Thursday, April 05, 2007


AP photo -- Elaine Thompson

In 25 words or less: Against Harden, the Mariners found it incredibly, um, difficult to put together any offense. Against Batista, the A's had a field day.

This one featured Victoria, BC's own Rich Harden going up against Miguel Batista. Unlike the night before, the roof was open to start the game. For Opening Day (on archived feed, anyway), MLB.tv left the local commercials on the telecast. Last night, I watched live feed and got no commercials, but with the addition of the soon-to-be-very-hated MLB.tv Arkanoid/Breakout animation commercial break thing. Today, it's one step worse -- no on-screen graphics. Boo. Congratulations to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who signed a three-year contract extension with a fourth-year option earlier today. He's come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. It wasn't too long ago when were wondering whether Jose Lopez would pan out at short and we might have actually been entertaining the thought of Mike Morse at short, then we read a little blurb about some Cuban defector who could play shortstop, but I know I figured I'd believe it when I saw it. Thus, with the exception of Jose Lopez, the Mariners' infield defense is locked up for the next couple years.

Before we get on with the game post here, I must say I'm almost looking forward to the nightly I'm-om-a-diet laments of Dave Sims when he has to read off the promo for the All-Star Suite and they start showing footage of the food that's served in the suite.

Jason Kendall was ahead 2-0 before flying out high to Ichiro in rightcenter. Shannon Stewart also started out 2-0 and lined a 2-2 pitch that shorthopped Batista's glove, but he knocked it down and made the play to first, after which Johjima made the obligatory mound visit to make sure everything was okay on Batista. Milton Bradley bunted too strongly on the first pitch, tapping back to the mound for an easy out. Batista threw ten pitches.

The FSNNW in-crowd camera showed a youngster wearing a Shaun Alexander jersey. Not that I need any more anticipation for next season's Seahawks or anything. I've pretty much used the last couple years of Mariner baseball for filler before the NFL season, but I'm hoping this baseball season is more enjoyable and meaningful. I want to feel like my three-hour-per-day investment in the Mariners is paying off.

Ichiro reached a bit down on the second pitch, looping it to Bradley in shallow rightcenter. Adrian Beltre couldn't square up a 1-2 pitch on the outer half, popping up to shallow right. Jose Vidro bounced out to second on the second pitch. Harden threw eight pitches.

The camera to the break showed the view of Elliott Bay from one of the overlooks at Safeco Field. Normally this isn't awe-inspiring, but if you haven't been in the Northwest for nearly two years, it's more so.

Mike Piazza ripped a first-pitch fastball into left for a single. Eric Chavez broke his bat but drilled the first pitch nonetheless, rattling it into the rightfield corner for a double, moving Piazza to third. Nick Swisher took a first pitch that nearly got away from Johjima, after which the latter visited the mound, though probably more so for signals with runners in scoring position. Swisher got ahead 2-0 and watched as a balk was called on the 2-2 pitch, allowing Piazza to cross the plate and Chavez to move to third.
Swisher whiffed on a full-count highish cut fastball as Batista did some moderate damage control. Bobby Crosby tapped the second pitch toward the mound and Batista pounced on it, but it was ruled foul. On the next pitch (0-2), Batista brushed Crosby back, but not far enough as it grazed Crosby, putting him on first. Travis Buck worked a 1-2 count for a walk to load the bases. Mark Ellis got a hitter-friendly second pitch over the outer half that went to the wall in leftcenter on a couple of hops for a bases-clearing double.
Kendall got ahead 3-1 and threw his bat at a full-count breaking ball away, dumping it into shallow right for a single to move Ellis to third. As Rafael Chaves visited the mound to see what in tarnation was going on with Batista, I must mention that the train whistles were blaring a lot louder and a lot more often during this half-inning. Stewart was ahead 2-0 but took a 2-2 curve over the inner half for strike three (Johjima's target was on the outside corner). Bradley broke his bat on the second pitch, parachuting it into rightcenter for a single to score Ellis and move Kendall to third.
Piazza looped the first pitch into shallow right, where Lopez moved back to snowcone the ball and make the catch. Batista's house of horrors consisted of 35 pitches, and he had 45 through two.

In the span of time it took to play out the second inning, Batista could have written a novel about how badly it went. It's a game like this that reminds you to check whether your middle relievers are well rested. Thank goodness the Mariners have an off day after this game so the bullpen will get some rest after this one, no matter what happens.

