Seattle Mariners postsSunday July 31, 2011
M's Game Report: The (Two) Kids Are Alright
The last time I was at Safeco Field, June 25th, the M's lost to the Florida Marlins but were flirting with (OK, kinda talking to but totally being dissed by) .500. They were actually only a few games out of first place, and, among fans, there were thoughts of “Really? This team?” We assumed they wouldn't stay there but hope began beating its tiny wings anyway. That 17-game losing streak earlier this month stilled those wings. In a way it was a relief. We knew, no matter what the standings said, that a team with the worst offense in baseball could only go so far.
Yesterday afternoon, a beautiful Pacific Northwest afternoon, I returned to Safeco and watched the M's win for only the second time in 20 games, 3-2 over Tampa Bay, behind two rookies: Michael Pineda, who pitched no-hit ball into the sixth, and Dustin Ackley, who hit a 2-run homerun in the 1st inning, a line shot over the 405 sign in right-center, then a 2-out, ringing double in the sixth (almost to the same spot), which led to the M's third and final (and winning) run when Mike Carp lined a single to right to plate him.
Pineda, with the usual snap to his fastball, wasn't quite as sharp as the numbers indicate. He threw 46 balls with his 64 strikes, and walked four while striking out 10. His strikeouts, inning by inning, indicate he probably tired: 7 Ks through 3 innings, then 3 Ks for the final 3. He gave up one hit, a single, but left with two on, both walks, in the 7th. The bullpen didn't give up a hit, either. So a combined one-hitter! Not bad.
I sat with my friend Jeff R., between old folks to our left and young folks to our right, talking old UBS shit and housing prices. The guy to my immediate right, who had the slouching posture of a teenager on a bus, kept dissing Jack Wilson. The M's crowd, near 25,000, kept dissing Chone Figgins ... even though no one else (besides Ackley) are hitting. The future star of spring, Justin Smoak, is now 12-for-July, a .146 average, dropping his season totals to .218/.313/.385. Again: Is he injured? Should he be rested?
Despite the game's good news—Pineda, Ackley, Carp—the best news might be this: The M's are no longer stuck with the 30-30-30-30 label! They are still last in the Majors in runs scored, on-base percentage, and batting average; but are, for the moment, and by a hair's breadth, 29th in slugging percentage. And hope beats its tiny wings again.
I wrote about the Mariners fall from grace a week ago (“The 30-30-30-30-Club”), when they'd lost nine in a row. Now it's 17. A loss to Oakland on July 6th. A four-game sweep by the Angels. All-Star break. A four-game sweep by the Rangers. A three-game sweep by Toronto. A three-game sweep by Boston. Now the first two games to the Yankees. They've been outscored 101 to 47 during the run. In eight of the games they've been shut out or managed only one run.
Joe Posnanski posts about their sad streak here.
Tonight was the worst. C.C. Sabathia had a perfect game going into the 7th. Then Brendan Ryan singled with one out. At .264, he's nearly our best hitter. Dustin Ackley, a June call-up, and our best hitter, struck out. Miguel Olivo, our home run leader (he's got 13), struck out. It was Sabathia's 14th strikeout of the game.
In the 8th, Sabathia loaded the bases on walks with nobody out and was promptly relieved. A chance! Followed by strikeout, groundout (for a run), strikeout. And the groundout should've been a double play.
For some reason, maybe to give him work, the Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera in the 9th. Seemed overkill: strikeout, line out, strikeout. Final line for Yankees pitchers: 9 innings, 18 strikeouts, one hit. That was no. 17 for the Mariners. As if in a cartoon, it rained on them, too.
The 30-30-30-30 Club
The Mariners' season came undone while I was visiting family in Minneapolis in early July. They were getting by, as my friend Jim said, with Smoak and mirrors, and on July 5, despite getting swept by the Nationals and Braves in late June, they were 43-43, .500 exactly, and only a few games out of first place in the weak American League West.
On July 5 they beat Oakland 4-2 in 10 innings. The next day they lost to the A's, 2-0, but still won the series, 2-1.
They haven't won since.
The Angels swept them in four games in Anaheim. The Rangers swept them four games here. That's a nine-game losing streak. Now they're more than 10 games back. Season over.
