I watched it all go down, and it made me mad. Then I remembered that the win didn't really matter, and it made me indifferent. Then I remembered that the win mattered to Felix, and it made me mad.
- Earlier this week I was thinking about launching a series entitled Why Mark Lowe Is Different. Or maybe What's Different About Mark Lowe? Or possibly Mark Lowe: Different! Why? I don't know, I didn't really think about the name. But what it was going to be was a series of posts testing out different theories as to why Lowe's been pitching so much better. I gave him a lot of crap earlier in the season for pitching well below his ability, but then it looked like he had turned it around, and I wanted to know why. I intended to begin with the hypothesis that nothing had changed, and that it was all just statistical variation, and go from there. Pitch type, pitch movement, pitch location, delivery, and so on - in the pursuit of knowledge, no stone imaginable may go unturned.
Well I'm glad I didn't start running that series because that's three games in a row now that Lowe's really struggled. Not that I don't think he's better now than he was earlier in the year - he had a 1.6 K/BB and 8% swinging strike rate through July 5th and stands at 5.3 and 14% since - but that just would've been really bad timing, and I'm thinking that maybe I should just hold out until the offseason before writing anything like that. You know, just in case. Because the thing about relievers is that on any given night they can make anyone look like an idiot.
Mark Lowe: better pitcher, lousy night. Though he deserved a little better, he made far too many mistakes.
- Of course, the whole eighth inning wouldn't have happened as it did were it not for a couple fielding miscues that kind of flew under the radar a little bit. The first - a chopper that got by Josh Wilson's glove - came after a homer and a line drive had already caused viewers to sour on Lowe, and the second - a blown pickoff by Russ Branyan that allowed Ryan Raburn to steal home - came after Detroit had already taken the lead and caused Mariner fans to mentally surrender. Mark Lowe wasn't good, but those four runs were by no means all his fault.
Those were big mistakes. I imagine that Wilson will escape blame on account of his night at the plate and that chopper being a tough short-hop, but if he makes that play - as I think most big league shortstops would be able to do - there's a man on second and two out instead of men on the corners and one, and that's huge. In the former situation, Lowe's one out away and has some wiggle room. In the latter situation, the tying run's 90 feet away and odds are good that he'll have to see Miguel Cabrera. The win expectancy swing of that error was -22.5%, as compared to the +16.6% boost from Wilson's home run, and that error took us from being heavy favorites to a coin flip. That's an unfortunate way for Wilson to remember what should've been a happy night.
As for the other miscue, it's funny; rundowns fall into the category of plays that're really hard to execute yourself but that you expect Major Leaguers to pull off with 100% efficiency. Which isn't to say that I excuse Branyan for his mistake, but the whole time he was chasing Cabrera I was thinking "oh God he has to watch two guys and throw on the run." So although I was disappointed by the result, I understood how it could happen. Just like with the grounder to Wilson, Branyan usually does better and knows what he did wrong, but it just so happened that today they both screwed up in the same inning and as such made a significant contribution to the losing effort. Sorry Felix :(
Felix Hernandez (I'm spelling his name out now at least once for Search Engine Optimization!) came out of the game after seven innings and 106 pitches. As you've probably heard by now, the reason he didn't come back out for the eighth was because his legs started cramping up. Not that he would've been able to go much longer anyway, given his season high of 117, but hey, who knows what would've happened?
That's the downside. Literally the only downside to his start is that minor leg cramps ended his night at 106 pitches. Everything before that was peaches. What is there that's left to be said? Were I in a more eloquent mood I could probably describe his performance with a poem or a fake dialogue, but I feel boring, so I'll just tell you that he missed 14 bats and struck out nine guys while walking one. He whiffed the left-handed and awesome Curtis Granderson three times. And he featured a pitch that - I'm going to say it - looked an awful lot like the Royal Curve I at one point thought he had lost. It was a sharp curve with a lot of break both left and down, and it made the look helpless. Of the 18 he threw, they only swung at three. And hit one. I love that pitch. Not that Felix really needs a fourth good pitch, but I like when he has it because it lets me feel smug. "Oh, Johan has a good changeup? That's neat. Felix has a good everything."
A wonderful start that, even without the win, should help his standing in the race for the Cy Young.
- My friend texted me just now to say that Kyle Blanks just hit an inside-the-park home run. Holy shit I love Kyle Blanks
Clete Thomas led off the bottom of the second with a foul pop-up down the third base line. As Ryan Langerhans ran in pursuit and slid to make a catch, a fan reached out a good three or four feet onto the field to interfere. However, rather than call the batter out, umpire Dan Iassonga ruled it a foul ball, offering this justification:
"He said he saw the fan interfere but because because he (Langerhans) was sliding and it wasn't just a routine catch, he couldn't just award him that,'' said Wakamatsu, who ran out to argue.
Here's the play in question:
I get what Iassonga means, and there's probably no 100% right or 100% wrong solution to this. But that's an awful long way for a fan to reach out, and were it not for his glove, I'm pretty sure Langerhans makes that catch. Even had this happened in our favor, rather than to our detriment, I would've supported a ruling of fan interference.
- The game ended with a 12-pitch strikeout of Jose Lopez by Fernando Rodney with the tying run on second base. The at bat began with two strikes, but Lopez took three balls and fouled off six more pitches before finally swinging through a low fastball. People love to talk about how at bats like this are a battle of wills between the hitter and the pitcher, but the struggle nobody talks about is the struggle felt by the fans who want to get up, applaud, and cheer for the final strike.
After Pitch 1: Atta boy Rodney, great pitch! Two more!
After Pitch 2: One more! One more to go! Yeah baby c'mooooonnnnnn Fernan-DO!
After Pitch 3: Good pitch, he barely touched it! You got this! WOOOOOOO
After Pitch 4: No biggie, no biggie, gotta waste one. Let's get him now, your pitch!
After Pitch 5: Whoaaa can't believe he held up! Great pitch! Do it again, he can't touch you!
After Pitch 6: Barely got a piece! You just have to
After Pitch 7: WHERE WAS THAT
After Pitch 8: In control, in control, it's...c'mon now
After Pitch 9: uh
After Pitch 10: fuck this COME ONNNN
During Pitch 11: :sits down:
After Pitch 11: :makes a scene of standing back up, sighs: :claps very slowly: all right listen up now you piddly son of a bitch
After Pitch 12: YEAHHHHHHHHHHHH
Tonight, 33,710 Tiger fans were given a reason to find Jose Lopez annoying. They won't necessarily remember why, but they'll remember what. When Lopez plays the Tigers three years down the road, one Tigers fan will say to another "oh God I hate this guy," and when the other Tigers fan asks the first Tigers fan why, the first Tigers fan will reply "I dunno he just seems like one of those guys."