We talk a lot about the role that luck plays in baseball. For all of our projections and predictive statistics, what makes the game so much fun is that the things that are supposed to happen, the outcomes that odds and history compel to occur, simply don’t sometimes.
Tonight in Seattle was the perfect example. While both starting pitchers had terrible outings, Jesse Litsch had absolutely no business pitching five scoreless innings against any lineup, even one as depressed offensively as the batting order belonging to the Seattle Mariners tonight.
The Ginger Beard Man threw 111 pitches to only 24 batters, allowing five hits and four walks, while striking out four and miraculously allowing no runs. Felix Hernandez, on the other side of the inning, threw 110 pitches over six frames, striking out six and only walking two, but giving up a dozen hits and seven earned runs. Despite all of the hits for the Blue Jays, the score could have very easily been reversed after five innings.
This game was a story of two halves. During the first half of the game, the Blue Jays looked unbeatable. Corey Patterson put an emphasis on the team’s offensive dominance in his first game as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays by hitting a two run home run off of the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the top of the sixth inning to put the Jays up 7-0. Edwin Encarnacion and Jayson Nix both went 3 for 4 with doubles. In fact, the only member of the Blue Jays not to get on base was first baseman Adam Lind who had a lousy day at the plate, striking out twice.
But then the tide was turned by a bullpen that seemed hell bent on nibbling at the plate despite multiple run leads. Jason Frasor threw 20 pitches, only ten for strikes; Carlos Villanueva threw 23 pitches, only 12 for strikes and David Purcey looked downright awful loading the bases with only 16 pitches, six of which he threw for strikes, to start the eighth inning.
That was before Octavio Dotel was brought in with four left handed batters in a row due up. Last season, lefties averaged a higher OPS against Dotel than Jose Bautista’s OPS for the entire season. He proceeded to walk the first two batters he faced, throwing eight of his twelve pitches for balls before he came out. Then, with the score 7-3 for the Blue Jays, Marc Rzepczynski was brought in, and he proceeded to walk in another run, before giving up a two run single to Justin Smoak.
Up only a single run in the eighth inning, Shawn Camp came in and induced a double play with one pitch.
Despite looking so good against the best pitcher in the American League, the Jays went three up three down in the top of the ninth before Camp was brought back in to close the game, clinging desperately to a one run lead.
Michael Saunders led off the bottom of the ninth with a double. He was sacrificed over to third before Camp induced a ground out from Adam Kennedy. With two outs and Saunders on third, Ichiro received a questionable free pass to face Luis Rodriguez. In a 10 pitch at bat, Rodriguez hit a two run single to win the game for the Mariners.
You can complain all you want about choosing to walk Ichiro and put the winning run on base with two out in the ninth inning, but the real question I keep asking has more to do with bringing Dotel in with four guys in a row in the batting order that can hit from the left side of the plate. If Rzepczynski comes into the game right away there, instead of two batters later, I think we see a much different outcome.
- Miguel Olivo ended five of the Mariners nine innings.
- Jesse Litsch made a glovely save in the fifth inning off of a line drive from Milton Bradley.
- Toronto Blue Jays pitcher issued eleven walks.
- Before Shawn Camp, the Toronto bullpen threw 80 pitches, only 35 for strikes.
- Prior to the ninth inning of tonight’s game, Camp had gotten 19 out from 19 batters on 48 pitches.