They say that life is all about how you look at it, and while perception doesn't have anything to do with things that actually happen or don't happen, it does have a lot to do with perception, on account of being the same word. One can look at the same event in several different ways, some of them positive and some of them negative, and those who choose more positive perspectives tend to lead more positive lives. For example, you get bitten by a mosquito. A negative perspective would be, man, this itches, I hate it. A positive perspective would be, I have to scratch this a lot, now I have a hobby! I hope this doesn't stop itching too soon!
Friday night the last-place, go-nowhere Seattle Mariners began a three-game series in Anaheim. The series provided the Mariners with an opportunity to play spoiler against a division rival. We've all enjoyed it when the Mariners have defeated the Angels in the past, both times it happened. They could do it again, especially with Felix Hernandez on the mound, and an Angels loss would be a blow toward their postseason chances.
Friday night, the Mariners lost to the Angels, and they didn't just lose - they blew a 5-0 lead with their ace on the mound and lost on a
walk-off sprint-off wild pitch. As such, from the negative perspective, the Mariners couldn't play spoiler against the Angels. However, from the positive perspective, the Mariners did effectively play spoiler for the Rangers and Athletics, who are also division rivals. The Angels are vying for a playoff spot, which could be as a wild card or division winner. The Athletics are trying for a wild card slot, and the Rangers are in first. The Angels' win hurt their odds just a little bit, and it wouldn't have happened were it not for the Mariners.
Whenever a non-contending team is playing a contending team, people say the non-contending team has an opportunity to make a difference in the playoff race. The non-contending team will always, every time, make a difference in the playoff race. A game can only be won or lost, and either way, the team has made a difference. So congratulations to the Mariners for playing spoiler Friday night. Maybe they didn't play spoiler in the way they would've preferred, but they still spoiled something, so it wasn't a complete waste. It literally could not have been a complete waste.
This was a game that brought back memories, both very general and very specific. Very generally, this game brought back memories of all the times the Angels have beat the Mariners in dramatic fashion, which feels like half the times. Very specifically, I'm going to take you back to Lollablueza, because that's where I already am. It was late August, and the Mariners were hosting the Angels for three games. The M's had lost the series opener, but they went into the second game just three games back in the division. It was late in 2007, and the AL West was winnable.
The second game matched Ervin Santana against Jeff Weaver. After Weaver spun a scoreless top half of the first, the Mariners jumped all over Santana in the bottom. Jose Guillen had a two-run double. Adrian Beltre had a two-run triple. Kenji Johjima had an RBI single. Seven batters into the frame, six Mariners had reached and five Mariners had scored, and Santana was removed to a rousing ovation. I took a screengrab of Santana walking off, looking down, with a score graphic over his torso reading Angels 0, Mariners 5.
The Mariners were on their way to a win. To a clutch, critical win. The Mariners were going to fight for the division with everything they had. But instead of that, the Angels scored once in the third, then twice in the fourth and twice in the fifth. They scored once in the seventh and four times in the eighth, and the Angels beat the Mariners 10-6. They'd complete the sweep the next day, and the Mariners plummeted out of both races by losing 13 of 14. Lollablueza remains as scar tissue in my brain, except as scar tissue I can readily access, scar tissue of firing, sinister neurons.
Obviously, the circumstances tonight were completely different. That game in 2007 was a meaningful game; this one was not, for the Mariners. But I saw them get out to that early 5-0 lead against Ervin Santana. I felt myself let myself feel good. The Mariners blew it and it sucked. I'm not going to say that, when the Mariners lead Ervin Santana 5-0, the Angels have the Mariners right where they want them, but I will say I'm not fond of the history.
This was a wild game that ended in appropriately wild fashion, as Josh Kinney, in his second inning of work, threw the ball past John Jaso with one out and the bases loaded. It wasn't a new way to lose, and indeed we've experienced this very way to lose before. And honestly, if Jaso catches that ball, it's still 2-and-2 on Maicer Izturis, batting from the left side. I expected Izturis to put the ball in play and drive home the run. The runner on third was Peter Bourjos so it's not like Izturis had to do much more than tap the baseball a foot and a half. I resigned myself to the loss before Izturis stepped to the plate. I just didn't resign myself to a loss quite so abrupt. I resigned myself to the Angels beating the Mariners, not to the Mariners ultimately beating themselves.
