Wednesday, April 04, 2007


AP photo -- Elaine Thompson

[posted in full ~11:51p]

In 25 words or less: Any pitching performance that could be considered offensive was quashed by an offense that put eight runs on the board.

This one featured Joe Blanton going up against Jarrod Washburn. With Felix Hernandez having thrown so well the night before, it was hard to temper the excitement 24 hours later, knowing that the four other starters in the Mariners' rotation aren't Felix Hernandez, and that Joe Blanton and Rich Harden were the two remaining Oakland starting pitchers in the series. Still, the thought of a second win was truly alluring. In fact, the Mariners have never won two straight to start the season in this decade. In a smaller scope, a win would equal the Mariners' total win output last season against Oakland, which is sad. The last time the Mariners took a series from the A's was in September of 2005. A second win would only make the Mariners 2-0 on the season, which isn't much, but it's a whole hell of a lot better than starting out 0-2. The roof was closed before the game. The Athletics wore their spring training tops. Okay, they're the alternate jerseys, I just like to call any jersey that's a color other than white or gray a spring training top. Big ups to Marine Sgt. Eddie Wright delivering the ball to the mound for the first pitch. That was good stuff.

Unfortunately, MLB.tv didn't come back to us with another night of Seattle-area commercials, which was sad. Instead, we get the Arkanoid/Breakout "Commercial is in progress" animation. It's only been one day and I'm already sick of it.

Jason Kendall nubbed one off of Washburn and up the middle, where Lopez ranged to his right to make the putout. Shannon Stewart took an 0-2 pitch off the outside corner before popping out high to center on a 2-2 count. Milton Bradley popped a 2-0 pitch down the rightfield line that went just past the reach of Sexson in foul territory, probably one he should have had, though he did have to negotiate the presences of Lopez and Guillen also converging on the ball. Bradley ended up shoveling his full-count pitch into shallow center for a single. Mike Piazza walked on four pitches to move Bradley to second. Eric Chavez whiffed over his second pitch to snap Washburn's streak of balls (who laughed?) at five. Chavez flew out to Ichiro in fairly deep leftcenter on a 2-2 pitch. Washburn threw 23 pitches in an inning that seemingly never ended.

Ichiro tapped a 1-2 pitch to a drawn-in Chavez at third. Adrian Beltre got too much under a pitch, flying out to Bradley in fairly deep rightcenter. Jose Vidro bounced up the first-base line to Swisher behind the bag. Blanton threw 11 pitches.

Nick Swisher chopped a 2-2 pitch to Beltre in front of the bag at third, and he threw to first, where Sexson took the throw away from the bag but had Swisher run into the tag. Bobby Kielty had both hitters' counts and walked on a low 3-1 pitch. Bobby Crosby got ahead 3-1 and went the other way, singling a full-count pitch over the glove of Lopez and into rightcenter to move Kielty to third. Mark Ellis flew out deep enough to right to score Kielty from third.
Kendall watched with a 1-0 count as Washburn picked Crosby off of first. Washburn threw 25 pitches and had 48 through two.

Raul Ibañez ripped the second pitch right to Swisher, who had it eat him up and bounce away for a single. Richie Sexson worked a 1-2 count full and got the wood out, homering into the first row in rightfield.
Jose Guillen whiffed on a high 1-2 fastball. Kenji Johjima stung a ball through the mound that went off of Blanton and rolled back, where Ellis ranged to his right to glove it and make the play. Yuniesky Betancourt was up 3-0 before grounding hard to third, where Chavez got dirty going to his knees to his left to make the grab. Blanton threw 21 pitches and had 32 through two.

Kendall broke his bat on a second-pitch nubber back to the mound. Stewart flew out lazily to center on a 1-2 pitch. Bradley popped an 0-2 pitch in front of the mound, where Sexson called off everyone less vertically inclined and made the catch. Washburn threw nine pitches and had 57 through three.

Jose Lopez rolled to short on the second pitch. Ichiro bounced out to Swisher near the bag at first. Beltre couldn't check his swing on a high 0-2 fastball. Blanton threw nine pitches and had 41 through three.

Piazza got his arms extended on a decent pitch to hit but flew out to left on the second pitch. Chavez whiffed on a highish 1-2 change. Swisher walked on a full count. Kielty was down 0-2 and rolled a 2-2 pitch to Lopez, who went the short way and tossed to Betancourt for the out on Swisher. Washburn threw 18 pitches and had 75 through four.

