Lately, I'd sensed that my hatred towards thewas waning a little bit. Not by much - not by enough to knock them down the list of my least favorite teams - but just by a little. By just enough to notice. Maybe it was a consequence of having the job that I have. Maybe it was a consequence of dating and living with an Angels fan. Maybe it was a consequence of simply growing up. But I'd think of the Angels, and I wouldn't...well this is going to sound stupid but I don't know how else to put it - I wouldn't see red. I'd see, I dunno, light red, or red-orange.
Then this afternoon, I got to reading. A few pieces have been written recently about the Angels' impressive run of success, including one by Johan Keri. They talked about how the Angels have consistently beaten the numbers year after year, and they talked about how the Angels are doing it again in 2011, and it all stoked that inner flame. Why the Angels? Why the Angels, still? Why do they get to be magic? Are they really magic? It has to be luck, right? Why do they get to be so lucky? Why do they get to be so consistently whatever they are?
Most of it, of course, comes out of jealousy - the Angels have been really successful, and thehave not - but jealousy is a powerful emotion, and while you shouldn't be jealous in life, you're free to be jealous in sports. It gets the jealousy out of your system, and it allows you to feel, which is the whole point. After reading up on the Angels this afternoon, I approached this game feeling the way I used to. I approached this game hating the Angels, and wanting ever so badly for the Mariners to step on them.
Well pour me out and call me buttermilk, but the Mariners stepped on them. They stepped on them nice and hard. Not in a lol-blew-you-out kind of way, but more in a I-bet-that-was-heartbreaking-for-you kind of way. They erased a small mid-game deficit, they kept the Angels at bay with a couple of rookie no-names on the mound, and they won late with the sort of offensive heroics we've come to expect from the other side instead. Historically, the Angels have won most of these close games over the M's. Historically, the Angels have just won most of the games over the M's. Tonight went the other way, and it was every bit as satisfying as I could've wanted.
The Mariners can't knock the Angels out of the playoff race. The math just doesn't work out that way. But between today and next Wednesday, they play the Angels seven times, so while they can't pull the switch, they can definitely tie the straps. This is when I want the Mariners to play like good little spoilers, and tonight, they got off on the right foot.
A handful of bullet holes from what turned out to be a hell of a game:
- On July 8th, Blake Beavan finished with zero walks and one strikeout. On August 6th, he finished with zero walks and two strikeouts. On August 12th, he finished with one walk and one strikeout. Finally, tonight, he pulled off the inevitable: he worked seven innings and threw 99 pitches, finishing with zero walks and zero strikeouts.
It was the third time this season that a starter has gone at least seven innings without a walk or a strikeout, as Beavan joins Kyle Lohse and, somewhat appropriately, Doug Fister. And the last Mariner to do it? Also somewhat appropriately, tonight's Angels starter, Joel Pineiro, on May 1st, 2006. It's only the sixth such start in Mariners franchise history.
It's such a Blake Beavan thing to do. Blake Beavan hasn't even been a Mariner for two months, and already I think he's pretty well understood. Blake Beavan is the kind of pitcher who can go seven innings without a walk or a strikeout. He won't do it often, but he'll do it often enough. He's always around the zone and he's always hittable, which means he's going to lean very, very heavily on defense, ballpark and luck.
That can work for him, and that can work against him. Tonight, it worked for him, as the Angels didn't do too much damage. You guys all know that I'd prefer to see some strikeouts, and I'm sure you guys would prefer to see some strikeouts as well, but failing that, I suppose no walks and three runs will do. When it comes to beating the Angels, an M's fan can't be picky.
- I haven't looked into this, but in my head, guys like Blake Beavan are the perfect matchup for guys like Mark Trumbo, from the hitter's perspective. Trumbo's an aggressive swinger who misses a lot and crushes the ball when he makes contact, and Beavan is so readable and hittable that, in theory, Trumbo's whiff concerns are mostly mitigated. Trumbo maimed a Beavan fastball in the fourth. Even if there's no truth to my idea, that was still one of the less surprising home runs I've seen.
