After eight and a half innings, I was prepared to call this the most boring game ever. In hyperbolic rather than literal terms, of course, since Baltimore plays 162 of these every year, but for the longest time the only saving grace of this thing was the speed with which it was flying by. Cleveland had much of its B-team on the field and the Mariners still couldn't seem to get anything done, putting to sleep what fans there were who sacrificed an entire day to watch a rare twin billing. In short, the game just felt like a complete and utter waste of everyone's time.
And then the damndest thing happened. I was talking to someone just today about how I find hockey to be more gripping than baseball because the action happens so fast, but all it took was one swing of Jeff Clement's (SLOW AHHHH) bat to remind me how quickly things can really turn around in this sport. One swing and the whole three-hour viewing experience felt worthwhile, as everything leading up provided context for the bomb. Suddenly the game became interesting and had a certain level of energy. JJ strikes out three in the tenth. Morse wins it with a line drive minutes later. In the span of twelve batters the Mariners went from a Win Expectancy of 4.4% to an on-field celebration. The course of this game stopped and turned around on a dime, and the feeling at the end was more awe and astonishment than jubilation. You know why I'm still watching these things? Because on any given day something like this might happen, and even in a season that's lost, these are special moments that I'd prefer not to miss. I don't remember Greg Dobbs' first home run, but Jeff Clement's will not soon be forgotten.
Biggest Contribution: Jeff Clement, +48.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Adrian Beltre, -23.2%
Most Important AB: Clement funk blast, +48.9%
Most Important Pitch: Shoppach homer, -12.7%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +27.2%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +18.9%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +3.9%
(Also, if you want the actual Mariner chart from the first game instead of the Indian variety, here you go.)
In one day Johnson gets his first Major League hit, Wlad hits his first Major League homer, Clement gets his first Major League hit and first Major League homer, and Morse gets his first Major League walk-off knock. Adam Jones looked like crap, but this was a memorable day for a lot of people. Don't think they won't savor it. Aside from getting over that first psychological obstacle, I imagine all three of these guys just accomplished one of their lifetime goals, and I'm sure they'll have a great time reminiscing together as they sit on the bench tomorrow night.
One guy who might not be able to realize one of his lifetime goals is Eric Wedge, who ever-so-badly needs to do something about that closer role. It doesn't matter what stat you go by - Joe Borowski has been really bad, and given their long memories I can't imagine too many Cleveland fans are enamored with the prospect of heading into the postseason with an unreliable stopper. Say what you will about the respective roles of setup men and closers, but believe it or not, Borowski's Leverage Index is the highest in the league. The highest. He's been the guy entrusted to get out of the most dangerous situations, and he's failed all too often. As far as I'm concerned, a three-run lead should be the bare minimum for a Borowski appearance in October, because otherwise you're just putting a critical game in jeopardy. Raffies Betancourt and Perez, the load falls on your shoulders. Pitch well enough that Borowski doesn't have to. While in the grand scheme of things having a problem closer is a relatively minor concern, I can't imagine a more devastating way to get knocked out of the playoffs.
Final game of the season that kinda sorta has big-picture implications tomorrow night. Incidentally, the last time Paul Byrd and Cha Baek went head to head, Joe Borowski got tagged with the loss. The more things change...