Seattle Mariners postsWednesday September 11, 2019
M's Game: Kyle and the Kids Take One from the Reds
A few minutes before gametime. Mariners attendance will dip below 2 million this year.
I'm part of a season ticket group that meets every March to divvy up the season's tickets and talk about the year ahead. Mostly it's gallows humor. It's a good bunch of guys, with good humor and a deep knowledge of baseball history. I tend to buy tickets to 10 Mariner games, and last night was my last for the season. It was also the first time I ever saw the Cincinnati Reds live. I think. I grew up in an AL city.
Even so, it felt like the tail end of the tail end. It felt like the dregs. The weather was supposed to be nasty, and the M's were coming home from a really nasty Midwest road trip, in which they went 2-2 against the Rangers, 0-2 against the Cubs, and then 0-4 against Houston, including a 21-1 drubbing on Sunday. During the day, on my lunchbreak, I happened upon the Mariners Baseball Reference page and was comparing how this awful season compared with other Mariner awful seasons of the past:
- Our .403 winning percentage is on pace for the ninth-worst mark in M's history. Last season's .549 mark was our sixth-best (after 2001, 2002, 2003, 2000, and 1997).
- We‘ve had 14 winning seasons. This will be our 29th losing season.
- 2001 was the big one, of course: 116-46 for a .716 winning percentage. Second-best is .574 (twice). Meaning we’ve been .700+ but never .600-.700. Odd.
- Our attendance this year will amost certainly be below 2 mil for the fourth time (in a full season) since 1993. For the remaining 12 games, we'd need to average 34.7k to break 2 mil, and there have only been three games this entire season when we‘ve drawn better than 34.7k: two games in March, and a game last month against Toronto when all the Canadians came down.
- All of the sub-2 million attendance years have been this decade: 2011-13, and 2019.
- We’ve used more position players this year than ever before: 63. The previous record was 61 in 2017. Oh, and this was before last night's game when two new players made their MLB debuts. So I guess it's 65? (Yes, it's 65.)
- We‘ve also used more pitchers (40) than ever before. Well, it ties 2017. But 105 players total? What’s the record among all MLB teams?
- The best season a Mariner player has ever had, as judged by WAR, was Alex Rodriguez in 2000 when he posted a 10.4 WAR. Junior's 1996 season, when he missed a month to a hamate bone injury, is second at 9.7. The lowest WAR for the best Mariner player of a particular season is Ichiro's 3.9 out in 2005. We‘re likely to break that one, too. The best WAR on the team currently belongs to Kyle Seager. At 2.6.
All of which didn’t make the evening seem propitious.
But midday the skies cleared, and stayed so, and it was 69 degrees at gametime—about as beautiful a September evening as you could ask for. Plus we had Justus Sheffield on the mound, and I‘ve got hope in the kid. He had a couple good innings against the Yankees, and in his one outing on our sorry roadtrip he pitched five scoreless against the Cubs. Plus starting in right was Kyle Lewis, our 2016 No. 1 draft pick. So things felt new. There was upside. There were possibilities.
First inning looked good: three up and down for the Reds, while Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer had trouble finding the plate.
In the second, Reds right fielder Aristides (Double A) Aquino singled sharply between third and short, but he was erased on a DP. Then Phillip Ervin lofted one into the right-field corner, and our #1 draft pick dove for it. He didn’t come close, the ball bounced to the wall, Ervin glided in with a triple. Then a single, then a double, all sharply rapped. But a comeback to Sheffield ended the threat and it was only 1-0.
Sheffield kept ending threats. They kept getting hits but we kept getting double plays—four double plays in four innnings. We were hitless against Bauer but after 4 innings it was still only 1-0. Sadly, the kid misplayed another one in right, twisting the wrong way several times before making a desperate stab that went for naught (for him) and a double (for the batter). He got no error on either play. My friend Jeff was defending Lewis, since it was his first game, but I'm like, “He's doing the same thing he was doing for three years in the minors, just in a different field. I get where pitching might be at another level. But fielding? Misplaying a ball like that?” I was in the middle of all this when Lewis came to bat for the second time in his Major League career and promptly homered to left center. Tie game. Curtain call. An inning later, our No. 9 hitter, Dylan Moore, rapped one to left. 2-1, M‘s.
In the 7th, we brought in Austin (Double A) Adams, and he got two quick outs, walked the No. 9 hitter, and faced a pinch hitter. “Isn’t it odd to pinch-hit for your leadoff hitter?” I was asking Jeff. Which is when the pinch hitter, Brian O‘Gradym went deep to right with a no-doubter second-decker, and just like that (as Dave used to say) the Reds were back on top. Oh, that was O’Grady's first Major League homer, too. September baseball.
