I'm gonna level with you - it's 10:45pm and I'm only just now starting this recap. The game ended more than two and a half hours ago, but I needed some time to just not think about baseball. So now I'm trying to write about a game right after a block of time set aside for the specific purpose of trying to forget about the game. I apologize if the details are a little fuzzy.
But anyway, when I created the game thread and looked at the respective lineups, it was hard not to wonder. Not about Kevin Slowey, but about Michael Pineda. This was to be Michael Pineda's final start of what's been an extraordinary rookie season. He was to make that final start against the Minnesota Twins, and not even the Minnesota Twins at full strength. A depleted version of the Minnesota Twins, a version of the Minnesota Twins starting guys named Benson and Parmelee and Dinkelman and Plouffe. A version of the Minnesota Twins with a ten-game losing streak and baseball's worst run differential. Could Michael Pineda close his season with a no-hitter? It sounds absurd, but then, it didn't when I thought it, and he's tried for no-hitters a few times before.
Michael Pineda's no-hit bid was over after five pitches. With one out in the first, he allowed a single, then another single, then another single. Michael Pineda wasn't going to do anything special.
But Kevin Slowey got a notion. I guess I had it coming, since I'm a Mariners fan who was laughing at another team's lineup, but Kevin Slowey decided to try to do what Michael Pineda couldn't. He threw a 1-2-3 first. He threw a 1-2-3 second. He threw a 1-2-3 third, and after pitching around an error and throwing a 2-3-4 fourth, he threw a 1-2-3 fifth. After five innings, the Mariners were hitless, and if they had made any solid contact to that point, it's only because the definition of "solid" is wrong.
So the tables were turned. I understood that I would be writing about a no-hitter, but not about the no-hitter I kind of expected. About the no-hitter I should have expected, knowing the way sports have usually worked.
Then everything changed in an instant. Not immediately. The Mariners began the sixth with two more outs. But Ichiro snapped Slowey's bid with an infield single, the way you always think that Ichiro will break up a no-hit bid, and a pitch after that, the 2-0 deficit was cut in half. Four pitches after that, the game was tied. From slumber, the Mariners came to life.
And in the seventh, they continued. Trayvon Robinson singled home a pair. Ichiro plated him for insurance. Just enough insurance, as, in the end, the Mariners held off a late rally and won 5-4.
The Minnesota Twins chased Michael Pineda. They chased him after four innings. Meanwhile, they kept the Mariners hitless until there were two outs in the top of the sixth. The Twins did these things, and still they found a way to lose. A way to lose, for the eleventh consecutive game. Did you notice that the Twins have lost eleven consecutive games? The Twins have lost eleven consecutive games. I'm beginning to understand how.
I had an aborted version of this recap that began with the premise that the 2011 Twins are virtually indistinguishable from the 2011 Mariners. It was an aborted recap for a reason; the more I thought about it, the less I thought it made sense. The Mariners have not been very good, but for a variety of reasons, the Twins have been a whole other kind of ballclub. A whole other kind of ballclub on a whole other level.
Look at all these people who thought the Twins would win the AL Central. It's September 21st, and the Twins have a worse run differential than the Astros. They have a worse run differential than the Cubs, Royals and Padres combined. I'm not saying it's all their fault because they've had some shit luck, but what's happened has happened, and that situation has to be so depressing. It depresses me, and I don't have any reason to give two shits. When I accidentally ran over a cat in high school, I was over it in an hour. The Twins still bum me out.
Whoa, I just wrote a lot about the Twins. I guess I didn't end up writing about a no-hitter after all.
Bullet holes! Precious, hours-late bullet holes! Less than half a day before the next baseball game begins! This is time well spent on my part.
- Michael Pineda didn't close out his season the way that he and we would've liked. He struggled his way through four innings, striking out just two while putting eight guys on base. A few of those hits only barely squeaked through the infield, but still. Pineda didn't look sharp, and his velocity was down. On extended rest, in cold weather, he looked rusty to the eyes, and he topped out in the low 90s.
