- Jason Marquis did exactly what he needed to do today to shut down this lineup - throw offspeed and miss the zone. Only 58% of his pitches were strikes, and that includes countless sliders off the plate that people chased. Marquis ordinarily has fairly good control, so either today was an "off day" that worked out in his favor, or he had a gameplan and knew exactly what he was doing. The only reason we touched him today was because Mark DeRosa Kata'd an easy out and possible double play before Ibanez's double in the sixth. The rest of the game was the same kind of ugly that we've seen from this batting order against way too many bad pitchers so far this year. I keep waiting for Richie Sexson to heat up and restore some balance, but he's taking his sweet time. Even as he's started regressing to the mean, his numbers are still terrible. Unfortunately, there's nothing to do at this point but wait it out, because he's not going anywhere.
- Like the Confederate cyclops in Cannibal! The Musical, Jeff Weaver refuses to die. In each of his last two starts since coming off the "disabled" list, he's come within inches of his life with bad first innings, but both times he's bounced back to string together a bunch of empty frames. Had he put up a second inning today just like his first, I'm 95% certain he would've been pulled and subsequently cut, but instead we get to read the same tired old quotes about how he "battled back" and "made some adjustments" and how "this is a step in the right direction." This was Weaver's best start of the season, and he still allowed eleven baserunners in six innings against a crappy lineup. This was a good start only by Jeff Weaver's standards, and the longer he remains in the rotation, the worse off we are as a team. No matter what they do, the Mariners are on the hook for his contract - they might as well just cut their losses and think of it as $8m for Ryan Feierabend instead. He's not great, but he doesn't have to be.
- This game actually followed kind of a weird path for me. With Weaver on the hill, I was resigned to a loss the minute I woke up in the morning, and after the first I only kept watching to see how bad it would get. Curse Mark DeRosa and Raul Ibanez for making me think this was a winnable game. Were it not for them, I wouldn't have cared about this loss at all, but instead they got me invested just in time for Brandon Morrow's near-epic meltdown. You'd a bad friend, Raul.
- Speaking of Morrow, he's thrown 498 pitches this year, 276 (55%) of them strikes. This includes all those fastballs out of the zone that hitters insisted on chasing earlier in the year (remember that game against the White Sox?). A league-average pitcher would have 309 (62%) strikes instead. That's a substantial difference, and anyone who watches Morrow go to work knows damn well that he has absolutely godawful command of his fastball. It's also started to look hittable, as Morrow's allowed six hits in his last 3.2 innings (four appearances). That's bad. Today in the official recap Morrow acknowledge his command trouble and said that he has to throw more strikes, but the only way he can pull that off without a lot of coaching instruction is by taking something off his fastball, and that's a bad idea, since velocity is the only thing that's kept him from getting lit up.
And hell, today he never got above 93mph and threw most of his pitches at 91-92, and he still missed the zone 11 times in 17 attempts. So at least for one game, taking something off the fastball wasn't even enough to help Morrow throw strikes. At this point, I don't know what we can do. He's not getting demoted - that's silly. He's not going to work garbage time, because those appearances are inconsistent, and Hargrove doesn't trust the other righties in the bullpen to pick up the slack. Ideally he'd go to West Tenn or Tacoma when Lowe comes back, but Lowe's got enough uncertainty of his own, and you can't send your right-handed setup guy to the minors to learn how to start when you don't know if you can rely on the guy fresh off the DL following an unprecedented surgery.
It seems to me that we'll just have to wait this out and hope that Morrow's able to end his own slump. Given that he was working at reduced velocity today despite not working last night, and given that we've seen him throw a lot more offspeed stuff lately than he was earlier in the year, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Morrow's starting to wear down from throwing so many high-leverage innings at max effort. The breaking balls that we've seen him throw could be an acknowledgment on his part that, unlike the heater he had in May, a 91-93mph fastball isn't good enough on its own. Maybe what we're seeing right now is Morrow trying to teach himself the lessons that 99% of guys pick up in the minors. This is just a guess on my part and I don't have any inside information, but keep in mind that the guy barely has any professional innings under his belt, and that he's got an awful lot of pressure on his shoulders. If he really is wearing down already, I think we have to blame the organization way before we start trying to blame Morrow.
But again, speculation. It'll take another handful of Morrow appearances before we can get a better idea of what's going on, aside from "his command really sucks." We know that's true, but that's been the case for a while, even when he was throwing well. There's something else at play here, and I'm not yet 100% sure what it is.
- This lineup looks so much worse with Willie Ballgame.