Friday, April 24, 2009


Felix Hernandez was cruising along and had just gotten through the top of the sixth inning when my FSNW feed went black. The feed didn't come back until Brian Shouse had come in to relieve James Shields in the bottom of the eighth. Dave Sims on the broadcast told the viewers that lightning had struck the FSN satellite relay station in Atlanta. The same lightning strike also disrupted FSN Pittsburgh's telecast of the Penguins/Flyers NHL playoff series. Maybe I just need to look for it, but I never saw an explanation for what messed with the FSNW signal in the first and second innings of Wednesday night's game. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same reason. In any event, lightning struck for the Mariners in this afternoon game as Ichiro homered on the second pitch, and that held up as the only run of the game. The Mariners are 10-6 after 16 games. For purely informational purposes, last year's team was 8-8 at the same point, the 2001 team was 12-4, and the 2004 team was 6-10. While 2004 and 2008 were both their own individual years of suck, it's weird that the 2008 team was 11-10 at one point while the 2004 team never had a winning record. The 2004 team's high-water mark in terms of winning percentage was at 29-38 (.433), right after a four-game winning streak.

Mariner hitting collectively went 4-for-28 with a walk and five strikeouts. Ichiro had the only multi-hit game, while Endy Chavez and Wladimir Balentien accounted for the other two Mariner hits. The injury situations of Russell Branyan and Mike Sweeney caused some lineup shuffling as Jamie Burke drew into the lineup and onto the field at first base, followed by Burke zooing the first ball that was hit to him (Rob Johnson was charged with an error later on the same play). Ken Griffey, Jr. was given the night off (he wouldn't have been able to hit Shields anyway) and Wladimir Balentien was given some sorely needed at-bats in the DH slot. Balentien also stole a base, which is noteworthy. It was a pitchers' duel, let's make no bones about it, so of course I can clump together some of the hitless Mariners in the lineup and say that the 6-9 hitters combined to go 0-for-11 with a walk and two strikeouts. That's too easy. With Griffey not being in the lineup as well as Branyan and Sweeney, Jose Lopez was placed in the third slot with Adrian Beltre fourth, Balentien fifth, and Rob Johnson sixth. All that aside, hopefully this is the last lineup card of the season where both the starting catcher and backup catcher are on it, but neither of the two were DHing.

I guess the only pitcher that won't be covered in the gameballs would be the closer, Brandon Morrow. He walked one of the four hitters he faced, but he got the three outs for his fifth save of the season. Again, I could say all sorts of stuff about how I wish Morrow used the breaking ball more or had another breaking ball (change?) and was a starter instead, but considering the circumstances, he's really only on the hook for the one game in Minnesota. Even as that game was unfolding, I still never found myself thinking of Bobby Ayala. In the Almost Live! reference of the night, there was a John/Late Report tidbit where the Mariners drafted Cha Seung Baek, but later in the draft selected I Suk Baad (picture of Ayala showing on the screen).

1) Felix Hernandez
The Cat comes through again for the Mariners. Felix made it a tiny bit dicey by walking three hitters, and the defense behind him committed three errors, but none of the Rays crossed the plate. Hernandez faced 27 hitters to get 21 outs. The only blemish in his line is probably the three walks. If Felix cuts that down to one walk and one of the errors isn't committed, Felix may have thrown into the ninth. He gave up four hits and struck out seven over the seven shutout innings, throwing 60 strikes on 104 pitches. True to form, Felix got nine groundouts to five flyouts. This start for Felix began the Mariners' fourth turn through the rotation. Felix is 3-0 in four starts, and the Mariners have won all four of those games. Add Jarrod Washburn's three wins to the mix, and those two Mariner starters have had a hand in seven of the Mariners' 10 wins. The problem, of course, is the other three-fifths of the rotation, since when Erik Bedard/Carlos Silva/fifth starter is on the mound, the Mariners have gone 3-6.

2) Ichiro
He went 2-for-4 with the solo shot that accounted for the only run of the game. The homer to rightfield came on a much more prototypical Ichiro swing, whereas the grand slam on Jackie Robinson Day looked more like a swing where he was trying to hit a homer. His second hit was a single, after which he stole second base. An adage heard in sometimes in sports is, "your best players have to be your best players." At this point in the season, teams just need wins without really caring how they get them, so the little quote I just gave is probably more applicable late in the season and in the playoffs. Still, Ichiro and Felix turned in the most meaningful contributions toward this very close win for the Mariners. When most of the offense is crap going into the game anyway (James Shields notwithstanding) Ichiro stepped up and Felix Hernandez performed with very little margin for error. Also a bit of fun about this game was that it ended in a mere two hours and 22 minutes, so anyone that managed to get off work early and gone to the game had a young night in front of them.

3) David Aardsma
The journeyman bullpen righty still hasn't been touched up for any runs this season. He's still living by the fastball and hasn't died by it yet. I don't know how long he can possibly get away with it, but let's all enjoy it while it lasts. It might be fun if at some point the Mariners got a hold of a bullpen lefty that threw nothing but slop and threw him in between Aardsma and Morrow. What I've liked about this season so far, though, is that Wakamatsu without a lefthander hasn't really played matchup too much because he can't, so the guys in the bullpen are just throwing until they suck. I think that's a refreshing change, though I really still think they have to get a lefthander at some point this year in the bullpen. I have to say I like this game at two hours and 22 minutes, but I'd hate to have seen it spoiled by a manager turning the eighth into a matchup fest and dragging the game out to three hours in length. That would be the complete opposite of fun. I'm glad the Mariners don't have their own Paul Assenmacher, not that they haven't tried (Mike Myers).

Yuniesky Betancourt
At least the errors he made the night before wasn't really a meaningful one in a game that was way out of reach and where the FSNW telecast crapped the bits. In this game, though, it game Felix a little more unnecessary adversity to deal with, and the Betancourt error came after Jamie Burke and Rob Johnson had already tag-teamed on the two-error play. At that point, Felix had to be wondering what was going on behind him. Felix is probably well familiar with Betancourt muffing some balls, but he couldn't have been comfortable with Burke playing first, seeing as to how Felix is a groundball guy and all those balls have to be thrown to first. Luckily, Burke didn't have trouble with catching throws. As for Betancourt, apparently he's gone this long into the season without drawing a walk. Pure Betancourt, sure, though I thought the patience thing might result in a walk by now. Anyway, he's sitting at .288 and I've seen some at-bats where he'll see at least three pitches before putting the ball in play. If he hits for contact early in the count, though, maybe you could hit him second? But that would require him hitting the other way...

A Bedard night in southern California. Eeeeeeek?

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