What Going To Bed Before The 9th Inning Looks Like

It was all lining up against me.  The A’s were in town; they’ve been notoriously tough to beat in Safeco Field the last couple years for some reason (even though they’ve been largely terrible in general).  Jay Buhner was in the booth, riding a 1-40 streak when calling Mariners games.  We let another starter off the hook and then our bullpen largely prevented our own starter from getting the win it looked like he deserved through five innings.  Plus, it was already past 10pm, and I gotta wake up before 6am to go to work!

Yes, I’m weak.  But, I’ve seen the meager defeat go out with a whimper in the 9th inning far too many times.  True, Robinson Cano mashed a 2-run homer in the 8th to bring the game to within one run, but come on!  What were the odds the team would repeat that feat just one inning later?  With two outs.  In a 1-2 count …

Hell, this is why people tell you to never leave a game early.  I can’t argue with ’em!  People who stuck it out to the bitter end – people who left the TV on for another 20-30 minutes – were rewarded with the kinds of positive memories those of us who found out about the result this morning can only dream about.

That’s the difference with this team, compared to years past.  Count them out at your own risk.  I’ve seen this team come back from large deficits that would’ve been impossible for prior Mariners squads.  It’s one telltale sign – at least from an eyeball test perspective – that this team is for real.

It’s remarkably impressive the way Scott Servais’ moves are working out.  He hasn’t done a ton of tinkering with the batting lineup this year.  For the most part, he’s got a lefty-heavy and a righty-heavy lineup, where certain guys will move up or down in the lineup depending on which way they bat.  But, within those splits, there haven’t been any real major shakeups until this week, where Leonys Martin took over leadoff duties from Nori Aoki.  We’ve seen this in past seasons, and it generally deserves the world’s biggest eye roll.  “Going with the hot hand” in baseball is pretty pointless, because most good hot streaks last about a week, and then the player reverts to prior form; conversely, most cold streaks don’t last very long either, and it’s only a matter of time before a veteran will turn things around.

I mean, how many times have we seen Dustin Ackley, batting in the bottom third of the lineup, start to spray the ball around pretty good, followed by the manager moving him up to leadoff, followed by him not getting a hit for a week, followed by him moving back down to the bottom third of the lineup?

Oh, so you’re telling me Leonys Martin sprays the ball around on the road against the likes of the Orioles and Reds – in two very hitter-friendly ballparks – and now all of a sudden he’s worthy of batting in the leadoff spot?

But, shit man, I’ll be damned if he isn’t worthy!  Two hits on Monday, the game-winning 2-run homer last night, he’s striking the ball well, his power is showing no signs of reverting back to career norms, his confidence is through the roof, and I’m, like, one more hitting career being turned around for the better before I start a Church of Edgar Martinez and worship him as our lord and savior

(we’ll meet on Friday nights; if you don’t have your own Light Bat, one will be provided; B.Y.O. Bud Lights)

Servais isn’t all lineup shuffling either.  I think his bullpen usage has been outstanding.  While it takes most other managers at least a good, solid month of sucking before they move on from a trusted veteran arm, Servais has been on top of this thing!  Joel Peralta hadn’t looked superb when his numbers were great, but the team needed him in that 8th inning role, what with all the injuries.  Once his numbers started to reflect just how poorly he’d been throwing, it wasn’t more than a few outings before he was busted to the back-end of the bullpen, in favor of guys like Nick Vincent and Mike Montgomery.  Now, I know they weren’t perfect last night – Vincent, in relief of Karns in the 6th, gave up a couple of inherited runners; then Montgomery gave up a couple of Vincent’s runners in that same inning – but I think those moves were totally, 100% defensible.

Nick Vincent has the best K-rate of anyone in the bullpen worth a damn.  Karns was running into that third time through the order and gave up a couple of hard-hit balls; given his youth, I think it’s reasonable to doubt that he’d be able to get out of that jam.  When you need a strikeout, put in your best strikeout guy, in this case Vincent.  Now, it didn’t work out, but the move is justified.  And, while Montgomery was unable to get out of the 6th without giving up more damage, he ended up going another three innings of shutout ball to 1) get the win, and 2) save the bullpen from further usage.

Where would we be without Mike Montgomery right now?  To think, he was a guy on the bubble going into Spring Training, and very well may have been cut or traded had everyone been healthy!

The rest of the kudos will be spread around:

Seth Smith had a 3-hit day to bump his average back up to respectability.

Robbie Cano had a 3-RBI day to maintain his league lead.

Nelson Cruz had a timely and overlooked RBI single in the 3rd, when it looked like the Mariners might squander a scoring opportunity after putting the first two batters on base.

Nori Aoki had a couple of hits, including that double in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs, to prolong the game and get it to the hero of the evening.  That’s one of those deals that also gets overlooked, but without that hit, we’re singing a different tune this morning.

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