Sunday, April 10, 2005


Rangers 7, Mariners 6
AP photo -- John Froschauer

In 25 words or less: Meche was wild, the Mariners somehow got the lead, and then lost it on a homer for the third time in their four losses.

Today, it was Ryan Drese against Gil Meche.

It was also the day we figured out that Bobby Madritsch's second MRI revealed a torn capsule. He has his arm in a sling and will not throw for at least three weeks, when he will be reevaluated. Who really thought it was just a strained shoulder?

Grade: B-
Meche started out great by going 3-0 on Alfonso Soriano. Luckily he was able to get a flyout. Adrian Beltre made a nice over-the-shoulder catch while evading the ballgirl on a Hank Blalock foul ball. Michael Young singled with two out and stole second with Mark Teixeira at bat, who later flew out to Jeremy Reed in center. Meche got through the inning unscathed, but threw 22 pitches. Unfortunately, the high pitch-count trend would continue.

Grade: C-
Other than Beltre getting a 2-0 count, this inning was absolutely unthreatening. Ichiro bounced out on the first pitch, Reed lined out to third, and Beltre grounded out to third. Drese got through needing only 10 pitches.

Grade: B-
Meche fell behind 2-0 on two of the four hitters he faced in the second. Gary Matthews, Jr. parachuted a broken-bat single in front of Randy Winn, but Meche retired everyone else, though David Dellucci did take Reed to the warning track. Meche needed 15 pitches to get through.

Grade: C-
Once again, an unthreatening inning. Only Raul Ibanez got the count his way, and it was with two out. He hit a ball hard to the right side that was speared by Teixeira, who tossed to the covering Drese. Richie Sexson and Bret Boone hit harmless grounders to short. Drese threw 14 pitches in the inning.

Grade: C
Meche got ahead of Rod Barajas and Soriano and got groundouts. Hank Blalock wrapped a double over Randy Winn's head in left, and Meche appeared to get a little rattled, as he fell behind to Young 3-0 and walked him. Meche was able to get a weak flyout from Teixeira to end it. Meche threw 16 pitches in the inning.

Grade: F
I usually give some sort of allowance and lower expectation to the lower third of the lineup, but I can't do it this time, though Mike Hargrove might get part of the blame. Winn got the count his way and walked to break up Drese's perfect game. On the 2-1 pitch to Dan Wilson, Randy Winn took off and then froze when he saw Texas pitched out. Winn was hung up, a 2-4-3-6 putout. To rub it in, Wilson then hit one down the rightfield line, though it was a single and not a double after Richard Hidalgo made played the carom perfectly; a play usually reserved for Ichiro or someone that's played at the Safe for years. To rub it in further, Willie Bloomquist managed to single into the hole to bring Ichiro to the plate. Ichiro got down 0-2, but worked the count full. He was frozen on an inside-corner pitch, but Wilson had taken off for third and was nailed by Barajas to end the inning. Drese threw 20 pitches in the inning.

Grade: D
Then Meche unraveled. He fell behind 2-0 on Hidalgo to lead off, and that wasn't a good start. Hidalgo took Reed to the warning track for a flyout. Then Meche fell behind 3-1 on Dellucci and walked him. Gary Matthews singled past Sexson into rightfield. Bucky Showalter put on the hit-and-run, Boone ran to cover second, and Adrian Gonzalez singled right where Boone would have been; Dellucci scored.
Rod Barajas hit his 1-0 pitch into the stands along the rightfield line, though Ichiro had a beat on it. He should have caught the ball, if not for the idiot in the first row that caught it. Barajas, the #9 hitter, doubled down the rightfield line, plating Matthews. Nice job, idiot fan.
"Give Willie a chance," several writers at the Bremerton Sun have bellowed for weeks on end. Soriano hit his second pitch toward Bloomquist at short, who muffed it. Gonzalez scored, and runners were on the corners.
Meche was able to get a weak popup to left out of Blalock. On the 1-1 pitch to Young, Soriano stole second uncontested (middle infielders guarding against the hit-and-run). Young ran the count full and singled into right. Barajas scored easily, though Soriano's fate was somewhat in doubt. Ichiro threw home and the throw looked like it might be in time, but Dan Wilson couldn't come up with it.

Matt Thornton came in for Meche, who couldn't get out of the 4th. Thornton jumped ahead of Teixeira right away and got a flyout to Boone.

Meche's wild and terrible line for today: 3 2/3 innings, 5 runs (3 earned), 7 hits, 2 walks, 0 strikeouts, 89 pitches (49 strikes). That's right. Zero strikeouts for Gil Meche. Hargrove said after the game that Meche was experiencing some stiffness going into the game, but damn. Meche is supposed to be a power pitcher, even a strikeout pitcher, but he couldn't even get one of those today. Yikes. That's how bad it was.

