The myth of the post-ASG comeback
I can’t remember the source, but some time ago I heard that the general rule of thumb is that teams either crash and burn or do really well after the All-Star break. I’m guessing that this is just one more in a long line of baseball’s traditional schools of thought, superstitions, or jinxes. But, because part of me always wants to believe just a little bit in stuff like that – regardless of how ridiculous it is – I’ve kept an eye on stuff over the past few years to see if there’s any truth to it. There isn’t. But every year, it’s the same thing – team does badly before ASG, and I come back from the break, hoping as hard as I can that they turn things around and go nuts in the last two months or so of the baseball season that we have left. I never expect it, because that is the thought process of a crazy person. But the hope’s still there.
The Mariners tonight met my expectations, but not my hopes, picking up pretty much where they left off last Sunday. To make matters much worse, Jason Vargas was not his usual self. By the time I had dialed up GameDay (midway through the 5th inning), Vargas had given up 9 hits and three runs, and had only struck out three. If I wrote this while sitting at a desk, I’d probably put my head down and cry a little. Also around that time, Derek Holland was no-hitting us. Actually, as it was pointed out to me, he was throwing a perfect game; I just hadn’t put two and two together yet. And the hits kept coming in the 6th, starting off with a Mike Napoli home run to the tarp over the groundskeepers gate in right center field.
In the bottom of the 6th, Holland walked Franklin Gutierrez to make the whole perfect game thing a moot point. Chone Figgins (you’ve got to be kidding me) broke up the no-hitter with a single pulled to right field. I have nothing against seeing a no-hitter technically, and a while ago, I remember nearly getting no-hit by John Lackey, and actually sort of wanting to see it happen. I have nothing against Derek Holland, but I have nothing for him either, so I’m glad it went down this way. I was not in any mood for that much failure tonight.
Jeff Gray – who I can only identify on TV when there is a marquee under his image on the screen – took over for Vargas in the 7th, something that probably should have happened much earlier. Vargas’ final line was 6 innings pitched, 12 hits given up, and 5 runs. The earned kind. Gross. But Jeff Gray had a neat 7th inning, striking out one, and not allowing any hits, walks, runs, or uppity glares. And with the bottom of the 7th, Holland gave up a nice hit to Miguel Olivo, a single to mid-center field. Staying true to form from the bulk of the game, however, we did nothing with it, despite Olivo making it all the way to third base on an Adam Kennedy single before Gutz flew out to right to close the inning for us. After that, Gray had another 1-2-3 inning, working his way through the bottom of the Rangers order.
Holland, of course, stayed in for the 8th because why not, and Chris Ray – another go-to when, it seems, Eric Wedge has run out of hope for the game, turned up in the top of the 9th. I’m positive that there is more to the decision than that, but if memory serves, there were three guys, including He Who Shall Not Be Named, that were Don Wakamatsu’s options when the game was most likely a loss. Holland came back to the mound in the bottom of the 9th to rub our noses in the complete game, and that was all she wrote. It wasn’t difficult for Holland, I can’t even imagine he broke a sweat the entire game. And there was even a call to the Rangers bullpen to warm Neftali Feliz, which I felt was just ridiculous with two outs, but I guess I’ve seen more overkill in baseball. Even Miguel Olivo and Justin Smoak singles – while briefly exciting – did not light a fire.
So that’s that. I spent most of the last two innings or so debating which tickets I should get for the last game of the season, since we are coming up on that, and I always wait until the last minute; this year, I’m being proactive. I will probably hate myself in November for even thinking something like this, but I’m just not looking forward to tomorrow’s game. I’ll be happy to be at Saturday’s game, celebrating the 116 wins that I was not around for, and have only heard about from other people. If nothing else, the idea of being in the same stadium with a Saturday night crowd and a lot of retired Mariners is pretty thrilling. I do love a good party.