Saturday, September 16, 2006


AP photo -- Charlie Riedel

[posted in full Sat ~8:16p]

In 25 words or less: The Mariners show some uncharacteristic late-inning moxie for a comeback win.

This one featured Francisco Cruceta going up against Luke Hudson. Cruceta was making his starting pitching debut for the Mariners and he was throwing in place of Felix Hernandez, who was missing the start to keep his innings down. The number-three hitter du jour was Kenji Johjima as Yuniesky Betancourt was bumped back down to familiar territory in the lower reaches of the batting order. The Mariners had sandwiched a four-game winning streak with dual stretches of four losses in five games. The most important thing, however, would be that a Mariner win in this game would be their 70th of the season. Seventy wins would be their most since 2003, when they won 93 for the second straight season and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Importantly for me, the Mariners had to go 8-8 in their remaining 16 games for my prediction of 77 wins to come true. If that happens, I can surely say that I think the Mariners are one year behind schedule, since I pinned last year's team for 77 wins. Still, I went into this year saying 77 wins would be good for the Mariners, but a .500 season was a realistic goal. Considering some of the good stretches of baseball this team had this year, it's maddening that they haven't been close, but then you consider the valleys this season. Maddeningly inconsistent and streaky, these guys.

Ichiro was up 3-0 but bounced to first, where Shealy nicely shoveled with the glove to Hudson running over to cover on a close play. Adrian Beltre chopped an 0-2 pitch to third. Kenji Johjima was down 0-2 and popped a 1-2 slider to Grudzielanek in shallow right. Hudson threw 13 pitches.

David DeJesus popped the second pitch to Sexson near the front slope of the mound. Esteban German fouled off three 1-2 pitches before bouncing a single through the left side. Mark Grudzielanek bounced a single through where Betancourt would have been had the hit-and-run not been on, and German went to third on the single. Emil Brown had the hitters' counts and roped a 3-1 pitch just foul into the leftfield corner before walking on a full count. Ryan Shealy crushed the second pitch to the grass beyond the wall in leftcenter. That be a slam.
Shane Costa reached down and rocked a 1-2 pitch, doubling off the base of the wall in rightfield. Pitching coach Rafael Chaves visited the mound. John Buck took a 2-1 pitch in the dirt that got away from Johjima (wild pitch) and moved Costa to third. Buck had the hitters' counts before walking on a 3-1 low pitch. Joey Gathright flew out to left, and the throw from Ibañez wsa about a third of the way up the third-base line, so Costa scored easily.
Andres Blanco grounded the second pitch into the left-side hole, where Betancourt made the backhand snag and off-balance throw in time to first.

Cruceta's line: 1 inning, 5 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 0 strikeouts, 35 pitches (22 strikes)

Raul Ibañez rolled a single through the left side. Richie Sexson took an 0-2 pitch over the inside corner. Ben Broussard lined the second pitch for a hard grounder to the feet of Blanco at short, who shorthopped it and started the 6-4-3 double play. Hudson threw nine pitches and had 22 through two.

Jake Woods came in for Cruceta. DeJesus spanked a full-count pitch toward the rightfield corner that was a double after he barely beat out a throw from Snelling. German was down 0-2 and slapped a 1-2 pitch into the rightfield corner for a double to score DeJesus.
Grudzielanek lined the first pitch to a running Ichiro in center. Brown grounded the second pitch to Betancourt in the hole on the left side. Shealy took an intentional 3-1 ball. Costa flew out to fairly deep right on the first pitch. Woods threw 19 pitches.

Yuniesky Betancourt grounded to short. Chris Snelling worked a 1-2 count for a nine-pitch walk. Jose Lopez just missed homering (foul) down the leftfield line and was ahead 3-1 before walking on a full-count pitch inside to move Snelling to second. Ichiro grounded to first on the first pitch, moving Snelling and Lopez to third and second. Beltre looped a 2-2 pitch to Grudzielanek running back into center, who looked to have caught the ball, but it rolled out (ruled a single), scoring Snelling and Lopez.
Johjima whiffed on a 1-2 breaking ball outside. Hudson threw 31 pitches and had 53 through three.

Buck had the hitters' counts before walking on a 3-1 pitch up and in. Gathright grounded the first pitch to a drawn-in Beltre, who threw to second for the out on Buck, but the speedy Gathright beat the back end of what would have been a double play. Blanco flew out to Snelling near the rightfield line on an 0-2 pitch. DeJesus flew out to Snelling in rightcenter on a 2-0 pitch. Woods threw 12 pitches and had 31 total.

