So I didn't expect any of this. Before today's game, Saunders was 0-7 at the Ranger's Ballpark out of 7 total games with a 9.91 ERA. He was on pace for the worst year of his professional career, with ZiPS putting his estimated total WAR at 0.3. His tRA is even worse than his FIP, and he was pitching at home against Texas.
Texas is good. They're not great, but they are good. They have young players that are growing, old players that aren't aging, and they're squeezing every last bit of talent out of every player on their team as though their team is made up of toothpaste.
While I was researching the game I thought I had an interesting intro planned for this near-guaranteed loss. I know I've made a point in the past of how irritating non-stop negativity is, but I wanted to save a bit of time, I couldn't imagine the Mariners winning despite Grimm's eponymous stat line, and I know that the introductions are the hardest part to write, so I figured I'd get it out of the way:
"At the end of the real story of Cinderella (who is not actually named Cinderella but referred to as Cinderella because she is always sleeping on the ashy rocks), the two attractive but evil stepsisters cut off their toes and heels to fit into the shoe, each one fooling the prince to ride off with them until he saw blood was spilling from the sides. When he finally went back and fit the rancid, unwashed, blood soaked shoe on Cinderella and it fit perfectly, the two step sisters decided to attend the wedding in order to regain favor with Cinderella, only to have both of their eyes pecked out by pigeons. They're lucky. They didn't have to watch this dreck."
The Mariners had two dingalingers by the first inning, and I didn't see any reason to give up on this intro. They were probably going to lose - and that's okay. I'm not watching them to win. I WANT them to win, but I'm watching them to enjoy the careers of Kyle Seager, Felix Hernandez, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, and Mike Zunino. I want them to win because it's frustrating to watch a loss, but a few hours later the outcome of the game simply doesn't matter to me anymore.
But then they kept scoring. And they kept scoring. And they kept hitting. And Joe Saunders didn't allow runs to score. And they scored some more.
Now I have nothing. In fact, I think I assumed my way out of enjoying this win. The entire time I'm watching this game I had a hard time getting excited. I don't think this is because I've checked out of the Mariners. I think it is simply because I did my research, this was a game we probably were supposed to lose, and then we didn't.
This was a Joe Saunders 10 hit game in Texas with the first three dingdongs coming from soon to be future non-Mariners. Even considering the score, it wasn't the greatest game to watch as a fan. But hey the Mariners won, and now tomorrow gets to look marginally more hopeful. Way to go Mariners.
- Coming into this game today, Joe Saunders has the highest "clutch" score out of all qualified starters, while simultaneously sporting the 14th worst WPA and the absolute worst WPA/LI. Based on a cursory knowledge of how these are calculated, they basically imply that Joe Saunders is a nightmare to watch and yet becomes significantly less of a nightmare when you expect him to be his most nightmarish. Joe Saunders is a moody two year old in Disneyland.
- After a he fielded a fantastic bunt in the 3rd inning, Joe Saunders started old man caressing his back as if he hurt himself on the throw. He then gave up a single to Kinsler, a single to Andrus, and I was ready to write up a whole post about how I knew something bad was going to happen, and how when you can see a player hurt himself on TV those that are in charge of responding to injuries should have seen it too. Then he managed a humiliating swinging strikeout of Nelson Cruz, an embarrassing groundout from Adrian Beltre, and a hard hit groundout from Pierzynski, and the thought died. That's 112 words you just read about not having anything to say.
- The exact same thing happened with his leg in the 4th inning. Somewhere, Morgan Freeman is suffering from a sprained narrative.
- I know I'm talking a lot about a pitcher we all hope is traded for something new and shiny in a month, but I was so prepared for him to implode that I paid more attention to him than the offense. I don't know where to find the specific number without painstakingly adding it up myself, but it seemed like Saunders had an unusual amount of swinging strikes today as well. He still only had 5 strikeouts, because he's Joe Saunders.
- Kendrys Morales had two more dinglongerers today, followed by hit with the bases loaded. He had 6 RBIs on the day, also known as 4 fewer than Dustin Ackley has hit all year. I know it's probably just me, but I cannot be excited. He is a very good but boring player that I still have trouble picturing as a Mariner, and he's probably gone by the end of this year. My hope - prayer even - is that they re-sign him and I retroactively love(d) watching him in 2013. Right now I'm missing out on the potential joy of a great player that I cannot get excited about.
- Morales also hit more homeruns today than Dustin Ackley has hit all year.
- Raul Ibanez hit another dinger. It barely cleared the fence, but credit where credit is due. Everyone seems to dislike him more as he ages and yet he's not really getting any older. I'm trying to think of an appropriate obscure reference for this. I want to say he is the Tom Cruise of baseball, but I feel like that's not quite right. Maybe Star Wars Episode 4. Not for any reason other than I want to make a select group of this fanbase really angry.
- Despite his recent success, it's likely Raul Ibanez is nearing the end of his career. At best, he may play for one, maybe two seasons. He's made millions upon millions of dollars. But with the way he's aging, he probably should have taken up golf.
- Best comments from the gamethread:
- Kyle Seager had two hits today. On Sunday after a short slump, some people had doubts he was going to turn it around, as if two weeks can erase one and a half years of sexy. Then he hit a beautiful dinger his last at bat on Sunday, followed by a single and a stinging double in the first two at bats of today's games. I can't imagine other fanbases are as jaded as we are to assume failure and attribute successes to luck. Appreciate Kyle Seager. Kyle Seager is great. Kyle Seager is boss.
- Maybe it's something about his batting stance, but David Murphy looks like a giant of a man.
- In the top of the 4th, Smoak was on 3rd and running on contact. Zunino hit a nothing to third, and Smoak was out at home by about 4 Altuves. I'm starting to think that a spell has been cast on the Mariners that makes them think Justin Smoak is fast. Justin Smoak is not fast. Justin Smoak wouldn't know "fast" if it was Yom Kippur and his first name was Schlomo.
- I think Nick Franklin grew a beard to draw attention away from his comically oversized helmet. Fun fact! Before he decided to take up baseball he was asked to play a recurring role on Phineas and Ferb as Giant Floating Baby Head.
- Since the year 2000, 301 men and women have been executed in the state of Texas. Since the start of the year, the Mariners have scored 306 runs. Coincidence? No. Because they have have nothing in common.
- Derek Holland wants to know if you like candy, because he has a lot of candy and a pony and your favorite teddy bear in his white 1980's windowless van.
- The Mariners had 4 double plays today. This is supposed to be awesome, and from an excitement standpoint it is, but it also means you let 4 people on first with less than 2 outs, and then allowed contact. Yet somehow 4 triple plays would be incredible.
- Danny Hultzen was pulled from pitching today because he couldn't get loose. This was the player we drafted because he was a lock to see the majors this year. This was the player we spent more money on than any other player in the draft. Behind me is the buck nosed purple faced jaded monster. He's telling me to already give up on Hultzen. I do not like this monster much but as hard as I try he simply won't leave.
Today is the start of 13 straight games for the Mariners, ending right before the All Star Break. Then you get to experience some 70 or so more games of either crushing disappointment or superfluous hope. Hope is always better than disappointment, but be honest with yourself - that hope comes back every year anyway. All the rest of this year will do is help you decide who to hope for more.