The Mariners inch closer towards the end of the season, and yet they haven’t phoned it in. I wonder if it’s the atmosphere that Eric Wedge has created. I wonder if it’s the veteran presence of the Adam Kennedy types. I wonder if it’s because they truly love the game. More than likely, however, it’s because most of this roster is battling for a roster spot next year, now. The Mariners only started three players that started the season with the club: Ichiro Suzuki, Adam Kennedy and Miguel Olivo. For the most part, the rest of the starting lineup is fighting for a spot in the starting roster, sans Wily Mo Pena. I’m not saying Pena won’t be a part of the future, but I’m not saying he is, either.
The great thing about this game, as abysmal as both team’s seasons have been, is that it was a watchable game. It was interesting and dynamic, and that’s what we want from our baseball team. We want to be able to watch the product they put on the field, and tonight, the Mariners achieved that. We got to see the rookies hit in clutch situations, and the veterans produce as the veterans at this point are expected to.
Suffice it to say, that doesn’t say much, because the Minnesota Twins are the Minnesota Twins. This might’ve been a bigger storyline if the Mariners beat, say, the Rangers or the Yankees. They didn’t. They beat the only team that could be considered worse than the Mariners. I don’t want to marginalize what the team did today, but don’t get your hopes up quite yet.
The Mariners did what they are supposed to do. A team is supposed to beat a team that is worse than them. The Mariners did that tonight.
It’s a step in the right direction.
Jason Vargas looked very much like Jason Vargas should look. He wasn’t overpowering, but he didn’t let the game get away from him. He exhausted his pitch count early in the game, but he settled down once he could establish the inside part of the plate. Out of the 46 swings the Twins took against him, 8 of them missed, putting up a 17.3% swinging strike rate. If you’ve been following this storyline, Vargas has added a twist to his delivery, and he has increasing his velocity on his pitches. It’s only 1 mph more than his average the rest of the season, but it’s still something, and it’s something to take note of. He didn’t miss many bats, but out of the 109 pitches he threw, 58 of them came in the first three innings. That’s 53% of his pitches coming in the first three innings of his six-inning outing. There’s a couple things we can take from this.
Firstly, since it seemed that he was struggled out of the gate, one might assume his pitch count in the earlier innings would weigh heavier than those in the last three innings he pitched. This wasn’t the case. He was still able to get a few at-bats with one or two pitches. Secondly, and this is very much the type of pitcher Jason Vargas is, he pitched to contact, and he let his defense pick him up. It doesn’t bother me that he didn’t put up a quality start. He did what any non-ace pitcher should do: keep his ballclub in games. Very much Jason Vargas.
Watching the youth has been a treat. Dustin Ackley‘s luck is finally starting to turn around. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. They weren’t screaming line drives, but he singled up the middle both times, and this will bode well for his confidence. Mike Carp is awesome. He brought his average up from .277 to .291, going 5-for-5 with two doubles. In the first inning, Kyle Seager ripped a fastball from Liam Hendrinks into right field for a double, scoring Ichiro who reached third on a first pitch triple. I’m a fan of Seager’s approach at the plate. He has a great contact rate, sitting around 83.8%, which is slightly above the 80% league average. He may not be the third baseman of the future, but he sure is looking like he’s going to be a part of the future.
Alexi Liddi gets his own paragraph because he has some explaining to do. A 3-2 slider from Hendriks is smashed for Liddi’s second two-run homerun in as many nights. His first homerun came on a 78 mph curveball. This homerun came on a 79 mph slider. I’m not skeptical of his power. His shown that he can blast the ball in the minors. I’m skeptical of his bat speed. He has a long, slow swing, and I’m not sure if he can catch up to major-league heat. Once he turns on a four-seamer and goes deep, I’ll start entertaining the possibility that he’s ready for the big leagues.
Speaking of long, slow things, Justin Smoak pinch hit for Adam Kennedy in the ninth. Glen Perkins worked him with a FB/CHG/FB/CHG/FB strikeout combo, and Smoak struck out with that long, slow swing. His mechanics looked fine, but at the plate, Smoak doesn’t look quite right yet. I’m anxious to see what he’ll look like once he’s fully recovered. The club needs a potential power bat from both sides of the plate, and Smoak can be just that. That’s just it, he can be just that. It’s not guaranteed, and that’s the part that makes me anxious. He was the cornerstone of the Cliff Lee trade, so he sort of needs to pan out. If he doesn’t, then, sigh.
Brandon League‘s 98 mph sinker is, well, a 98 mph sinker. Good golly I can’t get enough of his fastball. Gameday doesn’t really do it justice, but just the fact that both pitch F/X and the Root Sports radar clocked his fastball at the same speed shows how impressive his fastball his. On our chat with Larry Stone today, he brought up the possibility that it’s a logical time to think about moving him. I trust Zduriencik with whatever he chooses to do in this situation, but I like League’s stuff. And I like his hair, so, there’s that.
- In the bottom of the ninth, Rene Tosoni hit a single up the middle off of Brandon League. There was nothing overtly spectacular about this event, except that Dustin Ackley made a dive to attempt to field it. We know that his defense is no longer suspect. We know that he can adequately field that ball. I think it’s safe to say that he doesn’t mind getting his jersey dirty, either.
- Adam Kennedy is somehow still playing. People have brought up the fact that Wedge might feel loyalty to him. I don’t think Kennedy minds sitting. There’s integrity, sure, but I wouldn’t mind sitting if I made over $18 million in my career playing a game. But that’s just me.
- Olivo finally did not bat cleanup. Wedge is learning!
Michael Pineda‘s final start of the season is tomorrow.
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