Some very Neat® and Cool™ things happened during last night's baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, not the least of which being the fact that the M's actually won the damn thing. Winning one single baseball game isn't really a huge deal, unless you are coming back from a 14-2 deficit in the fifth inning, or winning in November. I mean, there are 162 of these things.
Then again, when you have fired your general manager and shipped off your best bullpen arm and dead weight in lieu of a minor rebuild before restocking the team with a coterie of Rock-Em-Sock-Em robots to see the year through, winning takes on a certain unique kind of twist when it happens as efficiently as it did last night. Since August 23, the Mariners have gone 9-4. Felix has bounced back from August 15th's season-in-a-nutshell two-inning fart contest with three consecutive great starts, building his strikeouts back up to normal levels and notching a 2.92 xFIP by keeping those damn baseballs on the ground. Austin Jackson is eating deep dish pizza and Brad Miller is no longer airmailing throws to first base.
These are things to be happy about! And hey, if you want the happy thing to keep on keepin-on, then look no further than to the first inning of yesterday's matchup. There it was A's starter Jesse Chavez, who since 2013 has been a completely valuable third or fourth arm out of the pen with respectable splits and an occasional dinger problem doing well...the opposite of that first adjective. That's because there was a leadoff walk to Ketel Marte, who suddenly was standing on third base after a Kyle Seager single. That took eleven pitches. Three were in the strike zone.
After this, Robinson Cano doubled in Marte and sent Kyle to the corner before being joined on the base paths by Seth Smith, who walked on only four pitches, each of which were well, well outside the zone. So to recap, that's 19 pitches, with only four strikes. You could be disappointed that the Mariners had this whole thing basically handed to them but you could also realize that jumping on mistakes is, sadly, a hell of a step in the right direction for this baseball team. And good for them.
After Chavez got a little talking-to, he seemed to settle back in somewhat, lucking into a force-out at second once Logan Morrison had to play everyone's favorite post-mound conference game of Swing Away or Earn A Walk. He chose the first option and lost, but those bases were loaded and it was, just like that, 3-0 Mariners. As MLB's video staff dubbed it, A Highlight. Yes, a boring groundout that just happened to score a run because the A's are bad, an exciting highlight like the classic "Green Day's singer throws out first pitch" or "Hernandez fans nine over eight frames."
Quelling any extended fear over a hidden injury or exacerbated hip problem, said Mr. Hernandez came right out of the gate throwing 93 playing everyone's other favorite game, Watching Felix Hernandez Tear Through The Oakland Athletics. He ended the first inning with a five-pitch strikeout to Josh Reddick, which wasn't exactly anything special, meaningful, or important, but is something I want to talk about anyway. Here's what it looked like.
We all know that Felix is going to be entering a scary part of his career very soon, and that it's very possible we've seen the best of him already, once standing in front of our car begging us to gawk and gander before suddenly appearing in the rearview mirror, snap, just like that. Felix will make the playoffs someday, and while we always hoped it would be as the most terrifying #1 guy in a loaded rotation buzzsawing his way through, I don't know, the stupid Cardinals or something, it's very possible it will be as the sagely presence in the middle of the rotation, throwing up shit like this. And even if that has to be the case, well look at how damned effective it can be in even the first inning of a game. Still touching 93 on a sinker, 94 on a fastball, mixing speeds and throwing dirt right out of the gate rather than late in innings like he used to. This season has given us a lot to worry about for the King, but when you see something like this you kind of have to roll your eyes and realize that maybe everything is going to be just fine.
But, sadly, back to 2015. The Mariners were still playing some great ball, notching another two runs in the third. One of them came off the bat of Logan Morrison, who walloped himself his sixteenth dinger of the season off a still-struggling Chavez, topping out around 90 and seemingly afraid to throw his fastball in the first place. Morrison's shaky season has made it pretty clear that he is, at best, probably just a platoon first baseman on whatever team he ends up playing for next season, but don't forget that that number I said up there was 16 and that since August, which has seen him splitting his time at first quite a bit, he's notched his wRC+ up to 150 while slugging .567 in the process. Oh, and he hasn't struck out since September. He'll Yeah small sample sizes.
The M's got back on board in the fourth with whatever a Shawn O'Malley is and whatever this was:
All smiles. Shawn O'Malley clubs his first Major League home run. WATCH: http://t.co/CPDZwzBOVA pic.twitter.com/MXRl8wCo8o— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) September 6, 2015
As Nathan pointed out on Twitter, holy moly does that swing (and person) look familiar. So I decided, what the hell, let's put it to the test. The Franklin Test.
While O'Malley has started his pre-swing leg kick here, you can visibly see how much they both rely on shifting their upper body strength for power. As a fellow Short Person™ I can tell you that is indeed the best way to do anything remotely resembling athletic prowess, as those legs have not spent 28 years building power by carrying around six feet of muscle. The only thing our new Irish friend is missing is that dang tobacco scowl, which...hellooooooooo Tampa Bay.
Alright now we've got them mid swing, and we can see that Franklin, here knocking in his first career dinger down in San Diego two years ago, had some...rather interesting footwork going on. While his feet aren't quite crossed curtsy-style, O'Malley also looks a bit unset himself. They both are leaning like hell because they are short and it's hard to be short and hit for power. Also it should now be blatantly obvious how silly Officer Franklin's helmet used to be.
While not quite at the same point here, both Franklin and O'Malley appear to open up right around the same time with similar bat movement in a slappy-kind of swing. Franklin is already gunning for first, mainly because Mike Trout didn't make Team USA, but also because he has to shift that weight somewhere when his ankles are all over the place, which, now that you mention it, don't look at his profile page on Fangraphs right now. Or do. I'm not your boss.
So there you have it. Cue the Twilight Zone music, the similarities are pretty stunning. The swing, the height, even the position and the type of play both seem capable of at their best. And while Franklin was supposed to be one of the organizations most exciting up and coming young guns at one point, O'Malley is just some guy from Kennewick who wasn't even supposed to be here in the first place. Very soon pitchers will start to catch up with him to expose why he's only ever been able to snag minor league contracts in his nine-year career, and if we are being honest with ourselves, we would realize the only reason he is here is because those sepia-tinted photos from the beginning of the year turned out to be just what we were afraid they were: nostalgia for a future that never arrived.
And yet, you have to feel dang happy for the kid who grew up rooting for the Mariners, coming off a winter where he probably thought he was done playing baseball ever again now earning five hits with a dinger, a double, and a stolen base in his first two games with his childhood team. To compare him with Franklin at this point is useless--Franklin had been given chances, told he was sheathed in a layer of gold, called up again and again to a struggling ball club that needed just that extra pop in the middle of the order. You know, exactly the greatness he told everyone he had.
But O'Malley has spent the better part of ten years looking up, probably dreaming just for the chance to have fun on a crappy team in the first place, and not even the 2014 Angels. The back of Franklin's card may have more numbers, but you can't tell me that he wouldn't be trading results with O'Malley right now in a heartbeat if he could.
So yes, the M's ended the night with a respectable score of 8-3, and they continue the series this afternoon with Iwakuma on the mound while looking for their fifth straight win. These are all some Neat® things that happened, and while I think we can all agree that we wish they would have happened in, say, fucking May or something, well, here we are. Goms and etc.