Just to provide you with at least some entertainment tonight, have a glimpse above at the Mariners grounds crew, working hard after-hours at perfecting another in-game routine to try to keep fans awake. It isn’t all garden hoes and lawn watering with this group. Well done.
As for the major leaguers, Erasmo Ramirez had a night to remember with those 10 strikeouts over eight innings. And really, it’s about the only thing the 17,101 at Safeco Field might remember, save for the three or four A’s fans who kept clapping like it was Game 7 of the World Series whenever Oakland managed a hit.
Turns out, all the A’s needed was one hit by Seth Smith. He drove a Ramirez fastball over the center field wall in the second inning to hand Seattle a 1-0 loss.
It was the third 1-0 loss for the Mariners this season. The ninth time they’ve been shutout. They’ve now gone 23 innings without scoring. Lost eight of their last 10 at home, four of their last five overall. They sit 13 games under .500 and are 5 1/2 games deep in last place without us even having reached the halfway point in the season yet.
But yeah, Ramirez looked real good. And someday, hopefully, that will mean a lot for a Mariners team now looking to the future a whole lot more than at the present.
“You saw a complete performance by a young starting pitcher,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He has something now that he can really work off of. Very similar to (Hector) Noesi’s performance (Sunday).”
There you go. Ramirez stepped up tonight and showed us what he hadn’t in two prior starts up to now. He was aggressive, kept his fastball down and then worked off that to throw his changeup with effectiveness.
Ramirez could tell he was doing better right away. He struck out the side in the first inning, using a fastball with late-breaking movement to ring up the first two hitters and then an off-speed breaking pitch to get the third batter.
“I felt more comfortable,” Ramirez said. “The ball was down and my arm, it was like I had better command. So, after that inning, it was like ‘OK, I have the command right now. Be aggressive and keep throwing strikes.’ ”
Ramirez popped out the fourth guy he faced on the night.
Then, his very next pitch — a fastball — was destroyed by Smith seemingly out of nowhere.
Oh well, nobody’s perfect. Smith said he’d been watching the kind of pitches Ramirez was throwing and knew he couldn’t afford to fall behind in the count.
A’s manager Bob Melvin was watching as well and came away impressed.
“We got limited scouting on him and video,” Melvin said. “But you looked at some of his counts, how he pitched in previous games, and he pitched a lot differently. He seemed a little more predictable in last games — behind in the count here was a heater. Ahead in the count, here’s a breaking ball. And he pitched backwards today. (Miguel) Olivo did a terrific job with him too.”
And you know what? I’m going to end on that high note.
Yeah, I could go on and on about the lack of scoring at Safeco Field by the ballpark’s main tenant, but it’s been done to death and I’m pretty sure I’m on the record with having noticed that trend. Truth is, this is a ballclub with some intriguing little pieces here and there. With the makings of some decent hitters and some potential pitchers who — with a couple of years of work — could form part of a rotation after Felix Hernandez.
But it’s not a team that geared to winning very many games when it matters. I can keep skewering them every time they lose these games, but that would be me pretending that they are supposed to be that much better than they are.
They just aren’t. They will lose these games and they have proven it over and over again against opponents good and bad. As good as the M’s looked in winning some surprise games at Texas, in Toronto and at Chicago with stirring late comebacks and full-out offensive onslaughts, they can’t sustain it for any length of time.
As far as matching even the mediocre expectations set upon them this season — such as beating out the A’s — they have yet to show they can do that and with the gap now at 5 1/2 games, the odds of erasing it become slighter by the day.
So, we’ll look at some of the high points, mention the ongoing lows and keep on trucking. What I won’t do is tell you that any of this is leading someplace. That’s tough to do when the Mariners last year played .500 ball the first few months before still losing 95 games. Right now, they’re on-pace to lose 95 without the .500 ball part.
So, I’ll make you a deal. If the M’s finish off the second half by playing .500 ball for a few months, then I’ll start to look ahead at what the future holds and maybe start to picture this morphing into something other than a third place team. As long as it underperforms minimal expectations as a group, then I will continue to view it for exactly what it is — a last-place team with some interesting young pieces.
Ramirez was one of those interesting young pieces tonight. Will he still be around in two years? Couldn’t tell you. But tonight, he had a night to remember on a night his team will want to forget.
Anyhow, that’s too down a note to leave some of you on. I keep noticing in our paper that this one story about Lonesome George, the Galapagos giant tortoise who recently passed away, remains in our newspaper’s top-10 most-widely-read stories list. So, clearly, many of you care about poor Lonesome George.
I had the chance to visit the Galapagos in January 2010 and am pretty sure I ran across Lonesme George because I remember seeing just about all the giant tortoises they had over there. Not like they were spread out across an entire city or something. Anyhow, in case you were wondering how giant a giant tortoise can be, here’s some video I shot. Always enjoy seeing it again and hope you do as well. Stay entertained!