Wednesday, May 06, 2009
The Mariners broke up their seven-game streak of alternating wins and losses, but unfortunately they had to do that with a loss. Losing twice to the intra-division Texas Rangers also hurts as the Mariners now only had a half-game lead over them for the lead. The 15-12 mark after 27 games is still better than any of the Bavasi-era teams -- one better than 2007, two better than last year, three better than 2005 and 2006, and five better than 2004. The mark isn't better than any of the Gillick-era teams -- ties 2000, two worse than 2003, three worse than 2002, and six worse than 2001. It should be noted that the 2005 team was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak (and 11 of 12) at this point, and last year's team was about to sandwich a win between dual five-game losing streaks. By the way, these current Mariners have lost six of their last nine. The sky isn't falling, but the team is creeping back to .500 for sure.
Mariner hitting went a futile 3-for-31 in the game, walking four times and striking out six times. The only Mariners with hits were Russell Branyan, Adrian Beltre, and Wladimir Balentien. Ichiro was hitless but managed to walk twice. The team was 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners on base. Jose Lopez, Mike Sweeney, and Beltre all grounded into double plays.
I cover the starting pitching in the one of the entries below as well as the final pitcher. The three in between were Mark Lowe (eighth inning), David Aardsma (ninth inning), and Shawn Kelley (three pitches in the tenth inning). They combined for two shutout innings, giving up four hits, walking one, and striking out two. Lowe and Aardsma gave up two hits apiece, getting some adversity sprinkled into their appearances. Aardsma in particular was able to come up with a huge strikeout on a full-count pitch to end his inning. The concern goes to Kelley, who Mike Blowers noticed didn't look right after his second pitch, walking around the mound for a bit more than usual. Kelley threw his third pitch and fell in a heap on the front slope of the mound like he'd been nailed with wild animal tranquilizer or something. I hope we get to see this guy again. I think everyone was surprised to see him make the team out of spring training, and he'd proved his worth so far. I hope we get to see him on the mound again, though it might be at least 15 days.
1) Erik Bedard
After a bumpy first inning, I didn't think he would finish six innings, but instead he finished seven. His only real blemish was a pitch that was obliterated by Nelson Cruz (he hit the ball pretty hard all day), but that was his only run on seven hits. Making his already insane strikeout-to-walk ratio even more insane, Bedard struck out seven and walked none. He threw 72 strikes out of 102 pitches, and had a pretty nice curveball going. He got four groundouts to nine flyouts. Bedard faced 27 hitters to get 21 outs. The stoic Mariner lefthander now has an ERA of 2.37 and did the bullpen a decent favor by turning in a great outing following Felix Hernandez's not-so-good start on Monday and the extra-inning game on Sunday. The bullpen will need all the rest it can get because Wednesday's game will see Carlos Silva starting in a hitter-friendly ballpark. It'll at least be interesting to see how long the leash is on Silva. Does Don Wakamatsu pull him from the rotation after five more starts? One start? A month?
2) Russell Branyan
On a day where not a lot of good happened to the Mariners at the plate, Branyan chimed in with a 1-for-3 day along with a walk, and the one hit was a double. Even on a crap day for the team, Branyan gets his extra-base on. I also like that so far he hasn't proved to be too horrible of a defensive liability. There have been a couple of Beltre one-hoppers that have flummoxed him (and that Richie Sexson or John Olerud would have had), but maybe that comes with more reps with these guys. So far, so good on defense. So far, so very good on offense, as has been obvious since Branyan has come off the shelf. Branyan's goodness at the plate lately got Wakamatsu to move him up to fifth in the lineup in this game, bumping Beltre to fifth. As has been the case for years, the fourth slot always carries the tag of being the "cleanup hitter," and Branyan's definitely suited for it. Okay, he'd be more suited for it right now if he'd hit 11 homers, struck out way more, and hit .260 instead of his current .321, but we'll take what he's doing now.
3) Adrian Beltre
A 1-for-4 day bumped Beltre's batting average up to a gawdy .209. His one hit was a double, so that helps the slugging percentage go up a tick. Wakamatsu moved Beltre down to fifth in the lineup after being at fourth for so long, and I would think that takes some of the pressure off of him. With Ken Griffey, Jr. out for now, the lineup for this game had Ichiro (lefty), Lopez (righty), Sweeney (righty), Branyan (lefty), and Beltre (righty), with Balentien (righty) hitting behind him. Actually, it was a pretty righty-heavy lineup without Endy Chavez out there. Symbolically, the bump in the lineup definitely lets him know he should be doing better, but it also gives Branyan somewhat of a validation of what he's done so far at the plate. Of course, those who were betting on seeing a Beltre homer before a Betancourt walk lost that bet in the first game of this series. If he doesn't have a homer by May 15th, I think it's really time to freak out. If he sucks enough for this year, do you think his price goes down enough to where it'd be a decent idea to keep him?
If you're going to blow a tie ballgame, you might as well blast it all to hell. The bullpen was a bit tired, and after Shawn Kelley looked like he'd been hit with a tranquilizer dart, Stark came in and had as many warmup throws as he wanted before he resumed the batter on whom Kelley had a 2-1 count. Stark -- appearing in a game for the third straight day -- was pressed into action, sure, but his final line is something to behold. He did manage to get through the tenth inning, but gave up six runs on five hits, walking one. He faced nine hitters to get three outs (one flyout, two groundouts). He threw 21 strikes on 36 pitches. Needless to say, the grand slam by Jarrod "The Salty One" Saltalamacchia was the big blow that put the game on ice for the Rangers. Frankly, though it was only a two game series, the Mariners had a big problem with how many home runs the Rangers were hitting, and they weren't cheap home runs. They also had problems hitting Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla. Anyway, I don't think this outing alone would earn him a demotion since Kelley got injured before him and since he'd thrown three days in a row. I don't think he'll be voted off the island just yet.
Where will Silva go for his barbecue?