The M's recap at MLB.com ... the first comment is by an A's fan who says that he was a minor league pitcher. I enjoyed the read.
Tracking the pre-game checkpoints:
=== Felix ===
There was no radar gun, anywhere on TV or on the 'net that I saw, so we had to eyeball it. The first inning, it wasn't clear - Felix' stuff looked maybe a little soft. Hard to tell...
The second and beyond, there was little doubt. Felix' changeup in particular was hellacious, and there were several times that lefty A's hitters such as Seth Smith and Cliff Pennington had literally no chance of making contact with it. It was a 90-mph knuckleball that dropped sharply just as they swung. We watched them try to track with it as it dropped. They missed by miles, and there was no way for them to touch the ball.
From what we could tell visually -- no F/X data of any kind -- King Felix was fine. Fine meaning, up to his usual standards.
Felix did give up a couple of balls to the warning track, and did have a couple of line drives caught when the A's had a man on base. The A's might have scored 3-4 runs. They might also have very easily scored 0, and Felix gotten the W.
8 5 1 1 0 6 is a Cy Young line, and the A's go to 4-and-14 in their last eighteen games against Felix. Look for them to be pushovers in game 3 of the season.
The M's have won 6 straight Opening Day games. This could be related to Felix Hernandez. This could tell you something about the M's position going into a 1-game Wild Card.
Felix went one more inning than McCarthy did, a full 8 innings on Opening Day. This meant that even in an 11-inning game, Eric Wedge could use his only two relief aces. Felix handed the ball straight to the two closers, and that was the difference.
=== Captain Insano ===
Started the first batter off with that sickening curve ball. It missed, but it indicated Wilhelmsen's state of mind.
Shoulders relaxed, bouncing lightly on his toes, keeping his motion compact and working at a brisk tempo, Wilhelmsen simply overmatched Oakland. When he was behind in counts, he came in with fastballs and the A's foul-ticked them straight back, or back over the dugout. They could not get on top of his heater to save their lives.
He spotted the fastball to both sides of the plate at times. With the game cruising in extras, I was wondering whether Wedge might let him go 4 or 5 innings - remember, Wilhelmsen's a starter too. And he wouldn't be needed until 9 days from now. Turned out to be moot, thanks to Ackley's and Ichiro's bats.
=== Ryan and the Defense ===
Pre-game Scan wondered whether D would play in. I noticed only 4 marginal defensive plays, that is, plays that might conceivably be made by one fielder but not by another. For the more casual fan, Ichiro's one-hop to Pennington's right was a marginal play, because some SS's would make it and other wouldn't; a high fly ball to straightaway CF, the outfielder camped under it waiting, is not. All CF's make that play.
The four marginal defensive plays that I saw:
- Carp dove for Suzuki's line double into the corner and didn't get it. A very, very fast LF might have snagged it, conceivably. No LF would have gotten it who wasn't well above average.
- Carp jumped against the wall to catch a ball, late in the game.
- Brendan Ryan scampered deep behind the 2B bag to throw a runner out.
- Felix threw out the leather and snared a liner back through the box.
Ackley made an error, but Miguel Olivo gunned down the pinch-runner going for second.
Overall, the game was a perfect example of what we try to talk about: in most games, there are no marginal plays for most of the defenders. Of the 8 defenders, 5 of them ... Ichiro, Saunders, Figgins, Smoak, and Ackley .... had no marginal chances whatsoever; you could have had any player in the majors playing their positions and it would have made zero difference.
Defense matters, of course. Team DERs vary significantly. We just try to keep defense in proportion.
Verdict: Mariners had a crisp defensive game.
=== SWEEEEEETness ===
Let's say the M's can scrounge a win tomorrow night, and that attempt will be made against a totally mediocre A's pitcher. The Mariners would then enjoy their 2-0 record for a full week! What a glorious festival of blogging 'twould be.
And THEN, after the week is over, they will send Felix to the mound. Against a weak team.
Ryan got spiked really good on the inside of his ankle, which ... would provide Wedge a GRRREAT excuse to give Kawasaki a game in front of the home fans.
And if SS gets subbed in, then 3B can get subbed in for tonight with it, without 'insult.'
Here's hopin'. Wouldn't it be a shame to deny Kawasaki this ballgame?
Especially as an excuse has been given. No sense having a bench if you're not gonna use it, and it's a classy move. Even if Kawasaki doesn't start you can always take Ryan out in the 5th and insert him for a coupla ABs.
But I'd start him.
And it goes without saying that I'd start Seager.
If ever there was a game to start Kawasaki, this Game Two is it. It's kind of, "If not now, when?"
Kawasaki is LH vs Colon, was hot in ST, would be laser-focused in front of the crowd, and still we get veteran entitlement.
Tough, tough pill for Kawasaki to swallow, to sit on the bench and watch the Super Bowl environment from the dugout. Hard on the fans, too.