You know what's annoying about this season?
At 65-50, the Mariners have the fourth-best record in all of baseball, but their margin for error is so slim that we barely have any time to celebrate their successes before worrying about the competition and the next game on the schedule. Every win is necessary and every loss feels like the start of a promising season slipping away. The way we expect and demand wins may make us sound a little arrogant, but it's really just an indication of how nervous we are, because none of us is prepared to surrender, even if we know we don't necessarily belong in this position.
I want to sit here and really savor Jeff Weaver's team-leading second shutout. But unlike last time, when our playoff odds barely registered on the radar, this time it was just another game we couldn't afford to lose. (You'll notice we've had a lot of these lately, what with the Angels and Yankees playing good baseball.) So while congratulations are in order, I just can't bring myself to go crazy, because there are more important things ahead that sort of command the bulk of my attention.
So good job Jeff, and good job Mariners. You've done well to get to this point, and at the end of the year, we're all going to be thrilled with your accomplishments. Right now, though, there isn't as much time for that as we'd like there to be. Hopes and expectations are dynamic, and where in March we would've been ecstatic with this position, in the present day we're not ready to settle. Just keep winning. You may not get as many accolades as you want in the short-term, but at the end, believe me, it'd be worth it.
Biggest Contribution: Jeff Weaver, +26.0%
Biggest Suckfest: Adam Jones, -4.0%
Most Important At Bat: Guillen double, +12.1%
Most Important Pitch: Thome double, -7.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +26.0%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +24.8%
Total Contribution by Opposition: -0.8%
I've been thinking for a few hours about how I wanted to weave (no pun intended, shut up) this game together, but so little actually happened that it's proven to be an impossible task. As such, today is a rare edition of Lazy Bullet Points. Not to be confused with Necessary Bullet Points, In-A-Rush Bullet Points, or Nobody's Reading This Before A Sunday Morning Game Bullet Points. Away we go:
- In this three-game series in Chicago, the Mariners hit seven home runs. The overwhelming majority of them would not have left most other parks. The one Sexson hit today appeared to be legitimate, but the same cannot be said of Guillen's or Beltre's (which landed in front of the first row in left). In the summer months, US Cellular is a bad, Carlos Mencia-level joke of a stadium, the sort of place that makes Josh Fields look okay and Juan Uribe look not dead.
Of course, the remarkable thing is that the White Sox weren't able to take better advantage. They hit four bombs, but three of those came on Friday against a flyball contact pitcher. I'd say I'm glad to leave this ballpark, but between the hitters padding their numbers and the pitchers getting to face the worst lineup in the league, a big part of me wishes we could play Chicago for the rest of the year, Hawk Harrelson be damned. They're a great matchup for this team, and I'm sad that we have to go.
- Raul Ibanez hits five home runs in five games while I call him a spasming corpse. Richie Sexson goes deep the day after I call him out for being finished as a star-level hitter. JJ Putz starts to struggle just as I begin to consider his campaign one of the best relief seasons of all time. I know psychics are pretty popular in some circles, but what about their opposites?
- This was not the best day Adam Jones has ever had. He looked fine in three of his at bats and hit a scorching should-be base hit off of Bobby Jenks in the ninth, but an 0-4 is an 0-4, and he also dropped a ball he probably should've caught in left field. Although, in Jones' defense, both Beltre and Betancourt were rapidly converging on the same spot, and that's a difficult situation for everyone. Still, the point is that if Jones wants to play more often, he's going to have to force McLaren into letting him do so, and today didn't help his case.
- Speaking of that line drive, let's go over Bobby Jenks' ninth inning:
-line drive up the middle that Jenks manages to knock down with his glove
-blooper into right on which Dye makes a sliding catch
-slow roller to short that Uribe successfully charges in gunning down a fast runner
All three of those easily could have gone for base hits, but instead they just pushed Jenks further along on the path towards history. I don't mean to take anything away from the guy, because his run has been absolutely spectacular, but it just goes to show that none of these things ever happen without a little luck. Perfect games, hitting streaks, home run records - none of these things stem from talent alone. Luck plays a bigger role in baseball than anyone ever wants to acknowledge.
- Jose Guillen is batting .419 with a 1.260 OPS over his last seven games. Because of Raul Ibanez, I don't think anyone's noticed. Whatever went wrong in that four strikeout game against Boston has very clearly righted itself.
- After years of trying to explain how my opinions of guys like Jarrod Washburn and Ryan Franklin are compatible with some of their terrific performances, I've decided that it's completely impossible to separate good pitching from bad hitting. We've always known that some fraction of their success in certain shiny games comes from facing bad lineups, but we've never known just what that fraction is, nor will we ever.
You can see where I'm going with this. Statistically speaking, Jeff Weaver just spun one of the best starts the AL has seen all season long. He also faced the worst batting order in the league, a group that hits for a low average and struggles to make consistent contact. How much credit does he deserve for the outcome? Clearly not 100%, but the answer isn't 'zero', either, so he ought to get some recognition for bringing his ERA closer to respectable territory. My opinion of Jeff Weaver isn't any different now than it was yesterday, but this was the best possible game he could've given us, and here's hoping it's enough to get him to finally shave his head.
- I hope someone convinces Dave to try and say "Ryan Bukvich" five times fast on the air.
- One last thing about Weaver - after he allowed a well-hit single to lead off the game and a double off the top of the center field fence two batters later, I was convinced that this was going to be another one of those Bad Weaver days. As much as I root for him now, the memory of what he looked like early in the season has been permanently singed into the back of my brain. Instead of falling apart, though, Weaver went on to throw the shutout, demonstrating that the difference between Good Weaver and Bad Weaver is exceedingly slim. That doesn't make sense to me.
One would think that the story tomorrow night would be the first ever showdown between King Felix and Johan Santana. One would be mistaken. Monday night marks Jeff Cirillo's first visit to Safeco Field since June 2004, when he hit a decisive three-run homer off of Jamie Moyer from which we still haven't recovered. All that booing you guys have been waiting to rain down on Richie? Yeah, keep it bottled up. There's a far more deserving and batshit crazy target coming to town.
With Cirillo having been sent to the NL, the story tomorrow night, of course, will be the first ever showdown between King Felix and Johan Santana. Why wouldn't it be? Nothing could ever top that kind of high profile ace-off.