Ibañez flew out to shallow center. Sexson had the hitters' counts and walked on a 3-1 pitch. Broussard popped the second pitch to shallow right. Betancourt grounded hard behind the bag at third, where German made a nice play, backhanding and throwing all the way to second for the out on Sexson (5-4). Hudson threw 12 pitches and had 65 through four.

German flew out to Lopez just on the grass in shallow right on a 1-2 pitch. Grudzielanek bounced the second pitch behind the mound, and it was easy work for Betancourt, who charged and threw on the run. Brown bounced a 1-2 pitch to Beltre behind the bag at third. Woods threw ten pitches and had 41 total.

Snelling got ahead 3-0 and walked on a full count. Lopez rolled the first pitch to short for a 6-4-3 double play. Ichiro slashed an 0-2 pitch through the left-side hole for a single. Beltre roped the second pitch off the track and wall in leftcenter for a double, scoring Ichiro easily.
Johjima rocked one to nearly the same spot as Beltre for a double to leftcenter that scored Beltre. Pitching coach Bob McClure visited the mound.
Ibañez whiffed on a 2-2 breaking ball inside. Hudson threw 18 pitches and had 83 through five.

Shealy flew out to Ibañez in fairly deep leftcenter. Costa hit a liner on a full count to Ichiro at the centerfield track, who leaped a bit and reached up to make the catch. Buck worked an 0-2 count full before smoking a double into the rightfield corner. Gathright tapped the first pitch to second. Woods threw 18 pitches and had 59 total.

Paul Bako came in to catch. Sexson stuck a single into left.

Andrew Sisco came in for Hudson. Broussard took the first pitch up and in and it went off Bako's glove, enabling Sexson to move to second. Broussard hit a slow bouncer to short that was charged by Blanco, but the throw pulled Shealy off the bag as Sexson took third on a ground ball in front of him. Betancourt rolled up the middle to start a 6-4-3 double play, though Sexson scored.
Snelling whiffed on a full-count fastball on the outside corner.

Hudson's line: 5 innings, 5 runs, 6 hits, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, 86 pitches (53 strikes)
Sisco's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 11 pitches (6 strikes)

Blanco bunted the first pitch along the third-base line, where Beltre charged and never planted or got off a throw, and his right elbow hit the ground hard on a slide. Hargrove and some trainers came out, but Beltre stayed in the game. DeJesus bounced to second for a 4-6 force of Blanco at second as DeJesus reached. German had the second pitch get under Johjima and roll to the backstop (ruled a wild pitch), moving DeJesus to second. German was up 2-0 before rolling a 2-2 pitch through the left side for a single to score DeJesus.
Grudzielanek popped the second pitch to Johjima in front of the first-base dugout. Brown got ahead 2-0 and took a full-count pitch down and in, moving German to second. Chaves visited the mound. Shealy worked a 1-2 count full before bouncing slow to a charging Lopez, who barehanded and threw to first. Woods attempted to field the ball, but fell down on the mound. Woods threw 22 pitches and had 81 total.

Ryan Braun came in for Sisco. Lopez grounded a full-count pitch to German behind the bag at third, who threw wide of first into foul territory. Lopez tried to get to second on the play, but the ball banked right bank to Grudzielanek backing up the play, who threw to Blanco covering second, and Lopez was called out, though he looked like he beat the tag (play ruled a single and 4-6 putout). Ichiro drove a 2-2 pitch off the track and wall near the rightfield corner for a double. Beltre crushed a 2-1 pitch into the visitors' bullpen in leftcenter.
Johjima flew out to center on a 1-2 pitch. Ibañez walked a 3-1 pitch barely off the plate down and away.

Ambiorix Burgos came in for Braun. Sexson drove the first pitch over Gathright and off the wall for a double, scoring Ibañez.
Broussard worked an 0-2 count full but whiffed on a breaking ball down and well off the plate away. Burgos threw seven pitches.

Braun's line: 2/3 inning, 3 runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, 25 pitches (13 strikes)

Costa grounded the second pitch to second. Bako popped the first pitch to Ibañez in shallow left. Gathright whiffed on a full count. Woods threw nine pitches and had 90 total.

Woods' line: 6 innings, 2 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, 1 strikeout, 90 pitches (50 strikes)

Betancourt chopped the first pitch to a charging Blanco at short. Snelling grounded a 2-2 pitch to the mound. Lopez lined the second pitch into the leftfield corner for a double. Ichiro was intentionally walked. Beltre worked a 1-2 count full and took a barely low breaking ball to load the bases. McClure visited the mound. Johjima took the second pitch off Bako's glove, but Lopez didn't have a good view of how far the ball got away to score. Johjima bounced an 0-2 pitch off the glove of a charging Blanco, who ended up with no play (error) as Lopez scored and the bases remained loaded.

