It's early, they say. There are still another 160 games left to go, they say. We are 1.2% of the way into the season and to read anything, anything at all, into the results to date is a fool's errand, they say. But theare 2-0. They have two wins and zero losses. Let's take a quick trip around the rest of the teams with two wins and zero losses, shall we? What company are the Mariners currently keeping?
: Only the favorite pick to emerge out of the National League and play in the World Series.
: Last year's AL champs, the Rangers are considered by many to be postseason locks.
: Maybe the best in the NL Central, the Reds are seemingly everybody's favorite up-and-comer.
: The Evil Empire has wasted no time getting off to a blazing start.
: A popular dark horse, the Blue Jays can hit the ball and throw the ball.
: Those who aren't buying the like the White Sox, as they feature a strong rotation and a new lineup with in it.
: The Padres were very nearly a playoff team a year ago and replaced their one big loss with a bunch of moderate gains.
: The Orioles have a bird on their hat!
The Mariners, right now, are one of nine teams in baseball with a 2-0 record, and based on the other eight, we shouldn't keep ourselves from reading too much into the first two games. If anything, we should read a lot into the first two games! We should read everything into the first two games! We should read so much into the first two games that we shouldn't even have to bother playing the remaining 160 games! I'm thinking big things you guys. Big things indeed.
- Ichiro, as noted, came into the game one hit behind Edgar for the all-time franchise lead. He tied the record in the third with an infield single to first. And he broke the record in the ninth with an infield single to first. The one in the ninth was questionable, as Daric Barton threw home and the play could've been ruled a fielder's choice, but it went in the books as a single, meaning that Ichiro both tied Edgar and eclipsed him in perhaps the most appropriate way possible. Ichiro is now up to 528 infield hits for his career. Edgar had 232.
It makes for a beautiful bit of trivia that Ichiro did this on the tenth anniversary of his big league debut. The new record wasn't treated as a super huge deal in the broadcast booth, and truth be told it isn't really a super huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it only adds to Ichiro's massive, functionally unprintable resume, and good luck to the next challenger in the uniform since Ichiro isn't slowing down any time soon.
People loved that Wade Boggs' 3,000th hit was a home run, but Wade Boggs wasn't a home run hitter, so it was weird. This was perfect. Ichiro's record-breaking hit was an infield single that gave the Mariners the lead. It captured both a big part of Ichiro's offensive skillset, and the fact that for ten years he's been one of the only guys on the team capable of producing a run.
- While it's hard to go from Felix Hernandez in the first game of the season to Jason Vargas in the second and maintain that same level of enthusiasm, Vargas really pitched a hell of a game tonight, even with fewer people paying close attention. The raw line is impressive to the eye, and at no point during his 6.2 innings did it feel like the A's really had him on the ropes. As empty as this statement can be, he stayed away from the middle of the plate, and as a result the A's had trouble squaring him up. Neither lefties nor righties got anything over the inner half of the plate they could drive.
Looking at the in-depth numbers, Vargas only generated two swinging strikes, which would ordinarily be discouraging. But for a better idea of how well he pitched, consider that, of the 92 pitches he threw, the A's only swung at 31 of them. That's a rate of 34%, against a league average in the mid-40's. He picked up a remarkable 28 called strikes, and four called strikeouts. By staying near the edges, he left the hitters befuddled.
He threw five curveballs, by the way. They were unspectacular, but then if they were spectacular, that would be a huge story. Where did that come from! I would say in response. This way is much more in line with reality.
- Yesterday, all day long, I felt all the pressure and excitement and stress of the season opener. Today was just another ballgame. It's amazing to me how quickly one can get back into this routine. Sometimes, it takes work to grow accustomed to a change in your personal schedule. With baseball, the adjustment is natural and swift. What that suggests to me is that the human brain wants there to be baseball, and that being able to follow along every day during the baseball season is the brain in its natural state. I can't imagine how weird things must have been in the olden days before baseball was invented. People back then must have been very uncertain.
- In the third inning, Dave Sims referred to a sprinting Cliff Pennington as being on his horse. In the ninth inning, Sims referred to a sprinting Michael Saunders as being on his horse. At one point, Sims said that Eric Wedge "enjoyed his win with his big horse last night." And finally, as a transition at another point, Sims said "meanwhile, back at the ranch." Ordinarily, we look to Sims to describe the events of a baseball game in an unusually sexual way. Today he was all about horses. The FCC is on high alert in case these trains of thought ever collide.
- There was a rumor over the offseason that the Mariners were looking into dealing Chone Figgins in exchange for Kevin Kouzmanoff. At the time, I wrote that Kouzmanoff is a decent hitter with an underrated defensive reputation. Yesterday, he made clumsy errors on consecutive groundballs. Today, he let a Figgins grounder get by him in the first, and he bobbled a Brendan Ryan grounder in the second to erase a possible double play. When Kouzmanoff properly fielded his next chance he received a mock cheer from the crowd, which if nothing else confirmed that the Oakland crowd isn't limited to a single form of vocal expression.
