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Mariners Done In By Small, Talented Local Product In Loss

He is darling!
He is darling!

Over and over and over, we have to hear about Tim Lincecum. We have to hear about how good Tim Lincecum is, and how obvious it was that he was going to be good, and how he grew up a Mariners fan and went to school in the city, and how the Mariners had the opportunity to draft him, and how the Mariners let him get away so he could turn into a superstar somewhere else. It is a tired subject but a popular subject, dug up every draft, every time Lincecum pitches well, or just whenever somebody feels like digging it up.

But for as great as Lincecum has become, and for as much as everybody would probably like to go back and have that pick over again, there is one last desperate fact to which we can cling: Tim Lincecum has never personally beaten the Mariners. He's never even faced the Mariners. If nothing else, at least we haven't had to sit and watch the guy who got away carve up the team that could've had him.

So that's something. After tonight, though, the same no longer goes for Tim Lincecum's shortstop.


Brent Lillibridge is a local kid. You might've heard it mentioned on the broadcast once or twice. He was born in Everett. He went to high school in Mill Creek. He went to college at UW, and played behind Lincecum in 2004 and 2005. In 2005, he batted .330 with a 1.015 OPS, and he was drafted in the fourth round by the Pirates. He was not drafted by the Mariners, because they wanted Justin Thomas instead.

For a while, Lillibridge wasn't anything. He showed up on some prospect lists, but he struggled to hit in the upper levels, and at least around these parts, he was most famous for being involved in a George Sherrill trade rumor meme. It didn't look like he'd develop into much, and he came into the 2011 season with a .551 Major League OPS.

But then something clicked, and now Lillibridge is an actual hitter. An actual hitter with actual power. His current slugging percentage alone is similar to his old OPS, and tonight we saw it with our own eyes. Tonight, the local kid done good became the local kid done bad, as he broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth when he took Charlie Furbush deep for what was a decisive two-run dinger.

It doesn't sting the same. Obviously, it doesn't sting the same. Lillibridge is nowhere close to Lincecum's level of ability, and when the Mariners passed Lillibridge over, nobody cared. But I need to continue writing along this theme, because it's the theme implied by my headline, and I don't want to go back, come up with a new idea, and start all over again. At 11:30 on a Friday night? Are you kidding? I can't believe I'm writing anything at all. What am I doing with my life? How many other people have ever stayed up past midnight on a Friday, writing about Brent Lillibridge? At least this gig pays well. Not in money and bitches, but in recs. I pull in mad recs.

Tonight, the Mariners were beaten by a little local kid they knowingly passed up. You could argue they were beaten by other people, too. Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez drove in runs. Jake Peavy struck out eight dudes. The White Sox's bullpen struck out another seven dudes. But Lillibridge supplied the big blow, and this game could've been very different without him.

At least Lincecum hasn't done it yet. I honestly don't know if I'd have the stomach.

I'm going to see about flying through these bullet holes, because we've got a weekend trip and want an earlier start in the morning. I always think I can write these faster than I actually can, but maybe tonight's the exception. Maybe if I write them extra shitty! Let's try that!

  • Well, Matthew wanted Charlie Furbush to turn in some starts in between his established bookends, and I think it's safe to say that Furbush's effort tonight was a book. He was neither very good nor very bad, and I think there were about as many positives as negatives.

    On the plus side, I thought Furbush's raw stuff looked crisp. His fastball was getting up there with pretty good velocity, for him, and his breaking ball was breaking with few left flat. Additionally, while Furbush allowed a pair of run-scoring hits in the top of the first, they both came on bloopers to the outfield that might've been caught had they hung up just a little bit longer. He wasn't getting slammed.

    On the downside, though, he did get slammed when he made some mistakes in the top of the fifth, and more importantly, he wasn't throwing nearly enough strikes for a pitcher like him to survive. Of Furbush's 103 pitches, 57% were strikes, which is way too Kyle Drabek for anybody's liking. Broadcasters will tell you that he was nibbling, and Furbush will tell you that he was trying to be too perfect, but the bottom line is that he wasn't locating well, and he needs to locate better.

    He'll get a shot to improve next time. Then he'll get a shot the time after that. Furbush's rotation spot isn't in jeopardy, and he's still effectively an organizational prospect. The team wants to see what he can do over an extended period of time. But he does need to show gains. He needs to show that he's at least learning something from each struggle. On talent, the weapons are there for him to cut it as a Major League starter, but before long he'll need to show that he can use them more effectively.

    If Charlie Furbush turns out to be really good, we'll be able to look at footage from his 2011 season and identify the signs. If Charlie Furbush turns out to be pretty bad, the same thing is true.

  • Charles Furbush
    Charlie Furbush

    The difference between these two names is profound. In my head I give them completely different identities.

  • Lillibridge is now up to 12 home runs in 165 at bats. Before the year, he had three home runs in 273 at bats. In triple-A, he has 21 home runs in 1,107 at bats. A Google search for "Brent Lillibridge" + "Ben Zobrist" yields nearly 70,000 results. This breakthrough is just so weird. It would be one thing if Lillibridge suddenly started walking all the time, or if he started batting .320. I could wrap my head around either of those. But power? From this guy? Next you're going to tell me he's up to his elbows in poon. Or, not his elbows. That isn't much poon. A normal-sized human's elbows. Alex Rios' elbows.

  • You've watched the highlight posted below, but after making a catch in foul territory in the top of the fifth, Trayvon Robinson high-fived a young fan before returning the ball to the infield and jogging back to his position. Manny Ramirez did the same thing one time, but the vibe was a little different with Manny. Trayvon just goes around spreading joy. Which is a little suspicious. Why does he have so much joy to share? Why does he insist that everybody around him be joyful? What is wrong with the way that people are already feeling? You're not the king of the universe, Trayvon Robinson. Stop playing mood-maker.

  • A groundball that escapes through the infield is referred to as a seeing-eye single, as if the ball could see where there were was a gap in the defense. But even if a baseball could see, it would have no means of altering its path. There is remarkably little difference between a hypothetical seeing-eye grounder and a quadriplegic.

  • I'm back at the point where I have to dedicate a bullet hole to every Miguel Olivo walk, but tonight Miguel Olivo drew a walk. Even better, he drew a walk off a right-handed reliever brought in specifically to pitch to him. The crazy thing is that none of the four balls were far away. Jesse Crain is probably still trying to figure that one out. Olivo, too.

  • Since the All-Star break, the Mariners' hitters have posted a K/BB of 3.7, which is the worst in baseball by a very large margin.

  • Tom Wilhelmsen is up to ten strikeouts and one walk in his last three relief appearances, with 73% strikes thrown over 6.2 innings. Again, it is not cause for celebration, but it is cause for happiness and optimism. Maybe it's not really progress, but it looks like progress, and we'll know for sure in a short time.

  • After watching him work the ninth, I don't understand how Chris Sale only averages a strikeout an inning. It's also worth noting that Chris Sale is not the White Sox's normal closer, but was used over Sergio Santos because three of the four batters the Mariners sent up were left-handed. Consider your opinion of Ozzie Guillen. Now consider that Ozzie Guillen made a smart move that the overwhelming majority of other managers wouldn't have made.

Michael Pineda and John Danks tomorrow night. I'll be in sweet sweet Bend, so do not expect much in the way of weekend coverage, unless it is of Bend-area volcanoes. There are so many of them!