Saturday, April 25, 2009


Exactly a week ago in this space, I was talking about a come-from-behind win for the Mariners after a bizarre big fifth inning. Fast-forward to last night, and guess what? It's the fifth inning again where everything seems to come into place and weird things happen for the Mariner offense. Last time it was weird squeeze bunts and grounders off pitcher's gloves, this time there were wild pitches and crazy-high choppers off the plate. The Mariners' 11-6 mark has them two games behind the pace of the 2001 and 2002 teams, and it matches the pace of the 2000 team. Last year's team was 9-8 after 17 games. The 2004 team was 6-11 at the same point.

Mariner hitters went 17-for-41 as a team, drawing five walks and striking out twice. Doubles were hit by Adrian Beltre (with the bases loaded in the fifth) and Russell Branyan (down the rightfield line). The lone Mariner homer belonged to Branyan (leftfield). The team went 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position and still managed to strand 12 runners despite scoring eight times and scratching out 17 hits. No Mariner went hitless. Ichiro, Ken Griffey, Jr., Branyan, and Rob Johnson had two hits apiece. Endy Chavez and Jose Lopez had three hits apiece. The great thing about Griffey going 2-for-5 (bringing the average up to .196) is that I don't have to complain about what dead weight he is in the number-three slot in the lineup. Additionally, Beltre's only hit of the game was the bases-loaded double in the fifth inning that broke open the game. Chavez had a 3-for-6 night, but I guess I held him out of the gameballs for lack of notability and his bad throw to third base. That aside, Chavez is now hitting .358 and he scored two of the Mariners' eight runs. Everyone in the Mariner lineup not named Ichiro, Chavez, Griffey, and Franklin Gutierrez collected at least one RBI.

Seattle starting pitching will be discussed in the applicable gameball entry. Thus, Shawn Kelley accounted for the only Mariner bullpen arm used in this game. He finished off the final 2 1/3 innings of the game. He faced seven hitters to get those seven outs. He gave up one hit and struck out one. He hasn't thrown in too many games yet, but he has yet to give up a run. Even better for Bedard's ERA is that Kelley didn't allow Bedard's leftover runner to score. Kelley came in the game with one runner on and two out, and the Mariners had a five-run lead. Thanks to Kelley, that 8-3 score held up to the end of the game. It was fairly low pressure relief, and when Carlos Silva is the guy following Bedard in the rotation, you need the bullpen to be as rested as possible. While I consider Bedard to be far from a number-one starter and Jarrod Washburn to be superior to Silva, maybe it's good to have Silva being the s#&$ sandwich (they can't print that!) and to have Washburn and the front two guys of the rotation spread out. Silva will tax the bullpen, but unless Washburn completely stinks, the bullpen gets rest the next day.

1) Erik Bedard
The ceiling for a Bedard start is a complete game, so that's not something we can expect to see out of him every night. Still, this start was a very high-end start out of Bedard, probably close to a nine out of a ten. He really had that curveball working against the Angels. Mike Blowers pointed out that Bedard was around the plate all night, which got the umpires to expand the zone a bit on some of the strikeout calls. Some of the strikeout calls were very much corner pitches. He completely dominated the first four innings of the game, and the mega inning in the top half of the fifth seemed to throw him off a bit. He surrendered three runs including the Mike Napoli cannon-blast homer in the fifth. I had serious doubts he was going to make it through that inning, and I thought there'd be no way he would make it through the sixth if Don Wakamatsu trotted him out to the mound to start the sixth. Instead, Bedard got it together eventually and pitched into the seventh. For the game, he faced 25 batters to get 20 outs. He gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits, walked none, and struck out six to increase his absolutely ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio. He threw 75 out of 109 pitches for strikes. More astoundingly, he was a groundball machine, getting 11 groundouts to three flyouts.

2) Russell Branyan
Just like that, the power returned (nearly all of it) to the Mariner lineup. In his first at-bat after missing five games due to back spasms, Branyan clubbed a solo shot to leftcenter to stake the Mariners out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning. So far it doesn't look like Branyan has a hulk-smash brutal swing when he hits a homer. His homer swing is pretty relaxed and smooth. His homer in Minnesota was the same way. Maybe someday we'll see a pounding swing out of him. Richie Sexson (good version) barely looked like he followed through on any of his home-run swings, but I remember a homer in Chicago against the White Sox where it really looked like he cranked it. Add to Branyan's homer his RBI double in the sixth to make it a five-run lead, and you get a good day for the lefthanded slugger. Also add the fact that his back spasms didn't flare up when he slid home on the Rich Thompson wild pitch. Thompson could have failed to catch the ball completely and it wouldn't have made that play look any worse than it turned out. Napoli's throw had Branyan beat cleanly.

3) Jose Lopez
Again, it's good when the Mariners score eight runs and Griffey actually hits so I don't have to complain about how the lineup is structured. After Griffey was given a day off, he returned to the third spot in the lineup, which didn't enthuse me much, but it put Lopez back down to sixth, which is probably better for him. Lopez responded with a 3-for-4 day with a walk. Sure, his RBI came on a superball of a high chopper that resulted in an infield single, but a three-hit day is a three-hit day. Since he's only hitting .236, we can take it maybe as a bit of improvement. Endy Chavez had a three-hit night too, but he's at .358 and who knows how long that's going to last. Maybe someone should put an over-under on when Chavez will have his batting average dip below .300? The RBI for Lopez was his 12th of the season. As I mentioned, he's hitting .236, but he's driving in runs at a pace that would result in roughly 114 RBIs. If, like me, you're imagining Lopez driving in runs at an even better pace when he picks up the average a bit...well, I still think it's too early to dream big dreams with this team just yet...

Franklin Gutierrez
On a day where all of the Mariners had hits, I had to pick one of the one-hit guys to put in this spot. Beltre's single hit was too important, Betancourt had a rebound game defensively as well as scattering the Angel dugout with a foul ball, so this one's going to Gutierrez, most notably because he whiffed on a hit-and-run that resulted in Lopez being gunned down by a mile at third base. If I'm not mistaken, he dove for a ball in shallow center and missed, resulting in a breakup of what was a perfect game for Bedard up to that point. I could be wrong. Goating a player in this particular game for diving for a ball and missing is kind of nitpicky, though. Gutierrez batted out of the eighth spot in the lineup and is hitting a mere .196. Griffey hit out of the third spot in the lineup and is hitting a mere .196. The main difference, of course, is that the Mariners aren't really paying Gutierrez to be a pretty good hitter. Here's to many more awesome catches in centerfield by Eff Gutierrez (too derogatory?).

Silva? The NFL Draft should be somewhere in the third round during most of the game, right? I just want there to be an alternative if Silva hits the fan.

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