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5-6, Game Thoughts

There was only one thing wrong with the game tonight. Literally, one thing. And that's that the game didn't end when Felix came out in the seventh. Everything through that point was perfect. Dominant outing for Felix. Productive lineup. Wacky antics. Enthusiastic audience. Hysterically bad Tigers defense. For six and two-thirds innings, it was the perfect baseball game. The only downside is that the perfect baseball game had another 2.1 meaningless innings tacked on to the end. They shouldn't play those innings. There should be a rule that, if it's a blowout, and the starting pitcher comes out to a rousing ovation, the game is over. There's no point to playing out the string. All those innings do is make people late for stuff. And it's not like you can just not watch them. You feel obligated. Those innings are like taking fans of a playoff team and making them watch some of the...I dunno. Orioles? You just sit there and think "why do these innings exist?" 

Still, if my biggest complaint about a game is that the Mariners spent too much time blowing out the opposition, I suppose I shouldn't make a big stink of things.

  • That game wasn't Felix Hernandez at his best, but for the first three innings or so, it was damn close. Felix was flashing legitimate no-hit stuff as he plowed through the first nine batters with five strikeouts, and though he slowed down a bit later on, one wonders how much of that was due to his being put in the unfamiliar position of waiting in the dugout for the offense to stop hitting.

    Felix wound up with nine strikeouts in his 6.2 innings. There were six baserunners, but three were suspect, and the Tigers had trouble putting the ball in the air. And there were several highlights, from the consecutive swinging strikeouts to start the game to the 1-6-3 double play in the fifth. It was almost a shame that the game was a laugher by the time Felix departed, as by that point it would've been easy to forget how important he'd been in the early innings, but he still got his ovation, which was a nice touch. Seattle may not have the most boisterous fans in baseball, but they love them some Felix.

    I'm not sure what my actual favorite moments were, but the two whiffs of Adam Everett are up there. On a night like tonight, Felix is like our own little slice of the Yankees, and Adam Everett is like our own little slice of the Yankees playing the Astros.

  • While I'm thinking about that ovation, full marks to a crowd of 39,999 that I feared had only shown up for the offensively Mexican-looking Griffey bobblehead. I'm usually skeptical of the crowds that show up on giveaway nights, but the one tonight was in it from the beginning, with actual two-strike cheers, a huge response to Franklin Gutierrez's double, and the aforementioned standing O for Felix. That ovation came in an 11-2 ballgame, and while you could argue that the score had put everyone in a positive mood, you could also argue that the score allowed fans to zone out, so I was pleasantly surprised by the reception. Felix deserved it.

    I and others make fun of the typical Safeco crowd all the time, but tonight was a playoff atmosphere, and there's no denying that Safeco can do a playoff atmosphere about as well as anybody else. And it's mind-boggling how much of a difference that can make with regard to the viewing experience. Tonight was fun.

  • FSN is using a new PITCHfx-based graphic this year showing the in-game pitch breakdown for the starters. They've got %fastballs, %breaking balls, and %offspeed. This is a really good idea, but unfortunately they don't have anybody checking the data before it goes up on the screen, which is how you end up seeing an FSN graphic showing that Felix threw 18% fastballs tonight. Felix actually threw 56% fastballs in the game, but arriving at that mark requires a little manual labor. Call me, FSN.

  • Tonight's game featured 12 Mariner hits, six Mariner walks, two Mariner steals, and three Mariner forced errors. Watching the offense tonight was a lot of fun. Watching the offense during the slump was no fun, however - at all - so it's important not to get too carried away with enthusiasm. This wasn't what the front office drew up. This was beyond what the front office drew up. We can't expect this sort of outburst very often. What we can expect is something that splits the middle between tonight and the bad nights. Something kind of like Opening Day. Opening Day was a lot more representative than either tonight or the slump.

