The Most Epic Game That Didn’t Matter

Last night, the Tigers and Mariners squared off in a mid-week contest in front of 14,981 fans in Seattle, in a game that didn’t begin until 10:00 pm on the east coast. The Tigers are a good baseball team, and are expected to win the AL Central by a significant margin. The Mariners are a less good baseball team, and aren’t expected to be in the playoff race when the year ends. At the end of the year, there’s a pretty good chance that the outcome of this game isn’t going to have determined anything. It will get lost in the shuffle of history as just another regular season game. But, oh man, this game was not just another game. This game was amazing. Let us count the ways.

(Be warned, for there are some GIFs after the jump).

The Pitcher’s Duel

Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer can both be dominating right-handed hurlers. Last night, they played a game of Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better, and it was amazing. Here, see for yourself.

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Scherzer_K1.gif.opt

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Hernandez and Scherzer both faced 29 batters and got 24 outs. They both struck out 12 of those 29 batters. Hernandez threw 76 of 106 pitches for strikes. Scherzer threw 75 or 105 pitches for strikes. Hernandez got 19 swinging strikes. Scherzer got 19 swinging strikes.

Overall, you have to give the slight edge to Hernandez. Not only was his overall line slightly better — 0.00 ERA, 0.08 FIP, 0.43 xFIP compared to 1.13 ERA/0.46 FIP/1.14 xFIP — but he did it against the significantly better line-up. Even after last night’s beat down, the Tigers have a .334 wOBA (#6 in MLB), while the Mariners are at .286 (#26 in MLB). Scherzer was ridiculously great, but he was great against a bunch of guys who aren’t hitting. Felix destroyed a line-up that is among baseball’s best.

But, their combined performance is really the remarkable thing here. Between them, they posted a final line of 16 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 24 K. They combined for a 0.27 FIP. It was one of the best pitcher’s duels we’ve seen in recent times.

Since 1974, there have only been five other games where both starting pitchers went at least 7 innings, had either zero or one walk, and struck out 12 batters or more. The last time it happened, Mark Prior threw a complete game shutout of the Expos, out-dueling Javier Vazquez in the process. There was also a Mussina/Pedro match-up in 2001, Clemens/Erickson in 1998, Sanders/Reynolds in 1995, and Johnson/Langston in 1992. That’s the full list of other games we’ve seen in the last 40 years where two starting pitchers squared off and blew away the competition in this fashion.

The Strikeouts

Oh, the strikeouts. Yes, the starting pitchers contributed 24 of them, but there were 16 more strikeouts after the two starters headed for the showers. With 40 strikeouts, the game tied for the second most punch-outs in a single game in MLB history. The only time fans have ever seen more swinging and missing was a 20 inning affair between the Milwaukee Brewers and California Angels back in 1971, when they combined for 43 strikeouts. They also had an additional 37 plate appearances to get those extra three strikeouts, so that game essentially just got the record because it went so long.

This game, though, was historic even for just its strikeout rate. It wasn’t the highest K% two teams have ever posted in the same game — that belongs to the day Kerry Wood struck out 20 Astros in 1998 — but a combined 38.8% K% over 15 innings is still a pretty epic accomplishment. Matthew Carruth sent me a list of the highest combined strikeout rates in in MLB history, and while there have been 31 with a higher combined strikeout rate, most of those were nine inning affairs that involved between 60 and 70 batters coming to the plate. Among games where at least 75 batters came to the plate, last night’s Tigers-Mariners match-up had the third highest strikeout rate in baseball history.

Remarkably, both of the two long games with a higher K% have also taken place in Seattle. In 1997, the Mariners and Rangers combined for 31 strikeouts in nine innings — yes, Randy Johnson started for Seattle — but because there were six runs scored, the line-ups turned over a little more often and 77 men came to the plate. At 40.3%, it is the highest K% game with >=75 batters coming to the plate, just edging out this Mariners-A’s game from 1986, where 30 of the 77 batters struck out, primarily thanks to the dominance of Jose Rijo.

Prince Fielder‘s Sombreros

Fielder was a wrecking ball the first two weeks of the season. He came to Seattle with a .429/.527/.833 line, and he had only struck out in seven of his first 55 plate appearances. In the series against Oakland before the Tigers came to Seattle, Fielder had seven hits and three walks in 14 trips to the plate. The dude was the definition of on fire.

Then, on Tuesday, he struck out four times in five trips to the plate, earning his first golden sombrero since 2009, and only the third of his career. Last night, he struck out five times in six trips to the plate, earning whatever kind of hat is even bigger than a sombrero. It was the first time Fielder had ever struck out five times in a game. On Monday, Fielder had struck out four times in a game just twice in his career. He’s now done it two games in a row.

