The Mariners Are On Pace To Score 1,215 Runs

… if you only count these last two games.  And you carry the … denominator …

I went to the ballgame last night.  I know I’m a very small sample size, but if I’m any indication of the public at large (which, I’m probably not is the thing), then the walk-up yesterday was AMAZING.  Seeing things with my eyes, that didn’t appear to be the case, but hear me out:  attendance will get better this season if the Mariners continue to win (spoken like a true Ron Fairly).

You know how people in movies or beauty pageants will say, “If I just reached one person, then I know I’ve made a difference”?  Well, the Mariners reached me.  I didn’t plan to go to any games this weekend, but I was sitting around watching the M’s throttle the Rays on Thursday night in the 8th inning when I told my family, “I’m gonna go to the game tomorrow.”  Somehow, I just knew that the game I would go to would be a winner.

Sure, forecasts for 70 degree, sunny weather didn’t hurt things.  But, more importantly, I knew that the Mariners are putting out a better, more entertaining product on the field.  Since April 26th, the Mariners are 22-12 (including last night’s win), which is – according to people on the radio – the best record in baseball over that stretch.  They sit in sole possession of 2nd place in the AL West (1.5 games behind Texas), their pitching has been simply outstanding, and their hitting has been just effective enough to make wins into what would have been losses in 2010.

The best part – for the Mariners, anyway – about me up and deciding to go to a game on a whim, is that their Friday night giveaway played no part in my decision (it was the Go Green Fan Train, which I have no use for, since I missed the first 11 years’ worth of train car giveaways).  I only had to look at our team, see how we’d been winning at an awesome clip, and see the pitcher they were trotting out (who had been dubbed by people in the know as a Poor Man’s Doug Fister; to which I say:  Doug Fister would’ve mopped the FLOOR with him).

Getting back to the hitting, it’s an interesting phenomenon.  If I told you a team had a winning record in spite of the fact that they’re 25th (out of 30 teams) in all of baseball in runs scored, 29th in batting average (just a tick above San Diego), and overall bottom-feeders in every major hitting statistic; you’d know without a whisper of a doubt that their pitching is fantastic (among the best in baseball), and you’d probably say that the this team finds a way to win through clutch hitting.

Well, that’s just it, I don’t know how to quantify “clutch hitting” exactly, except to look at batting average with runners in scoring position.  Now, I don’t know much, but I have to think our current .216 batting average with RISP is pretty pathetic.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to compare that to the rest of baseball, but based on all of our other hitting statistics, I’d say it’s down near the bottom.

So, HOW are we – a team with an overall batting average of .230, and a team with a .216 batting average with RISP – winning these games???

This team is like fucking Stonehenge (or the female orgasm):  a total mystery to me.  Nevertheless, it’s REALLY fun to watch (much like Stonehenge … and the female orgasm).

***

I picked up on a few storylines with which to write about during last night’s game.  First, I’m going to go with Chone Figgins.

I think I’ve moved beyond my irrational vitriol for the guy.  Am I thrilled that he’s making $9 million only to hit .187?  Of course not.  But, he’s finally out of the 2-hole, and I think psychologically that does it for me, for now.  If a guy is playing so very, very poorly, he doesn’t deserve to just EXPECT to be in the 2-hole because he’s Chone Figgins and supposedly the only guy who can hit 2nd in this lineup.  2:  it’s just a number that comes after Ichiro.  It doesn’t have to be some magical, mythical hitting machine who’s constantly on base for our cleanup hitters.  It just has to be a guy who’s not a total drag.

So, he’s been dropped down to 8th (because, I guess, 9th would be TOO MUCH of a slap in the face?  I dunno), and for now all is right with the world.  Helps that we’re winning, sure, but it also helps with my peace of mind.

Unfortunately for Figgy, I don’t think the rest of Mariners nation has caught up to my live-and-let-live state of mind.  He’s still getting booed mercilessly from the home crowd whenever he screws up.

Now, I’m not one to sit here on my horse and tell you not to boo.  Though, I find it odd that you’re willing to spend money on something, and then go there and tear it to pieces.  Isn’t the whole idea of being a fan that you’re supposed to support your team through good times and bad?  To support players through their struggles and triumphs?  It’s not like the guy raped or murdered someone!  And it’s not like he’s Richie Sexson, who was just a complete jackass his last year with us!  We know relatively little about Figgy, so it’s patently unfair to vocalize your ire simply because you don’t like a guy’s body language.  All of a sudden, everyone in Seattle is a fucking body language expert!  Christ, what’s wrong with you people?

