Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The Mariners are at 15-11, but have alternated wins and losses for their last seven games, so while there haven't been any losing streaks lately, there also haven't been any winning streaks, at least not since they were 12-6 at the end of a three-game winning streak. A two-game losing streak made the Mariners 12-8, and the wins and losses have alternated since. Of the still-good years of Mariner baseball, this pace is ahead of only the 2000 season by one game. It is five games behind the 2001 pace, two back of the 2003 pace, and three behind the 2002 pace. Of the crappy recent years of Mariner baseball, the pace is better than all the seasons, two better than 2007, three better than 2008 and 2005, four better than 2006, and five better than 2004.
Kevin Millwood threw a perfect game through four innings, so the Mariner hitters' numbers didn't warm up until the fifth. They were a collective 9-for-36, walking once (a surprise of a walk) and striking out three times. Kenji Johjima and Mike Sweeney doubled, Ichiro tripled, and Branyan and Gutierrez homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position (the one hit was the Gutierrez homer).
I'll deal wtih the starting pitching (Felix Hernandez) below, so here's the bullpen. They threw three innings of shutout and no-hit ball. Sean White walked two in an otherwise spotless two innings, striking out one hitter. He faced seven hitters to get six outs, recording four groundouts to zero flyouts. Denny Stark threw in his second straight game, throwing a perfect ninth inning and striking out one, getting a groundout and a flyout.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
I hope everyone out there is enjoying the current output of Gutierrez, because I know I am. All I was hoping for this season out of Gutierrez was a .240 season with awesome defense. I wasn't expecting eight-game hitting streaks like the one he's on now. At the end of the Tampa Bay series, he was hitting .191. Eight games later, he's a .303 hitter. Simply incredible. He seems to not have too much trouble scratching together the odd hit, and apart from a three-game hitless streak (the Tampa Bay series), he's never gone hitless in consecutive games. It's not just an eight-game hit streak that's going for Gutierrez, though. He's gotten multiple hits in each of his last five games. He hit .211 before that streak, and now it's the aforementioned .303. I haven't even mentioned the three-run homer off Millwood that tied this game at four apiece. You don't expect him to hit a bunch of homers, and you don't expect eight-game hit streaks or five-game streaks of multi-hit games, but it's really nice to know that the potential is there. So far, this looks like a golden find by Jack Zduriencik.
2) Russell Branyan
He finally pulled one at the Safe. His mortar shot in the bottom of the fifth broke up Kevin Millwood's perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout, and it put the Mariners on the board, starting the nuttiness that ensued later in the inning. In the ten games Branyan has played since coming back from injury, he has homered five times. Add five doubles to that total, and it does wonders for the ol' slugging percentage, which has gone from .485 to .667 in those ten games. Branyan is also hitting .320, which is overwhelmingly good for someone you'd regard as a power hitter. He also has more hits than strikeouts. I'm not sure I expect that to hold up through the season. He has only struck out in one game this month, and that was the extra-inning game on Sunday, which gives a person many chances to strike out. So far it seems like the main pitches that Branyan are smoking seem to be on the outer half of the plate. He has to get his arms extended for the ball to have a legitimate chance to leave the yard. On the inside pitches, it seems his bat gets too vertical and it ends up too golfy.
3) Yuniesky Betancourt
HE WALKED! HE WALKED! HE WALKED!!!!!! Betancourt got up 3-0 in the count on Frank Francisco and I thought if I could take anything from this game, it'd be that Betancourt managed to walk himself aboard. Sure enough, he did. He represented the winning run on first base with Ichiro coming to the plate with two out. What's too bad is that despite the patience that Betancourt showed, Ichiro swung on the first pitch and flew out to centerfield to end the game. You can't win 'em all, I guess. The 1-for-3 night with a walk picked up nine points in on-base percentage for Betancourt, bumping it up to .302. His batting average is now .298, but for the first time since April 24th against the Angels, his batting average isn't greater than his on-base percentage. It's amazing what just one walk will do. I do have to say I'm still an advocate of moving Betancourt to the second slot in the lineup if Chavez is riding pine that day. Bat Balentien down low that day and it can be a hit-and-run fest with Betancourt since we know he'll be aggressive and make contact.
This team's not going to win many games when Felix gives up six runs. It's simple as that. Though he gets full marks for pitching despite a bout of the flu, he unfortunately made mistakes that you could imagine happening from someone who was pitching through a flu. He gave up all the runs and hits that the Rangers accumulated in the game. The dual two-run homers he gave up were the crippling hits -- Michael Young's opposite field shot made it 4-0 in the fifth, and right after the Mariners rallied back to tie it at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth, Chris Davis crushed a ball to rightfield to make it 6-4. With the way Kevin Millwood threw in every inning to that point other than the fifth, it didn't look good for the Mariners. Felix gave up six runs on 10 hits through his six innings. Maybe the best thing about his line was that he didn't walk anyone and struck out nine. He threw 65 strikes out of 97 pitches. He recorded two groundouts to seven flyouts (not very Felix-like) and faced 28 hitters to get 18 outs. You can say anything about this game, but it boils down to Felix giving up six runs. The Mariners somehow nearly won despite this.
Bedardation! The game better be over before the Canucks play at 5pm.