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65-82: 10th Inning Passed Ball Ensures 4th Consecutive Losing Season For Mariners

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St. Louis Comes From Behind to Spoil a Solid Start From Hisashi Iwakuma

Dilip Vishwanat

The few people tuning in for this Friday evening game in mid-September were treated to walk-off loss number twelve. You have to hand it to the Mariners: if they're going to lose painfully, they might as well pick a different poison once in a while, and though I haven't forgot the last time Seattle lost on a passed ball/wild pitch, I think I'd rather see tonight's capper than a bomb off The Bartender.

Ultimately though, one's reaction to this game is a matter of perspective. Did the kids play well? Sure. Mike Zunino's fifth inning blast was a no doubt shot that traveled 430+ feet. Brad Miller did his best Brendan Ryan impersonation on a grounder in the hole. There were positives.

But as has happened so often lately, the Mariners failed to convert their opportunities with runners in scoring position. They stranded two runners against Adam Wainwright in the fourth, and they left men in scoring position again in the tenth. Personally, I gave up caring about wins and losses this year long ago, but it's certainly frustrating to see the Cardinals win on something of a freebie after the M's couldn't turn a golden opportunity into a run or two. Eventually, the pendulum will swing the other way.

  • In the first inning -- full disclosure, I was listening to radio for this one -- Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith were discussing the Cardinals offensive success, and Rizzs mentioned that the St. Louis coaching staff attributed their run production to an early season lineup adjustment. I'm paraphrasing, but the gist was 'St. Louis started using Matt Carpenter as a lead off hitter on April 18th, shifted Jon Jay to the two-spot, and from there after the daisies blossomed, the skies cleared, and the Cardinals started hitting.' 
    Naturally, I wouldn't be writing this bullet point if that anecdote hadn't been a pile of crap. Prior to the 18th, the Cardinals were "just" 8-6 but had averaged 5.64 runs per game over that span. After the change, over the rest of the month, the Cardinals average scoring output dropped to under 4 runs per game (though they did manage to go 7-5 during that period), and on the year, the Redbirds are scoring 4.79 runs per game. That's good for the top spot in the National League, but it's not like the offense was sputtering without Carpenter leading off. The bottom line is that there a number of reasons for St. Louis's success at the plate this year, and Matt Carpenter ascending to the lead off spot is not among the top ten. It's not all that surprising that a coaching staff would struggle with cause and effect like this but I'm not sure why Rizzs would pass along such a note, especially one that can be debunked with just a tiny bit of research. It makes for a nice narrative, I guess, but it's misleading and doesn't help anyone understand anything about the game better.
  • In some ways, the Cardinals are a model the Mariners would like to follow. Like St. Louis, Seattle is trying to construct a lineup primarily with young graduates of the farm system. We're all kinda hoping that Justin Smoak turns into Allen Craig, that Nick Franklin can resemble Matt Carpenter, or that Michael Saunders has a career like Jon Jay. While Seattle's prospects have largely stalled over the last five years, St. Louis's have blossomed, and given the somewhat ambiguous nature of player development, it's frustrating to see how similar approaches have payed largely different dividends. I suppose it's fitting that the two clubs have mirroring records.
  • Congratulations are in order for Hisashi Iwakuma. In the midst of throwing seven shutout innings against the National League's best offensive unit, the thirty-two year old cracked the 200 IP mark for the first time in his big league career. No, it wasn't a dominating outing in the traditional sense, as he struck out just one while walking two. However, he induced thirteen ground balls, many on soft contact. It's been great to see him carry his second half success from 2012 throughout the current campaign, and his $6.5 million salary in 2014 looks like a pittance after an all-star caliber campaign.
  • To think, it was almost Mike Zunino night in St. Louis. While not quite as impressive as his homer against Wainwright -- did I mention that some estimates peg the distance at more than 430 feet? -- he also gunned Daniel Descalso down when the Cardinal shortstop tried to steal in the bottom of the fifth. I have to imagine that, on a personal level, the passed ball kind of spoils Zunino's night, but let's not let one play diminish an otherwise impressive game for the rookie backstop.