Jesus Montero Walks

In a game with 40 strikeouts, where guys who hardly ever strike out are going down in flames, you would think that maybe Eric Gregg was calling balls and strikes. Maybe it was just a very pitcher friendly zone, and pitchers were getting the call on anything within the vicinity of the plate. In actuality, it was the exact opposite. From BrooksBaseball, here are the normalized strikezone maps from what Bob Davidson was calling last night.

(Click to embiggen)

Strikezone

There are a few normal lefty strikes in there, and there’s one pitch down out of the zone that looks generous, but there are more called balls in the strike zone than called strikes outside the normal range. If anything, you might describe Davidson’s strike zone as a little tight in the upper right portion of the zone.

And that tight strike zone was never more evident than in Jesus Montero’s 10th inning face-off against Brayan Villarreal. Villarreal, to be sure, does not have great command, and he’s so wild that umpires are probably not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt when he misses. But, at the same time, Jesus Montero does not have a good eye at the plate. He hadn’t drawn a single walk all year before the 10th inning last night. After Villarreal fell behind 2-0 with pitches that weren’t close, Montero swung at a couple of pitches that were borderline strikes at best, and probably wouldn’t have been called strikes had he not swung. He fouled off a pitch down the middle, then took ball three on the inside edge. Then, Villarreal threw a 97 MPH fastball on the outer half, belt high. In a 3-2 count, Montero took it for ball four.

Except, you know, here’s where the pitch actually was.

MonteroBB

Ball four was pretty clearly a strike. On a night where there were 40 strikeouts, Jesus Montero drew his first walk of the season by staring at strike three. Which brings us to…

Brayan Villarreal Pitching

Villarreal was pretty great for the Tigers last year, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been that odd to see him as the third man out of the Detroit bullpen last night. But, after a pretty good debut on April 3rd, here’s how Villarreal’s last three outings had gone.

Date  Player Inn. Outs Base Play
4-Apr J Willingham 8-B   ___ Josh Willingham struck out swinging.
4-Apr J Morneau 8-B 1 ___ Justin Morneau walked.
4-Apr R Doumit 8-B 1 1__ Ryan Doumit doubled to left (Grounder).
4-Apr T Plouffe 8-B 1 _23 Trevor Plouffe lined out to second (Liner).
4-Apr C Parmelee 8-B 2 _23 Chris Parmelee singled to second (Grounder).
4-Apr J Carroll 8-B 2 _23 Jamey Carroll walked.
4-Apr P Florimon 8-B 2 123 Pedro Florimon doubled to left (Fliner (Fly)).
4-Apr A Hicks 8-B 2 _23 Aaron Hicks singled to right (Grounder).
10-Apr J Bautista 7-T 1 _2_ Jose Bautista walked.
10-Apr E Encarnacion 7-T 1 12_ Edwin Encarnacion walked
10-Apr M DeRosa 7-T 1 123 Mark DeRosa walked.
12-Apr C Young 12-B   ___ Chris Young struck out looking.
12-Apr J Donaldson 12-B 1 ___ Josh Donaldson homered (Fliner (Fly)).

In his last three outings, Villarreal had faced 13 batters. Five of them walked and five others got hits. The last batter he faced hit a walkoff home run, and that was probably an improvement over the previous outing, where he had to be removed after walking the bases loaded without getting anyone out. He entered the day with an ERA of 48.60 and a BB/9 of 27.00. Yeah, it’s a ridiculously small sample size, but the fact that Jim Leyland trusted Villarreal in a tie game is a little bit amazing.

And, lucky for Jim Leyland, it worked. Well, kind of. It worked because…

Franklin Gutierrez‘s Worst At-Bat Ever

After Villarreal “walked” Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley sacrificed him to second base. Then Villarreal walked Robert Andino, another player who had yet to draw a walk this year. Gutierrez came to the plate with runners at first and second and one out, but the runner at second was Jesus Montero, almost certainly the slowest runner in baseball. With just one out, Montero couldn’t run on contact, and it would probably take a ball in the gap or down the line to score him. The Tigers outfield was coming home on any play, and Montero had only scored five times in 12 career opportunities from second base on a single. A hit would be nice, but a walk would also push Montero to third, and then he (or a pinch-runner, but we’ll get to that in a bit) could score even on a deep fly ball. Villarreal was struggling to throw strikes, as always. This shouldn’t have been that hard of a plan.

