Sunday, April 26, 2009


We're 18 games into the season, and the Mariners have unthinkably won two thirds of their games. This team of Mariners is two games off the pace of the 2001 and 2002 teams. They are one game ahead of the 2000 team's pace and two games up on Bob Melvin's 2003 team that was 42-19 before playing roughly .500 ball the rest of the season.

I'm not ready to give Carlos Silva a gameball just yet. He apparently pitched through a bit of pain in this game and the trainer did come out at one point, but Silva begged Don Wakamatsu to leave him in the game and finish out five innings for the win. Silva threw two perfect innings to start out before things hit the fan a bit, coinciding with whatever was causing pain for him. He gave up three runs and six hits over his five innings, walking one and striking out one. He threw 43 of 72 pitches for strikes and recorded eight groundouts to six flyouts. He faced 22 batters to get 15 outs. It had been 301 calendar days since Silva had last recorded a win, so hopefully this can be a boost of confidence for him. Though it's pretty clear how his tenure in Seattle will be remembered, ultimately the team will be better off if Silva does well. Hopefully he's 11-2 at the All Star break and becomes immediately tradeable. Kendry Morales homered to lead off the fourth, but Silva also allowed a video-review double that was nicely snagged by a fan over the rightfield scoreboard wearing a Mariner cap.

I'll lump the bullpen into one of the entries below.

The Mariners were 12-for-37 at the plate, walking twice and striking out nine times. Only Endy Chavez and Jose Lopez went hitless. Ken Griffey, Jr., Adrian Beltre, Rob Johnson, and Yuniesky Betancourt grabbed a hit apiece. Wladimir Balentien had two hits, and Ichiro quietly had three base hits. Johnson and Betancourt both doubled off Major League newbie Anthony Ortega. Branyan and Balentien both homered off Ortega. The team went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners. The 3-5 hitters in the lineup combined to go 5-for-14, scoring five times and driving in six runs, walking once and striking out five times. The 7-8-9-1 hitters went 7-for-16, scoring four times and driving in three runs while striking out three times.

1) Russell Branyan
It's nice to see some power return to the Mariner lineup. The only problem so far is that Branyan's really been the only legitimate threat on this team. The Mariners are glad to have him back on the field, though we'd all like to see him involved in less plays at the plate and in general less plays where he has to slide. His slide into third base was pretty jarring. Anyway, Branyan went 3-for-5, driving in four runs and scoring twice as well as striking out twice. In his two games coming back since injury, he's 5-for-8 with six RBIs, two homers, and a double with two walks and two strikeouts. He was on the shelf for five games, and the Mariners went 2-3 in those games. If and when Beltre gets hot, the lineup will look great with more than one dependable power threat. The way the lineup was made, a team could walk Branyan to face Jose Lopez, who is hitting .220 but isn't in anywhere near the funk that Beltre is in. If Branyan was slotted before Beltre, that could be an instant walk if Branyan really gets hot. Hopefully having Branyan behind Beltre would mean better pitches for Beltre to hit. Beltre went 1-for-5 in the game.

2) Ichiro
It seemed like a pretty quiet 3-for-5 night for Ichiro. The Mariners' leadoff hitter is hitting .341, which unfortunately is also his on-base percentage, which means he's not walking himself aboard. He's thrown a double and a couple of homers into the mix, so that advances the slugging percentage up a few ticks (it's at .500). His last four games have seen him go 9-for-21 with the double, homer, and a steal (though he was caught once). Folks, I don't think the 2001 version of Ichiro will ever return, but that still leaves us to watch one of the best singles hitters ever to walk the earth. We are 18 games into the Mariners' season, but Ichiro is only ten games into his (not counting World Baseball Classic stuff). You have to account for his eight games out to make this work (i.e., 154-game season), but Ichiro is on a 231-hit pace despite having eight less games with which to accumulate hits. Again, I'm only looking at a ten-game sample of Ichiro, but getting to 200 hits for the ninth straight season might still be a walk (ha, irony) for this guy. We haven't seen anything too crazy defensively out of him yet, though he did do some Spider-Man stuff on that Matthews non-homer.

3) Wladimir Balentien
He went 2-for-4 with a solo homer that was absolutely ripped, hitting below the Del Taco sign in the equipment tunnel past the leftfield fence. He hit in the seventh spot in the lineup and played leftfield, with Chavez moving over to center. As much as I like Franklin Gutierrez defensively, and as much as I think he needs more at-bats to find himself on offense, Balentien may have earned himself more playing time with what he did in this game. It's no secret the Mariners need some pop in their lineup, and though it's somewhat unharnessed, we know Balentien has pop in his bat, certainly more than Gutierrez. If Gutierrez is hitting .196, it forces Wakamatsu to at least consider hiding Balentien in the field so the Mariners can have his bat in the lineup. When Griffey is hitting .200 and Beltre is hitting .171 and are both going to be in the lineup on most days, you have to find some hits in other spots in the lineup wherever you can. Also consider that Silva being a groundball pitcher (though less so in this game)

David Aardsma
The Angels scored five runs in the last three innings of the game. The Mariners were ahead 9-3 at the seventh inning stretch. Maybe Aardsma got the wool pulled over his eyes along with the rest of the bullpen when Brandon Morrow (right shoulder stiffness) didn't show up. I certainly wondered what was happening when Aardsma came out for the ninth and Morrow hadn't thrown the night before. Aardsma recorded a five-alarm save, coming in with a 9-6 game and ending it at 9-8. Aardsma's outing included a complete destruction of a pitch by Torii Hunter that resulted in a home run. Aardsma threw 12 strikes out of 21 pitches and faced five hitters to get three outs. Really, though, you could argue that two and maybe three of the four bullpen guys that threw more than one pitch (good pitch by Shawn Kelley) were ineffective. The Mariners came in with the best bullpen ERA in the Majors. The bullpen went four innings and gave up five runs on five hits and three walks. They struck out two hitters. It was not a good day for the bullpen. ...but something's gotta go wrong if Silva threw in the game, right?

Jarrod Washburn throws against his former team once again. Luckily we in the Northwest have the Mariner feed, but if you're unlucky enough to have the Angels' TV feed for this game, prepare for a couple hours' worth of Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler fawning over how good Washburn was for the Angels. Sadly, even though Washburn isn't what he was with the Angels, they could really use him right now.

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