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Mariners Defeat Superior Baseball Team

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the Mariners did this!
the Mariners did this!

Every single one of us agrees that the 2012 New York Yankees are a better baseball team than the 2012 Seattle Mariners, right? Coming into action today, the Yankees were 19-14, and the Mariners were 15-20. Coming into action today, the Yankees had a run differential of +21, and the Mariners had a run differential of -12. Coming into action today, the sum of the Yankees' ERA+ and OPS+ was 224, and the sum of the Mariners' ERA+ and OPS+ was 186. It's not all just sample-size noise, either; the last good projections I saw in February put the Yankees at 97 wins, and the Mariners at 74 wins. Granted, that was before Michael Pineda blew up, but that was also before Andy Pettitte announced his intentions to return, and replacing Michael Pineda with Andy Pettitte doesn't make the Yankees two dozen wins worse. Replacing Michael Pineda with Michael Pineda throwing left-handed wouldn't make the Yankees two dozen wins worse.

Plus, you know, they're the Yankees, and the Mariners are the Mariners. Every single season, the Yankees are one of the teams talked about as a title contender. The Mariners have fancied themselves fringe title contenders a couple times in the last few years, and in those years, they lost 101 games and another 101 games. The Yankees are just better than the Mariners. If these two teams spent the entire 2012 season playing only against each other, the Yankees would probably win 90 or 95 or 100 times, and we'd wonder why these two teams spent the entire 2012 season playing only against each other.

Coming into action today, the Yankees were favored to beat the Mariners, because the Yankees are better than the Mariners. Additionally, the Yankees were at home while the Mariners were on the road, and while the Yankees were starting a guy who hadn't pitched in the Majors since 2010, the Mariners were starting Kevin Millwood. If anything, the Yankees had the pitching advantage, too. It was all in order for the Yankees to win again and complete the three-game sweep.

And then the Mariners won! On this Sunday, the Seattle Mariners beat the New York Yankees, and they beat them by the same 6-2 score by which they were defeated the previous two days. With that in mind you could say the Mariners gave the Yankees a taste of their own medicine, as if there's something distinctly Yankee about a 6-2 final. You could say this but it would not be very convincing.

The Mariners arrived at the ballpark Sunday as heavy underdogs, yet it was the Mariners who came away triumphant. From one perspective, the Mariners simply salvaged a three-game series they'd already lost. From a more exciting perspective, the Mariners slayed the dragon! The Mariners beat the odds! The Mariners won a baseball game they were not supposed to win!

This wasn't exactly the Mariners' Miracle On Ice, but there's the same general spirit - on talent, the Mariners were overmatched. They needed to play with unusual consistency and unusual discipline if they wanted to stand a chance. They bent, they didn't break, and they earned a win that somehow isn't making national headlines.

This is all kind of tongue-in-cheek of course because worse baseball teams defeat better baseball teams all the time. Not all the time, because then they wouldn't be worse baseball teams and better baseball teams, but it is hardly uncommon. The good teams don't just sweep the bad teams. It's interesting to think about how this game might be handled if baseball played a football schedule, though. What if this were the Mariners and Yankees' only game of the week? We'd get five or six days breaking down where the Yankees went wrong, and where the Mariners went right. There'd be discussions, entire shows dedicated to analyzing how the Mariners pulled off their upset. That would be unacceptably dumb. Unsaid until now is that baseball is completely different from football and things that happen come very very close to being completely different things that happen. It's almost like it's a good thing that baseball has an enormous schedule and football has a piddly one. Especially on account of all the brain damage and death. Why would anybody ever play football? Is football even going to exist in 20 years?

Because this is baseball and because there are new baseball games almost every single day, in a short amount of time we will forget all about the Mariners shocking the Yankees on a Mother's Day afternoon. Today is all about this game. Tomorrow is all about the next one. Baseball games are waves by the beach - there are bigger ones, there are smaller ones, and there are newer ones, always crashing, one after the next, forever. I guess baseball has an offseason so baseball games are like waves by the beach in a sea that freezes over. Or just becomes terrifyingly, inexplicably still. "What is the matter with the water?" "I don't know but I don't want to stick around to find out."