Villarreal threw Gutierrez six pitches. These are the locations of those six pitches.

GutiAwful

The one pitch in the zone was called a strike, and evened out the count to 1-1. Then, Villarreal fell behind with two more pitches out of the zone, and so Gutierrez was ahead 3-1, facing a pitcher who had just walked Jesus Montero and Robert Andino. With runners at first and second, another ball would have put the winning run on third base with one out.

Gutierrez swung at a pitch that almost hit him for strike two, then chased a fastball up out of the zone for strike three. He struck out in an at-bat where an extremely wild pitcher threw him one strike. In an at-bat where a walk probably was as good as a hit, given who the runner at second base was. There will probably be a more embarrassing at-bat at some point this season, but given the context and the opponent, this is going to be a strong contender.

Jesus Montero Running

Now, you might be asking, why was Jesus Montero not pinch run for in that situation. He is, after all, a disastrous baserunner, and the Mariners had Kelly Shoppach available to catch should the pinch-runner have failed to score and the game continued. You’re not going to get too many better scenarios for a pinch runner than replacing Montero in an extra inning home game when he’s on second base and there’s less than two outs.

The Mariners are carrying one player who is basically a pinch runner extraordinaire, Endy Chavez. At 35, he’s not the fielder he used to be, and he was never much of a hitter, so he’s just around as a spare outfielder and legs off the bench until Michael Saunders comes off the disabled list. However, Endy Chavez wasn’t available to pinch run, because Endy Chavez had already been used. To pinch hit.

Yep, pinch hit. In the 8th inning, with one out and nobody on base, and Max Scherzer still dealing, Eric Wedge sent Chavez up to the plate to pinch hit for Brendan Ryan. Now, Scherzer does have some pretty big left/right splits, and Brendan Ryan is a pretty lousy right-handed hitter, and Endy Chavez is left-handed, so you could kind of see the justification behind this. But, let’s be honest, Endy Chavez is not a significant challenge for Max Scherzer. Even with the platoon advantage, that at-bat was likely to end in an out, especially once you account for the pinch hitting penalty. And it did. Chavez struck out on three pitches. He didn’t even make contact. And then he was replaced by Robert Andino, who had to come into the game to play shortstop in place of Ryan.

With a four man bench, Eric Wedge used his pinch runner to pinch hit in a situation where he probably didn’t gain much of an advantage, and even if he had gotten on base, it probably wouldn’t have mattered that much, given how Scherzer was pitching and the M’s were hitting. The Mariners used half their bench so that Endy Chavez could strikeout against Max Scherzer on three pitches.

Raul Ibanez Hitting

But that wasn’t even Wedge’s largest tactical mistake of the game. In the ninth inning, Octavio Dotel replaced Scherzer. Kendrys Morales led off with a base hit, and then Michael Morse drew a walk, pushing Morales to second base. Jason Bay was called on to pinch run for Morales. With nobody out and the winning run on second base, Raul Ibanez was due up, so Jim Leyland went and got left-handed specialist Phil Coke to face him.

You probably don’t need to be reminded that Phil Coke is death on left-handers and Raul Ibanez can’t hit left-handed pitching. Post season heroics or not, this was a terrible match-up for Ibanez, and the obvious call here was a sacrifice bunt. If Ibanez could get the bunt down, Bay would be on third base with one out, and the Mariners had two right-handers coming up to either force Coke from the game or give the team a very large platoon advantage.

Raul Ibanez, clutch veteran, was told instead to swing away. Raul Ibanez grounded into a double play. The Mariners win probability dropped from 79.2% to 60.8%, the biggest swing of any play in the Tigers favor all night. Instead of just needing a fly ball to give Bay a chance to score, now the Mariners needed a hit. Justin Smoak struck out. Inning over.

It is not often that FanGraphs will criticize a manager for not laying down the sacrifice bunt, but if ever you were going to give up an out, having Raul Ibanez give up an out against a very tough left-handed reliever to move the winning run from second to third base would be when you wanted to give up that out. The sacrifice bunt is not always the wrong call; it is just generally overused by major league managers. Last night, it was the right call, and it was underused.

The Twitter

But, you know, this game wasn’t done with weirdness. Ryan Divish, beat writer for the Tacoma News Tribune, is a prolific tweeter. He has a knack for going to games that last a very long time. One might even call it a curse. Ryan Divish was at last night’s game. Ryan Divish was tweeting about all the weird things happening.

And then, Ryan Divish was not tweeting any more. In the top of the 14th inning, Ryan Divish went silent. Because Twitter had enough of Ryan Divish.

