with releasing too early or too late [which is normal]). It's a good pitch when Gil's ahead, but because he can't control it very well he has to abandon it when he's behind, which is problematic. If Gil learns how to spot his curve, he's a legitimate #2. For the time being, he's a #4 who occasionally looks like better. That's fine, but this rotation could really use someone stepping up over the final two months.
- Adam Loewen can't throw strikes. So, naturally, the Mariners swung themselves silly and didn't accomplish anything until he ran out of steam in the sixth. They tried to be patient - both Ichiro and Lopez got into three-ball counts to start the game - but each time they swung at (and made outs on) ball four, and after that the rest of the team just went up hacking like usual. A factoid that came up during the game is that the Mariners are still last in the league in free passes despite leading everyone in intentional walks. It seems hard to believe, but sit down and watch a game like today's and you'll see how it's possible. This lineup just loves to swing the bat, and as such it's prone to extreme streaks of awesomeness and crappitude. Sometimes you'll see both in the same game; after being one-hit through the first five innings, the Mariners scored ten runs on twelve hits in the last four. I feel like I'm talking about this every day but it really is a big problem, because nobody has any concept of how to take advantage of a guy who's struggling with command. They can generally hit guys who pound the strike zone (17 hits against Roy Halladay in 13 innings, for example), but a healthy Victor Zambrano would probably shut them out.
- Please note that, as much as I'm displeased with the lineup's standard approach, ten runs kicks ass.
- I don't want to say that Mike Hargrove used his bullpen properly today, because calling on Mateo was a stupid idea that deserves ridicule, but he made the right decisions after that. Going with Sherrill and Lowe to finish the seventh was smart, as was immediately going to the mop-up guys once the game got out of hand. Lowe (of course) struck out Melvin Mora to end the seventh inning of a 5-4 contest, but a few minutes later it was 9-4, and there was no longer any reason to leave him in. Better to take him out and keep his arm fresh in case we need him tomorrow and/or the next day. With Putz still available in case disaster struck, going with Fruto and Woods to finish things off was the right idea.
- On a related note, Emiliano Fruto blows. He'll get better with time, but he very clearly isn't ready to be pitching in the Majors.
- Even more amusing than seeing Brandon Fahey's parents in the stands videotaping his Major League debut a few months ago was finding out that his walk-up song is Superman (Edit: I mean 'Kryptonite') by 3 Doors Down. I don't know if he chose it because it's his favorite Halloween costume, it matches his underwear, or he has a refreshing self-deprecating sense of humor about his puny build, but whatever the case, it's more perfect than Willie Ballgame walking up to E Nomine. Don't ever change, Brandon.
- That sight change in his batting stance that Jose Lopez said he made prior to yesterday's game has very clearly paid off. Over these past two games he's got six hits in ten at bats, and while he's still swung at a handful of bad pitches, he's driven the ball on a line. The problem? All six hits - just like the 17 before them - have been singles. Base knocks are better than nothing, but it's really unusual for a guy's power to disappear as quickly as it has for Jose. At least I don't have to complain about his batting second in the lineup for now, even if Betancourt's still white-hot. Can't really whine about a lineup arrangement when everyone's hitting.
There are a couple more things I wanted to talk about (Mateo in particular), but I'm out of time. Jamie Moyer and Rodrigo Lopez tomorrow at 4:05pm PDT, as the Mariners try to get their revenge for Lopez's terrific outing against them two months ago. I was there. That sucked. Also, it's going to be Adam Jones' 21st birthday, so I wouldn't expect him to be in Wednesday's lineup. "Flu-like symptoms" and all that.