It would've been really easy to lose this game. No matter what the players might say about how they look at every game the same way, and how last week's trip was no different than any other, everybody knew it. Everybody in the clubhouse knew what they were up against in LA, New York, and Boston, and so, after putting so much energy into making a nightmarish trip a successful one, it would've been easy for the M's to come home and suffer a letdown. Hell, not only were they probably exhausted, but playing Baltimore doesn't really rev the engine quite like playing one of the beasts. I know I was having trouble getting amped. So to come out and put together a winning effort that at no point felt all that uneasy - that either says a lot about the M's or a lot about the O's, but winning like this was exactly what this team needed to do, and it puts my mind at ease. Forget about a letdown. If this team stumbles, it'll be independent of the most recent road trip, which means that we can now officially put what we thought would be a nine-game stretch of devastation in the books as an absolute, unquestionable success.
- It's a funny thing about one-hitters - the longer they last, the worse you feel when they're over. Washburn only allowed the one single - Baltimore's only baserunner of the game - but because it happened in the fourth, superstition never had time to get involved, and come the final out, we were left to reflect not on a missed opportunity, but on a brilliantly-pitched game. I mean, yeah, everyone's going to wonder "what if?" about Markakis' liner, but because it was a clean hit that happened so early in the game, there was never any disappointment. For two hours and nine minutes, we just got to sit back and enjoy watching the
I didn't actually think Washburn looked that sharp in the early innings. He fell behind six of the first eight hitters he faced, and five of the Orioles' first 14 batters hit line drives. Even Dave Sims noted that Baltimore was hitting the ball on the nose, and they were just finding gloves. But as the second half of the game rolled around, Jarrod settled into one of those Mark Buehrle grooves where he knew where he was throwing the ball, and worked with a tempo that kept everyone comfortable but the guy at the plate. In the seventh and eighth innings, he got through Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff, and Ty Wigginton on six pitches. Washburn was dealing in true Ryan Franklin fashion, but the difference between Washburn and Franklin is that when Washburn is going well, he inspires confidence in the viewer. By the end of the game, I was fully on board. This was Jarrod Washburn's night, and no one was going to ruin it.
That was about as well-pitched a three-strikeout complete game as any you're going to see. It's important to note that Washburn still doesn't have a good tRA, and has been generating better results than we can expect to see in the future, but for right now, nine innings are nine innings. With Bedard going on a pitch count tomorrow, I don't know that Jarrod could've had better timing.
make the look like the Mariners.
- On two occasions tonight, Ryan Langerhans came within a few feet of leaving the yard to left-center field. In the sixth he lifted a deep fly ball that Nolan Reimold played into a double off the wall, and an inning later he hit another to around the same area with the bases loaded for a sac fly. Those are fly balls that leave a lot of other stadiums, and they serve as a reminder that he's not just another light-hitting fourth outfielder masquerading as a regular. Langerhans is a powerful man whose problem has always been making the right contact, and when he makes it, he can hit the ball a long way. Of course, power to the opposite field isn't exactly what we want out of our lefties in Safeco, but it's cool to see that Langerhans has that capability nonetheless. I know a lot of you are bummed about Wlad losing his playing time, but even the most devoted Balentien supporter has to admit that Langerhans is intriguing. And since he's still arbitration-eligible for a couple more years, a good showing here means he could offer some insurance next season should Saunders struggle, which is something not a lot of people have talked about.
- Russell Branyan hit his latest mammoth home run on a fastball outside off the plate. Branyan has actually hit a number of his home runs on fastballs outside off the plate. It's weird to say about a guy who strikes out so often, but Branyan has pretty good plate coverage, in that he's capable of going deep on a pitch anywhere in or around the zone. He definitely seems to have a preference for getting his arms extended on pitches away, though. I think Branyan might be one of those rare lefties I think about pitching in instead of away. Pitching him away must be terrifying.
- Actually, I wonder what it's like to face an all-or-nothing guy like Branyan. A pitcher knows he's an easy strikeout, which is good for the mindset, but he also knows that a 500 foot homer is a distinct possibility, which makes you nervous. Is a pitcher facing Branyan more excited or more uneasy than he is when facing a league-average hitter?
- Even during this little hot streak or whatever the hell it is that he's on, Ronny Cedeno is still perfectly capable of swinging like a damn retard. Today he swung seven times, missing with four of them, and for good measure whiffed on a squeeze opportunity on a fastball at the thigh. After careful consideration of his appearance through these first three months, I'm going to think of his current .491 OPS as the OPS an MLB team could expect if they called up a random little leaguer. If Cedeno can take a little league approach and little league swings against Major League pitching and still OPS .491, then by Jove, why couldn't anyone else? This makes Rob Johnson's .584 OPS a wee bit underwhelming.
- Since falling head-first into regular playing time a week ago, Chris Woodward has hit an almost completely empty .280, but that empty .280 includes things like his barehand stop and bases-loaded double tonight. The double essentially clinched the game, and the barehand on Adam Jones after ranging over a few nautical miles to his left was something out of the Beltre playbook. Woodward isn't a good player, and he's only playing now because the M's need someone to fill in while they scour the league for solutions, but the neat thing about small sample sizes is that anything can happen, and tonight, Woodward was a valuable player. While they look for someone else, the M's don't need Chris Woodward to be a better player than he is. They just need him to look like it. Tonight, he did a good job.
- I wonder how many times a batter has to foul a pitch a foot inside off his ankle before he stops chasing that pitch.
Erik Bedard on a pitch count tomorrow. It seems like there's something important going on with this team every day. I'm not 100% positive but I think that's good.