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Erik Bedard Seattle Mariners Happy Happy Fun Time

I spent last Thanksgiving in Arizona, staying with some of Ms. Jeff's family. Her aunt and uncle have two young boys who're active in sports, and I got to asking them the same question I ask every parent of tiny little athletes: how do you stand watching those games? How do you sit there for a few hours every weekend and watch those little shits run around slowly and aimlessly like it's an intramural game of Capture The Flag at the school for the blind? Obviously, you love your kids, and you want to encourage them in everything they do, but so rarely do those games have any redeeming value whatsoever. The response I got was basically that you love them enough to tolerate what they are and celebrate signs of progress.

It made sense. And honestly, that's where I've been with Erik Bedard. I love Erik Bedard to death. I love his talent, I love what he stands for, and I love his unusual and quirky sense of humor. I love his loyalty to the team. What I don't love is actually watching Erik Bedard play. I always try to be supportive and look for the positives no matter what his final line, but there's no denying that he's shown himself to be deliberate at best and borderline unwatchable at worst. Bedard has rarely been a visual treat.

And then today. Today was like taking my hypothetical little linebacker to a Pee Wee game and watching him own fools like Terry Tate. Bedard wasn't perfect, and he didn't throw one of the best games of the season, but he threw a game that was quick, and efficient, and effective, and just so unlike what we've come to expect from him. We were through three innings in about 40 minutes, and to that point Bedard had thrown four balls. He only needed 88 pitches to work through seven(!) frames. He pounded the zone, he didn't walk a single batter, and God bless him, he had a tempo.

Coming off what I thought was a pretty lousy outing against this very same team just last week, tonight, Erik Bedard shined, and he shined in a way that everybody can appreciate. I'm not going to let myself get used to this - not yet - but I'd sure like to.

I'm so happy I might just take Erik for ice cream.

With a very underrated Justin Verlander on the mound for them, and with Erik Bedard on the mound for the Mariners with a support lineup featuring Miguel Olivo at #4, it's safe to say I didn't come into this one with the highest of expectations. The Mariners came into the day tied for the worst record in baseball at 9-15, and though the Padres pulled ahead, or behind, with a loss earlier this afternoon, I felt pretty confident that the M's would be able to keep pace. This was not one of them cushy matchups.

And, naturally, it didn't help when Chone Figgins was called out at home in the first on a play where replays showed him to be clearly safe. Figgins and Eric Wedge argued and got nowhere, and my pessimism dropped ever closer to the dreaded Threat Level Silva that I always try to avoid. I didn't think the Mariners stood much of a chance. I certainly didn't think the Mariners stood much of a chance after having a run taken off the board.

And then, two pitches later, Justin Smoak dipped his bat in ink, stamped a message on the baseball, and delivered it to the bullpen beyond the left-center fence. If it felt strange, it's because that was the Mariners' first three-run homer of the year, and suddenly, there was a lead. A real lead. A fairly substantial lead.

That lead still had to go through Erik Bedard, so I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence even after the ball flew out, and sure enough, the Tigers got a run back in the bottom half on a double by one of the three or four guys in baseball who I always think is going to hit a home run every time he comes to the plate. Early indications were not so positive.

Then Bedard settled down. I don't want to say he was great in the second and third, but he survived and he was efficient, and he seemed to get better as the game wore on. As Bedard got himself into a groove for maybe the first time all year, Verlander kept the Mariners quiet, but they did add an insurance run in the fifth to push the lead to 4-1, and a strange air of certainty began seeping in through the windows. Bedard had my confidence. I believed in his ability to protect what the lineup had built.

He kept it. He kept it through the seventh(!), and after Jamey Wright worked through the eighth, the Mariners went and put this thing well out of reach with their biggest inning so far in 2011. The M's scored six in the ninth off Joaquin Benoit and Brad Thomas, one of whom is a good reliever, and we officially had ourselves a laugher. The Mariners secured just their second blowout win of the year, with both coming against the same team in the span of eight days. Blowouts can be a little dull when you establish them early, but this kind was perfect. This was a close game that became a blowout and ended before we could grow bored.

The M's wound up 7-15 with runners in scoring position. The Tigers, meanwhile, finished 1-7. After everything we've watched through the first few weeks, tonight we got over-regression, and it turns out that's a hell of a lot of fun. The team's record now stands at 10-15. It almost doesn't sound so bad, does it? Maybe that's just all my natural positivity showing through.

