As with so many other people, I started liking baseball when I was a kid. I was led to root for theby an uncle who lives in Seattle, and I didn't see any reason not to take his advice, so I went ahead and made them my team. They have remained my team every year, because they've always been my team, and if they were my team last season, why wouldn't they be my team this season? Continuity. It only makes sense.
But then, I liked a lot of stupid crap when I was younger. Smash Mouth. Peeps. Wings. The movie Iron Eagle. Classmate Richard Delgado. Most of that stuff, I don't like anymore. I just watched an episode of Wings for the first time in years the other day and it was terrible. I remember liking Wings, but I wouldn't say that I like it now, because having evaluated it at my current age, I see all of its flaws.
The only real difference between Wings and the Mariners at this point is that, with Wings, I went a long time between viewings, whereas with the Mariners I've followed them pretty much every day for six months a year, so things don't seem markedly worse today than they were yesterday, or last season. They've just become such a steady, familiar part of the routine that it's hard to process how little payoff there is. If the Mariners were really bad in 2004, and 2005, and 2008, and 2010, and I stuck with them then, why wouldn't I stick with them now? Things move along so gradually that it's difficult to imagine there would ever be a tipping point.
The Mariners are basically like a friend who's your friend because he's always been your friend. You're friends because you're friends. You don't have a whole lot in common, and you seem to be going in different directions, but you still hang out because you've always hung out, and sometimes you have fun with each other. On occasion people will ask why you do so much together, and only then does it dawn on you that you don't have a good answer.
But then you shrug your shoulders and see if Mariners wants to go see a movie. Why not? You know each other well enough, and company's company. And maybe one day Mariners will go to college and the two of you can finally have a real conversation.
- I feel like I've been having a lot of conversations lately in which I've expressed my distrust of Doug Fister, but tonight we saw Fister turn in just another classically him game, and I mean that in a good way. He only issued one unintentional walk over six innings, he kept more balls on the ground than he let see the air, he didn't give up a bunch of solid contact, and he stayed in and around the zone. No, he doesn't have a margin of error, but consider that Fister now has a 4.03 career ERA while throwing his stuff and then think about how easy it should be for a guy to not be Ian Snell.
The only real weird thing about Fister's outing tonight is that all three of his strikeouts came against Travis Buck. You would never put the odds in favor of anyone striking out against Fister, much less the same guy in three straight at bats. And all three strikeouts were swinging! Fister generated nine swinging strikes tonight, and Buck was responsible for six of them. If I were a teammate of his I would never let him hear the end of that. Literally never. I would make endless fun of Travis Buck's swinging strikeouts against Doug Fister, to the point at which Buck reached his wits' end and fought me in the clubhouse, because I would be a bad teammate.
- Bill Krueger's first key to the game: Get In Their Kitchens, which probably had something to do with disrupting the
' comfort zone at the plate. Bill Krueger's second key to the game: Here Come The Rabbits, referring to the little speedy guys in the Mariners lineup. If the Mariners were rabbits, and they got into somebody's kitchen, they would be killed and prepared for dinner. Which I guess means Krueger nailed it.
- In the bottom of the first, the broadcast flashed a Justin Masterson stat graphic showing his lefty/righty splits on the season. After one game. The only thing I wish is that they would've shown his home/road splits instead.
- Over his career, Masterson has shut righties down while allowing lefties to reach base at a .383 clip. We've talked about this a bunch of times before, as Masterson is known to have one of the broadest platoon splits in the league on account of his arm angle and limited repertoire. The Mariners had seven guys batting from the left side against Masterson tonight. He allowed four hits in 6.1 innings, and the only guy to draw a walk was Miguel Olivo.
- The very first ball in play was a grounder up the middle that bounced off of Adam Kennedy's glove. I know that Kennedy later hit a double, but Luis Rodriguez made a late appearance, drawing a walk and making a diving stop at second, and it made me wonder: if we're going to sit Jack Wilson for a while, why not use this time to play Rodriguez?
Obviously, I know that Wedge is a big Kennedy fan, since he's an established veteran with a ton of experience and all that, but let's face it - we know pretty much exactly what we're going to get from Adam Kennedy. Rodriguez is more of an unknown after his big 2010 at the plate. Why not try to see if there's anything there? It's not like Kennedy's going to win this team a lot of ballgames, and even though he's 30 years old, Rodriguez is the guy who might have a long future.
This isn't a big complaint of mine, because I know how little it matters, and I know that any manager would go to Kennedy first in this situation. I just want to see more of Rodriguez before he goes away, because, who knows?
