Thursday, April 30, 2009
The loss leaves the Mariners with a 13-9 mark at the end of April. I think anyone at the end of spring training would have gladly taken that record. Thirteen wins and nine losses matches the pace of the 2000 team. It's one game ahead of the 2007 and 2005 paces, five games ahead of 2006, and six games ahead of 2004. Conversely, the current pace is a game back of the 2003 team, four games back of the 2002 team, and five behind the crazy regular season of 2001.
Mariner hitters collectively went 12-for-37, walking twice and striking out seven times. The hitless Mariners were the 5-7 hitters in the lineup: Russell Branyan, Wladimir Balentien, and Rob Johnson. They combined to make an 0-for-12 hole in the lineup, striking out four times. This of course means the six Mariners with hits went 12-for-25 with two walks and three strikeouts. As for extra-base hits, Beltre, Lopez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. all hit a double apiece. The conclusion we can reach at the end of this series in Chicago is that they should have saved some of the Felix runs for the front end of the doubleheader and the Wednesday afternoon game. All told, the Mariners aren't going to be winning many games where they give up six runs. The Mariners don't have a seven-run offense. Multi-hit Mariners were Jose Lopez at 2-for-5, Franklin Gutierrez and Yuniesky Betancourt at 2-for-4, and Adrian Beltre at 4-for-4.
Now for the pitching. Erik Bedard had a below-average start for sure, though it wasn't completely horrendous. He threw waaaaay too many pitches in the first inning and held on for the rest of his outing before being yanked after facing two batters in the sixth. He may have lasted a few hitters more, but Don Wakamatsu had a very well-rested bullpen thanks to the starting pitching in the doubleheader the day before. Bedard left with two runners on and a 3-1 lead and was the pitcher of record. Shawn Kelley let those runners score, damaging Bedard's ERA and making his line look a bit worse. Bedard gave up three runs on six hits with an AJ Pierzynski homer (his first hit off a lefty all season), walking three and striking out three (and hitting Carlos Quentin twice with pitches) over five-plus innings. He threw 54 strikes out of 92 pitches and got three groundouts and seven flyouts. Bedard faced 24 hitters to get 15 outs. He definitely was not as sharp as he'd been earlier in the season. It took a great Ichiro catch (ending the inning) to prevent the game from getting out of hand in the fifth.
As for the bullpen, one of the entries below will go to Shawn Kelley. A bullpen that used to hold the league's leading ERA is now getting touched up a bit more often. The bullpen finished off the last four innings of the game, putting up a combined line of three runs on six hits, walking one and striking out four, and giving up two homers (Kelley's). Mark Lowe labored a bit through a 27-pitch eighth inning in which he faced five hitters. I think there might be some regression to the mean going on here. Most of the starting pitchers seem to be picking up the slack. The offense hasn't quite gotten themselves in gear yet, and definitely not with much consistency. As an aside, we haven't seen Brandon Morrow throwing in a while either.
Other odds and ends include Griffey's nice two-run double in the fifth (and Beltre's fister into centerfield that scored the last of the Mariners' runs), Ichiro's only hit of the game going off the first-base bag (Wilson Betemit doubled off the same bag to bring the White Sox within a run), Balentien's diving catch/#1 Web Gem to end the third inning, and Rob Johnson gunning down two runners at second base in the same inning.
1) Adrian Beltre
Good to have you back, Adrian. Probably the weakest of his four hits was the one that staked the Mariners out to a 3-1 lead, a lead which didn't last too long. His 4-for-4 day (with a double and 1-for-2 day stealing second base) skyrocketed his batting average to .207. Beltre has the reputation of being a very slow starter, and it'll be great if and when he warms up at the plate. The good thing is that the defense is still there. There was a play in this game where Beltre fielded a bunt and pulled Branyan off the bag at first, but it went in the books as an infield hit, even though I thought the throw had a chance to get the runner. Beltre ended the month without a homer and with 10 RBIs. It's completely unrealistic to expect him to keep that zero-homer pace, though he does have 10 RBIs. That's a 74-RBI pace, which would definitely be a disappointment, but we haven't seen Beltre warm up in any way yet. This game looks good beacuse of four hits and a double, but until this guy starts hitting home runs, I don't think we have a legitimate grasp of how this year will turn out for him.
2) Jose Lopez
I'm really not sure about having this guy hit second in the lineup. I'm all for Yuniesky Betancourt hitting there because I think it would take advantage of his aggressiveness. I think putting Franklin Gutierrez in that spot puts too much pressure on him to hit when he doesn't have a full grasp of hitting (with consistency) yet at the Major League level. Lopez is a guy I want hitting fifth or sixth, though. Certainly he could have hit anywhere from fifth to seventh and would have helped partially fill the black hole in that part of the lineup. I think he could bat anywhere from second to sixth in this lineup, but he's probably best suited for fifth or sixth. Based on this year's results, however, Lopez is more suited for the third spot than Griffey is, but then again, nearly everyone else on the roster at this point is hitting better than Griffey is. Lopez had a 2-for-5 (with a double) day bumped his batting average up to .253. I'm hoping that climbs its way toward .280, and I'd like a 25-homer, 100-RBI season out of the guy.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
Gutierrez was robbed by a Dye diving catch in the fourth inning. If not for that catch, Gutierrez would have had a three-hit day. Until Gutierrez is hitting better than .250, I'm more than likely going to have Gutierrez somewhere in the gameball entries for every multi-hit game he manages to scratch out. Gutierrez hit eighth in this game, which I guess I'm comfortable with. He's far down enough in the lineup to where there's not too much pressure on him. He's not hitting in front of Ichiro like Betancourt (ninth) did in this game, so there's not too much pressure for him to get on base so that there's someone aboard when Ichiro's hitting. I think we'll have a better grasp of what Gutierrez can do at the plate after another month of baseball has passed. The 2-for-4 day put Gutierrez at a .230 mark for the season, and I'd say about .240 is passable what with how awesome his defense is. If he can get to .240 at the plate, I think it becomes that much harder to take him out of centerfield for an occasiobal day off. No doubt his non-hittingness at the plate has helped Wladimir Balentien get some at-bats as of late, and he hasn't done that bad either.
Definitely a bump in the road for Kelley. He came in with a 3-1 lead and two runners on base. They both scored. He came out for the seventh inning as well and couldn't preserve the tie score either. He gave up the back-to-back homers to Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye to effectively end the game in the seventh. Kelley faced seven batters to get four outs, giving up two runs on three hits, walking none and striking out two. He threw 22 strikes out of 32 pitches and got two flyouts with no groundouts. I think most of the guys in the bullpen have gotten in their one bad outing, whereas Miguel Batista and Roy Corcoran have turned in one bad season so far. It's going to be really interesting to see what facet of the team ends up picking up the slack of another facet of the team. Or it could just not happen at all and the team could go in the tank. At some point an outing like this was bound to happen to Kelley. This isn't the 2001 bullpen we're talking about here -- this is a much more unproven rag-tag bunch than that bullpen was.
Yeah, I think I need a day off before having to watch Carlos Silva. I also need a day off to watch playoff hockey without worrying about a baseball game running concurrently, so that's nice too.