Tuesday, May 26, 2009


For many years, the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever the hell it's named now) has been a house of horrors for the Seattle Mariners. Despite all the player turnover over the years and decades, it seems that whoever puts on a Seattle Mariners uniform and plays in Oakland finds themselves in a futile endeavor. Some of my earliest Mariner memories as a kid involves me listening to a Mariner day game in Oakland while the parents were at work and hearing that Dennis Eckersley was going to pitch in the ninth, and I knew the game was over. Yes, the Mariners got me used to losing at a young age. As it is, in seemingly every year except 2001, Oakland has not been kind to the Mariners. I remember an Eric Chavez walk-off blast off Kazuhiro Sasaki that got just inside the leftfield foul pole, which is a hell of a shot for a lefty. Anyway, fast forward to this Memorial Day game and you get a weird game with weird circumstances that ends up in a familiar fate. Whether it be crazy catches, broken toes, hitting coaches getting ejected on plays where it turns out it's not batter's interference, or a player getting caught stealing because he thought the pitch was ball four when it was ball three...none of it can bury the fact that your starting pitcher was substandard and that your team went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

The Mariners blew their ninth chance to win consecutive games for the first time since April 25th, and they have alternated wins and losses for the last seven games. At 21-25, the Mariners current pace is tied or better than all Bavasi-era times except for the 2007 team, which was 24-22 (three games better). Twenty-one wins matches the 2006 pace and is three games better than the 2005 pace and last year, and it's four games better than the 2004 pace. As for the Gillick era, all four of his Mariner squads had better marks as 21 wins is four games worse than 2000, nine games worse than 2002 and 2003, and 13 games worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting combined to go 8-for-33 at the plate, walking twice and striking out six times. Mike Sweeney doubled and Kenji Johjima homered on a broken toe to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. Ichiro got four hits and Franklin Gutierrez had two hits to account for multi-hit outings for Mariner hitters. The most daunting thing in the boxscore for the Mariner offense is the 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Bruuuuuuutal.

Seattle's starting pitching in the game will be covered below. Here I'll deal with the bullpen. Denny Stark threw 1 2/3 innings of mostly harmless relief with two walks being the only blemish on his line. He even helped out Chris Jakubauskas by stranding his two runners. Stark faced five hitters to get five outs. Brandon Morrow did some mop-up work, throwing the sixth and seventh innings, and not even giving up a home run this time. He gave up an unearned run on one hit, walked two, and struck out three. He faced 10 hitters to get six outs, and threw 30 strikes on 52 pitches in his two innings. Still, so-so right now is a step up for Morrow, so I'll take that. Sean White threw a largely inconsequential eighth inning of work, giving up one hit and retiring the other three hitters he faced.

1) Ichiro
All hail the king of the infield hit. In a 4-for-4 day, his first three hits were all infield hits before he managed to get a ball out of the infield. Ichiro also stole a base. The four-hit outing bumped Ichiro's batting average from .319 to .335, his on-base percentage from .351 to .365, and his slugging percentage from .428 to .441 (even with all singles). Ichiro is hitting .352 for the month of May, he's on base at .391 this month, and he's slugging .454 for the month. Lest I forget to mention the extension of the hitting streak, which is now at 19 games. Ryan Zimmerman had a long streak earlier this year, but I'm sure he can't beat out the infield grounder like Ichiro can. Ichiro has gone 32-for-84 (.381) over the span of the streak. Like most of the Mariners lately, Ichiro has gone a while without an extra-base hit, which in his case is five games. He has gone eight games without a walk, though you can also take that to mean the Mariners never have runners on and first base open in the late innings of a close game.

2) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder went 2-for-4 with a strikeout and was his usual defensive self. He is now hitting .265 on the season, and he's on-base at a .344 clip, but only slugging .353. He hasn't had an extra-base hit since he homered on May 4th in a 3-for-4 home game against Texas. His slugging percentage was at .461 after that game and has now lost over .100 points. I won't lie, I thought we were going to see a bit more power from this guy given that he was popping the occasional long ball earlier in the season. For instance, Gutierrez has a May on-base mark (.379) that is higher than his slugging percentage for the month (.373). I know I've been saying that I consider anything above .240 at the plate for Gutierrez as a bonus, but every little extra bit helps this team, and they need anything right now in terms of extra-base hits. It should be noted that Gutierrez is hitting .293 for the month of May, which is way better than I imagined him being at any point this season. He puts a lot of goose eggs up there, but it seems when he gets hits, it's always a multi-hit game. He's had 11 hitless games, three one-hit games, and nine games of two hits or more in the month of May.

3) Kenji Johjima
I guess I'll give him one of these before he hits the shelf for a couple of weeks with that broken toe. Pesky ex-Angel Adam Kennedy spiked Johjima in the foot on a play at the plate and Johjima's toe was broken. Undaunted, Johjima stayed in the game for his next at-bat, in which he jumped all over an inside pitch, as he does from time to time, and homered to leftfield for the Mariners' only run of the game. It was an interesting piece of programming by the FSNNW crew who spotted Johjima in the dugout taking off his sock and wincing while trying to put it back on. Mike Blowers had a vintage Blowersian reaction to this, saying something like, "mmmph" or a groan or something. In any event, Rob Johnson's probably jumping for joy because this is the only way he was going to get regular playing time again this season. Johjima will head to the shelf with a .250 batting average and three homers (yes, as many as Adrian Beltre) to his name for the season. With this comes the question of lineup shuffling -- Johjima hit seventh in this game, but does that mean Rob Johnson hits seventh?

Chris Jakubauskas
Okay, so we've seen eight starts out of the Lithuanian Laser. Four of the starts have been good to pretty good. One of the starts was bad, but three of the starts were completely atrocious. With Ryan Rowland-Smith supposedly not too far away from coming back to the rotation, the time might be nigh to send this guy back to the bullpen. When Jakubauskas is bad, he's really bad, and he definitely was really bad in this game. He faced 19 hitters to get 10 outs. He gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits, walking three and striking out two, throwing 43 strikes out of 79 pitches. It's tough because he's had really good flashes of brilliance, but he's had games like this where he loses command of everything and just doesn't look ready for prime time (though it was a day game, humor me). With Carlos Silva out of the picture for the time being, Jakubauskas is the weakest remaining link in the starting rotation. If the alternative is to push him down to the bullpen and move a Garrett Olson or Jason Vargas into his spot when Rowland-Smith comes back, I can't say I'd be against it.

It'll be a Washburnian night in the caverns in Oakland tonight.

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