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Mariners Battle Back For Valiant Loss

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I don't even know how he sees from under there
I don't even know how he sees from under there

The rain tried again. Once more, bad weather threatened to cut a Mariners game off before its proper conclusion. But the umpires elected to let the teams play through, and as a result we were treated to the game we were supposed to see last night. For eight innings, the Mariners were lifeless. For eight innings, they allowed themselves to get trounced, and they ended their at bats faster than I could say "oh great we're hitting again." But then they came alive in the ninth - the inning that wasn't played on Thursday - and they were able to turn an embarrassing loss into an honorable defeat.

The Mariners are a nine-inning team built to play nine innings, no more, no less. And sometimes they'll need every last one of them. Had this game been cut off in the eighth, as it was the night before, you would've thought one thing about the Mariners, but that thought would've been incorrect. The Mariners are battlers, and all they ask for is to be given the opportunity to demonstrate as much.

Tonight, the Mariners battled. They didn't battle for the first eight innings, but with their backs against the wall, they battled in the ninth, and nearly pulled off a miraculous rally. Now everybody gets to go to bed with some warm fuzzies, thinking, almost. It almost erases the sting of losing, doesn't it? This is an honest question that I'm asking the audience because I don't know what it's like to not feel the sting of losing. Am I feeling stingless right now, or is this just a different sort of sting?

What a weird team the Mariners have been so far.

The Mariners did actually have the lead at one point tonight, after they scored a run in the first inning. It was their first run in the first frame all season. You want to see what a battling team looks like in the numbers? Here's the Mariners' run-scoring breakdown by inning:

Innings 1-3: 8
Innings 4-6: 11
Innings 7-9: 30

Obviously that kind of split isn't sustainable over an entire season, but it really paints an accurate picture of how this team has hit through its first two weeks. More often than not, it's started out weakly and gotten warmer as the games have progressed. I'll give them one thing - better to start cold and end hot than start hot and end cold. The former leaves people with a better taste in their mouths, as the latter just feels like a blown opportunity.

Anyway, after the Mariners took their lead, they lost their lead, and as the Royals played add-on I found myself less and less interested in the proceedings, to the point at which it took me several minutes to figure out that a comeback attempt was in progress. After a Michael Saunders blooper dropped in to cut the score to 6-3 and bring the tying run to the plate, I thought it was getting unexpectedly interesting, but it wasn't really until Justin Smoak's bases-loaded walk that I thought, oh wow, this is actually happening again. Of course, it didn't, but it wasn't for lack of trying, and I'm glad the ninth gave this game one redeemable inning so I don't feel like I completely threw away a Friday night.

To the bullet holes:

  • For the second start in a row, Erik Bedard put up a weird stat line. He allowed two homers and five runs through 4.2 innings, but he also struck out six, bringing his season total to 15 in 13.2. Look at the runs and homers columns and you figure that Bedard is a mess. Look at the strikeout column and you figure that Bedard's pitching pretty well.

    The truth - surprise! - is right there in the middle. What Bedard showed tonight is that his stuff is all there. He threw a sharp fastball, his curve was breaking well, and he even mixed in a few changeups. But right now it's like all of his hittable pitches are getting punished. The Royals blasted him for four extra-base hits, and when you watch Bedard go to work, you don't feel confident. You don't feel like the hits are bad luck. You feel like the strikeouts are good luck. Bedard is laboring in a classic him kind of way.

    So, again, it's about taking away what positives there are and hoping that Bedard gets himself straightened out as he gets more time on the mound. As a lefty who likes to work inside against right-handed hitters, he needs to be fine with his pitches, and that precision hasn't been there on a consistent basis. You like to think it'll come over time, but all we can do is wait and hope and see.

  • Says Root Sports voiceover guy on tomorrow morning's broadcast:

    Now this is how you kick off a weekend.

    Root Sports voiceover guy is correct, in that, for many people, watching tomorrow morning's broadcast will be the first thing they do this weekend. Congratulations to Root Sports voiceover guy for the first accurate thing he's said all month.

  • Chone Figgins is batting a paltry .170, but these last two nights he hasn't been his usual I'm-hitting-the-ball-with-dry-pasta self. On Thursday, Figgins drilled a fly ball off the wall in left-center for a double. Tonight, Figgins ripped a long foul to right, he hit a solid fly out to left, he pounded a single to right, and in the last at bat of the game, he lined out sharply to third. The lineout was just miserable luck, given that the tying run was 90 feet away, but at least it's nice to see Figgins hitting the ball with authority. I haven't had to wonder to myself how Figgins was ever a successful hitter for at least five days.

  • In the bottom of the sixth, in a 5-1 game, Alcides Escobar led off with a single and immediately stole second base. The thought occurred to me that such a steal might be in violation of baseball's delightfully nonsensical unwritten rules pertaining to blowouts, but then I remembered, oh right, Eric Wedge's Fightin' Mariners. That steal would've been against the unwritten rules a year ago. Then some real shit would've gone down. Brian Sweeney would've had to plunk a bitch.

  • As fans, we usually tend to tune out from games like these in the middle innings, if not turn them off completely. We do so while maintaining the faith that at least the players and coaches are still trying their damndest. At one point in one of the lazy innings the camera cut to a shot of Eric Wedge talking to Carl Willis and Robby Thompson, and they sure as hell didn't look like they were talking about the game. I don't think I can blame them. Being a coach of the Mariners doesn't automatically mean that most of the innings they play are suddenly watchable.

  • Miguel Olivo started his season 6-16, and has since gone 0-25. But because of the way he came out of the gate, I still don't feel like he's completely hopeless at the dish. If Miguel Olivo had started 0-25, and then gone 6-16, things would be way different. Those first impressions have a way of lingering. I will say, though, that Olivo's strikeout against Joakim Soria in the ninth was humiliating. It wasn't as critical at the time as it wound up looking at the end, but Olivo worked a full count and then struck out on a pitch that literally bounced in the other batter's box. He did check his swing and it's an open question as to whether he actually went around, but the fact that he even tried says enough. Miguel Olivo's discipline makes Adrian Beltre look like a Grenadier Guard.

  • Luis Rodriguez: two walks, a double, and a stolen base. He's probably never going to have another moment like he did on Monday, but while the context of that at bat was lucky, the at bat itself was not.

  • Royals reliever Tim Collins is 5'7 like my laptop adapter is a player piano. Tim Collins was late to practice one day because area researchers confused him for a nanorobotic phagocyte.

  • Fresh off the bench in a pressure situation against one of the game's better closers, Justin Smoak worked a phenomenal plate appearance, eventually drawing a seven-pitch bases-loaded walk on four very close balls, the last of which may perhaps have been in the strike zone. Smoak's now up to nine walks and nine strikeouts on the season, which is a far cry from the 23/1 K/BB ratio he put up after the trade last year, before he went to Tacoma. Smoak is showing a good eye and he's showing good power, and while the Mariners may be 4-10, that is a wonderfully encouraging development. Smoak's looked good. Michael Pineda's looked good. Michael Saunders has looked good sometimes. These two weeks haven't been a total loss.

It's Felix and Sean O'Sullivan bright and early tomorrow morning at 10:10. I recommend setting your alarm for 10:05 to give you maximum grog factor, because if Felix is on his game he'll wake you right up, and if he isn't, you probably won't want to be very aware of what you're watching.