  • Chone Figgins drew three walks. He's now up to nine in 48 trips to the plate. He saw 20 pitches tonight and swung at four. I'm beginning to think that if you go up to the plate and just stand there - seriously just stand there - you can Michelangelo's David your way to a .360 OBP, because pitchers are that bad. Pitchers are so bad at throwing strikes against even the most punchless batters that they need the batters to help get themselves out, and if they don't, it just turns into a walk-fest. Look at Felix in the seventh. Felix had an 11-2 lead. There was no point in messing around and doing anything other than throw the ball down the middle. And even one of the best pitchers in the league still threw 12 of 22 pitches for balls. Pitchers suck at throwing strikes, and for some reason it takes a hitter like Figgins or Reggie Willits, with a startling lack of true hitting ability, to recognize this and exploit it. Must be an ego thing.

  • The best part of Figgins' evening, though? The ball he drove in the bottom of the fourth. No pitcher ever expects Figgins to swing at the first pitch of an at bat, so Bonderman went with the belt-high fastball, and Figgins jumped on it and nearly launched it out of the park. He didn't, because he's Chone Figgins, but it was funny to see him come out of his shell.

  • In the bottom of the third inning, Ichiro stood on second base with two out when Chone Figgins drew a five-pitch walk. On the fifth pitch, however, Ichiro took off for third and made it in, no problem. This is one of those plays that seems more risky than intelligent, as standing on third isn't a whole lot better than standing on second with two outs, but I liked this steal, because what it did was take the low slider away from Jeremy Bonderman. Or at least make him think twice about throwing it. The low slider is probably Bonderman's go-to weapon for swinging strikes, but if he threw it against Franklin Gutierrez, he risked a run-scoring wild pitch or passed ball. So he went with the heat instead, and Gutierrez lined an 0-1 fastball into the gap for a two-run triple. Considering Gutierrez had trouble with the low slider in both the first and fourth innings, Ichiro's steal may have really changed the course of that critical at bat.

  • It seems like every single fly ball hit in Johnny Damon's direction is accompanied by a remark about his terrible throwing arm. I made a note to write something about this, but then I remembered I already made the same point a year ago. So, read that point. In short, as far as Dave Sims is concerned, Johnny Damon's shoulder is attached to a teaspoon.

  • In the bottom of the fifth, after a Magglio Ordonez throw beat him to the plate, Ichiro scored with one of the better slides you'll see this year. Making it an 11-2 ballgame. Ordinarily, in a situation like this, there'd be at least a little grumbling about "poor sportsmanship" or whatever, but there was none of that here, perhaps because Ichiro's slide was so incredible. Moral to coaches and young athletes: if you're going to run up the score, make sure you do it amazingly.

  • Also in the bottom of the fifth, Chone Figgins took a 3-1 fastball low and away for ball four, but as he stepped towards first base, he paused when umpire Brian Knight gestured with his hand. Knight was just scratching his back, though, and didn't mean to send mixed signals. It sounds stupid in words, but this should better convey the hilarity. I think umpires should do this with pitchers they don't like. Striiiiiii'm just kidding, gotta scratch my back...

  • Rob Johnson continues to demonstrate a stunning inability to catch a baseball. Tonight he let a fastball hit him in the foot. Straight-up hit him in the foot. Didn't touch glove or anything. Just foot. Everybody has to realize how often this happens, but I wonder if Mariner pitchers might not see it from the opposite viewpoint as us. Our understanding is that Johnson can't catch. The pitchers' understanding, however, may be that their pitches are moving so much that even a Major League backstop struggles to catch them. In that way, Johnson is less bastion of incompetence and more flattering mirror. It all depends on your perspective.

  • For the first two or three innings of the game, Dave Niehaus' nose was whistling every single time he took a breath. I thought it was the funniest thing when I noticed it, but from then on I couldn't unnotice it, and it drove me slowly insane. I like to think that my Twitter was responsible for getting him to blow his nose during a commercial break.