Q: Why are theso good to have along on a hunting trip?
A: Because you know they'll bring the arms and the lumber.
Monday afternoon, the Mariners coasted to just another easy win over just another inferior Cactus League opponent, defeating theby a 5-3 score. The M's still haven't lost a game since last Sunday - a stretch during which the have lost eight times - and I'm afraid to say too much about it because I want to save all the rest of my winning synonyms for October. Knock knock. Who's there? Playoffs. Playoffs who? The Mariners are going to win the playoffs.
- While the game outcome was positive, Doug Fister struggled in his latest and longest start. Fister worked all the way up to 78 pitches and even said he still had some gas left in the tank when he came out, suggesting that his arm strength is good, but only 44 - or 56% - of his pitches were strikes. He walked three guys without striking out any, and against the lineup the Cubs threw out there today, I'm not sure why Fister wasn't more aggressive, unless he was trying to be and failing.
Fister's just battling to find his release point right now. Again, he'll have more starts before the season gets going, and he wasn't very good in Arizona a year ago before shaping up in April, but he could really use a strong effort in five days. After pitching well against the Dodgers last time, this was a fair step back.
- Jumping back to this morning real quick, earlier the M's played a B game against the Dustin Ackley ripped a home run off the top of this building (picture via Ryan Divish). No, the pitcher he was facing isn't a superstar. Yes, it's only one home run, and it came in Arizona. But what's significant here is understanding that Ackley possesses that kind of power in his body. Being able to hit long, impressive home runs - even infrequently - is a sign of good power, and so given some of the questions people have had about Ackley's future it's great to see that he punished a pitch like he did. If Ackley can hit a ball that far, he can go deep in the Major Leagues. , and in that B game,
- Staying with Ackley, he showed up in the afternoon game as well for a pinch-hit at bat in the eighth. After falling behind 0-2, Ackley worked the count, fought off some tough pitches, and ripped a low fastball right back up the middle for a line drive single. A low fastball that was so low that it was a few inches out of the zone. The bad, I suppose, would be that Ackley swung at a ball. But the good is that he hit that ball really hard. Ackley's got just the right blend of discipline and being able to hit bad balls, which is going to make him a very annoying batter to face.
- In the top of the sixth, Welington Castillo hit a ball to short that literally took Josh Wilson's glove off his hand. On the next pitch, Darwin Barney hit a double play ball to short that Josh Wilson bobbled and couldn't turn into any outs. Four pitches later, Chris Robinson popped a soft fly just over Josh Wilson's head that dropped in shallow left for a base hit. Josh Wilson thought that making the Major Leagues meant that people would finally stop picking on him. Josh Wilson didn't realize that people would continue picking on him, in a different way.
- The Cubs broadcasters continually referred to Ichiro as "Suzuki", which makes sense, since it's only been ten years.
- The Mariners' big inning came in the sixth against former Mariners farmhand Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Bibens-Dirkx, you might remember, once threw sidearm before the M's tried to change him. He's apparently back to sidearm now, and the Cubs brought in the righty sidearmer to face lefty Jack Cust, followed by switch-hitter Justin Smoak, followed by lefty Adam Kennedy. The result? Walk, well-hit double, and well-hit single. In a flash, the Mariners took a 4-3 lead, and they'd add another run before the end of the inning.
I get that Spring Training is all about seeing what works and seeing what doesn't, and the game outcomes don't really mean very much. But something tells me Austin Bibens-Dirks doesn't need to prove that he can't pitch to big league lefties.
After Kennedy's single, and then a subsequent walk to Brendan Ryan, Josh Wilson faced Bibens-Dirkx and laid down a bunt.
- Greg Halman faced former prospect Thomas Diamond in the seventh inning. In a 1-0 count, he swung through a 90mph belt-high fastball in the middle of the plate. In a 1-1 count, he swung through a 91mph belt-high fastball in the middle of the plate. In a 3-2 count, he swung through a 91mph thigh-high fastball in the middle of the plate. Greg Halman is a magic 8 ball with three answers, and there's no rhyme or reason for why it says what it does when it does.
A lesson in smirks
- According to a radio advertisement, on May 11th the Cubs will be giving away Cubs cereal bowls to the first 10,000 fans in attendance, a nod to the fact that for the last 100 years other teams have been eating the Cubs for breakfast.
- As everyone works to sort out the pile, I think two of today's five Mariner relievers made appearances of note. In the sixth, Cesar Jimenez had to work out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam that was in large part the fault of Josh Wilson, and he did just that by inducing a double-play comebacker and a pop out. In the next inning, David Pauley allowed a double, a walk, and two wild pitches, but he also managed to strike out the side in a very Jesus Colome kind of performance. I don't know whether that means Pauley's chances of making the team are better or worse today than they were yesterday, but at least he got people's attention.
Day off tomorrow. A day off! I hope this interruption doesn't snap the Mariners' streak of not losing very important baseball games.