Usually, when I'm starting a game recap, I try to come up with a headline that's interesting or creative. Something other than the headlines you'll see everywhere else. There's nothing I could come up with tonight that would top a factual one-sentence summary of what happened. Tonight thebegan interleague play by visiting the in Coors Field, and Kevin Millwood threw a complete-game shutout.
I honestly don't know what drives Kevin Millwood to play anymore. The biggest reason for that is because I don't know Kevin Millwood, and we're not relatives or buddies or acquaintances, so that's kind of the first problem. He's never won a World Series, so I guess that could be it, but he has been to a World Series, once, in 1999. Maybe that's enough. He's thrown a no-hitter. He's made a lot of money and thrown a lot of innings for a lot of different teams. Millwood signed three different minor-league contracts a year ago as a 36-year-old, and maybe he could've taken that as a sign it was time to move on. But he pitched in the Majors and pitched well over nine starts. Maybe he could've taken that as a sign to keep going.
Millwood wound up with the Mariners. I don't know why but that's what he did. He had to know that the Mariners wouldn't be very good, and he had to know they were just signing him for veteran stability. He had to know he'd be looked to to mentor a bunch of younger players. Maybe that's what drives Kevin Millwood - maybe he loves the idea of being an instructor. Maybe he loves passing along the knowledge he's gained in his years. Maybe he hates it, or doesn't have an opinion of it. Maybe he loves it sometimes and hates it other times.
Maybe Millwood just plays because it's all he's done as an adult and there's still something left in the tank. Maybe he plays to distract himself from thinking about the rest of his life. Maybe he's constantly preoccupied by thoughts about the rest of his life. Have I mentioned to you that I don't know Kevin Millwood? I don't know Kevin Millwood. And even if I did, I get the sense he wouldn't be the chatty, conversational sort.
In the bottom of the ninth tonight, Marco Scutaro batted with nobody out and a man on first. Scutaro tried to bunt his way on, and he popped it up toward third base. Millwood came off the mound and attempted a full-extension dive. He couldn't catch the ball, but Kyle Seager picked it up and threw Scutaro out. Watching that, I thought, "man, Millwood just has one competitive spirit. That guy is just all about winning."
Brad Adam asked Millwood about the dive in a dugout interview after the game. I don't remember what Millwood said word for word, but the gist of it was "I don't know what I was doing." It wasn't said with a smile or a laugh; it was just said calmly and casually, the way Kevin Millwood probably says most of his things. Adam then asked Millwood how he felt in the bullpen before the game got started, looking for Millwood to say he felt sharp. "Terrible" was Millwood's response. He didn't have anything. He went out there anyway and threw a complete-game shutout in Coors Field.
I don't know what goes through Kevin Millwood's head, and when he's playing, I don't know if anything goes through Kevin Millwood's head. He still works out and plays games and dives for bunts for some reason. Tonight, at age 37, Millwood did an amazing thing. Maybe that's why he's still going - he'll go as long as he thinks he can do amazing things. Millwood's not the pitcher he used to be in 1999 or 2005, but he's still better at pitching than he is at anything else. Why not keep pitching, just to see what happens?
For nine innings tonight, Kevin Millwood made the ball dance and didn't let the Rockies hitters do a thing. When the game first got going, Justin Verlander was busy working on a no-hitter in Detroit against the . He got through six innings no problem, then seven and eight, and it felt so inevitable, so certain, that he would do it. Which Pirate was actually going to get a hit against Justin Verlander? With an out in the ninth, Verlander got Josh Harrison to flail at two straight breaking balls in the dirt. The fifth pitch of the at-bat was hit up the middle. Verlander wrapped up a complete-game shutout featuring a hit and three baserunners.
