Friday, August 26, 2005


Mariners 8, Rangers 2
AP photo -- Matt Slocum

In 25 words or less: With an unquenchable hunger for Major League innings, Jeff Harris lasts long and holds a powerful lineup at bay in a hitters' park.

This one featured Jeff Harris going up against Joaquin Benoit. You know, that's instead of seeing Gil Meche go out there and stink it up for another start. They probably shelved him at least a month too late. It was also quite hot in Texas for this day game.

Grade: A-
Two-out ruckus. Ichiro whiffed over an 0-2 pitch. Willie Bloomquist got ahead 2-0 but later whiffed on a high 2-2 pitch. Raul Ibañez fell behind 0-2 but broke out the 9-iron and reached the fourth row in the upper deck on a full count.
Richie Sexson walked on a full-count dirtball away. Adrian Beltre bashed the second pitch into the leftcenter gap and to the wall, scoring Sexson. Michael Young's throw home was much too late to begin with, and it got away from Sandy Alomar, allowing Beltre to move to third.
Greg Dobbs looped a 1-2 flyout to David Dellucci in the gap in leftcenter.

Grade: B
Small jam. David Dellucci worked a 1-2 count full before lining a ball right to Jeremy Reed in centerfield. Michael Young reached and poked a 2-2 single into centerfield. Young stole second on the second pitch to Mark Teixeira thanks to a very high throw to second by Miguel Ojeda. Teixeira got ahead 3-0 and later walked on a full-count pitch up and away. Hank Blalock fell behind 0-2 and tapped a 1-2 pitch back to the mound for a 1-6-3 double play.

Grade: C-
Bottom third. Yuniesky Betancourt popped the second pitch lazily to leftfield. Jeremy Reed got ahead 2-0 and whiffed on a 2-2 pitch up and away. Miguel Ojeda worked an 0-2 count full before flying out to rightfield.

Grade: B-
Imperfect. Alfonso Soriano rocked the first pitch right at Ibañez in leftfield, who had the ball in his glove, but it fell out, allowing Soriano to cruise into second. Kevin Mench bounced out to short with Soriano holding at second. Soriano stole third on the first pitch to Adrian Gonzalez thanks to a wide throw. Gonzalez poked a 2-0 single into shallow centerfield, scoring Soriano.
Gary Matthews, Jr. nearly doubled an 0-2 pitch down the leftfield line, but rolled the next pitch to short for a 6-4-3 double play.

Grade: C-
The bats froze in the heat. Ichiro fell behind 0-2 before popping high to Michael Young on the outfield grass. Bloomquist chopped to a charging Blalock on the infield grass. Ibañez lasered the second pitch right to Mench a few feet short of the track in rightfield.

Grade: A-
Nice. Sandy Alomar, Jr. rolled a 2-2 pitch to short. Dellucci flew out high to rightfield. Young worked a 1-2 count full before walking on a very high full-count pitch. Teixeira whiffed horribly at a high 1-2 pitch.

Grade: C-
Mowed through. Sexson took an 0-2 pitch over the outside corner. Beltre popped the first pitch to Dellucci in fairly deep leftfield. Dobbs sent a 3-1 pitch high into the sky, coming down into Teixeira's glove on the infield grass for Benoit's tenth straight retired hitter.

Grade: A
Very nice. Blalock whiffed on a high 2-2 pitch. Soriano flew out to rightfield on a 1-2 pitch. Mench got ahead 2-0 and later bounced out to second.

Grade: C-
Unlucky thirteen. Betancourt bounced an 0-2 pitch to second. Reed got behind 0-2 and worked the count full before flying out to leftfield on the eighth pitch. Ojeda flew out to Mench jogging toward the rightcenter gap.

Grade: A
Very quick. Gonzalez looped a flyout into leftfield. Matthews rolled a 2-2 pitch to short. Alomar popped the first pitch high to centerfield.

Grade: C-
Still nothing. Ichiro bounced out to short. Bloomquist lazily popped an 0-2 pitch to Gonzalez reaching over into the stands. Ibañez lofted a 1-2 pitch to Soriano on the outfield grass, making it sixteen straight retired Mariners for Benoit.

Grade: B+
Controlling what little damage there was. Dellucci chopped an 0-2 pitch to second. Young worked a 1-2 count full before hitting a hard liner that shorthopped Ibañez in leftfield for a single, snapping Harris' streak of eight straight retired Texas hitters. Teixeira bounced the first pitch to second for a 4-6-3 double play.

Grade: B
Capitalizing. Sexson bounced the first pitch to short. Beltre got ahead 2-0 before bouncing a full-count pitch to third. Betancourt lined the second pitch to Dellucci in leftfield, who had the ball go off his glove as Dobbs was safe at second on the error, snapping Benoit's streak of eighteen straight retired hitters. Betancourt poked a single into shallow leftfield, scoring Dobbs.
Reed got ahead 2-0 before splintering his bat on a flyout to rightfield.

