Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Game Report: Mariners vs. Devil Rays - Waechter? I hardly know 'er!

Alright, here's the real game report (for the May 9th evening game; I may have done some weird posting thingamajigs so this shows up out of order if you're on an RSS feed). It sort of felt like last year's Felix home start against the Royals, to be honest. We had similar seats along the left-field line but sort of far out, and there was nobody at the stadium then either, and it just seemed pretty likely we'd win the game, and we did.

Short version: The only run the Rays managed started with an iffy E-6 later ruled a single (unlike later when an error was unfairly called an error and not changed), a couple grounders, and a rare sac fly. Felix struck out eight Devil Rays, although three of those were Russ Branyan, so I'm not sure it counts. Jeremy Reed showed Joey Gathright how to play centerfield. The Mariners managed two almost-rallies, one off Waechter in the second inning which resulted in two runs because Hargrove likes to squander outs (more about that later), and one off Waechter and Meadows in the eighth which resulted in four runs. In-between that, Johjima got to score a run off an Ichiro shot, and Carl Everett hit a home run into the right-field stands in the 5th, as the Mariners won the game 8-1.

Long version:
Josh had an extra ticket to today's game, so I got to sit in the lower decks, where they're apparently bothering to have the ushers keep out the people who won't spend the money to sit down there. I had a great vantage point for watching Raul Ibanez hop around, and also for seeing the Devil Rays' bullpen, not that it really mattered.

Felix started off the game by walking Julio Lugo, which worried me for a bit, but then he got Crawford to almost ground back to him into a double play, except Betancourt was a bit off-balance after Felix hurled the ball at him and it was just a 1-6 forceout. Gomes struck out and Aubrey Huff, who finished the game at .171, pop fouled out to Beltre.

The Mariners went down easy in their half of the first inning, as did the Rays for the most part in their half of the second. Russ Branyan struck out swinging, setting a trend for the night.

The second inning was both awesome and awful all at once. The Mariners were totally wrecking Waechter for a bit, slapping hits to all sides. Sexson singled to left, then Everett walked, and Beltre also singled to left, loading the bases. Johjima came up to bat and BAM, smacked the ball into centerfield for a single. Richie scored, C-Rex scored, and Beltre stopped at second.

I suppose that since there were runners at first and second and no outs, Hargrove figured he'd squander a few outs and make things easier on the Rays, so during Reed's at-bat, he did two very stupid things:

1) He had Reed trying to sac bunt
2) He had Beltre try (and fail by a mile) to steal third

Now, maybe it's just since reading BBTN I've been paying more attention to things like Run Expectancy charts, but may we point out that with guys on 1st and 2nd with no outs, the run expectancy is 1.573, whereas with guys on 2nd and 3rd with one out, it becomes 1.467? So sac bunting is a really stupid idea here. And then let's go with having Beltre steal third -- guys on 1st and 3rd with no outs increases your run expectancy to 1.904, but having him get caught reduced it to 0.573 -- so in effect, he risked a full run decrease in Run Expectancy for an increase of .331. Sigh. I think I need to make up a cheat-sheet of these numbers to keep in my wallet so I can look like a big stats nerd and come up with stuff like that on the fly at the game. Or not.

Anyway, what actually happened during Reed's at-bat is that he ended up swinging for real, and grounding out to third in what would have been a double play if Ty Wigginton hadn't eaten the ball as Johjima was forced out at second. So now we had one runner at first with two outs. I'm not sure what would have happened to Beltre had he not tried to steal, but chances are there would have been two runners with one out instead of one with two. Betancourt singled to left after that and moved Reed to third, but Ichiro popped out to center to end the inning. Bam. 2-0 Mariners.

Joey Gathright, who seems to be a guy with lots of speed and little else, led off the third inning by bouncing the ball up the middle. Betancourt zoomed over to get it, and I started exclaiming, "Holy CRAP, Betancourt is totally..." as he threw the ball to first off-balance and Gathright was called safe. Josh was like, "Way to go with your early praise of Betancourt, Deanna!" and then we were both like "HOW THE HELL DO YOU CALL THAT AN ERROR?" as the scoreboard flashed E6. "Any other shortstop doesn't even get to the ball!" "Derek Jeter makes that a clean single to center!" Then Lugo hacked at a pitch and bounced it way up in the air, and as usual I was joking, "It's too high! It's too high!" except, literally, it was, and Beltre didn't get the throw in time. Felix fielded a short grounder by Crawford by running to tag him out at first as the other runners advanced, and Gathright scored on a sac fly. Lugo stole third or advanced on defensive indifference, I dunno which, but it was irrelevant as Aubrey Huff grounded out to first. 2-1 Mariners.

