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Mariners Salvage Finale Of Three-Game Series In Cleveland

<em>Shouldn't there be four of us</em>
Shouldn't there be four of us

It took three separate visits and a little over four months, but at last, the Mariners were able to complete their three-game May series against the Indians in Cleveland. They completed it with an abbreviated 12-6 win, and in so doing avoided a sweep that would've been hard to take at the beginning and pretty irrelevant at the end. So I guess a sweep wouldn't have been a big deal. But it's nice to not get swept.

This series began on Friday, May 13th. I remember that game pretty vividly. Fausto Carmona had a no-hitter through 4.2 innings before Carlos Peguero blasted a homer. Justin Smoak later homered to put the Mariners in front, and the M's carried a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, which was when we had to leave the apartment for a Portland Winterhawks game. I listened on the radio as Peguero had defensive trouble and Brandon League surrendered a walk-off homer to Travis Hafner. That was the fourth loss in four appearances for League, back when his appearances were important.

It's interesting to go back to that game. Things were so different. Presented below are the Mariners' starting lineups from May 13th and September 19th, which you may recognize as being today:

Ichiro Suzuki, RF Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Chone Figgins, 3B Luis Rodriguez, SS
Justin Smoak, 1B Mike Carp, 1B
Jack Cust, DH Miguel Olivo, C
Adam Kennedy, 2B Kyle Seager, 2B
Carlos Peguero, LF Wily Mo Pena, DH
Brendan Ryan, SS Alex Liddi, 3B
Michael Saunders, CF Trayvon Robinson, CF
Chris Gimenez, C Chris Gimenez, LF

This series began back when Justin Smoak was amazing. This series began back when Carlos Peguero was a new thing. This series began back when Chone Figgins' still had somebody's confidence, and this series began back before Franklin Gutierrez made his season debut.

This series began when the Mariners were five games out of first place. This series began when the Indians had the best record in the league.

Don't those things seem like forever ago? The next time you hear a Mariners fan remark that the baseball season just flew by, remind him of the time that Carlos Peguero was the team's new and interesting young slugger. That was this season. That was a fifth of the way into this season.

So this series began with an Indians walk-off on May 13th. It was supposed to continue May 14th and conclude May 15th, but instead everybody was given the weekend off courtesy of Cleveland's uniquely miserable weather patterns, with the two games rescheduled for August 23rd and September 19th. The former would be the first half of a day/night doubleheader, while the latter was pegged for a mutual off day.

How'd the second game of the series go? Not entirely too different from the first, it turned out. The Indians took the lead, the Mariners rallied back, and Brandon League took the blown save and the loss when he coughed up a walk-off homer, this time to Shin-soo Choo. Though the first two games were separated by time, they were brothers in spirit.

That's what put the Mariners in position to finally get swept this afternoon. It didn't look good when the forecast called for more rain, and it looked even worse when the Indians took a 3-0 lead in said rain, but then the split-squad roster the Mariners sent to Ohio woke up and started pummeling the home side into oblivion. A nine-run inning of all things put the M's well out in front and made a winner of Charlie Furbush, and the only thing left to see was whether the umpires would call the game once it was official, or allow the teams to play through the wet conditions. (They did neither, delaying the game after the seventh and then calling it a half-hour later, such that however many fans remained stuck around for no reason.)

Sweep averted. And now, at last, we're finished with Cleveland. Oh, thank God, we're finally finished with Cleveland.

Let's throw some bullet holes onto the internet:

  • This was an interesting game for Charlie Furbush. If I told you that a pitcher needed 95 pitches to get through five innings, allowing ten hits, six runs and two homers, you'd assume that he was probably pretty terrible, right?

    Now, what if I told you that a pitcher threw 64% of his pitches for strikes, racking up one walk, eight strikeouts and a 76% contact rate? You'd assume that he was probably pretty terrific, right?

    You can see where I'm going with this. All of those numbers describe Furbush's performance this afternoon, where he was either quite good or quite bad, depending on what you look at. Me, I'm encouraged by the strikeouts, but there's no ignoring that the Indians tagged him for four extra-base hits. Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana, specifically, tagged him for four extra-base hits.

    Still, here's what Furbush has done over his past three starts, facing the Angels, Yankees and Indians:

    17.2 innings
    2 walks
    17 strikeouts

    Yes, there's been contact. Some hard contact. But that's a positive K/BB ratio for a guy still trying to feel his way out as a Major League starter, so it's good to see that progression. Maintain a good K/BB, and the rest will fall into place.

  • The official announced attendance for this game was 15,354. This is a screenshot of Asdrubal Cabrera's first inning home run:

    That guy who plays the drums wasn't even there, and that guy is always there. The only fans at Progressive Field today were fans who had remained at Progressive Field since the last home game, as they didn't want to return to their houses in Cleveland.

  • There was nobody in attendance. The skies were dark. When the Indians hit home runs, they play a siren over the sound system, and today the Indians hit two home runs. This felt like the most apocalyptic baseball game I've ever watched.

  • Alex Liddi got his first Major League hit out of the way a week and a half ago when he ripped a double off the left field wall at Safeco, but today he checked in with his first Major League home run, as he lifted a fly ball to left that got out by maybe one or two feet. It wasn't the most impressive home run ever hit, there was nobody there to see it, and Dave Sims didn't know if it was a homer at first so the TV call wasn't great, but a first home run is a first home run, and even better, Liddi hit a curveball. Now, whenever anybody says that Liddi can't hit a breaking ball, we can reply that he did, once.

    A part of me was concerned that the game would be canceled before it was official and Liddi's home run would be wiped out. That would happen in Cleveland. It didn't happen, but I'm still annoyed at Cleveland just because of the possibility.

  • The Mariners' nine-run third inning - their biggest inning since 2008, in case you're trying to correlate these things with team success - was punctuated by a grand slam off the bat of Mike Carp. This is the pitch that Carp hit:


    Chad Durbin came inside with a 1-1 cutter a little off the plate, and Carp turned on it, launching the ball into the upper deck down the right field line. The TV estimate was 455 feet, and even though those estimates have a tendency to be a little high, the grand slam was obvious off the bat and the flight path was majestic.

    Carp has proven his pull power on inside pitches. He's shown the ability to hit for power up the middle and the other way. Now it's just a matter of laying off bad pitches. Simple, right?

  • This game was pretty convincing evidence that rain doesn't actually reduce run-scoring or fly ball distance, contrary to what I understand to be the conventional wisdom.

  • Wily Mo Pena walked in each of his first three plate appearances. Three straight walks, none of them intentional. More improbably, two of those walks came in full counts, so it's not like Pena was ahead 3-0 and taking all the way. He had to decide to take, and walk. You might not have guessed that he's had a three-walk game before, once, on May 17th, 2007 against the Tigers. Starting that game for the Tigers, and walking Pena twice, was Chad Durbin. Durbin relieved and issued Pena's third walk today.

  • At one point later in the game, while going over the MLB standings, Dave Sims asked Mike Blowers if he thought the Giants have it in them to mount a late charge for the playoffs. Blowers' response was "nope", followed by five or ten seconds of complete silence.

Now it's off to Minnesota, where tomorrow Jason Vargas will take on Liam Hendriks. If weather permits, which it may not. At this point the Twins are probably seeding the clouds on purpose.