Major League Baseball teams. Two of the top 30 teams in Major League Baseball. I need to clarify, just in case there's some impressive shit going on in high school, or Japan. Wladimir Balentien's over there, you know, and he always had a knack for the dinger.
I always end up fighting with myself over games like this. I mean, I watch and write. I watch and write about the Mariners. Watching and writing about the Mariners can be fun, but it's also work, and nobody likes doing work. So when I see that a team like this year's Mariners is set to face a team like this year's Twins in September, I wonder why they're bothering with the game at all. The game doesn't matter, and if they didn't play it, I could have the night off. The night off! I start to get annoyed at the game.
But then I get annoyed at me. It's a baseball game. All baseball games are interesting if you have the right attitude, and I shouldn't be so negative, since I'll miss it when it's gone. Besides, these games usually feature a bunch of young players who could fill a role down the road, and who wouldn't want to watch their progress? Following young players as they develop is one of baseball's greater joys.
So when these games begin, I'm usually in an uncertain state, where half of my brain is mad at the television and the other half of my brain is mad at the first half. At that point, things can go in one of two ways: either baseball justifies itself, or I get exasperated and think about anything but what's on the screen in front of me.
Thankfully, tonight, baseball justified itself. I wasn't the most enthusiastic I've ever been to watch Jason Vargas go up against Liam Hendriks, but in the end, the Mariners and Twins played a game that only the Mariners and Twins could play, in a good way. In a way that I'm glad I got to see.
Forget everything that happened before the seventh inning. This game was all about the eventual winning run, and a little ninth inning futility. First, in the top of the seventh, Adam Kennedy faced Brian Duensing with two out, men on the corners, and a 4-4 score. Lately, Kennedy's bat has looked even slower than usual, as if he's been swinging a rod of dark matter, and he got into a two-strike count. Duensing threw a sinker down and in, and Kennedy swung, making just the gentlest hint of contact. It was enough contact.
That hit was a single. Both the pitcher and hitter did poorly. The single won the game.
And it held up to win the game because the Twins fell flat on their faces against Brandon League in the bottom of the ninth. Their first two hitters reached. The third laid down a sacrifice bunt, but League made a poor throw to first, loading the bases with none down. Despite being ahead 5-4, the Mariners' win expectancy at that point was 27%, and the Twins were sending up the meat of their lean order.
Michael Cuddyer got ahead 1-0 then struck out on four pitches. Chris Parmelee hit a grounder to Mike Carp, who threw home for the force. Danny Valencia then got ahead 2-0 and pulled a weak grounder to Alex Liddi, who threw across the diamond to end it. No runs. A Mariners victory.
I felt dirty. A good dirty. Games between teams like this often end up with one team conventionally outplaying the other, and it's just normal, meaningless baseball. But today, who outplayed who? At the two most critical points, both teams were bad. The winning run scored on a play where both sides were bad. The final half-inning featured both sides being bad. This was by no means the sloppiest, ugliest baseball game I've ever seen, but it did come down to one team being a little less worse than the other, just the way it should've. And that made for an odd pleasure to watch.
I'll tell you one thing - the Twins really, really want that second pick. I suspect they really, really want the first pick, but they made that decision a little too late.
A few quick bullet holes. I really am going to try to write these faster than usual. I know I usually say that and then drone on like normal, but tonight I'm in a rush so I'm limiting my words and boosting my number of screenshots. Everybody wins!
- Jason Vargas made his first start on the road since introducing the twist, and poof went his velocity gain, as tonight he was right around where he always was before. He was not ineffective, but now one has to wonder whether the boost we saw with his pitches was real, or just the result of a measurement error at Safeco. I don't know why a velocity boost would be temporary, but then I also don't know why Safeco would report higher velocities, so I'm not sure what to do with this. Vargas will start once more before the end of the year. Maybe we'll learn more then.
- Trailing 4-2, the Mariners tied this game up in the top of the sixth on an Alex Liddi two-run homer. After swinging through two sliders off the plate, Liddi worked a full count against Liam Hendriks and pounded this slider out to left:
Tonight, we learned that Alex Liddi can destroy a terrible hanging slider.
- Tonight in Pointless Graphics:
- I warned you about the images. Here's how shallow the Mariners were playing Ben Revere:
Here's Ben Revere's spray chart, courtesy of Texas Leaguers:
The Mariners probably weren't playing him shallow enough.
- In the bottom of the eighth, Player For A Day contest winner Joe Benson lifted a towering infield pop-up. Alex Liddi settled under it, but the wind played tricks, and Liddi fumbled the catch. He looked up though and immediately threw the ball to second to barely get Benson, who was going for an extra base. It was a heads-up, experienced play for Liddi to make, which was good. It implied that Liddi has dropped infield pop-ups before, which is bad. Your successes reveal your history of mistakes!
- Mike Carp finished a remarkable 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles, lifting his average to .291 and his OPS to .839. He's only the third Mariners rookie to record a five-hit game, joining Rich Amaral and Joe Simpson. Carp already has more Major League home runs than Amaral or Simpson hit in their entire careers. Joe Simpson especially was really bad. Like, really bad. He's currently an announcer. Somebody should remind him of how bad he was.
- I've always thought of Wily Mo Pena as a guy who swings from the heels and tries to lift everything into the air. Pena has a career groundball rate of about 48%. The league average is about 43%.
Trayvon Robinson has 31 strikeouts in his last 67 plate appearances.
- I had never heard of Chris Parmelee before last week, but Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles told me that he wanted the Giants to pick Parmelee over Lincecum in the 2006 draft. I bring this up for two reasons. One, Parmelee was a big prospect in 2006. Two, everybody go make fun of Grant.
Michael Pineda makes his final start of the season tomorrow night. Watch it, and appreciate it. APPRECIATE IT.