The Reds pattern that inning was out, out, walk, homer, and in the bottom of the 8th we duplicated it. Narvaez struck out, Gordon grounded out, Nola walked and Kyle Seager (our No. 1 WAR guy, after all), hit a parabola that landed about three rows deep in right. And just like that we were on top again. Tony Bass finished it off, 1, 2, 3, and the M's losing streak stopped at six. It was our second victory in September.
Of the seven runs in the game, six were scored via homers. That's getting old. Yesterday I read that something like 50% of all MLB runs this year are scored on homers. Pretty soon, everyone's first hit will be a homer.
Attendance last night was 12,230. Officially. The unofficial number seemed about half that.
Is Jerry Dipoto's reclamation project going well? We are getting younger. But young enough? By position-player age, we‘re currently tied for the 13th-youngest Mariners team with an average age of 27.9—as opposed to last year’s 29.8. By pitcher age, we‘re about the same: 28.8 this year vs. 29.0 last year. It’s the 11th-oldest pitching staff in M's history.
Yanks Use Former M's to Crush M's on a Beautiful Sky-Blue Day in Seattle
Judge sends it high and deep for 99's 101st career homer.
So after the M’s managed to tie the game in the bottom of the 4th with a 2-run homer by Kyle Seager that eked out over the outstretched supertall glove of Aaron Judge in right field, making it 2-2, and the teams switched sides, I wondered how long before the Yankees retook the lead.
Answer? One batter.
It was a beautiful day yesterday in Seattle, blue skies and highs in the mid-80s, but I knew the afternoon game between the M’s and Yankees wouldn’t be beautiful. First, all those damn Yankee fans. I’m guessing about a third of the crowd wore Yankee paraphernalia. Individually they’re not bad but whenever they score a run you get that contingent clapping “Let’s go, Yank-kees!” like they’re in the fucking Bronx rather than in your backyard. Cue 2016 Felix against Toronto.
Then there was the drama of the pitching matchup: our former ace, James Paxton, he of the no-hitter and American eagle landing on his shoulder, whom we traded in the off-season to the Yankees, going against the main component of that trade, top prospect Justus Sheffield. Paxton has had an off-on season with the Yanks, but lately on, while Sheffield had pitched in two games for us—one in April and one last week. At gametime, his ERA was over 6.00 and his WHIP nearing 2.5. Small sample size but yikes.
For all that, Sheffield might have set ‘em down in the 1st except we overshifted on Gleyber Torres: Second baseman Dee Gordon, playing on the shortstop-side of second, couldn’t move to his left in time. That would’ve been the third out. Instead, Sheffield faced Gary Sanchez, who, on the seventh pitch, launched a ball into the upper deck in left. For a second I thought it might physically leave the park. The only doubt was fair or foul and it was ruled fair, even after the appeal, and the Yanks had a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, Paxton retired our side on nine pitches.
For all that, there was a moment we had a chance. The winds of fortune shifted. Sheffield settled down and faced the minimum in the 3rd, then struck out the side in the 4th: Sanchez looking, Gardner swinging, Urshela swinging. Fun! And Paxton suddenly couldn’t find the plate. In the 4th, we should’ve scored more, but somehow turned four walks and a homer into just 2 runs, stranding 2. The other walk was erased on a caught stealing.
Still: tie game. But how long would it last?
Five pitches. On a 1-2 count, 27-year-old rookie Mike Ford, whom the Yanks brought up when Luke Voigt went on the DL earlier this month, and who’s hit eight homeruns in that time, went deep. Sheffield got Maybin to ground out, but the Yankees journeyman Tyler “White Shoes” Wade beat our shift again, poking a hit into the empty area by third base and legging out an easy double. Then he stole third. Then D.J. LeMahieu singled and the Yankees had their 2-run lead back. And there went Sheffield ... and in came Matt Wisler, whom we purchased from the San Diego Padres on July 4. (Because nothing says American independence better than buying a dude.) And on Wisler’s sixth pitch, Aaron Judge went deep. The only question was whether he hit it too high but I think it wound up over the bullpen in left. Haven’t seen such a high, arching homer since Mark McGwire’s heyday. 6-2, Evils.
And that’s where it stayed until the 9th when LeMahieu homered to make it 7-2, which got those assholes behind the visitors dugout chanting again. To add insult, in the bottom of the 9th, manager Aaron Boone sent former Mariner Cory Gearrin, whom the Yanks selected off waivers last week, to close it out. So we began against former M’s and ended against former M’s. At least we managed two hits off Gearrin—our second and third hits of the game. Final: 7-3.
And here ya are. And it’s a beautiful day.
