Allow me to predict some of the complaints we'll probably hear over the next 20 hours or so:
The team looks like they weren't even trying.
The Mariners were clearly overlooking their opponent in anticipation of the Angels series.
Good teams don't split important series against a team like Texas. Playoff teams win three, championship teams win four.
People always love to overreact to games like this. I don't mean bloggers or readers, either; I mean everyone, fans and journalists alike. There's some sort of inexplicably sick satisfaction to be derived when you make sweeping conclusions following one or two games. I've never quite understood the appeal, but it's there, and there's no denying the frequency with which it rears its head.
Here's the thing, though - as I've written before, it just doesn't make sense to try and extract psychological character from performance. There's so little overlap and so much noise that not even the most thorough analysis of one will tell you much of anything about the other. Personally, I find it more than a little presumptuous to think that we can sit here and watch this team lose to Vicente Padilla and infer from this that the lineup was packing it in. What evidence is there to suggest that this is even remotely true? Did the entire team pack it in, or was it just a few guys? If they were really packing it in, how come they only lost by two, and tried to rally in the ninth? Do you really think the team would take kindly to the implication that they were giving less than their best effort in what was clearly an important game to win?
The psychological explanations may be more cathartic, but here's what it comes down to: the Mariners have a singles-based offense that doesn't walk and loves to put the ball in play early in the count. Just as is the case for individual players with the same profile, those types of offenses will be prone to wild swings in performance. The results of a patient and/or powerful approach will be fairly consistent; the results of an aggressive, weaker approach will not. Some days this lineup will look unbeatable, and other times it'll look like this. That's just the nature of the offense that Bavasi's put together.
Nobody likes to lose to a last-place team and fall further behind the division leaders, but in the end, that's all it is - one loss. We're still two up on the Yankees, who also crapped the bed against some mediocre pitchers. And remember, last time we had a game like this - when we got shut down by Scott Baker - the Mariners came back out and put together a nine-game stretch over which they scored 59 runs with a .949 OPS. One game tells you very, very little about what's going to happen in the next. Keep that in mind and I imagine you'll sleep better tonight than you thought you would after Yuni struck out. Today sucked, but it's the next three days that're critically important. Now is not the time to give up on this team.
Around this time last year, the Tigers lost a series to the Rangers (80-82), the Twins lost a series to the Royals (62-100), the Yankees lost a series to the Orioles (70-92), the A's split with the Royals, the Padres lost a series to the Rockies (76-86), the Mets lost a series to the Phillies (85-77), the Cardinals got swept by the Pirates (67-95), and the Dodgers got swept by their closest division rival. Somehow, those teams managed to put it behind them and make the playoffs. Why should we think that the Mariners' brand of suck is unique and five times as crippling?
Seven of the eight teams who held playoff spots on August 26th last season played in October. The same goes for the year before that. This is still a good situation, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that it's not. I know it could be better, but it could also be way, way worse. Save your emotion for the next three games.
Chart coming soon.
Biggest Contribution: Adrian Beltre, +4.3%
Biggest Suckfest: Yuniesky Betancourt, -14.3%
Most Important At Bat: Beltre single, +10.9%
Most Important Pitch: Sosa homer, -14.2%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +0.8%
Total Contribution by Position Players: -56.0%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +5.2%