That was an ugly situation to begin with. Josh Kinney flew through the bottom of the eighth because he faced three consecutive righties and he's got a wicked slider. Josh Kinney's slider puts razor blades and poison in Halloween candy. Kinney remained for the bottom of the ninth, in which he faced four of five guys batting lefty, where the one righty bunted. Kinney is not a good play against left-handed hitters. Kinney's got that slider. Loves that slider. It's not that the slider can't work against lefties. It's that it doesn't work often enough. We've been through the Sean Green thing. Sinker/slider relievers tend to struggle against opposite-handed hitters, and the odds were against Kinney from the get-go.
When the Mariners lost to the Orioles in 14 innings the other day, what drove me the most insane was that Darren O'Day got the win with two scoreless frames. O'Day's supposed to be a righty specialist, and of the seven guys he faced, five batted lefty. That was an opportunity for the Mariners with the Orioles running low on relief, and they couldn't convert. It didn't really matter, but obviously it stuck in my head.
The Angels took advantage of their opportunity tonight, which they say is what good teams do. I don't think Kinney should've been out there for the ninth. Even with Tom Wilhelmsen unavailable due to family expansion. That would've been a good chance to see a Carter Capps or Stephen Pryor, since their fastballs should be weapons against hitters of all stripes. Pryor was designated the emergency closer with Wilhelmsen away and from what I understand Eric Wedge was holding his emergency, one-day closer for a save situation. This is what the save statistic has done. It's not fair to blame the statistic, since it's not the stat's fault people use it like they do, but were it not for the stat, just imagine. Just imagine what this paragraph might say instead. It could be about anything. It could be about dinosaurs!
That was aggravating. Now the Mariners have blown their chance to win with Felix, and they'll have to beat Dan Haren or Jered Weaver if they want to not get swept. They'll face Weaver in a Sunday matinee with the sun reflecting off the center-field rockpile so that's probably going to be a perfect game and a half. Weaver will complete a perfect game, and then he'll request that the Mariners just keep on hitting so that he can just keep on extending his perfect game. Records will be set. Weaver won't stop pitching until the sun has gone down and the rockpile is neutralized. The Mariners will have lost by 2:30, but Weaver will keep being perfect until you're finished with dinner.
All these words about a team no one's paying attention to anymore. And still more words to go. Whatever.
For the first time in God knows how long, I took a few notes. Some of them turned into some of the earlier words, and some of them will turn into the following words as I try my hand at some bullet holes. This does not mean that bullet holes are officially back as a regular feature. This does mean that bullet holes are officially back in this one instance. Look at them bullet holes! I wonder what became of the bullets. Check the wall behind your monitor?
- It doesn't take much more than a quick glance at the box score to know that this wasn't Felix's night. Felix admitted as much after the game, not that he really needed to, because it was readily evident. He wasn't bad, by no means was he bad, but he was missing too often and he was pitching without good command of his best pitch. Take away a pitcher's best pitch and he isn't the same pitcher. Unless you mean genetically, in which case phenotypes make no difference. Genetically, a pitcher is always the same pitcher, unless he's taken some really weird PEDs.
On a few occasions, when Felix got to two-strike counts, you could hear faintly in the background of the broadcast at least one or two guys shouting King's Court K-chants. On the one hand, I have to admire any fan who has the stones to openly root for the enemy team, especially when the enemy team is bad. On the other hand, one almost has to figure the intent here was to be deliberately obnoxious. There wasn't a whole section of King's Court supporters. There wasn't a whole row of King's Court supporters. There were a few guys, and probably a few more guys scattered throughout. Cheer in response, definitely. Nothing wrong with that. But chants? That might go against proper visiting fan etiquette. I don't know, I haven't read the book.
A fellow LL reader and I were in Anaheim for Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup, between the Ducks and the Senators. We were two people pulling for the Senators in a building full of people rooting for the Ducks. During a Ducks power play, the Senators scored a shorthanded goal to reduce the deficit to 3-2, and for whatever reason my friend and I attempted a "Go Sens go!" chant, just the two of us. It felt right but it was unwise, and in the middle of another repetition, maybe the fifth or sixth repetition, the Ducks scored to restore their two-goal lead. The Ducks fans in front of us turned around and made eye contact without saying a word. I've never felt lower. As a sports fan. I've felt way lower as a person because, obviously, sports. They're just sports!
- The Mariners scored all five of their runs in the third inning. They scored on a pair of home runs to right field. It was right before the third inning that I decided to take a little walk around the neighborhood. The box score says the Mariners lost 6-5, but my eyes recall the Mariners losing 6-0. The first home run came off the bat of Dustin Ackley, and it was a no-doubter, as he yanked a miserable changeup. It's always a surprise to me when a guy that little hits a ball with that much authority. Swings like that one remind me of why Ackley was so highly touted before all the crap.
