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31-43, Game Summary

Not a whole lot to say. Generally uneventful game, and my attention was divided anyway given the concurrence with World Cup overtime and Thunderheart on AMC. There is, though, one thing I'd like to bring up.

What Dave said earlier was right on. With Doug Fister limited in his return, David Aardsma unavailable, Brandon League serving as closer, Shawn Kelley on the DL, and Josh Wilson filling in for Mike Sweeney at first, this had all the makings of an ugly, ugly game. Randy Wolf is bad now, but the Mariners can't really hit, and the Brewers have a lineup built to beat the crap out of pitchers like the ones we had to throw. Had this one wound up 11-2 or 12-7, I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised. No one would've been.

And when the Brewers put up a four-spot on Fister in the third, it looked like we were headed for the massacre we foresaw. Granted, the M's came back with three of their own - it's amazing what the occasional extra-base hit can do for an offense - but with Fister chased after four, I don't think anyone was feeling all that positive. Brian Sweeney as the long man? Some journeyman soft-tosser against that 1-through-6? I was interested to see how Sweeney looked, since I don't really remember him from before, but I wasn't expecting success. At best, I was expecting moral victories. Nice movement on balls, hits on good pitches, that sort of thing.

Then I saw Brian Sweeney's changeup. Then I saw another Brian Sweeney changeup. Brian Sweeney's changeup pulled me in.

Brian Sweeney threw four innings of shutout relief this afternoon. He allowed one hit and struck out four. He threw 44 pitches. 32 of them were offspeed. And Brewer after Brewer looked completely uncomfortable.

It's difficult for me to express just how unusual and remarkable it is for a pitcher to throw 27% fastballs. It's not like Sweeney's a knuckleballer. And it's not like he's some slider-heavy specialist. Brian Sweeney has four pitches. He threw all of them today. He just didn't lead with his heat. He didn't build off his fastball. He built off his changeup. He used his fastball as a complement.

And he made the Brewers look bad. Now, Sweeney's 36. He's had a lot of time to think. I don't know if this approach came from his realizing that his previous approach didn't work. I don't know if he picked up this approach while playing in Japan. But this was the very definition of pitching backward. It was a very, I dunno, un-American way of going about his work, and it turns out hitters don't like surprises.

Brian Sweeney topped out at 90mph, with a very straight, substandard righty fastball. So instead of forcing it, he just didn't use it that much. He threw a slider that looked more like a cutter. He threw a big loopy curve in the Jakubauskas mold. And he lived off this slow changeup with an absurd amount of tail that looked like Brandon League's split underwater. It didn't matter that he didn't throw many of them in the strike zone. Of his 20 changeups, 16 of them "missed". But the Brewers still swung at 12 and whiffed on five, because so often it looked like a strike. It's not very often you get a righty confident enough to throw a bunch of changeups to righties. Sweeney used it against righties and lefties alike, and it worked. It struck out Prince Fielder, and it struck out Ryan Braun. Kind of an equal-opportunity weapon.

Does it matter? In the grand scheme of things, not a whole lot. Again, he's 36. The M's aren't going anywhere. He's not a part of our future. He's not going to command a bunch of trade attention. Most likely, Sweeney makes some number of big league appearances over the next few seasons before hanging them up at 39 or 40. That Brian Sweeney came out of nowhere to shut down the Brewers this afternoon barely has any effect on the Mariners as an organization.

But the fact that Brian Sweeney came out of nowhere to shut down the Brewers this afternoon made this a game worth watching. Brian Sweeney was a minor league veteran. His last Major League appearance came in September of 2006, and between then and today he spent three years in Japan. Brian Sweeney's been through a lot, and in his first big league go since coming back, he shut down a potent batting order and earned the fourth win of his life.

Last night, the Brewers got to have Jonathan Lucroy. Today, we got Brian Sweeney. On the surface, baseball seems all about the one big story, but I'm a bigger fan of the heartwarming subplots.