I'll be honest with you - today was supposed to be a happier day. The Mariners were supposed to win the series and come out of it knocking on the door of first place, with the Angels having struggled against a superior Yankees team. It was supposed to be the series that took the M's off the edge of the race and put them right in the middle of it. Instead, LAnaheim somehow swept New York and the M's find themselves still four back of the lead. That's annoying. On the other hand, there's nothing you can do about other people's games and the Mariners still took three of four from a team above them, so we don't need to dwell on the negative. It's just...dammit, Yankees.
- After months of denial, I think it's time we just admit it: the 2009 Seattle Mariners play Angel baseball. Classic Angel baseball. The kind of baseball that feels hilarious to root for, and the kind of baseball that feels humiliating to lose to. If I were a Rangers fan, I'd probably be pretty pissed off right now. Think about some of the biggest plays this afternoon:
-Andruw Jones lines into an awkward and fluky outfield double play in the first
-Ichiro leads off the first with a bloop single and later scores the first run
-Ronny Cedeno extends a rally with an infield single to the pitcher
-Ichiro follows with an RBI infield single
-Branyan follows with an RBI walk
-Griffey reaches on a two-out error and later scores on a broken-bat single over short
-Rob Johnson follows Chris Shelton's bloop with another RBI bloop to the same place
The Rangers were patient against Erik Bedard, hit a couple homers, limited the M's to pretty weak contact, and lost. That has to be infuriating. I don't mean to suggest that they deserved to win, mind you - the Mariners got good pitching and some solid at bats and defensive plays when they needed them - but today's five runs rated a Mike's on a scale from wine coolers to lab-grade ethanol.
- It's getting to the point where I don't think I'll ever feel as comfortable about Erik Bedard as I did in that first at bat of 2008. I love his talent, and I know that when he's on top of his game he's arguably the best pitcher in baseball, but he just can't seem to settle into a steady groove. He'll look as sharp as ever in one start, but then the next time he takes the hill he'll come out and pitch like this. Bedard wasn't bad today. Let's make that clear. He overcame some early struggles and defensive miscues to throw 5.2 innings of effective, contact-deterring baseball. But while he threw 26 of his final 34 pitches for strikes, the first 59 offerings made him look all kinds of shaky. His control was all over the place (30 strikes, 29 balls) and he just couldn't seem to hit that spot in the inside corner against righties, and he was only able to get off the hook thanks to some good defense and timely swinging strikes.
It's possible that this is the version of Erik Bedard we'll live with until his days as a Mariner are done. And that's by no means a problem. He's plenty good the way he is. But he'll just have these extended stretches where he looks so much better, and they always make me long for more. We know what Bedard can do when he's right. Back in 2007 he punched the league's balls up into its throat. All I want is to see that guy show up a little more often. God knows that's what we paid for.
- On a related note, Bedard threw a handful of good changeups today, using one to sit down Ian Kinsler to lead off the game and another to get ahead of Marlon Byrd. I almost forgot he had one. I think so did he.
- All series long it felt like the Rangers were working with a game plan of pitching Russell Branyan hard inside. I don't know if that's a good idea, or even if it was true in the first place, but if it was, I imagine it was a reaction to the fact that he's been so good when he's gotten his arms extended. Working him in shortens his swing, which could, I dunno, make him worse. Of note is that he pounded an inside pitch deep into the RF stands last night. I'm not used to seeing him pull the ball like that, but he showed that he's certainly capable.
- Whenever Kenji Johjima has to come out to the mound to talk to the pitcher, it's because they're not on the same page. Whenever Rob Johnson has to come out to the mound to talk to the pitcher, as he did on several occasions with Bedard today, it's because he's trying to calm him down. People have really taken this Rob-Johnson-has-mad-intangibles thing and run with it. Which, hey, who knows, he might. It's possible that Johnson really is such a good catcher that he improves the performance of the pitching staff. But given that Kenji's a better hitter, a better thrower, and no worse of a blocker, you better be pretty damn sure about yourself if you want to give Rob more playing time. It would really help his case if he could hit a couple more dingers.
- Ken Griffey Jr. is seeing fewer pitches in the zone now than he did in his first couple seasons as a Red. I don't know how often we've heard the broadcasters say "and (Pitcher X) wanted no part of Griffey right there" after a walk. Which should tell you a little something about how much pitchers care about the scouting reports, at least when it comes to facing an icon. Team scouts and analysts could tell the day's starter that Griffey is dead, clinically dead, and the Mariners had to roll him into the batter's box in a wheelbarrow, and he doesn't even have a bat, and the pitcher would still freak out because it's Ken Griffey Jr! and nibble around the edges.
- Miguel Batista needed all of nine pitches to allow a home run and record four outs. The outing was like a little bouillon cube of his Mariner career.
- Not the greatest day for Jack Hannahan, who got charged with two errors and deserved a third all in the span of eight batters, and went 0-4 at the plate. He also made some nifty stops, so it wasn't a total loss, but if it weren't for Bedard bearing down and escaping some jams, he'd probably be drawing a lot more criticism for his performance. I love how every time a player commits an error he, without fail, will look at his glove. It's like when a player swings and misses and looks at his bat. Guess what: it's not the glove or the bat that's defective. It's you. Maybe what you should be looking at instead is your brain. Which can be troublesome, but there are always MRI machines available, and I'm sure Bedard's got a couple by his locker.