Tuesday, September 19, 2006


AP photo -- Tony Gutierrez

[posted in full Thu ~2:14a]

In 25 words or less: A .500 season isn't mathematically out of the question, but in reality, it's out of the question.

This one featured Felix Hernandez going up against Kevin Millwood. Hernandez was making his first start in eight days and came in having thrown 174 innings for the season, with the team heavily intent on keeping him under 200 innings. The Mariners were still trying to win consecutive games for the first time since their four-game streak a week and a half earlier. They had failed on two previous occasions, leaving single wins on the schedule. Before the win the night before, the Mariners had lost five of their last seven games. The Mariners came in seven games ahead of the pace of the 2005 team and had already guaranteed a better season record than that team. They also hoped to get over .500, but such a feat would have required the Mariners to go 11-2 in their final 13 games. A 12-3 finish would get them to a .500 record for the season. Nonetheless, the team had already assured themselves of the best season recordwise since 2003's 93-69 team. Lest we forget, that team was the second straight 93-win Mariner team to miss the playoffs.

Ichiro rolled a 2-2 pitch to first. Adrian Beltre one-hopped the rightfield wall, but the ball came back quickly to Cruz, who gunned straight to second, where Young turned and threw to Teixeira since Beltre veered a little too far from first as he only got a single out of it and was nearly thrown out. Kenji Johjima lined out to a running Lee in left on the second pitch. Raul Ibañez got ahead 2-0 before walking on a full-count pitch up and away, moving Beltre to second. Richie Sexson flew out to Cruz in rightcenter on the second pitch. Millwood threw 19 pitches.

Gary Matthews, Jr. bounced the second pitch to short. Michael Young softly grounded a 1-2 pitch to short. Mark Teixeira failed to check his swing on a 1-2 breaking ball down and in. Hernandez threw 11 pitches.

Ben Broussard flew out to Matthews in leftcenter on the second pitch. Yuniesky Betancourt flew out to fairly deep center on the second pitch. Chris Snelling fell behind 0-2 before taking a 1-2 belly-high fastball for strike three. Millwood threw eight pitches and had 27 through two.

Carlos Lee took a 2-2 knee-high fastball. Hank Blalock was ahead 2-0 before taking a 2-2 slider over the outside corner. Mark DeRosa walked on four pitches. Ian Kinsler singled the second pitch through the left side to move DeRosa to second. Gerald Laird got ahead 3-0 but whiffed on a full-count curve low and off the plate outside. Hernandez threw 22 pitches and had 33 through two.

Jose Lopez flew out to Matthews in rightcenter on a 2-2 pitch. Ichiro popped the second pitch to Teixeira in foul ground on the right side. Beltre got ahead 2-0 and grounded a 2-2 pitch hard to short, where Young snagged it and did a spin move before throwing to first. Millwood threw 12 pitches and had 39 through three.

Nelson Cruz chopped the second pitch high to the left side, where Beltre snatched it out of the air and threw in time to first. Matthews hit a hard grounder to third on a 3-1 pitch, and it ate him up, though it was scored a single. Young poked a ball toward the rightfield corner for a double, moving Matthews to third. Teixeira took a 2-2 fastball over the inner half. Lee stroked a hanging first-pitch breaking ball to the wall in leftcenter for a double to score Matthews and Young.
Blalock bounced a double into the rightfield corner to score Lee.
DeRosa took an 0-2 belt-high fastball for strike three. Hernandez threw 22 pitches and had 55 through three.

Johjima flew out to fairly deep left on a 2-2 pitch. Ibañez lined the first pitch to Lee a step short of the leftfield track. Sexson took a low full-count fastball on the tenth pitch of the at-bat. Broussard took a 2-2 mother of a curve for strike three. Millwood threw 21 pitches and had 60 through four.

Kinsler bounced a 2-2 pitch to third. Laird fell behind 0-2 before taking a 2-2 pitch over the outer half. Cruz bounced a 2-0 pitch to third. Hernandez threw 15 pitches and had 70 through four.

Betancourt got down 0-2 before bouncing a 1-2 pitch to short. Snelling grounded a 2-2 pitch to first. Lopez grounded the second pitch to a sliding Kinsler up the middle. Millwood threw 13 pitches and had 73 through five.

Matthews got ahead 3-1 before drilling a single to rightfield on a full count. Young worked a 1-2 count for a walk to move Matthews to second. Teixeira bounced the first pitch to Lopez in the right-side hole, who threw to second to try to get the out, but it was low and Betancourt had it go past (fielder's choice, E6), enabling Matthews to score. On the same play, Betancourt caught up to the ball and tried to throw out Matthews at home, but that was late, then Johjima threw to third to catch Young trying to advance.
Lee whiffed on a high 1-2 fastball. Blalock smacked a 1-2 pitch through the right side for a single, moving Teixeira to second. Chaves visited the mound. DeRosa got ahead 2-0 and took a 2-2 curve over the inside corner.

Hernandez' line: 5 innings, 4 runs, 7 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts, 98 pitches (60 strikes)

Ichiro worked a 1-2 count full before popping to Teixeira near the first-base coaches' box. Beltre laced a 1-2 line drive to the right side, but Kinsler climbed the ladder and speared it. Johjima bounced the second pitch to third. Millwood threw 13 pitches and had 86 through six.

