The Seattle Mariners are 19-28. 19-28 is bad. Third-worst in the American League, as a matter of fact. Worse than the Royals. Worse than the White Sox. At 19-28, the Mariners are closer to the Orioles than they are to the A's.
And yet. The Seattle Mariners are 19-28, and everybody's feeling pretty good.
It's not like the team has necessarily done a whole lot. After getting blown out by the Padres on Felix Day, the M's took two over a shorthanded Tigers squad and beat Scott Kazmir and the lousy Angels with Cliff Lee on the hill. Those are three wins, but they aren't three wins against the Rays or the Twins. They're three wins in winnable games. And the M's were probably strong favorites in the last two.
But for as short as a three-game winning streak might be, this one has pulled a lot of us back. For the team, Mike Sweeney has talked about how the clubhouse has a pulse again, and you can see the energy in the dugout, and on the field, and in Milton Bradley. After being the first at the party to pass out, the Mariners are up, and they're rallying.
And for the fans, the hazard of allowing yourself to slip below the Tropic of Cairo so early is that there's still plenty of time for the team to get you re-invested. It's not an irreversible drop. The M's remain considerable long shots, but by winning three in a row and gaining two games in the process, they've made their situation all the more manageable. And we've taken notice. None of us wants to be indifferent. It's a defense mechanism against any crippling tailspin. So when the tailspin stops with the M's still relevant, those of us who slipped will get back on board.
I know it sounds flaky. It is flaky. But it really just goes to show how ready people are to keep caring about this team. We weren't prepared for the M's to be so bad, so to finally hear a heartbeat...19-28 is 19-28, but it's a hell of a lot better than 16-28. Who says the Rangers are all that? This team has the pieces.
8.5? 8.5 is impossible.
But 6.5? 6.5, we can do.
- Perhaps the most impressive part of Cliff Lee's ten strikeout outing is that nine of those strikeouts came in a span of 12 batters between the third and sixth innings. You don't think of Lee as being a huge punchout guy - he's come in around seven per nine the last two years - but he can miss bats when he needs to, and when he wants to, and sometimes by mistake. It's unfair. He locates so well that a batter might get one chance to beat Lee in an at bat, if he's lucky. Fall behind and you're toast.
I think my favorite strikeout of the night was of Hideki Matsui in the fourth. Lee narrowly missed with a cutter up high. Then he painted the inside corner with a fastball for a foul. Then he painted the outside corner with a cutter for a foul. Then he dropped a knee-buckling curve in the dirt that made Matsui look like Bad Ichiro. You know Bad Ichiro. It's the way Ichiro always looks like the worst player in the world whenever he strikes out. That was Matsui. It looked like this. It's nice to know that, even without Erik Bedard, our rotation can still feature that kind of curveball.
It's also worth noting that, while Lee issued his second and third walks of the season, they were both very very close. Not the result of blown calls, mind you. The calls were right. But, take a peek for yourself:
No wasted pitches. Nothing way out of the zone, and nothing wild. Just eight balls, each of which narrowly missed. Some guys, when they fall behind, will come over the plate to get a strike. Cliff Lee has so much confidence in his location that he keeps pitching to spots, no matter the situation.
I can't imagine being as good at anything as Cliff Lee is at pitching.
- Cliff Lee's chillingly grinning Pitch Face has been well documented in these parts. Well, it just so happens that FSNW was playing around with its x-mo tool tonight, which, in the first inning, gave us rolling video of Cliff Lee's Pitch Face in stunning slow motion.
Be warned: this .gif may cause you the strangest of dreams, the sort where you wake up and have to ask yourself if you just had a nightmare. Like a dream where you're sitting on a couch with Sebastian Bach, eating and watching TV, but the sound is off, and all you can hear is Sebastian Bach chew. I'm unsure of what I'll see when I go to sleep, but I'm certain that Cliff Lee's haunting grin will have somehow played a role.
- My only criticism of Lee tonight is that he made a terrible decision trying to force a throw home in the first. With one out and men on the corners, Torii Hunter hit a comebacker on the ground. Looked like an inning-ending double play, but Lee fumbled the ball, and by the time he got a handle, the DP was off and he had to hurry to get the ball home ahead of a charging Howie Kendrick. Lee, though, was off-balance and threw way wide of Rob Johnson, allowing a run to score and the runners to move up. It's rare to see someone like Lee panic in the field - if you want to call that panicking - but when you're a pitcher, it's just kind of instinctive to try to get any out that you can. Lee undoubtedly wanted to save some face after blowing the double play, and while we could tell him he screwed up, and while I'm sure he knows he screwed up, it's hard to get on a guy too bad for wanting that badly to make a play.
- Sometimes it can be weird when you go to a game and a prominent former player is on the other team. Especially if the prominent former player has been doing well. You want to acknowledge his prior contributions, but you don't want to come off like you're outright still rooting for him. Chone Figgins made things easy on the Angels fans tonight. He's a prominent former player who's been bad. The fans can cheer both that he's Chone Figgins, Good Former Angel, and that he's been Chone Figgins, Bad Current Mariner. Sure enough, Figgins received a rousing ovation in the first, which was nice of the six thousand people who had by that point shown up.
- When Figgins advanced to second base in the third, he spent a little while chatting and laughing with Kendrick. This is sports. Sports are serious business. The Mariners and the Angels are bitter rivals. We hate their fans, and everything they stand for, and their fans hate us, and everything we stand for. The hatred - the mutual hatred - is fierce. And, as a fan, nothing makes you feel like a bigger time-wasting douchebag than spitting venom at the Angels and their fans while your big-money second baseman fraternizes with an old teammate and goes to their hitting coach for advice. In an age with so much player movement, rivalries don't exist. Sports are stupid. What are we doing? We should do something that matters. I'm going to plant a tree.
- Dave Sims revealed that Rick Rizzs' favorite karaoke song is 'That's Amore'. Because, of course it is.
- Mike Brumley has been flipped a lot of crap for getting runners thrown out at home. And for good reason. Some of those decisions have been bad, bad decisions. But coaching third base is a thankless gig, so I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Brumley made a good call in the third when he waved Franklin Gutierrez around on a fly ball single to center. Bradley came up with runners on first and second and dropped a fly ball to Torii Hunter's right. With two down, the runners were going on contact, and as Gutierrez approached third, Brumley saw that Hunter was just getting the ball and waved Guti around. A fine slide later, the M's had a lead, as Gutierrez scored all the way from first on a long Bradley single. That was good aggression. Bad aggression was trying to run on a shallow Corey Patterson. Good aggression was sending Guti around from first.
The break-even rate on that call, by the way, was about 38%.
- And the evidence mounts that Jose Lopez might be rounding into form. He lined a sharp single into left in his first at bat and, in his second, he got out ahead of a 2-2 fastball over the plate and yanked it over the wall into the bullpen. It wasn't a homer straight down the line, but it was hit just about in the same area as pretty much every homer he hit a year ago. Now it's just a matter of seeing whether this can continue with the weather warming up. Again, we can't be convinced that Lopez is fine, but we can be encouraged by the fact that there are signals.
- Scott Kazmir blows.
- Somebody might want to tell Felix that his extension kicked in, and that he's earning six and a half million dollars.