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79-72, Game Notes

So I'll be writing the Mariners chapter again in the upcoming Hardball Times Season Preview. And as much as they probably frown on this sort of thing, should they ask for a brief review of 2009, I can already tell you how it's going to end: though the M's were well out of the race by the middle of August, they found a way to make those meaningless games down the stretch borderline watchable.

I don't know how better to summarize a team that's been both disappointing and so totally not disappointing at all.

  • Not really a banner night for Ryan Rowland-Smith, but for one thing, he's more than earned the right to have a start like this, and for another, he didn't see a lefty bat all game. Ordinarily a lefty starter doesn't see that many lefty bats to begin with, and lefties had accounted for just 26% of plate appearances against RRS on the season coming in, but 26% multiplied by the 25 batters RRS faced today comes out to six or seven, and that can make a pretty big difference.

    I dunno, just a thought. Though an issue, righties weren't Ryan's only problem tonight, however, as he admitted that he didn't have his best stuff against a pretty good offense. He was better about getting his curveball over, an issue he recently lamented, but his fastball was hit or miss and he couldn't depend on his changeup. Only 13 of the 27 he threw went for strikes, including just two of his final 11, and without his best change, RRS had a tough time avoiding trouble. He allowed three runs through 5+ innings, and it very easily could've been a whole lot worse.

    That said, considering RRS walked all of four batters over his previous five starts, I think it's safe to say this is more of a blip than a red flag. Nobody wants to see a guy have a game like this (except Trey Hillman on Monday), but it's not a problem unless it becomes a habit, and I'm inclined to pay more attention to RRS' entire 2009 body of work rather than a single off night. He'll be fine.

  • This was the first Mariners game I've been able to watch on in a week, and the first thing I saw when I booted it up was that damn Geico commercial with 3 Doors Down. It's like I never left. It's tempting to suggest that it's all just clever satire - the Geico cavemen are miserable beings, and 3 Doors Down is a miserable band - but I fear that would be giving the advertising department too much credit, and that rather than using their outlet to mock one of the more alarming success stories of the last decade of musicianship, they honestly believe that the combination of formulaic corporate lite rock with oversensitive business troglodytes is going to help them sell their own insurance, provided the potential customer is exposed to the commercial 14 times a game.

    A lot of people like to make fun of YouTube commenters. I think all you need to know about them is that, of the last 62 comments left on the ad's page that express an opinion, 61 were positive. 

  • In the early innings today, the entire Mariner bullpen lined up to shake the hand of a ball guy who gave a foul ball to a little girl by the wall. I think it's to the point where our bullpen has literally taken on a life of its own. As one unit, one peculiar unit that envelops all who tread near. I can imagine them all living together in a household similar to the ESPN studios during Y2K, and I can also imagine that it's all a very weird experience for people like Brandon Morrow and Garrett Olson who've worked both as starters and in relief.

    Morrow: Hey guys.
    Hannahan: Hey Brandon, welcome back.
    Johnson: So Brandon, hey, I've been meaning to ask you.
    Morrow: Yeah?
    Johnson: What's it like?
    You know
    Johnson: Out...there.
    I don't really...know.
    Wakamatsu: Luke!
    French: What's going on, skip?
    Wakamatsu: Hey, Luke. Brandon's starting. You're going to the bullpen.
    French: oh
    French: oh god
    Langerhans: You're shaking.
    French: oh my god

  • In the bottom of the fifth, Adrian Beltre made a fine shorthop grab and throw to retire Gabe Kapler, and Dave Sims and Mike Blowers took the opportunity to point out just how spoiled we are by his play at third base. How spoiled are we? So spoiled that I doubt many of those who watched could recall the play he'd just made. Adrian Beltre has a .668 OPS and has been an above-average player.

  • Jose Lopez's tiebreaking homer in the 8th was his 25th of the season, and though little milestones like that don't really mean that much to us as fans, they mean a lot to the players, as evidenced by Lopez requesting the ball back from the fan who got it. However, the fan - pictured below - refused to cooperate.
    Drayer says the fan turned down an offer of both an autographed bat and an autographed ball in exchange for the homer. Now, I'm trying really hard these days to be less judgmental. To judge people less often by their behavior or appearance observed in a small sample. With that in mind, it's possible that the man pictured is a genuinely good guy who's wanted to catch a foul or a homer his entire life, and that he plans to put this ball on his mantle and cherish it, or that he intends to take it home to present to his son or daughter as a surprise. Keeping the ball under the circumstances is a little selfish, but then we're all selfish, and we shouldn't pass judgment without knowing the whole story. It's entirely possible that the ball could bring more happiness to the fan or to someone he knows than it would to Jose Lopez.

    On the other hand, Axe Factory featured enough reliable indicators of probable blockheadedness that I'd support the extreme measures suggested by Sims and Blowers on the broadcast. They used to settle these conflicts a little differently, don't you know.

  • Given that Griffey and Sweeney are the life of the dugout, I would wager that #3 hitter Jose Lopez enjoys his homers the least.

  • Miguel Batista has retired 11 consecutive batters.

  • Ichiro went 1-4 while Joe Mauer went 1-3. Though Ichiro's hit was twice as good as Mauer's, batting champ contenders don't get credit for style points, which means the chances now are even slimmer than they were this afternoon. Should Ichiro determine that he won't catch up to Mauer, an interesting backup plan would be trying to make all of his hits home runs.