I have never felt dumber than when I realized all of Joe Saunders's pre-2013 Safeco Field numbers came against the Mariners. Honestly, it took a while too. I wanted to be annoyed at the media and the Mariners for pushing this narrative so heavily, even before he started a game for the M's, but it was my own dumb fault—I'd bought it.
Now, I didn't believe he'd be dominant here, but I thought there was something extra, something that gave him an added edge when pitching at our own friendly confines. I mean, that's even what he made it sound like after that Opening Day win:
"From day one I’ve said, I’m comfortable here and I like this place, there’s just something about this place I like," he said. "I don’t know. I can’t explain it."
Really? Can't explain it? Joe, you're a fly ball pitcher in a cavernous park situated in a cool marine climate and you were facing some of the worst offenses in the history of baseball. If that isn't enough of a head start on figuring this out, maybe you should have someone else help you put on your pants in the morning.
Now, I'm not angry at Joe Saunders. This is something I've tried to overcome, feeling venomously angry towards bad players. It isn't their fault. I mean, it is in some ways because maybe they haven't maximized their talent, but this is 32-year-old Joe Saunders. The ceiling isn't too high. He's just a dude going to a job he isn't very good at.
Meanwhile, the Pirates had Jeff Locke on the bump. I'd never heard of him. He was the NL leader in ERA (I know, I know) coming into this game, and I'd never heard of him. That didn't matter much, as this game went as one could expect: a good team with a good pitcher played a bad team with a bad pitcher and oh look the bad team got crushed.
Let's jump into the bullets.
- There were a few years there, where as bad as the Mariners were, I felt as though I could say "hey, at least we're not the Pirates/Marlins/Astros/whoever." No, not anymore—we're them. And the Pirates, they're us, or what we we were a decade ago.
I'm sure there weren't actually more Pirates than Mariners fans at tonight's game, but it felt like it. And this has become a staple of M's games. You cope with it as best you can, remind yourself that it really makes sense Red Sox and Yankees fans come in and run the joint. Then, you know, with Toronto it's just all those fans coming down from Canada. But now—now it's everyone. It'll be a weeknight game against the Tigers or A's and you'll hear chants, you'll hear loud cheering. I don't know where I'm going with this, but looking back on how things once were and how far we'd have to go to get back, it's disheartening.
- In the top of the third, with nobody out, Russell Martin hit a sharp grounder to third that Kyle Seager couldn't pick. It shot into the air, Carlos Triunfel snagged it with his glove, quickly transferred it to his right hand and threw a ball across the diamond as hard as a human can, nailing Martin by a half step. And really, I don't care. I don't care at all. Triunfel has an arm, and that's fun for the maybe the once a game it comes into play, but I've spent the past 48 hours watching Brad Miller highlights and I'm ready. Yes, I just used a Carlos Triunfel highlight to talk about Brad Miller. But really, if a young M's shortstop is going to play any games at all, just get Miller up here and let's do this.
- In my first post on LL, I included an excellent piece of writing by John Hickey, in which he described a young Rafael Soriano entering a game because the situation called for "gallons of gas, pints and pints of pure petroleum." That's, really, been the entire Blake Beavan relief experience—gallons and gallons of gas, thrown directly on an open fire. And you know what? Tonight it wasn't. Tonight Blake Beavan scattered four hits over four innings, struck out two and paired five fly ball outs five five ground outs while surrendering one run. It isn't anything predictive, and I didn't find it that interesting, but it happened and it struck me enough to make it into my notes so it's here.
- At some point while Blake Beavan was pitching, a ball was knocked right back through the box. It deflected off Beavan and rolled relatively slowly toward center field. I'm not sure either Nick Franklin nor Carlos Triunfel could've gotten to the ball, but it rolled into center field as they both stared at each other. This is a thing bad teams do. It's a thing all teams things do, but bad teams like the Mariners do stuff like this a lot.
- It's hilarious how quickly the human brain operates. When Kyle Seager backhanded a hard, hard grounder up the line by Jody Mercer I was thinking about this bullet. I was excited to note something my brother had pointed out to me, that Kyle Seager is at 2.7 WAR this season and Adrian Beltre is at 2.0. Adrian Beltre's past his prime, sure, but Seager hasn't gotten to his yet, and Beltre's still a premier player at that position. Then, Kyle Seager threw the ball about an Altuve over Smoak's head, allowing a run to score. Seager "made it up" the next inning with a home run, but making errors that directly lead to runs is a bad look. Still, Seager's great. He's the best. But plays like this annoy me and I wish there were a stat that tracked them.
- Tom Wilhelmsen struck out the side in the seventh. It was the first time he pitched a clean inning since May 31st. Every time he pitches in a bizarro meaningless situation like this it's a reminder of how off-the-rails this season has become, but it was nice to see him have a modicum of success out there.
- In my last recap, I said Carter Capps the dominant reliever is no more. Someone pointed to SIERA and called it bad luck, but I'm not buying it. I don't think Carter Capps is bad, but he isn't the Carter Capps we once thought we had. In the eight inning, Capps struck out Travis Snyder on a 97mph fastball and Jody Mercer on a cruel slider low and away. But in-between, Starling Marte took a middle-in fastball 414 feet out to left center. In the bottom of the ninth, Capps blew a 97mph fastball at the top of the zone right by Andrew McCutchen. The next batter, Gaby Sanchez, hit an absolutely-grooved fastball out to center.
I've heard some people say, roughly, "I don't understand why the Mariners are intolerant of relievers with a bit of a home run problem." And I understand other numbers can make up for it, but when the worst thing that can possibly happen in an at-bat happens at an alarming rate, even when you least expect it, everyone's going to trust you less.
- Justin Smoak hit a meaningless two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth. He has five home runs on the year, but two of them have come in the last week. Is it a trend? Probably not. But this is what trends look like when they start to reveal themselves.
There were some concerned before this season began that, even if Justin Smoak turned in a not-terrible season and played somewhere near where the talent level of which he's capable, it still wouldn't be enough. And that's how things have been thus far. If the power starts to come, as some have hoped, that changes. Here's to hoping.
- The single best moment of the game came when they showed Taijuan Walker on that giant screen, freezing some poor unfortunate soul with a curveball. I honestly got chills.
- Also, I got a foul ball. I'm 26 years old, I've been to over a hundred games, and I got my first foul ball. Now, I didn't say "caught." It ricocheted off a row of open seats (15 rows up from third base, a row of open seats), rolled across the aisle and past my dad's feet as he and someone else looked on the ground in the row in front of us—and I picked the ball, completely stopped, up off the ground. The style in which this happened fit this game quite well.