Travis Chick came in for Hernandez. Kinsler flew out to center on the second pitch. Laird walked on four pitches. Cruz got ahead 3-1 before taking a full-count 58-foot pitch to move Laird to second. Matthews flew out to left on a full count. Young grounded the second pitch deep in the hole on the left side, where Betancourt nearly threw Young out at first, but the bases were now loaded. Chaves visited the mound. Teixeira had the hitters' counts and walked on a 3-1 low pitch, forcing Laird across.
Lee popped to Sexson halfway down the first-base line. Chick threw 30 pitches.

Ibañez lined a ball into centerfield that Matthews had go off his glove and toward the wall for a double for the Mariners' second hit of the game. Sexson rolled a 2-2 pitch slowly to DeRosa charging in from third, and Sexson was able to leg it out as Ibañez got to third. Broussard took a 1-2 pitch under his elbows for strike three. Betancourt popped the second pitch to deep rightfield to score Ibañez.
Snelling knocked the first pitch into left for a single to move Sexson to second. Pitching coach Mark Connor visited the mound. Lopez worked a 1-2 count full before whiffing on a fastball inside.

Blalock walked on a 3-1 pitch down and away. DeRosa bounced the first pitch to Beltre just fair near the third-base bag, who threw a bit up the line to first, but Sexson stepped back and tagged DeRosa coming down the line at first as Blalock moved to second. Kinsler walked on a 3-1 pitch inside. Laird was ahead 2-0 before popping to Betancourt in shallow left on a full count.

Eric O'Flaherty came in for Chick. Cruz roped a homer four rows into the seats in left, exponentially increasing Chick's ERA.
Matthews blistered the first pitch into center for a single. Young took the second pitch inside and it got through Johjima to the backstop, moving Matthews to second. Young worked a 1-2 count full before flying out to Snelling at the rightfield track. O'Flaherty threw 11 pitches.

Chick's line: 1 2/3 innings, 3 runs, 1 hit, 5 walks, 0 strikeouts, 47 pitches (18 strikes)

Rick Bauer came in for Millwood. Ichiro was down 0-2 and grounded a 1-2 pitch to second, where Young backhanded and threw to first in time. Beltre lashed the second pitch into center for a single. Johjima grounded hard to third on the first pitch, and it turned into a 5-4-3 double play.

Bauer's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 8 pitches (6 strikes)

Teixeira worked a 1-2 count full but whiffed on an inside pitch. Lee stroked the first pitch into left for a single. Blalock was up 2-0 and flew out to Lopez on the right side. DeRosa rolled a 2-0 pitch to short. O'Flaherty threw 14 pitches and had 25 total.

O'Flaherty's line: 1 1/3 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 25 pitches (14 strikes)

CJ Wilson came in for Bauer. Ibañez fell behind 0-2 and whiffed on a 1-2 pitch. Sexson mashed the second pitch to the wall in the deepest part of rightcenter for a double. Eduardo Perez was announced as a pinch-hitter for Broussard.

Scott Feldman came in for Wilson. Greg Dobbs, hitting for Perez, bounced the second pitch to short. Betancourt grounded a 2-2 pitch to third.

Wilson's line: 1/3 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 6 pitches (4 strikes)
Feldman's line: 2/3 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 7 pitches (5 strikes)

Gameball: Richie Sexson.
The bad thing is that he's been stuck on 29 homers since September 8th. The good news is that he's slugging .613 for the month, which would be his highest for any month this season if it held up. How is he slugging so high without the homers? His previous high for doubles in a month was seven (twice) until this month, in which he so far has nine. In addition, he's 23-for-62 at the plate this month, good for a stellar .371 clip, his best for a month since the .304 August. In a somewhat related note, August 1st and 2nd were the last time Sexson went hitless in consecutive games. Since then, he's gone 51-for-147 (.347) with 16 doubles, six homers, 26 RBIs, 17 walks, and 37 strikeouts. His season batting average after the game on August 2nd was .223. He had another 0-for-4 three days later to bump him back down to .221. He's at .256 after this game, which is incredible. He was at .218 at the All-Star break and his average was below .220 for only the next game and has been above ever since. This was a guy that was hitting .198 as late as May 24th, which was 48 games into the Mariners' season.

Goat: Travis Chick.
Somebody more evil might suggest that based on this performance, the Mariners traded Eddie Guardado to the Reds and got someone younger who does about the same thing that Guardado did just before he left Seattle. One thing's for sure -- this outing was the polar opposite of the one from five nights earlier, when Chick tossed three shutout innings of four-hit ball, walking one and striking out one. In this game, he was nowhere near as good and/or lucky, going 1 2/3 innings and giving up three runs on one hit. The main problem was that he walked as many hitters (five) as he got outs. He threw 29 balls and 18 strikes in his 47 total pitches. If I were him, I almost think I'd have wanted the bad outing to come in my big-league debut and the good outing to come next rather than the way it's unfolded. Surely this doesn't leave too good a taste in the mouths of Mike Hargrove or Rafael Chaves. On another note, there are certain pitchers whose deliveries make me really uncomfortable and/or cringe, and Chick has joined that club. He doesn't look like he's doing too much with his legs during his motion. The whole thing seems slow except for the arm, and it just looks like a shoulder exploder to me, but that's just what I think.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 106-44 .707 -- L4
2002 86-64 .573 20 W2
2003 86-64 .573 20 L2
2000 84-66 .560 22 W6
2006 71-79 .473 35 L1
2005 65-85 .433 41 W1
2004 56-94 .373 50 L3

Washburn. Volquez. Tonight.

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