The last time Hector Noesi took the mound for the Mariners, he was going to work the night after a game of great disappointment. The Mariners had arrived at home for the first time at 4-4, and they had Felix Hernandez set to mow down the A's. The Mariners, of course, lost their home opener 4-0, and it was up to Noesi the next night to help the Mariners not scare away what fans they had left. Noesi was brilliant, spinning eight scoreless innings, and the sadness from the night before was relieved. And in the same game, Jesus Montero went 2-for-3 with a dinger. It was a good night for the Mariners and a good night to reflect on that trade. Without that trade, who knows how that game might've gone?
The third time Hector Noesi took the mound for the Mariners was this time, and he was going to work the night after a game of great disappointment. Felix had been absolutely untouchable, dominant and electric, only to see things come apart in the ninth. It was up to Noesi tonight to help the Mariners ease the lingering pain. There's nothing we can do to erase last night from our memories, but the Mariners could always bury it, bury it like an alarm clock that won't turn off under a pile of blankets, and tonight was a chance to get going.
Noesi was crap and the Mariners lost. Jesus Montero hit another home run - I say "another" as if it's been a common thing - and he threw out his first baserunner stealing, so in that regard it was a good night to reflect on half of that trade, but the other half turned in a clunker. Yeah, the Mariners got guys on base, and yeah, they could've come back, but Noesi was pulled in the second having put his team behind 6-0. The Mariners could come back from 6-0, in that mathematical odds existed, but that's not a very polite thing to ask them to do. The Mariners can barely take care of a dog. Hector Noesi asked them to take care of eleven dogs and a horse. I don't know why Hector Noesi has eleven dogs and a horse, but maybe it's all those distractions that're keeping him from blossoming as a pitcher.
We're three starts into Hector Noesi's 2012 season, and I don't have a clue what to make of him. Once, he's been tremendous, getting a little lucky but getting whiffs and inducing an unfathomable amount of infield pop-ups. Twice, he's been a wreck. In Texas, he was too hittable, and he didn't throw enough strikes. Tonight, he threw enough strikes - two-thirds of his pitches were strikes - but he didn't throw enough quality strikes. I guess this would be one of those games that demonstrates the difference between control and command. That's an assumption on my part, because I wasn't watching all that closely. But Noesi's strike rate shows control, while his terrible results show poor command. I don't think Noesi was spotting, and he apparently might not have good enough stuff to miss.
Pretty much whenever a guy like Blake Beavan or Jason Vargas starts, I'll say something in the recap to the effect of "I don't know what to say about this guy anymore." We know exactly what Beavan is, and we knew like three innings into his first game. We know exactly what Vargas is, and while we got a little interested in his twist, we were kidding ourselves by thinking he might not still be Jason Vargas. I haven't figured out the right way to approach writing about Beavan and Vargas, because I want to be different every time, but they make it hard to be different every time.
I might not have that problem with Hector Noesi. Early indications are that the writing's going to be different about Hector Noesi. Last time, I was impressed and perplexed, because I couldn't believe all the pop-ups. This time I'm perplexed again, kind of, and I can't project where Noesi goes from here. We need to see more. We need to see a lot more, since Noesi has very limited starting experience, but where the Mariners can say they know exactly what they have in Blake Beavan, they don't know exactly what they have in this guy.
One thing Noesi could stand to do is generate groundballs. Like even one or two of them. His groundball rate was tiny coming in, and tonight he kept one of nine balls in play on the ground. Maybe the Mariners try to get Noesi to work down in the zone. Maybe the Mariners try to get Noesi throwing a two-seam fastball. Maybe this isn't actually Hector Noesi, and he's still trying to find himself, and we'll see. Again, Noesi's a question mark. Not much is clearer now than it was a month ago.
A game like this is no treat to write about, and I'm sure it's no treat to read about. If there was one positive for me about last night's game, it's that it stirred enough emotion to make the words flow profluently forth. So I could feel like I did a good job, even though the Mariners didn't. Tonight the Mariners did a bad job, and now I get to feel like I'm doing a bad job, because while I'm finding words, I don't think they're very interesting or meaningful. As a matter of fact, if I were just a Mariners fan instead of a Mariners blogger, I don't think I'd want to read about this game at all. If I watched it, I'd forget about it. If I didn't watch it, I'd look at the box score, and then I'd forget about it. Who would want to read about an uninspired 7-3 loss to the White Sox on a Friday night? If you're reading this, why are you reading this? Why are you all the way down here? I appreciate your interest, but I assure you, a game like this doesn't leave me feeling like I have many interesting things to say.
We finally got to see Hisashi Iwakuma. For the first time in 15 games, we finally got to see Hisashi Iwakuma, but only after we got to see Erasmo Ramirez, which was weird since Ramirez inherited a 6-0 game and Iwakuma inherited a 6-1 game. When I started typing that sentence I thought Iwakuma inherited a 6-2 or 6-3 game but he didn't so now that sentence stands as a symbol of my forgetfulness. But it was weird that Iwakuma didn't come right into an early blowout. I figured that's what he was being saved for. But maybe he's just slower to warm up. Maybe Wedge intended to go to him the whole time. Maybe Wedge hasn't been afraid of Iwakuma at all and has genuinely just struggled to find the right spot. I don't know, I'm not in Eric Wedge's brain, nor do I have direct access to it. If I did, I'd command Wedge to grow the mustache back, and then I'd trigger all the neurons that would make his upper lip shiver back and forth. Hi, I'm Eric Wedge, I'm impossible to respect because I can't stop wiggling my mustache.
