Saturday, September 23, 2006


AP photo -- Jeff Roberson

In 25 words or less: The big inning paid a visit to the Mariners, and a hamstring injury revisited Jose Contreras.

This one featured Gil Meche going up against Jose Contreras. Willie Bloomquist got the start at shortstop due to Yuniesky Betancourt still recovering from being hit on the knee by a pitch the night before. The Mariners looked to win their fourth straight and guarantee a non-losing series in Chicago for the weekend. A win on this night would also make it six wins in eight games. Furthermore, a win would get the Mariners to within four games of .500, a place they haven't been since the 116th game of the season (August 12th), which also functions as the third loss in the season-killing 11-game losing streak. Coming into the game, the Mariners had to go 8-1 to finish above .500, 7-2 to finish at .500, and 3-6 to make my 77-win preseason prediction look good. Though the following game piece does contain the in-game description of Contreras suffering the hamstring injury, an evil part of me wishes it was a groin pull so I could try to tie in some one-liner involving former Mariner and White Sox pitching coach Nardi Contreras, but I'm just not feeling too witty right now.

Originally I had a congratulatory note for Eric O'Flaherty for his first win in the big leagues. I'd seen it as such on ESPN's bottom line, but couldn't corroborate it with MLB.com's Gameday or with boxscores of ESPN.com and Yahoo. Everyone else had Emiliano Fruto getting credit for the win. After some digging, all I can come up with is that Fruto won due to Rule 10.19(c)(1).

Ichiro stroked the first pitch into rightcenter for a single. Adrian Beltre fell behind 0-2 before spanking a 1-2 liner at Iguchi's feet, and the second baseman put his glove down to catch it. Kenji Johjima rolled the second pitch to short to start a 6-4-3 double play. Contreras threw eight pitches.

Scott Podsednik was ahead 2-0 before whiffing on a high 2-2 fastball. Tadahito Iguchi nearly homered down the rightfield line on the first pitch, but bounced the second pitch to third, where Beltre threw to first, but Sexson uncharacteristically muffed the catch (error), enabling Iguchi to get to second. Jermaine Dye bounced to Lopez on the other side of second, and he got the out at first as Iguchi moved to third. Jim Thome nubbed a 1-2 pitch to where Betancourt normally would be, but the defense had been shifted, so the single scored Iguchi.
Paul Konerko flew out high and somewhat deep to Ichiro in rightcenter on the first pitch. Meche threw 17 pitches.

Raul Ibañez lasered a single through the right side. Richie Sexson took a 1-2 forkball in the dirt away that was blocked by Pierzynski but bounced far enough in front to move Ibañez to second. Sexson reached down to tag a low full-count breaking ball, lining it just over the centerfield fence. When he crossed the plate, it marked his 100th RBI of the season and his sixth 100-RBI season of his career.
Ben Broussard poked an outside pitch just over the head of Fields and into shallow left for a single. Jose Lopez whiffed on an 0-2 forkball over the outside corner. Chris Snelling looped a single into shallow leftcenter, and Broussard made a turn and broke for third as Podsednik came up throwing, and his throw got past, so Broussard was safe and Snelling got to second. Willie Bloomquist lined the second pitch into center for a single, scoring Broussard and moving Snelling to third (he moved back toward second while seeing the ball go into centerfield).
Ichiro served an 0-2 pitch into rightcenter for a single to score Snelling and Bloomquist, the latter of whom scored from first on a single thanks to some defensive lackadaisicality.
Beltre took the first pitch inside as Ichiro stole second base for his 42nd of the season and 36th straight without getting caught. Beltre whiffed on an 0-2 forkball inside. Johjima got ahead 2-0 before checkswinging on a full-count pitch and nubbing it to the right side, where Konerko fielded it and tossed toward what was going to be a covering Contreras (error), but Contreras pulled up and tumbled in a heap, reaggravating his right hamstring injury as Ichiro scored and Johjima reached second. Contreras left the game, and he had a pretty bad limp coming off the field, though he did so under his own power.

Brandon McCarthy came in for Contreras. Ibañez whiffed on a 2-2 high fastball. McCarthy threw five pitches.

Contreras' line: 1 2/3 innings, 6 runs, 7 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 42 pitches (28 strikes)

AJ Pierzynski drove the second pitch to rightfield, rolling it to the wall for a double. Josh Fields nubbed an 0-2 curve to second, moving Pierzynski to third. Juan Uribe smacked the second pitch, lining out to right, but Pierzynski tagged and scored.
Brian Anderson got ahead 2-0 and ended up flying out to Snelling in foul ground near the rightfield corner. Meche threw 12 pitches and had 29 through two.