DivishBan

That’s right, the game went so long that Twitter put one of the Mariners beat writers in the penalty box for tweeting too much.

The End

A game this weird could only end weirdly, so after the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 14th, the Mariners had one last chance to tie it up. Justin Smoak singled off Joaquin Benoit with one out, putting the tying run on base. After Jesus Montero popped out, Dustin Ackley came to the plate. Dustin Ackley has been utterly lost as a hitter this year. He had 52 plate appearances and no extra base hits. He was hitting .125/.188/.125. He had already junked his mechanical changes from spring training and decided to go back to his old setup at the plate.

Benoit threw Ackley an 86 mph change-up, and Ackley lined it down the right field line for a double. Justin Smoak was running on contact, since there were two outs and all. Justin Smoak decided to try and score on the play. This happened.

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The Tigers won the game by allowing Dustin Ackley to get his first extra base hit of the year, so that they could throw Justin Smoak out by 20 feet.

This was a baseball game, in April, between two teams with very different 2013 expectations. This game didn’t really matter, but what a game it was. Baseball.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


82 Responses to “The Most Epic Game That Didn’t Matter”

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  1. TheAlbinoKid says:

    Combined pitching line of 36 IP? Don’t think so…

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  2. aaron says:

    36 IP?

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  3. All Balls No Brains says:

    Last pitching GIF is naughty.

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    • Andrew says:

      Right? Come on, Dave! I’m at the office! Next time when you include gifs like these, label the article NSFW!!

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  4. Zach says:

    The great thing about this post is that it serves as Dave’s rationalization for staying up until 2 am to watch a microcosm of the last 7-8 years for the Mariners.

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    • Balthazar says:

      The perfect comment, Zach, as all too true . . .

      I followed this game online all the way, knowing exactly how it would end; not the culprits, just the plot. Professional competitive athletes live for match-ups like this game. Sure, they want the $$$, but they get up in the morning for the face-off with the other side. And the pitchers for both teams were all the way into it. Those change-ups from Felix scooting half a klick out of the zone are unfair. Prince Fielder getting the Platinum Panama is going to happen if Dah Gangsta feeds him those kinds of pills. And kudos to Scherzer. He hides the ball so well, and then that totally filthy curve dropping like a shot duck; yeah, the Ms aren’t hitting, but nobody’s going to hit that. But the pen guys for both sides were awesome. Wilhelmsen just brutalized the Tiges, and Capps after him gave up nuthin; even Furbish in his first inning. Dotel got it done, Coke did what he does, Villareal chose the moment off all that effort to ‘get real’ or as near to it as he can. Both of the last guys to pitch for each team got nicked a bit, but even then it came down to a play at the plate to end it.

      If both teams were playing normally, this would be just a good memory, loss or not, for how it was played. But all that aside, the Seattle Mariners were destined to lose, no matter how well they pitched. Because this team is built to lose, by an organization who can’t find ‘winning’ on the map with GPS or anything. I can understand Wedge trying to win the game in the 8th inning pinch hitting for Ryan. Not like it, but understand it. Sometimes managers make moves as much as anything to signal to the players ‘this is it, get it done.’ The Ms have a badly built bench, so he had to use two guys off if in the wrong situation to send that signal, and it flopped. But maybe. The decision to let Ibanez swing away, however, was completely indefensible. And everything about the 9th inning situation was a fail on Eric Wedge. Ibanez can’t hit lefties, and nobody hits Coke. It was patent that a lefty would be brought in to face Raul if anyone got on; it’s Wedge’s job to think ahead to this. Once Morales and Morse were on, three things could have happened. 1) Bay could have pinch hit for Raul. Yes, pinch-running for Morales was desirable, but having an option so Ibanez doesn’t face a lefty was more desirable. 2) Wedge pinch hits Shoppach for Ibanez. That creates all kinds of positional problems, but at the same time is a total ‘win it now’ signal, and with nobody out in a whisker close game would have been the right thing. 3) If Ibanez is going to stay in, he’s ordered to offer the bunt until he’s out, it’s down, or he walks. His out matters not that much, but the key is to stay away from the DP. NONE of those things were done. Wedge sat on his hands, and lost the game right there. I very seldom criticize managers. That said, the decision process in Ibanez’s AB was simply professionally unacceptable. The manager is the primary culprit in this loss, and not for something he did but for something he was unwilling to do. Sad.