Benoit's line: 7 innings, 3 runs (2 earned), 3 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, 102 pitches (68 strikes)

Grade: A-
Solid and eventful. Blalock singled the first pitch into leftfield, and Bryan Price visited the mound. Soriano cued the first pitch for a flyout to a jogging Ichiro in shallow rightcenter. Mench got ahead 2-0 and later cranked a full-count pitch to the wall in leftfield, where Ibañez leapt to make the grab, and gunned it back to the infield, with the result being a 7-6-3 double play since Blalock had taken off. Of course, 7-6-3 double plays are something we see every day.

Harris' line: 7 innings, 1 run (unearned), 4 hits, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, 94 pitches (59 strikes)

Grade: C
Doug Brocail came in for Benoit. Ojeda bounced a 1-2 pitch to Young at short, who had the ball go off the top of his glove webbing and past him for an error. Ichiro took a 1-2 fastball over the outside corner. Bloomquist fell behind 0-2 and grounded the 1-2 pitch to the hole on the right side, where Soriano threw behind Brocail running over to cover the bag at first (error), moving Ojeda to second. Ibañez popped out to leftfield. Sexson got ahead 2-0 before whiffing on a 2-2 pitch low and away.

Grade: A-
JJ Putz came in for Harris. Gonzalez took a 2-2 belt-high strike over the outer half. Matthews got ahead 2-0 and chopped a 2-2 pitch behind the mound, where Bloomquist charged and threw over to first. Alomar tapped to the third-base side of the mound, where Putz literally pounced on it with a dive and threw to first.

Putz' line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 13 pitches (8 strikes)

Grade: A
Dagger. Beltre laced a hard grounder through the right side for a first-pitch single. Dobbs worked a 1-2 count for a walk on a high full-count pitch. Betancourt bunted the first pitch foul but was successful on the second try, bunting in front of the plate to Alomar, moving Beltre to third and Dobbs to second. Reed was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Ojeda was announced but was pulled back for Dave Hansen.

Justin Thompson came in for Brocail. Jamal Strong, hitting for Hansen, chopped a ball to the left side that found its way to Young, but it was too deep in the hole for any play as Beltre scored and the bases remained loaded.
Ichiro crushed the second pitch about fourteen rows back into the rightfield seats, giving Thompson a rude welcome back to the Majors, and some payback for striking out Ken Griffey, Jr. the first five times he faced him.
Bloomquist grounded to second, where Soriano bobbled the ball but still had time to throw. Ibañez popped out to leftfield.

Brocail's line: 1 1/3 innings, 3 runs, 1 hit, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, 36 pitches (21 strikes)
Thompson's line: 2/3 inning, 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 12 pitches (7 strikes)

Grade: B-
Eddie Guardado came in for Putz (Yorvit Torrealba came in for Ojeda and Jamal Strong came in for Ibañez). Phil Nevin, hitting for Dellucci, got ahead 3-0 but ended up whiffing on a full-count pitch over the outer half. Young flew out to the rightfield corner on a 1-2 pitch. Teixeira crushed the second pitch off the wall in the leftcenter gap for a double. Blalock looped the second pitch into shallow leftfield for a single, scoring Teixeira.
Soriano grounded the 0-2 pitch to short for a 6-4 fielder's choice. Ballgame.

Guardado's line: 1 inning, 1 run, 2 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 17 pitches (12 strikes)

Gameball: Jeff Harris.
I got way more enjoyment out of this than I would have gotten out of a Gil Meche start. At least this gave me a reason to watch and know that I'd see something new. It turns out that everyone able to watch saw Jeff Harris get his first Major League win. That's no small feat for a 31-year-old rookie who's traveled to bejeezus and back playing baseball and has contributed very meaningful innings in his few appearances this year for the Mariners. If the Mariners are shrewd, this is the type of guy they could get for long relief or the front end of the bullpen on the cheap. He's also hungry to be on the mound, and who wouldn't be after all those bus trips in the minors and/or the independent leagues? It's also fun to watch the guy. He doesn't seem afraid to come after anyone, and he does actually remind me (I've said this before) of Todd Williams, a former Mariner who threw at that kind of angle, and for some reason I see some Tom Davey in him, though I'm not sure exactly why. I'll classify it as an intangible reason. Congrats to Harris, though.

