If nothing else, you can't say they didn't have their opportunities. They took a two-run lead in the first, and then, after falling behind, got the tying run to the plate in each of the final six innings. It doesn't quite feel like it, but the Mariners did put 13 runners on base. It's just that, once again, they struggled to cash them in, and while that sort of thing isn't likely to sustain, that doesn't make it any less frustrating in the here and now. What makes it feel even worse is that you can't just pin it on Woodward and :(edeno. Branyan, for example, popped up with a man in scoring position in the fifth, then struck out with two in scoring position in the seventh. He, Gutierrez, Langerhans, and Lopez combined to strand 12 guys, and though Gutierrez did suffer a bout of bad luck on his drive in the fourth, you expect more from the middle of your lineup when it's facing a decent but by no means impressive string of pitchers.
It's hard to be too broken up about tonight after Gutierrez's heroics and the Yuni trade, and the M's do still have Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard going up against inferior pitchers tomorrow and Sunday, but this was a tough and wholly unnecessary loss that makes the next two games all kinds of important. I understand and acknowledge that even just being on the fringes of the race is enough to keep the season interesting, but I'm getting tired of the periphery.
- Facing a righty-heavy lineup, Morrow was in a good situation. And he blew it. This was like watching all of Morrow's worst relief appearances, only he lasted five times as long, which it turns out is way worse. I don't mean to say that he was a disaster. The Rangers have been the worst team in baseball at making contact on pitches both in and out of the zone, yet tonight they put bats on a handful of sharp sliders. But while Brandon threw a small assortment of quality stuff, he wasn't locating his fastball and he didn't have anything in the vicinity of control of his changeup, which handed the advantage over to Texas. They didn't have any incentive to chase a lot of stuff off the plate, and they were able to wait for Morrow to put a heater in the zone. Both Blalock and Young looked like they knew what they were getting, and when they got it, they punished it.
On the night, Brandon threw 74 pitches, 41 (55%) for strikes and five of the swinging variety. Though his slider looked pretty good when he threw it, his fastball was ineffective and his changeup was awful, and the end result is what we saw. When you walk Omar Vizquel the only two times you see him, you know you've taken a step back from your previous start. The Morrow the M's got against Boston was an arm who belongs in the Major Leagues, but the Morrow they got against Texas was an arm who belongs in Tacoma.
- I don't know how to reconcile a broadcast that uses ERA and then talks about this.
We know that Tony Blengino is a big big fan of the RZR/OOZ metrics, so I presume that's how information like this sneaked onto TV. But even if it's just front office mandate, I can't really explain how awesome it is to hear Dave Sims and Mike Blowers talk about advanced defensive statistics on the air. This isn't the first time this has come up, by the way. It's just the first time I saw them use a graphic. They've talked about UZR before, too. When Bill Bavasi watches Mariner games he must think he pressed the SAP button by mistake.
- It would be easy to write Nelson Cruz off as a product of his park, but while he undoubtedly gets a boost at home, anybody who's ever seen him go deep knows that he's not exactly a cheap shot specialist. Today he put a Shawn Kelley fastball a good distance back in the left-center upper deck. That's Justin Leone territory. Of the 21 bombs he's hit so far in 2009, 11 of them have exceeded a standard distance of 420 feet. Cruz is no stranger to swinging strikes, but as is the case with Russell Branyan, he doesn't so much make contact as he does the batting equivalent of picking the ball up, pinning it against a door, and putting his fist through it.
But wait, there's more! Based on a reasonably large UZR sample, Cruz appears to be a +5 < x < +15 glove in right field. His routes aren't the most efficient, but for a big guy he covers a lot of ground, and we saw what he can do when he robbed Franklin Gutierrez of an extra-base hit in the fourth. Already 29, Cruz isn't about to get any better, but he doesn't need to; he's already an excellent player, and deserving of greater recognition. It's worth considering that he might be a better player than Josh Hamilton. Boy would that be an unpopular opinion to share with the general public.
- Whenever he swings and misses or taps a ball foul, Ronny :(edeno always turns around wearing this expression of disgust and regret. It's like he doesn't understand why Wakamatsu keeps playing him. LOOK! I'M TERRIBLE AT THIS! WHY MUST YOU EMBARRASS US BOTH?
- Shawn Kelley's fastball was better today, but it's still not all the way back, and, based on Kenji's glove location prior to Cruz's home run, neither is his command.
(1) I appreciate that the coaching staff brought him back since they needed an arm in the bullpen, but you'd think that it would've been pretty clear upon observation in his rehab stint that he wasn't yet ready to return from the DL. I don't like rushing players back, no matter how important they are. We've seen people come back too soon and struggle because of it before, and I don't really want to see that again. Maybe Kelley really does feel 100% and I'm in the wrong here, but he definitely doesn't look like himself.
(2) It's important to remember that just because Kelley is the best or second-best arm in the bullpen when he's healthy doesn't mean he's great. He's good, but he's not lights-out, and sometimes good relievers get the snot bashed out of them.
- By Speed Score (which you can find at Fangraphs), Jose Lopez is arguably the slowest second baseman in baseball. He doesn't triple, he doesn't steal bases, he doesn't cover much ground in the field, and on two occasions tonight he grounded out on what I thought for sure would be infield singles. I can't believe this beefcake used to be a shortstop.