Vidro rolled a 2-0 pitch to short. Ibañez whiffed on a 1-2 fastball. Sexson took a 3-1 pitch off the plate outside that was called a strike before whiffing on a change off the plate away. Blanton threw 13 pitches and had 54 through four.

Crosby grounded to Sexson, who tossed to a covering Washburn at first. Ellis grounded a full-count pitch routinely to third. Kendall rode a fly ball for which Ichiro had to go a few steps back and to his right before making the catch. Washburn threw 14 pitches and had 89 through five.

Guillen drilled the first pitch, reaching the leftfield wall in front of the manual scoreboard on one bounce for a double. Johjima dumped a pitch into rightfield that Kielty was short for on the dive, and it bounced off him into foul territory in rightfield, allowing Guillen to score from second and Johjima ended up on second at the end of the play.
Betancourt tapped the first pitch back to the mound, but Blanton got it and ran at Johjima off of second, eventually recording the out, though Betancourt snuck into second as all this was going on. Lopez popped an 0-2 pitch high to Ellis behind the mound. Ichiro served a 3-1 pitch past the glove side of Crosby and into leftcenter for a single to easily score Betancourt from second.
Beltre whiffed on a high 0-2 fastball. Blanton threw 16 pitches and had 70 through five.

Stewart flew out lazily to center. Bradley absolutely unloaded on a belt-high second-pitch fastball, depositing it into the Mariner bullpen.
Piazza golfed a 2-2 pitch into shallow left, but Betancourt moved way back and nearly was run into by Ibañez, but Betancourt made the catch. Chavez fell behind 0-2 and took a 1-2 fastball probably six inches off the plate outside that was called a strike. I'll take it. Washburn threw 15 pitches and had 104 through six.

Washburn's line: 6 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts, 104 pitches (62 strikes)

Vidro was ahead 2-0 but nonetheless swung over a 2-2 breaking ball down and in. Ibañez whiffed on a high 1-2 offspeed pitch. Sexson flew out high to right on the second pitch. Blanton threw 11 pitches and had 81 through six.

Julio Mateo came in for Washburn. Swisher stung the second pitch over the right side for a single. Kielty fell behind 0-2 and bounced a 2-2 pitch to the right side that was too close to first base for Lopez to turn two, so he went to first for the easy out as Swisher moved to second. Crosby flew out to right on the second pitch, then Guillen tried to show off his strong arm by throwing to third, and he nearly airmailed everyone, though Betancourt got a glove on it and Beltre had to scurry to run it down. Ellis laced a single into shallow left to score Swisher. This was enough to warrant a visit to the mound for Rafael Chaves.
Kendall clubbed a double to the base of the wall in rightcenter to score Ellis, and even more easily after Guillen couldn't come up with the ball cleanly. How does everyone feel about Julio Mateo?
Stewart weakly lined an 0-2 pitch to second. What an agonizing inning.

Mateo's line: 1 inning, 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 17 pitches (14 strikes)

Blanton came out to warm up, but he was pulled.

Kiko Calero came in for Blanton. Guillen hit a ball nearly off the ground to short that Crosby got to, but his throw pulled Swisher off the bag, though the play went as a single. Johjima got too far under a pitch, popping high to Crosby in shallow center. Betancourt got a hold of a 2-0 pitch, cranking it into the Mariner pen. A power surge from Betancourt! Whod've thunk it?
Lopez poked the next pitch into shallow right for a single.

Justin Duchscherer came in for Calero. Ichiro drove the second pitch into the gap in rightcenter, nearly bouncing it into the stands, but it's a good thing it didn't get into the stands, or Ichiro would have only had a double instead of the triple he actually got. Anyway, Lopez scored on the play. Insurance!
Beltre flew out to Kielty in somewhat shallow right, but Ichiro took off from third anyway and the throw home was a bit up the line.
Vidro bounced the first pitch to Swisher, who played the chop and underhanded to a covering Duchscherer.

Blanton's line: 6 innings, 4 runs, 5 hits, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts, 81 pitches (54 strikes)
Calero's line: 1/3 inning, 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 10 pitches (6 strikes)
Duchscherer's line: 2/3 inning, 1 run, 1 hit, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 4 pitches (4 strikes)

Chris Reitsma came in for Mateo. Bradley flew out routinely to center on a 2-2 pitch. Piazza took a 93mph 2-2 pitch over the outer half for strike three. Chavez fell behind 0-2, took a 1-2 pitch just high, and ended up popping to Johjima in foul ground after golfing too much on a changeup.