A few months ago, that would've been cause for concern. Truthfully, any velocity drop is always a cause for concern until a reasonable, non-injury explanation is provided. I saw Pineda in the dugout talking to the trainer after the fourth, and the trainer was testing his grip, which raised my eyebrows.
But here's what's important: Pineda made it. Pineda made it all the way through his first Major League season, incident-free. Even if there's some wear and tear in there, which there probably is, it's basically his offseason now, and he won't be throwing for a while. So little things will be given the opportunity to heal. At last, we can stop worrying about Michael Pineda staying healthy. He stayed healthy. For the first full year, he stayed healthy.
And what a year. We'll have plenty of time to look back on all that Pineda did, but now that he's officially finished, holy crap. Holy crap!
- An early-game graphic on the ROOT Sports broadcast, with screenshot via @MikeSciosciaTI:
So that probably should've read "Top A.L. Announcer Duos." And so Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris aren't really an announcer duo. And so they technically should've specified which WAR they were using. That's being picky. This is a Major League Baseball broadcast putting WAR in front of thousands and thousands of people. And not for the purpose of making fun of it! Rather, for the purpose of having fun *with* it!
- There have been so many firsts and so many good stories on this team. That's just something that happens when you have a team with so many young players. Tom Wilhelmsen's first win. Steve Delabar's first game, and first win. Trayvon Robinson's first home run. Alex Liddi's first home run. Dustin Ackley's first home run. Kyle Seager's first home run. And so on. All of these moments have been special, but because they've come with such frequency, it's been difficult to appreciate them to the extent that they should be appreciated.
Tonight we had another first. After relieving Jeff Gray, Cesar Jimenez spun 1.1 scoreless innings, and came away with the first Major League win of his career. The first win, after he debuted on September 11th, 2006. Five years later, he improved from 0-2 to 1-2.
That's incredible. Jimenez's whole story is incredible, what with the injury problems and his perseverance. I don't think we can fully appreciate how much this means just because, whatever, another first, but for Jimenez, this is a milestone. His career might not go anywhere from here, but this win can never be taken away. Unless somebody were to reinvent the win statistic and then retroactively apply it so as to make things more sensible. But, good news about baseball and change!
- And here is Cesar Jimenez being weird with two outs in the bottom of the sixth:
Ben Revere is fast, but he isn't so fast that Jimenez should've thrown instead to a guy who was barely paying attention. Somehow that still turned into an out. A critical out!
- In the top of the seventh inning, Wily Mo Pena pinch-ran. There was a reasonable explanation, but in time, the internet history books will forget the second part.
- If you pay careful attention to Mike Blowers, you'll notice that he acts a little differently with tough plays at third base. Yesterday, for example, Alex Liddi was trying to track an infield pop-up in the wind, and today Liddi made a diving stop and then dropped the ball on the transfer, and both times Blowers chimed in with suggestions, as if Liddi could hear him. Blowers, of course, played third base during his career. He acts like the dad of third base.
- In the top of the ninth, Michael Saunders worked a full count against Scott Baker, who's apparently a reliever now, and then he drove a centered fastball deep to right-center. This, naturally, was the result:
Ben Revere ran it down and made a leaping catch, robbing Saunders not only of extra bases, but of his first hit since coming back from Tacoma. Saunders can be pleased with how hard he hit the ball, and we can be pleased with how hard he hit the ball, but Jesus Christ enough already, give the man a break. He has done nothing to deserve this misery! He is a sweet man!
- Kyle Seager's RBI double in the top of the sixth was hit to the track in left-center field, which isn't something we'd really seen from him. He didn't have a particularly notable game outside of that, but these semi-frequent reassurances that Seager can stretch the defense make me more confident in believing he can be a contributor. Maybe not as a starter - we'll see - but "role player" doesn't have to be an insult.
- Sometimes, when he's pitched away, Dustin Ackley gets under the ball and skies a pop-up into shallow left. Other times, he doubles.