When Verlander was finished, eyes, or at least some of them, turned to the Mariners game. Kevin Millwood worked on a no-hitter of his own, but that air of inevitability wasn't there. Nobody took Millwood's no-hit bid seriously. He carried it into the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Marco Scutaro was given an infield hit that wasn't a hit. Immediately after, Jordan Pacheco hit a legitimate single up the middle. There would be no more. Millwood wrapped up a complete-game shutout featuring two hits and four baserunners, one of which reached on what should've been an error, and one of which reached when he stuck his elbow in front of a borderline strike.
Kevin Millwood isn't Justin Verlander, but on this unusually fascinating Friday for baseball, Kevin Millwood turned in about as impressive a performance in perhaps the most pitcher-unfriendly environment in the league. It was Millwood's first complete-game shutout since who cares specifically when? It was his first complete-game shutout in a while. If he remembers the last one, he's lying about the details.
I don't know what to make of Kevin Millwood as a 37-year-old baseball player. I don't know what his reason for being is, and I don't know what it is about baseball he enjoys the most. Maybe, for Millwood, tonight is one of his late-career highlights. Maybe, for Millwood, tonight was just another night he got to go to a ballpark. You listen to his post-game interview and you don't get the sense that he's jumping up and down inside. Kevin Millwood is a pitcher I just don't quite understand. Tonight he turned in a game I just don't quite understand. The Mariners are back in the win column because their 37-year-old starting pitcher didn't allow a run in Colorado. Baseball will surprise you. Maybe Kevin Millwood just likes surprises.
Since interleague play began, the Mariners have won 49 percent of their games against American League opponents, and they've won 54.7 percent of their games against National League opponents. Over a 162-game schedule, that's the difference between about 79 wins and about 89 wins. All these years, it hasn't been that the Mariners had the wrong players. It's been that the Mariners played in the wrong league. That's what they've been trying to show to the commissioner's office, too. Have you seen the Mariners' designated hitters over the last while? They've been standing on Bud Selig's lawn, blaringSwitch from a boombox. But Bud Selig hasn't listened because no one can listen to Will Smith's Switch.
Seriously though, you know that confidence you never feel when you sit down to watch the Mariners face an AL opponent? There's always confidence when you sit down to watch the Mariners face an NL opponent. Or at least an NL West opponent. The National League must think that the Mariners are God, dropping in every so often for the occasional smiting. "Wait, Mariners, we have questions for you!" "We must return to be with our kind, getting smited by them." "What?" /Mariners vanish
Man, I get big-headed when the Mariners play the NL. But then Kevin Millwood just threw a complete-game shutout against a team in the NL. Do they even play baseball or do they meet up to go fishing and assign wins and losses based on who does the most fishing? My impression is that they must not play very much baseball.
- What there is to be said about Kevin Millwood has mostly been said. Complete-game shutout, check. Dive off the mound for a bunt, check. Laid-back, humble, kind of gruff post-game interview, check. The record will show that Kevin Millwood allowed two hits in nine innings in Coors Field. One of those hits was a grounder to Kyle Seager that Kyle Seager fumbled. The other was a single up the middle that Millwood might've been able to knock down. Kevin Millwood was not all that distant from throwing a no-hitter in Colorado.
By the rest of his numbers, two-thirds of his pitches were strikes. Of the 20 balls in play, 13 were grounders. Plus there was a bunt. Millwood walked one and struck out seven, and while ordinarily I count hit-by-pitches in the same category as walks, something about this one just tells me to treat it different:
We're looking at pitch number four. That's the one that got Eric Young Jr. in the elbow. It was closer to the strike zone than pitch number two, and every so often pitch number four will go for a called strike. After Young got hit and walked to first, what was left of the crowd started booing, and while I know they weren't booing Young for being a cheap son of a bitch, I choose to pretend that they were because the alternative pushes three of my buttons.
Over seven starts against AL opponents, Millwood has registered 28 strikeouts and 19 walks. Over one start against an NL opponent, Millwood has registered seven strikeouts and one walk, to go with his 36 strikeouts and eight walks over nine starts against NL opponents last season. If the NL wants us to stop making fun of it it should try being a lot less pathetic. Additionally, boy, I wonder which league will most consider trading for Kevin Millwood closer to the deadline.
