Game Four Recap
If this season was about wins and losses, these breakdowns would read a bit differently. We’d talk about bullpen usage, line-ups, in-game strategy, and what the team needs to improve on to win games like this. However, the reality is that the Texas Rangers are a really good baseball team and the Mariners, right now, are not. The M’s shouldn’t be able to go into Texas and win a bunch of games, especially in games that Felix doesn’t start. This roster just isn’t on Texas’ level, and they got beat by a better team. That’s what this game boiled down to.
So, instead, we look to the things that do matter, and tonight, that’s Erik Bedard. No, he’s not one of the young kids who the organization is looking to build around, but how he performs this year will go a long way into determining whether the M’s can be respectable and competitive, or if they’re going to be looking at another year in the basement of the AL West. For 2011, Bedard matters a lot, and keeping the current product reasonably entertaining will help the organization invest in its own future.
That’s why I was encouraged by what I saw from Bedard tonight, even if the results weren’t there. He struggled to command his fastball, fell behind in the count too often, and the Rangers were able to sit on pitches and swing for the fences. However, his curve ball is the weapon that made him a good big league pitcher, and he threw a few curves tonight that were as good as pre-surgery Bedard. He threw it for strikes, and he trusted that he could get it over, even when behind in the count.
That’s the pitch that’s going to allow him to succeed, and while he threw a few spinners, more often than not, the curve ball had good break and was well located. The Rangers were able to guess right on a few because he couldn’t get his fastball over, but on nights when he’s pitching ahead in the count, that pitch is still going to be a knockout option for him.
Yes, he only went five innings, and I’m sure the people who still hold a grudge against him for the trade will drag out their worn out arguments about how he’s just not a guy who can work deep into games. He’ll never be Felix Hernandez, but he showed some flashes of the ability that made him one of the league’s best pitchers. It was his first regular season start in nearly two years, and he held his own against a good offense without being able to throw his fastball for strikes. That’s pretty impressive, even if the box score is not.
There were other positives as well – notably, Justin Smoak continues to drive the ball into the gaps against left-handed pitching, and is showing some real improvement from the right side of the plate. Jack Wilson made one of the best 4-3 double plays I’ve ever seen, and he didn’t hurt himself doing it (that we know of). Milton Bradley got three more hits and is off to the hot start he needed in order to keep himself in a good state of mind.
It’s not enough to win games against teams as good as Texas on most nights, but there’s some progress here. For now, moral victories are okay, and there were enough good things on the field tonight to count this game as a moral victory.