Thanks to threats of torrential rains and tornadoes, we all get to celebrate a one-game sweep of the Texas Rangers.
But if you're like me, you need a little more than that to get excited on the heels of a six-game losing streak. And I didn't see a lot last night that has me fired up and anticipating a plethora of wins on the horizon.
Since I've been such a negative nancy lately, let's start with the things that I thought were positive:
- How about the performance of Brandon Morrow. Wow! That kid was absolutely lights out. And while there still obviously is considerable disagreement about whether the majors is the right place for his long-term potential as a dominant starter -- nobody is drafted No. 5 overall and given a $2.5 million signing bonus to become a one-pitch power arm in the bullpen -- one can hardly argue that he's one of the biggest reasons the M's won that game yesterday.
His fastball was absolutely electric -- Mike Blowers described it as a fastball "with afterburners." It's the kind of pitch that jumps on a hitter. Did you see the look on Ian Kinsler's face when he struck out on that 97 mph gas? He was absolutely stupified. The closest comparison to that pitch I can come up with is Mark Prior's "easy cheese." (Hopefully, that's where the comparisons end, however).
He still doesn't really have any effective offspeed pitches -- the main reason most people want him back in the minors -- but, for now, he's having positive experiences in the majors, something I think none of us should sneeze at. I'm really, really interested to see how Hargrove uses him over the next few weeks. I'll be the first to say Hargrove has used him poorly, at least if he wants to try and help him develop while in the bigs. He's got to use Morrow more effectively than this, and in turn it's got to be helping the team win. If neither of those is happening, I'll be first in line to tell the M's to ship him to AA.
- I'll admit -- I'm never going to be Ichiro's biggest fan. I often ask people when was the last time they can remember being able to point to a game and say, "Ichiro really was the difference in that game for us. Without him, we never could have won." Then I take joy in watching their face contort as they struggle to come up with an example.
Well, that question now sucks thanks to Ichiro's singlehanded dominance of the Rangers yesterday. Even though he never crossed the plate himself, he came up with the biggest hit of the game. It wasn't just that it scored the majority of the M's runs -- it came at the most opportune time against a pitcher who had shut down the Mariners so far in his two appearances (Kevin Millwood) and it was precisely the kind of clutch hit the M's have been missing most of the year, the one that buries a team.
I still am disappointed that his running game seems to have been left somewhere across the Pacific before the season started -- he didn't even attempt to steal second in either of the two at bats following his infield single in the third inning, despite there being a runner on third -- but tough to complain much about this one. He came up with the huge hit when we needed it.
Oh, and fun fact of the night: Ichiro has the highest slugging percentage of any of the regulars -- .532. I'm not sure whether to be excited or horrified by that.
- I'm coming to believe that there is no greater exercise in frustration than watching Mariners hitters. One of these days, I'm going to sit down for an entire game and chart how often they actually swing at strikes. Anecdotally, it's a heck of a lot of the time -- check out this post at Lookout Landing where Jeff got a screen shot of one of Sexson's at bats. It's almost comical.
There is just absolutely no plate discipline on this team, and it will absolutely kill Seattle long term. I'm going to get more in depth on this in a post tomorrow, so be on the lookout for that one.
- For those calling for Cha Seung Baek's call-up since Jeff Weaver's first miserable outing, you finally got your wish. The results were mixed. Baek looked pretty good through the first three innings, but was fooling nobody after that. He got drilled in the fourth after the team handed him a four-run lead, as even the outs were hit hard, and he couldn't make it out of the fifth.
His stuff looked mediocre, and it seemed like it was only a matter of time until he started to get hit. You've got to be especially good with your location when you're topping out on the gun at 85-87 mph, and Baek wasn't. Maybe it was nerves, but I didn't see anything to inspire that he'd be a long-term solution in that No. 5 slot this season.