I really wish Tanaka had pitched yesterday, instead of tonight. If we end up losing this series – which, I’m putting at about a 95% certainty – at least part of the blame can go to that FUCKING Kansas City weather on Sunday raining out their start against the Yankees. Because, let’s face it, all along I was writing off that Tanaka start, no matter WHO went up against him. But, knowing that he’s going up against Chris Young tonight makes it all the more scary.
Of course, we had no business losing LAST NIGHT, but that’s neither here nor there. This team has a REAL problem winning games at home. It’s what’s going to ruin this team if they don’t pick it the fuck up.
Ahh, but if only we could blame all of our problems on the Kansas City weather. Alas, there is plenty of blame to go around for last night’s 3-2 defeat.
For starters, I was pretty hard on Charlie Furbush last night on Twitter, and for good reason. He really only had one job last night, in spite of the fact that he ended up going 1.2 innings. His JOB, was to keep that runner at second base from scoring, to keep the game at a 2-2 tie. And, for two pitches, he was on point. He got Jacoby Ellsbury into an 0-2 hole, and then served up the fattest, juiciest, most mouth-watering meatball I’ve ever seen. Since Ellsbury is a human with two arms, two legs, and two eyes, he was easily able to discern that this pitch was, in fact, right in his wheelhouse. He carefully lined a single into the outfield and that was the ballgame. Furbush managed to get out of the inning – and through the next inning – without giving up any more damage, but that was it. That was the ballgame. The run was credited to Hisashi Iwakuma, the loss was even credited to Hisashi Iwakuma, but this game rested on the shoulders of Charlie Furbush and HE is the reason why this game didn’t go into extra innings.
Speaking of Iwakuma, boy did HE have a shitty first inning. I’m not going to heap nearly as much scorn upon him – as he did a marvelous job of settling down after throwing over 40 pitches in the first two innings – but he knows better than to leave all those pitches up in the zone. When he pitches up in the zone, he loses most of his natural movement. And, besides that, he doesn’t have the strongest arm, so he’s not going to blow anybody away with his fastball in the upper 80s.
Lloyd McClendon, for the most part, at least in my estimation, has gotten a pass this year. You have to do that when you’re dealing with a new manager. Let him get his feet wet, give him time to give you a solid impression of what he’s about, and see if his wacky tactics end up paying off.
I generally like him. I like the way he manages, I like the way he’s brunt and forthright with the media. I’m not always crazy about his bullpen usage, but I feel like almost every manager has bullpen usage issues. Last night, he did something else I liked: he left his starter in the ballgame. Iwakuma was cruising after that aforementioned second inning. He put up zeroes every inning after the first and ultimately saw the Mariners tie the game at 2-2 in the 7th. Each inning seemed to be getting easier than the last for Iwakuma. He was right around 100 pitches, which by no means should dictate whether you take a pitcher out of a game or not. Like some of these other old school guys, I long for the days where starters would throw 120-130 pitches. Maybe that’s not safe, or to the benefit of a pitcher’s long-term health, but men were men God dammit! Chewing tobacco and jock straps and tattoos and moustaches!
Anyway, I was all in favor of Iwakuma going out to start that 8th inning. My only concern was the Yankee batting order turning over to the top of the lineup again. They’d proven to give him fits in the first inning, and they’d likely prove to give him fits upon seeing him a fourth time in the game. My strategy would have been: leave Iwakuma in until he looks like he’s done.
And then Brett Gardner yanked a ball that was just a few feet foul. What would have been a homer, was only a long strike in the count, but you could tell. Iwakuma was leaving the ball up and out over the plate again. Obviously, you don’t yank a pitcher in the middle of an at-bat unless he’s injured, but if you were EVER going to do that, immediately following that foul ball would have been the time. Gardner eventually smashed a deep drive that was caught in center field. He hit that ball on the button and just missed a double or a triple (with his speed). Once we lucked into that first out, it was time.
Instead, LMC left him in to face Jeter, who also jacked a deep fly to left center. This time, Jones couldn’t bring it down and it went for a ground rule double. Iwakuma was pulled for Furbush, but the damage was done.
LMC also made a few bonehead decisions with the lineup that he’s regretting right about now. Willie Bloomquist in the leadoff spot, for instance. 0 for 4 with a strikeout on 13 total pitches for the game. Two foul outs to first in his first two at-bats, a fly out to center, and a strikeout in the seventh. That’s the one that really got my goat. With two outs, we’d just come up with a clutch RBI single by Ackley to tie the game. Brad Miller followed with an infield chopper that he was able to beat out at first. That turned over the lineup to the top of the order again. Unlike the Yankees – who seem to know what they’re doing at the top of their lineup – the Mariners have been swinging their dick like a helicopter when it comes to the top of the lineup. Just standing there, swinging their dick, making helicopter noises.
Regardless of what he’s done recently – and I can’t believe I have to fucking say this again – THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR WILLIE FUCKING BLOOMQUIST TO EVER BE YOUR LEADOFF HITTER! Shit, there’s no excuse for him to ever NOT hit 9th in the lineup unless you’re in a National League park, and even then I’m not so sure! You don’t give Willie Bloomquist the opportunity for the most at-bats in your lineup, I don’t care how shitty and inexperienced the other options are! If LMC could get that one hint through his thick fucking skull, I’d die a happy man.
