This trip had been scheduled months in advance. It wasn't really supposed to be a vacation sort of trip - that would cost too much money, and take too much time. It was supposed to be more of a weekend getaway. It was daring of theto plan a trip to Seattle at the beginning of May, since that gets to be right in between the bad weather and the good weather, but the Twins made their commitment, and they were looking forward to visiting, just as the were looking forward to hosting them.
Sometimes the idea of a weekend getaway is better than the reality of a weekend getaway. You encounter unforeseen circumstances, or it doesn't actually function as a mental getaway at all. In this case, the idea and the reality matched right up. The Twins flew into Seattle, they took a few days off, and they saw a lot of the sun. The Mariners, in turn, had a wonderful time of their own, as they neither got stressed nor had to clean up a mess.
The Twins were great guests, and the Mariners were great hosts. Friday, the Mariners welcomed the Twins in, and they presented them with a gift. Saturday and Sunday, the Twins checked out and soaked in the sights and sounds. If there was any problem with the trip, it's that it didn't feel like it lasted long enough. The Twins had to unpack and re-pack within two days. The Mariners had to see their guests off and prepare to go back to work on Monday. There's no feeling quite like the feeling of stress-free time off. There's no feeling quite like the feeling of knowing that feeling's going to end.
The Minnesota Twins just came to town and scored five runs on 11 hits in three days. When they were down in Anaheim before, they scored three runs on 11 hits in three days, so in that regard they got a little better, but that was a team that really did look like it was on vacation. I wasn't watching on Friday so my impression of the series isn't what it could be, but this might've been a sweep were it not for Tom Wilhelmsen farting with his brain. The Mariners were in a week-long slump, then the Twins came to town, and suddenly the Mariners started playing in a way that gave them confidence, and that gave us confidence. Maybe it was the Mariners. Maybe it was the Twins.
Ordinarily, when the Mariners are playing an opponent, I watch and care only about what the Mariners have been doing lately. For example, when the Mariners were in Toronto, and Jose Bautista came up, I didn't think "this isn't that bad because he is slumping." I thought "oh crap it's Jose Bautista." When Dustin Ackley would come up, though, I didn't think "this is good because it's Dustin Ackley." I thought "well Dustin Ackley is slumping so he'll probably make an out." With the Mariners, I become biased by recent events. With opponents, I don't. In a lot of ways that makes me more objective about Mariner opponents. I guess in every way that makes me more objective about Mariner opponents. I never know or care about who's been slumping or who's been hot. I just know the players, as themselves.
With the Minnesota Twins this weekend, it wasn't quite like that. I saw so many parallels between this Twins team and some recent Mariners teams that they felt familiar. I figured in advance that most of the hitters would make outs. Probably easy, non-threatening outs. I didn't think of Joe Mauer as Joe Mauer, or Josh Willingham as Josh Willingham - I thought of them as members of this Twins team, so they didn't feel as dangerous. Watching the Mariners play the Twins made me feel confident, because it was like watching the Mariners play recent Mariners, and one had to feel confident playing against recent Mariners. Some of those Mariners were super bad.
Today's was just another comfortable baseball game. Even more so than yesterday's, because yesterday the Mariners didn't have any runs for a while. The Twins didn't, either, and they looked spectacularly bad at the plate, but we couldn't discount the possibility that the Mariners would get blanked and lose on an error or a broken-bat blooper or something. Today, the Mariners scored right away. After they made quick work of the Twins in the top of the first, they scored three runs in the bottom of the first, and they added another in the bottom of the second. Ahead 3-0 and 4-0 early, it was early, but they were leads against a team like recent Mariner teams. Those teams didn't rally. Those teams couldn't rally.
It's been absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful today in Portland. Based on what I saw, it was also absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful today in Seattle. This is a Sunday that's what all Sundays should be like. This Sunday was factory-made to be a lazy Sunday, where you read in the park or take a picnic or sip coffee or drinks or a coffee drink on a patio. I don't know if it's possible for a baseball game to be a chameleon, and now that I read that sentence fragment no it is not possible for a baseball game to be a chameleon, but this was a total, perfect lazy Sunday baseball game. It was pleasant, all the way through. There wasn't so much as a hint of stress. It never really got too loud or distracting. This was a baseball game that perfectly fit the mood of the day.
We wouldn't have wanted last night's game today - last night's game had Felix, so it was a little too intense, even despite the 7-0 final. This one had Hector Noesi, who's kind of quiet, and though the Mariners hit a dinger, that dinger extended a 3-0 lead to a 4-0 lead, so it didn't send anyone into a frenzy. This was a stroll through the park of a baseball game. A shopping trip at the market of a baseball game. An afternoon front-yard barbecue of a baseball game. I was a little disappointed to have to come inside to watch this and write about it, since I can see the sun from where I watch and I can see the sun from where I write, but this baseball game basically brought the beautiful day into my living room. This was a hell of a lot better than staying in during a gorgeous afternoon to watch zero Mariners reach base against Philip Humber.
I don't know how much we should read into the series the Mariners just had. They looked great the last two days, but they kind of struggled on Friday, and they were playing the equivalent of a jug full of old milk somebody left on the balcony. It's incredibly difficult to isolate one team's performance from the other team's performance. But what matters isn't so much whether the Mariners have kicked it up a notch - what matters more is that the losing streak is gone, and that the Mariners beat with ease a team they should've beat with ease. We should be wary of getting too excited over the last two games, but better to be wary after wins than speechless after losses.
