Tough loss. Pretty, prett-ay tough loss. Coming into this game my main concern was getting shutdown by Justin Masterson and his mutant, turbo-sinker. When the first six Mariners hit the ball on the ground it seemed as though things were settled comfortably into the predictable category. The Indians managed to score a run in the first as Kevin Millwood again struggled with command early and the easy storylines appeared to be manifesting.
In the third Brendan Ryan worked the first of his four walks and competent major league baseball player John Jaso launched a fastball into the seats to the put the team up 2-1. Fun fact: In thirty-seven plate appearances Miguel Olivo has reached base five times. In eight plate appearances John Jaso has reached base four times. Yeah, there’s probably a reason why most fans are screaming for Jaso to get more playing time. It will be interesting to see when Jaso is allowed behind the plate and how he looks there because if he looks decent there is no skill-related reason for Olivo to be on this roster another moment.
The bottom of the fourth was weird. Good weird. Five drinks into the night weird. Justin Smoak ripped a single. Kyle Seager hit a patented Kyle Seager line-drive. Michael Saunders, damn well determined to prove his new-found confidence, swung 3-0 and stung a liner to right. And then Justin Masterson lost it. Three of the next four hitters reached via walk or HBP. It was, unusual? Refreshing? Eye-opening? It was “something” to see the Mariners push a quality starter and demand he throw quality pitches. When Masterson missed out of the zone the Mariner hitters appeared content to wait. Masterson then appeared to overcompensate by reverting to “get one over” mode and Ichiro and Smoak responded correctly by taking aggressive swings at hittable pitches, driving in three more runs and Masterson from the game.
The Mariners have had a few big innings thus far this season but this one felt different. Whereas previously rallies depending on opposition fielding errors or seeing eyes groundballs tonight saw the team employ a far less luck-dependant power/patience approach. It’s something to watch as the season unfolds. Eric Wedge has spoken at length about what his philosophy is for an “aggressive approach.” At its core the idea is not to avoid walks but to anticipate hittable pitches and cover them when they come. At least I think that’s what he’s talking about. I’m trying to come at this like Eric Wedge isn’t stupid. But Jon previewed this series with some Indians bloggers and they made Wedge’s firing from the Indians sound like a regional holiday. I hope you’re not stupid Eric. If you want to prove it give me a little sign. Maybe play all your best players again tomorrow ok?
Hilari-tragically the top of the fifth played out like as predictable and shitty as, I don’t know, Short Circuit 2. Kevin Millwood started missing up in the zone and Kevin Millwood does not have “miss your spots and be ok” stuff. The first six batter reached base. The first six batters scored and by the time the King’s horses/men got off their ass put in some work putting it back together again the game was tied 8-8.
At this point I’m fairly sure both teams realized is was already pushing 9:15 and agreed to a truce in order to expedite the rest of the game. Although baserunners abounded going forward peace was kept through a series of popouts/groundouts/strikeouts until GASP the diabolical Indians betrayed the Mariners by rallying for a run in the top of the seventh. The Mariners tried to counter attack but between a Michael Saunders flyout to the wall in center and a thrilling showdown in the ninth with the bases loaded were unable to push across a heroic comeback and fell to the traitors, 9-8. Manny Acta laughed maniacally and forced an unwilling woman to kiss him. What a dick.
A few more observations:
- It’s going to be interesting to see if Wedge holds Brendan Ryan “accountable” for his error in the fifth that opened the door for all those runs. That grounder appeared to be a tough but doable double play ball. Instead of 8-2 with two outs and bases clear the game became 8-2, runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. This furthers Ryan’s perhaps deserved reputation as a spectacular but inconsistent defender. He’s like a golfer with an incredible tee to green game but can’t consistently knock in the five foot par putt. Although he did atone at the plate with the aforementioned four walks it’s an early season trend and storyline that I hope goes away soon. Brendan Ryan is an asset at a position with no real good alternatives. Stop making silly plays, Ryan.
- Justin Smoak had a statistically nice game, going 4-5 with an RBI. He still wasn’t squaring the ball up with consistency however, getting sawed off again and generally benefitting from some BABIP regression. His ill-advised first pitch groundout in the ninth did little to help feel that his approach is locked in. He looks for all available evidence like a hitter still looking for his stroke. I wonder if he ever finds it and if it’s what we all want it to be.
- Jesus Montero, for the first time this year, showed some real troubling signs behind the plate. Another cricket bowler-esque throw to second on a steal and multiple “stabs” at pitches in the dirt continue to show the cracks that had scouts label him so confidently as a 1B/DH. At the plate he hit the ball hard a few times but has yet to really show off his legendary opposite field power. His flyout in the 7th appeared to have a chance off the bat but settled comfortably into Shin Soo Choo’s glove shy of the warning track. It’s not Yankee Stadium, Jesus. You’re going to actually have to hit the ball hard here to hit home runs. Please do so soon and with regularity.
- The brightest point of light in this game may have been Charlie Furbush. After Erasmo Ramirez looked every bit the youngest player in the American League Furbush threw two innings, striking out four and flashing a very effective slider against left and right handed hitters. His high point came in the fifth on back to back strikeouts of Choo and Carlos Santana. Worst case scenario for Furbush at this point seems to be an effective LOOGY but it would be nice to see him get another chance to start. His main failing is his propensity to give up dingers. So let’s keep an eye on that, shall we?
Vargas Vs. Yet-Another-Indian-Reminder-of-a-Horrible-Mariner-Trade tomorrow. Pretty sure we’re gonna have a shorter game tomorrow (he said hoping he was suddenly able to predict the future).