      But the Mariners didn’t get to losing by 20 feet in 14 by accident. The team is damn bad, and was built to its present design. Not maybe with the intent to lose, but seriously, the roster decisions were terrible. After failing to land ‘a big bat’ the idea of bringing in a few thick mashers to ‘knock a few bombs and we’ll fake it’ wasn’t likely to produce a winning record. Five DHS on the roster were complicated Spring Training roster decisions which left the team with one back-up infielder, and poor match-ups. Ackley, Smoak, and Montero had 2012 seasons which ranged from ugly to catastrophic at the plate, yet the team broke camp with all three ensconced as regulars in the line-up and the field. One can talk all day and most of the night about ‘development yadda-yadda-yadda’ but that decision right there is a decision that winning games doesn’t really matter. And yes, going into this game, those three were none of them hitting their weight, not walking, and had two extra-base hits amongst them (both doubles), ending the game with one 2B more. No more than two of those three are going to have major league careers and likely none of them as regulars, ever. Yet we will watch them imitate major league performers for most of this season since the FO can’t admit the talent evaluation decision were wrong, and move on. Winning orgs simply don’t commit the PT to guys like this, and it says all one needs to know about objectives in the Northwest that we’ll watch them all year, and be insulted by ‘Bat Nights’ for guys who’ve never done jack at the major league level, and aren’t hitting even squat.

      Call our team by their real name: the Seattle Losers. Nice guys; try hard; find a way to come up short; same thing another day . . . .

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      • Jason B says:

        So…all of that to say that winning organizations don’t let their young guys play to see if they’re any good? Got it.

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        • Balthazar says:

          Winning organizations don’t let guys who aren’t any good keep playing, no matter how old or young they are. And there’s the question of whether several of those not good guys should even be at this level, as opposed to going down a level and fixing the major things that they aren’t good at. Smoak has 1200+ ABs of not-goodness. Ackley is over 1000 ABs of not-goodness. Montero wasn’t actually awful last year, but he wasn’t good, and he hasn’t hit a pitch square or far this year. None of these guys have fixed major, obvious things wrong with their swing and their approach both, and all three will be laughable busts at the plate until or unless they do. If they even can, which is more than questionable.

          It’s one thing to let guys who are showing some positives keep playing. It’s another to keep pouring playing time into guys that aren’t _remotely close_ to cutting it. (While simultaneously preaching ‘accountability’ wich hypocrisy as unconcealed as it is unconscious.) None of the three has shown even a sliver of improvement from last year. WHY ARE THEY REGULARS IN THE LINE-UP? All three are, seriously, being outhit and outplayed by Robert Andino, that’s how bad it is. Yeah, it’s early—but as far as these guys are concerned it’a already very, very late.

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  5. Ben says:

    Does anyone with more BRef play index-fu than me know if it’s possible to search for combined game scores? i.e. for games with the highest game scores of both starters added together?

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  6. rustydude says:

    Ryan could have thrown home, prevented a run, and won the game, if he had confidence that Montero could make the play.

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    • The Party Bird says:

      You mean in the top of the 14th? It was Andino and it wouldn’t have “won the game” so much as “not lost the game”. Also Don Kelly got an amazing jump and would have been difficult to nail down at the plate.

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      • G-Man says:

        No, he meant much earlier in the game, when Ryan fielded a hard grounder with a slow runner (Cabrera, perhaps?) on third. Given Felix pitching and The M’s hitting, I thought he should have gone to the plate with it.

        OTOH, with Montero catching …

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        • chad says:

          Not just regular Montero catching, but the night’s extra-special “this isn’t basketball, stop trying to dribble” Montero catching. Oof.

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  7. TKDC says:

    I think 5 strikeouts is at least somewhat commonly referred to as the platinum sombrero.

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  8. CouvCPA says:

    I went to bed after 11 because really I already knew how it would end, but the first 9 were amazing to watch. It was one of many games over the last few years where I thought the Mariners could keep playing all night and the next day and still not score again.

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  9. Chris says:

    It doesn’t quite fit the criteria but my vote for a high strikeout pitcher’s duel goes to . Clemens and Pedro combined for 18 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 22 Ks, and no runs scored until Trot Nixon’s 9th inning HR.

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  10. TKDC says:

    How about pinch running for Morales? Don’t you have to look one step ahead and see that Coke is coming in to face Ibanez? And yes, Morales is molasses (TM), but how fast is 34-year-old Jason Bay? Does Bay really help more running on second than he would facing Coke?

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    • maguro says:

      Right. Seems like he could’ve used a pitcher to inch-run for Morales and saved Bay to pinch hit for Ibanez.