Grade: A-
The Mariner bats woke up a bit to take out some of the bad taste from the top half of the inning. Reed led off by tagging a ball over Matthews' head in center and bouncing it over the wall for a double. Beltre got ahead in the count and walked. Sexson hit one deep to right, and replays showed that a fan beyond the rightfield wall had touched the ball with the heel of his glove, then the ball was sort of flung back into the field of play by Hidalgo's glove. Play was never stopped, and Sexson ended up with a double on what should have been a homer (above the yellow line). The umpires conferred but did not overturn the call. We got an incident along the foul line for our Bartman Incident, and we got a play along the outfield fence for our Maier Incident (though obviously it was double/homer and not double/out). Sexson and Beltre were on second and third, respectively.
Boone grounded out to short, and the Rangers were giving the run (Beltre) for an out.
Ibanez hit one hard to Teixeira, who snared the ball and tossed to a covering Drese. Once again, Texas gave a run (Sexson) for an out.
Winn had nobody left to drive in, so he flew out to left to end the inning. Drese threw 18 pitches in the inning.

Grade: B-
Matt Thornton somehow got ahead 0-2 on his first two hitters. He got Hidalgo to whiff, but did the polar opposite and ended up walking Dellucci (or in astronomical terms, an apocalyptic meteor was about to crash into the earth, but hit the brakes the pulled a U-turn). Luckily he got Matthews to ground out and Gonzalez to hit a little flare to Boone.

Grade: A-
The Mariners would take advantage of a mistake, and did much more than expected. For one thing, Wilson led off with a single, so that's unusual in itself. Bloomquist bunted a 1-1 pitch, and Barajas came out from behind the plate to pounce on the ball. I thought a good throw would have nailed Wilson at second (it's Wilson after all), but Barajas threw low and the ball went into centerfield. Ichiro was up, and usually that signals good happenings, but he bounced into a fielder's choice to wipe Bloomquist off the basepaths. Reed then swung at the first pitch and chopped one high between the mound and first somewhere. Teixeira fielded it, but no one was covering first; Soriano, Drese, and Teixeira were in a ball-watching cluster. Wilson scored on the play.
Beltre then put a decent smack on a 1-1 pitch, but lined it to the Matthews in right-center. Sexson then drove a low and away pitch into the gap in right-center (definitely not a homer this time) to score Ichiro and score Jeremy Reed from first without a throw.
Rallies have to end somewhere, and it was Bret Boone's turn to do it via a weak infield fly to Blalock on the baseline between third and home. Drese threw 15 pitches in the inning.

Drese didn't come out for the 6th. His line: 5 innings, 6 runs, 7 hits, 2 walks, 1 strikeout, 77 pitches (44 strikes). It was nice to see the Mariners get to a starting pitcher again. Drese left the game on the hook for the loss.

Grade: B
Thornton continued doing surprisingly well, getting Barajas to whiff and getting Soriano to pop out to short to start. He fell behind on Blalock with two out and he singled, but Young took Ichiro to the warning track (Boeing sign) to end the inning.

Grade: C-
Drese was replaced by Baltimore castoff Matt Riley. Unfortunately, Riley didn't do too bad. Ibanez flew out to center. Winn had a 2-0 count, but he flew out. Wilson chased a high and outside pitch for strike three. Riley needed 13 pitches to get through that part of the Mariner lineup.

Grade: C-
How long does it take for the Thornton magic to run out? Somewhere around 2 1/3 or 2 2/3 innings, it looks like. Thornton fell behind immediately on Teixeira 2-0 and 3-1. Teixeira mashed his full-count pitch to the Starbucks sign in the leftfield corner for a double. Hidalgo popped a 2-1 pitch to the tarp in foul territory, though Sexson had trouble with the obstacle course of tarp, umpire, and ballgirl while in pursuit of the ball (he's relatively new to the field as well). That didn't matter since Hidalgo flew out to center anyway. What did matter was the meatball that Thornton served up to Dellucci, who pulverized the ball, whose remaining pieces were scattered among the fans about 10-15 rows back in the rightfield seats.
Thornton then got Matthews and Gonzalez to fly out to Winn on 2-2 counts to end the inning.

Thornton threw 26 pitches in the inning and didn't come out for the 8th. He was above-average until the Dellucci smash. His line: 3 1/3 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 68 pitches (45 strikes)

Grade: C-
The Mariners put a duck on the pond, but it wasn't in scoring position. Bloomquist flew out to second, but Ichiro hit an Ichiro-like single into right. Reed swung at the first pitch and flew out to center.