- Ryan made a few flashy plays at short, but I don't think any was better than the diving catch he made to his left to rob Coco Crisp of a hit in the third. It was a line drive off the bat but Ryan made himself horizontal in a jiffy. There was a runner on first at the time, and it said a lot when Ryan came up displeased with himself for making the catch instead of dropping it and going for the easy double play. It's always a bummer when you're consciously aware of the right thing to do but then you're left relying on your lousy uninformed instincts. Stupid instincts.
Jack Cust came up and got booed again in the top of the fourth, leading Sims to ask Mike Blowers about the place he got booed the most in his playing days. There was a very long awkward silence before Blowers stammered out some nothing response, and you could tell from the tone of his voice that he knew perfectly well he was never relevant enough to draw anyone's ire. Say, Andy Sheets, where do you think you got the most standing ovations?
- Though his pitch count got up in a hurry - Mariners! - Brett Anderson threw a very strong game, spinning a bunch of sharp sliders and keeping whatever good part of the Mariners' bats there might be away from the ball. And the interesting thing about Anderson is that, when you watch him, you're left assuming that he's just building off some extraordinary natural talent, because he doesn't look like a guy who's ever tried hard at anything. Brett Anderson looks like he just falls out of bed and throws awesome pitches. Literally, he looks like he spends all of the time he doesn't spend on a mound in bed, asleep in a pile of Netflix discs and Bugles.
- The Root Sports broadcast threw up a little info table containing trivia pertinent to Felix's Opening Day complete game win. Whoever created the table labeled it "Felix Hernandez". At least 25 science teachers among the viewing audience were finally driven over the edge and became alcoholics.
- Yesterday, I touched on Miguel Olivo having success by swinging at the first pitch after a walk. Today, we saw Jack Cust drive in the game-tying run by swinging on a 3-0 count. This is another display of the same principle. If you get a hittable pitch, you should swing at it. A lot of people hate when guys swing 3-0 because they just want to see the hitter work a walk, but after Cust got ahead, Anderson gave him a fastball right up where he likes it. What sense could it possibly make to not take advantage? Yes, sometimes it'll backfire and you'll make an out, but it all works out over time. Jack Cust knows what is and isn't a hittable pitch. He'll do a lot of things that make me mad this season, but I don't know that I'll ever catch myself criticizing his pitch selection.
- Says a Root Sports commercial advertising the M's/A's matinee broadcast tomorrow:
We've got Ichiro. They've got...Kurt.
Milton Bradley plays like he's mad. And maybe he is. When he backs out of the way of a pitch, he jerks his body as if to say "you better not try that again." He's never wearing a smile and he runs around the bases like it's him against the opponent, and the opponent doesn't take him seriously. Some guys are fueled by anger but you don't really see that in baseball, since it's more of a football or hockey thing. But with Milton, there's no doubt. It's probably why he's always interacting with the fans around him and egging them on. He craves their hostility, because he feeds off of it. It's a strange thing to observe. Even when it's all under control, you can tell that Eric Wedge is constantly wondering which of his players he could sacrifice as an emergency fire blanket.
At one point tonight, Bradley called a security guard to take care of a heckler in left. He called another security guard to take care of some hecklers over the dugout. After Bradley scored the tying run in the sixth, as he walked back into the dugout he flapped his hand at some fans as if to say "keep talking." There just aren't other players like this.
- Justin Smoak doubled off a lefty yesterday, and today he worked a walk against Anderson and later drilled an outside fastball into right for a solid single. Based on a sample size of these two games, Smoak's only flaw left is that when he's dressed in uniform he looks too much like Mike Carp.
- I'm going to ignore the Chris Ray appearance and instead close by noting how good Brandon League looked in his 1-2-3 ninth. He didn't strike anyone out, but he had his command and he threw a bunch of splitters, including an 0-1 split to Kevin Kouzmanoff that looked exactly like the pitch we thought we were getting when they made the original trade.
In the second game of the 2008 season, J.J. Putz blew a save and lost the game. In the second game of the 2009 season, Brandon Morrow basically blew a save and lost the game. In the second game of the 2010 season, Kanekoa Texeira lost the game in the bottom of the tenth. Chris Ray tried to make it four in a row, but he stopped the bleeding, and League didn't let it resume.
A 1:05pm matinee tomorrow, going for the sweep behind Doug Fister. The A's will counter with Gio Gonzalez, whose name is short for Giovany Gonzalez, which sounds better than Gio Gonzalez. He is the only Giovany in Major League history, and I feel like he's really missing an opportunity here.