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Mariners Rope, Don't Dope

As a guy who is out of school and works from home, I don't get many opportunities to meet new people anymore. I'll make pleasant, brief smalltalk with strangers at the grocery store of the coffee shop or wherever, but smalltalk doesn't count. Seldom do I get the chance to sit and have a real conversation with someone with whom I am unfamiliar.

When I do, those conversations begin as they almost always begin: I'll ask what that person does, and that person will ask what I do. Usually, theirs is an open-and-shut reply; there's only so far we can go if that person is a grad student, or works in an office. But then I'll say "oh I write about baseball, mostly Seattle" and the other person will see that as an opening. The other person typically knows more about baseball than I know about 2,2-dimethylpropanoic acid or investment banking, so he or she will try to pursue it as a topic of discussion.

Their hearts are in the right place, and I know they mean well, but those people are always so confused when I roll my eyes and say I don't really want to talk about the Mariners very much.

After missing the last two and a half games while entertaining a guest, I was actually looking forward to sitting down and watching the suddenly interesting Doug Fister go up against one of the more underrated young arms in the league. It would've been a different story had the weather been like it was on Saturday, but with the gloom settling in and the rain pouring down, there was nothing drawing me to the outdoors, so I was excited for a little baseball. Excited within reason, of course, but excited nonetheless. Maybe the Mariners could win three out of four! The key to getting out of an early hole is winning series, and this could've been a big one.

I got over my excitement pretty quick. Fister pretty clearly didn't have his pinpoint command from the get-go, and while the M's pushed a run across in the first inning on a bunt, a steal, a bunt, and a weak grounder, I just couldn't get my hopes up that the lineup would be able to do much of anything. Anderson was throwing sharp stuff, and he was throwing strikes, and this lineup doesn't do a whole lot against guys who throw strikes.

Fister, by some miracle, was able to survive and limit the A's to but one single run, but his pitch count got up there right quick, and he had to turn a tie game over to the bullpen after six innings of work. And as soon as Josh Willingham's two-run double screamed past Chone Figgins at third base in the seventh, I kind of knew it was over. The M's probably wouldn't be able to fight back, and even if they were, they'd still be locked in a battle of the bullpens against a superior bullpen.

The M's got close, as they so often have, but as they so often have, they couldn't find the one big hit, and then the A's put things out of reach against Figgins and Brandon League in the ninth. Instead of heading into an offday at 9-14 on a moderate upswing, the M's will instead prepare for Detroit with the worst record in baseball. One way to look at this is that, even with the slow start, the Mariners are only eight games behind the league-leading Phillies. Another way is that they're on pace to finish behind them by 60.

To the bullet holes:

  • Today was something of a struggle for Fister, as he only threw 67 of his 110 pitches (61%) for strikes. Ordinarily, Fister is at the very least able to spot his pitches in the right quadrant, but his pitches were drifting on him this afternoon, and the fact that he only walked two guys ignores the fact that he also hit Josh Willingham twice. This was not Doug Fister throwing a classic Doug Fister ballgame.

    But while today was a struggle, it was also encouraging, because where usually you'd think of Fister as a guy who has to be able to spot all of his pitches to succeed, Fister only allowed the one run in six innings, and he missed ten bats, which is one shy of his career high. The A's weren't teeing off on him. In short, Fister didn't turn into the Fister we saw in Spring Training.

    So there are both positives and negatives to take away from his outing today. I can't wait to get to season's end so I can look back and see how Fister held up. If he keeps going, then by the end of 2011 he'll have more than 400 career Major League innings of evidence to show that, holy crap, this really works.

  • While talking about Fister in the top of the first, Dave Sims finished a thought with "that's been his modus operandi - he does not walk people." On the very next pitch, Fister hit Josh Willingham in the arm.

  • Eric Wedge decided to give Ichiro something of a day off by slotting him in at DH, rather than right field. I know I said this during the spring but it's worth noting that a day off for Ichiro is doing Jack Cust's full-time job. Interestingly, this was Ichiro's 28th career game as a designated hitter. Over those 28 games, he's batted .370 in nearly 130 trips to the plate. Playing right field detracts from Ichiro's focus.

    Also, one notes that Ichiro has lifted his average from .250 to .309 in less than a week. Every year. Every year, we have the same conversation. Ichiro could be 90 years old and literally die as he lurches his way to the plate and I'd just assume it's a part of his annual April slump.