It's not just that they lost, it's how they lost. In the four games here, the M's gave up 17 runs and scored two: one on Saturday night, one on Sunday afternoon. In 36 innings, they not only never had the lead, but, since Texas scored in the first inning in three of the four games, the M's actually trailed for 34 of those 36 innings. Even though every game starts out 0-0, they can't even hold onto the tie.
Last season, the M's set a record for fewest runs scored by a Major League team in a non-strike-shortened season since the advent of the DH rule. They were last in almost every offensive category. Runs: 30th. Batting Average: 30th. OBP: 30th. Slugging: 30th. So it is again. They're the sole members of the 30-30-30-30 club. They don't seem interested in sharing that dishonor.
So how could it get any worse? This way: We're down to just mirrors. Justin Smoak, who currently leads the team in HRs (12) RBIs (43) and OBP (.324), is in a downward spiral. Here are his numbers, month-to-month:
Ouch. Remember that Springsteen song, “I'm going down”? I'm going down down down down, I'm going down down down down ... That's what we've got here.
Is he injured? Are fans talking about it? Are there fans?
M's management is doing the right thing. I have to say that. They're going young now. They're building from within. But the team is suffering from the bad moves and worse picks from earlier in the 2000s. The question is how long they—and we—will be suffering.
Game 6: How a Home Victory Equals a Loss
At least we saved ourselves a half inning.
In other words, yes, it was cool that because of a scheduling conflict with a U2 concert, the Florida Marlins had to abandon their own stadium and play their home series against the Seattle Mariners here, at Safeco Field, under National League rules—meaning the M's wore road grays, batted first, and pitchers hit. All of that was cool to see. But the best part of the game may have been that, for this Mariners loss, we got to leave a half inning early. If you're going to see a home loss, better to see one that lasts a mere 8 1/2 innings instead of the full 9.
My sixth game of the season was an altogether unthrilling affair. In the bottom of the first, the Marlins got their first three batters aboard on solid base hits and plated them all. The Mariners only scored two the entire game. That's pretty much it.
But for the first time in a long time, I did get to see the game with both Tim and Mike, with whom I shared a 20-game package back in '94, '95, '96, etc. It was throwback night for us and we trotted out some new Chris Bermanisms to go along with the old standards: Bobby “I Am Curious” Ayala; and Bob “With Six You Get” Ayrault. Mike came up with: Omar “Au Revior Les” Infante. I came up with: Dustin “Heart attack, ack, ack, ack, ack” Ackley.
OK, so we're rusty.
Final score was 4-2, Marlins, which is also my score this season. Not final.
In the battle of the water-themed teams, the Mariners couldn't catch themselves some Marlins...
M's Game Report: Lesser Angels Still Win
There goes my perfect record.
The Mariners, 4-0 in my previous appearances at Safeco Field—against, chronlogically, the Blue Jays, Rangers, Twins and Yankees—lost last night to the Los Angeles Angels, 6-3. It was less the Angels winning than the odds winning. I didn't think I'd see four wins all year, let alone to start the season.
It was also less the Angels winning than the Mariners losing. M's were up 2-1 in the 3rd, with two outs, when Vernon Wells stepped to the plate against Jason Vargas. “Scoiscia's got Wells batting clean-up?” I said to my friend, Jeff. “Dude's batting .180-something.” A second later Wells hit it out to tie the game. M's go up 3-2 but in the 7th, the Angels get a leadoff double and a ground out to move the runner, and Torii Hunter, who's batting second despite having the lowest batting average on the team (what's Scioscia doing? I wondered), grounds to Chone Figgins at third. The throw to the plate arrives in plenty of time to preserve our lead. Except--no!--there goes the white ball, squiggling loose between catcher Miguel Olivo's legs. Tie game. An out later, which, if Olivo had held on, should've ended the inning, Vernon Wells again steps to the plate. “I still say he shouldn't be hitting clean-up,” I tell Jeff. A second later, homerun no. 2. Angels add another run in the 9th on a two-out balk, two-out single off of Chris Ray and that's your ballgame.
On the other hand, when was the last time I saw anyone hit two homeruns in one game at Safeco? Years.
The attendance was recorded as 20,238, but it was half that, if that. The area around Safeco feels increasingly abandoned, sketchy, and desperate, as more people fight over less people.