- With two outs in the top of the first, Kyle Seager dropped a single in front of Dexter Fowler to score Michael Saunders from third. Fowler over-ran the ball and it nearly got by him, but he inadvertently knocked the ball down with his back foot. That prevented Seager from advancing to second or third. That was Seager's first stroke of bad luck in the top of the first. Moments later, Seager attempted to steal, and he was thrown out at second, even though replays indicated he was just barely safe. That was Seager's second stroke of bad luck in the top of the first. Seager must have been thinking "my life is going just like Lindsay Lohan's character's life was going in the movie Just My Luck" and his teammates must have made fun of him for that.
- The other day, we mentioned that the Mariners were on a record-setting pace with their low hit-by-pitch rate. In the second inning, Brendan Ryan got hit by a pitch. The pitch that hit Ryan, at least, was a legitimate hit-by-pitch pitch, as opposed to the one that hit Young, which was a legitimate borderline strike. Umpires will look out for balks. They will pay close attention for balks. They will go to where they suspect the balks live and throw smoke grenades through the window. They won't call batters back when they stick their elbows in front of pitched baseballs. This is something I genuinely do not understand.
- Also in the second inning, right before Ryan got hit by a pitch, Mike Carp blasted a 3-and-1 fastball out to center. This screenshot makes it appear as if Mike Carp might have hit the longest home run of all time:
Mike Carp was just playing in a baseball game and he wound up sending a camper to the hospital. On Carp, while his numbers still have a little ways to climb, it's becoming more evident that the power isn't a mirage. At the very least, he is a man who will hurt a pitcher sometimes.
- ROOT Sports aired a shot of the Mariners bullpen, behind the outfield fence. It's got trees and hedges and shit in it. It's more serene than most people's backyards. The 2010 Mariners bullpen probably would've played hide-and-seek in it but I don't know if the 2012 Mariners bullpen would play hide-and-seek in it. Hisashi Iwakuma would, by himself, to pretend like he's participating in something.
- In the third inning, Dexter Fowler reached on a walk. Pitcher Alex White subsequently struck out trying to bunt. Fowler stole second base to put himself in scoring position anyway. That's basically a runner's way of saying "you just tried to give yourself up for no reason."
John Jaso led off the top of the seventh with a groundball double down the first-base line. It might have gotten into the corner or eluded Michael Cuddyer, but it was picked out of the field of play by a fan in the front row. It was a Mariners fan, in a Ken Griffey Jr. jersey. The fan was kicked out but in his defense he was going to send the ball to the Hall of Fame to commemorate a Mariners extra-base hit.
- Jaso was stranded on third in that inning because of consecutive strikeouts. One of the strikeouts was by Kevin Millwood, which Eric Wedge probably won't mind because that's just how the National League plays its backwards game. The other of the strikeouts was by Brendan Ryan, which isn't going to endear him to his manager. Ryan's batting slump is to the point where the broadcast is complimenting him for good swings when he hits the ball foul. "That's a good swing, he just missed it," which is another way of saying "that's not really a good swing."
- Said Mike Blowers, on John Jaso in the ninth: "Not giving at-bats away - Jaso might be the best at that." Everybody has noticed by now that John Jaso knows what he's doing. He might have the best batting approach on the team, and today he just caught a complete-game shutout in Coors Field by Kevin Millwood. Miguel Olivo re-joined the team today. Not as a member of the active roster, but he'll be a member of the active roster soon, after a brief rehab assignment. The question then will be how much Olivo plays, versus how much Jaso plays. If Jaso goes back to his old amount of playing time I'm going to be steamed to translucence.
Matinee baseball tomorrow, with Jason Vargas and Christian Friedrich and the Mariners and the Rockies. The game will feature something that has never happened before in any other baseball game. That much is a virtual certainty. So you could watch for that, or do something else. Probably something you've done before because we are creatures of routine. We are creatures.