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    • attgig says:

      I was thinking pitcher as a runner as well… I would think that there would be a number of pitchers who were more capable runners….

      The other one pinch running scenario that wasn’t mentioned was Smoak. Get SOMEONE to run for Smoak too!

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      • Kazinski says:

        I’m not so sure about the idea of using a pitcher as pinch runner. It would have to be a starter, because in extra innings there is a good chance you are going to burn all of your relievers. And ideally it would be a starter who is not available for an inning or two of emergency relief. And the starter would have to be more athletic than the guy you are replacing.

        So the Mariners have Aaron Harang that pitched yesterday. Well Harang doesn’t look anymore athletic to me than Morales, and he’s 5 years older. They’ve got Hideki Iwakuma, but there is a language barrier there, and he’s not used to running the basepaths, hes never had an PA in MLB, so I’m going to guess he has never been on base either. And that leaves Brandon Maurer, who is young at 22, looks athletic and is probably faster than Morales or Smoak. But Maurer was in AA last year, and he’s been in the Mariners organization since 2008, and has not had a single PA in the majors or minors.

        It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Wedge to start giving a couple of the pitchers some practice on the bases in case this situation comes up again, but I think its just as likely that any edge in speed a pitcher is going to give you will be taken away by increasing the risk of a gaffe, or an injury.

        I remember when I was in high school, Dick Williams used to use Blue Moon Odom as a pinch runner, I just looked it up he has 105 appearances in his career as PR, but its a rare occurrence these days for a reason.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      Yeah, Dave alluded to that in his comment about Chavez pinch-hitting, and there was some consternation over that at Lookout Landing. If you’re going to use an outfielder to pinch-hit, and another to pinch-run, use the one that hits when you need a hitter, and the one to run when you need a runner

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      • TKDC says:

        Yeah, of course. But that was accounted for. Even aside from that, I think the Bay pinch running was a mistake. And I agree with the pitcher running idea. Sure, most of these guys haven’t been in a competitive game on the bases in years, but they’ve done it before, and how hard it is to look at the third base coach and have him either tell you to run or stop?

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  11. ThundaPC says:

    This was quite a game. Love the GIFs!

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  12. Choo says:

    What is Bob Davidson’s reputation around the league? He called a terrible game last night (balls/strikes) and he just comes across as a total prick.

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    • BookWorm says:

      Davidson was involved in at least two high profile incidents last year. I’m forgetting one of them, but the second incident was a game where he accidentally interfered on a dropped third strike by a Phillies catcher. Charlie Manuel complained and an ugly argument followed, where Davidson actually ejected Manuel before he could even get out of the dugout.

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  13. gryfyn1 says:

    You mentioned the pitcher friendly zone and went with eric Gregg…. I would have gone with Frank Dreben

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  14. CabreraDeath says:

    Awesome. My dumb ass was trying like hell to stay up for the last couple of innings. Reading this article made me feel like I did…..

    Well done, Dave Cameron.

    CD

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  15. murphym45 says:

    I love how Smoak commando crawls over to touch home plat after the collision. I don’t know if I should laugh or feel bad.

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    • Goob says:

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who wanted to laugh and cry at the same time after seeing that. It basically sums up my entire baseball experience since 1992.

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  16. Jake says:

    Luckily I was able to attend the game last night and Brendan Ryan appeared to hurt his glove hand on his error. In between pitches he was constantly taking his glove off and flexing his hand… Not saying it was the right call, but perhaps he couldn’t really grip a bat. That’s the only reason I could think of pinch hitting for him there, but even if it was injury related, let Andino take the strikeout and move on. The whole stadium knew that Endy was going to make an out.
    Also why is there not more frustration for Smoak being sent home on the final play? Talk about a move that doesn’t make sense. Your bullpen is depleted and Beaven is going to be pitching the remainder of the game… Beaven. And even if you tape a cheetah to Smoak’s back and he scores and you tie the game, then you have Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder coming up in the top of the next inning. You play for the win in that situation, not the tie.
    I saw some amazing things at that game last night, but unfortunately to me, as a fan, that game will always go down as the moment I definitively decided that Wedge is the biggest problem in Seattle.
    Also somewhat unrelated, last night’s game had some strangely strong swirling winds inside Safeco Field that I have ever felt, especially down on the field level.

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    • G-Man says:

      Hmmm, good point about playing for the win. I had thought sending him was a gamble but made sense with 2 outs, but when you point out that another hit would win it and the pen was depleted, holding him makes sense.