Raul Ibañez rode an 0-2 pitch to deep center, but Bradley easily ran it down just short of the warning track. Richie Sexson got ahead 2-0, fouled one off, then whiffed over two offspeed pitches. Jose Guillen grounded to short on the first pitch. Harden threw nine pitches for 17 through two.

YES! NIEHAUS TALKED TO CLYDE THE AFLAC DUCK TO START THE THIRD! Granted, there wasn't a semi-unintentional hilarious moment that usually comes with the Niehaus-Clyde introduction, but I always looked forward to this moment in the game.

Chavez popped high to Sexson near the first-base coaches' box in foul ground. Swisher grounded a bit hard to first, and Sexson took the high hop before taking it to the bag. Crosby tapped a ground ball along the third-base line that looked as if it would go foul but bounced fair, that leveled off at a lip of grass in front of the third-base bag, staying fair as Beltre had stayed back on the ball; end result was that Crosby got aboard with an infield single. Buck whiffed over a 2-2 change. Batista's less laborious inning saw him throw 13 pitches for a total of 58 through three.

Kenji Johjima whiffed over a 1-2 breaking ball. Yuniesky Betancourt scorched a liner to the left side, but Chavez moved a step or two to his left and threw his glove up in time to snare it. Jose Lopez hopelessly whiffed on a 2-2 fastball that was riding up and in on him. Harden threw 12 pitches and had 29 through three.

I guess the good news is that the Mariners have gotten Harden to increase his per-inning pitch count in each inning. Of course, they have to ramp it up to a sufficient extent to get into the Oakland bullpen. Going into the fourth, Dave Sims comes into the booth and notes that Harden is perfect through three. Why would it be otherwise?


Ellis flew out high to center on a full count. Kendall rolled a 2-2 pitch to short. Stewart stung the second pitch through the legs of Batista and into center for a single, the second time Stewart hit a ball to the mound. Bradley blistered the second pitch into the rightcenter gap for an easy double that scored Stewart. I think we can officially file Batista's Mariner debut under the term of "crappy."
Piazza stood with a 1-2 count as Batista was called for yet another balk, pretty much on the same move as the other balk, moving Bradley to third. Luckily, Piazza took the next pitch, a breaking ball over the inside corner, for strike three. Batista threw 20 pitches and had 78 through four.

Let me pass along my completely unpaid endorsement for Cheez-Its of the white cheddar variety. Them's some good snackin'. Sometimes I just can't put those things down, and that's bad, but that's what makes it so good.

Ichiro served a low-and-away 0-2 change into shallow leftcenter for a vintage Ichiro single, breaking up Harden's perfect game. Beltre fouled off three 2-2 pitches before grounding too hard to short to start a 6-4-3 double play. Vidro mysteriously walked on four pitches. Ibañez dumped a single into leftcenter to move Vidro to second. Sexson took a monster hack to miss the first pitch. Sexson got under a high 0-2 pitch, popping up harmlessly to Ellis on the infield dirt. Harden threw 24 pitches had 53 through four.

You know, optimism is nice and I want the Mariners to do great and all that good stuff, but at this point I've pretty much given up on the Mariners winning this game. How much of a chance do you realistically have when you spot Rich Harden a 5-0 lead in the second inning? That's a tall mountain to climb.

Chavez got under the second pitch, flying out to Lopez, who'd moved back into shallow right. Swisher walked on a 3-1 pitch that was about a foot outside and high. Crosby walloped an offspeed second pitch, roping it into leftcenter for a single to move Swisher to third. Buck fouled a 3-1 pitch off his front foot, bringing him to the ground in moderate pain. Buck took the next pitch for strike three, though Crosby beat a throw to second on the play. Ellis tagged the next pitch into left for a single, scoring Swisher and Crosby easily as the rout was officially on. It's just not going to be good if Batista doesn't find a way to get Ellis out this season.

Sean White, making his Major League debut, came in for Batista. Kendall lined the second pitch off of White, but it chopped high to Lopez, who played the carom and threw in time to first. White threw two pitches.

Batista's line: 4 2/3 innings, 8 runs, 10 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts, 94 pitches (58 strikes)

Guillen whiffed on a belt-high 0-2 fastball. Johjima smacked the second pitch, but it only took Bradley to the warning track in center. Betancourt got ahead 2-0, whiffed on a 2-1 change, then had no chance on a 2-2 letter-high fastball at which he waved. Harden threw ten pitches and had 63 through five.