Three days. The Mariners haven't made me sad for three days.

To the bullet holes!

  • A week ago, you'll recall that we watched Erik Bedard really scuffle. His velocity was down, he only threw 54% strikes, and he walked five batters while hitting another. A week ago, Erik Bedard was a mess.

    Tonight, he started on a few extra days' rest, and he was completely different. His fastball consistently sat in the low 90s, he threw 68% strikes, and he didn't walk anybody, seldom even getting himself into a deep count. More, he re-introduced himself to the ground.

    Bedard came in having been an extreme fly ball pitcher, but today he kept 11 of 21 balls in play on the ground, including nine out of 12 after the third inning. He had some early issues with line drives but he buried those in a hurry, closing out his start like a version of Felix who's in a rush to get home and eat cookies. That was a version of Bedard we haven't often seen.

    Ultimately, it's one start, just as last week was one start. And it's not like Bedard missed a whole ton of Tigers bats. But where, a week ago, Bedard didn't look like he was making any progress, tonight he was like three levels above where he's been. This was a very, very promising game. Bedard isn't some prospect under team control forever so I don't know what we're building towards, but I'm just happy to see the guy succeed.

  • Given Root Sports voiceover guy's obvious biases in favor of the home teams, I've seen it asked in a few places what he's going to say when the Sounders take on the Timbers. I think we got our answer when he plugged an upcoming college baseball game:

    There are rivalries, my friend, and then there's Huskies/Cougars. Which side are you on?

    Way to have an opinion, Root Sports voiceover guy.

  • In the first inning, Chone Figgins reached base on an error and promptly stole second on a close play. Immediately after the steal, Root Sports showed their ultra-mo replay of the slide and tag. A little later on, Figgins tried to score on a single by Miguel Olivo, but home plate umpire Derryl Cousins ruled him out even though Figgins had gotten his hand in well before he ever got tagged.

    Figgins and Wedge argued the call, and it occurred to me - why don't we allow instant replay review again? Everybody expresses worries about the delays replay would cause, but as Figgins' steal of second went to show, super high-quality slow-motion replays become available almost instantaneously, and it takes mere seconds to figure out what happened. Delays? We would hardly notice any delays. Save for only the most exceptional of close plays, replay could be reviewed and the right call could be made in a God damn hurry.

  • Watching Adam Kennedy hit, it dawned on me that there are few things more pointless for fans in our situation than watching Adam Kennedy hit. I'm not saying he's terrible or anything, but there's no reason to get even the least bit excited about him as a player. Adam Kennedy will never be the individual subject of a blog post until or unless he gets hurt, traded, or released, and even then I might just toss the guy a fanshot. Adam Kennedy is a piece of bark on the shore, waiting for a wave to pull him back out to sea so he can settle somewhere else.

  • It wasn't enough for Justin Smoak to go deep in his first game back - he has now gone deep in his first two games back, with today's been a tall shot hit slightly to the opposite field. With a home run, a well-struck single and a walk, Smoak's OPS is up to .979, and he's claimed sole possession of the team lead in dingdongers with four. As always, I have to caution you against making too much of what's still a small sample of data, but based on pretty much all indications, what we're witnessing is the development of a prospect into a feared middle-of-the-order batter before our very eyes. If that sounds crazy, it's because the Mariners basically haven't had it happen since A-Rod.

  • Chone Figgins reached base five times on two singles, two errors, and a walk, which is exactly the kind of classically annoying Angels game the Mariners paid him to bring to Seattle. By my count, he has brought it to Seattle like three or four times. It's a start. I'd sure love for Figgins to become more annoying to them than to us.

  • In the top of the fifth, Miguel Olivo checked his swing on a curve in the dirt and held up for a ball. So we know there's thought.

  • In case you didn't catch it, Ken Levine gave Lookout Landing a shoutout on the 710 broadcast. So this is Lookout Landing giving Ken Levine a shoutout on the internet. You didn't really think this through, did you, Ken?

  • Milton Bradley has been wearing earplugs for a few weeks, in theory to help him block out hecklers and distractions, but he can still be seen interacting with or taunting the fans seated nearby at least once a game. Milton Bradley has clearly adapted to individual earplugs. The next step is double the earplugs. Just jam 'em in there.

Tomorrow we get breakfast with Michael Pineda and Brad Penny at 10:05 in the morning. The Mariners have kind of made a mess of things as guests, so it would only be polite of them to sweep up before they go.