Friday, April 17, 2009
As I mentioned yesterday, the Mariners had a chance to beat the pace of the 2001 Mariners with a win in this game, one they ultimately didn't get. Instead, they merely matched the ten-game pace of the 2001 Mariners with their 7-3 start. Now if they can win 13 of their next 14, they'll match the 20-4 start of the 2001 team. Then I think we can really be sold that this team might play meaningful baseball into August.
The good news is that the top of the Mariner lineup went 4-for-12 collectively. The bad news is that the rest of the lineup combined for a jubilant night of 0-for-18 with a walk and three strikeouts. Even Adrian Beltre's RBI came because he beat out what could have been a double-play ball. The team went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, and the zero in that statistic probably means less than the four -- the Mariners didn't get many runners aboard on this night. Everyone went hitless except for Ichiro, Endy Chavez (2-for-4 for the Mariners' only multi-hit game), and Mike Sweeney. All four of the Mariners' hits were singles. Wladimir Balentien swung on a full-count pitch about a foot off the plate outside with the bases loaded in the fourth. A walk there gets the Mariners a 2-0 lead. Apart from that bump in the road, the Mariners had trouble getting anything from the Joe Saunders Groundball Machine Experience (12 groundouts, six flyouts). This wasn't quite a laugher for the Angels as a four-run game can't really be called a laugher, but there was no air left in the Mariners after that five-run sixth for the Angels.
I'll deal with the starting pitching below, as well as the first pitcher to come out of the bullpen. The final two pitchers, Mark Lowe and Sean White, combined for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out three and giving up two hits. The only blemish was that Lowe let one of Corcoran's runners score.
1) Chris Jakubauskas
The Lithuanian laser (via southern California) turned in an emergency start that surpassed my expectations. I thought this game had a good chance to be a complete throwaway after four innings, but it turns out Jakubauskas gave the Mariners a pretty good chance to win until Roy Corcoran came in and wrecked his ERA, then played add-on. He also threw a pretty good load of strikes (21 balls, 60 strikes compared to Saunders' 38 balls and 53 strikes). He threw to 21 batters to get 16 outs, getting six outs via the ground and seven through the air. He struck out three Angels. He gave up five hits, with only one extra-base hit, a Torii Hunter double. I don't know how far Jakubauskas can milk this appearance or how long he'll stick with this club. If the Mariners eventually get a lefthander in that bullpen, I think Jakubauskas' just cemented his spot a little better. He's shown versatility, after all, and any team's brass seems to like that. How's about Jakubauskas closes and we throw Brandon Morrow into the rotation since he can't seem to throw back-to-back days? Oh, you mean he doesn't want to start? Tough s%*#.
2) Endy Chavez
Another multi-hit game for Chavez. This time he took the reins in centerfield as Franklin Gutierrez and his major awesome outfield skills and tepid bat rode the pine. The presence of Gutierrez probably wouldn't have helped the first-and-third fest the Angels were putting on in the top of the sixth. That was just a merry-go-round that couldn't seem to be stopped. Over the course of a full season, though, I'm hoping this whole benching-of-Gutierrez thing happens a lot less often since this team really is weaker without him in centerfield. Hopefully Wakamatsu just spelled him for a day. Needless to say, Gutierrez helps himself every time he gets a hit. We can't expect him to be Mike Cameron with the bat. Okay, we can hope for .260 with probably not a lot of strikeouts and nowhere near the power that Cameron had, but if we're sitting here in mid-June and Gutierrez is hitting .210, as much as I like having his defense out there, it makes it a lot easier for Wakamatsu to bench him. That's too bad since I imagine Chavez as the Randy Winn to Cameron-like Gutierrez -- sure, he can play centerfield, but would you really want him out there every night?
3) Sean White
On a night when there weren't too many bright spots, Sean White was recalled from Tacoma and threw a near-perfect eighth and ninth innings. His line shows as two innings with no runs/hits/walks/strikeouts, but he faced seven batters instead of six. I'm pretty sure that extra hitter (I've been making all of these pieces without the game logs in front of me) was due to a Beltre error on a really terrible hop. Nonetheless, White was a fresh arm, and he did quite well and didn't let a four-run deficit get out of hand. You might make a case for Mark Lowe here, but his line was slightly less impressive, and he let one of Roy Corcoran's runners score, though Corcoran probably deserved it by that point. One thing that can be said about both Lowe and White, however, is that their ERAs are both 0.00. That's more impressive for Lowe, who's been out there a few times. Somehow I doubt White would rather be in Tacoma for the home opener tonight and taking in the brand-new LED video screen and all that good stuff. I wonder if that thing will visually distract me on Highway 16 as much as the Emerald Queen's monstrosity does when I'm driving on I-5 through Tacoma.
Again, this is one of those goats given for highest crap-per-time ratio. We found out how much damage Corcoran can do with 13 pitches. Eight of those were strikes, and three of them were hits. He gave up three runs, though one of those was let in my Lowe. He did manage to get a groundout. His ERA spiked a bit to 6.75. Maybe it's just me, but it seems lately like the Mariner bullpen has done well as a whole, but every night one of the relievers has an okay to bad night. Corcoran was the guy in this game, Batista's been the guy a couple times, Jakubauskas gave up two runs in his debut, Aardsma kind of scared me in the extra-inning game. Maybe I'm just scaring myself, but maybe this is a trend, and maybe there will be more nights were a reliever just completely craps the bed and puts the game out of reach. There will be other nights when Carlos Silva will do that before the bullpen can, sure, but as long as this team is tricking us into thinking it might possibly be good, this could be something about which we should be concerned.
Felix the Cat against Justin Verlander. I'm less sold on Verlander now than I was when he first came up. I wish this matchup was about two or three years ago, even though I know it already happened at least once.