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Brandon Morrow Shuts Down Mariners, Joins Every Other Pitcher In Baseball

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You have to figure that tonight felt pretty good for Brandon Morrow. Morrow had every reason to want a little revenge against the Mariners after they traded him away in December 2009, and he didn't get a chance to do anything in 2010. He finally faced them for the first time a month ago and allowed three runs in seven innings, but that game was in Toronto. This game was in Seattle. This game might've had a little more meaning.

So this game must've felt awesome as Morrow breezed through the home lineup. He had his pitches working, his velocity was high, and the Mariners couldn't do a thing in front of what was nominally their own crowd. Even if he wouldn't admit as much, now Morrow gets to feel like he stuck it to the M's a little bit.

But at the same time, you can just throw Morrow's start onto the towering pile of dominant starts we've seen turned in against the Mariners the last two years. Morrow went six innings tonight. He allowed one run on six baserunners while striking out twelve. Just about everybody had trouble catching up to him, and he finished with a game score of 72. That game score ties for the 25th-highest against the Mariners since the start of 2010. At Safeco. We're talking about 145 starts overall. By game score, Morrow's dominant effort ranks 25th. Some superior starts:

  • Jeff Niemann: 7 IP, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K
  • Jeff Niemann: 6.2 IP, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K
  • Jeremy Guthrie: 8 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
  • Cory Luebke: 6 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K
  • Nick Blackburn: 8.2 IP, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

Morrow, obviously, was very very good, and before tonight the Mariners offense had been showing some signs of life. But while Morrow gets to feel like he made a statement against his former team, the fact of the matter is that, over time, this start is just going to blend in with so many others. So the Mariners got owned by a starting pitcher. Wowee. The offense has not been nearly good enough for nearly long enough for that not to still be the expectation going in.

I'm running out of steam already because I got a late start on this. Let's see what I've got for bullet holes:

  • Obviously, Blake Beavan didn't accomplish what he set out to accomplish. He needed 98 pitches to get through five innings, just 59 of which were strikes, and he got taken deep three times. What's extra disappointing is that he got off to a good start, as he worked a scoreless first inning with a pair of strikeouts. It came undone after that.

    Edwin Encarnacion homered on a 1-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate. Adam Lind homered on an 0-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate. Colby Rasmus homered on a 2-2 curveball that caught too much of the plate. The Blue Jays struck quickly, but they struck big, and those three homers accounted for all five of their runs.

    And the homers do a good job of capturing what Blake Beavan is right now, I think. All three of them came in two-strike counts. Beavan's a guy without a putaway pitch. You can survive without a putaway pitch if you're locating with clinical accuracy, but Beavan wasn't locating well enough tonight, and he got burned.

    His margin of error is just so slim. There are days on which Beavan can succeed, days when he's really feeling it, but if anything feels off at all, he's boned. And that's why it's going to be so challenging for him to establish himself as a reliable starter. He either needs to take a step forward with his location, or he needs to take a step forward with one or two of his pitches. As is, right now, he's a #6, or perhaps a #7.

  • Both Danny Hultzen and Brad Miller were on hand for the game. They each threw out ceremonial first pitches, and they each took a turn through the broadcast booth. Watching Beavan, it must have occurred to Hultzen that he could reach the Majors in no time at all. Watching Jack Wilson, it must have occurred to Miller that Jack Wilson is an absolutely terrifying human to look at. "Where did he get those limbs! Those aren't his limbs!" "Those are limbs he scavenged from minor league shortstops." "AHHH!!"

  • There weren't a lot of offensive positives for the Mariners tonight, but the guy who stood out to me was Franklin Gutierrez. In the fourth inning, Guti drove a 97mph Morrow fastball just shy of the track on the right side of center field. In the sixth inning, Guti pulled a 97mph Morrow fastball to the track on the left side of center field. Guti hasn't homered since his sixth game way back on May 25th, but I don't know that he's come closer than he did tonight, on two occasions.

