Game Twenty-Six Recap
Let’s start with the one caveat – James Shields is really good. He was my preseason pick for the AL Cy Young award this year, so he’s not some random shlub. Even good offenses don’t do much against him, and well, the Mariners don’t have a good offense.
What are we going to say about the offense? The big move to shake up the line-up was flip-flopping Bradley and Lopez so that Milton was back in the cleanup spot, which was the right call. He rewarded Wak with some really bad at-bats, staring at pitches in the strike zone. Pitch selection is only swinging at hittable pitches, not standing there with the bat on your shoulder and letting the ump ring you up on anything that isn’t right down the middle. He was pulled after his third at-bat, in which he left the bases loaded, and I can’t imagine Wak was very happy with Milton’s performance. His second stint as the cleanup guy might not last much longer than the first.
Can’t lay all the blame on Bradley, of course. Junior looked as hopeless as ever, and really, asking him to hit a guy like James Shields at this point in his career is just remarkably unfair. You don’t invite your friends over to watch your grandfather wrestle a brown bear. This is the baseball version of that. Griffey isn’t a major league player anymore, and he’s going to be continually embarrassed by pitchers of Shields’ quality.
The offense wasn’t the only thing that blew, as the defense was uncharacteristically terrible. Jack Wilson made three ridiculous errors, Figgins added another official one and could have been given a second on a dropped pickoff, Kotchman put a guy on base with a bad throw after a nice dive, and Adam Moore tossed in another passed ball for good measure. The team was only charged with four official errors, but they made seven or eight mistakes in the field, and generally looked like a team that just couldn’t play the game.
In more positive news, let’s talk about the only good thing the M’s had going tonight – Jason Vargas. If you’re not on his bandwagon yet, I don’t know what else you need to be convinced. Going against a really good line-up, he racked up a career high eight strikeouts, constantly fooling Rays hitters with his fastball/change-up combination. He gave up a home run to Evan Longoria, but other than that, he was brilliant, despite the ridiculous lack of support he was getting from his infielders. He may have only pitched 6 2/3 innings, but when you factor in the outs that Wilson and Figgins cost him, he basically threw eight innings of brilliant baseball. I know everyone’s in love with Doug Fister right now, but of the two, Vargas is the one who I’d bet on sustaining his success all year.
Of course, once Vargas came out (and we were treated to a random Brandon League appearance), we got to see the prize of the seven man bullpen and the reason Shawn Kelley is back in Tacoma – Jesus Colome. You know, the guy who is so good that there’s no chance he’d clear waivers, despite the fact that he’s been outright released by different organizations in his career. Colome continued to show the same “skillset” he’s always had – no command of his fastball, no outpitch, and living evidence that throwing 95 doesn’t make you a major league pitcher. Supposedly, the M’s coaching staff thinks they fixed him in spring training, but there’s no reason to believe that – he still sucks, just like he always has, and there’s no reason for him to be on this team.