Monday, September 04, 2006


AP photo -- Steve Nesius

In 25 words or less: Yeah, this was a bullsh#* game. Felix pitches great but gets bitten bigtime by the long ball.

This one featured Felix Hernandez going up against Brian Stokes, who was making his big-league debut. After using the previous homestand to win six straight and seven of eight, the Mariners hoped to win and take the series in Tampa Bay before meeting their fate in Detroit for the first half of the week. A loss in this game would flag the momentum of that seven-of-eight stretch, reversing that talk into something where you'd refer instead to losing three of four games. That's not an enviable position in which to be when you have Jarrod Washburn going the next day. This wouldn't be so worrisome a few years ago before they moved the fences inward at Comerica Park, but then they moved the fences inward at Comerica Park. I'll place the over-under on Washburn's earned runs on Labor Day at six. At least Washburn only has three years left on his deal, since I'm sure there's no chance I'll go insane watching him pitch out the contract. No chance at all. Really.

Ichiro fell behind 0-2 and bounced to second on a 1-2 pitch. Chris Snelling worked a 1-2 count for a walk, pushing Ichiro to second. Adrian Beltre foul-tipped a letter-high 0-2 fastball into Paul's glove behind the plate. Raul Ibañez took a 1-2 pitch and Snelling barely beat a throw to second on a delayed steal (it's possible Zobrist put the tag down just next to Snelling's arm, though the Tampa Bay crew wasn't going to admit that). Ibañez blistered a full-count pitch past a diving Cantu and into right for a single, scoring Snelling, who beat an off-line throw home (Ibañez beat a subsequent throw to second).
Richie Sexson was up 3-1 and walked on a full-count pitch up and away. Pitching coach Mike Butcher visited the mound. Ben Broussard popped the first pitch to Upton near the stands on the third-base side in foul ground. Stokes threw 30 pitches.

Ben Zobrist slapped the first pitch into left for a single. Delmon Young lined out to center on the first pitch. Carl Crawford bounced into the right-side hole, where Bloomquist was pretty far to the first-base side, but threw to second and got the force on Zobrist. Greg Norton got ahead 2-0 and took off for second on a 2-1 count (strike), and Rivera airmailed the throw to second as it went off Betancourt's glove and rolled away, enabling Crawford to scoot to third. Norton whiffed on the next pitch, a 2-2 curve down and in. Hernandez threw 11 pitches.

Yuniesky Betancourt took a high second pitch and rolled it up the middle for a single. Rene Rivera popped the second pitch high to Upton beside the mound. Willie Bloomquist had a 1-0 count when Stokes made a pickoff move to first, but Witt tried making a tag before he had the ball, and it went off the glove and bounced away, moving Betancourt to second. Bloomquist dumped the second pitch into shallow center, where Young barely missed on a running catch, moving Betancourt to third. Ichiro popped the first pitch to Paul near the screen behind the plate on the third-base side. Snelling got ahead 3-0 and walked on a full-count pitch barely down and in, loading the bases. Beltre took Young to the centerfield track on the second pitch. Stokes threw 15 pitches and had 45 through two.

Ty Wigginton was up 3-0 and doubled into the leftfield corner on a full count. Kevin Witt bounced an 0-2 pitch to second, moving Wigginton to third. Jorge Cantu shot a chopper behind the bag at third, and Beltre's momentum took him into foul ground, where he made the long throw in time to first. BJ Upton fell behind 0-2 and whiffed at a brutal 1-2 curve down and away. Hernandez threw 16 pitches and had 27 through two.

Ibañez popped lazily to center. Sexson popped the first pitch into the second row of rightfield seats.
Broussard spanked a ball past a sliding Witt at first and into right for a single. Betancourt flew out to shallow right on the second pitch. Rivera bounced to second on the second pitch. Stokes threw 11 pitches and had 56 through three.

Josh Paul grounded a 1-2 pitch to second. Zobrist grounded the second pitch to the right side, where Broussard made a dive and stopped the ball, then underhanded to Hernandez running over to cover on a very quick play. Young grounded the second pitch to third. Hernandez threw eight pitches and had 35 through three.

Bloomquist worked a 1-2 count full before bouncing a ball along the third-base line, where Upton tried to pull a Beltre move but threw the ball a bit into the home-plate side of the first-base bag, pulling Witt away (single). Ichiro was behind 0-2 and bounced a 1-2 pitch to second, where Cantu went to second for the force. Snelling lined the second pitch off the wall in the rightfield corner, just under the screen of the foul pole and under the yellow line of the wall for a double that moved Ichiro to third. Beltre smoked the second pitch right into the glove of a drawn-in Zobrist. Ibañez bounced the first pitch to second.

