Game 16 Notes: Mariners 4, Orioles 1

What else can be said about Felix Hernandez that hasn’t been said already? The guy is just phenomenal. Felix completely shut down the Orioles on the way to his 8th career complete game. If it wasn’t for a horrible misplay in left field by Matt Tuiasosopo in the first inning that allowed Nick Markakis to get to second (yet more proof that Tui and defense don’t exactly go hand in hand), Felix probably would be looking at his 4th career shutout. He walked no one (something which Mariners pitchers not named Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith seem to have in common this year) while striking out 6 (including poor Justin Turner, who the King completely dominated). What truly impressed me yet again, however, was the amount of ground balls Felix forced Orioles hitters into. Now, Hernandez has always had an extremely high ground ball rate compared to the average pitcher (57% on balls in play for his career), but going into this game he was at 64% for the season. Now, I’m not completely sure how many ground balls Felix forced the Orioles into tonight (10 of his 15 outs after 5 innings — 60% — were ground balls), but I’m positive that his ground ball rate will still be above 60% after this last outing. If Felix can keep his ground ball rate this high, then AL Cy Young, here we come.

Other game notes:

*As I mentioned earlier, Matt Tuiasosopo made a terrible play in left field. I have nothing against Tui. I think he can potentially turn into a useful player for the Mariners (off the bench more than likely). But he simply should not be playing in left field (or at shortstop or second for that matter). To say he’s not very good defensively is an understatement, and outside of playing 1B/3B, he probably hurts the team by playing in the field.

*Mike Sweeney is terrible and is a complete waste of a roster spot. This was obvious going into the season, and even more so now. After tonight, Sweeney’s slash line now sits at .071/.235/.071 for the season. He can’t hit anymore. He can’t play any position defensively. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, considering he hasn’t had a decent season since 2005, but Sweeney is completely done and as long as he is on the roster, we are effectively going into games with 24 players instead of 25.

*Jose Lopez made a great play on a well hit ball by Adam Jones in the top of the 2nd. I was skeptical of Lopez’ move to third base when i heard about it in spring training, but man has he been good at the hot corner this year. The first UZR ratings for the year are now out on fangraphs.com, and Lopez has been blowing away the field at third. He currently leads all third basemen with a UZR of 3.1 fielding runs above average, while Alex Rodriguez and Evan Longoria (both renowned for solid infield defense) are in a distant tie for second at 1.8. If Lopez can keep up anything close to how he’s performed at third during the first weeks of the season, then he may turn out to be one of the best defensive third basemen in the league.

*Man, Kevin Millwood destroyed Jack Wilson’s elbow in the bottom of the third. I don’t know about anyone else, but the point of my throwing elbow is about the last place I’d want to get hit with a major league fastball. I like to think that it pissed Wilson off enough that he responded with the 3-run double in the bottom of the fourth.

*Speaking of Wilson’s double, he’s been on fire at the plate recently. I certainly wouldn’t expect Wilson to keep hitting like he has against the Orioles. I mean, c’mon, they’re the Orioles. And on top of that, Wilson’s career .684 OPS and -91.9 runs above average offensively for his career don’t speak to any semblance of hitting ability. But Wilson’s value lies in his defense, not in his offense, and as long as he can sporadically contribute to our offense like he has during this Orioles series, he will be well worth the price we’re paying for him.

*We may have scored 4 runs in fourth inning, but we were lucky to have scored any at all. Rob Johnson’s infield “single” to Justin Turner with the bases loaded tonight could have easily been out number 3 for the inning. However, instead of turning to throw to first for the out on Johnson, Turner flipped the ball to shortstop Cesar Izturis, only to have Tui just barely beat out the throw. Kudos to Tui for his base running to get to second in time, but man, it sure seemed like Turner could have turned, thrown to first, and retired Johnson to end the inning.

*If I were an Orioles fan, I would really hate Justin Turner.

*I love Felix. Awesome game. We were 2-6. Now we’re 9-7. Suck on that L.A.