On Monday night, the Los Angeles Angels learned that they had been eliminated from playoff contention, as the A's held on to beat the Rangers in Oakland. At that point, though, the Angels were already beating the Mariners in Seattle and it was late in the game, so the Angels didn't really cave. Prior to Tuesday night's game, Mike Scioscia was asked whether he expected a team-wide letdown to follow. The Angels were supposed to be a World Series favorite, according to many, and on Monday they found out they weren't even going to the tournament. It would be understandable if the Angels had trouble getting up for Tuesday night's contest. Scioscia declared that things would be fine, that as soon as the first pitch was on the way, this game would be like any other game, even though it didn't have any greater meaning.
The Angels subsequently lost to the Mariners 6-1, with that one run scoring with two outs in the top of the ninth. This was the Angels' worst loss to the Mariners in Seattle since May 9, 2010, and the Angels were charged with three errors. This was not one of them, but I still like to watch it over and over.
If this wasn't a team-wide letdown, then the Angels just looked like crap against the Mariners, and the Angels don't look like crap against the Mariners. It just isn't one of the things that they do. There's a reason why so many of us hate the Angels so much and it's because we practically never get to see them look like crap against the Mariners. They always manage to look unbeatable. Tonight's Angels were beatable, and extremely so, and while I don't actually think the Angels had given up before the game even got started, the timing is interesting. Quit holding the carrot in front of the rabbit and the rabbit might run off in any direction. Or the rabbit might just sit still or scratch itself. I don't know if this expression has anything to do with rabbits. Do you even know what expression I'm talking about? I should write this late more often, I don't even know where anything is going to go or where it's coming from.
Just the other day, seriously just last Wednesday, Felix Hernandez made history. Just last Wednesday, Felix Hernandez became the first pitcher ever to strike out Albert Pujols three times in the same game. Pujols' career began in April 2001 and he's established himself as one of the very greatest hitters in the history of the sport. What Felix did wasn't something that was going to make it to Sportscenter, probably, but it was amazing nevertheless, and it was something to add to Felix's growing list of accomplishments. I wrote at the time:
There may eventually be others to strike out Albert Pujols three times in a game, but King Felix will forever have been the first, and for now he makes up a one-man list. This isn't proof of Felix's dominance, but it does add to the bounty of evidence, and it's something we'll be able to reflect upon in the darkest, wettest days of winter.
Against Hisashi Iwakuma tonight, Albert Pujols struck out swinging on three pitches in the top of the first. Pujols struck out swinging on six pitches in the top of the third. Pujols struck out swinging on eight pitches in the top of the fifth. Last Wednesday, Felix Hernandez did to Albert Pujols something that never before had been done, in nearly two thousand career games. It took less than a week for Hisashi Iwakuma to follow in Felix's footsteps. I'm not gonna lie, it felt cooler when Felix was all by himself. This achievement sort of retroactively cheapens that achievement. But the only other pitcher to have done something Hisashi Iwakuma did is Felix Hernandez, and that's pretty great for Hisashi Iwakuma. If striking out Pujols three times in a game is a sign of Felix's dominance, then it's also a sign of Iwakuma's dominance, and we seldom expect Iwakuma to be dominant.
He posted a walk and seven strikeouts over six shutout innings. 12 of 18 balls in play were grounders. 72 of 105 pitches were strikes. Iwakuma finishes as a starter with a 2.65 ERA over 16 turns, and with 27 unintentional walks and 78 strikeouts. His worst starts might've been his first ones. If the Mariners wanted to better understand how much Iwakuma is capable of as a starting pitcher in the major leagues, what they've found out is that Iwakuma is capable of a ton, and he finished strong. There's now no doubt in my mind that the Mariners ought to try hard to re-sign Hisashi Iwakuma, even with the Safeco fences changing. They have the money, he's open to it, and he's good. I mean that's basically what a "match" is. This is a good match that should not be unmatched.
And those fences were kind of the story of the day. They'll probably be the story of the week or the story of the month, if not the story of the entire offseason. Most people didn't really care about the meaningless game between the Mariners and the Angels; most people wanted to think about how different ballpark dimensions might affect the Mariners organization going forward. It's worth considering, at length. Some effects will be intuitive, and some effects, no doubt, will be somewhat counter-intuitive. Jeff Kingston talked about how the changes could actually further reduce doubles and triples. But if you watched this game and paid attention to it, you were given a glimpse of how Safeco could play differently in 2013.
Of course the day the Mariners announce they're bringing in the Safeco fences, the Mariners score six runs in eight innings against the Angels pitching staff in Safeco Field. But the Mariners could've scored more than six, and the Angels could've scored more than one. The Angels had at least one deep fly ball that might've left 2013 Safeco Field. Michael Saunders had a double that might've left 2013 Safeco Field, and Casper Wells had a pair of fly outs that might've left 2013 Safeco Field. There might've been even more close calls than that, too, but for some parts I was otherwise occupied. Tonight's game featured a number of could-be dingers. A year from now, those might be should-be dingers, and it's hard not to be excited. I don't think the overall effect on the Mariners will be a profound one, but it'll just be good to see Safeco Field hosting some different baseball. Right now it can be hard to drag yourself down to the ballpark because you know you might be in for nine hollow innings of getting closer to death. Next year there should be better odds of offense, and change is good. A different, more offense-friendly ballpark can help to keep people interested until hopefully some sustained winning can keep people interested. That's what we're all looking for, but the ballpark changes buy the Mariners some time with regard to our collective patience.
In this game, Kyle Seager hit his 20th home run, and just his fifth home home run. Overall, we can say that Seager did a good job reaching the 20-dinger mark. Prorate his road stats and maybe he could've hit the 30-dinger mark. It isn't that simple but it's clear that Kyle Seager has more power potential than a lot of people gave him credit for a year ago. In this game, Carter Capps threw some dynamite, well-located changeups to left-handed hitters. Capps threw seven changeups in all, and used one low and off the plate to whiff Kendrys Morales. In this game, Mike Trout struck out three times. And in this game, Jesus Montero ran.
It's all over tomorrow. It all ends with Blake Beavan. If Blake Beavan ends up with a complete-game victory. So it probably won't all end with Blake Beavan. Last year's final game was started by Anthony Vasquez, and it all ended with Mike Carp striking out. I guess it doesn't really matter how it all ends; it only matters that it ends.