Before we dive into the bullet holes, I'll say here that this was a fun baseball game to watch. Not just because the Mariners won, because not all Mariners wins are that fun to watch. This game was interesting and suspenseful from the beginning to almost the end, as even when the Mariners went ahead, it hardly felt safe with these pitchers against that team in that ballpark. Kevin Millwood easily could've melted down in the third, and he didn't, thanks to Derek Jeter. Kevin Millwood easily could've melted down in the fifth, and he didn't, thanks to Derek Jeter. The bullpen easily could've melted down in the eighth, and it didn't, thanks to Mark Teixeira. This was the sort of baseball game where it would've been totally justifiable to neglect your mom for three hours. Moms are always pretty understanding about being neglected for sports, anyway. If there's one thing that every mom totally gets, it's the importance of sport.

Time now for some Mother's Day bullet holes. You can tell that they are Mother's Day bullet holes because I introduce them here as Mother's Day bullet holes. As far as stylistic differences in the bullet holes are concerned, there are none. Why would there be any? You are strange.

  • Yesterday, Hector Noesi worked seven innings in New York, allowing five runs. Today, Kevin Millwood worked seven innings in New York, allowing one run. The easy and irritating angle is that Noesi couldn't make important pitches while Millwood could, and that's irritating because of what I wrote about last night. Noesi's results were worse than his pitches.

    But Millwood most certainly did make important pitches. I don't believe that it's a skill of Millwood's to elevate his game when he has to, and I don't believe that Millwood is better in clutch situations just because he's been around for so many years, but what matters today is today, and Millwood did his job today. In the bottom of the third, he faced Derek Jeter with two on and one out. Millwood stayed on the edges and got Jeter to bounce into a double play with a full-count inside slider. In the bottom of the fifth, Millwood faced Jeter with the bases loaded and one out. Granted, this was immediately after Millwood walked Russell Martin with the bases loaded and one out, but Millwood got Jeter to roll over on a first-pitch fastball low and away. That was another double play, and that ended the frame. Note that Derek Jeter swung at a first-pitch not-grooved fastball after a walk, which was the second walk in three batters. If that were a young Mariner, people would be flipping out. Jeter's not going to hear a word.

    For some reason it's a different Millwood pitch that's sticking out in my mind. In that same fifth inning, Millwood faced Eric Chavez with the bases loaded and nobody out. It was 0-and-2 after two sliders, and then Millwood spotted this:


    That pitch isn't always going to be called a strike in an 0-and-2 count against a left-handed hitter, but you couldn't draw up a better 0-and-2 pitch against a left-handed hitter. That was a huge pitch and out for Millwood, following walk be damned. That's the kind of pitch where the only hope the hitter has is to weakly foul it off.

    You're not interested all that much in Kevin Millwood. I understand. You just want to see the Mariners replace him with somebody younger and hopefully better. I am also looking forward to more youth joining the Mariners rotation. As long as Millwood's around, though, he can do some good, and with somebody else on the mound today the Mariners might not have won. Kevin Millwood helped to brighten your Sunday! Give him some credit for that.

  • The story from the Yankees' perspective was supposed to be about the triumphant return of Andy Pettitte. I don't actually have anything against Andy Pettitte, pretty much at all, because he seems like one of the good ones, but I don't know what he's actually like, and more importantly, it's a good feeling to prevent the Yankees from having good feelings. In the early going there was premature talk of a no-hitter, as Pettitte didn't allow a hit until there were two gone in the fourth, but maybe it isn't premature when it's the Mariners. Pettitte had been throwing a lot of balls, though, and eventually he was made to pay for his location. The top of the sixth saw almost nothing but solid contact.

    Sunday, the Mariners won. They also didn't allow Pettitte to leave to a rousing standing ovation, and they didn't allow Yankees fans to feel like Pettitte is the solution to all their rotation problems. Sunday, the Mariners did a lot!

  • Lately, Justin Smoak has hit a number of singles, which aren't what he's supposed to hit, but which are better than what he had been hitting before, which was nothing. "This juicer doesn't make juice, but it has stopped leaking oil that I don't even know how it got in there." Lately, Justin Smoak hasn't been the ideal Justin Smoak, but he hasn't been an automatic out.

