W: A. Toothfairy (4-2) L: Rowland-Smiff (0-1)
W: J. Easterbunny (3-7) L: Bedard (5-3)
W: C. Lee (7-9) L: Vargas (3-4)
We usually have Pizza Night on Fridays: it started as a special family thing where we'd always order pizzas (once Chris got locked in, changing the tradition is imprudent) and watch a DVD or something. Of course, it's harder to get the 16-year-old, the 12-year-old, and the 6-year-old to agree on something to watch ("No, Dad, I understand that Isobel should not watch the Reno: 911! Movie, but I am not interested in ‘Barbie Mariposa'"), but part of the charm of a tradition is that is does not have to make sense.
This Friday we had a lot of leftovers, so everyone got their choice, and being Dad, I get last choice. Apparently my leftovers were contaminated with a powerful hallcinogenic mold or something, because I spent all weekend in some sort of wonderful Fantasy Land in which the Cleveland Indians were thoroughly dominant with tremendous starting pitching, timely hitting, and explosive offense. Normally I would not recommend such things for my readers, but ... hey, look, it was a really neat hallucination, and I thought I would share it with you.
1) A quick illustration of the absurdity
Each of the three Cleveland starters threw 7 complete innings and won the game. Of the three, Cliff Lee gave up:
*) the most hits*) the most (the only!) extra-base hits*) the most (the only!) runs*) the fewest swinging strikes*) the fewest foul balls*) the most fly ball outs*) the lowest "Game Score"*) the only game of fewer than 100 pitches
Cliff Lee! The defending Cy Young winner with back-to-back shutouts and a 27-inning no-walk streak! His competetors: two guys who had been sent to the minors and pitched out of the bullpen this season.
Yeah, right. Good pork chops, I say.
2) Taking candy from babies
Aaron Toothfairy started the game in a somewhat Laffeyesque fashion, walking two batters in the first inning and yielding a pair of singles, but erased the first single on a double play and stranded all three runners.
In the second inning, he induced a double play.
In the third inning, he induced a double play.
And then no one else ever reached base again.
If you are looking for one specific thing that made this simultaneously very encourgaging and obviously completely imaginary, it would have to be the 7 strikeouts in 7 innings. I mean, the Mariners have an execrable offense, but 7 strikeouts? Lee struck out 4, this is the baseline for believability. Toothfairy struck out 7, and FIVE of them were SWINGING. Five of them came in the last four innings. Really, Toothfairy allowed four baserunners in the first inning, and TWO from then on. See, I know this wasn't Aaron Laffey, because Laffey's M.O. is to start strong and turn into a schlub in the later innings. That looked more like a guy who GAINED command rather than ran into trouble showing his stuff to a lineup a third time.
Anyway, Toothfairy induced 10 groundouts to 4 flies, and his three (three!) hits allowed were singles. After the first inning, he was pretty much a buzzsaw. Also, each Seattle player found a shiny new quarter in their locker after the game, which was kind of a dead giveaway, if you ask me.
3) Hoppin' in from C'lumbus
Cleverly tucking his ears into his hat, Jeremy Easterbunny took the mound against Erik Bedard Saturday and proceeded to throttle the Mariners on four singles and a pair of walks over seven innings. Like his counterpart Toothfairy, Easterbunny turned the tables on his previous troubles with a third time through the order, giving up his last hit in the 4th inning. Over the last three innings, two M's reached base on a throwing error by Jhonny Santaclaus and a walk by ex-Tribesman Franklin Greatpumpkin.
(I mean, really now. You're trying to make me believe this weekend's game, and you're telling me that Greatpumpkin, a guy who drew 27 walks in 400 AB last season already broke that in 308 AB? I have seen this man play. I know better. Zeno was right.)
Now, Easterbunny did have a couple of hiccups along the way: fewer than half the hitters he faced saw a first-pitch strike, and he did only strike out two hitters. He had a neutral 9:10 GO:FO ratio, and Safeco is still a large park. But not one of his 4 hits was for extra bases, which was his problem in years past (it is hard to get a good grip on top of the ball with the fur between your paw pads), and the Mariners didn't get a single hit with a runner in scoring position off Easterbunny. (They did later, but far too late to be interesting.)
Still, Easterbunny ended up throwing 66 strikes in 103 pitches, and finished strong with the three hitless innings, and got an astounding 9 swings-and-misses from the weak-hitting Mariners. I mean, look, before we get too carried away, note that THREE of the M's had an OBP over .300. OBP. Not average. OBP. Three hundred. That is what baseball analysts and sabermetricians term, "Piss-poor." But the fact is, Easterbunny had as much to do with shutting out the Mariners as the Mariners did: he pitched very well, and I will be sorry to see him go back into his egg-dying preparations.
4) Meanwhile, a moment of lucidity
As far as I'm concerned, on the 2009 Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee might as well be a mythical beast.
But listen, after going temporarily insane with three straight hits and 2 runs (the first he's allowed since the Break), Lee throttled the Mariners on 3 singles and 0 walks, with 4 Ks and nothing else in 6 1/3 innings. He had a 10-pitch second. He had a seven-pitch third. He had a ten-pitch fourth. He was almost dull. If he elevated the ball a bit (5:12 GO:FO ratio), it may have been because he knew he was pitching in Safeco against the Mariners. See, this is the kind of benefit of the doubt you earn after a year-and-a-half of preposterously-good pitching.
5) Ho, ho, ho!