Goat: Willie Bloomquist.
Solid defense, sure. However, he was hitless in five at-bats, striking out once. The Mariners haven't gotten sturdy defense and 0-for-5 nights since...well, since Bret Boone. The Bloomquist counterpart to Bret Boone's 2001 was replicated only twice on the Bloomquist scale in September of 2002 and last July. All other moments in the Bloomquist tenure have been, well, there. Of course, this year has been the only year where he's started regularly for a decent stretch of time. Bloomquist hasn't gotten a hit since singling in the tenth last Saturday and scoring on Richie Sexson's grand slam in Minnesota. What's happened since? He hasn't walked once, which isn't a big deal until you consider that he's 0-for-18 in that stretch of time. Is the honeymoon finally over? Can Rick Rizzs and the Sun finally cash in their chips? After that Minnesota game, Bloomquist's average sat at .278, tied (to three decimal places, anyway) for his high-water mark on the season (not counting early April percentages). He's now at .256, where he hasn't been since after the game on July 5th at Kansas City.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 90-36 .714 -- W1
2003 76-50 .603 14 L1
2002 75-51 .595 15 L2
2000 70-56 .556 20 L1
2005 54-72 .429 36 W1
2004 46-80 .365 44 L4

Though their last loss tumbled them a season-low nineteen games under .500, this win established something positive for the 2005 Mariners -- this is the first time this season that they've been eight games better than the pace of the 2004 Mariners. They'd been hovering at seven games up for the last seven games. That's a lot of seven. The bad news is that these Mariners will have to extend this out to a six-game winning streak to keep their eight-game cushion over the 2004 team, who somehow won five straight games at this point last year. I know we've got blog posts documenting the streak, but offhand I don't remember it. The other bad thing is that the Mariners would have to keep their eight-game cushion by sweeping a home series against the White Sox and taking the first half of the home series with the Yankees. In other words, the wins would have to be in that order and it'd take a 5-2 homestand. Not gonna happen.

It wasn't the absolute toughest of situations, but JJ Putz had a good outing. The mitigating factor is that his 1-2-3 inning came against the bottom third of the Texas lineup, but even with that, he got that good of an inning while holding what was a 3-1 lead. I guess going 2-0 on the number-nine hitter is a bad thing too, but Putz getting a 1-2-3 inning when he's more capable of doing so is better than JJ Putz walking a guy and then giving up a game-tying homer to a guy in the bottom third of the lineup. Yes, in a rocky year for Putz, he came out with a good showing this time. Besides, the entire Northwest region would have been ticked at Putz if he'd have scuffled against the back end of the Ranger lineup and screwed Jeff Harris out of a win. Or at least they should have been if they were paying attention. That plain wouldn't be just, and I'm sure people would react accordingly. The funny thing is that Josh Lewin (yes, Josh Lewin) on the FSNSW broadcast was watching Harris throw out there and said something to the effect of, "Ryan Franklin's gotta be sitting there thinking about how a newbie like Harris can have his way with the Ranger hitters while Franklin" did what he did. Also, Harris had three runs of support when he left the game.

In a way, this was kinda like a less-dominant version of the last Felix game against the Twins, except the Mariners didn't come from behind. However, the pitching did hold up over a long span of time until the bats woke back up in the ninth. Then came the five-run ninth, much like the Sexson grand slam inning in Minnesota. Another difference in this game is that Harris got the win that he so rightfully deserved, whereas Felix in that game got some great numbers, but not a win.

It's a good thing Harris did what he did, because the Mariners couldn't hit Joaquin Benoit for a too-long stretch of time. Benoit retired eighteen straight Mariner hitters, a span stretching from the last out of the first inning all the way to the David Dellucci error in leftfield in the seventh. Benoit went one more hitter until giving up a true hit. So that's eighteen straight retired, and nineteen straight without a hit. Harris had a streak of eight straight retired Ranger hitters, though he went twelve straight hitters without allowing a hit. After the first inning, this game pretty much devolved into a pitchers' duel, which was great in helping the game along at a swimmingly quick fashion (2 hrs, 32 min), and great for me since I get these recaps typed up sooner. Yes, I loves me a quick game these days. If the Mariners are having the stuff beaten out of them with say, Ryan Franklin on the mound that day, the one good thing that would come out of that would be that Franklin works pretty quickly, and even quicker if he's not throwing to first base a billion times. That game would be quick.

Adrian Beltre got the only multi-hit game for the Mariner lineup, hitting a hard single and reaching the fence on a double. He is now hitting .298 on the month with a slugging mark of .607. Twenty-three RBIs is the most Beltre has had in a month, whereas he needs one homer to have a new high for a single month. He's gone hitless in five games this month, and has six multi-hit games, with the other eleven having one hit apiece. He went 5-for-11 in this Arlington series, though curiously without a homer.

Overall, Jeff Harris provided a solid and meaningful start, and it was a welcome sight to all the people who are actually watching the games between Felix starts. Guess what Friday's game is?

Hernandez. Hernandez. Today.

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