Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Mariners 2, Angels 1
AP photo -- Jim Bryant

In 25 words or less: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Also, there was a rarity...a walk-off hit in favor of the Mariners.

This one featured Paul Byrd going up against Ryan Franklin. The Mariners had a chance for a series win against the AL West division leaders. Surely that's too good of a thing to wish for. Or is it? The Mariners were one loss away from guaranteeing themselves a losing season, but were also one win away from guaranteeing at least a tie with last year's team at 63 wins, but no worse. How would they fare?

Grade: B
Harmless. Chone Figgins singled the second pitch through the left side for a single. Orlando Cabrera watched a 1-1 pitch as Figgins was nailed trying to steal second. Cabrera doubled the next pitch down the rightfield line. Garret Anderson bounced the second pitch behind the bag at first for a 3-1 putout, moving Cabrera to third. Vladimir Guerrero bounced a 1-2 pitch past the mound, and Yuniesky Betancourt charged, barehanded the ball, and threw to first in time. That play went for the #2 Web Gem on Baseball Tonight.

Grade: C-
Ichiro chopped a 1-2 pitch toward the second-base bag on which Cabrera made the play. Jeremy Reed bounced out to second. Raul Ibañez lined the second pitch to leftfield for an out.

Grade: B+
Decent. Darin Erstad got ahead 2-0 and wound up chopping out to short on a 2-2 pitch. Bengie Molina got ahead 2-0 and eventually bounced out to third. Steve Finley popped the second pitch to Betancourt near the leftfield line.

Grade: C
Sigh... Richie Sexson got ahead 3-1 and walked on a high pitch. Adrian Beltre got ahead 2-0 and later whiffed on a 2-2 pitch inside. Greg Dobbs slapped a first-pitch grounder to the left-side hole where Cabrera went to second for the force (6-4 fielder's choice). Jose Lopez rolled an 0-2 pitch to short, and Cabrera barely beat Dobbs to the bag for the force.

Grade: B+
Good recovery. Juan Rivera shot a second-pitch grounder past a diving Lopez and into centerfield for a single. Adam Kennedy chopped into a 5-4-3 double play, though Kennedy thought he'd beaten it. Figgins flew out high to rightfield on a full count.

Grade: B
Bunt cake. Yuniesky Betancourt bounced a 2-0 single through the left-side hole for a single. Yorvit Torrealba bunted the second pitch in front of the mound, and Byrd came up and threw to first, moving Betancourt to second. Ichiro bunted the first pitch toward the left side, and Byrd came off the mound to field it, but threw over Erstad at first, enabling Betancourt to score.
Reed air-bunted the first pitch to a fully-extending and diving Figgins along the third-base line. Ibañez bounced the second pitch to Erstad behind the bag at first.

Grade: A
Nice. Cabrera popped out to centerfield. Anderson flew out to Betancourt in shallow centerfield on the first pitch. Guerrero bounced the second pitch to short.

Grade: D+
Bad bad bad. Sexson flew out very high to centerfield on an 0-2 pitch. Beltre laced a full-count single into leftcenter. Dobbs popped the first pitch high to centerfield, and for some reason Beltre tried to tag up and go to second, but was nailed by about eight feet.

Grade: A
Roll? Erstad popped the first pitch to Sexson just foul near the first-base line. Molina fell behind 0-2 and took a 1-2 pitch over the outside corner. Finley got the hitters' counts and flew out to Sexson in front of the first-base dugout on a full count.

Grade: C-
Bah. Lopez rolled an 0-2 pitch to short. Betancourt ripped the first pitch into leftfield for a single. Torrealba whiffed on the first pitch, and Betancourt was nailed trying to steal second on the pitch. Torrealba whiffed on an 0-2 pitch down and away.

Grade: A-
Still good. Rivera rolled a 2-0 pitch to short. Kennedy popped the first pitch high to rightfield. Figgins flew out to shallow leftfield.

Grade: C
Not much again. Ichiro lined the second pitch right to Cabrera at short. Reed shot the first pitch up the middle for a single. Ibañez fell behind 0-2 and whiffed on a 1-2 pitch low and away. Sexson fisted an 0-2 liner to Cabrera at short.

