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1-1, Game Thoughts

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That Eric Byrnes is incapable of looking good in a picture is an early candidate for best running theme of the season
That Eric Byrnes is incapable of looking good in a picture is an early candidate for best running theme of the season

2008 had JJ Putz. 2009 had Brandon Morrow and Miguel Batista. And 2010 has Kanekoa Texeira. No, it's not a fair comparison. The circumstances were a good bit different tonight than they were the two times previous. But for the third consecutive year, the Mariners have kicked things off with an opening win and then watched the bullpen get stuck with a last-inning loss a day later.

Half of the time this has happened, the Mariners have gone on to have one of the most disappointing seasons in baseball history. And half of the time this has happened, the Mariners have gone on to be among the league's most pleasant surprises. Does tonight's sequence of events, then, suggest that it's going to be feast or famine going forward? Speaking as someone who has performed science, I'd say the answer is an unquestionable yes. Given the similarities between what happened tonight and what happened in each of the two Aprils before, the 2010 Mariners are going to either suck or be a lot of fun. Or they will be okay.

  • I'll be honest with you - I was prepared to lose this game as soon as I saw Travis Buck's broken-bat looper drop in left field in the ninth. I had the intro all written up in my mind and everything. A team as annoying as ourselves is going to cause a lot of fans a lot of anguish. People are going to hate losing to this team. And so it's only fair that this team should be treated to a taste of its own medicine every once in a while. Remember how, whenever we got lucky against the Angels over the last few years, we'd all say we were beating them at their own game? That's what I thought tonight was going to be. I thought the A's were going to win on a broken-bat double and a grounder or a bases-loaded walk or something. I was not expecting to escape that inning alive, and I was not expecting to lose like a normal team loses.

    It'll be interesting to see how Mariner fans adapt and evolve over the season. When we get stuck with annoying losses, will we still refuse to give the other guys any credit for their timely stroke of good luck? Or will we nod our heads and acknowledge that, yeah, they got us?

  • I don't completely agree with Wak's bullpen management tonight. I thought Shawn Kelley should've stayed out there after throwing 18 pitches in a scoreless inning, because it's a short bullpen and he's one of the two long relievers - and a good long reliever at that. But that's just one simple gripe, and it's not an issue on the same level as the Sean White decision Monday night.

    Ultimately, though Kelley could've used a second inning, once he was out of there Wak did just fine. And the reason I'm bringing this up is because I'm perfectly okay with letting Kanekoa Texeira try for two innings. Texeira's the other long guy, and while many want to give all rookies a soft landing, you don't put a Rule 5 pick on the Major League roster if you think a few nerves will cause him to crumble. And it's not like Oakland's the most intimidating environment anyway. Texeira was a sensible choice.

    How'd he look? He didn't look terrific, but the six baserunners and the loss are misleading. One of those baserunners was an unintentional intentional walk. One came on a broken-bat double. Two came on groundball singles. And Mark Ellis' winning gapper came on an 0-2 curve that was down out of the zone. Texeira threw first-pitch balls to seven of the 11 batters he faced. That's bad. But all things considered, he did pretty well, and the walk-off single was more good hitting than bad pitching. That's just one of those potentially unprecedented circumstances in which you have to tip your cap to Mark Ellis for doing such a fine job at the plate.

    Really liked the curve Texeira was throwing. Used it to great effect against Rajai Davis with the bases loaded in the ninth. That was a strikeout situation, and that Texeira threw three in a row after falling behind 1-0 tells me it's his strikeout pitch.

  • As I mentioned above, I wasn't the biggest fan of Wak removing Kelley after one inning, but overall Wak came out in the black on account of the starting lineup he put out there against a southpaw. Putting Eric Byrnes in left? Moving Milton Bradley to DH, thereby keeping Mike Sweeney on the bench? Shifting Casey Kotchman down? Moving Franklin Gutierrez up? Those are easy decisions to us, but they're not so easy for a manager who's a big reason why Sweeney's even still on the team, and for a manager who might be tempted to reward a guy like Kotchman for his success. Starting Adam Moore was a nice touch, too, but it's possible they just didn't want to give Rob Johnson back-to-back games this early in the year.

