A 3-0 sweep of the Angels left us all with the loftiest of expectations. An ugly 4-day weekend in Oakland brought us back down to Earth a little bit.
Going into that Oakland series, I told you that I would have taken a 2-2 split and called it a day. Turns out, that was probably a little unrealistic. After Thursday night’s shit-show of a performance by Sean Barber: Professional Umpire, the morons who run the stadium decided it would be fun to leave the tarp off of the field while an overnight storm was on the horizon. With the field a soggy, sinking mess, Friday’s game was cancelled and Saturday’s game was in some serious jeopardy.
Saturday’s game was indeed played, however, and it was about as enjoyable as it gets. Felix was ripping out their throats for nearly three hours, then Fernando Rodney came in and did his job, getting the final two outs of the game. Whole lot to like out of the pitching in that game, but we can’t forget Dustin Ackley’s 2-run bomb, and Almonte’s solo bomb. They’ve both been hitting the ball quite hard, which is good to see.
Sunday’s game was about as miserable as it gets. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the Mariners failed to score in the final six innings, as thousands upon thousands of youths in the crowd were non-stop whistling these free plastic bracelets that were given out (which apparently had some way to make them whistle and drive me slowly insane … I can still hear it when I plug my ears!).
I mean, seriously, that weekend series was FUCKED. If I ever had even the slightest inkling to visit Oakland, that inkling has been smothered in its sleep. Do you ever get the feeling that you’re just COMPLETELY surrounded by fuck-ups and idiots? Because that’s what that weekend series was like for the Mariners (a refreshing change-of-pace from the Mariners being the fuck-ups and idiots).
Anyway, here are my random thoughts, in no particular order:
- Robinson Cano is amazing. I know we get to see effortless greatness every five days out of Felix, but I honestly forgot what it felt like to see that out of an everyday player. When was the last time we ever LOOKED FORWARD to a batter for the Mariners? Now, I find myself counting the outs in the inning, and counting the number of hitters it’s going to take to get back to Cano. It’s exciting! And by God, I won’t HEAR a negative comment about my boy Cano! He’s perfect, and if you want to mess with the bull, you better believe you’re going to get the horns!
- Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley are off to hot starts: 7 extra base hits between them, to go along with 14 of the team’s 34 RBI. If this is indeed the beginning of their career turnarounds, then holy Hell it’s about time! But, if this is just another hot streak that these guys have been prone to from time to time (only, in this case, the “streak” just happens to coincide with the beginning of the season), then I’m going to be seriously disappointed. Still, it’s got to mean something that they’re getting off to such a hot start, right? Better to see that average at a high level than to see it impossibly low and constantly think about how you’re going to dig yourself out of that hole.
- Speaking of digging out of an early hole: Kyle Seager has two hits in five games. Of course, they’re both doubles, and he HAS been hitting the ball pretty hard. One of his outs came on a sharply hit ball that collided with the first base bag, bouncing up into the running arms of the pitcher who beat him easily to the bag for the out. I’m not worried about Seager. He could go 0-for-the-next-week and I’ll still remain confident in his abilities to turn things around. Still, you have to expect some of these other guys to cool off a little bit, at which point, we’re going to need Seager to pick up the slack.
- The two most exciting players on this team right now are Brad Miller and Abraham Almonte. While raw and a little reckless, Almonte looks like he’s going to fit right in as a center fielder and leadoff hitter for this team. If he can manage to be a pain in the ass for opposing teams, that’s going to be a HUGE plus for this team and its offense. Just need to reign him in a little bit on some of the wildness (especially on the basepaths). Once he’s able to hone that energy into being predominantly positive, he’ll really have an impact on this game.
- Brad Miller is another one of those guys who’s hitting the ball hard and seeing some sub-par results. If he keeps it up, he could be a near-.300 hitter.
- Would someone explain to me why John Buck wasn’t starting yesterday with Erasmo Ramirez on the hill? He was SO GOOD for him, calling the pitches and working to ensure that Ramirez was putting the ball where it needed to go. Seems to me that Buck could have used that game to keep fresh, and Zunino could have used that day off to give him back-to-back days off before the home opener tomorrow.
- Also, does someone want to tell me why we have Corey Hart batting in the 5-spot, when all I’m reading about is how he’s still trying to get his stroke and his timing back at the plate? I get that he needs to see live pitching to improve, and that live pitching should probably be at the Major League level, but why in the 5-spot? He’s been out of the game for so long! It’s probably going to take him at least a month of hardcore struggling before he figures it out! Why not put him in the 9-hole until he proves that he’s earned his way up the ladder?
- I’ll tell you another thing, I’m not wild and crazy about LoMo either. In fact, overall our DH/RF spot on this team has been pretty pathetic. I can’t get too mad, though, because every time LoMo starts in right field, he’s only blocking Michael Saunders, who has NOT proven he deserves to be an everyday outfielder. Nevertheless, I don’t think we’re very far off from me (and everyone else) calling for Stefen Romero to get a chance to play everyday. Here’s to hoping that we see another couple left-handed starters in the near future.
- Taijuan Walker made a rehab start and all went well. He’s got another one coming up soon and after that he could be ready to return to the Majors. It’ll be interesting to see what the club decides (fingers crossed it means Tom Wilhelmsen goes away).
- Felix is 2-0 and already looks like he’s in mid-season form. Remember when we had to wait around for May or June before Felix kicked it into high gear? He’s on another level in 2014.
- They stuck Chris Young into the bullpen this week, thanks to the rainless rain-out in Oakland on Friday (and thanks to the team DFA’ing Hector Noesi after that horrendous Thursday night outing where he gave up the game winning home run on his second pitch of the night). Young pitched a couple innings yesterday and looked halfway decent. I think there’s a good chance, if he keeps it up, that we keep him in the long-relief role for the rest of the season, once Iwakuma returns (or until the rotation has another opening).
- James Paxton gets to start the home opener tomorrow. The last few years, it’s been the likes of Jason Vargas and Safeco Joe Saunders, so this’ll be a nice reprieve. I won’t be going to that game, but I WILL be going to the Supreme Court game this Friday.
Overall, in spite of the way things ended on this road trip, my outlook is positive on this team. The Angels are clearly a mess, and the A’s aren’t all that mind-blowing. Our offense compares pretty favorably to theirs. Our starting rotation compares pretty favorably to theirs. The only real difference between the two teams is the fact that the A’s have one of the best bullpens in baseball and the Mariners … don’t. In other words, you don’t want to get into a battle of bullpens like we had on Thursday night. Then again, if Jim Johnson continues to struggle, who knows?