When the meaningful wins are gone, you're left having to celebrate the symbolic ones, but as symbolic ones go, this one was pretty good. We'll have all offseason to reflect on what winning at least 81 games means for the organization. For now, let's just revel in the moment. .500+ was a long time coming. Back in 2007, Rolling Stone's #1 song went to Jay-Z. Spiderman 3 raked in more than three hundred million dollars. Alex Rodriguez led the league in home runs. No other fan base in the world has had to suffer as much as we did while we waited for the M's to return to respectability, and so this - this is bliss. We've earned this. Our long, seemingly endless regional nightmare is over.
- And so Felix Hernandez earns his 18th win and slightly lowers his ERA on a night that seldom saw him at his best. That he nearly made it through another eight innings is a testament to both how poorly the A's have been known to hit and how good Felix can still be even when he's not on his game.
The raw numbers do a fine job of conveying just how much Felix struggled with his location. When a guy throw 58% strikes, walks four guys, beans two more, and adds a pair of wild pitches for good measure, no one's going to accuse him of being unusually sharp unless he's Daniel Cabrera. I dunno, maybe it was the weather. It was a cool, indoor game at the Safe, with Gameday marking the temperature at 52 degrees. Sometimes it can be hard to get a good feel for the seams when your fingers are cold, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that that played a part in Felix's struggles. But then, it's also possible that it didn't. Who knows? Maybe Felix's rough go of it was independent of the atmosphere. What matters is that he wasn't particularly sharp, and were it not for a handful of clutch pitches and some good defense, Oakland would've scored more than a deuce.
What's funny is that, where you'd think a start like this would hurt Felix's chances at the Cy Young, the voters will probably eat it up. Guy comes in without his best stuff and toughs it out for 7.2 two-run innings? That's a warrior. It's easy to coast when you're always untouchable like Zack Greinke. Felix had to earn his innings. Or something. I can't tell if this is a joke or serious. I guess that's not a real ringing endorsement of the award.
- Those 120 pitches Felix threw, by the way, were a career high. Safe to say we're out of the kid gloves window, as Felix has racked up 232 innings and 26 consecutive starts with 100+ pitches thrown. Wakamatsu has treated him like a workhorse, and he's responded like one. I don't necessarily love that he was out there for 120, especially on a night where he didn't know where the ball was going, but his velocity was fine, and we don't have any real compelling reason to believe that we put his body in grave danger. Every pitcher's unique. Felix seems to be pretty durable. So at this point I support pretty much any endeavor intended to make him happy. Would've been nice to see Felix walk off after a third out, but I guess we'll just have to give him a real ovation on Sunday.
- The small crowd tonight should help keep Felix's price tag down come the eventual extension negotiations.
Nero: Felix deserves to be paid at a premium. He's the sort of player fans will pay to come see.
Zduriencik: Oh yeah?
- With two on and two down in the top of the seventh, Rajai Davis hit a ball on the ground to the right of second base that Jose Lopez tracked down and threw to first after a little spin. It wasn't a spectacular play, and it won't make any highlight reels, but it was a rangey play, and an effective reminder that, while Lopez will probably always be prone to the occasional boneheaded mistake, he's not a tree. He can move to each side, and he can move pretty well. For now, anyway.
- Hopefully this wasn't Ken Griffey Jr.'s final home run in Seattle (by which I mean I'd like to see one in the next five days, and not in 2010), but if it was, at least it was a classic Griffey dinger. Low-inside fastball that he turned on with the usual swing and watched fly to its usual place while completing his usual follow-through. The best part was that the homer was immediately preceded by a meeting on the mound with the catcher and coach and everything. Nothing quite like giving someone advice and then watching him go and achieve the worst possible scenario.
Anyway, Griffey hasn't hit a whole lot this year, but he hasn't been a disaster, and he's shown enough flashes of his old self to remind so many people of why they ever fell in love. Honestly, it might be the best case for him that the team is successful but not close to the race, because by being so far out of it, no one feels inclined to blame his mediocre productivity for holding us back. Everyone's who's wanted has just been able to get swept up in the whole thing, and given the impact he's had on the team and the fan base, I don't know that the organization could be any happier about having brought him back. It didn't go perfectly, but nothing's ever perfect.
Bill Hall let another ball drop in front of him today after taking a casual stroll in pursuit. This one, at least, landed in foul territory. Said Dave Sims: "Wow. Full throttle, it wasn't." It can't be laziness. If it were laziness, Wak would've put him on the bench by now. So Hall has to have a pretty good excuse for why he hasn't been running, and that pretty good excuse is his bum quad. Hall can't run at anything close to full speed because he has a bum quad. Sooo...he's still playing. I don't understand.
A couple batters later, Adrian Beltre retreated behind third base for a pop up and made a wave-off motion with his hand before making the catch. Then he smiled.
- Says a frequent MLB.tv commercial for a week-long umpire camp: "Become the best umpire you can be." This can be interpreted in three ways:
(1) Nothing about being a successful umpire is so hard that you can't learn it in a week
(2) Camp is the only place where you can learn to be an umpire, and once you leave camp, you'll never improve again, ever
(3) The statement has nothing to do with the camp, and is instead a message of inspiration. "Hey, viewer. Become the best umpire you can be. We believe in you."
I don't know which is correct, but #1 seems most appropriate.