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11-13, Game Thoughts

The updating picture tool is broken again so here's something to brighten your spirits.
The updating picture tool is broken again so here's something to brighten your spirits.

Almosts. The frustrating thing is the almosts. It'd be one thing to be a fan of the Pirates and get mad because the team keeps getting blown out. Then you're mad because you suck. But now we're in a position where we're getting mad because the team almost wins, but doesn't. We're mad because the team's sucked just enough. Last night was an extraordinarily frustrating game. We almost won twice. We lost. Today was an extraordinarily frustrating game. We almost won. We lost. In large part due to a pair of anomalous defensive miscues and a poorly-timed double play. We're two or three breaks away from being 2-0 instead of 0-2 this weekend, and that just eats away at me. It eats away at everyone.

If it's any consolation, though, remember that that's just how this team is built. When it wins, it'll be a break away from a loss. When it loses, it'll be a break away from a win. The Mariners have won 11 games by a total of 31 runs, and only two of their wins have been decided by more than three. The Mariners have lost 13 games by a total of 33 runs, and only one of their losses has been decided by more than four. We'll lose games we easily could've won, but we'll also win games we easily could've lost, and while that's true for everyone in the league, it might be extra true for us. In a close ballgame, miscues get amplified, and the Mariners play a lot of close ballgames.

For the second day in a row, we have every reason to be pissed off, because many of the problems with the team seem so totally fixable. But for the second day in a row, you may also opt to look at the bright side. For everything the Mariners did wrong, the Rangers were a Casey Kotchman bobble and an invisible fly ball to left away from barely doing damage against a banged-up Felix Hernandez. This was a game that both teams could've won, and while the Rangers prevailed, it's not necessarily because they were better. Close games just have to have a winner and a loser, and the Rangers got picked.

Be mad at the lost ground, but take heart in the fact that losing spurs action, and that losing close is forever preferable to losing big. If this recent spate of narrow losses has proven anything, it's that the Mariners are a very flawed team that's nevertheless closer to being good than many might think. There's not a whole lot standing between this team and the playoffs. The players and executives just need to make the obvious adjustments.

I'll try to be patient.

  • Felix clearly wasn't on top of his game today, as - swinging strikes aside - he was having trouble locating. Only 55% of his pitches were strikes, against a season mark of 65%, and only 37% of his pitches were in the zone, against a season mark of 45%. He was wild, and between the poor command and the five groundballs, there was reason for one to be a little worried, because this wasn't the Felix we knew.

    So it came almost as a relief afterwards when we learned that Felix was batting through a stiff back. It doesn't take much in the way of imagination to understand how back trouble could have an effect on a pitcher's performance. Ever try washing the dishes when your back hurts? It sucks. And if you're too hurt to wash dishes, you're probably too hurt to pitch a good ballgame. Which isn't to say that Felix looked like complete crap, or that I'm concerned that this issue will linger, but I think even a minor back injury is a pretty valid excuse for the King looking human. 

  • Between 4/10 and 4/26, Felix struck out 27 batters and walked six in 29.2 innings, with a bunch of groundballs. He had a bad line on Opening Day because of a terrible, inconsistent strike zone, and he had a bad line today presumably because of a hurt back. This is one of those situations where statistics can mislead. Statistically, Felix's K/BB is down from 3.1 to 2.3, but does anyone actually think Felix is worse? I sure don't. Beware anyone who points to Felix's overall line and expresses skepticism or concern.

  • Today was Boy Scout Day at the stadium, which means that, even though the Mariners lost in frustrating fashion, at least many in attendance were prepared. Worth noting that Mike Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. still being able to walk around normally after the game means that someone missed an easy good deed merit badge.

  • I made a note to write up a paragraph praising Michael Young's defense after he pulled the Beltre Special on an Ichiro bunt single attempt in the third. Then Young later threw two balls away and let a roller go under his glove. So instead of writing a paragraph praising Michael Young's defense, I'm writing a paragraph about haha, you suck Michael Young. Only 3.8 years left on that contract!

  • Matt Treanor bunted for a base hit in the top of the fourth when Jose Lopez's throw sailed wide of Casey Kotchman at first. It was literally identical to Kotchman's swinging bunt last night. It could not have been more similar had they tried it a thousand times. Matt Treanor was not called for running out of the baseline.

  • I would like to re-emphasize that, while Felix allowed three runs in the second inning, they weren't really his fault. Yes, he loaded the bases, but Kotchman bobbled a ball he either could've thrown to home or second base to start a double play, and it looked like Bradley just lost visual on an Andrus fly to left-center that's ordinarily an easy catch. Felix got himself out of that jam, but the defense made him keep working. I wouldn't even say it was bad defense. It was just fluky defense. Kotchman makes that play 99 times out of 100, and I'm not about to rip into an outfielder for losing sight of a baseball against the gray Seattle sky.

  • Vladimir Guerrero tried to steal second base, which is like Gabourey Sidibe trying to enter a door.

  • Julio Borbon, Chone Figgins, Rajai Davis, and Erick Aybar are batting a combined .223 with two home runs. It's been a rough four weeks for the AL West's slap-hitting glovemen.

  • Franklin Gutierrez is 1-15 in his last three games, with nine strikeouts. He was 27-72 in his first 19 games, with 12 strikeouts. Yes, I realize he looks lost right now, but this is just a little slump, and nothing's wrong. His overall numbers are still probably better than they ought to be. Guti isn't a good enough hitter for a stretch like this to seem alarming, and if anything, maybe these strikeouts will help keep people's expectations in check.

  • Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney have combined for a .209 average and one extra-base hit. It's May. The troubling part is that it's Sweeney's bat that at least seems to have a little life left in it, as Griffey appears to be batting underwater, but consider this your daily reminder that the Seattle Mariners are actively costing themselves runs and wins for the sake of team chemistry, which, you might notice, has carried us all the way to a .650 team OPS and an 11-13 record.

    Griffey came up to pinch-hit for Jack Wilson in a big situation in the eighth inning. The suspenseful music started playing, and much of the crowd came to its feet. I can't be the only one to think this is sad. How can you even fool yourself into thinking Griffey could do anything other than draw a walk or get himself beaned? He's terrible, and every single late swing he puts on a 94mph fastball only tarnishes his legacy.

    There are Mariner fans out there - new Mariner fans, people who became fans after 2000 or 2001 instead of 1995 - who didn't see Griffey in the 90's, see him now, and think, "wow, this guy blows."

  • Bottom nine. Frank Francisco walks Ichiro on five pitches. He walks Chone Figgins on four pitches. After a strikeout of Gutierrez, he falls behind Jose Lopez 2-0. Lopez hacks at a fastball at the letters and fouls out to first base. Jose Lopez will never be a star.