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Mariners Lose To Rays In Not At All Heartbreaking Fashion

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The standard way to respond to a game like this is to say that it was a heartbreaking loss. Devastating. A real crushing defeat. The Mariners were winning! They were up by four! Then they were up by three! Then they had a lead in the seventh! Then they rallied in the eighth! Then they lost in the ninth! How awful for them, and us!

But let's be honest. This game would've been heartbreaking in April, or June. But now? Not now. For one thing, "heartbreaking" implies that the heart was not broken before, and one recalls that the Mariners came in at 53-71, and had already strung together a 17-game losing streak. And for another thing, because the Mariners came in at 53-71, who cared?

Which isn't to say that the game wasn't annoying. That was a very annoying baseball game. A very annoying baseball game in a late-90s Mariners sort of way. And I'm sure certain members of the team - like Jamey Wright, Jeff Gray and Dan Cortes - took it pretty hard. But I'd wager that, by and large, this game rolled off most of our backs. Those of us who were paying attention have long since gotten over it, and with rare exception, I'm guessing that most of the Mariners are looking ahead. Hey, a game in Cleveland tomorrow! Cleveland, all right!

Down the stretch, baseball games are played because baseball games are scheduled. It doesn't matter whether a team has dropped out of the running - that team still has to play the rest of its games. As Mariners fans, we watch many of those games, and those games have their positives and negatives, but for the most part, the emotional investment is stripped away. It's just baseball for the sake of baseball, and for the sake of finding some reason to hope for the future, and that means that individual heartbreaking losses all but cease to exist. There are worse things.

I don't think I have many bullet holes, but I've said that before and surprised myself, so let's see where this goes:

  • We've reached the point in the season where the focus is less on identifying what Michael Pineda can and can't do, and more on keeping him healthy and seeing how he holds up as his innings total mounts. He's well into new territory, now, which is why the Mariners have kept his pitch counts down, and why they're going to seize some opportunities to buy him a few extra days.

    Given that, today's start from Pineda was something of a mixed bag. It was mostly positive - where recently we've seen him struggle with his location, today he was back to his old strike-throwing ways, pumping 68% strikes while going six innings without a walk. Statistically, this was an outing ripped straight from Pineda's first half.

    However, while Pineda pitched well, his velocity was lower than we've seen. His fastball sat at 92-93 and exceeded 94 on only a few occasions. It was encouraging to see that he could still get it up there, but he wasn't getting it up there like he used to.

    I'm not real concerned, because he threw a good game, it's just one blip, and we've seen him deliberately reduce his velocity before. It's possible that Pineda was working in the lower 90s on purpose. It's just something I noticed, and it's something to watch for as the season winds down. Expect the Mariners to act at the first sign of trouble, because Pineda has already done enough, and there's little reason to push him.

  • Seldom have I seen a reliever more determined to lose a game than Dan Cortes today. That isn't totally fair, because Cortes did work out of a jam in the seventh. But in the eighth, with runners on the corners, Cortes threw a fastball way low and inside to Desmond Jennings. The ball went all the way to the backstop and Matt Joyce could've scored the go-ahead run easily were it not determined that the ball grazed Jennings, killing the play.

    Moments later, with the bases loaded, Cortes threw a changeup impossibly high and outside to Johnny Damon. The ball sailed behind Josh Bard and Joyce again sprinted home, but Bard retrieved the ball and threw it home just in time for the covering Cortes to apply a tag.

    And then, in the ninth, Cortes threw Damon a first-pitch fastball that got too much plate, and Damon pummeled it into the right field stands for the walk-off. Cortes made three attempts to lose, and the third time, it turned out, was the charm.

    The good news for Cortes is that he finally picked up a strikeout when he froze Ben Zobrist with a breaking ball. Shortly thereafter he froze B.J. Upton with a fastball. The two strikeouts bring Cortes' season total up to two, tying him with Horacio Ramirez.

  • Johnny Damon has one of baseball's stranger swings, as he lets go of the bat with his left hand as soon as it clears the plane. We are one Johnny Damon right hand injury away from Tropicana Field having to install first base line netting to protect the entire lower level.

  • I'm left-handed, and I used to pitch. I was not a particularly good pitcher, especially at first, so I developed a strong pick-off move almost out of necessity. I was always dealing with runners on base, and a pick-off gave me another opportunity to record an out. One notices that Dan Cortes did an exceptional job of covering home plate after his eighth inning wild pitch.

  • After an agonizing four-day wait, Casper Wells finally delivered another home run, bringing him up to six since joining the Mariners. James Shields threw him a fastball in a terrible place, so it's not like Wells' home run was amazing, but he still did the damage, which few Mariners seem to do. Wells is now up to 36 total bases since joining the M's, which ties him with 2011 Milton Bradley. Today he surpassed 2011 Michael Saunders.

    It's true that Wells has 22 strikeouts and three unintentional walks since the trade. It's true that that's bad. But it's important to understand that Wells hasn't put up a lousy K/BB because he's hacking. Unlike, say, Carlos Peguero, Wells isn't getting himself out all the time by chasing balls. He strikes out because he isn't a great contact hitter, and he doesn't walk much because he's aggressive in the zone. There are bad ways to post a bad K/BB ratio and there are less bad ways to post a bad K/BB ratio, and Wells falls in with the latter.

  • Wily Mo Pena started at DH today. This is the representative picture:

    That tells you more than I could tell you in a half-dozen paragraphs. That picture is why Wily Mo Pena is so much God damn fun. Today, Wily Mo Pena might have hit the only home run he'll hit as a Mariner, but it was a home run I won't soon forget. Not only does he hit homers; he hits homers the way few others do.

  • Casey Kotchman, in case you didn't realize, is batting .328 with an .848 OPS. However, against the Mariners, he's gone 8-for-32 with a double. I consider this his way of apologizing.

  • In the seventh inning, Jamey Wright faced five batters, allowing three walks and a double before departing with the bases loaded. Just six of his 19 pitches were strikes, and as the camera later cut to him in the dugout, he was displaying all the visual signs of utter dejection. And for good reason - this was perhaps the wildest that Wright's ever been. Six out of 19 is a strike rate of 31.6%. Wright's previous low in an outing lasting at least 19 pitches came on September 21st, 2006, when he threw eight strikes out of 23 pitches as a Giant.

    After Wright came out, Jeff Gray came in and showed Wright how strikes are thrown, and in so doing allowed all of his inherited runners to score. Oh no, nothing works!

Time for four games in Cleveland in three days. I guess if you have to be in Cleveland, you might as well try to get your stuff done in as little time as possible.