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Mariners Near Complete Strikeout Set In Loss To Yankees

This is actually from Monday but I love it
This is actually from Monday but I love it

There are a handful of expressions I've come to associate with my youth. One is "come on get out of here!" A second is "Denver the last dinosaur / he's my friend and a whole lot more." And - and you should know that I'm not sharing all of them - another is "collect them all!" This last one doesn't refer to anything specific, but I remember hearing and seeing it all the time on TV and cereal boxes and what have you. Sometimes it was "collect all four!" Sometimes it was "collect all six!" And sometimes it was "collect them all!", if there were too many units, or if the company just didn't want to count.

And I tried to. I tried to collect them all, no matter what they were. Some people are moderately obsessive collectors, and I was one of them. If there were new Happy Meal toys, I wanted all of them. If there were new toy planes at the air show, I wanted all of them. If there was a new player on the Ottawa Senators or Seattle Mariners, I wanted his card. I'm pretty sure the only thing that stopped me from trying to collect entire card sets was limited money, but that didn't stop me from buying whole boxes. I loved buying boxes.

I bring this up because, just as I was an obsessive collector, I'm thinking the 2011 Mariners might be obsessive collectors. Allow me to explain.

On Opening Day, against Trevor Cahill and the Oakland A's bullpen, the Mariners struck out 14 times. For our purposes here, that set an early bookend. The Mariners proceeded to fill in the gaps below 14 until July 26th, when they faced CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees bullpen and struck out 18 times. That set a new bookend.

So on August 26th, they struck out 15 times against the White Sox. Then, just Saturday, they struck out 16 times against the Royals. It was then that I began to suspect that the Mariners were collecting single-game strikeout totals, and tonight only provides further evidence.

Tonight, the Mariners went hacking. They struck out 11 times against A.J. Burnett, which, for Burnett, was a season-high. They struck out one time against Rafael Soriano. They struck out three times against David Robertson. Then they struck out two times against Mariano Rivera. They had a total of 17 strikeouts with two outs in the ninth, and it was then that Ichiro got himself caught stealing to end the game.

Thus, for the first time all year, the Mariners finished with a team strikeout total of 17. I suspect Ichiro got thrown out on purpose so that the number wasn't jeopardized. The 2011 Mariners are obsessive collectors of team strikeout totals, and after tonight they have achieved strikeout totals of every single number up to 18.

Every number, that is, except zero. Getting that one's gonna be tricky.

I don't know what I have for bullet holes, but let's find out together:

  • If there's any silver lining to this one (ed. note: there isn't), it's that the Mariners made A.J. Burnett look really good. A.J. Burnett wasn't really good, of course, but the Mariners made it seem like he was. They struck out 11 times. They got him for just four hits and two runs. They swung and missed 19 times, including 14 times against his curveball. They only swung 23 times at his curveball.

    This is presented as a potential silver lining because A.J. Burnett is not a good pitcher, and everybody in New York hates him right down to his own teammates and coaches, but now everyone will have this game in their minds. In time they'll forget that he faced the Mariners, and they'll just remember all the swings and misses. All the sweet, sweet swings and misses. That makes it somewhat more likely that Burnett will occupy a role of relevance in the playoffs, and then it's A.J. Burnett maybe pitching important innings for the Yankees in the playoffs. Oh no, what were they thinking!

    This is obviously a stretch, but it's a stretch because I'm basically kidding, and also because one would have to stretch to find any possible shred of a silver lining after this loss. Everybody roots against the Yankees in the playoffs, right? Well now those Yankees might use a little more A.J. Burnett! Because of the Mariners! Now that's how you play spoiler!

  • I joked yesterday that Charlie Furbush didn't have a prayer against the Yankees a night after Felix Hernandez had trouble, but in truth, Furbush managed to turn in a damn respectable start. There was a home run and there were three doubles and there was other solid contact, but this was Charlie Furbush against the Yankees. You don't look for perfection. You look for adequacy, and what stood out the most to me was that Furbush finished with zero walks and six strikeouts. He tied his career low for the former, and he tied his career high for the latter.

    This was the 48th time out of 147 opportunities this season that an opposing starter has struck out at least six Yankees. Only one of those starts was also walkless - a complete-game shutout by Dan Haren. Alternatively, this was only the sixth time out of 147 opportunities this season that an opposing starter hasn't walked a Yankee, and three of those starts allowed multiple homers.