I wanted to write something creative about Iwakuma, something funny. I felt like his appearance deserved something funny. But again, games like this don't get those juices flowing. I could've written something creative and funny about Iwakuma, had the Mariners played better. Instead, they played poorly, and I don't have a muse. I'm just going to drily talk to you about Hisashi Iwakuma for a little while.
And he was fine. Look how creative I'm being. Iwakuma handled four innings of relief, and the majority of his pitches were strikes. He was reaching and barely exceeding 90 miles per hour with his fastball, and he got some promising whiffs on offspeed stuff near the dirt. Iwakuma didn't pull his debut straight from the Mark Lowe Handbook, which doesn't exist because Mark Lowe can't write, but there was nothing about Iwakuma that explained why he'd been hidden so long. A small part of me was hoping he'd show up and look positively terrible, and then I'd be like "oh, I get it now". I don't get it. Absolutely, some of Iwakuma's pitches looked hittable. Adam Dunn took him yard when he missed over the plate with an attempted inside fastball. But a lot of Erasmo Ramirez's pitches look hittable. Literally every single Blake Beavan pitch looks hittable. We'll see from here whether Iwakuma gets more of a chance, but he came in and he looked like a pitcher who could have success in the Major Leagues. Maybe he's just a complete asshole, but then he wouldn't even be a complete asshole in English. The more I think about this the more confused I get. Jeff Gray is tied for the Twins' team lead in appearances as a pitcher. This world we live in.
Erasmo Ramirez, by the way, had one of those appearances he was supposed to have. He faced 11 batters, and he was more or less Erasmo Ramirez the way he was billed. Three-quarters of his pitches were strikes. None of his pitches were outstanding. He just stayed in and around the zone and didn't look to be missing like he was missing recently. At one point he struck out Adam Dunn when he got Dunn to swing through an elevated 0-and-2 changeup. This probably isn't a very good 0-and-2 pitch to throw to Adam Dunn:
But it looked like a good 0-and-2 pitch to throw to Adam Dunn, as Dunn was caught off guard and wound up way ahead of it. I don't recommend that Erasmo Ramirez write home to boast about striking out Adam Dunn since Adam Dunn strikes out like he does it for exercise, but the combination of the changeup and the whiffed swing was sexy. Of all tonight's swings, by every batter that swung, it's actually Dunn's strikeout swing against Ramirez I remember the best.
Offensively, the Mariners actually had some positives. Their batting line was .257/.316/.457, and now that I look at that it isn't as good as I thought it would be. And the Mariners struck out 15 times. They struck out a whole lot, beating the season's previous high by 50 percent. The Mariners have been a very good contact-hitting team. Tonight, they weren't, against an assortment of low-contact pitchers. But the positives I was referring to were the five extra-base hits. Casper Wells launched a pair of doubles. Montero, as mentioned, hit another homer, and he hit another homer to straightaway center. We haven't seen much of Jesus Montero's power yet, but the power we have seen has been eye-opening. Montero drilled a ball out to center on a night that Adam Dunn annihilated a pitch to right that barely scraped by the fence.
And Montero threw a runner out, which was the first time he's done that as a Mariner. I don't know enough about catching to know what's a good pop time and what's a bad pop time, or what are good catcher mechanics and bad catcher mechanics, but if we only focus on the results, Montero threw out Gordon Beckham in the seventh. Don't ever focus on the results, never ever. I think the thing that dawned on me after Montero's throw arrived wasn't anything about Montero specifically, but something about catchers in general. Catchers are so accurate! They have zero time to prepare, they have a great distance to cover, and they throw so many balls to second perfectly! Catchers make me less patient with pitchers. What's your excuse, Dan Cortes? Oh, you can't locate your fastball over a distance of 55 feet? Your catcher can, over twice that distance, without getting set up. Pitchers are so bad at pitching. So much of pitching is surviving your own mistakes.
I think I've exhausted my material for the night. I'll note that, in the bottom of the seventh, Brendan Ryan pulled a double down the third base line. It got stuck underneath the padding on the wall by the seats. A young boy reached over and retrieved the ball while it was still in play. The boy's parents momentarily panicked, but nothing bad happened. Ryan got his double, and the boy got his baseball. Had that been an adult who reached over and grabbed the live ball, I'm pretty sure he would've been ejected. The boy wasn't ejected. Which means there's a point at which one becomes old enough to get ejected from a baseball game for interfering with a live ball. Is it ten years old? 15 years old? 20 years old? Is it a binary thing, or if you're close to the critical point, can you argue your way out of an ejection? Ushers and security guards have it rough. Not only do they have to sit there while the Seattle Mariners play baseball near them, but they also occasionally have to make decisions.
Man: Oh wow, you're really tall.
Sale: Thank you?
Man: That wasn't a compliment, it was an observation.
Man: That would be a weird compliment.
Sale: Yes, I am tall.
Man: Did you ever play basketball?
Man: I didn't think so, you don't seem very coordinated.
Man: Plus you're white, and obviously you play baseball instead and are good at it.
Sale: No basketball
Man: Just thought I'd confirm.
Sale: Would you please let me throw my pitches now, you are very distracting
Man: Why are you even responding to me right now
Tomorrow it's a 1pm matinee, with Philip Humber and Blake Beavan. Humber was the second-last Opening Day roster player to get into a game. Tonight, Hisashi Iwakuma became the last Opening Day roster player to get into a game. I bet that Humber and Iwakuma will not talk about that, and in fact I bet that they will not talk at all. I don't know why they would talk, they're not best friends.