Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The Mariners pushed a run across in the first inning when Endy Chavez reached second on a bad throw after a crappy bunt by Ken Griffey, Jr. (ouch, my, how times have changed), then Mike Sweeney pushed Chavez home with a hit. They awoke again in the fourth inning with a barrage of triples (can two count as a barrage?) to help score three more runs. Sweeney getting hit by a pitch and a Jose Lopez hit-and-run single set up the first-and-third for the Rob Johnson nuttiness triple. Then Yuniesky Betancourt chimed in with a triple of his own, lest we forget that Betancourt's first Major League hit was a triple.
Mariner hitting went a collective 7-for-32 with a walk and eight strikeouts. Sweeney (double), Johnson (triple), and Betancourt (triple) accounted for the Mariners' extra-base hits. Multi-hit games belonged to Sweeney (more below) and Betancourt (2-for-3 with the RBI triple to drive in Johnson). Hitless games went to Ichiro, Griffey, and Adrian Beltre -- all 0-for-4 -- as well as Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez, all 0-for-3. The 1-4 hitters in the Mariners' lineup combined to go 0-for-15 with a walk and three strikeouts. Chavez scored a run. I guess you could say it's a good night when you can win despite your top four hitters being nonexistent.
Jarrod Washburn has an entry in the gameballs, so that deals with the starting pitching. The bullpen combination of David Aardsma and Brandon Morrow combined for two innings of shutout ball with a walk and a strikeout, and they gave up only one hit. They faced eight batters to get six outs. Aardsma threw ten strikes on 18 pitches, whereas Morrow threw 12 strikes on 14 pitches, which is a pretty good percentage when you're not getting hit hard. Aardsma still hasn't given up a run this season, as his sparkling ERA of 0.00 would indicate.
1) Mike Sweeney
Sweeney could tagged with five errors in the field, but if he gets three hits like he did in this game, he's getting into the gameball entries somewhere. The grizzled veteran clubhouse presence doubled en route to a perfect 3-for-3 night with a two-out RBI. Since he's been given playing time pretty sparingly, this three-hit night bumped the ol' batting average up to .313. Where's the fire, Mike? Anyway, it's good to see Sweeney chip in with something offensively with Russell Branyan hurt. His swing still looks uncomfortable, but 3-for-3 is 3-for-3. The best thing about Sweeney turning in a night like this is that it becomes easier rationalizing a roster spot for him. Sweeney hit fifth in the lineup and went 3-for-3, while a .184-hitting Ken Griffey, Jr. is somehow hitting in the third spot. Now hitting Sweeney fifth doesn't look bad, but putting Griffey in the third spot while he's hitting all of .184 makes for a proposition that's a lot harder to defend. If it's a tight game in the late innings, who's going to be pitching around a .184-hitting Griffey?
2) Jarrod Washburn
A few thousand people at the Safe hadn't even gotten into their seats before the Mariners had gotten down 2-0. The first game I attended at the Safe, we hadn't gotten into our seats yet and Jeff Fassero had spotted the Yankees a 5-0 lead. There was later a beanball/brushback war in the same game. Frankie Rodriguez was prominently involved, as were Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Chad Curtis. The roof was closed/extended. That game got out of hand on the scoreboard too, as the Mariners ended up having a fighting chance to win. In this game, though, Washburn put up goose eggs for the six remaining innings he was on the mound. Also, being the fast worker he is, the game lasted a mere two hours and 23 minutes despite the fact that he walked three hitters. He faced 29 batters to record 21 outs. He gave up two runs on five hits, striking out nine(!). He threw 62 strikes out of 103 total pitches. Today, the Mariners will complete three full turns through the starting rotation, and Washburn has made it through with a record of 3-0, a third of the Mariners' total wins. I wonder what the Mariners can get for him if he's 12-2 at the trade deadline. Odd thing about this game was that Washburn was split six apiece between groundouts and flyouts.
3) Rob Johnson
Yuniesky Betancourt was the other non-Sweeney Mariner hitter with a multi-hit game, but how often is Rob Johnson going to hit a two-run triple? Granted, Gabe Kapler was playing a wee bit shallow, but Johnson still has to chug it all the way to third base. That's a very long 270 feet for a catcher. It was Johnson's own Boston Marathon. Of course, Johnson also struck out twice, but we don't hear of pitchers not liking throwing to him and he's not making insane amounts of money for crap results (not that I'm alluding to any other of the Mariner catchers), and he grew up in the rough metroplex that is the Butte/Whitehall area of Montana. Other than the fact that he's getting the playing time that Jeff Clement ultimately should be getting, I don't mind Johnson so far at all. I wouldn't mind having some odd young'un catching duo of Johnson and Clement, but since this organization likes handing out stupid money to Kenji Johjima, that won't happen. Unless maybe Johjima's going to be injured for a pretty long time.
It isn't unknown that Beltre has been a slow starter in the past. Not the way to get started during a contract year. I can't argue with the defense, that's for sure. However, this team is depending on Beltre to produce at the plate, and to produce with some power, and neither has really happened yet, and we're nearly one-tenth into the season. Like with Washburn, I'm hoping he sets the league ablaze so the Mariners can trade him to a desperate playoff contender for awesome prospects and whatnot. As of now, though, not so much. Beltre went 0-for-4 and struck out twice, and he's hitting .185. Sure, we can talk about how indefensible Griffey batting third is when he's hitting .184, but Beltre has to be somewhere in the meat of the order regardless and he's only hitting .185. Griffey isn't necessarily an everyday player, but Beltre absolutely is. Maybe the other thing to consider is if Beltre has a substandard year, does it drive down his price enough so that maybe it becomes more palatable to the Mariners? I mean, I know it's early, but we can pretty much write off a 48-homer season like he had with the Dodgers in 2004, right?
Tonight's game will complete three turns through the Mariners' rotation, and we're not doing it with the Thunder from Down Under, but rather with the Lithuanian Laser. Or the J-Man. Or Big J. Or Big C.