Nobody likes watching their team get shut out, but there's not a lot to be
embarrassed about when the shutter is the reigning Cy Young award winner
pitching in his home ballpark on a sub-fifty-degree night in Seattle. The A's
did, to their credit, work Felix hard enough that his elevated pitch-count led
Eric Wedge to go to Jamey Wright and Brandon League for the final four outs.
That's a moral victory of sorts, and also the kind of achievement that will
sometimes actually pay tangible results. It doesn't need to be said, so I won't
say it, but Jamey Wright is no Felix Hernandez.1
The real positive, though, putting aside these silly justifications and moral
victories, was Brandon McCarthy's continued excellent pitching. The Mariners
aren't the toughest outs around, I already mentioned the park and weather, and
the team was missing Justin Smoak (Adam Kennedy started at first base, though
I might have preferred Smoak, given that Kennedy hit a homer for the game's
only run), but facing 27 batters in eight innings, getting eleven ground balls,
and not giving up a single ball in play that Fangraphs has classified as a line
drive is still impressive, especially for a guy who had to fight off Rich
Harden, Josh Outman, and Tyson Ross in spring training just to get the chance to
start for this team.
Maybe some day all this wonderful pitching will get the offense it truly
Box & Notes
We'll start with the Offensive Player of the Game, Josh
Willingham.2 He didn't have an overwhelming game, and his single in the
ninth off Brandon League probably should have been caught by Chone Figgins (the
line drive actually skipped off his glove on its way into left), but it was hit
very hard, but still, three times on base in four trips, and two hard-hit balls,
is a day you'll take all year if it's offered. I do wish he hadn't been doubled
off first on Ryan Sweeney's line drive in the seventh, but that happens.
Crisp hit a ball fairly hard in the first, but right at Carlos Peguero, the
Mariners' rookie left fielder. He also missed a great pitch to hit in the sixth
as he got a fastball down the middle from Felix Hernandez but could only hit a
weak bouncer to second. Hernandez doesn't (and didn't in this game) give you
much in the middle of the plate to hit, so it's imperative that players take
advantage of those few pitches he does give you.
David DeJesus got Ryan'd in the first inning as he hit a grounder toward the
5-6 hole, only to see Brendan Ryan play the ball on the backhand and throw on
the run across his body to nip DeJesus at first. Ryan, I will admit because I
don't hate the Mariners like I do the Angels, is a lot of fun to watch play
Conor Jackson's been pretty carefully platooned so far, but he got the start
at first in this game, I believe because Daric Barton had some illness. He
looked overmatched in his first two at-bats, whiffing twice on a total of eight
pitches. He did later hit a couple of balls sharply, but both were on the ground
and were turned into outs.
I like when Ryan Sweeney gets a pitch to line toward left, and that's
precisely what he had in the seventh inning. Unfortunately, the pitch was low
enough that he couldn't elevate the ball, so instead of a hard line drive into
left, he hit a hard line drive into Chone Figgins's glove. Josh Willingham,
straying too far off of first, paid the price for the distinction.
Mark Ellis also got Ryan'd in the seventh inning on a similar kind of play.
That seventh inning was rough: single, line drive double play, walk, robbed
I've been messing up my wRAA calculations, forgetting to include stolen bases
and caught stealing. Cliff Pennington's wRAA above includes his eighth inning
steal of second, though, and all figures from here forward will as well.