Saturday, May 02, 2009


Folks, something's different about this season. So far, it seems they're just living a charmed existence. It's been quite a while since we've had a Mariner team get down early like they did in this game and think they could maybe come back and win it. Maybe that's just me talking, but when Carlos Silva is laying an egg out there and it's 6-1 for Oakland, and then Don Wakamatsu brings in Miguel Batista, I pretty much figure the towel has been thrown. Instead, the team preyed off Dana Eveland's lack of command and got two of the runs back in the bottom half of the same inning where Silva was horrid. That came before the Mariners used twin blasts to take the lead in the fifth and before Matt Holliday vaporized a Sean White pitch to tie the game at 7-7 in the seventh. That set up the finish in the ninth -- including the Mike Sweeney full-count pitch that could have easily been strike three and the epic Jose Lopez at-bat. The magic may wear off at some point, but maybe it won't. This isn't a normal Mariner team. Also consider that earlier in the night, the Angels were in the Bronx and blew a 9-4 lead in the final two innings against the Yankees. The Mariners gained a game up on everyone in the AL West.

In roster news, Kenji Johjima drew back into the Mariner lineup, batting seventh. Though I like the job Rob Johnson has done filling in for Johjima, the odd thing is that the Mariners had a record of 6-7 without Johjima. Poor Jamie Burke was designated for assignment to make room. A slightly older move was the placing of Roy Corcoran on the disabled list. Jason Vargas took his place in the bullpen, meaning the bullpen actually has a lefthander in it. I read a Kirby Arnold piece where apparently Wakamatsu is just going to use Vargas as a long relief guy as opposed to a situational guy. I'm a fan of how Wakamatsu has been managing the bullpen so far though, though maybe it's been out of necessity. Right now it just seems he sends guys out there to get outs, matchups be damned. I like games that are over in 2.5 hours.

As for the pace, 14-9 makes the 2009 Mariners three games better than last year, two better than 2007, five better than 2006, two better than 2005, six better than 2004, and one better than 2000. The 14-9 record is one game off the pace of 2003, three behind 2002, and five behind 2001. In other words, it's the best start by the Mariners since 2003. That team started 42-19. Fun fact: the 2001 team didn't lose three straight games until their 149th game of the season. Also, the longest post-2003 winning streak was an eight-game winning streak in 2007. I guess the fun thing about this season so far is that they've only been under .500 for one day. There's been some scuffling since the 7-2 start, though. They've had five shots at getting to six games over .500, and they've only succeeded in getting there once, and that win made them 12-6. The sixth chance will come tonight.

Mariner hitting in this game went 12-for-36 as a whole, walking five times (one intentional) and striking out three times. No Mariner went hitless. Jose Lopez, Franklin Gutierrez, and Yuniesky Betancourt had two hits apiece. Since it's fun to take different parts of the lineup and clump their numbers together to get something impressive, I'll do that with the final four hitters of the lineup. The Mariners' sixth through ninth hitters combined to go 7-for-17 with five of the Mariners' RBIs. The only Seattle extra-base hits in the game were the fifth-inning homers by Russell Branyan and Gutierrez. Silva was a lot more charitable for extra-base hits with the other team, but that's for a different part of this post. The one-hit Mariners in the game were Ichiro, Endy Chavez, Mike Sweeney, Adrian Beltre, Russell Branyan, and Kenji Johjima. The team went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners.

With Silva doing what he did, the bullpen had to pick up the slack and pitch the final 16 outs of the game. They weren't completely flawless once again thanks to the Holliday blast off Sean White, but they nonetheless gave up only the one run, but didn't completely put the game out of reach, which I was very prepared for Miguel Batista to do. Batista would have been one of the gameball entries if not for the fact that Shawn Kelley got his first Major League win out of this. Batista came into the fourth inning with a runner aboard, but managed to strand him. The rest of his pitching line is spotless with no runs and no hits, and he faced seven hitters to get seven outs, though he did walk two batters. We're 23 games into the season, and Batista's been used eight times. He's thrown at least two innings in five of those appearances. With that, however, you take the bad, and he's had two outings where he's failed to get anyone out. Thanks in part to three unearned runs against Detroit, Batista has an ERA of 1.59, and that coupled with quite a few other things makes me wonder if I don't just want to see Batista in the rotation instead of Silva. I know he can be bad, but how much worse than Silva can he be?