    It's sad on some level that I'm sitting here, praising Guti for a pair of fly balls he almost hit to the wall. We've come a long, shitty way since 2009. But this did look like progress, and it fits in with Guti's better hitting of late. It would just be such a big lift if Guti can finish this season strong. I'm not counting on it, but it would make me feel a lot more comfortable about the 2012 outfield if he did.

  • In the fourth inning, Blue Jays catcher Jose Molina took a foul tip right off the noggin. "That's a wake-up call," remarked Mike Blowers. Which was an interesting thing to say, since it's actually the complete opposite.

  • In that same fourth inning, Mike Carp laced a single into the outfield for the Mariners' first hit of the game off of Morrow. In my head, I thought, "whew, no no-hitter." Then I looked at Twitter, and almost every update said something to the effect of "no more no-hitter." Mike Carp was batting against Morrow with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, and pretty much everybody who was watching was already thinking about the possibility of a no-hitter. That should tell you something about the quality of the stuff Morrow was throwing, and that should tell you something about what it's been like to watch the Mariners all the time.

  • I listened to the first couple innings of this game on the radio. Twice, there were commercial breaks that began with one ad, and then consisted of complete silence for one or two minutes. Have the Mariners reached the threshold of sponsor embarrassment? All signs point to yes! Where by "all signs" I mean "this sign."

  • Coach: You know, you could work deeper if you were more economical with your pitch count.
    Morrow: I know!
    Coach: All those strikeouts - the pitches add up in a hurry.
    Morrow: I know!
    Coach: You have to learn to trust your defense. They can make outs behind you. Quick outs.
    Morrow: I know!
    Coach: If you took something off of your fastball, and worked low in the zone -
    Morrow: I've tried!
    Coach: What do you mean you've tried?
    Morrow: I've tried everything! I've tried everything to get quicker outs!
    Coach: And?
    Morrow: Nothing works!
    Coach: Nothing works?
    Morrow: I'm too naturally unhittable!
    Coach: Man.
    Morrow: Right?
    Coach: Yeah.
    Morrow: This is my burden.

  • Tonight we got to see the Mariner debut of Chance Ruffin, who made it to Seattle after waking up in Buffalo, New York. I've had the opposite of that experience as a nightmare before. Ruffin only worked one inning and threw all of 15 pitches, so there's obviously not a lot we can say, but he began by freezing Jose Bautista with a high slider that caused Bautista to throw a fit and argue with the umpire. There are worse ways to debut than by striking out the greatest hitter in the universe.

    Ruffin also showed off his high leg kick that is so high and so quick I'm convinced that one of these days he's going to knee himself right in the face. He's going to begin his delivery, then he's going to forcefully knee himself in the face, then he's going to fall backwards unconscious, then I'm going to rewind the video and make a sweet .gif.

  • There were some pitches that came mighty close to some batters yesterday, including one that hit Kyle Seager. Tonight, there were more close pitches, and after Beavan hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch in the third, Morrow hit Casper Wells with a pitch in the sixth. And he didn't just hit him - he hit him in the nose with a 97mph fastball. Thankfully for Wells he moved quickly enough that the ball just got the tip of his nose and didn't break anything, but that could've been a whole hell of a lot worse.

    Immediately after Wells got hit and came out, there was speculation that the Mariners might retaliate. There was also a certain desire from a few corners for the Mariners to retaliate. Something about the prospect of retaliation and bench-clearing brawls gets fans all excited. But the Mariners didn't retaliate, and now that the game is over, I'm glad they didn't, and this is why:

    @upstateballer Casper, sorry about the pitch that got away tonight. I'm glad it didn't get you too bad. Enjoy Seattle, it's a great city

    That is Brandon Morrow apologizing to Casper Wells on Twitter for hitting him. There was clearly no intent at all, and it would've looked bad for the M's to get all Eye Of The Tiger after an accident.

Off day tomorrow. Yay!