    Today, Justin Smoak combined four singles into one hit, which is a dumb way of saying he hit a homer. In the fourth inning, Pettitte threw him a 1-and-1 slider pretty much right down the middle, and Smoak put a terrific swing on it. It was at least clear extra bases off the bat, and it managed to escape over the wall on a line. It wasn't that long of a home run, but it was Smoak hitting for legitimate power, so maybe he's going to be okay now. Or maybe he's going to be like Albert Pujols and continue to struggle. There's only so much you can do with a single home run, that is a single data point. You can't even try to draw a line. I mean, you can try, but it would be a complete guess.

  • Casper Wells provided critical insurance in the top of the sixth when he sliced an outside cutter from Pettitte off the right-field foul pole. Again, in most other ballparks that probably sails foul, but in Yankee Stadium it was good for two runs, and the Mariners needed those two runs. Nick Swisher was so disgusted that he retrieved the ball and just tossed it away rather than throw it to a fan. Casper Wells is probably something of an underrated talking point. The man is a versatile defensive outfielder with youth and a .799 career OPS. Why is it that he plays as infrequently as he does? I guess I kind of understand, and earlier on they were trying to give Chone Figgins every opportunity to get something going, but Wells is in a situation now where he's being platooned even though I don't think he should be limited to the lesser part of a platoon. Wells is probably a legitimate everyday player. Maybe he's not, but, how would we know? This is really making me resent the Doug Fister trade. Chance Ruffin and Francisco Martinez also make me resent the Doug Fister trade.

  • Jesus Montero hit another blast off the right-field wall that went for a single instead of a double. Something tells me Montero's career slugging percentage is going to undersell how hard he could hit a baseball. Later, Montero was on second when Alex Liddi pulled a groundball single into left. Montero arrived at third, and Dave Sims said "Montero will get the stop sign." Jesus Montero should only get the stop sign. There should be no other signs. Jesus Montero should stop at third base during his home run trots out of conditioning. If Jeff Datz were ever to wave Montero around third, the only explanation would be that he was hoping the catcher would forget about Montero and throw the ball somewhere else, or nap.

  • In the top of the first, Ichiro grounded into a double play. It was his fifth double play, putting him on pace for 23 double plays, and his career high is 11. Ichiro is now the team leader in double plays grounded into, one ahead of Smoak. "Is there any chance that will keep up?" you might ask. The answer is no. No there is not.

  • Casper Wells batted against Clay Rapada in the top of the ninth. Clay Rapada is awesome because of this thing he tweeted in February. The bases were loaded, and Wells bounced a slow grounder off of Rapada's glove. By the time Rapada tracked the ball down, Wells had himself an infield single, and there was nothing to be gained from Rapada throwing to first. The smart move would've been to eat it. Rapada threw to first anyway, and because all pitchers are terrible at throwing to people without facemasks, Rapada threw the ball away and the Mariners got an extra run. The run didn't matter and the damage stopped there, but given that pitchers are bad at throwing and given that pitchers presumably know they're bad at throwing, I don't know why so many of them err toward extra throwing. They are so bad at it!

  • Nick Swisher led off the bottom of the ninth with a double into the left-field corner. Swisher, for some reason, decided to try to stretch it into a triple, even though success would've improved the Yankees' odds of winning by two-tenths of a percentage point, and failure would've reduced the Yankees' odds of winning by 3.5 percentage points. So Swisher had to be about 95 percent sure he'd be safe to make that worthwhile, and more realistically, it wasn't worthwhile. Turning a double into a triple there would be of minimal benefit. So Swisher made a mistake, and he was thrown out at third by Casper Wells. Except:


    Swisher was safe at third, and he seemed safe at full speed. Instant replay only confirmed what we suspected. Swisher beat the throw and the tag. He was called out by the umpire. Look at the hand. Look at the glove. Look at the umpire. Look at the hand. Look at the glove. Look at the umpire. Look at the hand. Look at the glove. Look at the umpire. Look at the hand. Look at the glove. Look at the umpire. What!

Now for a two-game series in Boston that will put the Mariners up against Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. Sound frightening? Good news! Lester has not been that good and Beckett has not been that good! But then the Red Sox have been scoring runs like angry motherfuckers and the Mariners are countering with Jason Vargas and Blake Beavan. This series is frightening for reasons other than the reasons you thought. It's not really frightening. That is a poor word choice, twice.