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Mariners bullpen again proves that all shall fade

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Rookie catcher Carlos Perez walks off Dominic Leone in MLB debut, ruining perfectly enjoyable baseball game.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Bottom of the 1st

Albert Pujols has 524 home runs. He is one of the greatest hitters in the 150 years of baseball history. His career fWAR of 88.7 is 27th all time. From 2000-2010 his lowest wRC+ was 150. This decade has humbled him, even as his coffers swell beyond counting, but make no mistake that in baseball mythology Albert Pujols is something close to a god.

James Paxton is just a man. Well mostly man. Maybe part St. Bernard. Definitely a fair amount of Kokanee sashaying to and fro in there as well I suppose. But for the most part he's just a ball player with a fantastic fastball and spotty command. He falls behind Pujols 3-0. He's annoyed with himself, maybe quickly cursing the freak accident that robbed him of half his Spring Training and put him behind schedule. A man Paxton's size needs his body to work in an intricate, delicate balance that takes endless repetitions to perfect. It's not quite there yet.

He decides he'll just get one over, get to 3-1 and make a pitch. His pitch. Then at least if Pujols walks he earns it. He lets the ball go. It leaves his hand at 93.2 miles per hour. Amazing. Every pitch James Paxton throws is amazing. But this is Albert Pujols and the ball splits the strike zone like an expert archer hitting a bullseye.

Paxton oops

Albert Pujols has 525 home runs. 2-0 Angels.

Top of the 6th

There are few things more frustrating as a baseball fan, and I imagine a baseball player, than a protracted stretch of poor hitting with runners in scoring position. The 2015 Mariners have done some very good things offensively, mainly swatting a hell of a lot of home runs. But hitting with runners in scoring position has been ghastly. I could go on to cite the 0-12 with RISP last Sunday against Minnesota or more humorously point to them getting 4 hits in that situation last Thursday and only scoring 2 runs the entire game.

It's the kind of randomness that pits your heart and your brain at war. You know this is largely bad luck. You know given a large enough sample size it will mostly even out. But the rage I feel watching runners stranded at 3rd. So much fury! Perhaps baseball's most beautiful trick is spending 90% of the time lovingly petting our analytical side and then 10% teaching you that real life is lived outside the margins of projections.

Anyway here is Dustin Ackley, the poster child of 2015's struggles. Dustin Ackley, hitless with runners in scoring position all year long. Garrett Richards, over 100 pitches and struggling desperately. He's just been forced the humiliation of intentionally walking Logan Morrison only to allow Mike Zunino first base in the only real way Mike Zunino knows how, by hitting him in the ribs with the ball.

Garrett Richards falling behind poor, hapless Dustin Ackley 3-0, clearly at the end of his rope. Richards throwing strike one. Ackley showing the passivity that seems to define him by watching a 3-1 fastball every bit as much a cut of Prime Kobe Beef cooked a perfect medium rare as the pitch Albert Pujols hit a mile in the 1st sail past him expressionless, the world a cascade of ones and zeroes.

Richards throws another. Ackley's built in Pitch F/X array indicates It's low. It's ball four. The game is tied.

But it's strike three. And we go to the 7th. SkyNet come quickly.

Top of the 8th

Mike Zunino, May 4th, 2015: .139/.222/.292. Gaze upon it. Bask in the horror of those numbers. Roll around in the thought that the Mariners number 3 overall pick in 2012 is one of baseball's worst offensive players. Yes, he is very, very strong. Yes he is by all accounts and data a wonderful catcher. A CANcher, if you will. But the hitting has been an atrocity.

It's hard to imagine a worse matchup for Zunino than Garrett Richards. Richards' combination of weapons grade mid 90's cutter and hard, 12-6 curveball from the right side is among the most daunting arsenals any pitcher in baseball deploys. Poor Mike has seen far, far worse and failed.

So imagine the surprise when he drives in Logan Morrison in the 2nd with a sharp single up the middle. The pitch was poorly located yes but still moving at 97 miles per hour and in the strike zone, one of the locations Zunino has struggled most with so far this year.

In the 7th Zunino faced even longer odds with Joe Smith. In 2014 Joe Smith held right-handed hitters to a .133/.169/.216 line. Those numbers are bad for even....no I'm not gonna do that.

Here are the pitches Joe Smith threw to Mike Zunino tonight:

Zunino Smith

Pitch number 5 is the one. That IS a ball. But that is a sinker just off the edge with 2 strikes from one of the toughest right handed relievers on the planet. On the next pitch Zunino got the same sinker with some strike zone and crushed it.

There is a perennial All-Star in Mike Zunino. There is probably an all-star within the majority of baseball players in the major leagues. It's probably a long shot he reached that plateau. But tonight was hopeful. He has an isolated patience of .087. It's.....something.

Bottom of the 9th

We deserve this. Not the losing. We're well past paid up karmically for whatever we've done wrong with those. And not "we" as in Lookout Landing community. Plenty of us knew that 2014's bullpen was an unreplicatable jewel, something beautiful accidentally farted into existence amidst immense amounts of pressure.

"Regression is coming". We knew it. We know it. But you don't expect it to come this quickly, all within a month. After Danny Farquhar lost a 4-2 lead amidst poor command and worse luck Dominic Leone was called in to face Carlos Perez, a rookie catcher playing only because God remains vengeful towards Mike Scioscia for exposing His creation to so much Jeff Mathis.

Leone had Perez 0-1 leading off the 9th. Mike Zunino called for a curve. He emphatically held his glove low to the ground, emphasizing the desired location:

Carlos Perez has 1 home run.