Reitsma's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 15 pitches (9 strikes)

Alan Embree came in for Duchscherer. Ibañez tapped a 3-1 pitch back to the mound for an easy 1-3 putout. It was at this point that Brandon Morrow started throwing in the pen, possibly to come in with a four-run lead or more. Sexson popped a 2-2 pitch to Ellis in very shallow right. Guillen popped a 1-2 pitch to Swisher in foul ground, who backpedaled and made the catch in front of the rolled-up tarp before falling onto it. Embree threw 14 pitches.

Embree's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 14 pitches (8 strikes)

Jason Ellison came in for Guillen to play right, and Brandon Morrow, making his Major League debut, came in for Reitsma. Swisher walked on four pitches. Kielty spanked a 2-2 pitch over the left side for a single, moving Swisher to second. Chaves visited the mound. Crosby got ahead 2-0 but ended up flying out to Lopez backing into shallow rightcenter as the runners held. Ellis took a first-pitch fastball a couple feet outside that nearly evaded Johjima. Ellis put a good jolt into a fly ball, getting it to Ichiro in fairly deep leftcenter, enough to move Swisher to third (luckily the park is big and the air is thick). Kendall watched a first-pitch ball as Kielty scooted to second on indifference. Kendall rolled a 1-2 pitch to second to end Morrow's Major League debut.

Morrow's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, 21 pitches (10 strikes)

Gameball: Ichiro.
It was more of a banner night for Yuniesky Betancourt and Brandon Morrow, so I'll give the gameball to Ichiro, who had a multi-hit game that wasn't going to grab a lot of headlines. Of course, I realize full well that this gives me a chance to talk at length about Ichiro, so off I go. Ever since Mike Cameron left, I thought Ichiro should have been moved to center. Randy Winn was a solid leftfielder, no question, but it only took about three games into the 2004 season (a slew of doubles in the gaps) for everyone to realize how much ground Mike Cameron covered (in combination with his predecessor, they spoiled Seattle fans with great centerfield play for over a decade). I got into an argument with a guy in the Richie Sexson autograph line at the 2005 FanFest over Ichiro's placement in the outfield, with the other guy taking Ichiro in rightfield (put the best arm there) and me taking Ichiro in center (covers the most ground). Of course, the Mariners found a way for both this year, since Jose Guillen has always had a rocket of an arm. Onto something somewhat related, my snap judgment on the Ichiro contract situation is to let him walk since the team's done nothing (sans 2001) with him. On the other hand, I ask myself where the Mariners (especially with current management) would get another leadoff hitter worth any salt. The Mariners had years of lackluster leadoff hitting before Ichiro came along. Maybe Ichiro can walk and Adam Jones can set the world on fire or something. I just know they'd have to throw a ton of money at Ichiro, and there are still holes on this team.

Goat: Julio Mateo.
Who remembers old Mateo? Who remembers 6th or 7th inning, shutdown Mateo? Yes, those were the days. Now, it's no telling what you're going to get, just that the ratio of good to bad won't be anywhere near what you might want or expect out of a pitcher in this role. Here, Mateo was brought into the seventh to protect a three-run lead and hopefully bridge the gap from Washburn to someone in the back end of the pen or directly to JJ Putz himself. Instead, Mariner fans bore witness to 21 pitches of pure agony. A root canal may be been more preferable than watching what unfolded in the top of the seventh. Luckily for Mateo, the Mariner bats also got stretched along with the fans after the top half of the inning. I'd have to do a pretty thorough check through the archives to find out whether or not I've ever given the goat to the winning pitcher. I guess it wouldn't be so bad if Mateo wasn't what he was three or four years ago if they had long relief options other than Sean White or a Arthur Rhodes with the tank much closer to E than it used to be. I'm just not too enthused about the long relief situation on this team, especially given that four of the five pitchers in the starting rotation aren't named Felix Hernandez.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2007 2-0 1.000 -- W2
2000 1-1 .500 -- W1
2001 1-1 .500 -- L1
2002 1-1 .500 -- W1
2005 1-1 .500 -- L1
2006 1-1 .500 -- W1
2003 0-2 .000 1 L2
2004 0-2 .000 1 L2

I guess the most surprising thing for me is that no team this decade has started out winning their first two games, not even the 2001 team. Of course, that 2001 team got off to a 20-4 start, but 2-0 is at least good for a series win. Against Oakland. The A's are a team against whom the Mariners have been historically horrid for just about every year I can remember other than 2001 and maybe a couple years surrounding it. I remember being back at my parents' house one midweek summer afternoon when Dennis Eckersley came into the game to close and the Mariners were just hopeless. There was nothing they could do, the game was in the bag. In this game, I figured once Mateo blew the three-run lead, the A's bullpen would hold Seattle down and scratch out a couple of runs for the win.

