I'm really tired of this, baseball edition
JP's expression says it all
Last night I attended the Mariners game with my good friends K & E, hoping for a nice pick-me-up for the team after their lousy road trip to Cincinnati and St. Petersburg. You can almost excuse dropping three of four to the Rays, they're a really good team. But now they were playing the Angels, who are, let's see, what is the technical term... oh, yes, they're bad.
Having fallen out of first place and clinging by a thread to a Wild Card position, the M's needed to come out strong. And so they did: a three-run first inning, and with Logan Gilbert on the mound, things were looking good. Until the Angels' catcher, promoted from the minors 2½ weeks ago, clubbed a home run to make it 3-1. OK, still not bad. His next time up, that same newbie hit a nearly-identical home run, this time with a runner aboard. Mariners 3, Logan O'Hoppe 3. Meanwhile, after that first-inning performance, the Seattle lineup could do nothing against the suddenly formidable Reid Detmers, who was 3-10 with a nearly 5.00 ERA. It was beginning to look like extra innings.
Then came an interesting ninth. The M's brought in their supposed closer, Andres Muñoz, who was somehow named AL reliever of the month for August. Seems to me whoever made that decision didn't see him pitch; I mean, a 1.4 WHIP isn't exactly stellar, but OK. Which isn't to knock Muñoz. I like Muñoz, but in my opinion he's not ready in the head for the pressure of the closer role. He's still pretty raw; someday he could be an elite reliever, but right now he's still learning on the job. E and I were talking about how Muñoz makes us nervous these days, and I mentioned that he's got great stuff but doesn't make good choices when he has a batter on the ropes.
A retro view of the game last night, as we sat in row 3 of section 337, one row forward of what had been my original Safeco Field season seats for several years. Though I'm happy in 327 row 9, I've missed you, 337! Especially the distance from the PA speakers there. Much less of an aural assault.
Mike Moustakas led off with a smart base hit against the limited defensive shift the M's were employing, just chopping a grounder toward third where nobody was playing. Not Muñoz's fault, his manager's, but OK. Then that O'Hoppe jerk is up again. Muñoz gets to a 1-2 count despite some poor home plate umping, but then tries to be cute. Does he buzz in that 100mph fastball above the letters? No, he throws the same pitch he just threw for strike two, which is nearly the same pitch he threw for ball one (it was in the strike zone, I could even see it from up high), and O'Hoppe said "thank you very much" and blasted it into left for a double. Next batter, Eduardo Escobar, gets in the hole at 0-and-2, but again Muñoz doesn't realize he's in charge. Escobar is a .230 hitter with a high K rate, at 0-2 he has to protect the plate. Muñoz can reach 102mph, but instead he throws the same slider he threw to O'Hoppe and Escobar hit it hard on a line, but the M's were lucky: it was hit right at Jarred Kelenic, who was shallow enough that the guy running for Moustakas at 3rd didn't try to tag up and score. Muñoz then hits the next guy with a fastball to load the bases. Now Brett Phillips and his .188 average is up. Could still get out of this if nothing goes wrong, and Muñoz has seemingly learned from his mistake and is pounding in 100mph+ fastballs. Phillips takes two quick strikes, then a third—except, no, called a ball. Next pitch also called a ball, but looked good from where we were. The next pitch was certainly strike three—except this umpire had dirt in his eye or something, because it's called ball three, and now the crowd is letting the ump have it. Phillips has gotten better timing on the fastball, but he's still fouling them off. Finally he swings and misses and there are two out. Next guy grounds out harmlessly to short and we're still tied. Whew.
Bottom half started out nicely. Cal Raleigh leads off with a base hit. Geno Suárez follows with another single. With Raleigh now at second base, manager Scott Servais smartly elects to replace him with a pinch-runner in José Caballero. Not the ideal choice, but the best one available. Ty France then lines a hit into left-center field and this looks like it! A walk-off victory! Except, what's this? Caballero is being held at third base??! Wait, didn't he just get put into the game for this exact scenario? Run, go for it, make them make a play at the plate. But no, Servais and third-base coach Manny Acta play it conservatively because, hey, there's nobody out and now the winning run is at third with no outs and that's easy to drive in, right?
Well, yes, unless you're the Seattle Mariners.
As I pointed out a while back, the M's suck at this. They only convert that runner at 3B with 0/1 out into a run scored about 40% of the time. Because they strike out. The team's overall 26% K rate actually gets worse with a runner at third and 0/1 out. Worse! Insanity.
To the surprise of no one in the stadium, Jarred Kelenic struck out. And the next guy up was Dylan Less-is-Moore, who despite playing above my expectations of late is still not a good Major League hitter and tapped a weak roller to the shortstop playing shallow, easy forceout at home. Now it was up to Dom Canzone, who just missed squaring up a pitch and rolled it to first. Extra innings. K & E both groaned in unison and I did a riff on the old Cars song "Moving in Stereo": M's are the same, we're groaning in stereo/M's are the same, they can't score from third...
I expected that to be that. The Angels would score their Manfred Man and the M's would not and it'd be over. And indeed, the Angels belted a homer to score two. Bottom 10 would surprise me when Julio Rodríguez crushed his own 2-run homer (his 30th of the season, congrats, Julio) to retie the game. Did we have hope? Not really. The Angels singled their Manfred Man to third in the 11th, then singled him home to go up 6-5, then Geno Suárez made an uncharacteristic error on a hard grounder that scored another run, then another hit and another run before Servais goes and gets Isaiah Campbell from the bullpen, who throws one pitch to end the frame and stop the bleeding. But the M's went down 1-2-3 in the home 11th.
Was this the game that effectively ends the Mariners' postseason hopes? We'll see; given the struggles the Astros and Rangers have both been having, and given that there are still a bunch of games to play against them, there's still a way to pull it out. But after this, my belief that the M's will never win a title so long as Scott Servais is their manager is solidified even more.
The "V"s were, perhaps, premature.