- At one point early on, Beavan had thrown 31 strikes and 22 balls, and Mike Blowers remarked "the splits aren't what we're used to seeing from him - he's usually 2-to-1." The reason that stood out to me was because, even though it was hardly complicated math, how many times have we heard announcers get simpler problems wrong? How many times have we heard announcers outright joke about how bad they are with numbers? Maybe I've watched too much football. But still, kudos to Blowers, and even though it seems insincere and sarcastic to congratulate him on being at least as good at math as a second grader, I mean it. A lot of the guys in his line of work are numerical morons.
- I remember that Howie Kendrick got off to an amazing start to the season. Then I kind of lost track of how he was doing. Then tonight, the Root Sports info box said he'd hit six home runs in his last ten games. Intrigued, I checked Kendrick's numbers. Here are his home run totals by month:
- Mike Carp's home run off a hanging Hisanori Takahashi slider in the eighth was awesome enough, but it was made all the more remarkable by the fact that Jay Buhner had literally just called for it, right down to the Hit-It-Here Cafe detail. Dave Sims just wanted a grounder to the right side to move the runner up. Buhner asked, why not a homer? Then Carp mashed a homer. Moving the runner up is easy! You just need to hit a homer!
If you haven't seen the highlight, you should watch the highlight. It's the perfect call, and the perfect swing on that pitch. Carp said after the game that he didn't even feel the contact, which means Takahashi's slider found the sweetest of sweet spots. There are so few home runs hit in Safeco that are no-doubters off the bat, but with Carp's, there was never any question. Listen to Sims. Never any question.
It's impossible, I think, to watch that swing and not think "30+ home runs in 2012." People want the Mariners to land a big bat, and Carp isn't quite the guy they have in mind. But he has the ability to get least get most of the way there. Not bad for a former write-off.
- Why does showing bunt cause the defense to move around on subsequent pitches? It makes the defense aware of the bunt possibility, but shouldn't the defense already be aware of the bunt possibility? Shouldn't the defense be optimally positioned at the start of the at bat? This is an exploitable flaw in the system!
Casper Wells went 0-for-1 at the plate and still had a full game, thanks to three walks - two unintentional - and a pair of outfield assists. The unintentional walks were significant, since they were just Wells' fourth and fifth since joining the team. But the assists were more memorable. Wells showed off a strong, accurate arm in doubling off Erick Aybar in the seventh, and in throwing out Peter Bourjos trying to stretch a single in the third. Wells didn't throw Bourjos out on his first revolution, of course, but on his 3,231st. Bourjos moves around the bases like a test tube in a centrifuge.
- Just this afternoon I was observing that Dustin Ackley has five extra-base hits and zero homers in August. Tonight, he hit a long sac fly in the first, he singled in the third, he tripled to the right-center gap in the fifth, and he doubled to the left-center gap in the eighth. Both the triple and the double came on two-strike fastballs down the center of the zone, but Ackley pulled the triple off a righty, and went the other way with the double off a lefty. While Ackley was slumping, I was never concerned. I wonder if I ever will be. He might be too talented for concern.
- At one point, Jay Buhner referred to a blooper into the shallow outfield as a "filet o' fish." I have never heard this expression before, but coincidentally, a few minutes earlier I'd been thinking about how a bad pitch is referred to as a meatball, while a good fastball is referred to as cheese. So I have no idea if Buhner was making something up or dusting off the old baseball lexicon, because baseball is a hungry game. "He's throwing nothing but mustard out there." "The third baseman moves in on the lettuce." "Lately he's been swinging a real cinnamon stick."
- The odds are against Ichiro making it all the way to 200 hits, but he's sure as hell trying, as tonight's two doubles gave him 19 hits in his last 11 games. If he doesn't make it, I won't be surprised, and if he does make it, I won't be surprised. It's funny - his entire career, Ichiro has had to deal with the perception from some corners that he's selfish and simply interested in padding his numbers. All anybody wants to talk about right now with regard to Ichiro is whether he can reach 200 hits. You know what's another word for "number-padding"? "Producing."
- Tonight was the first time the Mariners' hitters have had at least as many walks as strikeouts since July 1st. And one of the walks was intentional.
Jerome Williams and Anthony Vasquez tomorrow night in one of those matchups nobody would've predicted in March. Vasquez was just learning to drive when Williams was considered a top prospect. They have an equal number of Major League starts over the past four years.