Grade: C+
Roof leak. Cabrera popped the second pitch to Reed in rightcenter. Anderson hit a sinking fly ball to shallow centerfield, and Reed ran a long way and made the diving catch, which went for the #3 Web Gem on Baseball Tonight. Guerrero drilled the second pitch into leftcenter for a single, snapping Franklin's streak of 13 straight retired hitters. Erstad punched a 1-2 single through the right side, moving Guerrero to third. Molina poked a 1-2 single down the rightfield line, scoring Guerrero.
Finley popped the second pitch to Betancourt for a one-handed over-the-head catch along the leftfield line with Beltre and Ibañez around him.

Grade: C-
Throw it away. Beltre grounded a 3-1 pitch to Figgins, who threw him out, except the ball was ruled foul. Beltre ended up flying out to Guerrero in shallow rightfield. Dobbs slapped the second pitch into leftfield for a single. Lopez got ahead 2-0 and grounded hard into a 5-4-3 double play.

Grade: A
Sheesh. Rivera grounded the second pitch hard to second. Kennedy popped the first pitch to Ibañez near the track for a semi-teetering catch to his left side. Figgins popped the 0-2 pitch to Betancourt in shallow leftfield.

Grade: C-
Nothing again. Betancourt popped the first pitch a few steps in front of the track in centerfield. Torrealba drilled the first pitch off of Byrd's glove but right to Cabrera for a 1-6-3 putout. Ichiro grounded the 0-2 pitch hard to third.

Grade: B-
A near miracle. Cabrera chopped the first pitch hard to third, but Beltre couldn't spear the ball with his glove, though he got a glove on it (single). Anderson nailed the rightfield ballgirl with the first pitch, a foul ball. Anderson drilled the next pitch down the rightfield line, and it went into the stands for a ground-rule double, moving Cabrera to third. Guerrero was intentionally walked, loading the bases with nobody out.

George Sherrill came in for Franklin. Erstad bounced to Beltre at third, who stepped on the bag to force out Anderson and threw home to get Cabrera in a rundown, and Torrealba tagged him out.

JJ Putz came in for Sherrill. Molina chopped a 2-0 pitch very high to the left side, where Beltre threw in time to first.

Franklin's line: 8 innings, 1 run, 8 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 96 pitches (60 strikes)
Sherrill's line: 2/3 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 3 pitches (2 strikes)
Putz' line: 1/3 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 3 pitches (1 strike)

Grade: B-
Nearly very bad. Reed showed bunt on the second pitch, waited a bit, then bunted to the right side past Byrd for a single. Ibañez looped an 0-2 pitch into shallow rightfield for a single, moving Reed to third.

Scot Shields came in for Byrd (Maicer Izturis came in for Finley). Sexson grounded to the left side, where Kennedy held Reed at second and turned the double play, tossing to Maicer Izturis at second to start it (5-8-3) among a five-man infield. After the weird defensive alignment, Izturis was moved to third and Figgins was moved to centerfield. Beltre got ahead 2-0 and was intentionally walked. Dobbs watched as Beltre took second on indifference on the first pitch. Dobbs ended up knocking the second pitch into centerfield. Ballgame.

Byrd's line: 8 innings, 2 runs (1 earned), 8 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 86 pitches (66 strikes)
Shields' line: 2/3 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, 8 pitches (3 strikes)

Gameball: Ryan Franklin.
We've bagged on Ryan Franklin here many times this year, and many more times after the steroid suspension. What he did in this game was basically have his way with the Angel offense up until he ran into trouble to start the eighth. I think the Angel broadcasters said that Franklin had only one quality start in his last six starts going into this game, and he'd nearly bottomed out after the steroid suspension. Unlike Piñeiro on Monday night, whose resulting jam was tempered by the fact that the Mariners were up five runs at the time, Franklin left a 1-1 game in the ninth with the bases loaded. In the seventh, Franklin had a streak snapped where he'd set down thirteen straight Angel hitters. That went all the way back to the third inning. This was impressive stuff. Franklin's eight hits weren't really scattered, they were bunched into the first, third, and seventh innings. He had some stuff working in this game, or maybe it was just stuff that was good enough to shut down the Angels' hot-and-cold bats.

Goat: Jose Lopez.
Well, he didn't do anything completely horrible, he just didn't make any crooked numbers in the boxscore other than for at-bats, helping turn a double play, and grounding into a double play to kill off the seventh inning. I hope this guy hits .260 or .270 this year. Though he hasn't been up with the big club for a huge stretch of time, I just hope he learns how to hit on a semi-consistent basis in the Majors. We've seen some short flashes of brilliance out of his bat here and there, and we've seen the same with Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt has his crazy glovework to help him out on the side, and Lopez doesn't have that, so somebody's gotta hit eventually. I get uncomfortable seeing him crouch that low in the batters' box if only for the fact that he's hitting .225 in 129 at-bats. Is it working? Will it work? Has it worked? Above triple-A? In other horribly unrelated news, Lopez is younger than me and therefore makes me feel old. What happened to the days when everyone on the Mariner team was old?

