Cliff Lee was masterful
Elation and frustration. Those words describe watching the Mariners play over the course of 12 quick innings. For the first 7 innings, it was elation watching Cliff Lee do exactly what we all hoped he would be. Pinpoint control. A very quick pace on the mound. Working seamlessly with young Adam Moore behind the plate. Baffling Texas batters one after another. The bottom of those innings? I cannot tell you how hard it is to watch professional hitters literally stand and watch as a pitcher throws strikes. The Mariners simply stood and watched as Colby Lewis threw a gem of a game. It was a shame that neither Lee or Lewis got any decision, because they were the stars of the show. Hitters? Not so much. Mangers? Even worse…
Let’s start with the hero of the game, Cliff Lee. It was a joy to watch him pitch. Stats don’t do justice to his night, even though they were outstanding: 7 Innings, 3 hits, 8 K’s, 0 BB’s, 116 pitches, 73 for strikes. He continually pounded the strike zone, kept the Rangers hitters off balance, worked quick (I LOVE that…), interacted positively with Moore behind the plate, and was yucking it up on the bench between innings with the likes of Ryan Rowland-Smith and Felix Hernandez. He seemed to fit right in with the team and seemed to really ENJOY pitching, he seemed to really, truly be happy pitching. I love seeing that from pro athletes. You can tell Cliff Lee is a professional’s professional. Even though the 7 innings Lee pitched went by like a flash, it was a pure baseball joy to watch him pitch. As advertised is an understatement. Well done Cliff, well done!
Ok, on to the co-goats of the night: Mariners hitters and Don Wakamatsu. “Co-goats” you say? Yup. This game had so many goats at the plate and in the dugout it was hard to choose, so I am doing a Good Guys first: a “basically the entire rest of the team goat award”. Harsh? Maybe.
The Mariners as a team left 18 men on base. In the early innings, there were few base runners as the Mariners decided to go with the “stand at the plate and watch” approach. It got so bad I decided to go prepare dinner when the Mariners were at bat, then come back at watch Lee mow down some hitters. I understand Colby Lewis has solid stuff, it was clearly his best start of the year. He was mixing pitches well, throwing strikes, and spotting his breaking balls. Kudos to him. But the Mariners put up no fight whatsoever. On a night where just a few runs wins the game, I was surprised at the lack of urgency at the plate. Hey, guys, you have to score at least one run to win!!
In the later innings, and I mean late, like extra innings, Lewis finally left the game, replaced by Darren Oliver. Oliver was shaky and the Mariners were able to get to him. Griffey led off with a cue-shot grounder to shortstop that was an infield hit because they had the shift one him. Byrnes pinch ran, and Bradley then proceeded to rip a double to left. 2nd and 3rd, no outs. All they need is a fly ball. Kotchman then has one of the worst at bats of the year, completely fooled by Oliver (it was like Kotchman had never seen him before, odd…), constantly hesitant at the plate, finally check swinging and popping out to short. It was painful. Just swing away Casey!!! Swing hard buddy!! Adam Moore was then intentionally walked to get to Jack Wilson. This actually was great because Jack is a hacker, a fly ball artist who would swing for the fences and we’ll get the sac-fly and go home. But wait, Wakamatsu had other ideas. He decided to bring Mike Sweeney, ice cold, off the bench to pinch hit. I didn’t like the move at the time, and I hate it now. Texas brought in submariner O’Day, and Sweeney proceeded to swing at the first pitch for a double play. Fail. Not only on Sweeney, but on Wak. Why pinch hit Wilson? Could he have done any worse?? Wilson may have beat out the DP ball, or better, whacked a fly ball somewhere. Additionally, not having Wilson in the field will cost the Mariners later… I hate the move: goat for Wak, goat for Sweeney.
An inning later, Franky Francisco relieved O’Day. Good news for the M’s! Francisco has struggled all year. Ichiro leads off with a single to left, Figgins then bunts his way on. Ok, here we go I thought, two men on, no outs, heart of the order coming up with speedy Ichiro on 2nd. Smart baseball wins this game. Uh oh! Gutierrez comes to the plate and makes Franky look like Mariano Rivera. Horrid at bat by Guti, strikes out. Lopez was then walked to bring up Byrnes. Here is where it gets weird. As I was watching the at bat, my brother pointed out that third base coach Mike Brumley kept running through the signs for Byrnes, and kept chatting with Ichiro at 3rd. I scoffed and hoped they all just shut up and let Byrnes hit the ball hard somewhere. The Rangers were at DP depth which was great, Byrnes has awesome speed. A ground ball might win the game, a fly ball certainly does. This is easy I say! DOH! Wakamatsu calls of a squeeze play!!! But Byrnes forgets to try and bunt the ball! He just stands there, watches the ball go by, and Ichiro gets tagged out at the plate. Byrnes then proceeds to look horrid, AGAIN, at the plate, striking out. To say this was a cluster of failure is an understatement. I love Don Wakamatsu, but this was a classic case of over management. Just let the guys swing. Yeah, maybe things go sideways anyway, but at some point you have to trust these guys to make a play and win. The situation set itself up nicely for the Mariners, and they out smarted themselves right out of the inning.
Remember Jack Wilson getting pinch hit a couple innings before? Well the top of the 12th came with Matt Tuiasasopo at SS. I love Tui, but he is no Jack Wilson with the glove. To lead off Andrus had an infield single. Then Michael Young chopped a ball over the mound that Tui should have simply ate. Instead he tried to make a play and ended up throwing the ball into the dugout. I am convinced either Wilson makes the play, or eats the ball. If Wilson is in there, the M’s get out of the inning because Texas didn’t even get the ball out of the infield on League, yet they scored 2 runs, largely because of the error on Tui. I am not ripping Tui too bad here, Wak should not have pinch hit Wilson beforehand.
Moore & Lee: Student and Teacher
I have already gone overboard on this recap. Felix is on the mound today, so let’s hope for better things from the plate and get Felix a win. Overall the game was massive highs, and massive lows. The hitting was pathetic, managing not much better, and Cliff Lee was amazing. The call-out of Kotchman at first base was brutal, as was Ron Washington blowing up for no reason and getting tossed. Makes me wonder if he had dinner reservations to get to? It was bizarre.
Goats: Mariners hitters and Don Wakamatsu (see above)
Hero: Cliff Lee (see above)