The bottom of the seventh inning was the eventful one, needless to say. Jose Guillen got aboard on the throw that pulled Swisher off the bag at first, so the inning started innocently enough. Then after Kenji Johjima blew the bunt, Mike Hargrove put on the hit-and-run, which I think is a bit flawed. Johjima has a pretty good tendency to pull the ball. With the hit-and-run on and a righty at the plate, you want someone that can ground the ball through the hole on the right side. To me, this is doubly bad in the hands of Johjima because he pulls the ball, and if you get a ground ball, the most it'd do would be to freeze that runner at second, but if it's hit too hard, it's a ground-ball double play. Johjima flew out, of course, and Guillen ended up having enough time to scurry along back to first base.

Right after Johjima blew the hit-and-run, of course, Yuniesky Betancourt got a fastball up in the zone and turned on it to all but win the game. Sure, he hit eight homers last year, but you see a homer like that and wonder how much he might have in him this season. It also makes me wonder...if Betancourt matches the numbers he had last season, I don't think there's any way he stays in the eighth slot all year. For instance, until Jose Vidro unsucks, I think the lineup is going to get shuffled or tweaked, and maybe you might see Betancourt moved up in the lineup. I just have a feeling he'd be better utilized in a spot other than eighth. While we're on the topic of lineups, moving Jose Lopez to the third slot last season was great for Adrian Beltre, sure, but boy, was it bad for Lopez, who underwent a half-season-long power outage.

Brandon Morrow made his Major League debut, and 'twas a jittery one. Quite the adventure, it was. He threw 11 balls and ten strikes, but the first four of those balls were to the first hitter, possibly the leftover work of the now-infamous Vegas Club Sandwich. You know how people saw Justin Verlander the first time and said he throws an "easy" 101mph, then you see him and pretty much confirm it for yourself? To me, Morrow looks like he throws an easy 94-96mph. I think if he stays up for more than a month and a half, then that'll just smack at the desperation that management has toward making the playoffs. If Morrow gets lit up in two straight appearances, I'll be intrigued to see what kind of stance Hargrove takes. Morrow's going to take his lumps, and hopefully the fact that it'll be on the Major League level won't shake his confidence too much. Or maybe they just decide to ride him out for a year like they did with Felix and put on the kid gloves in terms of innings. I just get the feeling that I'd rather hear of him tearing it up in West Tenn (weird not saying San Antonio anymore) or Tacoma before hearing that he's struggling in the bigs.

I guess two other tidbits I want to mention are that Washburn stretched it out when I wouldn't think he would, and the Mariner bats managed to throw eight runs onto the board.
-- Jarrod Washburn had thrown 48 pitches through two innings, and it seemed at the time he'd be lucky to get out of the fifth inning before the bullpen would have to take over. Still, he managed to get through six innings with what doesn't look like too bad of a line, other than the walks. It looks like six innings of three-hit ball, but if you take the walks into consideration, the outing is a bit less attractive. It's early in the season, but since it's Mike Hargrove managing this team, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that two straight starting pitchers have both broken 100 pitches in their starts. I guess I'm too used to the first two turns through the rotation being done with pitch counts in the 90s or so before letting it loose.
-- the Mariner bats put eight runs onto the board the night after they only scratched out four hits (but got four runs). Only two hitters in the lineup went hitless, and they were Jose Vidro and Adrian Beltre. Hitters 7-8-9-1 combined to go 5-for-13 with four RBIs and a combined cycle. Hitters 4-5-6 combined for 4-for-12 with two RBIs, a double, and a homer, but also four strikeouts.

Well, one more win and it's a sweep. Is it realistic? Probably not, and the hope goes away once you realize who's pitching for Oakland tomorrow.

Harden. Batista. Tonight.

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