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7-7, Game Thoughts

Doug Fister was the big story, of course, as he went two-thirds of the way to spinning a no-hitter, but in the end, all history will show - aside from the final score - is just how quickly Mariner fans forgot all about the fact that the lineup posted a seven-run inning.

These are the 2010 Seattle Mariners. The team that came in with a .655 OPS. The team that came in having scored more than four runs just once in its prior ten games. The team with a .204 BA and two home runs from the 4/5/6 slots in the order. This is the team whose offense was roundly criticized all winter long, and whose offense came in having done little to silence the skeptics.

This team hadn't scored. Then it did score. A lot. But so quickly did the game's focus change that a seven-run inning - a seven-run inning! - was pushed to the back of everyone's mind.

I get why. It's not like we were playing the Yankees. If we were playing the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or somebody good, that seven-run inning would've been big news. But it's different against Baltimore. Against Baltimore - at least given the current shape they're in - you don't worry about scoring as many runs as possible. You just worry about scoring enough. I'm doing a terrible job of explaining this with words so for your benefit I will include a table, showing runs in an inning and the corresponding fan reaction:

Runs vs. Yankees vs. Orioles
1 Yeah! Yeah!
2 Yeah! Yeah!
3 Yeah! Yeah!
4 Yeah! Yeah!
5 Yeah! Hey cool
6 Yeah! Great...
7 Yeah! Come on already
8+ Yeah! I'm tired

In a game like this, you don't want to lose. It's not even about winning. You're expected to win. It's about loss avoidance. You're confident that a handful of runs should be enough to do the trick, so you wait around for those runs, and when those runs come, you mentally chalk it up as a victory long before it goes in the books. I know as soon as Milton Bradley doubled, I thought "okay, that'll do it." And when you get to that stage, you're no longer paying close attention to the offense. You're more concerned with just getting to the end, and maybe with any potential history along the way. Like a could-be no-hitter.

So I understand why things went the way they did. Still, though, a seven-run inning? For this team? Doug Fister wasn't going to throw a no-hitter anyway. Shame on you guys. He's Doug Fister, and he was facing a lineup with Dream Killer Markakis. Fister was good, but my take-away fun fact is that the offense scored as many runs in one inning as it did in last week's series against Oakland. That's a significant sign of life from an offense we've already gotten by without.

  • A seven-run third inning. Hooray! But a seven-run third inning that would've been a one-run third inning were Baltimore playing a Major League third baseman. With the bases loaded and one down, Jose Lopez hit a routine double play grounder to Ty Wigginton that Wigginton just dropped. Straight-up dropped. There wasn't even any degree of difficulty. It was just a simple grounder that would've meant two outs if Wigginton could so much as pick it up and walk and throw a little bit, but the beefcake with the UZR fumbled the ball and left the door wide open. A single, a double, and a home run later, the Orioles were behind by seven and Brad Bergesen was leaving early for the third start in a row. I know Wigginton isn't Baltimore's regular over there, but you talk about seizing an opportunity.

  • Staying in the bottom of the third, the Mariners tried their damndest to run into another two outs. First, Jack Wilson pulled a grounder by a drawn-in Wigginton and rounded first even though left fielder Lou Montanez was quick on the ball. Montanez's throw beat Wilson by a great deal, but Julio Lugo couldn't handle it, and Wilson was safe. Second, Bradley hit his double to deep left-center with Jose Lopez on second and Ken Griffey Jr. on first, but for some reason Junior kept running home even though a good relay meant he didn't have a prayer, and he was thrown out by...not a mile, because a mile would be crazy. By two or three Griffey-widths. It was not a close play. Fortunately for Matt Wieters, Eric Byrnes and Ken Griffey Jr. could not have less in common on the basepaths.

    Have kids? Want to teach them a lesson about taking care of your body? Show them footage of The Double, then show them footage of tonight's play at the plate, then show them that article where Griffey says he used to drink 10-12 sodas a day.

  • I like Doug Fister, and I don't think it's ever been a secret that I think he can succeed for a while in a big league rotation, but tonight puts me in the awkward position of having to keep people realistic even though he tossed six no-hit innings. This was just Fister. This was just Fister doing what Fister does. He threw a lot of strikes, he allowed a lot of balls in play, and he took advantage of a defense that will help him more often than it will hurt. There wasn't really any mystery. 80% of his pitches were fastballs, and Fister doesn't have a good fastball. Baltimore just couldn't hit them. It happens sometimes. It's weird, but bad teams can have extra bad nights.

    I don't want to diminish the performance, and even I couldn't help but get excited by the sixth inning or so. Fister was singlehandedly keeping the game interesting. But you don't look at Doug Fister and think "yeah, someday." He's not Felix Hernandez. If Felix throws a no-hitter, it will confirm our declarations that he can be an unhittable pitcher. If Doug Fister throws a no-hitter, it's a novelty, or a punchline. You like the Padres? Whatever, you got no-hit by Bud Smith. You're disappointed when someone spoils a bid by Felix. When Fister's bid gets spoiled, it's hard to be mad.

  • And that makes three home runs, seven extra-base hits, and a .595 slugging percentage over 42 at bats for Casey Kotchman. This is by no means an unprecedented streak. He's gotten into grooves like this before, as recently as last July/August. But I know there was a lot of gnashing of teeth, a lot of voiced concern that the M's were crazy for giving the everyday 1B position to a .740 OPS, so with that in mind, Kotchman couldn't be doing a better job of introducing himself. He's been everything anyone could dream of in the field, and he's also been the second-best hitter on the team.

    His third inning home run was on a 1-1 slider that he went down and yanked. That was a bad pitch from Bergesen. But then, a lot of people were unsure if Kotchman could punish bad pitches. Then, in the seventh, Kotchman got a low-inside 94mph fastball from Kam Mickolio and punished it into right for a line drive double. I don't really know what Kotchman's swing looked like before, so I'm not sure if he's always been this way, but he's clearly demonstrate of late that he's capable of hurting strikes down in the zone. I wonder if we'll see pitchers start trying to raise his eye level. Right now, he's locked in something fierce.

  • Brandon League threw ten pitches tonight, and all of them were fastballs. Granted, the score was 8-1 at the time, but League's splitter was the most unhittable pitch in baseball last year, and so far through 128 pitches in 2010, 89% of his pitches have been heaters. I'm not concerned, but I'm curious. Worth noting that he was at 81% fastballs last April before mixing things up more often as the season wore on.

  • I am not a scout. I have never been a scout, I don't ever want to be a scout, and no team would ever hire me even if I did. With that caveat out of the way, it seems to me that Ichiro's big - only? - weakness in the field is cutting down balls in the gap to his right. We saw it again on Luke Scott's double tonight. How many times have we seen Ichiro misplay the angle? It makes me uncomfortable when Ichiro looks bad, because when Ichiro looks bad, Ichiro gets disappointed with himself, and if Ichiro gets disappointed with himself, what hope do I have?

  • Franklin Gutierrez came out of the game after wincing as he rounded the bases in the seventh. He seems to be fine, and the team isn't concerned, but talk about your heart-stoppers. I wouldn't be surprised if Guti got a day off, although I also wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. They'll evaluate his leg and get a better idea tomorrow. 

  • In the bottom of the fifth, Guti lined a single into center that Adam Jones misplayed and let get behind him. Rarely has one simple play said so much.