This past summer I became infatuated with the game of bocce ball. Not only was it an excellent way to spend a summer night, get some friends together, and do nothing while somehow occupying your mind for countless hours, but it was also a wonderful excuse to always have a beer in one hand. The radio call of the M's game was usually on in the background, and our typical playing surface had an angled slope that by summer's end I had become quite accustomed to. By statistical analysis, it would have been hard to quantify my dominance, hard to predict. However, I rarely lost at bocce ball last summer, much because I could read that hill like a sonaddabish.
People tried all sorts of strange throws to beat me, to take me off of my game. One friend developed an incredibly ineffective "atmosphere ball" wherein he would two handed, granny-style, throw his ball as high as he could in the air, trying to take away the trend of the slope we played on by sheer initial, downward energy. His balls usually fell significantly short of their target. Yet sometimes, they landed just right.
Every cat gets its mouse. Even the "atmosphere ball" worked here and there.
James Paxton had himself a pretty decent outing, despite the numerical values sounding somewhat horrible. He only lasted 4 2/3 innings, gave up 3 earned runs on 8 hits, and gave up a solo homerun in the 2nd to Brandon Moss. He managed only four strikeouts and also allowed one walk. However, James Paxton was, for a lack of better terminology, sorta dealing tonight. He did hang a cutter to Moss, who touched him over the centerfield wall for a solo shot. But James was touching corners with a 97 MPH fastball, dropping that rainbow-of-wonder curveball you see above, and just generally doing what pitchers should do in order to win baseball games from the mound.
He exited the game due to a "middle finger injury" and that's all we know so far about the matter. My guess? Something horrible. But I rarely guess right. What happened to James Paxton tonight is two things, one, he clearly was caught making googly-eyes at BABIP's ex and BABIP did not appreciate this, and also, he did a pretty piss-poor job of fielding his own position. Allow me to demonstrate how the Cleveland Indians scored the majority of their runs in the top of the 4th:
Yes, that is indeed a game of bocce ball being played on the infield grass. And when you are going up against a master bowler such as Corey Kluber, that's just the sort of round sure to doom you the rest of the way. Three runs were scored in the top of the fourth, and the sequence for Cleveland that inning went fly out-single-INF single-walk-single-error-fielders choice-groundout. It was a fluky inning that proved insurmountable.
This isn't to say that this game was a total wash, though. The M's were coming in to this game off the back of facing one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League, only to have to face a pitcher somehow more dominant. To his credit, Kluber was fantastic tonight, notching thirteen strikeouts in 7 full innings. The Mariners lineup featured zero percent Robinson Cano, until he pinch hit in the 9th, and included a bottom of the order sequencing Ackley-Taylor-Zunino. There was never a lot of expectation of an offensive explosion tonight. However, the M's still managed to tag Kluber for three runs like so:
Still strong. Still striking out a lot.
Still bearded. And, frankly, still unbelievably frustrating that Dustin is capable of casually going oppo on Corey Kluber while also spending the other 99% of his time wearing a dunce cap at the plate. I've never wanted someone to succeed so badly before. Except for this one guy in my high school who put together some of the most epic dance-asks only to get rejected but had the tenacity to never stop. Never stop, Dustin. Have tenacity. Molly is gonna say "Yes" one time. She HAS to.
But see, the problem is this game wasn't really a game of baseball. It was a game of infield squibs and bocce throws. It was a little more chilled out than Dustin or Mike thought. You can't just blast the ball through the field of play and expect to win bocce. You have to place the ball. Like Corey, and Kipnis, and Brantley, and Aviles. They know how to place a shot. That's why the Mariners lost 5-3. Sixteen strikeouts didn't help, either.
On to some bullets to wrap this baby up:
- Going in to this game I felt very little chance of a win and I'm pretty pleased with what I saw, despite the losing part which was not pleasing. No Cano, yet a competitive game against a dominant starter where we lost ours to injury. That's encouraging.
- The M's begin their flirting with .500 by taking a step back. Sometimes it works playing hard-to-get.
- We have a third baseman who can do this:
- Cleveland is going to give us a tough series, and they won't have to face our ace as we did for them. Be patient, the pitching matchups aren't amazing for us.
- Seriously, though, I'm really good at bocce ball.
This last image is presented without comment, but is of my favorite Mariners fan so far this year:
Love and goms.