Still, and despite the horror of Sheffield’s pitching line (4.1 IP, 6 H, 5R, 7.94 ERA on the season), the kid didn’t do poorly. Two of the hits, and thus two of the runs, I blame on bad shifts. Another run came via Wisler. So we’ll see. I look at his top of the 4th and hold out hope. What else we got?
Hey Jack Kerouac, I Think of Lopes' Homer
Last night, after Omar Narvaez lined a single to right in the 7th inning, breaking up Dinelson Lamet's bid to become the first pitcher in San Diego Padres history to throw a no-hitter (the only MLB team that doesn't have one), and after the Padres scored 3 more in the top of the 8th, making it 8-0, there didn't seem to be much for a Mariners fan on a lovely Tuesday Seattle night to root for. But then baseball happened.
No, the Mariners did not threaten. Not really. We just had a nice moment in the bottom of the 8th.
Mariners fans need nice moments in this rebuilding phase, where the players come and go with dizzying regularity, and where the only game we might win against the other 29 teams would be Scrabble, considering our current high-value Scrabble-tiled players: Broxton, Narvaez, Vogelbach and Mallex, each of whom started last night. At one point a call to the pen brought in Zac Grotz. That's right: from Z to shining Z.
The comedy that is the 2019 Seattle Mariners was exemplified by the caps on the pitching matchup I saw on ESPN.com before the game:
A little one-sided. Which is, of course, how the game turned out.
The nice moment in the 8th began with a little nubber from Mallex Smith that didn't go more than 10 feet. The Padres' catcher sprang on it, but Mallex has wheels, and the throw was a little high, necessitating a slight jump from first basemen Eric Hosmer. Safe. So instead of 2 out and nobody on, we had one out and somebody superfast on. Next batter, J.P. Crawford, lined a single to left-center and Mallex went for third and to be honest I thought he was going to be nailed. Nope, safe again, and the Pads had blown their umpire challenge on Hosmer's hop. Meanwhile, Crawford went to 2nd on the throw. Now we‘re cooking. Then Domingo Santana singled, and we had a run. Then Santana stole 2nd and the throw went into center field and we had another run. Meanwhile, the batter was someone named Tim Lopes. My friend Andy, who keeps abreast of the comings-and-goings of the Mariners less than I do, asked who he was. I shrugged and looked at the scoreboard. Lopes had an odd line: 2 games, 1 AB, 0 H, 1 W, a .667 OBP. I was trying to make sense of the OBP math (answer: he got hit by a pitch) when Lopes clobbered a pitch over the left-centerfield wall.
Andy and I were celebrating and high-fiving with the guy sitting next to us, an air-traffic controller from Ireland, who was attending his first baseball game with his family at the tail end of a west-coast family vacation. At one point I asked him if he had any questions about the game but he seemed to understand it well enough. “It’s similar to a game called rounders we played in school,” he said. Rounders from visiting Brits again. Cf., this afternoon game from 2017.
I think we first began to talk to him in the 5th inning or so, when Andy and I were talking literature, and he disagreed with Andy's disparagement of Jack Kerouac. It was a good-natured conversation with a “grass is greener” tinge. Andy, who has read Ulysses several times, and once did the Joyce walk around Dublin, talked up James Joyce, whom our Irish friend thought overrated; while our Irish friend talked up the all-American Jack Kerouac, whom we thought overrated. So it goes.
As Lopes was rounding the bases, I looked up at his stats again and said, “I wouldn't be surprised if that was his first Major League hit.” Five seconds later, the scoreboard announced exactly that, and he got a curtain call and everything. Nice moment for the kid, who isn't much of a kid: He turned 25 in June. Mariners drafted him in the sixth round in 2012 and he's been bouncing around the minors ever since, where his slash line was a not-great .277/.339/.382. This year, though, he hit better in AAA Tacoma (.302/.362/.476), maybe because AAA is experimenting with the bouncier MLB ball and homeruns have skyrocketed. Either way, he got the call up in July. He came in as a 9th-inning defensive replacement July 24 (no chances, no ABs), then started the next game against Detroit, playing second and batting ninth. He led off the bottom of the 3rd and drew a walk against Drew VerHagen and later scored on an error. He led off the bottom of the 4th with a HBP, stole second, and scored on a triple by J.P. Crawford. In the 5th, he grounded out (there goes his 1.000 career OBP), and in the 7th he was replaced by Dylan Moore. The fear was concussion from the HBP. He was activated before last night's game when—more fun for M's fans—Tim Beckham was suspended 80 games for a PED violation.
Good thing. Lopes, apparently unrelated to Davey, gave some buzz to the evening that otherwise wouldn't have had much. His homer, in fact, was the last Mariners hit of the game. After him, we went gentle into that good night.