Of course, maybe that’s just it:  we DON’T know much about the guy, on a personal level.  So, we really don’t have much to sympathize with.  If we knew he was a good guy, if we knew that he read to blind children in hospitals or if he donated millions for cancer research, then we’d be coming from a place where we could say, “Well, I don’t like watching him play, but he’s a great humanitarian, so maybe instead of booing I’ll just hope he improves on the field.”

All of this sympathy is kind of new to me, and I think it’s because until last night, I wasn’t exposed to all the rage firsthand.  When I watch games on TV, I can sit in my chair, watch Figgy ground out with the bases loaded, and slam my remote to the floor saying, “God damn you, Figgins!  Why the hell is he still playing?!”  But, in person … I dunno, it’s a little different.

So, I went into each of his at-bats just PRAYING that he’d do something good.  You know, if he just got a hit in his first at bat, then he could probably stave off any further booing for the next couple of turns at the plate.  Of course, that didn’t happen, he was called out on strikes; BUT, the optimist in me was hoping the boos I heard were for the umpire and his questionable strike three call (said Figgy’s bat made contact with the ball on the check swing, but it didn’t look so on replays).

The next two times up, Figgy lined out hard to center and left field.  It’s really hard to fault a guy when he hits it hard right at someone, and accordingly any boos I heard were few and far between (the deafening silence, anyway; I don’t think we’re ready to cheer a guy who just hits the ball hard).  In his final at bat, Figgins reached on an error by the shortstop, and you should’ve heard the cheers!  It was like he’d just hit in the game-winning run!  You see?  We DO want to cheer you on, Figgins!  We’re ready to lose our minds even if you just reach on an error … just THINK of the love you’d get for a real live hit!

Then, of course, it all came crashing down in the top of the 9th when Figgins botched what looked to be a make-able put-out (ruled a single, even though he fell down with the ball in his glove).  BOO BOO BOO!

Figgins has a long way to go.  And I don’t see any way for that to happen for him on this weekend homestand.  He’s going to have to make some hay on the next road trip, then figure out a way (ANY WAY) to hit in Safeco.

***

Ichiro is still struggling.  He’s now batting .266 (which is at least 20 points lower than his lowest batting average this late into a season).  Of course, with all the good will Ichiro has built up in this city, you could fill the entire moon with gently-worn clothing, old, smelly books, and board games with missing pieces.

Last night was fun (aside from the massive lead we’d built by the 5th inning), because I almost got to witness history:  the Ground-Ball Cycle.

What’s the Ground-Ball Cycle, you ask?  Well, it’s when you hit a ground ball to every position player in the infield (not counting catcher) and they throw the put-out to first base (so, it can’t be a ground ball to the first-baseman for an unassisted put-out, or a put-out to the pitcher).

Ichiro was our man of the hour last night.  In the first inning, it was a 4-3 putout (grounder to 2nd); in the fourth inning, it was a 1-3 putout (grounder to pitcher); in the sixth inning, it was a 6-3 putout (grounder to short stop).  With a final at bat in the eighth inning (thanks to Figgy reaching on that error), all Ichiro needed for the Ground-Ball Cycle was a 5-3 putout (grounder to 3rd).  And, with tension throughout the stadium building … Ichiro grounded back to 2nd base.  Too bad, that would’ve been REALLY exciting.

***

I’m going to run through the rest of my points real quick:

  • Guti is amazing.  He ran down 6 of Vargas’s 27 outs yesterday, including one at the wall I guarantee you only a small handful of players could’ve caught.  Where would we be without Guti?
  • Peguero did not continue his torrid home run pace, striking out twice.  THAT’S the Peguero I’m used to seeing.
  • We hit three more home runs last night, after hitting a whopping four on Thursday.  That’s 7 in two days for you math majors out there.  Last night, it was Smoak, Kennedy, and Olivo with a bomb to left-center.  I never knew how much I missed the long ball …

Finally, Jason Vargas deserves more than just another bullet point.  He was marvelous!  I got to witness Vargas’s first-ever big league shutout, and what a shutout it was!  He gave up only 4 singles (the last two coming in the 9th inning, to show you how dominant he was for the first 8 innings), walked 1, and struck out 4.  That’s the thing about Vargas:  when he’s on, the other team is making poor contact with the ball and we’re generating a lot of flyball outs.  10 of 27 were to the outfield.  Vargas really knows how to play to Safeco; he’s the second coming of Jamie Moyer!

All in all, a very enjoyable game to attend.  Hopefully, some of you Mariners fans out there will take it upon yourselves to get out to the ballpark.  This team is BETTER than it was in early April!  I promise you!

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