Stokes' line: 4 innings, 2 runs, 7 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 72 pitches (45 strikes)

Crawford chopped a 1-2 pitch behind the mound, where Betancourt ranged over and made the throw on the run and in time to first. Norton smacked the second pitch through the right side for a single. Wigginton crushed a too-high 2-0 fastball eight rows into the leftfield seats as I cursed at my computer.
Witt grounded an 0-2 pitch to Broussard behind the bag at first (3-1 putout). Cantu chopped the first pitch to short. Hernandez threw 13 pitches and had 48 through four.

Chad Orvella came in for Stokes. Sexson worked a 1-2 count for a walk. Broussard was ahead 2-0 and hit a long fly ball on a 2-2 pitch that ended up two rows into the seats in rightcenter.
Betancourt crushed a hanging second pitch about eight rows into the leftfield seats.
Rivera rolled an 0-2 pitch to third, where Upton came up too quick and had the ball roll through the wickets. Bloomquist took a pitchout on the first pitch, then Rivera stole second (really) without a throw (really) on the next pitch. Bloomquist nubbed a 2-2 pitch off of Orvella's right knee and Cantu backing up couldn't make a throw in time to first as Rivera moved to third.

Ruddy Lugo came in for Orvella. Ichiro had the hitters' counts before popping to Cantu behind the mound on a full count. Snelling broke his bat on the first pitch, dumping it into shallow center for a single, scoring Rivera and moving Bloomquist to second.
Beltre watched a first-pitch strike as Bloomquist stole third on a high throw. Beltre popped a 3-1 pitch very high to second. Ibañez was up 3-0 but grounded a 3-1 pitch to first. Lugo threw 17 pitches.

Orvella's line: 0 innings, 4 runs (3 earned), 3 hits, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, 22 pitches (14 strikes)

Upton grounded out to second on the second pitch. Paul took an 0-2 curve over the inside corner. Zobrist bounced the second pitch to first (3-1 putout). Hernandez threw seven pitches and had 55 through five.

Sexson worked an 0-2 count full before rolling up the middle to Cantu. Broussard hit a weak pop to Cantu moving into shallow right. Betancourt flew out to left on a 2-2 pitch.

Lugo's line: 2 innings, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 32 pitches (17 strikes)

Young took an 0-2 fastball over the outside corner. Crawford drove a ball just over the head of Ichiro, who couldn't quite account for the ball slicing behind him as he went back and it fell for a double. Norton was down 0-2 and watched with a 1-2 count as Crawford was nearly picked off at second on a daylight play. Norton watched a 1-2 outside pitch that juked Rivera, who had the ball go in and out of his glove, but not far enough to move Crawford. Rivera came to the mound to hash out the signs with Hernandez. Nonetheless, Norton popped a 2-2 pitch that carried and carried into the third row of rightfield seats. Rivera and pitching coach Rafael Chaves came to the mound for a visit.
Wigginton whiffed on a 2-2 curve in the dirt away. Witt bounced the first pitch to second. Hernandez threw 20 pitches and had 75 through six.

Brian Meadows came in for Lugo. Rivera flew out to right on the second pitch. Bloomquist was down 0-2 and bounced a 1-2 pitch deep into the hole at short, where Zobrist threw to first, but it was late as Bloomquist collected the single. Ichiro grounded an 0-2 pitch hard to Cantu on the right side, who went to second for the force on Bloomquist, and Zobrist's throw to first was barely beaten by Ichiro. Snelling watched an 0-2 pitch as Ichiro stole second for his 32nd straight without being caught. Snelling flew out to center on a 1-2 pitch. Meadows threw 14 pitches.

Cantu whiffed on a 2-2 curve down and in. Upton rolled the first pitch through the left side for a single. Paul popped the first pitch to Bloomquist moving toward the rightfield line. Zobrist whiffed on a 1-2 fastball away. Hernandez threw 13 pitches and had 88 through seven.

Beltre flew out to right on a 2-2 pitch. Ibañez took a 1-2 curve down over the inside corner. Sexson doubled off the base of the wall in center, somewhat crossing up Young, though Sexson didn't advance. Broussard was intentionally walked. Betancourt flew out to Young in rightcenter on the second pitch. Meadows threw 19 pitches and had 33 total.

Meadows' line: 2 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 33 pitches (22 strikes)

Young punched the first pitch over Bloomquist and into right for a single. Crawford chopped a 1-2 pitch over the mound to Betancourt, who had to dodge an umpire to make the throw in time to first as Young moved to second. Norton rolled the second pitch to short. Wigginton took a first-pitch curve in the dirt that got by Rivera and rolled to the backstop, moving Young to third. Wigginton worked a 1-2 count for a walk. Chaves visited the mound. Witt blasted the first pitch two rows into the leftfield seats. That really really sucked.
Cantu bounced the first pitch over the mound and into center for a single.