So, of course, bottom of the seventh, runners on first and second – go-ahead run in scoring position, meaning all we need is a harmless single to the outfield to take the lead and seal the win – Bloomquist strikes out. Great.
Also, what was that shit with pinch hitting for Cole Gillespie in the 6th? I understand that Dellin Betances is this smoke-throwing righty with insane strikeout numbers, but Cole Gillespie has not only been the team’s best right-handed bat over the last few weeks, he was the best right-handed bat LAST NIGHT! 1 for 1 with a walk and the team’s first RBI; leave him in there! I like Endy Chavez as much as the next guy, but Gillespie is better than Endy Chavez right now! Ride the wave! You batted him cleanup in your lineup last night for a reason – AND IT PAID OFF – why are you second-guessing yourself later? LMC is that fantasy football owner who tinkers with his lineup on the Saturday night before the playoffs, and then again on the Sunday morning before the games start. Just let your best players play!
His final questionable decision I didn’t have a huge deal with. Bottom of the 9th, two outs, Ackley walks, bringing up Brad Miller’s spot. With a righty on the mound, some people would have liked to have seen what Miller was capable of. He did just help us with a 9th inning victory down in Tampa the day before. But, he’s batting .172 for a reason. Maybe, if he could prove he’s capable of at least hitting above the Mendoza line, he’d get the benefit of the doubt more often. Personally, I have no problem with pinch hitting for him there. To be fair, I wouldn’t have had a problem with him hitting there either.
Others feel that pinch hitting was correct, but that John Buck was the questionable choice. When you’ve got Stefen Romero also on the bench, why go with the old, slow catcher? That’s LMC relying on the veteran just because he’s a veteran. Granted, Buck recently hit that 2-run homer down in Atlanta to give the team the lead. And also granted, just last year he hit 15 homers, so you know he’s got some pop in his bat. And FINALLY granted, Romero isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his .210 average and his .355 slugging percentage. Nevertheless, if I had to rank my choice for that at bat, John Buck probably would have been my third choice. I’m still waffling on whether I’d go Miller or Romero, but I know Buck wasn’t it.
That having been said, going with Buck there isn’t the reason we lost this game. It wasn’t even LMC’s worst move of the night (I think that still has to be leaving Iwakuma in there to face Jeter). The move that probably backfired the most has been essentially glossed over and forgotten from history.
I’ve said it repeatedly, and I’ll say it again here: I hate it when athletes “play through pain”. If you’re in pain, you’re not helping ANYONE! Just shut it down and get right. YOUR presence isn’t the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home in October (especially when it’s still early June and there’s still plenty of time left in the season). I won’t belabor the point any more, but I have to wonder where Michael Saunders is at in his recovery from that shoulder aggravation. Is he fine? Is he 100%, or at least as close to 100% as can be expected in a sport where it’s a daily grind? Or, is he 50% and trying to nut up and avoid a stint on the DL? Are we going to find out that his playing on this shoulder is just making it worse, eventually requiring that DL stint he’d gone to such lengths to previously avoid?
Or, did he just have the shittiest game of any Seattle Mariners player last night?
I know at least that last part is true. But, because he’s not Charlie Furbush or Lloyd McClendon (or Brad Miller in the bottom of the first, making a miracle diving stab at a grounder, only to throw wide of first base when he had PLENTY of time to nab the slow-footed Brian McCann – who is, in my estimation, one of the worst blocking catchers I’ve ever seen – thereby letting a second run score), Michael Saunders kind of gets lost in the shuffle. Yet, if you’re going to blame any player for this loss – and ultimately, it’s the players who have to get the job done, regardless of bonehead manager decisions – Michael Saunders gets the biggest slice of that pie.
- Bottom of the 2nd: One out, Zunino doubles, then takes third on a wild pitch. Saunders at the plate: strikes out. A fly ball could have tied the game; instead, Ackley closes out the inning harmlessly and we’re still down 2-1.
- Bottom of the 4th: One out, Gillespie walks, then Seager singles and Gillespie goes to third. Zunino hits a shallow fly ball to left, can’t bring in the runner, but allows Seager to tag up and go to second. Two outs, two runners in scoring position, Saunders at the plate: Flies out to center. A single into the outfield gives us the lead; instead, we’re still down 2-1.
- Bottom of the 7th: One out, Zunino hit by pitch, then advances to second on a wild pitch. Saunders at the plate: strikes out. Ackley would go on to single in that run (himself avoiding the same overall misery as Saunders in this game); but, it eventually led to Bloomquist getting that final out. Perhaps if Saunders had hit that run in and continued the inning, things would have been much different. We’ll never know.
- Bottom of the 9th: One out, Saunders at the plate: strikes out.
Three strikeouts on the game. 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position. 4 left on base. Goat of the game: your name is Michael Saunders.
And, tonight: Tanaka. I’ll be at that game, so let’s see if my in-person mojo has enough to keep this one close and turn it over to the bullpens. But, I have my doubts. I REALLY have my doubts. We’re really close to getting swept in this series, with a 3-game series against the Rangers on the weekend. All of that goodwill that came from last week’s 6-1 road trip could be slipping through our fingers like sand through an hourglass. Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, we’ll be able to say, “If the season ended today … we’d just miss out on that Wild Card.”
P.S. Fuck Derek Jeter. I’m going to pick about a million fights tonight (and not just with my grandmother, who’s coming with me to the game) with Yankees fans in attendance.