- As something of a Jack Wilson status update, note that Eric Wedge pinch-hit Ryan Langerhans for Brendan Ryan in the bottom of the ninth, having already replaced Kennedy with Rodriguez. In the event that the impossible happened and the Mariners forced extra innings, Wedge was ready to put Wilson into the game. All this really proves is that Wedge isn't so frustrated with Wilson's behavior that he'll deliberately reduce his team's chances of winning, but maybe Wilson won't stay on the bench as long as I thought he might. I can't figure that little elf out, but he does seem genuinely apologetic, and he's not a terrible player.
- The Mariners' one run scored when Michael Saunders dropped a blooper just in front of Michael Brantley. Yeah, I know Saunders hit a low-away slider off one of the league's better lefty relievers, but it was a blooper off the end of the bat. This is the most frustrating way to score runs because you don't even get to feel good about the hit when it lands. I'd honestly almost rather have seen Saunders get a home run taken away over the wall. Sure, we wouldn't get a run then, but at least I'd be left with the confidence that he might drive runs home in the future.
- Not that the Indians get to feel super great about the way they scored, either. After loading the bases in the fourth, they scored one run on a sac fly, and they scored another run when a Milton Bradley throw to third escaped the infield and got kicked into the Indians' dugout by a sliding Doug Fister. This very well could've wound up a 1-0 game, which would've made it lower scoring than the soccer game played across the street earlier in the afternoon.
And while Orlando Cabrera delivered that sac fly, it almost didn't happen, as he hit a foul ball off of Asdrubal Cabrera, who broke for home from third base on contact. Had Asdrubal been hit while standing in fair territory, he would've been out, in a hysterical display of Cabrera-on-Cabrera violence. Instead, Asdrubal simply got hit really hard by a baseball and then had to return to third base and pretend like nothing ever happened.
- The Mariners wound up going 1-11 with runners in scoring position tonight, and everyone but Rodriguez and Langerhans stranded at least one guy. They had one golden opportunity in the sixth, when both Milton Bradley and Jack Cust struck out with Chone Figgins on third base. They also stranded Figgins after a leadoff double in the eighth. But I think the moment that'll linger in everyone's minds came in the seventh, just after Saunders' blooper cut the Indians' lead in half. Ichiro came up against Rafael Perez with runners on the corners, and in a 2-1 count, he bunted.
Ichiro has done this before. He's done this a lot of times before. Ichiro lays down a lot of bunts with runners in scoring position, presumably trying to seize the element of surprise. But I personally don't recall them working too often, and the bunt certainly didn't work tonight, as Perez fielded the bunt himself and threw to first for an easy out. Just when Safeco finally seemed to have some life, Ichiro bunted the ball 40 feet back to the mound.
I'm not going to sit here and blast Ichiro because he is much smarter than I am, and that play easily could have worked and tied things up. But I will say that I disagree with the attempt. Ichiro has batted .341 for his career after getting into a 2-1 count, and there's nobody in baseball you trust to handle the bat better than he does. He had good odds of success while swinging away.
Maybe he bunted because he didn't think he'd get a good pitch to hit with Figgins standing on deck. I could actually understand that in a "haha Figgins" kind of way.
- With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Milton Bradley came in and had a brief, mysterious conversation with the third base umpire. I have no idea what this was about but I noticed when Bradley came to bat in the bottom of the eighth, he was wearing earplugs, which I didn't notice him wearing before. It's possible he was just asking whether he'd be permitted to wear earplugs after growing tired of the heckling he apparently even gets at home. I'll give credit to Bradley: wearing earplugs is better than egging people on, in that it's a sign of actual on-field maturity.
- One Root Sports commercial advertising Sunday's broadcast shows a clip of Jack Wilson's double play the other day, with the voiceover guy saying "More plays like this and the Tribe will have a Safeco Field visit they won't soon forget." I like it because it's the only such play the team has made all season, and the guy who made it won't be in the lineup.
Another, shorter Root Sports commercial simply features the voiceover guy saying "I'm watching the Mariners opening homestand on Root Sports." It took one week of Mariners baseball for the Root Sports voiceover guy to throw hubris out the window and start making simple observations.
- Travis Hafner led off the top of the ninth with a base hit and was replaced with a pinch-runner, which brought Orlando Cabrera to the plate. Before one of the subsequent pitches, there was this long, drawn-out silence in the broadcast booth, which was broken by Mike Blowers saying "no", in response to nothing. The best guess is that Blowers was simply checking to see if the pinch-runner would take off for second, but I like to think that was the precise moment at which Mike Blowers hit his Mariners breaking point. "No. Nope. That's it. I'm done."
Erik Bedard will try to salvage the series tomorrow afternoon against some pitcher for the Indians. In the grand scheme of things, what the Mariners do tomorrow is completely irrelevant, which is reassuring.