Thursday, April 23, 2009
So it's games like these, the clunkers (Tom Larscheid north of the border would say "clinkers"), where you look for the little things in the ballgame that may at least partially redeem the investment of time that you put into watching the game (which was way too long). One thing that was at least somewhat enjoyable was the Endy Chavez catch in the leftfield corner. The other appears in the boxscore as "Pickoffs: White (Pena, C at 1st base)." I can't remember who was at the plate, but Sean White was on the mound with runners at first and third. Normal situation, sure, but what's completely abnormal is the fake-to-third/throw-to-first move ACTUALLY WORKED. People that sat through this abomination of a game can feel lucky, because if they watch the Mariners or televised Major League Baseball for the rest of their lives, they may only see that move work three or four more times. Ever. That move never works, and the result 9999 times out of 10000 usually involves no one remotely close to getting tagged out, and the crowd boos if the move is being pulled against the home team, etc. This time, though, it worked.
The Mariner hitters combined to go 4-for-29, which of course isn't going to get you much in terms of runs. All three runs came home on the Jose Lopez homer that both opened and closed Seattle scoring in the bottom of the fifth. Ichiro chimed in with the only multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a double. Jose Lopez (1-for-4 with the three-run homer) and Rob Johnson (1-for-3 with a strikeout) were the only other Mariners with hits. Obviously, we can mess with the boxscore in tons of different ways to make the Mariner offense look bad, but I'll go with the 2-5 hitters combining to go 0-for-13, though they did draw three walks. Mike Sweeney also came down with back spasms after checking a swing. It looked uncomfortable, and on replay he reacted like he'd been shot or something. As of me typing this, though, Russell Branyan's still on the active roster and Mike Sweeney's still on the active roster. How long can Don Wakamatsu survive a 23-man roster? Either we're going to see Wladimir Balentien and Ronny Cedeno get a lot more playing time, or we're going to keep seeing Ken Griffey, Jr. trotted out there every day at the three-spot in the lineup despite him hitting at a devastating .171 clip.
Mariner starting pitching will be covered below. The bullpen gave up three runs after Jakubauskas left the game, with only one of them being earned. Sean White got the third-to-first move to work, so that's almost as good as anything in his line. Roy Corcoran wasn't horrendously bad, and a two-walk inning in a game out of reach isn't going to draw too much ire from me. Miguel Batista will be covered below. Mark Lowe gave up an unearned run in the ninth along with two hits. Really, the only function of the bullpen for this game was to get the remaining 17 outs of a ballgame that was already out of reach. It's an unenviable task, but one that had to be done.
Though this blog post is entirely mine and I could totally just scrap the gameball section because nobody's really worthy of it, I'm not going to do that because that's the easy thing to do.
1) Jose Lopez
He gets it for the lone run-scoring hit of the game for the Mariners. He hit a long fly ball that got just enough carry to find its way into the bullpen in leftcenter, and it was a three-run shot, no less. The Mariners, as we know, have been sorely lacking power, and it only gets worse when Russell Branyan is on the shelf (though not quite DL'd). It also gets worse when Adrian Beltre hasn't hit a homer with one week left to go in April. I really like Beltre and everything, but this start is beginning to reek a bit like 2005, and that's not so good. Even the 2005 lineup had the good version of Richie Sexson (the one that homered twice against the Twins on Opening Day), though, so there was some sock. Sooner or later, this team's going to lose games because it can't get a key homer at the right time. I'm not talking about being the late-90s Kingdome Mariners, I'm just talking about being a slightly below-average team in terms of hitting homers as opposed to the nonexistent power we're seeing out of the Mariners right now. Small ball's great when it works, but how much longer is the bullpen going to hold up? You get the throngs of people that say pitching and defense wins championships, but I don't completely subscribe to that philosophy. To me, it's balance that wins championships. This team has a good bullpen so far, two-fifths of the starting rotation is good, but there is very little power hitting of which to speak.
Funny how Ichiro goes 0-for-4 the night before (along with 0-fers from the rest of the top four in the lineup) and the Mariners win, but Ichiro goes 2-for-4 in this game and the Mariners lose. As we remember, Ichiro set the single-season hit record in an otherwise crappy year for the Mariners (it's really too bad Edgar had to go out with that team, and I really feel bad for him if he was convinced that the 2004 team could win). It reminds me somewhat of how Alex Rodriguez did for the Mariners, with the exception of the 2000 season. It seemed every year Rodriguez was crazy awesome, the team sucked. He had an insane 1996, but the Mariners weren't great year by any stretch (Sterling Hitchcock). In 2000, that trend was broken when Rodriguez had a great year and the Mariners reached Game 6 of the ALCS. Rodriguez had awesome years in 1996, 1998, and possibly 1999 (had 42 homers in only 129 games). Still, Ichiro's hit-record year was awesome in a crap year for the Mariners, and unfortunately only his crazy-good first season in the Majors was rewarded with postseason play. He hasn't been involved in any kind of legitimate race for a playoff spot since 2003. It's not his fault that he's the best leadoff hitter in baseball while the team around him is built like crap.
3) Miguel Batista
I thought Miguel Batista should have been the first guy out of the bullpen when Jakubauskas hit the fan. I know it brings back bad memories, but Batista for me is this year's Kevin Jarvis. He's the guy that you have in your bullpen specifically for the purpose of games that are out of reach either way -- you put him in when you're up five or more runs, and you put him on the mound when you're down five or more runs and your offense is getting completely shut down. Jarvis was absolutely horrible as a Mariner, but the sad thing is that Jarvis wasn't getting paid anything close to what Batista is getting paid. In this game, however, Batista gets a gameball because, despite two walks and a hit, nobody scored. That's an accomplishment in itself. He also struck out two hitters. He faced nine hitters to get those six outs. Maybe there's an incredibly small chance that Batista gets it turned around. Here's an odd thought -- with Ryan Rowland-Smith out, if Batista somehow got it back together, should they give him another hack at the rotation?
Yikes. The Lithuanian Laser in this game was the loser. The fifth starter in the rotation should be the one with the longest leash and the lowest expectations, but in a rotation that has an I'm-not-really-sure-if-he's-really-on-board-yet Erik Bedard and a Carlos Silva, it leaves you really liking what you could get out of a fifth starter like Chris Jakubauskas. His first start was a very good start, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that he's probably going to have some bumps in the road. This game was definitely one of them. Again, it'd mean a lot less if the Mariners didn't have a Carlos Silva in their rotation, but unfortunately they do, and so it means more. Jakubauskas faced 22 hitters to get 10 outs (ouch). He threw 50 strikes on 86 pitches, but 10 of those 50 strikes were hits. He gave up six runs, walked three, and struck out one. He recorded one groundout and seven flyouts, and also threw two wild pitches. To say the least, it was not a banner night for Jakubauskas. Once again, as a result of ineffectiveness in the starting rotation, the onus is on Felix Hernandez tonight to help the bullpen get some rest.
Save us from ourselves, Felix. Save us from ourselves...