I apologize in advance, but tonight's recap is going to be mostly of the bullet hole variety. I was under the gun from the moment the game started, and then Robin Ventura and Eric Wedge conspired against me by brining in a million relievers mid-inning. The mid-inning trip to the mound is one of the worst things about baseball, and I'm sympathetic to the sporadic calls to penalize teams who insist on making them. After mid-inning pitching changes, we had extra innings. It ended up being a long game, and while I'm happy the Mariners won, I'm now typing this game recap a little more furiously than I'd have liked.
Tonight, the Mariners and White Sox gathered at the frozen tundra of U.S. Cellular Field. The Sox have had Seattle's number lately -- I think the broadcast ran a graphic showing that the M's have won in Chicago just three times since 2008 -- and I know I wasn't the only one who thought 'here we go again' after the Pale Hose whittled the Mariners five run lead down to one, and then down to zero.
But the Mariners didn't wilt. In the tenth, Franklin Gutierrez singled to short, Michael Saunders bunted him over, and Kendrys Morales knocked him in. They later tacked on an insurance run, one that proved necessary after Tom Wilhelmsen allowed a tenth inning run in an outing one columnist nominated for ugliest save of 2013. Ultimately, it wasn't pretty, but the Mariners rallied and hung on to win 8-7. With Felix Hernandez pitching tomorrow, the M's have a great chance to head back to Seattle with a winning record for the home opener.
To the bullets:
- With Erasmo Ramirez and Danny Hultzen lurking in Triple-A, Blake Beavan needed a couple of good outings to start in the year in order to feel secure about his place in the rotation. He didn't necessarily have to pitch well. It's entirely possible to avoid strikeouts, permit fly balls, and limit damage, at least for a few starts, and that probably would have been enough to buy him some time in the rotation.
He's off to a bad start. After cruising through the first three innings, Beavan struggled the second and third time through the order, surrendering five runs over the next two innings, including two on homers. He induced just five swinging strikes all night, and looks like the same hittable pitcher he's always been. I'm still holding out hope that Ramirez will head up to Seattle once he's healthy.
- Franklin Gutierrez led the game off with a high, if relatively short, home run down the right field line, his second dinger of the year. My first thought was "haha U.S. Cellular Field." The White Sox play in a small ballpark and the homer was aided by a healthy breeze blowing out towards right. It didn't look like the kind of shot that would have left Safeco, or many other ballparks for that matter. But my second reaction was to appreciate that Franklin Gutierrez hit a home run to the opposite field.
Once upon a time, long before we worried about nursing him through 100 games and even before he developed an unfortunate stomach ailment that made everyone think about wet farts, Gutierrez flashed impressive raw power. He blasted that bomb at Petco. He occasionally hit one out to the opposite field. There was sentiment that he might even be able to hit 25 homers some year, if everything broke right.
Obviously things haven't gone so well. We don't care if Gutierrez hits 25 dingers; we just hope he plays significantly more than 25 games. Today's homer didn't really make me think about him hitting 25 bombs again or anything like that. It did remind me that Gutierrez is a hell of a player when he's healthy and it served as another opportunity to reflect on what a shame all those injuries have been.
- The White Sox have lousy uniforms. It's just a plain pinstripe jersey with a logo on the breast. It's a fine look if you're the only team in the league rocking it, particularly if you've been doing so since the Wilson administration like the Yankees have. Chicago's jerseys just look like cheap knockoffs.
Part of the issue is that, for most of their franchise history, the White Sox were pretty liberal with their uniforms. They wore shorts, they experimented with red, they donned t-shirts for a little while, put numbers on their pants, and rarely stayed with the same look for more than a few years. Their radical design shuffle was pretty cool, and it's unfortunate that they've abandoned the practice in favor of the plain and stale threads they wear now.
- Mariner catchers have taken a lot of crap for their inability to throw out runners over the last few years. A lot of that is deserved. Jesus Montero takes forever to get rid of the ball, and that matters. John Jaso didn't have the world's greatest or most accurate arm, and that matters. Rob Johnson couldn't really catch the ball in the first place, and that drove everyone up the wall (except the Mariner pitching staff, apparently).
That said, a low caught stealing percentage is often an indication of more than a poor throwing catcher. Pitchers are often responsible for failing to hold runners, and boy was Beavan guilty when Adam Dunn swiped second without a throw tonight. Dunn got a running lead and Montero didn't even bother to make a throw to second. Beavan wasn't paying any attention to Dunn and he wasn't varying his looks at all. It's the third steal in the last five years for the Big Donkey, and credit to him for playing some heads up baseball.
- Never forget how weird Michael Saunders's breakout was last year. His transition from hitting like a backup shortstop to a decent outfielder was unexpected enough, but his newfound ability to hit lefties really came out of nowhere. After posting wRC+'s of 9, 67, and -10 against lefties in his first three big league seasons, Saunders had a 116 figure against southpaws last year. Tonight, he tripled off of Jose Quintana and later drew a walk against fellow lefty Donnie Veal. Viva la Condor.
- In the eighth, Montero completely bailed on a ball in the dirt, and it jumped up and hit home plate umpire Vic Carapazza in the groin region. It was basically like this but with professionals.