Now how much better does that feel?
The Mariners lost eight games in a row. Over those eight games - all at home - they managed to score 12 runs, post a .487 OPS, and generally look pathetic. They couldn't hit, they couldn't field, and while they could pitch, it didn't really matter, because the instant a Mariner gave up a run, everyone instinctively shrunk his shoulders because the game felt conceded. There was no confidence in any Mariner's ability to deliver a big hit, and as such, there was no confidence in the Mariners' ability to win.
Today, though, they won. They won a game. They won a game that didn't lift them in the standings. They won a game that raised their homestand record to 1-8. They won a game against a team they're fighting for the cellar.
And it felt amazing.
If the Mariners had to go 1-8 on this homestand - which, well, they didn't, but, >:( - today's was the right game to win, because it lets everyone head into the offday with raised spirits. The players and coaches get to feel like the slump is behind them. And the fans get to feel like there's still a little hope. At 11-19 and 5.5 back, none of us wanted to hear "it's still early." At 12-19 and 5.5 back, it is still early. This season is still worth fighting for. Morale can seem like such a silly concept from afar, and it's not like the way we feel as fans makes any difference in the world, but there's no questioning the fact that our collective morale is quite a bit higher now than it ought to be following a 1-8 homestand, and it's because they won the last game. Win the last game and all of the bitterness from before is no longer so fresh on the tongue.
Theare 12-19, and they've played some really, really bad baseball. For the rest of the day, I don't care. Because the Seattle Mariners just won a game against the , and winning the game felt good.
- Jason Vargas continues to stand out, as even when he's not at his sharpest, he can limit the damage. This was flyball Vargas. This was flyball Vargas to the extreme. The top of the fifth, for example, saw him surrender a warning track fly out to Franklin Gutierrez, a warning track fly out to Michael Saunders, and a warning track fly out to Ichiro, all in a row. This was Jason Vargas pitching like Ryan Feierabend. But it turns out that kind of pitcher is a great fit for the park, and with a little luck and some well-timed changeups, Vargas was able to turn in his longest start since August 21st, 2005.
Through six starts, Vargas now stands at 39 innings, with 31 strikeouts and 14 runs allowed. It was easy for Wak to demote Ian Snell to accomodate Cliff Lee because Snell was terrible, but while the team remains confident in RRS, Vargas and Doug Fister are making Erik Bedard's return look awful tough. No manager's going to want to move a guy that's eating innings and limiting runs. Personally, what I'd do when Bedard and Mark Lowe return is push RRS to the pen, drop Jesus Colome and option Sean White, but knowing how much the team seems to like those latter two, who the hell knows what's going to happen? It'll probably be bad news for Shawn Kelley, but who else? RRS can't go to Tacoma unless they scare up an injury. I would think they'd send Colome away, but I've been wrong before.
- Alan Cockrell was fired this morning. Alonzo Powell was promoted, but didn't really have time to do any work, what with staging a press conference, introducing himself to everyone, and getting familiar with his new surroundings. Today, the Mariners didn't have a hitting coach. They scored eight runs.
- Powell was working in Tacoma. Presumably, then, he was living in Tacoma. What does he do now? Does he move? Does he commute every day? I know players have to deal with this kind of thing all the time, but minor leaguers usually live in small spaces and stay prepared to go somewhere if need be. Powell's been with the Rainiers since 2007. He probably has a house. I imagine Alonzo Powell is really happy, and kind of annoyed.
- Describing an at bat in the top of the seventh, Mike Blowers attempted to predict Vargas' pitch sequence, saying something along the lines of "he'll go with the changeup low and away for the groundball. If that doesn't work, he'll straighten up the hitter with a fastball, then go back to the change." Blowers followed that up by saying "Vargas does a nice job of mixing things up." If Mike Blowers really believed that Jason Vargas does a nice job of mixing things up, Mike Blowers wouldn't attempt to predict Vargas' pitch sequence, because it would be impossible.
