There was a Sounders game yesterday afternoon against Real Salt Lake that took place across the street. I didn't watch it, but my understanding is that the Sounders lost 2-1, with Real Salt Lake's first goal being an own goal that the Sounders' keeper scored against himself. (ed. note: you shouldn't do that!)
So today, in a show of solidarity with their neighbors, the Mariners lost to the Royals by a final score of 2-1, with the Royals' first run scoring on a sun double that Mike Carp couldn't grab with two outs. I think run-scoring defensive errors are about as close as a baseball team can get to allowing an own goal, unless you consider a bases-loaded walk or wild pitch to be more pure.
One might wonder: why didn't the Mariners put on their show of solidarity last night, at their first opportunity? One answer might be that they had too little time to prepare. Another answer might be that there was some internal conflict over whether a show of solidarity was necessary in the first place. Still another answer might be that since when do we expect the Mariners to do something right?
I wrote last night about how the Royals might've turned in their best statistical team pitching performance of all time. This afternoon, they didn't turn in a better performance, but they did once again achieve something they'd never before achieved.
This afternoon, Everett Teaford, Blake Wood, Greg Holland and Joakim Soria combined to strike out 12 of the 33 Mariners they faced. Yesterday, of course, Royals pitchers struck out 16 Mariners. On Friday, Royals pitchers struck out 12 Mariners. And on Thursday, Royals pitchers struck out 11 Mariners.
On Wednesday, Royals pitchers struck out just five Oakland A's. But we're talking about four consecutive games with at least 11 strikeouts - all against the Mariners. And as it happens, this is the first time the Royals have struck out at least 11 batters in four consecutive games in franchise history. They'd gotten to three in a row once before, back in 1993, but never four. This is uncharted territory.
This is just the 15th such streak in the history of Major League Baseball. Of those, 14 streaks have ended at four, and one streak made it to five (2005 Brewers). Royals pitchers have been doing something extraordinary, and Mariners batters have been helping them out.
While I'm trapped in the wardrobe world that is Baseball-Reference's Play Index, it's worth noting that this was also the 39th time this season the Mariners have struck out at least ten times in a game. Their previous team record was 33, in 1986. After that, 29, in 2010. They reached #34 on August 27th, and since then they've just been pushing the new record higher and higher. In case you hadn't noticed, these guys strike out all the time now.
It'd be one thing if they were striking out and walking, but since the All-Star break the Mariners have baseball's lowest walk total and second-highest strikeout total. Of those 39 double-digit strikeout games, 21 have happened since the break, and in only six of those 21 games have the Mariners drawn more than three walks. These guys have been hacking, and these guys have been missing.
Not that it matters much. This season's been dead for ages. There's been a lot of inexperience in the lineup. Inexperience is often going to look ugly. But for those of us who're still watching, it's felt like a strikeout is coming every second or third at-bat. It makes you wonder about that August 29th game against the Angels where Joel Pineiro struck out just two dudes in six innings. Joel, my man, you're terrible! You're terrible! How do you pitch!
Some bullet holes for Mariners fans and Seahawks fans who realize the Seahawks suck too:
- Congratulations are in order for Anthony Vasquez, who made it through six innings while allowing only two runs. Vasquez thus avoided becoming just the third starter in history to allow at least six runs in each of his first four starts. (He is still one of just six starters in history to allow at least six runs in each of their first three starts.)
Vasquez didn't succeed by lighting up the radar gun or missing a ton of bats, of course, but rather by throwing strikes. Finally, throwing strikes. His first three times out, Vasquez threw just 61% of his pitches for strikes. This afternoon, he was up at 74% - 64 out of 86. He didn't walk a single batter, and though he hit Chris Getz in the fifth, he only just nicked him.
Vasquez doesn't suddenly become super dangerous when he's pounding the zone or working ahead, but it does give him just enough of a boost to get by without getting blasted. One notes that the Royals still hit him for seven line drives. He's limited. Even when effective, he's limited. But today he did enough to survive, and even though he lost, now Anthony Vasquez has a Major League start he can be proud of. That'll make for a special memory.
- Speaking of special memories, the ninth inning brought us the Major League debut of 28-year-old Steve Delabar, who we all now know to have been a substitute teacher only a handful of months ago. Delabar's the latest incredible story on a roster full of incredible stories, and he blew through the system on the back of his newly-discovered mid-90s heat and his mid-80s split. Today he got his first call out of the Mariners bullpen, and he didn't only debut - he impressed.
Steve Delabar's first-ever Major League pitch was a blazing fastball that Alcides Escobar swung through for a strike. Three pitches later, Delabar got Escobar to fly out on a low-inside splitter. The next batter was Alex Gordon, who Delabar punched out with a low-inside fastball. And finally there was Melky Cabrera, who Delabar punched out with a high-outside fastball.
Delabar threw 13 pitches. Of those, 11 were strikes. Of those, five were whiffs. His fastball clocked in at 94-96, and his splitter arrived at 86-88. Gordon and Cabrera have both been good hitters this season, and Delabar had them on the defensive.
You don't want to make too much of an inning, especially given that Delabar walked 40 guys in 56 innings in the minors. The Mariners will need to see more of him. But I personally can't wait for his next appearance, because today he was almost unhittable. Unhittable, with big league-caliber stuff.
For Steve Delabar, I don't think it would've mattered if he got the crap beaten out of him. He was, after all, pitching in the Major Leagues. But he didn't get the crap beaten out of him. Just the opposite, actually. Against all odds, for Steve Delabar, the story just got even better.
- When Delabar came into the game, Rick Rizzs referred to him as the "real-life, breathing version of Jim Morris."
- In the bottom of the fourth inning, Dustin Ackley led off with a weak bunt single up the third base line. Mike Carp followed with a blistering line drive into right that Jeff Francoeur caught, and Francoeur threw to first to double Ackley off. Justin Smoak then pounded a line drive into the outstretched glove of Alex Gordon. For those of you keeping track, that's one hit and zero outs on dribbling grounders, and zero hits and three outs on screaming line drives.
- On ROOT Sports, which was broadcasting a mid-September game between the then-61-86 Royals and the then-61-84 Mariners, they ran a promo urging viewers to sign up for 2011 MLB.tv.
- Two days after talking about how the Mariners had put some distance between themselves and the Royals in the draft standings, the M's are right back down in fourth, by percentage points. They're a full 12 games out of the top spot because the Astros have been fielding a lineup of golden retrievers for the past month and a half, but they're only two games behind the Twins and two and a half games behind the Orioles. It really does make the losses a lot easier to take. At this point you could argue that every single Mariners game is win/win.
Felix Day tomorrow. You always watch on Felix Day.