I said at the end of last night's recap that I hit a wall, and that I'd be fresher in the morning after coffee. Now it's the morning, but let's see if I'm fresher during coffee. This is a science experiment! I've been referring to science and scientists so often lately that I think I might be one. I think that's how easy it is to become a scientist.
- Not long ago, we talked about how the Mariners had a humiliatingly low team walk total, but also one of the lowest rates of swings at balls out of the zone in baseball. One should care more about the latter than the former, because the point isn't to draw walks - the point is to swing at strikes and, hopefully, punish some of them. Additionally, if you're not swinging at that many balls, then the walk total should pick up in time. It's science. (See?)
Well what do you know, but over the last two games, against a pair of right-handed sinkerballers, the Mariners have drawn 14 walks, against just eight strikeouts. They had 18 walks in the 11 games previous. They worked Justin Masterson, and they worked Derek Lowe. Lowe departed with six walks and zero whiffs. I don't know if you knew that. I'd check for the last time the Mariners did that to a pitcher, but I depend on Baseball-Reference so much that I don't want to break it.
The Mariners still have the second-lowest O-Swing% in baseball, assuming the numbers are updated. They have the second-highest contact rate in baseball, assuming the same. And this is with Miguel Olivo being a caricature of himself! I'm going to give this all more time to balance out, and let the Mariners face some more teams, but while one could be pessimistic about this offense, there's also reason to be encouraged. Encouraged that, at the very least, the offense might just feature too many bad swings at strikes, instead of too many bad swings at strikes and too many bad swings at balls.
- I don't have anything insightful or witty to say about Jason Vargas, because I think we've already said everything insightful or witty there is to say. He emerged with a very strong game line. He had one inning in which things seemed to come apart. He managed to not allow a run in that inning. In the top of the sixth, two walks and a single loaded the bases with one out, and Vargas had to deal with Shelley Duncan. I was going to write here that people might not have appreciated the magnitude of the threat, since Shelley Duncan isn't very well-known for his offense, but then I checked and it turns out people probably did appreciate the magnitude of the threat because it wasn't that huge after all. Vargas struck out Duncan with a wicked changeup. After that it was a simple matter of dealing with Jose Lopez, and I'll tell you what Lopez didn't do - hit a home run to right field. Vargas worked around his one major threat while Kevin Millwood didn't, and that's why Vargas won and Millwood didn't win.
- In the bottom of the fourth, Dustin Ackley hit a line-drive comebacker right at Derek Lowe's head, and Lowe just managed to duck out of the way. This isn't anything new - there's a long history of line-drive comebackers, and we've seen at least one or two of them in every Felix start he's ever made. I think if you're a batter, you can send a message by hitting a home run or a double or by laying off a good pitch. But I think you send the clearest message by hitting a line-drive comebacker at the pitcher's head. It's like "here, have this back."
Munenori Kawasaki started instead of John Jaso, and the reason given was because Eric Wedge wanted to get Kawasaki into a game. It'd be easy to roll your eyes - Jaso's a better hitter, he's capable of playing first base, why doesn't Wedge like Jaso, etc etc etc. But maybe you don't understand. Eric Wedge had to get Kawasaki into a game. He had to get Kawasaki into a game. Munenori Kawasaki has more energy than anything I've ever seen in my life, and I've stared at the sun at least like a half-dozen times. He's constantly, constantly talking. He's always moving around, all of the time. When he was diving back to first base on pickoff attempts last night, he was doing push-ups. Wedge had to get Kawasaki into a game so he could release some of that energy. Had Wedge kept Kawasaki in the dugout, Kawasaki would've had to bottle most of that energy up, and then you're risking an explosion. I don't know what happens when Munenori Kawasaki explodes, but I know what happens when ordinary things explode, and I can't remember the last time I was like, man, I'm so glad that thing exploded. Wedge has to play Kawasaki every so often, nominally for baseball purposes, but mainly for safety.
- As mentioned, last night's paid attendance of 11,343 was the smallest for a Mariners home game in Safeco Field history. The Mariners have drawn a smaller crowd for a road game at Safeco Field, which is the weirdest damn thing to type. Except for this: shoes. I don't know, that just struck me as being really weird too. I don't think it's any great shock that we're seeing more and more smallest-crowd-ever tweets. We know that the Mariners have great attendance potential, but we know that they're nowhere close to achieving it. They aren't that good. But after last night, some thousands of people went home and told their friends and family that they saw Chone Figgins hit a home run with their own eyes. Look for attendance to spike, the way attendance spikes at places where Jesus shows up on a sidewalk or toast.
- Chone Figgins' dinger face:
Lowe: holy crap
Umpire: holy crap
Figgins: holy crap
Mariners: holy crap
Fans: holy crap
- Chone Figgins led off the bottom of the first with a home run, and after Dustin Ackley grounded out, Ichiro followed with another home run. Quote the left-center scoreboard:
The camera never pulled back, on either the Mariners or the Indians' broadcast, but I'm almost certain that says "BACK-TO-BACK JACKS". I guess if you get two home runs from Chone Figgins and Ichiro within minutes of one another, you're free to take some liberties with the definition of "consecutive". It's also possible the left-center scoreboard was flashing an advertisement for BackJack Online Backup Service, for all of your online backup needs.
- The Figgins home run and the Ichiro home run weren't hit to exactly the same spot, but they were hit to close to the same spot, and the balls wound up in the possession of two people sitting near to one another. The balls were made to touch:
That is an Ichiro home-run ball, touching a Chone Figgins home-run ball. This had literally never happened before in the world. They say no matter how much baseball you watch, you'll see a new thing every day. Yesterday, we saw a new thing. The newest of things, and the rarest of things.
- Ichiro homered in the first. He walked in the second. He hit a deep fly to center in the fourth. He hit a line drive to center in the sixth. Ichiro was killing the ball last night, and while I think we've figured out that he can't hit a home run to straightaway center in Safeco, this line-drive approach of his is showing legitimate promise, which - and I don't know if you know this - is amazing. Ichiro might really have just switched things up at 38. No biggie. No bigs.