      But can a third base coach really think that far ahead? I guess he’s paid to, so yeah.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      This is pretty defensible. You don’t score that inning, you go home. The Tigers had to do everything right on that play to throw Smoak out (which they did). Sure, they would still have a chance at scoring with Smoak on third, but with two outs and Andino coming up….

      Either way, things didn’t look good. You take your chances with Smoak, or you take your chances with Andino.

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      • Balthazar says:

        I’d have taken Andino. He already had a hit. Love to see him bunt for the base hit against a reliever who must hardly ever field a GB. That said, one can’t see ahead of time Ackley doubling into the corner, so there was no time to really make a decision.

        From another standpoint, the ‘score or go home’ on sending Smoak is completely defensible however: the Mariners needed to get off the field. They are flying out that night. They’ve already depleted their pitching to the point where they’ll have to make one pitching roster move as it is. They are heading into a roadtrip in that situation, and starting out in a pitcher unfriendly environment in Texas. The loss may be a disppointment, but getting the pitching staff completely screwed up so that a 2-10 result stretch completely finishes the season is a worse outcome. So ‘win or go home’ decisions start to become appropriate by the bottom of the 14th there.

        Of course the Mariners season _is_ already shot. And the really bad decisions in the 9th ending standout like immolating the last man on the bench on the mound would. I didn’t really care after teh 9th because it was clear that the Mariners would find a way to lose before the Tigers did. —And then the Mariners win a _great_ match-up the folliwing day. Baseball!!!?

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  17. tyke says:

    this article is the reason i read fangraphs. amazing job.

    +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. bigboneded says:

    In the M’s post-game show, the broadcaster on the viewer’s left (presumably a “former-player-color-guy”) stated that the decision to send Smoak was a good one because “you aren’t going to get any chances against Benoit.” Really?

    Benoit had just given up two base hits to Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley, and Smoak would have been on third base, and the game wouldn’t have been over. Isn’t there a better chance against Benoit with a runner in third and two outs, than no runners on because the players are in the locker room after they lost?

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  19. bourne says:

    This was a great read and an amazing breakdown for an awesome game.

    I just would say you said tigers are among the best lineups. I would lean closer to arguably or clearly the best lineup in baseball. The tigers are hitting a smooth .291, 5 points higher than the rockies and 15 above the yankees. The league mean is .255. They are the only team averaging more than a hit per player per game. This is raking it even before you discount the series vs the twins.

    What I think is scariest is they have the best 7,8,9 hitters in baseball. You could maybe argue someone has a better top 3 hitters or middle 3 hitters, but top to bottom this is the best lineup in baseball.

    Felix was amazing.

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    • mgraves says:

      You’re aware that the Tigers .235 against the Twins, right? Which means they’ve been hitting around .300 against all non-Twins teams. In which case, why discount the series against the Twins (which the Tigers lost and were outscored by 5 runs)?

      Nice dig at the Twins though.

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  20. Godd Till says:

    Wonderful post!

    You think Wedge might remember the Coke vs Ibanez matchup… Coke struck Raul out to end Game 3 of last year’s ALCS, after all.

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  21. Ryan says:

    You know that you really, really wanted to watch when you wake up and your contacts are plastered to your eyes.

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  22. Scott says:

    Great article about a great game. But the Jeff Sullivanation of the writing on this site is getting out of hand:

    “Ryan Divish was at last night’s game. Ryan Divish was tweeting about all the weird things happening.

    And then, Ryan Divish was not tweeting any more. In the top of the 14th inning, Ryan Divish went silent. Because Twitter had enough of Ryan Divish”

    “Justin Smoak was running on contact, since there were two outs and all. Justin Smoak decided to try and score on the play. This happened.”

    The guy’s got a voice that comes through, but so do you!

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Westside guy says:

    I watched the whole game, and was complaining during much of the second half. But it all boils down to this…

    Eric Wedge, the manager who may just love sacrifice bunting more than any other manager on the planet, did not call for a bunt in the one situation where it made perfect sense.

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  24. Will H. says:

    I thought nerds didn’t actually enjoy watching baseball.

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  25. Hulkbreed says:

    The best part was Pena doing his Hulk Hogan impression at the end with the ball.

    I know Smoak is slow and all. But Seattle’s offense still stinks, this was an incredible pitcher’s duel and it was the bottom of the 14th.

    Sometimes you just have to gamble if you want to win.

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  26. hoser says:

    Loved this!