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 104-40 .722 -- W5
2002 84-60 .583 20 L2
2003 82-62 .569 22 L3
2000 78-66 .542 26 L1
2005 63-81 .438 41 W2
2004 54-90 .375 50 W1

The 2005 Mariners have 63 wins, therefore guaranteeing they can drop every game for the rest of the season and still not be worse recordwise than the 2004 Mariners. One more win and the season is officially a better one recordwise than the 2004 season. Also, though more of a crazy unlikelihood, the Mariners still have a remote chance of winning the last eighteen games and finishing with a .500 season. Though there's no way in hell that's going to happen, an 18-game improvement from one year to the next is incredibly good. I'm still rooting for a 14-game improvement myself. That of course means I'm rooting for a 14-4 finish from here on out. It's a tall order, sure. Yeah, it's impossible. There's an 11-game east-coast road trip in there. Not gonna happen. If they go .500 from here on out, they'll be 72-90. Losing ninety games is still bad, though that would be a nine-game improvement over the previous year. It's not quite competitive, sure, but that's a solid improvement. I've just looked at the standings, actually, and the Mariners are 36-38 at home. They have seven home games left. A 41-40 home record wouldn't be a bad thing to aim for.

Actually, the ninth inning featured two monumental jams that both teams nearly escaped. Luckily, only one team did. The Angels had the bases loaded with nobody out in the top of the ninth. One ground ball later to Adrian Beltre, and the Mariners had two out. One high chopper to Beltre, and the inning was done. The Mariners had runners on first and third with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth. Richie Sexson got up and grounded into a double play to a five-man infield, which is something I'll probably never see again. Adrian Beltre took two balls, which later was as good as an intentional walk, then Greg Dobbs won the game and good times were had. You know, it seems to me the Mariners in recent years really haven't been very adept to the walk-off hits. I can barely remember the walk-off hits. I seem to remember Raul Ibañez walking off with a homer early last year. I'll never forget Jay Buhner's extra-inning double against the Royals that scored Mike Cameron even though the later replays showed he was out. Then there was the 19-inning game, which I'll never forget.

Multi-hit games in this one belonged to Jeremy Reed, Greg Dobbs, and Yuniesky Betancourt. Reed and Dobbs were 2-for-4, and Betancourt was 2-for-3. Dobbs had the only Mariner RBI of the night, since the first Mariner run came in on Paul Byrd's overthrow of first base on an Ichiro bunt. Reed singled with one out in the sixth and placed the perfect bunt to lead off the ninth, leading to his scoring of the winning run. Dobbs singled with one out in the seventh, only to be doubled off via a Jose Lopez ground ball. Dobbs also ended the game with a single. Betancourt singled to lead off the third (he scored the first run of the game later that inning) and singled with one out in the fifth, both good solid hits. I was going to say that the common thread with these guys is that they all are arguably part of the Mariners' youth movement, but I'd only be two-thirds right because Dobbs is 27 years of age. It's much in the same way as George Sherrill is a rookie despite being 28 years old. Yes, the Mariners have some old rookies on the premises.

With the 1-for-4 game here, Ichiro has 181 hits on the season and sits with a .302 batting average. If he gets at-bats at the same pace he's been getting them for the season (600 at-bats in 144 games, 4.17 at-bats per game)...
-- he needs 19 hits to reach 200 for the season; he'd need to hit .253 for the remainder of the season, and that'd leave him with a .296 season average.
-- he needs 22 hits to finish with a .300 (.301) average for the season; he'd need to hit .293 for the rest of the season, and he'd end up with 203 hits.
-- he needs 35 hits to finish with a .320 average for the season; he'd need to hit .467 for the rest of the season, and he'd end up with 216 hits.

Isn't it weird? The Mariners get the shaky start from Felix on the weekend, and then they get back-to-back good starts from Joel Piñeiro and Ryan Franklin. If Gil Meche was still pitching, it'd be weird if he pitched Wednesday and went eight shutout innings. I wouldn't know what to think about the whole first 80 percent of the season then. Even more weird is that the Mariners have already won this series and they're going for a sweep now. Good times.

Saunders. Moyer. Today.

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