And, once again, several thousand Fenway virgins get to trudge home with nary a reason to cheer.
I have to hand it to the Mariners - for as frustrating as they've been these last billion years, they haven't exactly rolled out the welcome mat for the Red Sox. Since the start of 2005 (when I think we can all agree the Boston bandwagon achieved a previously unthinkable level of obnoxious douchebaggery), the Sox have played 18 games in Safeco, and 13 of them left us all feeling pretty much exactly like this. The Mariners aren't going anywhere, but once more they outplayed and outscored what's supposed to be the best team in baseball, and to do that before the presumptuous eyes of the latest invading red plague...this is what it feels like when you see the guy dangerously weaving his Vette through tight traffic on the freeway get pulled over and written up. You're able to continue on your merry way, and the whole drive home all you hope is that the guy is angry and crestfallen and resisting just enough to warrant a shot in the leg.
If there is a God - a just God, anyway - every single Red Sox fan who attented this game went home and cried himself to sleep. May the coming days bring them pain.
Biggest Contribution: Erik Bedard, +49.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Miguel Cairo, -10.1%
Most Important AB: Betancourt funk blast, +12.2%
Most Important Pitch: Crisp groundout, +14.2%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +77.3%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -31.4%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +4.1%
(What is this chart?)
In a rush to get to bed, but fortunately there are only two things I really want to talk about anyway:
- Erik Bedard can't decide between being good and being injured. His last start was a complete disaster, but he came back tonight with a terrific performance against the AL's best lineup, a terrific performance of which the Mariners needed every last bit in order to win. As Geoff Baker already said, this was the kind of game we thought we were trading for. Give or take a few runs, this was the kind of game we thought we'd be seeing over and over as the M's made a run at the playoffs. Instead, such games have been far too infrequent, and the team finds itself all but eliminated from contention before the first of June.
Still, ignoring the context of the season, Bedard turned in seven innings of no-run, two-hit, eight-k pitching against a lineup that, even without Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek, remains plenty potent, and that's something to be celebrated. He visibly appeared to be a little more intense tonight than usual, and while that may or may not be true, he was dialing his fastball up to 92-93 with regularity, something he's been struggling to accomplish for much of the first two months. The fastball, in fact, was the pitch that got him through the game, as it accounted for 18 of his 21 outs. Once more, the curveball served as the secondary offering, while Bedard worked off of his heat.
This is both good and bad news. It's good because it shows that Bedard can be successful against talented hitters by pounding the zone with four-seamers and cutters (I'm not differentiating between the two, but I'm sure he does) and not featuring that much offspeed. But it's bad because the curveball is what made Erik Bedard what he was a year ago, and as long as he's using it less often and having it generate worse results, I'm not comfortable saying that he's back to being an ace. He might be pitching at that level, but because the path he's taking is different from the one he took in 2007, I'll need a lot more proof that this is for real. I'm not buying it yet.
Erik Bedard threw arguably the best curveball in the Majors Leagues last year. This year it just isn't the same, and again tonight he picked up more swinging strikes on his heater (nine on the fastball, two on the curve). While the repertoire hasn't changed, right now he's just a different guy than the one for whom we traded. Similar, but different. And I'm not sure why that is. Could be coaching, could be an injury, could be a sample size issue, could be something else. All I know is that, as awesome as it is to see him blow through a lineup like he did tonight, I won't be completely comfortable until I see more guys going up there and swinging through his hook. I think that'll end up being the best indication of when - if ever - he's officially back.
I'd take some more starts like this in the meantime, though.
- Dustin Pedroia came into the game with the sixth-best contact rate in baseball. Brandon Morrow got him to swing and miss at both a first-pitch low slider and an 0-2 outside fastball at 100 miles per hour. I could watch this all night. It was a perfect pitch - too close to take, but too far off and way too fast to hit - and it might've been the pitch of the series, with the only other competition being Morrow's two strikeout pitches from the night before. 100 miles per hour. A completely legitimate 100 miles per hour. Just off the black.
It's like Morrow and JJ Putz have swapped bodies. Suddenly, while Putz is laboring and having trouble finding the zone, Morrow is throwing strike after strike at 96+ with just enough breaking balls to keep hitters guessing. We all saw his three strikeouts. They were unfair. Just unfair. Nobody could've done anything with the pitches he threw, as evidenced by the fact that Pedroia, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Lowell all went away on a combined 11 pitches. Even if they knew exactly what was coming, they still wouldn't have been able to do much damage.
This is what it looks like when a reliever makes the leap. I've hinted at it before with regards to Morrow, but I think after what he did to Boston, I'm pretty much convinced. He'll still walk a guy every now and again, but with his sharpened command and improved offspeed selection, it's game over. This isn't a guy who looks like he'll have too many nights of regret. This is a guy who might end the year as one of the most effective relievers in the league.
I could go on and on about the organization's decision to delay/destroy any plans of moving Morrow into the rotation. I probably will. A few times. But since tonight's a happy night, I'm going to focus on the positive. If Brandon Morrow is to remain in the bullpen for the duration of his Mariner career, odds right now appear damn high that he'll become at least a really good reliever, and potentially a spectacular one. That may not be getting max value for the fifth overall pick, but it's still getting value, and we've all seen how critical a shutdown arm or two in the late innings can be for a winning ballclub. If Morrow can become that go-to guy in the 8th or 9th, it won't be the best-case scenario, but it'll still be a pretty freaking good one.
Keep throwing the way you're throwing, Brandon. They won't be able to touch you.