Sunday, May 03, 2009
The Mariners have finally reached double digits in losses. This matches the pace of the 2000 team. It's one behind 2003, four behind 2002, and six behind 2001. The pace is one ahead of 2007, two ahead of 2005, three ahead of last year, five ahead of 2006, and six ahead of the putrid start of 2004. The 2005 team was losing the first of seven straight.
Mariner hitting went a collective 10-for-32, walking four times and striking out three times. Ken Griffey, Jr. (again?!) and Rob Johnson were the hitless Mariners. Ichiro, Russell Branyan, and Franklin Gutierrez all had two hits apiece. Adrian Beltre chimed in with a double and Branyan homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners on base. On the basepaths, the team was 0-for-2 on steal attempts as both Ichiro and Chavez were caught.
I'll cover the starting pitching in one of the gameball entries, so this will be about the bullpen. Washburn left the final two innings for the bullpen, and the bullpen got touched up once again. After having the top bullpen ERA not too long ago, the bullpen has hit a bit of a rough patch. Mark Lowe coughed up the lead in the eighth, giving up three hits. Lowe faced six hitters to get three outs, throwing 17 strikes on 24 pitches. The only hit David Aardsma gave up was on the final play of the game. Again, it's weird because Crosby stole second base to put himself in scoring position, so that's good for him, but then he scored (good for him) despite running the stop sign (bad) at third. That single was the third hit of the day for Oakland's ninth hitter and recent call-up Gregorio Petit. In any event, Crosby was only on base to begin with due to an Aardsma one-out walk, and we know sometimes that Aardsma's just a guy who throws and hopes it's in the strike zone, though I have seen some changes in speed lately from him.
1) Russell Branyan
Boom Boom Branyan is bringing the power back. He has been back in the lineup for eight games and has homered four times and doubled three times. In that span of time, his slugging percentage went from .485 to .688, and his on-base percentage went from .368 to .419. Branyan went 2-for-4 in this game with the one RBI from the solo shot. He currently is averaging a strikeout every four at-bats and has drawn seven walks. The homers he has hit the last couple nights have been largely in the same spot into the mass of inebriation over the wall in leftcenter. I'd have to say he's seeing the ball pretty well. These two homers have also been the only bombs he has it at home, as the other four dingers have been occurred on the road. This means we haven't seen Branyan hit balls off the Hit It Here Cafe or the upper deck in rightfield just yet. I haven't been to a game at the Safe in about six years, but I'm imagining what being there for batting practice is like when Branyan is hitting. In the grand scheme of things, let's hope this warm (and easily breakable) bat of Branyan's can bring up the rest of the lineup. Okay, Beltre.
2) Jarrod Washburn
The last start was a crappy one, but this one definitely was not. With two walks I'd stop short of calling it a grade-A start for Washburn, but it was a very solid start. He gave up only one run through on five hits in his seven innings of work, striking out six. Washburn threw 62 strikes on 101 pitches and got three groundball outs to 11 flyouts, which is much more Washburnian than his ratios have been as of late. Washburn faced 26 hitters to get 21 outs. Too bad he wasn't able to get the win in this game as the Mariners twice blew one-run leads before surrendering in the final two innings. At five turns through the rotation, Washburn has only had one crappy start out of five, and the four non-crappy starts have been really good starts. Sure, there was a six-inning start in there, but he's had two other seven-inning starts with an eight-inning start in there. The bullpen thanks Washburn in advance. Of course, the bullpen without Brandon Morrow means that there's David Aardsma at the end of it, and that didn't turn out too well in this game.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
It's another multi-hit game for Gutierrez, so he'll get the gameballs until he either does this regularly or hits a really rough stretch. He went 2-for-3 with a walk. Again, don't look now, but Gutierrez has a six-game hitting streak going. During the streak, he has gone 9-for-21 with a homer and two RBIs, along with two walks and four strikeouts. It's early in the season, so things like this can happen, but the streak has taken his batting average from .191 to its current .265. Like I've said, I'll take .240 out of the guy if he plays defense like he does. Another thing about Gutierrez is that he's hit two more homers than Beltre. I'm not sure how I can twist this, but Gutierrez has hit safely in 14 of the 21 games in which he's played, and he walked twice in one of the hitless games. If I couldn't see his face from far away and just saw a guy wearing a uniform, I would think it was Mike Morse, but luckily it's not. It's a guy who is infinitely better defensively and has never been banned under the substance abuse policy.
Griffey went 0-for-4 as well, but he managed to walk once. On top of the 0-for-4, Johnson grounded into a double play as well as misplaying the bounce of Ichiro's throw on the play of the plate that scored Oakland's go-ahead (winning) run. He looked like he had the plate blocked but looked to make the tag before he had the ball. Then Bobby Crosby steamrolled him. With Johjima back in the mix, I was a bit surprised to see Johnson play Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon, but maybe the playing time will be an even split instead of Johnson being a strict backup. What's bad is that if Johnson hangs up these 0-for-4s, it just makes me want to scream for Jeff Clement to be up with the big club. This team does not have enough power, and Clement at least has some potential for power. If you want to use him sparingly, you could make him a late-inning pinch-hitter from the left side. You have a righthanded one with Wladimir Balentien, but unless Griffey's on the bench, you don't really have a lefthanded one. Also, if Clement hit seventh in this lineup instead of Johnson, there would at least be some lefties in the 6-9 portion of the lineup. Lefty spaceout is reason #49384 to not bat Griffey third in the lineup, so you don't have all of the first three hitters as lefties. If it's used effectively, the other team's burning all the arms in their bullpen.
I'll go on a limb and say that if the Lithuanian Laser has a game like he did in Chicago, he'll win this time.