Jimmy Gobble came in for Burgos. Ibañez was down 0-2 and whiffed on a 2-2 breaking ball over the inner half.

Burgos' line: 1 inning, 1 run (unearned), 2 hits, 2 walks, 1 strikeout, 29 pitches (16 strikes)

Jon Huber came in for Woods and TJ Bohn came in to play rightfield. Blanco was ahead 2-0 and bounced a full-count pitch to first (3-1 putout). DeJesus popped an 0-2 pitch to Sexson near the tarp down the rightfield line. German flew out to Ibañez in fairly deep left.

Huber's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 12 pitches (8 strikes)

Sexson laced the first pitch for a hard grounder to second, where Grudzielanek had the ball go off his glove and he had no play (ruled a single). Eduardo Perez, hitting for Broussard, watched a couple of pickoff throws to first, but that was a stall tactic, as was Bell coming to the mound and camping out for a while.

Scott Dohmann came in for Gobble. Perez whiffed on an 0-2 breaking ball down and in. Betancourt lined out to right. Bohn blasted the second pitch, one-hopping to JJ Putz warming up in the visitors' bullpen in leftcenter. That's his second big-league hit and first big-league homer.
Lopez was down 0-2 before grounding a 1-2 pitch to short. Dohmann threw 13 pitches.

Gobble's line: 1/3 inning, 1 run, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 7 pitches (4 strikes)
Dohmann's line: 1 inning, 1 run, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 13 pitches (10 strikes)

JJ Putz came in for Huber. Grudzielanek grounded up the middle to Lopez, who backhanded it and had to gather himself a bit before throwing to first. Brown was down 2-0 before bouncing a single through the left side. Shealy took the first pitch as Brown took second on defensive indifference. Shealy was ahead 3-1 and flew out to right on a full count. Costa rolled a single through the left side to score Brown.
Bako watched the first pitch as Costa took second on defensive indifference once again. Bako popped the second pitch to Ibañez in leftcenter.

Putz' line: 1 inning, 1 run, 2 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 19 pitches (12 strikes)

Gameball: Richie Sexson.
It's weird to say, but except for homers (sort of the whole reason the Mariners brought him to Seattle), he's having a great month. He's 19-for-50 (.380) for the month with seven walks and 11 strikeouts. He's hitless in only two of 14 games. He has only two homers, which is bad, but his slugging mark is at .660, which would be his highest for a month this season if it held up. With only the two homers, that .660 mark exists largely due to eight of his 19 hits being doubles, as well as the two homers. Thusly, ten of his 19 hits are for extra bases. Though he only has eight RBIs for the month at this point, if he keeps that pace, he'll have his usual monthly RBI total for this season. That would also put him at 104 RBIs, which is well above his low for a full season, which was 91 in 2000, when he was traded midseason from Cleveland to Milwaukee. It would also be higher than his 102 RBIs in 2002 with Milwaukee, a season in which he had his career full-season low for homers, which was 29. Sexson is currently sitting on 29 homers for 2006.

Goat: Francisco Cruceta.
While the things we've heard about him have been positive, he's appeared twice with the Mariners this season and hasn't done well at all. Sure, he's only thrown a total of 68 pitches at the big-league level in two appearances this year, all within the last week, but he hasn't shown the best command of his stuff. Of course, if you ask me whether I'd rather have Cruceta or Joel Piñeiro starting games, I'd choose Cruceta every time. Cruceta has upside and Piñeiro's career in Seattle at this point is well beyond the point of possible salvage. The fun thing about Cruceta's season line at this point is the fun that comes with the small sample size -- he has an ERA of 23.14. Still, it was a bit upsetting to see the Mariners trot Cruceta out there for a start against the Royals and have this happen to him. Hopefully his confidence isn't shot by this outing, but if it is, they need to get him some garbage-time appearances to build up his confidence. His only other appearance was five days earlier when he relieved Felix Hernandez and inherited a 1-0 Mariner deficit. Not exactly a soft landing.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 106-41 .721 -- L1
2003 85-62 .578 21 W3
2002 84-63 .571 22 L5
2000 81-66 .551 25 W3
2006 70-77 .476 36 W1
2005 64-83 .435 42 L2
2004 56-91 .381 50 W1

Piñeiro. Redman. Tonight.

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