Rainiers Report # Whatever
Wherein Marc W., Juan Sandoval get pwned by Gaia!
The last Rainiers report occurred mere hours after a fender bender outside of my beloved Cheney Stadium. Taking what I thought was a clear hint from Nature, I decided I was done with driving a couple of minutes to the game, even if I was late. I'm a walking fan, and I thought Nature would support that decision. But no - Gaia shows no favor to those supplicants who reduce their carbon footprints by walking, just as she shows no mercy to those Rainiers who are differently abled.
Tonight's game pitted the Rainiers and the Portland Beavers, and the pitching match-up was mildly intriguing. Juan Done got the call for Tacoma, a few weeks after getting lit up by the Beavers in PGE park. Former M's farmhand Ryan Ketchner took the mound for Portland. Ketchner was a fave among M's minorleague fans for his decent K rates, but the org let him go in the Jolbert Cabrera deal back in 2004. No? Not even mildly intriguing? Eh, yeah, that was a bit of a stretch. Did I mention that Ketchner is almost totally deaf? Is that at least mildly heart warming?
The game got off to a decent start, as Jeff Clement followed a Bryan LaHair single with a long HR to right. This photo shows, crappily, the follow through that Clement took on that HR swing. You might hope for an in-focus shot, or for a photo showing the swing/contact instead of the rather more mundane follow-through (how do you know this is the follow through from the HR swing? How do you know this was taken *at tonight's game at all?* Riddle/Enigma/Puzzle sandwich, to be sure. But I like to think we've built up a rapport, and I like to think you know I'm not joshing (all five of) you. Here it is:
Whew, that's blurry. Let's move on.
Juan Done imploded in the top of the third, giving up 5 runs on a two-run single by Vince Sinisi (4-4 on the day, with 4 wussy singles). Immediately after a chat with pitching coach Dwight Bernard, Done gave up a line drive 3R HR right down the line in left to 2B Craig Stansberry. Done also felt like he was getting squeezed and had a bit of a chat with the umpire after the inning (he also threw a pitch to the backstop after a late time-out call in the next half-inning; I don't think Done and the umpire will be meeting up for a beer later). Juan settled down and ended up going 6IP of 5H 5R ball, but the M's just couldn't get anything going against Ketchner who was 0-8 coming into the game. Ryan's line was a very impressive 7IP 4H 2R 2BB 9Ks.
Juan Sandoval, the man who was *shot in the face* in his native Dominican Republic, came on to replace Done in the 7th, but Gaia would not let his inspiring story unfold. Sandoval uses goggles to reduce glare in his non-functional left eye (and if you just started reading at this point, I may need to explain that Sandoval's left eye was SHOT. In a restaurant), but Gaia petulantly started raining just after the 7th began. By the second batter, Sandoval couldn't see out of his right eye (his other eye having been SHOT OUT OF HIS FACE) and placed the goggles on the brim of his hat. The umpire, mad after being shown up by Juan Done, decided to assert control and told Sandoval to remove the goggles from the hat (maybe because they were reflecting light or something. I don't know; if a guy whose eye was shot out was on the mound, dealing 90+ heat, I'd let him leave some f******* goggles on his hat. That's just me. Gaia, this umpire, they loooove lording it over one-eyed pitchers. Dicks.). At this point Sandoval couldn't really see much, and he gave up 3 consecutive singles, scoring another Beaver run. In the 8th, the skies really opened up, and Sandoval clearly couldn't see much. After a lead-off walk, and a single following it, his night was through, and Jason Mackintosh closed things out by allowing one inherited run to score.
In the bottom of the 8th, just as reliever Aaron Rakers was announced, a deluge began. Gaia knew I was walking home, and she saw my jeans and laughed, probably how her slutty cousin Fate laughed when she decided to have Juan Sandoval's left eye blown out. The game? The game was abandoned, and the Beavers "won" 7-2. I'm OK now, after a couple glasses of Basil Hayden's (my apologies for a somewhat scattered, eye-obsessed Report tonight), but I can't shake the feeling that Gaia was nasty, not just to me, but to poor Juan Sandoval.
