Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you The Relief Ace. This highly talented and well compensated reliever can enter ballgames in any situation and use his skills to defuse rallies. He works multiple innings, finishes games, and protects slim leads. He pitches early, late, and in between, doing so as often as his arm allows. He pitches in high leverage situations, maximizing his usefulness by pitching in games where the outcome is not yet determined. Once thought to be extinct, his kind have begun a slow comeback, and there was even a sighting in downtown Seattle today.
Seriously, though, big time kudos to Bob Melvin for going to Guardado in the 8th. Two run lead, two men on, nobody out, heart of the order coming up; this situation begs for your best reliever, and Melvin answered the plea. This is the same situation he’d have gone to Mike Myers or Shigetoshi Hasegawa in a week ago, and the comeback likely would have continued. Guardado earned his save today, and Melvin’s willingness to extend Eddie past the 9th is probably the most encouraging thing we’ve seen all year.
Today, we dwell on the victory and the good management that brought it about. Hooray for Melvin. Hooray for The Relief Ace.
Went down to the old ballpark last night to see the game; came away unimpressed, as you might imagine. Also, it was pretty darned cold for it nearly being June. Anyway.
Jason Johnson — he of the 6.02 ERA entering the game and 4.91 career ERA entering this season — shut the M’s down. Before Scott Spiezio’s homer (3-0 pitch, Johnson tossed him a fat fastball), they had three hits, none of which left the infield. Both of Ibanez’ hits probably should have been outs, and Pat Borders worked his way aboard with a bunt base hit. If you hadn’t seen it, you probably wouldn’t believe it. But hey, credit to Borders for seeing the defense playing back on him. The whole thing reminded me of Tom Berenger (as veteran catcher Jake Taylor) laying down that bunt at the end of Major League.
Pineiro was horrible early, only throwing strikes with roughly half his pitches, but sure settled down after the first few innings. I noticed that when he was going well, he was working much quicker, not wasting nearly as much time between pitches. It’s hard to say which way the cause and effect goes, though. Was he pitching better because he was working quickly, or working quickly because he started pitching better and feeling more comfortable on the mound? I dunno.
Overheard at the ballpark, 5/22/04 edition: On Spiezio, “This guy is so clutch.” Spiezio with runners in scoring position, 2004: .242/.250/.364, 0 homers. Yup.
I don’t fault Melvin for going to Putz in the 8th. I mean, look at the right-handed alternatives — Mateo has been hittable this year, and Hasegawa has been horrible. That should have been a Soriano inning, of course, but that’s not an option right now.
Carlos Guillen didn’t get nearly the ovation I thought he would, or that he deserved for that matter. I think people don’t realize that he was both a decent hitter and a strong fielder during his time here, though with what we’re seeing out of Aurilia this year you’d think they’d notice all the more. But hey, we’re fed the line about Guillen being fragile and (perhaps only implicitly) not being any good in the clubhouse, or being a bad influence on Freddy Garcia, so hey, good riddance.
I have two other questions:
This team’s made up of veteran leaders, and they’ve got great clubhouse chemistry, they’re all hard workers, combined with a player’s manager. If chemistry is such a key ingredient to a winning team, if it’s what makes marginal teams play over their heads and good teams great, why do the Mariners suck so badly?
If Paul Molitor’s such a great hitting coach, why do the M’s look so helpless at the plate? They’re flailing at first pitches, no one’s walking, they’re not working counts or even (and this is really subjective) looking for their pitch.
If I have time this week, I’ll see if I can’t run some stats on the difference in hitting approaches.