  • He was never going to start today anyway, not against a lefty, but participants in the Griffey Challenge probably aren't big fans of having the guy ride the bench in the second game of the year.

  • When we used to play wiffleball in the front yard, my brother and I had this theory that you could throw an awesome sinker if you fell forward right at release. By 'fall,' I don't mean lean. I mean straight-up fall, with your spine going limp and everything. There wasn't any science behind it and it only gave us countless sore forearms, but the theory endured far longer than it should've, all because one time I tripped on the driveway while I was pitching and the wiffleball dropped off the table. Based on that single experience, we thought we'd literally stumbled upon a neat little trick.

    It seems Dallas Braden may have found a neat little trick of his own. Through the first 61 games of his Major League career, Braden posted strikeout and contact rates below the league average. Then he went on the DL after he went to the doctor to see about a rash and a biopsy accidentally severed a nerve. Incapable of feeling most of his left foot, Braden learned to deal and, in his return to Major League action tonight, struck out ten batters in seven innings. Is lower body numbness the next great performance enhancer? Based on our sample of one game, the answer would appear to be a statistically significant yes.

    By the way, make note of the usage of "lower body" in there. I was a lefty pitcher back in high school. My junior year, an accident left me unable to feel much of my left hand, but I pitched through it as a senior. It did not improve my performance.

  • For a multitude of reasons, I think it's probably best that we keep from really analyzing Ian Snell's 2010 until he has a handful of starts under his belt. The sort of approach reduces the probability of misdirection. For those of you who can't wait that long, I will say that, visually, he didn't seem too bad tonight. But this game was chock full of lousy hitting - Ellis' heroics aside - so it's hard to divide responsibility. It was good to see Snell get a few swinging strikes on his fastball, and it was weird to see Snell lean so much on his changeup. Some of them were good. Some of them were not.

  • In the bottom of the fourth, Eric Chavez (who is still playing) smoked a ball back up the middle that literally came within one or two inches of bringing Garrett Olson another Major League paycheck. Ian Snell's next pitch was a perfectly-located fastball on the outside corner. The terrorists will never win. Not as long as we have Ian Snell on our side.


  • The result of that perfectly-located fastball on the outside corner? A bunt by Mark Ellis past the mound. Incredibly, Jose Lopez looked rather nimble as he charged the ball, barehanded it, and threw it to first in a fatter approximation of the Beltre Special, but his throw wasn't in time. That was Lopez's bright moment. He had a down moment in the first, when he couldn't handle a standard Ryan Sweeney groundball, and he had another down moment in the eighth when he fielded an easy bounce off the bat of Kevin Kouzmanoff and promptly threw wide of first, drawing Casey Kotchman off the bag. The first mistake was a simple hands gaffe that could've happened anywhere. The second mistake was directly related to Lopez having to throw across the diamond. He'll learn.

  • According to Sitemeter, Lookout Landing drew 7000 more unique visitors on Tuesday than the Oakland Coliseum.

  • I said this on Twitter, but I'll say it again: the best times to get up and do something during Mariner games are (1) commercials, and (2) Jack Wilson at bats.

  • The great thing about small crowds is that you can hear individual hecklers. And the great thing about being able to hear individual hecklers is that maybe, if you're lucky, you'll be able to hear the rare Protracted Heckler. This is the guy who isn't happy just telling players they suck. This is the guy who tells players how they suck, why they suck, how long they've sucked, and how long they'll continue to suck. Like a volcanic eruption, this guy will begin without warning and remain ruthless and relentless long after drawing attention to himself, returning to dormancy only after voiding completely the magma chamber within.

    There's a funny thing about hecklers:


    A heckle is good as a quick, short burst. Longer than that and it becomes a nuisance, interfering with the attention you can pay to the game. But this is only a temporary state, and if a heckler is sufficiently committed, he will climb out of Frat Valley and become an instant anecdote. 10 seconds is annoying. 20 seconds is annoying. 30 seconds is impressive. 60 seconds is a feat. 90 seconds is something you call your friends to listen to over the phone. 10,000 seconds is a Padres game.