...but the reality is...the Mariners are just a much better ballclub than the Rays and boy did it show this last game. As they were attempting to mount a threat against Cishek, e.g., they simply ran out of batters that worried me in the slightest. He's gassed, throwing 30 pitches, and I'm laughing that the scariest they can conjure is Logan Morrison, Chris Dickerson, and Kevin Kiermayer.
GAMEFLOW - 6:59 PM
TJM can tell you that if any news story headlines with a question mark, it's a story so questionable that the paper itself had to mark it as such. Seasoned political fans get a smile out of every ? in a title. "Obama born in Uzbekhistan?" or "Seattle Sports Insider read by Mariners brass?" or "Earth-like Exoplanet Found?" The guy who WROTE it doesn't believe it. Imagine what he thinks of you, if you DO.
Jeff Sullivan needed no question mark on this one: "Is Drew Smyly a Strikeout Machine?" Because just a couple of weeks ago he'd proven, to any rational person's satisfaction, that Drew Smyly has become better than the David Price thingie that he was traded for. Sully's deadpan finish was, if you want to doubt Chris Archer, be his guest. Don't doubt Smyly and his 10.5 K, 1.8 BB rate, though.
So our #5 starter against the super-ace of a contending team, well ... rubber game Wednesday afternoon. No prob, Bob. We're playing with house money.
GAMEFLOW - INNING ONE
The Human 4-Pitch Iron Mike set down the Rays, and then Ketel Marte got a Smyly slider ... held his hands back, luxuriating in the extra time, and socked a hard single into left field. Back-to-front zone coverage, babe.
Dr. D's basic reaction: well, isn't that something. We might still be down 3-0 after five, but it isn't every day you see Diandre Jordan swish a foul shot. Already I feel comforted about this game.
Second hitter of the game, Franklin Gutierrez got a 2-0 count and then Smyly poured a 92 fastball right down the heart of the plate; Gutierrez swung through it. Dr. D's brain was still working lazily, in concession-speech mode. But on 3-1, Smyly threw a 89 fastball low-and-away and here came that rumored off-field power. WHOCKKK! The M's are up 2-0 and Dr. D's brain stopped working lazily. (No jokes, LrKrBoi29.) Spot the M's 2 runs before the game starts?! and now Smyly vs Miley is --- > Pick 'Em.
There was a third hitter, as it turned out. Robinson Cano whistled a line drive into right field that reminded Dr. D, Lonnie-MC and MoeDawg of Billy Williams. "Get yer Billy Williams doll! Wind it up and it hits line drives!"
Nelson Cruz doubled and, bang, 4-for-4 against an unhittable pitcher. Every one of them suitable for Pay 'N Pak championship softball. No word in the booth, Jay, on the state of SSI denizens' fussing about the M's lineup vs. lefty pitchers. (They came into the game with a 104 OPS+ against LHP despite a .260 BABIP.)
At 3-0, the M's were now very slight faves given the pitching matchup. Dr. Servais felt that early runs were critical to the imbalance of the emotionally disturrbbed. His prescribed batting order induced the patient nausea that was indicated for the game.
GAMEFLOW - TRANSITION EARLY TO MIDDLE INNINGS
After the Rays batted in the 4th, they had sweated bullets to get two runs back. Wade Miley gave up three solo homers on the day, but he deserved better than he got.
- Four hits total, albeit 3 solo homers
- First HR: a mistake changeup to Pearce
- Second HR: a leather-tough pitch, 0-2 jam up and in, 93 MPH. Give Pearce credit whycancha
- Third HR: 2-0 pitch, 82 MPH changeup nice and low, bottom of the kneecaps. Give the RAYS credit whycancha
So Miley had continued his "resurgence," though you and I know he throws the same pitches every game anyway. In this one he had the minor bad luck of balls flying over the fence on him, but he had the major GOOD luck of...
GAMEFLOW: MIDDLE INNINGS
On a 1-2 pitch, Smyly threw a back-door cutter off the plate. Just to see if this non-MLB(TM) interloper would fish. Dae-Ho Lee fished, all right -- he stepped his foot in the bucket, he started to launch himself around the 3B corner and ---- > then shifted his "ki" over into the right field bleachers.
Dr. D grokked that he could see the relief on Scott Servais' face. This had been a scripted [loss -or- lucky win], but Dae-Ho had gone off menu for him. Here's the video if you want to dork it once more. Off-field follow through by Lee, low trajectory, two big leaguers in the booth marvelling at Lee's strength.
5 homers in your first 46 at-bats. Would you, gentle reader, trade Adam Lind for a grade C prospect if the other guys would pick up all his salary? You'd do your boss a solid, you would rid yourself of any worries that the 32nd birthday was too much for Lind ... and Lee could meet Stefen Romero under the bleachers with broken bottles to settle matters.
Like Billy Beane said, you play two months to see what you have and then two months going to get what you need. There's an argument to be made that the Mariners need two guys with .700 SLG percentages more than they need a guy with a 3:23 EYE ratio. Dr. D isn't saying he's the one to make this argument, but Lind and Stefen Romero have done so. Mojician could not have framed a better argument for Lind's demise as a Mariner than the argument the three 1B perps themselves have made so far.
GAMEFLOW INNING 5 ... SCREEEEEECH
There IS no gameflow after the Mariners go up 6-2 in any game. They have an ERA+ of 121, a popcorn-popper home stadium, and Steve Cishek. But that is precisely the situation Dr. D enjoys most in baseball: game decided in your favor, SERIES decided in your favor, and staring down the barrel of four wonderfully sadistic innings. In them, Dr. D whipsawed between enjoyment of the rest of the victory, and thoughts of Taijuan Walker for the sweep.
Granted, the Rays scrabbled with their fingernails hard enough that they came within a Nelson Cruz Web Gem of making it interesting. But as Win Probability charts go, the "Scorched Earth" powerpoint background is really the only one I truly enjoy:
GAMEFLOW - BASEBALL DORKING 12:41 AM
Drew Smyly gave up every blinkin' inch of 10 base hits and most of them, you could hear the swings from the restrooms in the concourse. Blowers called it one of the worst starts of Smyly's career. I dunno if that's true, but that's what Smyly gets for attempting to defeat the Seattle Mariners. Mess with this lineup at your Peril.
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid,
Nice to be on the other side of that paradigm, eh? M's fans have suffered the flip side for years.
Seems like 85% of the games the last three years, we're trying to save a game and there are two All-Stars coming up in the bottom of the ninth. Now that you point it out, it was odd to have unthreatening batters there.
Also cool to see Cishek save a 1.1 IP game, and a big plus to Servais for being willing to do so. Wonder if it's a consistent option going forward, when Cishek is fresh.
Of course, Edwin Diaz may be about to render the question moot...
it seems like the new guy has a good sense for using his players.
In the 8th, I thought about his decision to not make the defensive shift by inserting Aoki for Cruz to preserve the lead. And Nelllie came darn close to missing a ball that could have turned the tide. But on the other hand, he was first up in the bottom of the inning, so preserving that at bat could well have made sense.
But then when he singled...and Servais knew he was going to make that defensive shift in the 9th, why did he not pinch run with Aoki? Not so much the speed factor as a means of preventing Nellie from pulling something trying to go from first to third, or whatever.
But all's well that ends well, I guess.