From David Ortiz hitting a grand slam off of Jered Weaver's ghoulish ass around dinnertime to JJ Putz recording the final out just before ten, I can't remember the last time I've had such a thoroughly enjoyable four hours, nor can I imagine any comparable thrill ride in the future. They say that childbirth is the happiest time in any person's life, but you can have children whenever you want. Adrian Beltre only has so many bats. If you watched the game tonight and you or your significant other go into labor tomorrow, prepare for a letdown.
Biggest Contribution: Jose Guillen, +18.7% (Jose Guillen, 187, haha)
Biggest Suckfest: Kenji Johjima, -8.4%
Most Important At Bat: Guillen single, +23.5%
Most Important Pitch: Thome homer, -10.3%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +7.6%
Total Contribution by Position Players: +33.1%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +9.3%
Saturday night, Sunday day game, yada yada yada:
- On July 20th, the Mariners were 54-39 and but a single game back of the Angels. Since then, LA's gone 15-12, but of the eleven opportunities to gain a game of ground before tonight, the M's had seized just four of them - two when playing head-to-head. Similarly, it's been incredibly difficult to get any separation between ourselves and the Yankees (although they must be as annoyed by us as we are by them). With the two wasted chances against Minnesota still fresh in our minds, today became a critical day for the Mariners, with the Angels' loss in Boston granting another of what will be limited opportunities the rest of the way. And this time we took advantage. We're back to where we were four weeks ago, and with a three-game Angels/Yankees series set to begin on Monday, the M's can put themselves in great position as long as they can win the games they're supposed to win. I don't even think we see Johan in Minnesota.
- Slowly but surely, I think I'm becoming the biggest Jeff Weaver fan on the planet. For a man to go through what he did earlier in the season and come out on the other end earning a series of standing ovations...that shows the kind of determination and perseverance that I admittedly don't think I could ever have. I understand and agree with the whole "regression to the mean" Weaver argument, but I don't think that would've been of any consolation to Weaver in April; no matter how unlucky he's been, it takes a lot of courage for a pitcher to sack up and keep at it when he's got a 14 ERA after making six starts. If Jeff Weaver fell off the cliff in early May, he managed to grab hold of a branch on the way down and has since pulled himself all the way back up to the top. That's just an unbelievable physical and psychological accomplishment, and no matter how good or bad you think he is as a pitcher, you have to be rooting for him. Of all the team's heartwarming stories this year, his is easily the most uplifting.
Horacio Ramirez may be wondering why I won't grant him the same patience and loyalty, but Jeff Weaver was never acquired in exchange for my favorite player.
- Jeff Weaver FIP: 4.46
Jeff Weaver FIP Since DL: 4.16
Carlos Zambrano FIP: 4.67
Weaver's benefited from getting to face some bad lineups, but if used properly in the right situations and environments, we could officially call him an asset.
- Lately JJ Putz has been making some people nervous. Since giving up the homer to Ramon Vazquez, he's allowed five runs, five walks, and three homers in 11.2 innings. The strikeouts (14) are still there, but the whole package hasn't been as dominant as before. I know, I've felt it too. But if you go back to last year, there was a 14-game span after the Mike Reilly catastrophe in which JJ gave up 18 hits in 14 innings and blew three saves. A lot of us thought he might've been wearing down then, too, but he managed to end the season with 17(!) strikeouts in his final eight innings.
They're not identical situations, but they have a common theme - JJ struggling a little bit in July/August. Last year he bounced back, and lacking any evidence that something's actually wrong with him now, I think that bodes well for the future. A lot of relievers have to fight through a dead-arm period around this time of year (just look at Sherrill), and we shouldn't expect JJ to be any different.
Give him time. It's not like his skillset has changed; he's still the same frequent-fastball/occasional-splitter power arm he's been since early last season. I'm not even convinced that the control problems are real, since JJ's strike percentage during the "slump" - 67% - is actually better than it was before. He's obviously not at his sharpest, but unless he's hurt and not telling anyone for some absurd reason, he'll get past it. Just like none of us thinks that Mariano Rivera or Francisco Rodriguez are in trouble based on their recent struggles, I don't think we should be too concerned about JJ, either. Not being invulnerable doesn't mean you can't still be totally awesome.
- Speaking of totally awesome, I present to you 8:30-8:32pm PDT - the most mind-blowingly glorious three minutes of the season. It was at 8:30 that FSN returned from commercial and showed a close-up of Red on TV holding a bat and smiling the kind of dumbstruck smile most of us have only ever seen in that picture of a fat black guy in a helmet eating a gigantic cheeseburger. Adrian Beltre, having seen Red's sign around before and presumably also having taken notice of the three-foot bobbleheading likeness that Red brought to the game, gave him an autographed bat before the sixth inning, signed "to my biggest fan." Red was gleefully incredulous, and as he stood there in disbelief, I think the LL community about wet itself in excitement. This was a truly satisfying moment, living proof that with a little hard work anyone can achieve his wildest dreams. Evidently Safeco security paid no mind to the fact that a large, strong, and extraordinarily passionate Mariners fan was now sitting five rows away from the field with a bat in his hands.
Just as we were beginning to come to grips with what we'd just seen, though, Jim Thome lifted a fly ball into deep left at 8:32 that looked like his second home run of the game until Raul Ibanez tracked it down and made a leaping catch at the wall. It wasn't quite as spectacular as the catch he made on Jamey Carroll a year ago, but they both prevented go-ahead runs, and in light of all the bashing that Raul's defense has taken lately this one just came completely out of nowhere. Already overcome with Red-related elation, I think this catch made me black out from euphoria. On a scale of delight where 1 is a smile, 6 is a combined shout and round of applause, and 10 is giggling like a schoolgirl, I sat here with tears in my eyes practically convulsing with laughter for three or four minutes.
The Mariners, of course, would go on to pull away in the bottom half, sparked by an Adrian Beltre leadoff single that got Red out of his seat. The rally consisted of a single, a double, a single, an error, a walk, a single, an error, and a wild pitch. This is how bad teams lose games, and this is how Jeff has an unprecedentedly amazing twenty minutes.
- According to home plate umpire Paul Emmel, this is a ball.
According to home plate umpire Paul Emmel, this is a strike.
According to Jeff, holy crap Darin Erstad and Scott Podsednik look identical when they're given the MLB.tv blurry Bigfoot treatment.
I can't even imagine what would've happened to Emmel had this ball four call been made with a less inebriatedly forgiving pitcher on the mound. Weaver pleaded his case as Richar walked down to first but, unlike Felix, didn't come apart in the aftermath because, unlike Felix, after thirty seconds Weaver had no recollection of what just happened.
Speaking of Felix, he takes the hill tomorrow afternoon against the second-lowest strikeout rate in the AL. And based on what I've seen of Josh Fields' defense, I'm pretty sure that works in our favor. The first guy to hit the ball somewhere other than third has to hold Brandon Morrow's dartboard for a week.