Saturday, April 18, 2009
That bottom of the fifth, though, was such an odd array of events. It started out with three hits before it got weird. A Rob Johnson bunt isn't so weird, sure, but the Betancourt grounder to third is when it started getting weird. Brandon Inge bounced the throw home that would have had Russell Branyan dead to rights at the plate. Instead, Gerald Laird couldn't corral the ball and Branyan scored, with the price of the run being tightness in his back. The weirdness kept coming as Franklin Gutierrez push-bunted to the right side. Ichiro singled, which isn't so unusual, but then Verlander wild-pitched off Laird's glove to make it 5-3 for the Mariners. That was just a million kinds of weird all wrapped up into one inning.
On the hitting side of the boxscore ledger, Adrian Beltre had the only multi-hit game for the Mariners as well as the only extra-base hits. Hitless games were turned in by Endy Chavez (0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout) and Rob Johnson (0-for-3 with a strikeout...and a bunt). The remaining six hitters in the Mariner lineup recorded a hit apiece. The Mariners collectively hit 8-for-31, walking twice and striking out nine times.
As for the pitching, Felix Hernandez dug himself out of the deep hole that was the second inning. He faced 27 batters to get 18 outs (six innings). He gave up three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out six. He recorded eight groundball outs to five flyball outs -- in other words, it was a lot more Felixian (Felician?) than the same ratio from his start last Saturday. The bullpen finished off the last third of the game, combining to throw three innings of two-hit shutout ball, walking one and striking out four. The bullpen collectively faced ten hitters, one over the minimum.
1) Adrian Beltre
Beltre went 2-for-4, scoring once and driving in a run. One of the doubles he hit probably would have left most ballyards in the Majors. It was hit so hard into leftcenter. I remember the giant flashy Nikon advertisement in leftcenter coming into view on the screen. As much as I hate how flashy that advertisement is and how I wish they could mandate that all the outfield wall ads could just be one color (white), I can't really say I'm putting my money where my mouth is since the Nikon D60 I got a few months is such an awesome camera. That said, Beltre was 0-for-13 before his first double of the game. His batting average was raised to .214 and his doubles total was, well, doubled to four on the year. I said in one of my pieces earlier in the year that if the Mariners were close enough to trick people into thinking they might have a chance to make the playoffs, this is the one year where I'd be okay with white-flag trades because it's never been about this year. That includes Erik Bedard, that includes Jarrod Washburn (who should have been gone last season), and as much as I love watching him play and that he's the best third baseman in franchise history, that includes Beltre. Enjoy this ride for sure, but unless this team is crazy awesome, the plan for the Mariners isn't to live in the now, as Garth Algar would say.
2) Brandon Morrow
I guess when Morrow pulled the rug out from under everyone and proclaimed his love for all things bullpen, I might have had a split-second where I wished he was lefthanded. It'd be all right for now, but when Philippe Aumont comes up, then they'd both be lefthanded...I don't know. You could play matchup, I guess. It'd be like Bullpen Matchup With High Draft Picks. A fun, albeit unnecessary game, that. All told, Morrow in this game put up a nice line of a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out two hitters and throwing 11 strikes and one ball en route to his third save of the season. We've seen the Felix/Verlander matchup a couple times over the last few years, but you know what I'd like to see? Brandon Morrow against Justin Verlander. Unlike Felix/Verlander, it appears the only we'll have Morrow/Verlander will be only in dreams. In between molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
Maybe I shouldn't put a guy here just because his push bunt was nothing short of awesome and was his only hit of the game. I'll make up some crap about how his outfield defense is awesome, and how the pressure isn't on him to produce offensively as much when he's the ninth hitter in the lineup instead of the second hitter. I'll bring up that he's hitting .212, but that's only .002 less than what Beltre's hitting even after two doubles in this game. Maybe I'll bring up the thought that if Felix is a groundball machine like he should be, you could make an argument that the Felix starts are the one time every five days where you might get away with benching Gutierrez (and starting Balentien somewhere in the outfield) if his bat stays cold. Maybe I'll bring up how it's weird that Mike Cameron let us know pretty quick how good he was with the glove, and Franklin Gutierrez did the same thing too with that catch in Minnesota. It took only a couple years without it to realize how spoiled we were in terms of centerfield defense for 15 seasons as Mariner fans. It's back.
I originally had Betancourt here, but I've found that I have more copy in my mind right now that relates in some way to Johnson. His bunt in the fifth inning to move Branyan to third base was great -- no argument there. The pitchers like how he handles them behind the plate, so no argument there either. If this team is punting all three outfield positions in terms of power hitting, can you really justify keeping another Dan Wilson (sweeping conclusion, I know) behind the plate? In a decent amount of Wilson years, there was at least some sock in the outfield, usually in the form of Ken Griffey, Jr. or Jay Buhner or even Mike Cameron to a lesser extent. Now unless Ichiro sacrifices average for some power and hits (i.e., a .312 and 12 homers type of year), you have an outfield with no pop. What I'm trying to say is Jeff Clement has a much higher offensive ceiling than Rob Johnson, and every one of us knows that. He also has a much higher offensive ceiling than Jamie Burke, but HE'S STILL SITTING IN TACOMA WHILE THE MARINERS ARE CARRYING TWO OF THE SAME GUY. Clement has nothing left to prove in Tacoma. What a waste.
Also, 8-3 still matches the Mariners' 2001 franchise-best start.
Which Erik Bedard will we see tonight?