Stewart took a 1-2 pitch off his left forearm and went to first. Bradley took the first pitch in the dirt, and it went off Johjima's glove and away from the plate, moving Stewart to second. Bradley flew out to fairly deep left on the second pitch. Piazza grounded the second pitch behind the bag at third, where Beltre got set in foul ground and threw in time to first, getting Piazza by a step and a half (it helps that Piazza is molasses-slow) as Stewart stayed at second. Chavez had both hitters' counts and took the 3-1 pitch down and in the dirt for a walk. Swisher also had the hitters' counts, but he got the top half of a full-count pitch, putting it into rightfield for a single to score Stewart and move Chavez to third.
Marco Scutaro, hitting for Crosby, got ahead 3-1, but grounded back to the mound on a full count. White threw 25 pitches and had a total of 27.

Lopez grounded the first pitch routinely to short, but Scutaro took his eye off the ball on a long hop, and it went off his glove and over him (error), allowing Lopez to reach. Ichiro walked on four pitches, moving Lopez to second. Beltre had the hitters' counts before foul-tipping a full-count pitch into Kendall's glove behind the plate. Vidro bounced the second pitch to second for exactly what Oakland wanted, a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play. Can we please move Vidro out of the three-slot now? I don't want to sit through another week of this before Hargrove wises up and moves him. Harden threw 14 pitches and had 77 through six.

Ben Broussard came in to play first for Sexson. Buck fell behind 0-2 and took a nice 1-2 breaking ball for strike three. Ellis got ahead 2-0 before flying out to fairly deep right. Kendall looped the first pitch and lofted it into the glove of Lopez. White threw ten pitches and had a total of 36.

Ibañez tagged a low liner into center that Bradley let up on once he realized he couldn't make a diving catch; Ibañez stood on first for the single. Broussard bounced the first pitch to Scutaro charging from short, who underhanded to Ellis for the out on Ibañez, but there was no double play as the slide by Ibañez thwarted any such threat, as did the slow speed with which the ball was hit. Guillen swung but was mowed down on a high 2-2 fastball. Johjima was jammed and rolled a 2-2 pitch to short.

Harden's line: 7 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, 94 pitches (64 strikes)

Willie Bloomquist came in to play center for Ichiro. Stewart smoked a 1-2 pitch through the middle for a single. Bradley whiffed on a first-pitch breaking ball, though it got through Johjima and went to the backstop, moving Stewart to second. Bradley rode a healthy fly ball to deep center, turning Bloomquist around, but he got under it to make the catch as Stewart moved to third. Piazza got way under the first pitch, popping to Johjima near the plate, just in fair territory. Chavez rolled the first pitch to short.

By the way, it's always great when the MLB.com Gameday feature gets stuck, and I'm not talking about the times when the Flash Player add-on makes the application blow up on my computer. I'm talking about the times when it's an inning behind, you refresh it, and the thing's still an inning behind. Right now, it's at the seventh-inning stretch, and it's the middle of the eighth as I type this.

White's line: 3 1/3 innings, 1 run, 2 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 47 pitches (29 strikes)

Jay Marshall came in for Harden. Betancourt grounded the second pitch into the hole on the left side, but Scutaro ranged over to make the play. Lopez tapped the second pitch a few feet in front of the mound, where Marshall fielded it and made the play to first. Bloomquist chopped the second pitch to second.

Marshall's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 5 pitches (4 strikes)

Jamie Burke came in to catch for Johjima and George Sherrill came in for White. Swisher laced a single into left. Scutaro took a 2-2 fastball over the inside corner for strike three. Buck got ahead 3-0 and walked on a 3-1 pitch. Ellis flew out to right, sufficiently deep to move Swisher to third. Kendall chopped a 1-2 pitch over the middle, where Lopez moved to his right to glove it and make the off-balance throw to first.

Sherrill's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 20 pitches (12 strikes)

Huston Street came in for Marshall. Beltre worked the count full before whiffing on a slider about four inches off the plate and low. Vidro whiffed over a 2-2 breaking ball. It should be noted that Sims made a Meat Loaf reference during Vidro's at-bat for the fact that two out of three ain't bad. Ibañez popped the 3-1 pitch to Chavez in foul ground to put a merciful end to the game.