The Mariners didn't do much in their half of the third, though Richie Sexson grounded out to Aubrey Huff, except Aubrey Huff threw the ball into the stands and he ended up on second instead. It didn't matter as Carl Everett stranded him there. The Mariners informed us that Raul's childhood nickname was "RJ", to which I mused aloud, "I bet his middle name starts with a J. Oh yeah, it's Javier! No, don't ask me why I knew that offhand." They also informed us that Carl Everett's first paying job was selling seafood. I know there's a coelacanth joke in there somewhere, but I'm too lazy to make it.

Russ Branyan struck out swinging a second time to end the Rays' half of the fourth. It's a running gag.

Johjima got a walk in the Mariners half of the fourth, and then Reed nearly hit a home run, but it fell into Joey Gathright's glove way out in center. In the meantime, Johjima had taken off at the crack of the bat and was already almost to third and had to run all the way back to first when the catch was made, barely making it in time. Betancourt singled for real though, and Johjima advanced to second, scoring on Ichiro's single after that. I bet he was sick of running by then. Lopez grounded out to short after that, but it was 3-1 Mariners.

Gathright led off the fifth by getting another "Betancourt error"; this time, I was dead sure he had gotten the 6-3 play, but either Sexson was off the bag or the timing was slightly wrong, because oh man, did he look out. And yet again, they called it an E-6. wHATEver. It was largely irrelevant as the rest of the Rays incompetently did stuff like hitting into double plays and striking out.

Carl Everett hit a 353-foot home run into the right-field seats in the bottom of the fifth. I stood up and cheered anyway. Knocks in box put Sox on Fox, remember. 4-1 Mariners.

Jeremy Reed hit a single in the bottom of the sixth, and then got THROWN OUT TRYING TO STEAL SECOND ARRRRRRGGGHHHH. I know, Reed's got speed, but speed does not necessarily mean "knows how to steal bases". Sending Jeremy Reed to steal a base when you've got Ichiro at the plate is sort of like sending a belated birthday card. If you're not going to get there in time, why send it at all? You're only calling attention to the fact that you forgot in the first place.

Felix was getting up there in pitches in the seventh, but struck out Branyan swinging yet again, and Gathright, and all was good with the world. The Mariners didn't do much in their half though, though Ichiro knocked down Ty Wigginton with a single to right, which was sort of funny.

Felix struck out Carl Crawford and Jonny Gomes to start the 8th, but by then was up to 108 pitches, so he was taken out. Then the pitching stupidity happened, as Sherrill came in and walked Aubrey Huff on four straight pitches, and then Soriano was summoned to get Ty Wigginton to pop out. This putting-Sherrill-in-for-one-batter trick is getting old, seriously.

On the other hand, I didn't complain about the length of the 8th inning because of the Mariners blowing apart what was left of Doug Waechter and Brian Meadows. Brian Meadows!

WAIT. I need to tell a funny Brian Meadows story. Namely, the last time I saw him pitch. It was last April, and I was in Pittsburgh for my usual April pilgrimage, and watching a Pirates-Cardinals game. The score was 2-1 Cards going into the 9th. It was 11-1 Cards coming out of the 9th. I talked about it a little bit here and you can see the box score here via Retrosheet. It was pathetic. He was just lobbing the ball up to the plate and the Cardinals were just digging into it, and they batted around and then some, scoring 9 runs in one inning.

So, it shouldn't surprise me what happened against the Mariners with him pitching. Waechter loaded the bases on singles by Everett and Beltre, and then hit Johjima with a pitch, and was taken out. So Meadows comes in, and I'm like... "Josh, I know this guy sucks, but I can't remember why I know he sucks."

And sure enough, he sucked. Reed hit into a fielder's choice and Everett was out at home, but after that Betancourt hit another screaming ball to center field, and just as he with Everett's hit, Joey Gathright ran in to get it, and dove and slid, and caught it but the ball bounced out of his glove. Lame. Well, for them. Betancourt knocked in Beltre; Ichiro singled to right to score Johjima, and Lopez singled to right to score Reed and Betancourt. Ibanez mercifully grounded into a double play, ending the inning at 8-1 Mariners.

Well then. It was a quick, merciful ninth inning. Toby Hall hit a ball to shallowish right-center, and Jeremy Reed ran to get it, dove and slid... and unlike Joey Gathright, CAUGHT the ball. It was beautiful. That deflated the Rays, I think; Travis Lee, whose headshot looks as if he's had a mullet Photoshopped on, struck out; and for the last out of the game, who was up? Russ Branyan! Disappointingly, he didn't strike out swinging for his fourth time of the day, but instead grounded the ball up towards first base, and that was the game.

It was nice to finally come to a game we really expected to win. Now, if only Felix could make all of the other lineups in the AL look like the Devil Rays, we'd be in good shape.

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