That is one crowded horse.
With the morning game after the night game, now it's almost like yesterday never happened. We went to bed knowing the Mariners had lost, but it was such a quick turnaround we had little time to wallow. 12 hours after the Mariners lost, the Mariners were playing, and 15 hours after the Mariners lost, the Mariners won. Many, if not most of those hours were spent under covers. This was our crisp, refreshing palate cleanser after a surprisingly bitter canapé.
And now, we get to head into the Thursday off day with our heads held high. Finally. Until today, the Mariners were 0-4 in games preceding scheduled off days, and 0-5 if you include the Friday loss before the two Cleveland rainouts. Tomorrow will be the first full day we can spend reflecting on a Mariners win, if we so choose.
But we probably won't. Most of us won't, anyway, because we'll instead choose to look ahead to the weekend set against the Yankees. The Mariners have gone on a run, but they've gone on a run against the decent Angels, the awful Twins, and the awful Padres, and the Yankees will give them a chance to prove themselves against a bigger challenge. And with Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez taking the ball for the first two games, it's impossible not to feel excited. It's impossible not to feel like this could be the weekend the 2011 Mariners put themselves on the map. I'm expecting the Safeco atmosphere to be at or near its best. When's the last time we could say that about a home game that wasn't the first of the year?
Opposing fans probably find our optimism to be adorably ridiculous. It is kind of ridiculous. The Mariners are, after all, still below .500. The Mariners still have more losses than wins. Teams with terrible offenses and more losses than wins generally aren't teams in good places, or teams with big futures.
But trajectory matters, if not on the field then in our heads, and over the past month of play, the Mariners have tied for the second-best record in the American League. Over the past month of play, the Mariners have the second-best run differential in baseball. This optimism isn't coming out of thin air. We've had a lot stored up, and the Mariners have earned it.
Things can and do change in a hurry. We'll see where the Mariners stand in a week and a half, by which point they will have played seven games against the Yankees and Rays. Being on the fringe means you're never too far from being in the race, but also never too far from being out of it. I'm just thankful that it's the end of May, and I care. All I ever want is to care.
Due to a variety of reasons, I wasn't able to pay as close attention to this morning's game as usual, so I don't have a usual recap. If you like, you can just re-read one of the Padres recaps, since those were all basically the same game. But just for the sake of having a few bullet holes:
- Another turn, another strong start for Erik Bedard, and this one without getting extra rest. Though the Twins are the Twins and by no means the Red Sox, it's hard to spin six shutout innings against anyone, and Bedard's line score is sexy. Sexier than the one walk and four strikeouts is that, of the 19 balls the Twins put in play, 14 of them stayed on the ground. Bedard was a flyballer early on, but his groundball rate over his past five starts is 56%. You know the last time Erik Bedard was a good groundball pitcher? 2007. Think about it.
Franklin Gutierrez delivered his first home run on an 0-1 changeup in the middle of the plate. It was a bad pitch from Brian Duensing, but Guti still put a good swing on it, and he's been putting good swings on a lot of pitches since coming back. He still has yet to strike out, and on some of his outs, you can tell that he just missed. He said afterwards that he felt a little tired in his first few games back, and he isn't 100%, but Franklin Gutierrez below 100% is still a nice player to have in the lineup.
- Brendan Ryan's batting line is up to .260/.327/.328, and aside from the occasional error, he's been magnificent in the field. He's obviously not as good as his recent hot streak, but he's also not as bad as he was earlier on, and I think his batting line is a good, balanced reflection of his true talent. This is a helpful shortstop. He's no Asdrubal Cabrera, but then, who is? /shoots self
Brandon League has thrown four consecutive perfect innings, with three strikeouts. Of his 13 pitches today, six were offspeed, with two coming in a 1-1 count and one being the first pitch to Jim Thome. It's progress.
- The secret to David Pauley's success out of the bullpen in the early going is a good secret, because it remains a mystery after a month and a half.