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Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager Play Good Baseball In Mariners Win

bunt attempts out of context
bunt attempts out of context

One of the funny things about Saturday night's game between the Mariners and the Twins is that, for so long, it didn't feel like it wound up feeling. For so long, it felt like your standard Mariners game with Felix in it - Felix was absolutely in control, and the other team's pitcher was absolutely in control. This time, that other team's pitcher was Jason Marquis. Jason Marquis wasn't actually in control at all, but he was in control of keeping the Mariners off the scoreboard.

This was a scoreless game after five and a half. Felix looked nothing short of terrific, but the Mariners did nothing in the first. A double play killed a potential rally in the second. A double play killed a potential rally in the third. A double play killed a potential rally in the fourth. The Mariners did nothing in the fifth. After one or two of the double plays, there was booing. Not that you wouldn't expect there to be booing considering the skid the Mariners were riding, but there was booing after Ichiro's double play in the third, and seldom have we ever heard booing at home after an Ichiro at-bat.

It all felt so usual. Here were the Mariners, getting outstanding pitching from their ace, and here were the Mariners, doing nothing to help him. You never want to accept being shut down by Jason Marquis, but then, we've accepted the Mariners being shut down by lots of guys, so the act of being shut down barely has to do with the pitcher anymore. I think it can get in our heads that, no matter who's on the mound, the Mariners will find a way to give him outs.

Then the Mariners finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth. From there they ran away with it, but those runs in the sixth didn't score until there were two outs. It was Kyle Seager against Marquis with two down and two runners in scoring position. Marquis missed down with one sinker. On his next pitch, he missed down with another sinker. Behind 2-and-0, Marquis was forced to come up in the zone, and that's exactly what Seager was looking for as he lined a single up the middle. Marquis' command was off all game long, and finally in the sixth, the Mariners made him pay for it.

Those two runs felt like they would've been plenty. I know the Mariners just blew a 2-0 lead against this same team last night, but last night they didn't have Felix, and last night I was otherwise occupied so events weren't fresh in my memory. The Mariners didn't end at two, though, scoring five more in the seventh. It was a rally to be proud of - two walks and a bunt single loaded the bases, Brendan Ryan drove a sac fly, and Ichiro tripled to the right-center gap. And then as the exclamation point, Kyle Seager blasted the first pitch he saw from Jeff Gray for a two-run home run to right. Whenever a team stages a big rally, it eventually has to end, and no matter how many runs score you always get greedy and want all the guys on base to come around. Kyle Seager didn't let the Mariners' inning end with a runner on base. A big inning is all the more satisfying when it gets a closing home run, for emphasis.

In the span of, I don't know, half an hour, a scoreless game became a blowout game, and we were left to think about how dominant Felix was, and how dreadful the Twins are. Again, I know the Twins just beat the Mariners. The Twins beat the Mariners in large part because a Mariners pitcher was like, whoa weird I just forgot all of the rules of this game for a second. The Twins are now 7-19. Their run differential is 26 runs worse than the next-worst run differential. The Houston Astros are overachieving, but all of the jokes we wanted to make about the Astros we could make about the Twins. Except I feel bad making jokes about the Twins, because they've had such shit luck. Take a look at what Francisco Liriano has turned into. Recall that he and Felix Hernandez both debuted in 2005. Recall that there were a lot of comparisons between the two. The Twins have kind of gotten it in the shorts.

I'm trying to write this recap in a hurry because I have somewhere else to be, and I apologize for skipping over the bullet-hole section. I also apologize for any incoherency or disjointedness, like right here, since these sentences don't fit in with the rest of the content. But while I'm here and before I go, I have to tell you that, if you weren't following this game, Felix was almost unhittable. Almost literally unhittable. It's hard, because coming in we knew that the Twins would be feeble. But man were they ever feeble. The other day, the Twins got no-hit by Jered Weaver, and Twins batters were credited with a total of zero line drives. I thought maybe Alexi Casilla could've gotten a line drive at the end when he flew into the final out, but it went in the books as a fly ball.

Tonight, Twins batters were credited with a total of zero line drives. They had ten grounders, five fly balls and a bunt against Felix. They had two grounders against Steve Delabar. They struck out ten times. Their lone hit led off the top of the fourth, when Denard Span placed a grounder between Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley. Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit drew consecutive walks a few minutes later. I guess Felix is trying this new thing where he spends one inning not throwing strikes and the rest of the innings throwing strikes. The Twins had their chance, when they loaded the bases for Chris Parmelee. But Parmelee obviously couldn't cash in, and the Twins would have no more baserunners. They wouldn't even come close to having more baserunners. They had three baserunners in all, and they all reached in the fourth.

In one regard, this isn't the closest Felix has come to throwing a no-hitter, because he allowed a hit to the tenth guy he faced. In another regard, this might've been the closest Felix has come to throwing a no-hitter. In the one-hitter he threw against Boston, I remember a few line drives and outstanding defensive plays by Jose Lopez(!). Tonight there was one groundball single, and it wasn't even that sharply hit. I don't know how the rest of the game would've gone had Span gotten out instead of singling, but maybe Felix would've finally made history.

Not that Felix hasn't already made history by being so awesome. He hasn't had any one individual start that'll go in the e-history books as a no-hitter or a perfect game. But he's also 26 and has a career 3.19 ERA, with a shit-ton of strikeouts and a shit-ton of innings. Felix has made history, in that he will not be forgotten. I'm sorry, but Jason Vargas could easily be forgotten. Blake Beavan could very easily be forgotten. No matter what happens from here on out, Felix'll be remembered.

This was a night during which Felix could do whatever he wanted, and those are the nights that are the most enjoyable to watch. I don't even remember looking at the radar gun. Felix was so overpowering that his recorded velocity was among the furthest things from my mind. The Twins took so many bad swings and so many late swings. They didn't look like Felix was throwing slower. They looked like they had been instructed to make outs without being too obvious about it, but because they're not actors they were still kind of obvious about it. Felix made the Twins' lineup look like it was sandbagging.

This was a win that lifted the Mariners to just 12-17, and it's hard to be excited about a 12-17 record. They're actually right between the Red Sox and the Angels in the standings, and that'd be a funny thing to tell myself a month and a half ago, but of course the Red Sox have pitched like they all have torn labrums and the Angels have gotten as much from Albert Pujols as you get from the last squeeze of a toothpaste tube. But if you have to improve to 12-17, and if you have to snap an extended losing streak, I can't think of many more satisfying ways to do it. If the Mariners beat the Twins like 5-4 and Kevin Millwood pitched, then, okay, neat. This game felt worthwhile. Those in attendance can be glad that they went. Those who watched can be glad that they watched. The Mariners turned in a performance we could be proud of, eventually.

The Mariners have been as dreadful as the Twins are before. When the Mariners were that dreadful, the expectation was that other teams would just run away with the score. Tonight, the Mariners ran away with the score, and though it took them some time to do it, these are the Mariners, so we shouldn't complain about how they got a 7-0 lead so long as they got a 7-0 lead. A game like this is a treat. It lets you feel like you root for a good team, instead of a decent team that got one or two breaks.

More baseball tomorrow. Until it starts, think about the baseball today. Felix and Seager and the Mariners gave us all a game to dwell on.