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54-51, A Few Game Notes

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  • The outcomes don't really matter much to me anymore. The Mariners are out of it - pretty much 100% out of it - and if anything I'm rooting for the Rangers to pass the Angels in the division. And so with that in mind I don't think it should come off like sour grapes when I say that Texas got a big break there in that final at bat with Jack Wilson. Not only did home plate umpire DJ Reyburn call a strike on a 1-1 fastball six inches inside, but then on 1-2, he ruled that Wilson didn't make contact with a slider in the dirt. Wilson was adamant that he caught the top of the ball and replays showed that the ball changed direction, but Reyburn would have nothing of it, and he called it a game.

    On the one hand, yeah, it's only two pitches. There's no guarantee that Wilson gets a hit or reaches base if he gets ahead 2-1 or if that alleged foul is called a foul. But on the other, those were two significant pitches. 2-1 is a hitter's count, while 1-2 is not. And then one pitch later, 1-2 looks a lot better than 0-0 when 0-0 means the game is over and you lose. Wilson's a .280 career hitter against lefties, and all he needed was a single to tie it up. And he didn't get a proper chance, because Reyburn sucked. Cheers to CJ Wilson for throwing a 1-2 slider that apparently fooled everyone, but jeers to DJ Reyburn for being a pile of crap with bad timing.

  • Jack Hannahan vs. LHP, career: .245/.313/.343
    Franklin Gutierrez vs. LHP, career: .295/.350/.492

    So why did Hannahan hit against CJ Wilson with Gutierrez available on the bench? Because

    "The biggest reason was that Hannahan's hit about .330 over the last seven games and I felt that he'd been having some good at-bats,'' Wakamatsu said. "It gave me the luxury of maybe having (the other bats) for somebody else. But I felt good with Hannahan right there.''
    Having the other bats available for somebody else doesn't matter if you can't get to them, and in that situation, with the tying run on second, one out, and a lefty on the mound, you have to go to your bench. To hell with the pinch-hitting penalty. Gutierrez would have a long, long way to fall before he ever looked like as bad a bet there as Jack Hannahan. I don't criticize Don Wakamatsu very often, but that was a bad move. Or non-move, as it were. 

  • In the top of the fourth, Jose Lopez came up with one down and Ichiro on first. He hit a high pop-up behind second, but as the ball was coming down, Omar Vizquel pulled his hands back, let the ball drop, and threw to second to erase Ichiro by a mile. Who even thinks of these things? If Vizquel were some teenager in A-ball that split-second decision would've gotten him promoted. What a heads-up play, the likes of which you wouldn't see from many other infielders in the league.

    Betancourt: Why would he do that?
    Coach: To get Ichiro off the bases.
    Betancourt: But that would've been easy to catch.
    Coach: Yes, but because it was so easy to catch, Ichiro had to stay near first, making him an easy target at second.
    Betancourt: But he just had to put his glove out there and the ball would've fallen into it for an out.
    Coach: But then you have two out and Ichiro on instead of two out and Lopez on.
    Betancourt: But why would you ever let a ball like that fall? It was a routine pop.
    Coach: Ichiro is a great deal faster than Lopez.
    Betancourt: But don't you want there to be two outs?
    Coach: By dropping the ball and then throwing to second, you get the second out anyway, with the added bonus of having less speed on the bases.
    Betancourt: So you're saying he let it drop on purpose...
    Coach: Yes.
    Betancourt: ...because he could get an out at second?
    Coach: Correct.
    Betancourt: Okay.
    Coach: Got it?
    Betancourt: I think.
    Betancourt: But then why wouldn't he just catch the ball?

  • A mixed bag for Ian Snell, who came out after six innings and 84 pitches having struck out four, walked three, and allowed two solo homers. He topped out at 95 on the night, and the homer by Michael Young was on a high-inside slider off the plate that Young just turned on like a crazy person, but the homer by David Murphy was on a bad pitch, and altogether both Snell's strengths and weaknesses were readily evident.

    By my count, he threw 39 fastballs, 21 sliders, and 24 changeups (Update: upon further review, Snell's velocity dropped in the second half of his game, so he threw more fastballs and fewer changes than I noted here). What's interesting is that, while only one of his first 46 pitches was a change, he went to that pitch 23 times over his final 38. Rob Johnson certainly had a plan to show the Rangers something different the second and third times through the order. My reviews of his pitches:

    Fastball: Pretty good velocity, can throw it for strikes, but not a real hard pitch to hit
    Slider: Good, sharp break with a broad range of velocity. Struggled to throw it for strikes today, but a few of those misses were deliberate. Strikeout pitch
    Changeup: Movement's fine but the consistency's not. Wasn't being located. Work in progress

    Nothing in there we shouldn't have expected. Snell's change has never been a plus pitch and he's always struggled with lefties, even when he was really good. So the key for him will be limiting the damage done to him by righties, and upon first viewing his slider appears more than capable. He's going to be an interesting one to follow, and with a little better command than he had tonight, he has it in him to be a big value.