    Thank you, Dave.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Scott says:

    Re: GIF warning policy:

    I’ve been one of (or maybe the only) gif complainer on here, so I wanna thank you guys for making a habit of warning about the abundance of gifs coming in the article. 2 points though:

    1-Suggestions that slow gif loading is due to using a crappy computer or ISP is misdirected. The problems are with the format. Here’s a quote on Reddit from somebody using Google Fiber, easily the fastest connnection out there:

    “Here is the real test, Google Fiber users, do gifs still take time to load properly?
    [–]
    I have 50mb fibre… And yes they do. I’ve streamed 4k videos without a hiccup or buffer, but those damn gifs…
    [-]
    150mb here and yeah I can confirm big gifs still take forever compared to 1080p video streams”

    And from the same thread, to nerd out on it a bit:

    “GIFs are a suboptimal format that rarely use keyframes to speed up animation. Rather than keyframe, you download every single frame. A 100 frame GIF is like loading 100 images one after another, waiting for the first image to finish before the second and so forth. They’ll always load slow compared to Video”

    http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1bsn14/people_who_have_google_fiber_installed_how_is_it/

    2-Warning about gifs is nice, but it doesn’t do much but prepare us for the impending doom. Having back-to-back-to-back-to-back gifs is like asking us to load 400 images at once (assuming they are 100 frame gifs). Being mindful of formatting so that they spread out more on the page would relieve this. Better yet, just compress them further and further down. A few frames lost doesn’t really hurt the point of the video. Look how fast this loads: http://i.imgur.com/XGriQH0.gif

    But continued griping aside, thanks for taking notice of this, and for working on the compression to keep the load times manageable. Keep up the good work!

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    • ABW says:

      So I’m on WiMax, which is way slower than pretty much anything else except for a bad DSL connection, and while the GIFs themselves take a while to load, it really doesn’t do anything to the page as a whole. I just have non-animated GIFs there until they finish loading, and if I want, I can wait for them to load, or I can scroll past and read the rest of the article. Sometimes the scrolling lags a bit(<1s) when I scroll past them, but that's it. Really don't understand what the big issue is.

      OS X Mountain Lion with Chrome 26.

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  28. Kevin says:

    For those who love pitching duels, last night was pitcher porn. So hot it was kinda dirty.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. Bab says:

    This is how you write about baseball

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. attgig says:

    I had both Felix and Scherzer on my fantasy team. I went up 8 spots on K’s alone because of them. (bud norris evened out my era…).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Rob says:

    As a Tiger fan I feel much better now about Jim Leyland. Thank you Eric Wedge. Also Leyland has right look for a baseball manager, Wedge looks like an architect or something.

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  32. phaddix says:

    Thank you for mentioning the Wedge gaffe in the 9th inning. I woke up this morning still amazed that he had not called for a sacrifice in that situation. A part of it may be the fantasy owner in me who had Scherzer and Wilhelmsen pitching and was hoping for a vampire win by Wilhelmsen… I still don’t know what he was thinking there.

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  33. Brian Cartwright says:

    I watch every Pirates’ game on mlb.tv, usually on demand later in the night. Sometimes I watch other games if my schedule allows and there’s something of interest to me. So last night I watched the Pirates live and after I saw mention of the DET/SEA game on Twitter. I only started watching in the 10th inning, missing both Felix and Scherzer, but even those five extra innings of bullpen work were very enjoyable to watch.

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  34. Patrick says:

    No way is sending Smoak the right call there. The catcher is almost never dropping the ball.

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    • Breadbaker says:

      I remember in an early Baseball Abstract Bill James lectured a then very young Tony La Russa for expecting the 1983 Orioles to make the kind of mistakes the 1983 Mariners were prone to in the ALCS. These Tigers didn’t make the World Series last year because they are weak on things like relays and they added Torii Hunter in the offseason. If you’re betting on a mistake by the opposition, remember that this isn’t the Astros or the Marlins. Or the Mariners.

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  35. henryv says:

    I really hope that Wedge is gone by the end of April. I’m tired of this shit.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Why not just not pinch run for Morales at all and then PH Bay for Ibanez?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  37. l1ay says:

    So last night we witnessed one of the five greatest starting pitching duels of the last four decades, circumstances aside, yet hardly any of this article is dedicated to Scherzer and King Felix.

    Okay.

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  38. PackBob says:

    Wedge will continue to make these kinds of mistakes as long as he believes that being a veteran is more important than being a good hitter. Unrealistic expectations lead to poor results.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  39. Common_Knowledge says:

    I think the inclusion of the Scott Sanders and Shane Reynolds reference necessitates the use of first names when discussing such “historical” occurrences.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  40. mwb says:

    Great article. Great game.

    But so much to be mad about from the game. So much anger.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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