One Run Games
The Mariners just finished up winning their fourth game in a row, all over quality opponents, on the road. They’ve made up some ground in both the division and wild card races, and have pushed themselves to eight games over .500. They’ve done it with the awesomeness of J.J. Putz, a resurgence from Raul Ibanez, and a bunch of clutch hits.
If you hadn’t noticed, all four wins have come by one run: 6-5, 6-5, 4-3, and 8-7. The Mariners are now 10-7 in one run games after going 20-24 in such contests last year. That kind of swing will make a big difference on the team’s final record.
Because one run games are often decided by a good bounce here or a bad call there, one run W/L records are often disconnected from the actual ability of a team. The Washington Nationals are probably the worst team in baseball this year, getting outscored by over a run per game, but they’re 12-9 in one run games. The Indians, Angels, and Red Sox look like the three best teams in the AL to date, and as a group, they’re a combined 27-21 in one run games. Last year, the Yankees won 97 games, but were just 24-22 in one run affairs.
Basically, winning one run games is awesome, and doing so over teams like San Diego and Cleveland is even better. Any win against those teams is a good thing, and there’s no end-of-season adjustment for run differential when they’re handing out playoff spots. So, yea, there are all kinds of reasons to have enjoyed this four game stretch, with some weaker opponents coming up, this has the potential to turn into a nice long winning streak.
But, if you see somebody writing about how these last four games have proven the character, heart, and guts of this team, just ignore them. Just like last year’s team wasn’t a bunch of selfish jerks for struggling in one run games, this team isn’t a bunch of heroic lionhearts for winning them. I’m all for winning as many one run games as possible, but I’m not interested in assigning character representations to these guys based on how they do in games that are decided by such small margins.
I’d rather deal with the reality of on the field performance and leave the clubhouse leadership/chemistry ramblings to others. And, the reality is, this team is mashing the ball lately. After last night’s game, the team is now hitting .318/.374/.443 in June, averaging 6.5 runs per game, and getting production up and down the order. As mentioned, Ibanez has given those of us who thought he was done the finger, hitting .364/.417/.682 in the last 10 games, while Jose Lopez and Kenji Johjima continue to make a push for inclusion in the all-star game. Yuniesky Betancourt is on another one of his singles-fest hot streaks, while Jose Guillen just keeps being a solid hitter and Ichiro continues to be Ichiro! Sexson and Vidro continue to struggle, but that’s not new, and the rest of the team is making up for their out-making ways.
When the M’s built this line-up, they pointed to the depth of the offense being a key point, and in that sense, it’s paid off. The M’s have gotten more production from their 7-8-9 guys than any other team in baseball, and it’s helped offset the fact that their 2-3-4 guys have been pretty horrible.
The M’s still have the kind of offense that goes in streaks, and I’m sure we’ll be railing about their frustrating approach as some no name A-ball pitcher shuts them down with an 83 MPH fastball later this year, but for now, it’s fun rooting for a team that can score runs in bunches.