The second home run came off the bat of John Jaso, landing in a similar spot, and Torii Hunter barely even moved in right field. There are two types of home runs - home runs that the nearest outfielder chases, and home runs that the nearest outfielder watches - and I didn't know that Jaso was capable of the latter. That homer came in a 3-and-0 count, and Jaso pulled an outside fastball, which just set Michael Saunders back a year and a half. There is one batter, literally one batter on this team I trust to have a green light in a 3-and-0 count. It's a guy the Rays basically discarded last November. What a lineup!
- The other day, the Mariners lost in part because the first-base umpire ruled that Mike Carp took his foot off the bag stretching to make a catch, even though he didn't. In the bottom of the third today, Carp took his foot off the bag stretching to make a catch, but the first-base umpire still ruled the runner out. The Mariners got the call back in a matter of days. This call came in a way lower-leverage situation and the Mariners lost anyway. The way the universe tries to balance things sucks. Fuck you, universe, it's not the Mariners' fault you keep getting fatter.
- Michael Saunders led off the fifth with a hustle double. Jesus Montero followed with a pop right behind short. Erick Aybar made the catch and doubled Saunders off. I don't even feel like I need to explain more. Read those sentences and you'll think "what?" and I'll reply "yeah exactly." The ball was never going to get over Aybar's head. There was no reason for Saunders to stray from the bag. He strayed from the bag and got himself out. Michael Saunders is a really good baserunner who too often looks like the team's dumbest baserunner. He could never be the team's worst baserunner, but only because Jesus Montero is paralyzed from the waist down and has to be carried from station to station by a team of industrious caregivers.
- At at least one point the Angels went first-to-third on a single, prompting the broadcast to talk about how good the Angels are at going first-to-third. The Angels have long had a reputation of being an aggressive, speedy baserunning team. It turns out that this season, the Angels are the league leaders in going first-to-third. Before today, they'd done it 73 times, with a league average of 56 times. So the Angels' reputation was backed up by facts. What we've learned from this is to always trust reputations. We don't even need facts, just reputations, because those reputations are probably based on facts so you can automatically trust them.
- In the sixth inning, Eric Thames got ahead of Ervin Santana 2-and-0. Then he swung and missed at a low slider in the dirt, he swung and missed at a high fastball off the plate, and he swung and missed at an outside slider off the plate. Remember that thing I said about John Jaso and 3-and-0 counts? There are times when you can't get a good idea of a hitter's plate discipline. There are times when you can.
- Everybody expects every Angels game to be the Mike Trout show, and tonight was the Mike Trout show for a while until the end. In the third inning, Trout worked an outstanding at-bat against Felix Hernandez and crushed a three-run homer. The most amazing thing about the homer was how it looked like a line drive to the gap off the bat. I figured it would clear the bases, sure, but I didn't figure it would clear the fence. The Angels don't play in a home ballpark where you expect balls in the air to carry. Trout's carried, because he's just unfairly strong, in addition to everything else. Mike Trout doesn't do things of which no one else is capable, but he does a lot of different things of which individually very few are capable.
In the fifth, Trout batted with the bases loaded. He took a slider for a strike, and then he was behind swinging at a fastball. He nearly hit it for a grand slam the other way. Sure, why not! It's Mike Trout. Eric Thames showed some quality range running the ball down near the fence, but it still turned into a two-run sacrifice fly. It turns out that can be a thing. This was a night of discovery.
- After a late Jesus Montero single, Chone Figgins came in to pinch-run, and he was given a pleasant ovation. Anaheim fans remember him for all the good he did the Angels in the uniform, and they remember him for all the good he continued to do the Angels in another uniform. Dave Sims announced "Chone Figgins will pinch-run for Montero" and I'm guessing the majority of the ROOT Sports audience groaned before Sims could get to the pinch-running part. "Chone Figgins will-" "auuuggghhhh" It doesn't even matter that Figgins isn't literally useless. The groans are a part of us now. It's practically instinct.
- Prior to everything going further south in the bottom of the ninth, Josh Kinney got away with an obvious balk. This disproves my theory that one member of every on-field umpiring crew is assigned specifically and exclusively to identify and call balks. Or it means that sometimes umpires are just shitty at identifying balks. Expect seven or eight balk calls tomorrow as the crew is ultra-vigilant in response to this evening's oversight.