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Blake Beavan, Mariners Shut Out Rangers, No Biggie

Felix looks weird from the back
Felix looks weird from the back

A few days ago, I read an article by a Pittsburgh writer, the gist of which was: welp, the Pirates are finishing below .500 again, for the 19th straight season. They gave it a valiant try, but in the end they just weren't good enough. The article was written after the Pirates lost to the Cardinals and fell to 67-82. They weren't going to finish .500. Everybody knew they weren't going to finish .500 by the end of their tailspin. But the writer wanted to wait until it was official. Because, I don't know, just in case.

And that's the way we do things. Oftentimes we wait until things are certain, just in case. You never know. And now that things are certain, I can officially tell you that the 2011 Seattle Mariners are not going to lose 100 games. They have 12 games remaining on the schedule, and even if they were to lose each and every one of them, the absolute worst they could finish is 63-99. Barring forfeits or whatever. I guess it's possible they could have to vacate their victories if an investigation establishes that they've been paying their amateurs under the table. I assume many of these players have been amateurs.

Okay, so they're not going to lose 100 games. Not losing 100 games isn't exactly an accomplishment, for anybody. Even those woeful Pirates have only lost 100 games twice during this run they have going on, and one must remember that the Mariners were 43-43 in July. That we're even talking about this shows how far they fell. But there's just something about reaching the triple digits that sucks the life out of a fan, where 62-100 feels about four times worse than 65-97. And now we don't have to worry about that anymore. We don't have to worry about this being the third time in four years that the Mariners reached the century mark. They might come close, and we'll know they were bad, but you know how people are. Big round numbers form arbitrary borders.

So why won't the Mariners lose 100 games? Felix Hernandez, first of all. Okay, but that's not what I meant. What happened today to render such a grisly achievement impossible? Oh, you know, the Mariners shut out the Rangers, behind eight scoreless innings from Blake Beavan.

I always look forward to Matthew's series previews, for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because I enjoy the statistical table at the top. I like the side-by-side comparisons, and even though I know I could get that information, or an approximation of that information, elsewhere on my own, I like the way Matthew lays it out all neat-like. It makes things easier for me.

I read Matthew's series preview this afternoon. I almost dreaded looking at the numbers at the top, but in an excited way. I knew this was a mismatch, but just how big of a mismatch was it? In case you missed the table, a repeat:

MARINERS (62-87) Δ Ms RANGERS (86-64) EDGE
HITTING (wOBA) -153.0 (30th) -4.3 101.9 (3rd) Texas
FIELDING 30.4 (5th) -0.1 29.6 (6th) Seattle
ROTATION (tRA) 22.1 (9th) 1.7 67.9 (3rd) Texas
BULLPEN (tRA) -11.4 (25th) 3.2 -12.0 (27th) Seattle
OVERALL(RAA) -111.9 (26th) 0.5 187.3 (2nd) TEXAS

That's a difference of more than 250 runs at the plate. And that's a difference of nearly 300 runs overall. Nearly 300 runs overall! It's the middle of September, and the first-place Rangers had been nearly 300 runs better than the last-place Mariners! Three. Hundred. Runs. Are you getting it? I think you're getting it.

So this series looked lopsided from the outset, and tonight especially, because tonight matched Blake Beavan up against C.J. Wilson. Put another way, tonight matched a 4.69 FIP and a bad team up against a 3.22 FIP and a good team. Blake Beavan's all right, I guess, but he hadn't shown himself to be special, and the Mariners can't hit. C.J. Wilson, meanwhile, has picked his game up considerably from last year, when he was already good, and the Rangers can hit. Even without Mike Napoli or Nelson Cruz in the lineup, the Rangers can hit.

And the result? 4-0, Mariners. Because baseball. It's not the first time the Rangers have been blanked this season. They've been blanked by guys like Andrew Miller, Zach Britton and Brett Cecil. But you still wouldn't expect that lineup to struggle, and especially against a contact guy like Beavan. This start pretty much came out of nowhere, and then Brandon League slammed the door.

It was the first time the Mariners have shut out the Rangers since September 13th, 2009, in a game started by Felix. Before that, you have to go all the way back to September 26th, 2004, in a game started by Cha-Seung Baek. Baek went eight strong, allowing three hits with four strikeouts. Also weird.

This wasn't all about the pitching. The Mariners did score four runs, where one might've expected them to score zero or one or two runs. But then, you have to consider how the four runs scored. The first scored on a two-out grounder to Ian Kinsler that Kinsler rushed, throwing the ball away and allowing a runner to come in. The second scored on a wild pitch three pitches later. The third scored a few minutes after that, when a routine Mike Carp grounder up the middle hit second base and bounced away from Elvis Andrus, just as Carlos Peguero's grounder did against the Angels so many months ago. The Mariners didn't exactly earn that rally. They earned Casper Wells' solo homer in the seventh, but that was a solo homer.

So while this wasn't all about the pitching, it was mostly about the pitching. And most of the pitching was Blake Beavan, whose eight innings used up only 95 pitches. I present to you two seemingly incongruent statistics:

  • 64/95 strikes (67%)
  • 12/27 first-pitch strikes (44%)

Beavan threw strikes, but he didn't get ahead with strikes. He battled back with strikes. And still, he did what he did. Even better, he did what he did with nine whiffs out of 44 swings. His fastball was good, his curveball was good...everything was good, and so the results were good. Blake Beavan pitched like a solid Major League pitcher against a very good lineup.

I did not see that coming. I did not see this result coming. Not in a million years. Tomorrow pits Anthony Vasquez against Colby Lewis. You'd think I'd be super pessimistic, but who even knows anymore? Baseball!