Street's line: 1 inning, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 18 pitches (10 strikes)

Gameball: Sean White.
One of the standbys that I like to use in a game where the Mariners get soundly whipped is to give the gameball to the long reliever that eats up innings and doesn't do too badly doing it. White did exactly that in this game, mopping up Batista's mess in the fifth, and getting it all the way to George Sherrill's first appearance of the season in the ninth. In all, White faced 14 batters and got ten outs. Two of the non-outs were hits, one was a walk, and the other was a hit batsman (Shannon Stewart on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the sixth). Just a gameball for a decent stint with some garbage innings, that's all. Really, that's not bad at all for a Major League debut, and I'll take that considering he did throw a ton of pitches in that sixth inning. Still, I'll watch White's sixth inning five times over before watching Batista's second inning in this game. After watching the second game of this series and seeing Julio Mateo come in and blow a three-run lead, I wondered aloud what the options in the bullpen were when it came to long relief. I got somewhat of an answer in this game. I want to see some more of this guy before I decide whether I think the team can really use him. Let's hope this Rule 5 guy is someone who helps the team rather than someone that's dead weight on Lou Piniella's bench.

Goat: Miguel Batista.
I guess the good news for Batista after this game is that the only way it can get worse is if he gives up ten runs in three innings and gets completely shelled. It doesn't take a wizard to point out that his best innings were his scoreless (first and third), and he got blasted in the second inning. He had no command of his pitches, to say the least, and of course, I took the opportunity to make a gag about the fact that he's written a novel. Sure, Batista has the rest of the season to prove himself, but any Mariner fan couldn't help but sit there with the sobering thought that the guy on the mound was the Mariners' #3 starter, which is almost as scary as the fact that Jarrod Washburn is the #2 starter. Of course, we have to keep in mind that what's better about the rotation this year isn't the fact that Miguel Batista, Horacio Ramirez, and Jeff Weaver are in the rotation, it's the fact that Joel Piñeiro and Gil Meche aren't in the rotation. So remember, fans, each time you see Batista, Ramirez, and Weaver out there, just tell yourself that's it's not Meche or Piñeiro, and everything should be all better.

Yr W-L Pct GB Stk
2000 2-1 .667 -- W1
2001 2-1 .667 -- W1
2002 2-1 .667 -- W2
2006 2-1 .667 -- W2
2007 2-1 .667 -- L1
2003 1-2 .333 1 W1
2005 1-2 .333 1 L2
2004 0-3 .000 2 L3

Well, the undefeated season was great while it lasted. Taking two of three against Oakland to start the season is great, and matching the team's win total of last year's season series against the A's is a good thing too. The other way you could rationalize this stomping is that the Mariner arms in the series held them to four runs (all in the second game) in the series, and finally the A's bats got mad and opened up a can. Add it all up and Oakland averaged a little over four runs a game. Meanwhile, the Mariners scored 12 runs in the series to average exactly four runs a game. Four runs a game might get you wins on some nights, and on some nights it won't. With the Mariners' starting pitching, yikes. That said, the Mariners scored four runs in the Felix game and eight in the second game before they ran into the Rich Harden buzzsaw in this game, so maybe there isn't a problem. It's still too early to tell. The good news is that everyone in the starting lineup has a hit this season. The bad news is that Beltre, Vidro, and the bottom third of the lineup aren't hitting that much. Again, it's early, I know.

There really aren't too many things to talk about when it comes to this game. Rich Harden was great, Miguel Batista was bad, roll credits, the end. Harden's contract has a club option for 2009. Why do I bring this up? Barring injury, the Mariners have to face him that many times a season until 2008 or 2009. I was going to say this would mean Harden would price himself out of Oakland's range, but then I remembered the new ballpark was going up in Fremont (the one in California, not Solstice Parade Fremont). I guess in the large scope of things, I wish Bill Bavasi would go and Howard Lincoln would somehow relinquish his post (that's the only way I think the organizational outlook changes), because unless Billy Beane has mo' problems if he has mo' money to work with, the Mariners will be in deep crap for decade when it comes to the AL West division. I just pulled up a page with facts about the new A's park, it will only seat around 30000 to 34000. What does that mean? That means they'll have to have high ticket prices to make up for the 10000 less-than-usual seats, unless they plan to let Beane continue to work with small payrolls.

The Mariners get one travel day and play in the cold in Cleveland tomorrow and on through Sunday. Color me a bit scared of this series. I say a split is passable.

Ramirez. Byrd. Tomorrow.

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