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Mariners Two-Hit Royals Apparently


Billy Butler finished 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles. If it weren't for Billy Butler, the Mariners would've no-hit the Royals!

Is Billy Butler being replaced by nobody? Is he being replaced by an automatic out? Butler would have been replaced by another player. That player may or may not have gone hitless.

Even if that player had gone hitless, the entire game is different. At the very least, the entire game is different after the player's first or second plate appearance. Butler grounded out in the second and doubled in the fourth. Let's say there's a different player in there. Let's say everything is the same up until the at-bat with the double. Let's say the replacement player makes an out there. Now instead of Mike Moustakas finishing the fourth, he leads off the fifth. Jason Vargas probably pitches him differently. Who's to say what happens? Who's to say what happens in the next plate appearance? Who's to say what happens in seven plate appearances? Baseball feels like it's a bunch of one-on-one showdowns but almost everything is connected.

Sequences. Everything is about sequences. If it weren't for Billy Butler, the Royals might've gotten no-hit. If it weren't for Billy Butler, the Royals might've won by ten. It is impossible to know. You can't just swap one player for another and assert that everything else would remain unchanged.

Billy Butler finished 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles. If it weren't for Billy Butler, the game would've been different! Probably.

To tell the truth, this was one quiet two-hitter. For 26 outs, this was one quiet one-hitter. The hit came fairly early, against a pitcher nobody expects to ever make that kind of history, and then after that hit there weren't any other hits until there was one out left to go. Then there was one more hit, and then the game was over. To limit a team to two hits in an entire game - especially a team that's hit for as good an average as the Royals have, which the broadcast kept talking about - is greatly impressive, but I know that at no point was I sitting there thinking "man, the Royals are one or two hits away from getting totally blanked." I was sitting there thinking "guess this is one of them good Vargas games," and that was the end of it. This was a good Jason Vargas game, followed by a good Tom Wilhelmsen save. The Mariners allowed two or fewer hits for the fifth time this season. Apparently they lost to the A's when they allowed two hits on June 27. I had forgotten about that.

There's a sense that it was important for Jason Vargas to have a good showing in advance of the trade deadline. This was his last go before July 31, and he surrendered a run in eight innings to a decent-hitting ballclub. There's actually very little evidence that it matters much how well a player performs right before the deadline - basically, front offices aren't stupid - but it couldn't hurt that Vargas has settled into at least a superficial groove. Starting June, he allowed four runs, then five runs, then four runs, then ten runs. His home-run rate was through the roof. In six starts since the Arizona catastrophe, Vargas has allowed nine runs in 43.2 innings, with his usual peripherals. Three of those starts were on the road. It's not that Jason Vargas is suddenly outstanding, but suitors can rest assured that Jason Vargas is Jason Vargas, instead of something less, instead of what he looked like some weeks ago.

Whether Vargas should be traded is a different matter. He's a durable, experienced, left-handed starting pitcher on a team that isn't going anywhere. There aren't that many teams who are far enough out of the race to be selling. Of course the Mariners are going to get some calls on Vargas; of course the Mariners already have. On the other hand, we know what Vargas can do, we know he's perfectly suited for the ballpark, and we know he's good enough to be worth his arbitration salary next season. We know the Mariners don't have much in the way of proven pitching behind Felix. I guess you could say that Blake Beavan is proven boring and Hector Noesi is proven bad, but that isn't what "proven" is accepted to mean. Just because the Mariners have good pitching prospects doesn't mean the Mariners don't need pitching.

So here's the answer to the question of whether Jason Vargas should be traded: it depends on what's being offered. Obviously. That's always the case. The Mariners would not ever trade Jason Vargas for nothing. The Mariners would absolutely trade Jason Vargas for five top prospects. If "0" stands for nothing and "X" stands for five top prospects, then somewhere between 0 and X is the point at which it's the right move to trade Vargas away. We'll designate that point as "Y". Will somebody call the Mariners and offer Y for Jason Vargas? I don't know. Probably not in those words since Y is theoretical and I just came up with it. We won't ever know what's offered for Jason Vargas. We'll only know what's accepted, if Jason Vargas gets traded.

Okay, great, so the Mariners should or shouldn't trade Jason Vargas, depending on things we'll never know anything about. Vargas, for his part, says he doesn't want to go anywhere, because he's grown familiar with Seattle and it was the Mariners who believed in him and gave him an extended shot, but maybe what Vargas is actually saying is "I don't want to get traded because I don't want to pack." I bet Jason Vargas has a ton of shit at his place he wouldn't want to pack up. When's the last time anyone was like "all right, packing." Nobody should ever want to get traded because getting traded means packing and packing is the worst. It would definitely be weird to not have Jason Vargas. Maybe not as weird as it is to not have that other guy who just left. I'm open to keeping Jason Vargas. But I'm a fan who loves his transactions, and in a few days there's a deadline for transactions.

