- Back in high school four and a half years ago, I was fielding the mound next to the pitching machine during batting practice. I was paying attention the whole time, but roughly 20 minutes into the drill I heard the ping of the bat and couldn't get my glove up in time to block a line drive to my right temple. My vision went a dull brown, I lost consciousness, and when I woke up I couldn't speak or feel my left hand. I spent days in the ICU, weeks in therapy, and months getting over the physical effects of the injury, some of which still remain to this day.
So, yeah, when I saw Vlad's liner tonight, I immediately feared the worst. It looked like it caught him flush, sans any deflection, and the speed with which the ball ricocheted towards the dugout implied a ton of force. Everything came rushing back, and it just about brought me to tears. Seeing that Soriano was conscious enough to writhe around in agony was strangely reassuring, but it still looked like a severe injury.
Now that a few hours have passed, word from the hospital is that, physically speaking, Soriano will be fine. No bleeding, no fracture, no hematoma - just a really really really bad headache, the kind you get when you stay up all night chatting with Sean Paul and eating Airheads. He's not quite out of the woods just yet, as tissue swelling has been known to get in the way of definitive diagnosis on occasion, but by all indications that's not the case here. We'll get 100% certainty in the coming hours/days as the swelling subsides, but I don't think there's anything to worry about in that respect.
Note that I had to qualify all that with "physically speaking." There's no telling how Raffy's going to respond to this accident psychologically; everybody's different, but speaking from experience I can tell you that after something like this happens, it's always in the back of your mind when you're out there on the hill. I had to get over it just like everybody else. Some people can get past it. Others can't. Raffy's a brave guy who's already been through more physical torture than most of us can imagine, but until he gets back up there and strikes a few guys out, we can only speculate. We might not know until next March. If there's an upside to this, it's that Raffy's probably going to do everything in his power to keep guys from making contact after he comes back.
That Soriano's going to be fine relieves Vlad Guerrero of an enormous emotional burden. Hitters are always trained to go up there and attack the ball, but when something like this happens, they feel completely responsible. It's a colossal punch in the gut, sort of the psychological equivalent of the physical pain felt by the pitcher. After Soriano went down you could see that Vlad was very visibly upset, and he rushed to the hospital as soon as he could after the game. We're all thankful for Raffy's sake that there doesn't seem to be any long-term injury, but the same has to go for Vlad, who would've felt worse than any of us could imagine had his ball inflicted more damage. The pitcher tends to get most of the attention in these situations, but the hitters have a struggle all their own.
There is no etiquette, no certain length of time before we can turn our full attention back to the game on the field. Some people were able to do it tonight, some will be able to do it tomorrow, and others will take a little longer. Tonight was a sickening shock, and when everything comes into perspective after something like that, it can take a long time to recover. As far as the team's concerned, though, know that Raffy wants them to go out and play as hard as they can to get the sweep. And they'll probably do everything in their power to comply.
- As for the game itself, Jered Weaver had one of the nastiest cases of regressionitis I've ever seen. He entered with the lowest HR/FB% in baseball, so what happens over the span of the first three hitters? Home run, home run, double within two inches of being a home run. He'd allow two more bombs before Mike Scioscia folded him into a paper airplane and threw him to the dugout in the fifth. That HR/FB% jumped from 4.3 to 7.0 in one start, erasing a pretty significant chunk of his good luck. He doesn't have a real good repertoire and he doesn't generate a favorable assortment of balls in play, so I expect his September to be a pretty humbling experience, at least compared to his first three months. I'd even go so far as to call it his return to Earth if there were any available evidence that he's actually from here.
- Chris Snelling: .364/.421/.727.
- Yuniesky Betancourt plays like a little kid. It's kind of hard to describe in words, but pay close attention to him for a minute or two and you'll understand. He's always got a lot of energy and a strut that conveys enthusiasm more than pretentiousness. He's constantly up on the balls of his feet. Even when he's just stepping out of the batter's box between pitches, you can tell that he really likes what he does.
- In case you were at all concerned about JJ Putz's four flyball outs, I don't think it's really fair to critique his performance after what he saw happen in the top of the eighth. Obviously I have no way of knowing this, but I think it's pretty safe to say that his head wasn't completely in the game. And why would it be?
- It didn't occur to me until tonight, but Jarrod Washburn pitches an awful lot like Eddie used to before he went south. He's got the same underwhelming southpaw velocity, the same flyball profile, the same glove pulling his body offline at release, and the same tendency to miss up and away with his fastball. Even their repertoires are similar, going fastball/changeup with a breaking pitch that's strictly for show. Strikeout pitch of choice? High fastball, even though neither of them gets it there quick enough to make me comfortable. So in case any of you were wondering what Jarrod Washburn would look like in the bullpen, yeah, we've already been through that with somebody fatter.
Jake Woods and John Lackey tomorrow night at 7:05pm PDT as the Mariners look to extend the winning streak to seven. Might as well set our sights on .500 now, because, why not?