1) Jose Lopez
A 14-pitch at-bat with a barrage of foulaways of two-strike pitches had everyone in the ballpark and watching on television on edge. There were a couple of those pitches I wished he left high, but he kept fouling off everything, and everyone watching was mentally exhausted, and Lopez looked like the at-bat was draining him as well. Ultimately, it ended with Lopez singling into rightfield, driving home Chavez with the winning run. Lopez had a 2-for-5 day, driving in three of the Mariners' eight runs. He is on a streak of three straight multi-hit games, and has had multiple hits in four of his last five games and five of his last seven. He has taken his batting average from .196 to .263 in the span of seven games. His 16 RBIs leads the team, and he is on pace for a 113-RBI season. That's despite his hot streak lately. He'll probably exceed that 113-RBI pace at some point. However, one big factor as to how many people are on base for Lopez is relative to how many runners the hitters in front of him are leaving on base. If Beltre's cold, there are going to be runners on base (six in this game).

2) Franklin Gutierrez
Just when I was about to give up on the guy in terms of power and big hits and things of that nature, he comes out and golfs a pitch over the fence. His two-run homer in the fifth brought the Mariner comeback all the way back, giving the Mariners their fifth and sixth unanswered runs. Also, don't look now, but Gutierrez has himself a five-game hitting streak. Just don't tell him. He's rode pine a couple of times for Wladimir Balentien to get some at-bats, but if he gets the bat warmed up, that may be a little harder to do thanks to Gutierrez's defense. That's too bad for Balentien because I think he's done some good things at the plate and he did have that one crazy catch as well. Gutierrez has used the five-game hitting streak to take his batting average from .191 to .246. He could hit .246 for the rest of the season and I'd be completely okay with it. He's making a lot of things in centerfield look extremely easy. Sure, Ryan Sweeney can make an over-the-shoulder basket catch, but Gutierrez would probably be sitting there on the warning track for three seconds waiting for it.

3) Shawn Kelley
Three cheers for his first Major League win. Kelley has made eight appearances this season and hadn't given up any runs until his last outing, a bump in the road to the tune of two runs in 1 1/3 innings. This time it was a pretty good bounceback outing as Kelley struck out two hitters over his 1 2/3 innings. He faced five hitters to get those five outs and threw 16 strikes in 26 pitches. Also, he inherited two of Sean White's runners when he took the mound with one out in the eighth inning. If only it weren't for Batista, this would be a no-name/low-salary group of relievers the Mariners have on their hands. As much as it would have been fun to keep JJ Putz and George Sherrill around, they would have gotten expensive, and what good is a bullpen if you can't score any runs for any leads to matter? It's like a couple years ago when Danys Baez was still kinda good but he was on Baltimore or Tampa Bay when they were horrible teams. I have to say that I like this philosophy that involves a cheap bullpen. It's a good thing.

Carlos Silva
People said he was pitching through some pain the last time out, but got through five innings for the win. What about this start? Maybe he should have hurt himself before he pitched, because he's making the fans hurt when they have to watch him pitch. Six runs (all earned) on six hits in 3 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out three. He threw 44 strikes out of 81 pitches. He got three groundouts to five strikeouts, which I'd normally say isn't Silva-esque, but since a normal Silva apparently isn't a good Silva, maybe the crappy Silva is the normal Silva. Silva faced 21 batters to get those 11 outs. Absolutely putrid. It's nice that the Mariners are 14-9 and everything, but how can we realistically expect this team to stay fairly decent when they're effectively punting away 20% of their games by letting Silva start every five days? I'm done with Silva. I know Batista in the rotation wouldn't be too much better, but is there really any way that Batista could be worse than Silva? Maybe every time that turn comes up in the rotation, you have one guy start and the other guy as the first guy out of the bullpen. It's a horrible waste of money, but I think that's as much as they can get out of these two guys.

Would Jarrod Washburn smack you in the face if you called him J-Rod instead of Jarrod?

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