I might have the least remarkable assortment of bullet-hole ideas that I've had all season long. Today's game was just that lazy, and I accordingly took a lazy approach to paying attention to it. I could make up events that didn't happen, like an irresponsible scientist, but that would make me feel kind of scummy, like a responsible scientist. Plus this game was observed all the way through by several other people, which is never the case with any scientist. The temptation to make up data must be so strong. The temptation to make up data must be so strong. Who's going to know! If anybody's going to know, it won't be for a while. I'm just saying, scientists.
- Hector Noesi has now started six games on the season for the Mariners. He's looked legitimately good in two of them - April 14th in Seattle against the A's, who have a 72 OPS+, and May 6th in Seattle against the Twins, who have an 85 OPS+. Correlation and causation and all that but just above we talked about how hard it is to isolate an individual's performance. Noesi has looked the best against two bad lineups, and the latter probably has something to do with the former.
But these games still count, because some teams have bad lineups, and as long as a pitcher is facing a bad lineup, he might as well make the most of his opportunity. Noesi allowed one run in seven innings, and it scored when he threw a late grooved fastball to Ryan Doumit with a 5-0 lead. Not exactly a cause for concern. Outside of that, the Twins seldom threatened. They looked pretty feeble against Noesi, which was encouraging, and which also retroactively took just a little of the shine off of Felix's outing last night.
Noesi was supposed to be a strike-thrower with decent fastball velocity and four pitches, and today he threw 70 percent of 105 pitches for strikes, with his heater around 91-94 and with a good mix of his four pitches. This was the Hector Noesi we liked as an acquisition. We'd like to see him more often, but at least we've gotten to see him.
He generated three swinging strikes with his changeup, and he generated another three swinging strikes with his slider, which you like to see. The whole time I'm typing this half of my brain is shouting "BUT THE TWINS! BUT THE TWINS!" at the other half of my brain and it's getting awful cacophonous up there. BUT THE TWINS! See, that one half just won. I'm going to move on to the next bullet hole before the two halves get physical and I'm left...I don't know. Seizing? Probably seizing.
- Nick Blackburn's whole thing since he first arrived has been throwing strikes and getting groundballs. Those of you who are familiar with the Twins as an organization will find that utterly unsurprising. The Twins first noticed Blackburn when he was panhandling with a sign that read "WILL THROW GENERIC SINKER FOR DOLLARS ANYTHING HELPS GOD BLESS" and even though few passersby were in need of a generic sinker the Twins were like "oh we gotta have that." Blackburn got to the Majors with a style, and he wasn't one to stray from that style.
For the first few innings this afternoon, Blackburn was running a strike-to-ball ratio of just about 1. Go ahead and guess how well that worked.
- In the bottom of the second inning, Michael Saunders worked a 3-and-0 count and took a low sinker. He turned and prepared to toss his bat, then the umpire signaled strike, and in the same motion Saunders un-tossed his bat and turned back around such that it looked like he was twirling. Sometimes players are made to look silly by their presumptuousness. Michael Saunders was made to look graceful and coordinated.
- Immediately before the Saunders at-bat, Mike Carp had an at-bat, and his at-bat lasted one pitch. Blackburn decided to try Carp with a first-pitch inside curveball, and Carp decided to hit a dinger instead of a foul or a grounder which I'm telling you guys is such a good and underutilized idea. Mike Carp has only hit so many home runs as a Major Leaguer but he kind of has a signature style for the ones that he pulls. When Mike Carp turns on a pitch and lifts it to right, you watch and think, wow, if that guy could do a lot of other things right too, he could be one hell of a player. Mike Carp can really turn on a pitch. Suggesting a very strong core. Have you ever thought about Mike Carp being in like seven times better shape than you are? Think about that now, fatty. Mike Carp was kind of out of shape, then he did something about it. What's your excuse?
- In the top of the third inning, Hector Noesi threw a pitch that the home-plate umpire thought hit the ground, but which didn't hit the ground. As such, John Jaso threw the ball back to Noesi, and the home-plate umpire simultaneously threw a different ball back to Noesi. Noesi panicked and caught neither ball. Hector Noesi panics pretty easily. He probably shouldn't be allowed to sit in the emergency row of an airplane.
- At first I was annoyed by how often Snoqualmie Casino was reminding me that the legendary Jacksons are back to perform some of their greatest hits. Then I was extremely annoyed by how often Snoqualmie Casino was reminding me that the legendary Jacksons are back to perform some of their greatest hits. Then I realized, how many people are actually watching the Mariners game all the way through? How many people turn on the Mariners game, think "oh right, Mariners" and change to something else? Snoqualmie Casino is trying to grab those guys. And they can take this approach with full confidence that they won't drive me away, because the Mariners haven't driven me away so I must have an unthinkably high tolerance for repetitive shit.
- In the fifth inning, Denard Span bounced a grounder to short, and Brendan Ryan barehanded it and threw to first for the out. It wasn't a play where Ryan had to use his bare hand because his glove couldn't reach - he barehanded the ball right in front of his body. I don't actually know why he barehanded it at all, although I'll guess that he figured this would be quicker since Span runs so well. Later on Kyle Seager made a barehand play for an out, and that's the one that MLB.com decided to include in the Mariners' highlight reel. That's how much people take Brendan Ryan's defense for granted. He is so good at it.
- This is how you can issue a walk while also having pretty good command:
Tom Wilhelmsen walked Danny Valencia on seven pitches in the top of the ninth. Tom Wilhelmsen really wanted the knees. The home-plate umpire decided against giving him the knees. Shame on, I don't know, somebody. Both of them?
- A sign you can take to the ballpark or the harbor:
Well would you look at that, it's Doug Fister tomorrow for the ! And Blake Beavan tomorrow for the Mariners. So it's the guy Doug Fister turned into versus the guy Doug Fister used to be. I'm gonna go to YouTube and type in butterfly vs. caterpillar.