Sexson got ahead 2-0 and absolutely crushed a full-count pitch about 16 rows or so into the leftfield seats. Crushed.
Broussard lined out to second on a 2-0 pitch. Lopez bounced a 1-2 curve to second. Snelling walked on four pitches. Bloomquist waved at an 0-2 pitch. McCarthy threw 21 pitches and had 26 total.

Podsednik bounced a 1-2 pitch to second. Iguchi was up 2-0 before taking a full-count deathly belt-high curve over the inner half. Dye walked on a full-count breaking ball down and off the plate away. Thome was ahead 2-0 and whiffed on a full-count fastball in the dirt. Meche threw 24 pitches and had 53 through three.

Ichiro tapped an 0-2 pitch to the right side, where McCarthy came off the mound to field it and underhand to first. Beltre grounded a 1-2 breaking ball to Fields behind the bag at third, who made the long throw over to first in time (picked by Konerko). Johjima drove a 1-2 pitch through the left side for a single. Ibañez bulleted the second pitch through the right side for a single, moving Johjima to second. Sexson had the hitters' counts before walking on a 3-1 pitch low and away, loading the bases. Pitching coach Don Cooper visited the mound. Broussard got ahead 2-0 but whiffed on a 2-2 low breaking ball. McCarthy threw 27 pitches and had 53 total.

Konerko rolled out to short. Pierzynski grounded hard to second. Fields walked on a high full-count fastball. Uribe unloaded on a hanging slider, putting it seven rows into the seats in left.
Anderson fell behind 0-2 and took a 1-2 curve over the inside corner. Meche threw 21 pitches and had 74 through four.

Lopez was ahead 3-1 before reaching down to plunk a full-count fastball into center for a single. Snelling bunted the first pitch (too) hard to third, and Lopez had to stay at second. Bloomquist worked a 1-2 count full before taking a curve over the outside corner that he thought was a ball. Ichiro was intentionally walked.

Dustin Hermanson came in for McCarthy. Beltre whiffed on a 1-2 low breaking ball. Hermanson threw four pitches.

McCarthy's line: 3 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, 70 pitches (40 strikes)

Podsednik hit a pop fly to left that landed at the base of the wall in leftcenter for a double. Iguchi slapped at an outside 1-2 pitch and lined out to a charging and diving Snelling. Dye dumped the first pitch into right for a single to score Podsednik. Rafael Chaves visited the mound.
Thome got ahead 3-0 before walking on a full-count high fastball to move Dye to second. Konerko reached outside and smacked a double to the wall in right, scoring Dye and moving Thome to third.

Eric O'Flaherty came in for Meche. Pierzynski popped a 2-2 pitch high to Johjima a couple feet in front of the plate.

Emiliano Fruto came in for O'Flaherty. Fields fell behind 0-2 and bounced a 1-2 pitch to short to end the huge jam. Fruto threw four pitches.

Meche's line: 4 1/3 innings, 6 runs (5 earned), 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, 92 pitches (54 strikes)
O'Flaherty's line: 1/3 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 5 pitches (3 strikes)

Johjima was nicked on the left elbow, which is conveniently covered with a piece of body armor. Ibañez watched with a 1-0 count as a pickoff throw got past Konerko, but it went off the first-base umpire so Johjima couldn't advance to second. Ibañez got ahead 2-0 and slapped a 2-2 pitch for a flyout to left. Sexson whiffed on a low 2-2 breaking ball.

Matt Thornton came in for Hermanson. Broussard drove a 1-2 pitch into the gap in rightcenter for a double to score Johjima.
Lopez grounded an 0-2 pitch to the left side that hit Broussard on his way to third. Thornton threw seven pitches.

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

Uribe took a 1-2 breaking ball over the outside corner. Anderson drove the second pitch to left, but Ibañez caught it just short of the track. Podsednik gronuded the second pitch down the first-base line to Sexson, who gloved it and dove, then rose to his fours and tagged the bag with his glove. Fruto threw nine pitches and had 13 total.

Snelling got ahead 2-0 before foul-tipping a 2-2 fastball into Pierzynski's glove behind the plate. Bloomquist flew out lazily to right. Ichiro grounded a 2-2 pitch to second.

Thornton's line: 1 1/3 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 21 pitches (14 strikes)

Iguchi showed bunt on the first pitch and instead took was nicked right above the left knee while trying to jump out of the way, though there was a debate as to whether he'd pulled back the bunt or not. He didn't, and Iguchi's at-bat continued with an 0-1 count. Iguchi fell behind 0-2 and flew out to center on a 1-2 pitch. Dye got ahead 2-0 but whiffed on a full-count breaking ball down over the inside corner. Thome walked on a full-count fastball inside. Konerko took a mishandled first-pitch breaking ball that skimmed across his left-elbow body armor, moving Thome to second.

George Sherrill came in for Fruto. Joe Crede, hitting for Pierzynski, bounced to short for a 6-4 force on Konerko at second.

