On Sunday afternoon, several Seattle Mariners took to the field to engage in a friendly game of baseball. In an unexpected twist, an opponent arrived looking to prevent them from achieving victory, but the opponent had "Padres" emblazoned across its collective chest and so was no match at all, as the Mariners cruised in a brisk 137 minutes.
The fast pace of the game might lead one to worry that scheduled starter Erik Bedard was a last-second scratch, but Bedard did indeed make the start and even went five innings in one of the more miraculous events of the spring. Only one Mariners game with Bedard as the starter has ever taken less time than this one, and that was a 1-0 win over the Red Sox on May 28th, 2008 in a game that featured all of seven hits and one Miguel Cairo playing first base. So this is rare territory for the lefty, and a great way for him to make some more friends.
With the M's winning today and the Giants losing both halves of a split-squad endeavor, the Mariners have moved within 2.5 games of the Cactus League leaders. There are no more scheduled games between the two developing rivals, but suffice to say, if the M's keep playing like they did today, they're going to win that giant gold saguaro.
- Bedard was looking to throw around 70 or 80 pitches today, but he was cut off at 62 because those 62 pitches somehow managed to get him through five whole innings and from there the M's just wanted to play it safe. You could argue that Bedard might not have had his best stuff, since he only recorded a couple strikeouts and a few whiffs. But on the other hand, everything he threw was around the zone and when Erik Bedard is throwing about 70% strikes, he's going to succeed, albeit in a different way than usual.
He faced Will Venable three times, and it's fun to look at the progression. The first time, Bedard threw three consecutive fastballs right in the down-away corner, getting Venable to ground out in an 0-2 count. The second time, Bedard started out with a curve in the same place for a called strike, then moved to the other side of the plate with two fastballs for a foul and another groundout. And the third time, Bedard threw three fastballs over the outer half for a strike and two fouls, then came back with a changeup in the same area that Venable swung right through for a whiff. Without video I don't know if Bedard meant to pitch Venable like that, but regardless, it worked.
Bedard did get touched for a 3-2 homer off the bat of Brad Hawpe, and that was on a fastball that wasn't as far outside as he probably wanted it to be. Interestingly, two innings later Hawpe grounded into a double play on almost the exact same pitch. Have fun analyzing how that happened.
- In relief of Bedard was Jamey Wright, who threw two scoreless innings. Jamey Wright should probably think about getting a doctor's note that allows him to skip Spring Training altogether, because we have nearly 1,800 innings of evidence that Jamey Wright is just Jamey Wright, and he's always Jamey Wright, and the team might as well give his March appearances to someone who might surprise in a good way or a bad way. What's the point of using him? On the last day of camp, just figure out whether you have seven guys who can do more than throw balls and get grounders. If you do, use them. If you don't, hey Jamey, we're gonna need you for a little while so you can probably unpack your things.
- Josh Lueke's eighth inning only lasted five pitches, and still managed to include a line drive single, a diving catch, and a comebacker double play. None of the three pitches that got hit were left out over the plate, so it's up to you to decide how you want to interpret that - either Lueke does a good job of getting guys to swing at pitches on the edge, or he does a bad job of making guys miss pitcher's pitches. Or both, or neither. Christ, man, it was five pitches. Talk about your overanalysis.
- The last Mariners pitcher was Brandon League, and while he wasn't nearly as wild this time as he was the other day, he did still fall behind three of the four guys he faced, and none of them were good hitters. The thing about League is that, while he's blessed with great velocity and great movement, I can never, ever trust him to throw a strike, because his pitches move too much. And that stands to make him an uneasy interim closer. As long as League is throwing the ninth inning, we'll never quite feel like a close lead is safe. Which isn't to say that we can feel that way with anyone else on the staff, either, but I can't believe I trust League's location less than David Aardsma's. David Aardsma treats his catchers like he's mad at them.
- Sean Kazmar played again. Sean Kazmar is basically the smell of garlic on your fingers after you mince it.
- I wish there were anything to report on the offensive side of the ball, but the big hits were a groundball single by Jack Cust on a meatball heater and a single by Milton Bradley on a low-inside changeup. With the wind blowing out strongly to left field the M's didn't manage to hit a single home run, which is strangely uncharacteristic of them of late. Additionally, aside from his single, Cust struck out three times, bringing his Spring Training total to 18. That's good for second-most in baseball - one behind Adam Dunn, in ten fewer plate appearances. Turns out Jack Cust strikes out a lot. You know who hasn't struck out, even once? Sean Kazmar! Kazmar and Steve Baron are the only Mariners hitters still without a strikeout. Mention that the next time someone tells you that the M's need to go find a designated hitter who doesn't miss the ball half the time. "Well if you really don't like strikeouts..."
It's Michael Pineda and the M's against Bronson Arroyo and the Reds tomorrow at 1:05. Set to pitch behind Pineda will be Justin Miller, David Pauley, and Jose Flores, so by 2:30 or so you should be free to go back to fishing or mining or whatever the hell it is you guys do when you're not on this website.