Thursday night, thecompleted a three-game road sweep of the . This series was closer than it seemed. Thursday's game was fairly lopsided, sure, but Wednesday the Padres won by one single run, and Tuesday the Padres won by one single run. Everything nearly got away from the Padres late on Tuesday, and the next day the Mariners were never more than one swing out of it. This was a sweep that easily could've not been.
Thursday night, the Padres completed a three-game road sweep of the Mariners. This series was not close. Thursday's game was lopsided, as the Padres led 6-0 before the Mariners scored meaningless runs. Wednesday, the Padres scored just once, but there was every feeling that run would hold up, as the Mariners were having one of those games. Tuesday, the Padres were up 5-1 in the ninth, and one brief rally doesn't cancel out eight and a half innings of hopelessness. This was a sweep that easily was.
For all those times the Mariners blitzed right through the Padres, even when the Padres were competitive. For all those times that Mariners fans would end up making more noise than Padres fans in Petco Park. For the time the Mariners gave the Padres Rob Johnson. There's no such thing as being overdue for a lot of things, but there is such a thing as being overdue for payback, and the Padres just got their revenge. The dreadful, last place, Jeff-Suppan-started-for-us-six-times Padres just got their revenge, in front of an enemy audience that paid its money and then didn't know why. Roughly 44,000 tickets were sold for this series, and the ticket-holders with the best stories to tell are those ticket-holders who couldn't make it down to the ballpark.
We're in a stage now where we care less about the individual games, and more about the general sensation. The general sensation of following the Mariners is, of course, correlated to the results of the individual games, but there are times you can lose and feel good, and there are times you can win and feel just okay. Games spike up and down; the sensation is a lot smoother. And the sensation right now sucks.
When I left for my week-long vacation a little while ago, I was interested to see what it would be like to come back and catch up on a week of baseball I missed. I missed the Mariners getting swept by the, but I also missed the Mariners winning a series in Texas and scoring 33 runs in the process. By catching up all at once, all of the results blended together, and I felt like I was looking at things in the big picture more than I usually do. It felt healthy. It felt like the way a team like this should be followed. This team is developing, and it's going to have ups and downs because it's not a finished product. Follow too close and you might be liable to be too reactionary.
But even if you make yourself take a step back, where is this team? For the past week, they've been shitty, no-hitter be damned - they won the no-hitter 1-0. Theare good, but the Dodgers without aren't that good, and the Padres are a volunteer softball team from a biotech C-league. In the week before, the Mariners beat the Angels, and while they didn't beat the , they did go into Chicago having beaten the . Even if you take a bigger-picture view, this team is confusing. They can turn around and turn around again on the head of a pin, and it makes it hard to know if the season is on track to be a success or a disappointment.
The sensation right now points toward disappointment. But the sensation right now is a dick, making things seem worse than they probably are. Maybe one needs to take the biggest-picture view and just consider the whole season. Look at the overall numbers. Maybe look at the first-half and second-half splits, when we have them. Maybe it does more harm than good for our own psyches to follow the 2012 Mariners closely. This is a construction zone, and we won't be able to really know what's being built for some time. I guess we could consult the info-board on the fence, but that's where this analogy falls apart.
This is all trending toward the unavoidable question of "why do we watch so much?" If you watch so much. Maybe you don't, and you feel like you've got it figured out. Of course, we watch to be entertained, and sometimes the Mariners are highly entertaining, but on nights like this it's hard not to feel like a waste of time. If ever there is a good time to wonder why we pay so much daily attention to the Mariners, it's after they get swept at home by the Padres.
This is all part of the experience, I know that. The quiet, wise part of my brain is reminding me that there are highs and lows, and that indeed it's the highs and lows that give this activity value. We need to feel like this, sometimes, and we would be cheating if we didn't. We'd actually end up just cheating ourselves. The loud, obnoxious part of my brain is throwing shit and complaining. "This is so stupid! This is so stupid! I am so stupid! Everything's stupid!"
Being a baseball fan can be so complicated. Given time to think, you can overthink everything. The Mariners have certainly given us time to think. The thing about winning is it lets us just delight in the winning. The stupid, pointless winning that's too awesome for us to care that it's stupid and pointless. The thing about losing is that eventually you start to question what you're doing, and as a sports fan you never want to go too far down that rabbit hole. There be demons down that hole. Not murderous demons, but demons that'll say a lot of confusing and conflicting things to you. In scary voices, I guess.
I honestly wonder what this blog would look like had the Mariners ever been good. The Mariners haven't finished with a positive run differential since I started blogging in November 2003. Obviously, they haven't made the playoffs, nor have they come all that close to the playoffs. What difference would one past playoff berth have made? Even if the Mariners just went and got swept? I wonder if the top part of this post would read the same way, and I'm guessing it would not. I like to think the consistent losing has allowed me to become more deep and intellectual but all crazy people probably think that. Thank you for reading these things because if I didn't have readers I wouldn't have this job, and at this point if I didn't have this job I might be homeless.
Uh so the Mariners played and here are some bullet holes about that even though there aren't many bullet holes because the Mariners played a dumb empty game and I don't get paid to write about the Padres. Probably no one gets paid to write about the Padres. Can you imagine! Instead of writing about the Padres, a guy who knows about the Padres calls up the guy who cares about them, and they talk about them for a few minutes every two weeks.