  • Miguel Olivo batted four times today. In two of those times he wound up drawing unintentional walks - the only two walks the Mariners would draw all game, which is just batshit insane - but in all four plate appearances, he worked a full count. Olivo has historically worked full counts in a well below-average 8.6% of his plate appearances, meaning his odds of doing it four times in a row are approximately once per 18,487 opportunities. Based on their respective histories, Olivo's odds of working four consecutive full counts are only slightly higher than Chone Figgins' odds of hitting two consecutive home runs. Today we witnessed history.

  • After Ichiro hit a single in the fifth inning, the PA blared a carefully selected sample of Rihanna's S&M. A very, very carefully selected sample. Rihanna recorded a song about sadomasochism, and Safeco Field used it on Easter Sunday to get a bunch of families in attendance fired up about a baseball game. These are weird years we're living in.

  • Today was Mike Blowers' 46th birthday, so at one point Jen Mueller interrupted the broadcast to deliver a plate of Rally Fries and marshmallow Peeps, all part of a concerted effort on Root Sports' part to make sure he doesn't live to see his 47th.

  • Baseball-Reference tells me today was also the 53rd birthday of one Bill Krueger, so in his honor I'd like to point out that Bill Krueger had a lifetime ERA+ of 92. My Keys To The Game for a Bill Krueger start:

    (1) Smoke & Mirrors
    (2) Keep 'Em Crossed

  • One of Blowers' five Peeps was missing from the package when it was delivered to the booth, because before the game, Mueller had offered one to Michael Saunders, who had never heard of them before in his life. Today we learned that Michael Saunders likes the taste of sugar-coated sugar, and that Root Sports doesn't care enough for Mike Blowers to get him his own unopened package of candy on his birthday.

  • While Miguel Olivo's OPS is currently sitting at .404, it's worth noting that he did nearly hit a ball out to straightaway center in the bottom of the sixth. However, it stayed in the yard, and a sprinting Coco Crisp was able to run it down on the track. The problem with sprinting and making full-speed catches on the track as an outfielder is that you can't stop on a dime, and sure enough Crisp went crashing into the wall really really hard, but he came away just a little sore, and having left a comical imprint of himself on the padding. Sometimes I wish they made the outfield walls out of trampolines, or styrofoam.

  • Miguel Olivo's OPS + Chone Figgins' OPS = .858. Of the 240 batters who have come to the plate 50 times this season, 54 have an OPS of at least .859.

  • Behind 3-1, the Mariners were given a golden opportunity in the seventh when, with one on and none out, Jack Wilson hit a grounder to Kevin Kouzmanoff at third and Kouzmanoff subsequently made a terrible throw to first that got away from Daric Barton. That put two runners in scoring position as Kouzmanoff cemented his early-season position as the Mariners' team MVP. But only one of those runners would come in to score, as Ichiro hit a too-shallow fly ball and Figgins struck out looking on three pitches. The Rangers lead the league with a .993 team OPS with runners in scoring position. The Mariners are at just about half that.

  • The Mariners' Fielding Gem of the Day came in the sixth, when Mark Ellis came up with a man on first and hit a grounder towards the hole between third and short. Brendan Ryan ranged well over to his right, backhanded the ball, and made a strong throw to second to get the lead runner and very nearly start a 6-4-3 double play. Even though I know he's barely hitting at the moment, I've been nothing but encouraged by what I've seen from Ryan in the early going. His defense has been on point, and when you take into consideration his seemingly improved plate discipline as well, you've got the makings of a solid middle infielder. One just hopes the line drives will come eventually.

  • The Mariners' Fielding Limestone of the Day came in the ninth, when Chone Figgins kind of waved at a Conor Jackson groundball that might've gone for an inning-ending double play. The grounder wasn't hit near sharply enough for Figgins to have an excuse for not getting his body in front of the ball, and that error allowed the A's to add some insurance to their lead. I watch Chone Figgins at the plate and I can't visualize how he was ever a productive hitter. I watch Chone Figgins in the field and I can't visualize how he was ever a productive defender. All that preseason hope I had for a big Figgins turnaround has eroded like so much soft, decayed volcanic rock around a solid andesite plug.

  • Every game it seems like I see at least two or three airings of the same White's Metal Detectors commercial. Metal detectors are one of those things you only ever think about when you're eight or eighty, so on the one hand I'm not sure what White's is going for here, but on the other hand, maybe they're banking on the idea that walking around a city park with a big beeping stick in your hand sounds like the potential time of your life when you're watching a Mariners game.

Off day tomorrow. Boy have I been ready for one of these since pretty much whenever the last one was.