On the plus side, a tied-for-2nd-place-in-the-division banner would've just looked really pathetic.
- It's a shame Ian Snell couldn't have swapped his last start and this one, because after the excitement that he generated with his performance against Toronto, tonight was a bit of a letdown. He didn't have good command of anything and admitted as much, and though I was keeping an eye on his front foot and thought it looked okay, it (A) both came and went, and (B) clearly isn't going to be some magic insta-fix. It's just one of several adjustments the coaching staff would like to see him make.
The good news is that the stuff was mostly there. Snell topped out at 95mph and threw a ton of sliders or slurves or whatever you want to call that breaking ball of his, and his nine missed bats gave him his second-best swinging strike rate as a Mariner. But the downside - and this has been Snell's problem all year long - is that it's just so incredibly difficult to succeed when you're only throwing 60% of your pitches for strikes. Good Snell - 2007 Snell - was up at 65%. So far this year he's at 59%, and tonight he just couldn't find the zone for the life of him for the first three innings or so. He managed to settle down after that and get through six (quality start!), but three innings of bad and three innings of good is no way to survive as a starting pitcher. Snell needs to be able to find a consistent rhythm, and that he's been just about incapable to date is the reason why he's a work in progress.
What I've found interesting is how often we've seen Snell with a smile on his face. For a guy who as a Pirate was so utterly miserable, it's been nice to see him come over and enjoy himself again. It's a completely new environment, one that Snell says he likes, so there's reason to hope that he can be repaired. It's just going to have to wait until next season. Which I suspected all along, but secretly and irrationally wanted to see a little sooner.
- When it's a cold day and he gets all bundled up in the broadcast booth, Dave Niehaus looks like a cuddly little teddy bear. I know we use this word a lot around here, but a cold, neckless, and red-cheeked Niehaus is completely adorable.
- So the team MVP award as voted on by the local chapter of the BBWAA was bestowed upon Ichiro before the game, with Franklin Gutierrez finishing as the runner-up. Personally I think Gutierrez's performance in the clutch (.965 OPS in high-leverage situations) should've put him over the top, but Ichiro's awesome and in no way an unworthy pick, and what's really amazing is that Gutierrez got consideration from a bunch of writers in the first place.
Do we care about these awards? Do we care about any awards? I feel like having really good value-based statistics updated on a daily basis kind of diminishes the significance. Back in the day awards were probably both somewhat surprising and considered a high honor, but now it seems the only thing they're good for is getting fans really mad at each other. I'm sure the players care a little, but as an outsider, man, whatever.
- Jose Lopez won the team's Heart And Hustle award, which is one of those things I didn't think I'd ever write three years ago, or three hours ago.
- Speaking of Jose Lopez, the fourth inning saw him come up with a man on second and hit a single without advancing the baserunner. Which I'm just going to go ahead and chalk up as his 25th walk.
- Also in the fourth, Sims and Blowers were talking about how at one point a while ago the Rangers got really close to firing Ron Washington, but then the team improved and his became a popular name in conversations about the AL's best managers. "Sometimes the moves you don't make turn out to be better," said Blowers. Right on. Sometimes it's the moves you make. Sometimes it's the moves you don't make. Chances are, if something works out for you, it's because of something you did, or something you didn't do.
- Apparently Mariner catchers are allowed to hang on to throws home after all.
- A few days ago I got a text from Red saying that tonight would be Adrian Beltre Appreciation Night. Beltre did him proud by going 2-4 with a double, a steal, a run, and an RBI. It's been a rough year for both Adrian and Red, but these last two nights have been special, and I'm wondering if Beltre's planning one final surprise for his biggest fan before the end of the year. Or the other way around. Either one, really.
That steal, by the way, was so totally Adrian Beltre in a nutshell. Standing on second with two out, attempting a steal would've been stupid and pointlessly risky, but Beltre tried it anyway, looking dead to rights but then by some miraculous feat of reflexes and quick thinking pulling his hand back at just the right moment and avoiding the tag. It was one of the greatest slides I've ever seen, but it was also a slide on a play that shouldn't have happened in the first place. Sunday may turn out to be Beltre's final game in a Mariner uniform, but he will long be remembered for succeeding despite looking like a retard. I'm gonna miss you, you crazy son of a bitch.