- I probably shouldn't have tried to build up Erasmo Ramirez's starting debut, because while Ramirez is a fine prospect and while Ramirez should have a fine future in the Major Leagues, he's not really a guy you should get excited about being able to watch. His fastball's all right, sure, but it's not blazing. His offspeed stuff is all right, sure, but it doesn't fall this way and that. When Ramirez is going strong, he'll get two outs in the time it gets you to pour a glass of water, but he'll seldom ever seem dominant, and dominance is what we love. Guys like Ramirez are guys we accept.
Tonight, Ramirez did start well. The very first batter he saw was Will Venable, and three high fastballs later, Venable was dismissed. Everth Cabrera followed with a walk, but it was a 13-pitch walk, which means it was a nine-strike walk. 69 percent of the pitches that Ramirez threw to Cabrera in that plate appearance were strikes. The first ended when Carlos Quentin was frozen by a slider on the outer edge, and then while the Padres got their first hit in the second, it was a dribbler in front of the plate.
Ramirez was effective into the fifth, and even in the fifth, three runs scored on only limited good contact. Ramirez was removed three batters and three line drives into the sixth, and all three of those guys would score, which is how Ramirez wound up with six runs allowed in 5+ innings.
When he got hit, he got hit. The Padres took plenty of good swings, and Ramirez allowed an unfortunate eight line drives. His pitches found barrels. More encouragingly, better than two-thirds of Ramirez's 93 pitches were strikes, true to form. He finished having walked just that one guy, after throwing that one guy nine strikes.
Ramirez had the strikes working. His fastball averaged 93 miles per hour. He threw 24 pitches that weren't fastballs. Seven of the eight line drives came against his fastball. You hope that, in the future, Ramirez misses more bats entirely, or misses more bats partially. Or both. Ideally both. Less of the bad, and more of all of the good.
So Erasmo Ramirez is one start in. As always, there were pluses and minuses, and after he makes another five or six starts or so, we can get a read on what he is instead of trying to guess and project what he is. Which won't stop us from the guessing and projecting in the meantime.
Franklin Gutierrez last appeared in a Major League game on September 4, 2011. He was still dealing with the lingering effects of his gastrointestinal disorder, and then he strained his oblique. In spring training in 2012, he tore his pectoral, and then he developed plantar fasciitis when the pectoral problem seemed to be resolved. Franklin Gutierrez has been waiting to play for the Mariners for a long time, and when he showed up at the ballpark Wednesday, he said it felt like when he was first promoted from the minor leagues.
Gutierrez saw his first pitch as a 2012 Mariner in the bottom of the second inning. Edinson Volquez hit him with a fastball.
Thankfully, Gutierrez was fine, and in his first game back, he was ... fine. Even better than that, depending on whether or not you give him credit for getting hit by a pitch. He popped out on a bad 1-and-0 pitch in the fifth, but he drew a five-pitch walk in the seventh, and in the eighth he singled sharply into left field to drive a run home. He got ahead 3-and-1 and barreled up a heater.
I don't remember Gutierrez doing anything remarkable in the field, but that isn't the concern. We know that Guti will be able to handle himself on defense. The question is his offense, and tonight he reached base three times. If he does that every game I think most of us will be happy to have him back, although some people will get mad at him for not hitting enough dingers. "It's all singles and walks and hit-by-pitches with that guy, 75 percent of the time!"
- In relief of Erasmo Ramirez, Hisashi Iwakuma allowed a single to Jesus Guzman and was removed. Iwakuma threw two strikes, and both of them were quality strikes. The next three batters were lefties, which would explain why Eric Wedge called on Charlie Furbush, but it was startling to see Iwakuma get the hook so fast. Usually, when Iwakuma comes in, you can count on him being in for a while, because by that point Eric Wedge has gone to the clubhouse and fallen asleep.
- With the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the fifth, Munenori Kawasaki robbed Alexi Amarista of a line-drive single with a great leaping catch at short. With one on and two out in the bottom of the fifth, Alexi Amarista got his mistaken revenge by robbing Ichiro of a line-drive single with a great diving catch at second.
Amarista: Ha, got you back!
Amarista: there are two
- The Padres took 13 swings against Steve Delabar, and eight of them missed.
- This was Carlos Quentin's 13th game of the season, and after Delabar got him with a splitter, he's already been hit by four pitches. Since Quentin broke into the league in 2006, he's posted the highest hit-by-pitch rate by a healthy margin, and the Mariners got him twice in this series. Nearly thrice, but a Felix Hernandez breaking ball just narrowly missed Quentin's shoulder.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, Quentin bounced a shallow grounder down to third. Kyle Seager rushed in, made the play, and threw to Justin Smoak, but Quentin never budged from the box, claiming he fouled the ball off of his toe. Replays were inconclusive and Quentin was allowed to continue hitting. Quentin was thankful for the opportunity to keep trying to get hit by another pitch.
Tomorrow brings the J.J. Putz probably won't show up to freeze Barry Bonds, who also shows up, but Tom Wilhelmsen could always freeze Melky Cabrera, and I mean that's practically the same thing.. Something about the Giants makes the idea of this series exciting, even though the Mariners have recently been unwatchable.