Tuesday, August 29, 2006


AP photo -- Kevin P. Casey

In 25 words or less: Division losing streak no more. The streak is bookended with complete-game wins by Felix Hernandez against the Angels.

This one featured Kelvim Escobar going up against Felix Hernandez. Yuniesky Betancourt was given the night off, and Mike Hargrove put Willie Bloomquist in his place at short. News also came down of Julio Mateo having broken the fourth metacarpal in his left (non-throwing) hand in the weight room. Mateo was placed on the 60-day disabled list and is now out for the year, and Jon Huber was called up in his place. Huber is about 4 1/2 months older than me, making me feel slightly less old than a call-up of say, an Eric O'Flaherty. As almost an acknowledgement of how far he's fallen since late May, Jose Lopez was hitting eighth in the lineup in this game. The Mariners were trying to put a halt to their ugly 20-game losing streak to AL West teams, and they were trying to extend their overall winning streak to five games. The fun fact is that the Red Sox and Angels started at the same time as this game and were warming up for the bottom of the fifth when this one was over. This was the shortest game in Safeco Field history. In another fun note, the manual scoreboard in Oakland had the winning Mariner pitcher as number 59, which would have been current last year. Some number-savvy A's fan out there might think that Eric O'Flaherty threw a complete-game shutout against the Angels.

Chone Figgins bounced out to short. Maicer Izturis slapped the second pitch into left for a single. Orlando Cabrera chopped the first pitch very high to Beltre, who barehanded the ball out of the air and threw just in time to first. Vladimir Guerrero was ahead 2-0 and chopped a 2-2 pitch to short, where Bloomquist's throw was high and Sexson apparently didn't get the tag on Guerrero going by, but Sexson alertly threw straight home, where Johjima got the tag on Izturis trying to score. Hernandez threw 11 pitches.

Ichiro lined out to left. Chris Snelling whiffed on a 1-2 change down and away. Adrian Beltre bounced the first pitch to second. Escobar threw eight pitches.

Garret Anderson rolled to Lopez in shallow right (shift) for the out. Juan Rivera split his bat on a 2-0 pitch, grounding out to first. Howie Kendrick nubbed the second pitch back to the mound. Hernandez threw seven pitches and had 18 through two.

Raul Ibañez took Rivera to the track in left. Richie Sexson rolled to second on the first pitch. Ben Broussard popped high to Figgins in shallow rightcenter. Escobar threw ten pitches and had 18 through two.

Adam Kennedy lined a 2-2 pitch into the glove of a leaping Beltre at third. Jose Molina knocked the first pitch through the mound and up the middle for a single. Figgins bounced the second pitch into the right-side hole, where Lopez tried turning two, but he shorthopped Bloomquist at second (fielder's choice, error) and no outs were recorded. Izturis bounced the second pitch off of Hernandez' glove, and the ball chopped to Lopez, who had Bloomquist run across before stepping on the second-base bag to force out Figgins on a weird play as Molina went to third. Cabrera rolled the second pitch to short, where Bloomquist threw to second ofr the force on Izturis. Hernandez threw 13 pitches and had 31 through three.

Kenji Johjima had a 3-0 count go full before slapping a single over Kennedy and into right. Jose Lopez bounced the first pitch to Cabrera in the left-side hole, who made the leaping and spinning throw to second to force out Johjima, but Lopez beat out the back end of the double play attempt. Willie Bloomquist was up 3-1 after two pitchouts and ended up whiffing on a breaking ball down and away. Ichiro took a second strike, and Molina muffed a snap-throw attempt as the ball got away, but Lopez didn't try to advance. Ichiro checked his swing on a 1-2 breaking ball in the dirt before whiffing horribly on the next pitch, which was another breaking ball in the dirt (2-3 putout). Escobar threw 19 pitches and had 37 through three.

Guerrero rolled the first pitch to short. Anderson looped a broken-bat single into shallow center that Bloomquist couldn't run from the rightfield side of second base to get. Rivera bounced up the middle to Lopez, who did a glove-flip to a surprised looking Bloomquist covering second, who nonetheless completed the double play without incident. Hernandez threw seven pitches and had 38 through four.

Snelling popped the first pitch high to Figgins in leftcenter. Beltre rolled a 1-2 pitch deep into the hole at short, where Cabrera showed his range and made the backhand stop, but he nearly airmailed Kendrick at first and the throw was late as Beltre had the single. Ibañez was down 0-2 and reached and laid the barrel on a 1-2 pitch, semi-dumping it into shallow rightcenter for a single to move Beltre to third. Sexson blistered the first pitch off the Pepsi ad on the leftfield wall in front of the visitors' bullpen, and the double scored Beltre easily and Ibañez got to third even though the ball banked back to Rivera quickly.
Broussard whiffed on a 2-2 change down and away. Johjima was up 2-0 before nubbing a chopper to short, where Cabrera charged it, but the ball spun wickedly and Cabrera whiffed on a barehand attempt as Ibañez scored and Sexson moved to third on the single.
Lopez took a 2-2 fastball over the outside corner. Escobar threw 25 pitches and had 62 through four.

Kendrick bounced hard to second on the second pitch. Kennedy popped the second pitch to Beltre just in front of the railing in the third-base dugout. Rivera bounced out to second. Hernandez threw seven pitches and had 45 through five.

