Sunday, April 12, 2009
The short version of the story relating to Mariner pitching is that Felix Hernandez didn't quite have it, only getting through five innings. Luckily for the Mariners, Monday is an off day, so the bullpen can get a day of rest -- they'll have done three straight games of tough work between picking up after Rowland-Smith's short outing, finishing off after Felix only went five, and cleaning up after Erik Bedard's no-more-than-six-innings start sure to come here in a few hours. I don't expect the Mariners to contend for a playoff spot this season or even get to .500, but Felix getting deep into games every five days correlates directly with the bullpen's workload for the four following days. Most notably, the bullpen has to be well-rested after Felix throws because Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva are going to need the bullpen to pick up after their scraps. You know who I think would help the starting rotation? Brandon Morrow. You know what might help the bullpen? Ryan Rowland-Smith, who is lefthanded. That'd be a bunk deal for the Aussie, though.
As for the hitting, the Mariners went a torrid 12-for-36. Only Wladimir Balentien (0-for-2 with a walk before being pulled) and Ronny Cedeno (0-for-3 with a walk, scoring once) were hitless. The multi-hit games belonged to Russell Branyan (2-for-3 with a solo shot, walk, and strikeout), Yuniesky Betancourt (2-for-4, scoring once), and Mike Sweeney (3-for-5, scoring once and driving in a run). The only extra-base hits were Branyan's homer and a two-run double in the only at-bat for Jose Lopez. Driving in two runs apiece were Franklin Gutierrez, Lopez, and Kenji Johjima, who finally showed us something offensively this season, along with...
1) Mike Sweeney
I've been hoping for what seems like a long time for this guy to give us some good reason for his being on the team than the overrated "he's a great veteran presence in the clubhouse." I sometimes would scare myself into thinking that the Mariners would keep this guy because of his clubhouse presence despite his hitting .053 or whatever a worst-case scenario could be. So, to remind us that he isn't completely dead weight, he tosses in a 3-for-5 day as a designated hitter in the third spot (eek, I think that's too high) in the lineup. I thought when the Mariners brought back Ken Griffey, Jr. that they were trying like they have since 2004 to replace Edgar Martinez with another everyday DH. Frankly, I never agreed with that philosophy because Edgars do not grow on trees (what tree did Carl Everett fall from?). Though we have to put up with Griffey in the field every once in a while, it does help toward the rotation of the DH as a means of resting legs for various fielders. Back to Sweeney, hopefully this 3-for-5 day wakes up his bat.
2) Miguel Batista
If I was watching this game and Felix didn't come out for the sixth, and Batista came out with a two-run deficit, I would have just stopped caring. I would have expected Batista to just throw away any chance the Mariners would have had at coming back into this game. Naturally, since I wasn't watching, Batista gave up one hit but retired the other six batters he faced over his two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh. If Batista does what we expect of him, we're not even talking about a comeback victory by the Mariners. Instead, Batista does well. I'm still not comfortable when he throws, but hey, you gotta take baby steps.
3) Russell Branyan
It's six games into the season and Branyan is hitting at a .333 clip with two homers and three RBIs, and he's even drawing the occasional walk. He hasn't been completely brutal defensively at first base. If only the Mariners could magically rid themselves of the dead weight/albatross contracts on their roster, perhaps they'd be a crazy team in terms of value. Pickups like Branyan would be a big part of this. Sure, you have your key cogs that are going to make money, but if you can catch lightning by doing research on miscellaneous spare parts and bringing them aboard, then that's mega awesome while the Yankees spend crazy millions so they can miss the postseason completely. If Don Wakamatsu finds a way to keep all these spare parts happy in terms of playing time, then he'll have done a pretty solid job as Mariner manager for the year 2009. I've mentioned before that I prefer the Donnie Walker nickname for Don Wakamatsu, though I'm sure Intentional Wak or Wak 'N Roll will also work. Odd note is that he's wearing the number that Kazuhiro Sasaki used to wear.
The one thing that doesn't look bad in the boxscore for Felix is the eight strikeouts. On the other hand, when Felix is dealing or close to it, he's a lot more efficient with pitches and getting a ton of groundouts and getting into the seventh and eighth innings. As mentioned, here he only got through five innings. He walked two hitters and nailed one with a pitch. He gave up five runs on seven hits, one of those hits being the Jack Cust two-run homer. Probably the one stat in the boxscore that lets you know that Felix didn't have it: zero groundouts, seven flyouts. That is really not a Felix-type game at all. Since I of course didn't see the game, that tells me that Felix must not have had the downward movement on his pitches that he usually has, so none of the Oakland hitters were beating those balls into the ground like we're all accustomed to seeing. The really good news for the Mariners is that they were able to pull out the win despite Felix not putting together a start that we usually expect out of him. That probably says more about this team so far this season than anything else.
We're an hour or so away from getting hit in the Bedards.