Fruto's line: 2 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 31 pitches (20 strikes)
Sherrill's line: 1/3 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 4 pitches (2 strikes)

David Riske came in for Thornton and Sandy Alomar, Jr. came in to catch. Beltre fell behind 0-2 and whipped a 1-2 pitch into center for a single. Johjima bounced to third, where Fields threw to second for the out on Beltre, but Iguchi's throw to first was very high (error) and bounced into the camera well, allowing Johjima to move to second.

Neal Cotts came in for Riske. Ibañez bounced the first pitch to second, moving Johjima to third. Sexson was intentionally walked. Broussard had the hitters' counts before taking a pitch around the tailbone to load the bases. Lopez drove the second pitch into leftcenter for a single, scoring Johjima and Sexson and moving Broussard to third. TJ Bohn was announced as a pinch-hitter for Snelling.

Charlie Haeger came in for Cotts. Bohn whiffed on a high 2-2 breaking ball. Haeger threw five pitches.

Riske's line: 1/3 inning, 1 run, 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 9 pitches (7 strikes)
Cotts' line: 1/3 inning, 1 run, 1 hit, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, 12 pitches (3 strikes)

Jon Huber came in for Sherrill. Fields grounded a second-pitch slider to third. Uribe bounced the second pitch to short. Anderson got ahead 2-0 and whiffed badly on a full-count breaking ball in the dirt away, though Johjima tagged Anderson before the latter could figure out what to do.

Huber's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 10 pitches (7 strikes)

Bloomquist had the hitters' counts before taking a 3-1 knuckleball up and in. Ichiro watched a 2-2 pitch over the outside corner, though Bloomquist stole second base, barely getting his left hand on the bag before Uribe could tag him. Beltre walked on four pitches. Johjima fell behind 0-2 and looped a 1-2 pitch to Iguchi just past the dirt into shallow center with the infield fly rule called. Ibañez banged a 2-0 pitch through the right side for a single that scored Bloomquist and moved Beltre to second.
Sexson whiffed on a 1-2 high knuckleball.

Haeger's line: 1 1/3 innings, 1 run, 1 hit, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, 31 pitches (15 strikes)

JJ Putz came in for Huber. Podsednik took a 1-2 fastball at thigh level over the inside corner. Iguchi rolled a 2-0 pitch to second. Dye whiffed on a 2-2 fastball.

Putz' line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 15 pitches (10 strikes)

Gameball: Richie Sexson.
That first home run he hit in this game was a fairly typical-looking Sexson homer. That second homer, however, was truly a thing of beauty. Usually, Sexson has a fairly short follow-through after hitting the ball, but that wasn't the case after he smacked homer number two. A textbook Sexson homer doesn't necessarily look like it's going to leave the yard once it makes contact with Sexson's bat unless you've gotten used to what a yardball looks like when it leaves the bat of Big Richie. However, I've never seen Sexson just unload on a ball like he did on that homer in the third. Goodness, that thing was rocked. Sexson last went hitless in consecutive games on August 1st and 2nd. Since then, he is 56-for-162 (.346) with 17 doubles, eight homers, 29 RBIs, 23 walks, and 38 strikeouts. His slugging percentage? It's .599, which is better than any single month for him this season, and that .599 is over a span of about a month and a half. To really make that stat nuts, you can say that Sexson is slugging .649 in September. This game also ensured his sixth career 100-RBI season, so congrats on that.

Goat: Gil Meche.
The funny and/or maddening thing about this is that I thought Meche really had his curveball working early on in the game. He needed better command of his fastball, though, which was wandering a bit outside the strike zone. The way Meche's curve is working doesn't necessarily indicate how well he's doing as a whole on the mound (I did just talk about his fastball), and it certainly didn't translate into results as he walked three hitters in his short outing and he wasn't too efficient in terms of pitch count. He went to full counts on the final three hitters he faced in the third inning en route to a 24-pitch inning. He threw 21 pitches in the fourth as well. I've maintained that I'd be all for the Mariners gutting the four-fifths of their rotation not named Hernandez. Of course, no one else would be stupid enough to take the contract of Jarrod Washburn, and I realize that, so they should gut the other three-fifths of the rotation. What I'm trying to say is that even with some smidgens of improvement from Meche, I still don't want him back for 2007. Of course, if the Mariners hold a gun to my head and say I need to choose between Joel Piñeiro and Meche, I'm taking Meche every time. I'll be infuriated if I see Piñeiro in a Mariner uniform next season.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2001 110-44 .714 -- W4
2002 88-66 .571 22 L2
2003 88-66 .571 22 W1
2000 86-68 .558 24 L2
2006 75-79 .487 35 W4
2005 67-87 .435 43 W1
2004 59-95 .383 51 L1

Hernandez. Buehrle. Today.

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