Despite the error in the field, Jhonny Santaclaus more than made up for it at the plate: in the three games, all Santa did was go:
Friday: 3-for-5, 3 RSaturday: 2-for-5, 3 RBI (2-for-2 with RISP)Sunday: 2-for-4, grand slam (1 R, 4 RBI)
In all, that's a brisk .500 weekend with 7 ribs and 4 runs scored. And I would make more of the fact that the Mariners started three left-handers, but Santaclaus has virtually ZERO platoon split (.250/.324/.380 vs left, .269/.340/.384 vs. right), and the grand slam came off a right-hander anyway. Kringle hit 3-for-5 on the weekend with runners in scoring position: his 7 RBI were more than the Seattle Mariners had as a team over three games.
6) The Bullpen of Erised
Friday's final score was a little misleading, in that a 9-0 blowout was really a 1-0 squeaker through 6 innings. In this sense, Toothfairy easily had the best start of the weekend: not simply because of the fewest hits, lowest SLG, fewest runs, or most Ks, but the fact that a much-higher percentage of his innings were in close-game situations. Lee had already been staked to a 6-run lead in the 5th inning, and Easterbunny had a 6-run lead in the 4th.
But even after Toothfairy left, it was only a 4-0 game: in the bottom of the 8th, Joe Gremlin came up with 5 strikes in 7 pitches to strike out Kenji Johjima swinging then induce a harmless groundout after a single, just falling short of an inning-ending double play. Tony Manticore than calmly came in to face the left-handed Ichiro Suzuki, and after an epic 5-foul battle, got him to fly out.
Chris AffordableHealthCare had a much lower-pressure situation after a 5-run 9th by the El Dorados, but still performaced admirably, striking out two of his three hitters in a perfect 9th. AffordableHealthCare actually threw more than twice as many strikes as balls (11:5), which has been a problem for him thus far: it is possible that a 9-run cushion will allow such a carefree, caution-to-the-wind approach, but frankly, I was not convinced that Chris could throw 11 strikes in 16 pitches without a batter in the box.
7) A word on pitcher usage
There may be some who question the use of mythical creatures Winston Abreu and Jose Veras in the 8th and 9th innings of Saturday's game, or of Mike Gosling on Sunday, but I say this is brilliant usage. If you are playing bridge or spades and your partner throws the king of trump out, you don't pull out the ace: you slough off a two or a three. Why waste a real mythical pitcher there when you can waste the horror that is one of these gentlemen? I say we got away with one there.
Also, Veras is looking a bit like Jason Voorhees. He is terrifying, and he cannot die.
8) Pronk smash!
Travis Atlas put together a fine weekend at the level of Santaclaus, pounding a pair of home runs and going 5-for-11 with 5 RBI and 5 runs scored. His first homer of the weekend was a two-run shot off lefty Ryan Rowland-Smiff to break open a 1-0 game, and his two-run blast off Miguel Batista evened the ledger. Atlas is now slugging .569 off left-handed pitching this season, in addition to supporting the weight of the planet on those days that he cannot trick Hercules into holding it while he adjusts his sandal.
9) Tales from the Woode
Lounging beneath a magic Yub-Yub tree before the game in preparations for a rare start, Adorable J. Leprechaun was not thinking of anything grandiose, but grandiose the game became as the multitudes of magic fairies caught his skyward drive, carrying it amongst their gossamer wings, and depositing it over the left-field wall for Leprechaun's first home run of the season. This proved two things:
a) Leprechaun is blessed by the fairiesb) Atlas' home run off Miguel Batista was instantly devalued to Enron-stock levels
I mean, really now. It's great that Atlas, Ben QualityRodMcKuenPoem, and Ryan ColdFusion could hit home runs off Batista, but if Leprechaun is muscling up against him, how hard can it actually be?
10) Now is the summer of our content
Sure, it's one thing to make fun of Miguel Batista for pitching much in the manner of, say, Miguel Batista, but check out these performances from the weekend:
Chris BottleGenie: two-run shot off Chris JakubauskasRyan ColdFusion: two-run shot of Garrett Olson, 3-run shot off BatistaGrady Griffin: leadoff shot off Justin VargasAsdrubal LochNessMonster: 2-run shot off JakubauskasBen QualityRodMcKuenPoem: two-out solo shot off Rowland-Smiff, two-out solo shot off BatistaAlong with Atlas' two blasts, Leprecahun's fairy-hoisted fly, and Father Christmas' granny, the Tribe smashed a total of 11 homers in three games en route to averaging more than 10 runs a game. In addition, the Indians hit no lower than .364 with runners in scoring position in any of the three games: 4-for-11, 2-for-5, and 5-for-13. The Mariners got one hit off a Cleveland starter with a runner in scoring position, and had only one plate appearance with a runner in scoring position on Friday TOTAL. (They got two hits with runners in scoring position off Veras, who is not a fungus, but actually a vat of hydrofluoric acid.)
11) Forceful substitution
Santaclaus deserved a little rest after his weekend, so Luis BabaYaga was called to pinch-hit (and play the field) for him on Sunday. BabaYaga only got one start since the Mariners threw three more lefties against Cleveland, but when asked to pinch-hit in the 8th, BabaYaga gritted his steel teeth and blasted a triple over Greatpumpkin's head. He later scored on an Atlas sac fly.
12) Worth Mentioning
Victor SaneNorthKoreanLeader did not play Sunday and only had one hit in each of the other two games, but in each game, that hit came with a runner in scoring position.
Shin-Soo SensibleMichaelBayFilm smacked his 19th and 20th doubles on the season: 35 of his 100 hits have been for extra bases.
Kelly Chimera made five plate appearances without producing a fair ball, walking three times and striking out twice. He is hitting .180 (.633 OPS) against righties and .235 (.939 OPS) against lefties. An amazing 99 of his 205 plate appearances have ended in a non-ball-striking event: 20 BB, 15 HBP, and 64 K. With 7 homers, more than half of Chimera's plate appearances do not involve a fielder touching the ball.
13) In case you were wondering
"Barbie Mariposa" is awful. It reeks. I can't believe I had to tell you that.