Sean Green came in for Hernandez. Upton worked a 1-2 count full before chopping out to short.

Hernandez' line: 7 2/3 innings, 7 runs, 10 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 103 pitches (74 strikes)
Green's line: 1/3 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 6 pitches (3 strikes)

Seth McClung came in for Meadows, Damon Hollins came in to play left, Rocco Baldelli came in to play center, Young moved to center, and Wigginton moved in to play first. Jose Lopez, hitting for Rivera, worked an 0-2 count full but whiffed on a high fastball. Bloomquist was up 2-0 and walked on a full-count pitch away. Ichiro flew out to left. Snelling took the first pitch and Bloomquist took off for second and was called safe, and it looked like Zobrist either whiffed on the tag or was late, though manager Joe Maddon popped out of the dugout to have some words with the umpire. Snelling whiffed on an 0-2 fastball.

McClung's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 21 pitches (13 strikes)

Gameball: Willie Bloomquist.
See how messed up this game was? For as much as I bag on Bloomquist here for being from South Kitsap and being a guy the broadcast crew (Dave Niehaus to the lowest extent, the color guys in the middle, and Rick Rizzs to the very highest) horribly overrates, I'm not going to bag on him when he goes 4-for-4, gets on base all five times he comes to the plate, and steals two bases. Now messes around and hits for the cycle in his next start, that would either be simultaneous with the four horsemen or the placing of a 20-foot bronze statue of Bloomquist outside Buck A&W Restaurant on Mile Hill Road, a place that serves darned good strawberry shakes, which I try to use to distract from all the South Kitsap sports paraphernalia they have hanging on the walls in there. In the meaningless fun that can only come when we're two games into September, Bloomquist is a perfect 1.000 in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage for the month. For his season numbers, this game bumped his average and on-base numbers up by 15 points and bumped his slugging by 13 points. His slugging percentage is 14 points lower than the on-ase mark, but that's because he barely gets any extra-base hits, but we know that.

Goat: Ichiro.
Before I go on about how horrid Ichiro's performance is, I have to make a small case for why Felix Hernandez doesn't belong here despite giving up seven runs on ten hits. He had pitched very efficiently. He had thrown 88 pitches coming into the eighth inning. I guess my first threshold of freak-outness would have been when he allowed a single on the first pitch of the eighth. That might have been a time where I would have yanked him. He got outs from Carl Crawford and Greg Norton, so he was almost out of it. Ty Wigginton took one of many curves in the dirt that moved Delmon Young to move to third. Felic tried to throw all these curves to get Wigginton to whiff, but he didn't bite. Rafael Chaves went out to the mound at this point, and knowing Mike Hargrove, I thought this was a stall tactic to get Sean Green a few seconds more to warm up until Hargrove came out with the hook immediately after Chaves headed back to the dugout. Imagine my surprise when this wasn't the case. The pitch that Kevin Witt got was a 95mph fastball over the outside corner, and he just went with it. One could argue Hargrove released his inner Grady Little with this move. Greg Norton's homer was on a thigh-high 2-2 curve and basically seemed like a high fly ball that barely got over the wall. Ty Wigginton's homer was the only one that was truly crushed, and I think the only one that you can really pin on Felix because it was belt-high and over the plate. Also, Felix struck out seven hitters and got 14 of his 16 other outs on ground balls, so it's not like he had any other real close calls with deep fly balls. Oh yeah, Ichiro. The fact that this team almost won with him going 0-for-6 is nuts. The team has a record of 8-24 this season when he goes hitless, though since I last referred to this stat, he came off the bench to go hitless in one at-bat in Anaheim, so that's a bit screwy. What's really screwy, though, is Ichiro hitting .233 in the month of August. Huh? Tampa Bay's crew referred to Ichiro's numbers against the Devil Rays -- he hits .278 against them but hits .309 or higher against every other American League team. Back to this game, when you see a number seven under the LOB column, you know that's not good, and considering it's a cold day in hell whenever Willie Bloomquist is getting on base five times in a game, it's really not good. In a related story, Ichiro hits .332 with nobody on, .282 with runners on, and .204 with runners in scoring position. How does this make sense?

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 97-39 .713 -- W1
2002 79-57 .581 18 L2
2003 79-57 .581 18 W2
2000 74-62 .544 23 W2
2006 64-72 .471 33 L1
2005 58-78 .426 39 L1
2004 51-85 .375 46 L5

Washburn. Robertson. Today.

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