I guess now isn't the time to occupy ourselves with thoughts of Jason Vargas trade rumors. There are days remaining to do that, days when Vargas won't have pitched a phenomenal game. We might as well acknowledge what Vargas did to the Royals, especially if this was his last start in the uniform. What he didn't do was throw a lot of strikes. Actually, check that, he threw 67 strikes, and that's a lot of strikes. What he didn't do was throw a lot of strikes given his pitch total. At 58 percent, Vargas' strike rate was low, and he had those three walks. But the rest of the effort was solid. Of 49 swings, 13 missed, and of 23 swings at Vargas' changeup, 11 missed. Vargas also allowed 20 balls in play, of which 13 were grounders. Vargas' biggest problem all season long has been his generosity with souvenirs. It's difficult to turn a grounder into a souvenir, unless a defender throws it into the stands.

This was a good day for Jason Vargas' changeup, and when it's a good day for Jason Vargas' changeup, it's usually a good day for Jason Vargas. All he threw tonight were changeups, fastballs, and cutters, without a single curve, but I guess the curve would've been unnecessary. Maybe with the curve, Vargas completes a no-hitter. I'll take the known outcome, where the known outcome is one hit in eight innings.

It's weird - the Mariners finished with 11 hits at the plate, including nine off Luis Mendoza in five innings, but I didn't come away all that impressed. I should've, since they had 11 hits and four walks in eight innings in Safeco Field, but there were just three extra-base hits, and one was a Carlos Peguero grounder down the line. Dustin Ackley came through with a pair of line drives and a pair of walks, which is encouraging if less encouraging than I'd like it to be. Mike Carp went 3-for-4 and contributed the game-winning single in the bottom of the first, but Carp's first single was a grounder and his second single was a flare. Only his third single was all that well-struck, and the idea of Mike Carp isn't to let him squib balls into the shallow outfield. We already had a first baseman who could squib balls into the shallow outfield. What we want from Mike Carp are dingers, and so we'll take the three hits and continue to look for signs of power. It's not like Carp has that much time to get on a roll.

Miguel Olivo had two hits, including a double to the gap, but I think I'd like to just not write about Miguel Olivo's offense ever again. We know exactly what it is. He's like a very slightly more polished, less powerful Carlos Peguero. If the Mariners were in the hunt, I'd celebrate any and all Miguel Olivo clutch hits because of course all that would matter would be winning, but what matters now isn't really winning, and what matters now isn't really Miguel Olivo. Who among you wants to read about a Miguel Olivo at-bat? Okay, I couldn't hear you answer anyway because I'm just sitting here typing by myself. We'll see if Olivo does something weird. As long as he's himself, he's just a guy who's in the uniform until he isn't anymore. I'm sure he serves some valuable purpose but it's not one that can be easily observed in a box score.

Carp hit an RBI single, Brendan Ryan hit an RBI single, Carlos Peguero hit an RBI double, and Tom Wilhelmsen saved a 4-1 game. Wilhelmsen got ahead of Alcides Escobar 1-and-2 and got him to fly out the other way. Wilhelmsen froze Lorenzo Cain with an 0-and-2 fastball at the knees. Billy Butler drove a double after Wilhelmsen fell behind, but then Mike Moustakas struck out and it was over. After a first-pitch strike, Wilhelmsen missed with consecutive changeups. Remember, that pitch is only coming along. But Wilhelmsen doesn't need that pitch. He just wants it. At 2-and-1, Wilhelmsen got a foul, and then he made Moustakas look like a complete idiot with a looping curveball at the shins. Wilhelmsen celebrated by not really celebrating, because Tom Wilhelmsen's pitches are celebration enough.

One notes that Tom Wilhelmsen entered the game to Jimi Hendrix. This was by Wilhelmsen's request. I believe this was the first time Wilhelmsen had his own entrance music. Prior to this, they played something else, and Wilhelmsen would insist that he wasn't the closer, that Brandon League was the closer. Wilhelmsen's up to a dozen saves. He has four of them in six days. We've known for a while that Tom Wilhelmsen was the Mariners' new closer. That might be dawning on Tom Wilhelmsen, now. Brandon League hasn't pitched since Saturday, and Brandon League hasn't recorded a save since May 23. Remember when Alex Liddi hit that grand slam against the Rangers? That's the last time that Brandon League was a successful closer.

The Mariners beat the Royals, pretty easily. Ichiro plays for the New York Yankees. Just thought I should slip that in there. Remember how Ichiro is a Yankee instead of a Mariner now? How weird is that? But, yeah, great for Jason Vargas.