Because of the wonders of XM Radio, I was able to listen to the game this morning as we drove back to Baltimore from Ohio. I screamed at the top of my lungs when Mark Loretta hit the walk-off HR off Eddie G. I was so mad. How great would it have been to split the series in Boston? We'd be 7-7 after a brutal schedule over the first two weeks. But, I didn't stay mad for long. Why? Because I think there's a lot to still be excited about.
For starters, 6-8 against LA, Oakland, Cleveland, and Boston isn't all that bad. The M's took two of those series. Even if the Angels beat the Oreos tonight, they'll only have a 1.5 game lead for first place. No one is running away with the divison. And take a look at who each of of AL West bretheren have played:
Angels (6-6): @ Mariners, Yankees, Rangers, @ Orioles
A's (6-7):Yankees, @ Mariners, @ Twins, Rangers
Rangers (5-8): Red Sox, Tigers, @ Angels, @ A's
The M's? Angels, A's, @ Indians, @ Red Sox. I think it's fair to say we've had the toughest schedule.
The Red Sox series could be a great experience for down the road. Even though they lost 3 of 4, they played TOUGH against one of the best teams in baseball, in one of the most hostile environments, with their top two pitchers throwing. Manny and Ortiz were shut down until today. There is no way the teams of the last two years could have done that.
OK I know this post is sort of turning into a rant, but whatever.
My biggest concern at this point is the rotation. The only one of the starters that can truly dominate is Felix, and even he is going to be shut down after a certain number of pitches and innings. So that means we should only expect to get 5-7 IP a night from whoever takes the hill. This means the bullpen is going to get a lot of work. The bright side is that the bullpen is looking like an absolute strength. Sherrill, Putz (Michigan grad-gotta give credit when he's doing well), and Soriano are just plain filthy. Woods and Mateo are decent enough. I'm not ready to give up on Eddie, but so far he's been the shakiest. My concern is they're going to wear down. We'll have to keep an eye on that. I wonder if we'll see Foppert, Harris, or even Blackley or Nageotte getting some apperances down the road.
Switching gears. Again. Now, I'm of the mind that managers don't really make that much of a difference in baseball. I think for the most part, it's all about who's on the field. But, Hargrove made a decision that really confused me today. It was a 5-5 game in the top of the 9th and Keith Foulke was pitching. Beltre was on first with on out. I thought for sure we'd see Reed, Petagine, or Lawton pinch hit. But no. Willie Bloomquist stayed in to bat. I couldn't believe it. I really can't understand the logic there. Betancourt was coming up next, and he was ultimately pinch hit for. But, why did Hargrove do it that way? Clearly you have to leave at least one of Bloomquist or Betancourt in to play short in the bottom of the ninth. Betancourt's better defensively, and pretty comparable offensively. Why not bring in a better hitter with less outs so he can get the big hit? Beltre was on first and isn't scoring unless someone hits a HR or a deep double. Reed, Petagine, and Lawton are all much more capable of doing that than Bloomquist. You risk him hitting into a double play, or not advancing Beltre. Plus, all those pinch hitters are lefties. I really am having a hard time writing coherently about it, so I'll just hope you all get what I'm saying. Lucky for Hargrove, Wee Willie got a hit. Then Petagine knocked in Beltre so it all worked out. But, still. Am I crazy to question that decision from Hargrove? When it happened, I was thinking that when I made the post there would be swearing involved. So I'm proud of myself for that. I guess this is why Petagine or Lawton might be traded. The M's need another infielder on the bench. If they had that, then both Bloomquist and Betancourt could have been pinch hit for. I know a lot of people don't like Hargrove (and I'm not a fan), and there's been some fire Hargrove talk in the blogosphere, but I don't really see the point of doing that right now. They're playing pretty well (maybe despite the manager but whatever), and I don't know if it would really do a lot of good for the team. I'd like to hear people's thoughts on that.
Felix tomorrow! Two very winnable series against the Rangers and Tigers this week.