Riley was pulled for Everyday Doug Brocail (he threw in every game of the series). Beltre swung at a horrible way-inside 1-0 pitch. On the 1-1 pitch, the ball evaded Barajas and Ichiro scampered to second. But Beltre tapped a 2-1 pitch to the mound to end the mini-threat.

Riley's line: 1 2/3 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 23 pitches (13 strikes)

Grade: B-
Jeff Nelson came in for Matt Thornton. Nelson got Barajas to fly out and Soriano to whiff before things got interesting. He went 3-1 on Blalock and walked him, then Young lined a single to left. Nelson bounced back by getting a whiff from Teixeira. It wasn't too pretty, and it took 19 pitches, but Nelson got out of it unscathed.

Grade: D+
The middle of the lineup did jack. Sexson foul-tipped strike three into the catcher's glove, and Boone flew out to center.

Brocail/Broccoli/Choppin' Brocaili was done. His line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 13 pitches (8 strikes)

Ron Mahay came on for Brocail to face Raul Ibanez. Ibanez got a 2-0 pitch and looked to have put a decent lick on it, but it didn't have enough distance, getting just short of the warning track in right-center.

Mahay had done his job, as Francisco Cordero would be coming out for the 9th. His line: 1/3 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 3 pitches (1 strike)

Grade: B
Nelson fought back from down 2-0 to catch Hidalgo looking. Then he was pulled.

Nelson's line: 1 1/3 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 24 pitches (15 strikes)

Ron Villone came on to keep the game within reach. Luckily, he did this time, getting Dellucci to pop out to short, and Matthews to swing at a ball high and away for strike three.

Villone's line: 2/3 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 9 pitches (6 strikes)

Grade: C-
Too bad the Mariners had the bottom third of their lineup coming to the plate. Randy Winn took a 1-2 pitch to the warning track in the leftfield corner, but it unfortunately didn't fly over the fence. Greg Dobbs pinch-hit for Wilson, or more like pinch-struck out. Scott Spiezio pinch-hit for Bloomquist, or more like pinch-flew out to the second baseman to end the game.

Cordero's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 11 pitches (9 strikes)

Gameball: Jeremy Reed. 2-for-4 with a double, scoring twice and driving in one. As much as I wanted to go with Sexson, who was 0-for the series coming into this game, I'm going with Reed. He had bounced the double over the centerfield fence, and had the bouncer that the Rangers screwed up on in the 5th. Sure, that depended on the Rangers screwing up, but I'm trying not to go obvious with the gameballs here. That and I guess I can add that Reed isn't screwing up in centerfield or anything, so that's an added bonus. We're feeling better about centerfield defense this year than we were at this time last year.

Goat: Gil Meche. Is this obvious? Yes. Matt Thornton at least threw well for a while before he yielded the game-breaking bomb. Gil Meche sucked the entire time. With Pineiro on the shelf, the Mariners needed Meche to step up, especially because he was now the #2 starter. Now they'll REALLY need him to step up since Madritsch is down (Bill Krueger speculates Madritsch will be out until the All-Star break). Meche wasn't helped by the Bloomquist error, sure, but he wasn't getting ahead of hitters too well either. As I mentioned, he didn't strike anybody out. It wasn't just falling behind hitters today that did in Meche, it was the fact that he didn't punch anybody out. The Rangers fouled off a lot of balls with two strikes. Something obviously must not have been working for Meche today. Probably everything.

The Mariners are 2-4. Last year after six games, they were 1-5, though the 0-5 start pretty much doomed the team for the rest of the year. The positive thing is that this team can't start out 1-7.

The good feeling is that not everything is going grossly wrong on the field. The Mariners are at the very least making these games competitive, which is leaps and bounds over what could be said about 2004. I guess what's weird is that certain parts of the lineup seem to do well in certain games. In one game, it might be the top of the lineup, in one game it might be the middle, in one game it might be the bottom, in one game it might be everyone but the bottom. Today, the Mariners' 8-9 hitters (and pinch-hitters) went 3-for-7. The 5-6-7 hitters went 0-for-10, though Boone and Ibanez had an RBI groundout each. The first four hitters went 5-for-15, with Reed and Sexson having the only multi-hit games.

To answer any questions, yes, the Ranger bullpen did indeed throw four shutout innings of one-hit, no-walk baseball. That's pretty freakin' good.

Who's ready for some mid-week non-televised daytime baseball with the weird off-day on Tuesday? The Mariners' schedule is crap (addressed even more in sidebar specialty post). The week after this, the Mariners have dual two-game series against the Angels and Oakland, which is just idiotic on so many levels.

Franklin. Hernandez. Tomorrow.

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