Bloomquist fell behind 0-2 and whiffed on a 1-2 low breaking ball. Ichiro punched a low-and-away second pitch just fair down the leftfield line, but it ricocheted back to Rivera, who gunned quickly to second to nail Ichiro, who tried to slide to avoid rather than get to the bag immediately, which may have cost him. Snelling popped to short on a 2-2 pitch. Escobar threw 11 pitches and had 73 through five.

Figgins was up 3-1 before popping to Ichiro in fairly deep center on a full count. Izturis popped the second pitch to very shallow rightcenter as Ichiro called off Snelling, who backed off at the last moment as Ichiro made the catch. Cabrera singled up the middle on the first pitch. Guerrero fouled off an 0-2 pitch before whiffing on the next pitch, pure 100mph heat. Amazingly, that was the first strikeout of the game for Felix. Hernandez threw 14 pitches and had 59 through six.

Beltre got under the second pitch, flying out high to center. Ibañez rolled out to second. Sexson blistered another ball, this time a single to left. Broussard took an 0-2 fastball down the pipe. Escobar threw 12 pitches and had 85 through six.

Anderson lined the first pitch to center. Rivera bounced a 2-0 pitch into the hole on the left side, where Bloomquist made the backhand stop and made the long throw in time to first, and while Bloomquist does deserve credit for making that play, Rivera must also be kinda slow. Kendrick was down 0-2 and whiffed over a 1-2 curve. Hernandez threw nine pitches and had 68 through seven.

Johjima grounded the second pitch to third. Lopez whiffed badly on an 0-2 fastball. Bloomquist was down 0-2 and popped a 1-2 pitch high to shallow right. Escobar threw nine pitches and had 94 through seven.

Kennedy whiffed on a 2-2 inside curve in the dirt that got away from Johjima (2-3 putout). Molina whiffed on a 2-2 curve down and away. Figgins one-hopped a 2-0 pitch right to Sexson at first. Hernandez threw 15 pitches and had 83 through eight.

Ichiro popped the first pitch to Molina in foul ground about four feet from where Ichiro was standing. Snelling worked a 1-2 count full before whiffing on a fastball down and away. Beltre lined an outside 2-2 pitch to Guerrero in right.

Escobar's line: 8 innings, 2 runs, 7 hits, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts, 106 pitches (71 strikes)

Yuniesky Betancourt came in to play short. Izturis bounced a 2-2 pitch to a charging Betancourt at short. Cabrera grounded a 1-2 pitch to short. Guerrero drove a fly ball to deep center.

Hernandez' line: 9 innings, 0 runs, 5 hits, 0 walks, 4 strikeouts, 95 pitches (70 strikes)

Gameball: Felix Hernandez.
Admit it. Felix needed this. The team needed this. The fans needed this. I definitely know I needed this, and not just because I got 34.5 fantasy points out of him from this game. The Felix we all saw in the latter months of the 2005 season has rarely shown up this season. Felix has spent most of the 2006 season struggling, taking his lumps, and sometimes just plain losing control. In his last start, the Yankees tattooed him, though if you ask Dave Niehaus, he thought Felix had great stuff that day and the Yankees were so good you might have to wonder if they were stealing signs or something. This may not be the best start of his career, though it's definitely in the top three or five. Not that Felix is Freddy Garcia or anything -- his potential is for something much greater -- but Garcia reached another level in his career after he realized he didn't have to strike everyone out to be effective. Somewhere along the way, Garcia operated with his changeup as his best pitch rather than trying to blow 94mph fastballs past everybody (I seem to remember a lot of overthrowing). Felix is already the best starting strikeout pitcher the Mariners have had since Randy Johnson. Do they need him to be? In this game, he proved dominance doesn't necessarily have to be measured by racking up double digits in strikeouts (he only struck out four). It can be measured via an absurd 16 groundball outs and no walks. I knew once his pitch count was low after the third and fourth that we might get a chance to see something that was pretty great, and I'm glad the Angels kept hacking.

Goat: Ben Broussard.
Willie Bloomquist was 0-for-3 with a couple of strikeouts, but he made a nice play on that long throw from the hole. Jose Lopez was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as well (black hole in the final two spots in the lineup tonight), but he had the nifty glove-flip move on the ball up the middle to start a double play. Chris Snelling went 0-for-4 and struck out twice, but not only is he Chris Snelling, he didn't leave any runners on base. Broussard was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he left three runners aboard. Thus, I'm afraid I have to take this step again, since it worked last time -- Broussard is getting the goat in every game he plays until he gets a hit. Hopefully this shouldn't last long. Of course, seeing as to how I'm the one writing these posts, I do reserve the right to give the goat to someone else if they stink it up way more than Broussard does that night. Hopefully this won't last too long, or Broussard will be getting more goat meat than the Luvahs that Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch played on Saturday Night Live.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 94-37 .718 -- L1
2002 78-53 .595 16 W1
2003 76-55 .580 18 L6
2000 71-60 .542 23 L2
2006 62-69 .473 32 W5
2005 56-75 .427 38 W1
2004 51-80 .389 43 W5

Weaver. Washburn. Tonight.

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