The etching is slightly off. It kind of looks like he has a moustache when he doesn‘t—even though he did—and his eyebrows are too pronounced or noticeable. I never noticed Edgar’s eyebrows. And maybe the jaw is too square? But it's not bad.
Better? Whoever wrote the words. Good work. That really nails it.
And now we have two.
Perfekto: Mike Leake Just Misses Baseball Immortality
Last week, one of the members of our Seattle Mariners season ticket group, Grant, sent out an email saying he and his son were going to Cooperstown this weekend for the enshrinement of beloved son Edgar Martinez, so he couldn't use the tickets he had for the Friday, July 19 game. Anyone want them? Some demurrals before Tim said, “Sure, I‘ll take them.”
Didn’t exactly look promising. It was against the Angels, again, and they raked us last weekend. Hell, they no-hit us on the first game back after the All-Star break. Our pitcher, Mike Leake, lasted 2/3 of an inning, possibly his worst outing ever, while their two pitchers, Taylor Cole and Felix Pena, no-hit our ass. In this game, last night, who was going for us again? Oh, right. Mike Leake. But Tim's a trooper and a fan, and he runs the Grand Salami website, so he went.
Here's his inning-by-inning account.
He almost saw baseball history. For eight innings, Leake was perfect: 24 up, 24 down. I saw some of Tim's tweets about it in which he didn't jinx anything by saying the magic words. He just showed his scorecard with a number: 21. 24. At this point, TV-less, I rushed over to the local watering hole, the Quarter Lounge, got a beer and settled in. I did that in lower Queen Anne in August 2012 during Felix's perfecto—the last one thrown in the Majors. Here, sadly, the suspense ended quickly. On the third pitch of the inning, Luis Rengifo, a second baseman, ground a seeing-eye single to the right side, and there went that. But it's a beautiful thing about baseball. Every day, maybe every play, the average player has a chance at immortality. What do Pat Seerey, Mark Whiten and Scooter Gennett have in common? They all hit four homers in one game. Only 18 guys have done that, and none of them are named Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron or Willie Mays or Ken Griffey Jr. Sometimes lightning strikes.
Only 23 pitchers, and just 21 in the modern era, have ever thrown a perfect game. Mike Leake nearly added his name. Instead, he‘ll add his name to the nearly list. Also to the list of guys who have pitched shutouts this year: 19 right now. He’s tied for the league lead with 1.
Here's the perfect game breakdown by decade:
|1900s||2||Cy Young (1904), Addie Joss (1908)|
|1920s||1||Charlie Robertson (1922)|
|1950s||1||Don Larsen (1956, WS)|
|1960s||3||Jim Bunning (1964), Sandy Koufax (1965), Catfish Hunter (1968)|
|1980s||3||Len Barker (1981), Mike Witt (1984), Tom Browning (1988)|
|1990s||4||Dennis Martinez (1991), Kenny Rogers (1994), David Wells (1998), David Cone (1999)|
|2000s||2||Randy Johnson (2004), Mark Buehrle (2009)|
|2010s||5||Dallas Braden (2010), Roy Halladay (2010), Philip Humber (2012), Matt Cain (2012), Felix Hernandez (2012)|
You see how rare it is. Or was. First 50 years of the 20th century, it happened just three times. Then Don Larsen did it in the World Series against a good Brooklyn team and with an ump with a rather wide strike zone. Three in the ‘60s can be attributed to the raising of the mound; it was a pitcher’s decade. I became baseball cognizant in the ‘70s, when it looked like there would never be another one. But then Len Barker broke through; then they became more frequent.
I’m curious, though. We‘ve had five this decade, all in the first three years, and nothing since? Scoring is up, sure, but league batting averages and OBPs are about the same: .255/.319 in 2012 vs. .253/.323 this year. But I guess league averages don’t matter so much as team averages/OBPs. You‘re just pitching against one team, after all. In 2012, for example, the team with the fourth-worst batting average (Tampa) was the victim of Felix’s perfecto, the team with the second-worst average (Houston) was victimized by Cain, and the team with the absolute worst average/OBP in MLB, the Seattle Mariners (.234/.296), got it from Humber—who, after his perfecto, went 4-5 with a 7.39 ERA in 2012, then 0-8 with a 7.90 with Houstin in 2013; then he was out of baseball. Go know.
Again, though, there are still teams that can't hit. Detroit's #s are .234/.293. So I don't quite get it. We‘ve had no perfectos for a longer time now (6, nearly 7 years) than at any time since Barker. I guess it’s more than stats; I guess the stars have to align; and hitters have to not lean into pitches.
I'm sorry Leake missed out. I'm sorry Tim missed out, but I'm happy for Grant. If I'd given up tix to a game where even a no-hitter was pitched, I'd never stop kicking myself.