When I left work, I was worried I'd miss too much of the game to write effectively about it. And I'm not promising I'm doing so now, as five hours of game time takes it out of you. With an earbud in one ear and the cord running back to my phone in my backpack's side pocket, I rolled my bike out of the office at 4:45, still later than I wanted to leave. I listened to Aaron and Rick as I made the seven mile bike ride out from Pioneer Square, along the waterfront and caught Kyle Seager's RBI double somewhere around the cruise terminal before continuing on and crossing the bridge over to Ballard.
Finally, I made it home with a little more than half the game to go. It was 1-0, Iwakuma was looking good and, though I assumed the one run wouldn't be enough, I figured we'd get at least more and Iwakuma would take us deep enough to get to the good relievers. But most importantly, I didn't miss anything. I didn't miss when the game would be decided.
That's laughable now.
At time of publishing, we're a full eight hours since the game started. I've spent as much time following and analyzing this game as I did at work today. And it isn't the time total that's the most upsetting, as I'd be glad to do so if had been done in a Mariners win, but it was a loss, and it was a loss that felt a lot like the early-season Mariners. There was bad luck, sloppy play, poor strategy and memorable moments that go by the wayside.
Without further ado, because this post took way longer than it should've, let's get to some bullets.
- I've heard there have been studies done indicating that managers don't make that big of a difference or, at the very least, we don't know how much of a difference they make so we shouldn't put any great deal of importance into them. And, whatever, a couple things Robby Thompson did in this game left me dumbfounded.
First, and I think you could've guessed, is leaving Brendan Ryan in there as the designated hitter for two extra inning at-bats, one of them with the go-ahead run on third. My initial assumption was that "well it was his day off" would be the excuse but, per the Chart thread, Smoak was in the on-deck circle at one point so it appears Thompson was saving him for the right situation. And really, that's the problem. It's been an issue at times with Wedge as well—why are we waiting for hypothetical situations to utilize players instead deploying them to try to win the game in the moment? Justin Smoak's wRC+ versus lefties is 39 to Ryan's 36, sure, but I'm just not buying Smoak being as hopeless up there. So, speaking of leaving players who can help you win sitting on the bench...
- You can't have Lucas Luetge in there with the bases loaded in his third inning of work. You can't do it and tell yourself or your team you're trying to win the game. And if we're not doing that, what the hell are we doing? Robby Thompson's been around baseball for awhile, obviously, but it's worth noting he has never managed at any level—though I'm not sure Wedge would've played it any different.
- The Saunders throw goes into the heap of plays wasted on miserable losses. I planned on writing about the game-management issues and then jumping into positive stuff, thinking Farquhar, and I completely forgot about this initially. When the ball was lifted to center, and Luetge defeatedly trudged in to cover home, I was so relieved to know Saunders was out there. It was momentary relief, as it'd still take a perfect throw, but it was a throw Saunders is capable of making—and boy did he make it.
- Danny Farquhar, man. It took me until someone mentioned it in the game thread to remember that we acquired Farquhar in the Ichiro trade because I assumed, at the time, we got nothing of value. And that's right, at the time, we did. But as Dave's noted previously, Farquhar developed to a different level, to the point that he's now, advanced stats-wise, one of the best relievers in baseball.
I saw someone in the game thread credit Wedge and Thompson for sticking with Farquhar through the bad results (ERA), and while I think they deserve some level of credit, you can't miss the stuff. It's impossible. Plus, a 95mph fastball is dingers! for pitchers. Anyone else remember Jesus Colome?
- Not too long ago, sometime around the beginning of July, it was common to note how remarkably similar Nick Franklin's performance to date was to Kyle Seager's season line. Then Kyle Seager OPS'd near 1.100 in July and Nick Franklin struck out in 40 percent of his plate appearances. Obviously, there's some level of concern for Franklin—at the very least, something to keep an eye on—but Franklin still managed to post a wRC+ over 100 for the month. So, let's watch it, but let's not start panicking yet either. This is his adjustment period—well, really, the pitchers' adjustment period to him. It was always going to come, so let's see how he handles it.
- In the second inning, the Mariners gave up two unearned on errors by Franklin and Dustin Ackley. With both Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, the word was that they could be prone to errors on normal plays. It wasn't the difficult ones they struggled with, supposedly, but the ones where a mental mistake might happen. And initially, it seemed like that happened with Franklin tonight, after definitely happening with Miller last night. Though, of course, on closer inspection, Franklin was screened by Ellsbury and the ball may have even hit him. And while it's a difficult play, impossible if it did hit him, you still hope Franklin can make that play even if he is slightly screened.
But that Ackley error? That can't happen. It will of course happen when you have a Ackley learning the position out there, but that was a big spot and this is the major leagues—he has to learn it quickly and reach the point where errors like this aren't surprising.
- After the errors, it was nice to see Iwakuma respond and limit the damage when the game was still there in front of him. In the first inning, the damage was his own doing—well, a few suspect strike ball calls aside—and he wiggled out of it with a splendid double play. Then, in the second inning, the damage wasn't his doing, and it didn't phase him. We saw the comments last night from Joe Saunders, saying essentially "I did my part, the rest of what happened is on you." Saunders seemed defeated after that rough first inning,while Iwakuma was the opposite. Part of it is talent, sure, but Iwakuma seized control of the situation and locked in when he needed to, and that's what good players do. It's what good anything do. If you believe something is in your control, and do everything you can to control the outcome of a situation, it's much more likely a positive outcome will ensue. Now, Iwakuma isn't all the way back to his dominant self, where his starts are near-certain victories, but we're getting closer.