Gaia, for your actions tonight, you get the Morsels backwards K of the night.
For M's 'spect watchers, Adam Jones started in RF tonight, obviously getting some work in the corners, should he be needed in Seattle (hint hint hint). Wlad took over in CF and looked OK, though he didn't have much to do. He nearly threw out a runner at home after Sinisi's bases-loaded single in the third, but his throw was just on the 1B side of home. Jones also had a near miss, after nearly surprising Drew Macias at third following Luke Carlin's single.
Jeff Clement followed his HR with a walk and a strikeout.
Morsels Q and A!!!!
Q: NBA draft/trade? Your thoughts?
A: Awesome. The sonics get the best talent in the draft, coupled with an actual post presence in Green, who will probably outrebound the past 4 Sonics first-rounders combined next year. Losing RayRay is tough, but it's right for the team. Now sign Rashard, and call it a year. Oh, and stick around, too.
Q: Wlad - is he for real, or is this some sort of fluke?
A: As someone who's been talking about Wlad for years, including when 99% of M's fans thought he'd never amount to anything, I'm loving this. It's clearly for real too, despite an uptick in his K rate. He's simply a more disciplined, more advanced hitter. He's a guy who had huge flaws in his game, but who also had prodigious power and natural ability. By listening to his coaches and working on his flaws, he's made himself a legit blue-chipper, and I think that's awesome. M's bloggers need an underdog to root for with Snelling gone, and I think Wlad's the one (oh, uh, and ABD too! Sorry Paul!).
Q: George Sherrill - how much of this is luck?
A: Not much. Look, his peripherals looked almost identical to Mike Gonzales coming into the year, and he's gotten even better this year. He's dropped his walk rate, and his sneaky fastball is proving way too much for the best lefties in the game. Might he give up a longball to a righty? Might an inherited runner or two score? Sure, but we're witnessing one of the better lefty set-up seasons in memory; this one goes down with Arthur Rhodes' 2001, and it's clearly better (in WPA terms) than Ed Vande Berg's 1982. Enjoy it, and remember: Positive Paul told you this would happen.
Q: Who sucks?
A: Jake Woods.
Q: M's pythagorean winning percentage is just 'meh' but they're right in the WC hunt. What gives?
A: The bullpen gives, that's true. And given the number of freakishly terrible starts the M's have endured, it's probably not that surprising that the M's pythag is out of whack. They look like a contender 4 out of 5 nights, and that hasn't been true in a while. The biggest worry is the defense. Their team DER is terrible, and that's gotta change if they want guys like Batista and Weaver to keep them in contention. On the other hand, thanks to some nice bullpen management, the 'pen may singlehandedly keep this team in the race. Forget taking a lead into the 6th or 7th, with solid years from Sean Green and Eric O'Flaherty, this team basically only needs 4-5 innings (see Feierabend, Ryan) from its starters. There are still a ton of question marks, but there are also legitimate strengths, strengths that might keep the M's in the race this fall. This is all quite lovely for us NW baseball fans, but that pit in my stomach comes from the fact that Bill Bavasi may feel the need to make a move at the deadline this year. Last year, Bavasi gave up a 20-YO shortstop who's putting up a near .900 OPS this year to go along with MLB-quality defense for a RH DH who retired from baseball about 5 months after the trade. *Rad!* This year, I have nightmares that Wlad Balentien gets dealt for the grittiest, veteranest, clubhouse-mentorest crap the AL can belch up. That, or a crappy 5th starter. Eric Milton's on the DL, which eases my mind a bit, so here's hoping that Bill doesn't panic after Buehrle goes to the Yanks and trades Mark Hendrickson for Adam Jones or something.