    Clearly, the Yankees are still a bad matchup for Furbush, just as they're a bad matchup for everybody. I don't necessarily think Furbush's numbers are repeatable. But what's done is done, and he did a fine job. He allowed some contact, but he's going to allow his contact, and his stuff looked sharp. I came away encouraged.

  • Jesus Montero was on second in the top of the fourth when Andruw Jones hit a grounder to short. Rather than stay put, Montero ventured too far off the bag, and Brendan Ryan threw him out trying to return. Later, in the sixth, Robinson Cano was on first when Montero lifted a fly out to center. Cano thought there were three outs instead of two, and got doubled off to end the frame.

    These are just little freak errors. Minor lapses of focus. They don't say anything about Montero, Cano or the Yankees. But next time some Mariner screws up on the basepaths and an angry fan shouts that playoff-caliber teams don't make those mistakes, remind him that the 2011 Yankees made two such mistakes in one game, and that the 2011 Yankees were amazing.

  • Courtesy of Mike Axisa, tonight I learned that Jesus Montero faced Charlie Furbush in his professional debut in July 2007. Montero was playing for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, while Furbush was playing for the Gulf Coast League Tigers. In Montero's first at bat, he hit a home run.

  • A.J. Burnett kept bouncing his curveball - or at least it seemed like he kept bouncing his curveball - and there was one sequence in the third when he bounced a curve, forcing Russell Martin to slide over to block it, and then Martin very angrily picked the ball up and returned it to the mound. Martin then came out for a conference. I do not think it was a pleasant conference. It must be really uncomfortable pitching to a guy you know is mad at you.

  • Sometimes I feel bad that A.J. Burnett probably doesn't have any friends. Then I remember that A.J. Burnett used to have nipple rings on purpose.

  • Some of Alex Liddi's family and friends were present in the upper deck, and they brought poster boards to spell out his name. However, there were only five of them, so they couldn't spell out "A-L-E-X-L-I-D-D-I", settling for "A-L-I-D-D-I" instead. In this way their sign was also an Italian stereotype.

  • I don't know what I'm supposed to say about Mariano Rivera's 600 saves. For one thing, he doesn't have 600 saves. He has 642 saves. This is also just the first of three consecutive milestones, since he'll tie Trevor Hoffman's all-time record with his next save, and then he'll set a new record with his next save after that. Plus, 600. It's just a big round number that isn't very different from 599. We didn't learn anything new about Mariano Rivera tonight. He's the greatest closer ever. He was already the greatest closer ever years ago.

    I guess big round number achievements are supposed to serve as opportunities to reflect on all that a player has done, and so it is worth remembering that, because of Rivera, the Yankees haven't had to worry about their closer role since 1996. But I don't know if we can truly appreciate Rivera's career while it's still active. I think he'll need to go away before we can all be like, holy shit, holy shit. All of that, for so long and with such consistency, with one pitch. That's amazing! That's amazing and impossible!

    I will say that something I'd never noticed about Rivera's stat line before are the 35 career intentional walks. It's so strange to imagine Mariano Rivera issuing an intentional walk. The team he's intentionally walked more than any other? The Seattle Mariners, with seven. Eight, including the playoffs. Edgar twice. Griffey twice. Paul Sorrento twice. Franklin Gutierrez once. And Ichiro, once.

  • Justin Smoak drew another two walks. That makes back-to-back multi-walk games. That's good. Jesus Montero picked up two hits and a deep fly out, but oh god dammit now I'm doing it too

  • Down one in the eighth, the Mariners had the bases loaded and two out when Trayvon Robinson pinch-hit against David Robertson. Among 291 pitchers with at least 50 innings, Robertson has the second-highest strikeout rate in baseball, at 37%. I appreciate Eric Wedge giving Robinson the opportunity, but that was a predictable opportunity.

  • After tonight, Tom Wilhelmsen has one walk over his last nine appearances, and 16 strikeouts. I wonder if Wilhelmsen and Steve Delabar are great friends or fierce rivals. It has to be one or the other. 

Ivan Nova and Jason Vargas tomorrow night. Do you know anything about Ivan Nova? Anything at all, besides his name and the team for which he pitches? All right, me neither! Ignorance-five!