- Everybody's all happy and skipping on clouds right now, but morale was still low before the game, and as Dave Niehaus talked with Blowers about Cockrell's dismissal, you could sense his displeasure. He was openly questioning Cockrell's culpability in this whole mess, and he was sneering as he did it. These days Dave Niehaus is blinder than a date with John Lackey, but we're still just so damn lucky to have him.
- This team - this Mariners team - drew 20 walks and struck out 22 times against Angels pitching during the series. That pitching staff is bad. Especially the bullpen. Including Brian Stokes' fine performance this afternoon, Angel relievers have allowed 62 runs in 95 innings, with 80 strikeouts, 72 walks, and an FIP over 5. At least Brian Fuentes is back!
- In the bottom of the seventh, Ichiro faced Ervin Santana with one out and none on. Ichiro took two pitches, fouled off four in a row, took a ball, and then fouled off two more before lining a single just past Brandon Wood at third base. One could argue that the ten-pitch at bat might've worn Wood out and caused a lapse in concentration, allowing the ball to squeak by. Ichiro is the only player that I'm certain could do that on purpose. When he's going good, the observer really does get the sense that Ichiro is playing with his opponents.
- With Franklin Gutierrez on second base in the bottom of the fifth, Jose Lopez lined a single into left. Juan Rivera, however, was playing shallow and got on the ball in a hurry, which makes me wonder why Mike Brumley waved Gutierrez around third when Rivera was already retrieving the ball as Guti arrived. It was a senseless gamble, and though the impact of the out was mitigated by it already being a 5-0 game, that was a bad decision. Third base coaches, of course, are only ever noticed when they make bad decisions, so in fairness to Brumley, he's probably really good at picking fruit at the store.
- Brumley also waved Jose Lopez around third on a Josh Wilson single in the second, a play on which Lopez was thrown out at home on the fly, but that was a more defensible decision, on account of who doesn't love watching Jose Lopez run? When the Mariners dealt Yuni to the , I feared that we'd unwittingly gotten rid of all of our silliness, but when Lopez runs, it's all moving parts with slow progress, like a Rube Goldberg steamroller. Bonus points to Jose for getting thrown out by Reggie Willits, who must've been wearing his rocket ship Underoos.
- Josh Wilson made a couple bad plays in the field, but it's funny how little attention your defense can draw when you provide the only offense this team's seen in years. Wilson's homer wasn't special - he just dropped the bat head on a slider over the plate - but he hit it hard, and harder than anyone can remember Jack Wilson hitting a ball. Then he threw in the triple the other way, and the single, and the walk...since joining the organization, 15 of Wilson's 40 hits in Tacoma have gone for extra bases, and 14 of his 36 hits in Seattle have gone for extra bases. Needless to say, it's been unexpected. Something about the Mariners seems to agree with him, and as such I wouldn't plan on seeing Jack until he's completely healed.
Wilson made his homer look so easy that the rest of the team should be ashamed of itself. Wilson put a good swing on a slider and hit the ball 350 feet. Nobody else can put a good swing on a slider and hit the ball 350 feet? Nobody? Come on, Jose, this was like all you did all of last season.
Felix Hernandez will forever be my baby, but I gotta say that seeing Michael Saunders succeed tickles me in a way that few others do. Saunders has put together some good at bats in his limited time up here, and today we saw some discipline, a line drive single, and - at last - a home run to right-center. Mike took two close pitches to get ahead 2-0 before putting a level swing on a fastball and drilling it just over the fence. There's been some concern that Saunders is too much of a pull hitter. The overwhelming majority of his power is down the line to right. But this fly ball went straight, and it flew about 400 feet. That's a good reminder that Michael Saunders is a powerful guy. He should develop into a legitimate 20-homer threat every season, and after everything that's happened to him ever since the Chris Gimenez disaster a year ago, I imagine so much weight just came off his shoulders that I'd hate to be standing there when it comes back down.
In attendance: Saunders' mom, who, for the fourth time, is battling cancer.
- Brandon League's line: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 HBP, 3 K's, 4 batters faced. League generated a wild pitch strikeout on which Kendry Morales reached and Reggie Willits advanced an incredible two bases to score, and he also generated a weak groundball on which Josh Wilson made an error. League's is an early candidate for strangest line of the season.