While half of Seattle was calling for Kyle Seager to carry Hector Noesi’s head down First Avenue on a stake, I remained calm. It was important for me to remain calm, because I predicted big things from Noesi this offseason, and I didn’t have the luxury of being able to revise my past opinion in the present tense. I think Noesi has great stuff. He’s been a below-average pitcher to this point in the year.
I’ve been trying to crack the Noesi code, and one of the obvious issues that he has is his inability to avoid the big inning. In five of Noesi’s nine starts he’s allowed three or more runs in an inning. He did that in the third inning today in a heartbreaking inning.
Noesi had walked Nelson Cruz to lead off the inning, struck out Mike Napoli. Then he took Ian Kinsler to a 3-1 count and threw him two straight offspeed pitches and ended up popping him up to shortstop. Then he had Elvis Andrus at 1-2 and appeared to be in control of the at-bat. Jesus Montero set up low, and in my head I thought “if I’m pitching here, there is no way I throwing anything close to the strikezone.”
And Noesi promptly hung a slider at the top of the strikezone in the middle of the plate. Andrus crushed it into the left-center gap, driving in two runs and ending up with a triple. Josh Hamilton would hit a ground-rule double down the left field line the next batter, and Noesi had given up his third run.
Noesi would deal after that, and was so sharp that only Michael Young—who hit a single in the seventh inning—would reach base before Noesi was pulled. Noesi missed 11 bats, and really apart from one really rough inning Noesi pitched really well tonight. ERA won’t show it enough, but he’s made progress in leaps and bounds in May.
There is some wonder as to why the Mariners struggle against Matt Harrison. He’s left-handed, doesn’t walk many batters, and misses some bats. The Mariners are heavily left-handed and miss a lot of balls. Matt Harrison is like Jason Vargas if Jason Vargas had Flavor Flav as his hype man. And if Jason Vargas could pitch in the second half of the season. Matt Harrison isn’t a world beater, but he is the kind of pitcher that is built to pitch in Safeco Field, and built to pitch against the Mariners. He did that pretty well tonight, and the Mariners lost 3-1.
Justin Smoak had a first inning single that he hit while trying not to fall into the other batter’s box, essentially. He was totally fooled by a pitch and put a bad swing on a ball at the bottom of the strike zone and happened to make solid contact. That’s not him being a better hitter, for the record. Then with two guys on in the bottom of the eighth he worked a Mike Adams count to 3-2. He swung at a ball about a foot off the plate away for strike three. Justin Smoak is like Jose Vidro right now. He’s different than he used to be, but not necessarily better. If this talk about his hamstrings doesn’t calm down they may just have to put him on the DL. Or DH him. No sense in leaving him at the big league level to struggle and stay hurt.
Sean Kramer doesn’t like Alex Liddi batting second.
Alex Liddi strikesout more than I do with sorority girls. Why is he batting second?— Sean Kramer (@kramdawgsean) May 23, 2012
Kramer went on to make some interesting points about how he’d like the batting order to be, but the crux of his argument was that either Dustin Ackley or Ichiro Suzuki should be batting second, with the other batting leadoff. Or something like that. I came really close to saying “but where Ichiro and Ackley hit are things that are out of our control.” That’s a true statement, but it comes with a false implication. It implies that we somehow control the other seven spots in the order. But what I meant was that Wedge is pretty stubborn on those two spots, and doesn’t seem interested in separating causation or correlation from results. So Ichiro and Ackley will probably be where they are for a while because Eric Wedge is making that decision, and Eric Wedge is bad at making some decisions.
In the middle of the ninth inning ROOT cut away to Angie Mentink, who proclaimed that she calls Alex Liddi the “Italian Stallion.” That also happens to be the name of an adult film starring Sylvester Stallone. I’ve never seen about it, but I’ve heard of it. Do some manual labor for a living and you’ll be enlightened to some things that you can’t imagine.
We have a new guy doing recaps tomorrow and the next day. I’ll either being finishing off the coaching season or drinking heavily. That guy is Michael Schwartze, who is one of the founders of MLB Dirt, and who we hope will become a frequent contributor here. Be nice to him.