Thursday, May 28, 2009
This year's edition of the Seattle Mariners is now 22-26 after 48 games. They enter Friday trying to win consecutive games for the first time in ten tries, spanning over a month (April 25th). They are three games worse than the 2007 team, but they match or are better than all other Bavasi-era Mariner teams -- they match the 2006 team, have three wins on the 2005 team, and have four wins on both the 2004 team and last year's team. Conversely, their record is worse than every Gillick-era team -- it's four games worse than 2000, nine games worse than 2002 and 2003, and 14 games worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went 11-for-36 for the game, walking twice and striking out nine times. Seven of the Mariners' 11 hits went for extra bases. Rob Johnson and Franklin Gutierrez doubled twice apiece, and Ichiro doubled as well. Endy Chavez buggy-whipped a down-and-in pitch and nearly lined it over the rightfield wall, but settled for a triple. Russell Branyan vaporized a ball and ended up with a two-run homer. Adding to this, four Mariners in the lineup went hitless, but all the ones that did get hits got two or more hits, and they're the five guys I already mentioned in this paragraph. Use of the phrase "five guys" of course makes me think of an East Coast place called Five Guys that is nothing short of awesome. The double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, and hot sauce with a small order of fries was my Seahawk Sunday lunch when I was in Norfolk during football season. Anyway... The Mariners started out ominously when Ichiro doubled and stole third with nobody out and he didn't score. They finished 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Since I gave one of the gameballs to Erik Bedard below, that leaves the bullpen. Sean White finished up the seventh inning for Bedard and threw the eighth inning as well, successfully holding a 4-1 lead before the Mariner offense played some add-on in the top of the ninth. White has all zeroes in his linescore other than the innings pitched and the ERA (1.90). He faced four hitters and got all of them out (one groundout, three flyouts). Thus, David Aardsma got some work in the ninth, though not in a save situation. He threw a perfect ninth, striking out one. There would be no implosion from the bullpen on this afternoon.
1) Russell Branyan
The big blow in the Mariners' extra-base hit barrage of the day belonged to the big-swinging lefty, who broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth by completely obliterating a Trevor Cahill pitch and sending it into the seats high above the field in rightcenter. He went 2-for-4 in the game with the two-run homer and he also scored another run. Branyan had gone the last seven games without an extra-base hit, let alone a home run. Branyan has driven in 23 runs on the season, which of course could be more if there were more runners on base in front of him and he wasn't leading off so many innings (thanks, Adrian Beltre). Anyway, Branyan is hitting .311 on the season, is on-base at a .398 clip, and is slugging .608 on the season. Though he hasn't had any brutal hitless stretches in the month of May, the aforementioned seven-game extra-base drought did slice about .050 off his slugging percentage until this game. I have to say Branyan is doing pretty well, and I'm looking forward to Jack Zduriencik flipping him for a couple of pretty good prospects come late June or July. Then it'll be Mike Carp Mania.
2) Erik Bedard
He got a little deeper into the game than we're used to seeing, and that's gotta count for something. Bedard threw 77 strikes out of 108 pitches, but this time 108 pitches was enough to get him through 6 2/3 innings instead of barely getting out of the fifth. Bedard gave up a run on five hits, walking two, and striking out five. He got nine outs via the ground and six via the flyball. Bedard faced 27 hitters to get 20 outs. Erik Bedard has made nine starts so far, and I'd have to say two of them were outstanding, three of them were good, and four of them were mediocre. Okay, so I pretty much lumped in starts of five innings or less into "mediocre," but if this guy is supposedly the number-two starter, that's what I'm going to do. Anyway, Bedard is now 3-2 on the year with a sparkling 2.48 ERA. Bedard has thrown 54 1/3 innings this year, which averages out to six innings per start. Come on. Out of a number-two starter, I want him into the seventh every time out, but apparently that's way way waaaaaaay too much to ask out of him. He nearly finished seven innings in this game, though.
Only on a team like the Mariners could the team score six runs and not manage to drive home their leadoff hitter who went 3-for-4 and drew an intentional walk. Ichiro has had multi-hit games in four of the last five games to the tune of 12-for-20 (.600), helping his batting average jump from .310 to .343. He managed to hit a double in this game as well, good considering he'd gone six games without an extra-base hit. Ichiro is on base at a .374 clip and is slugging .449. The slugging mark is the highest it's been since April 26th. Of course, the number I haven't mentioned yet is the hitting streak, which is now at 21 games. Ichiro has gone 36-for-92 (.391) and has slugged .500 over the streak. It's no secret that the Mariner bullpen needs the Thursday off day, but Ichiro's probably the one guy that doesn't want the off day. I wouldn't be surprised if the hitting streak is snapped on Friday night in Anaheim. Sigh, Anaheim. Hopefully Ichiro can keep this going and get driven in once in a while. If the Mariners manage to take three of four against the Angels, they'll 25-27 and we might have a season again. A sweep gets the Mariners back to .500.
So the Mariners managed to score six runs in this game. You figure Beltre, who figures to be such an instrumental hitter in the lineup, would have had something to do with those six runs, right? Wrong. He went 0-for-5 with a strikeout. To his credit, his name doesn't show up in the boxscore next to "runners left in scoring position, 2 out." Though he didn't strand anyone to end an inning, he did leave four runners on base. Beltre's line shows up beautifully in his game-to-game log since it's a "5" in the at-bats column and it's a bunch of zeroes except for the one strikeout. Beltre's hitting .212 on the season, he's on-base at a .245 clip, and he's slugging .317. In an attempt to twist some of Beltre's numbers positively, he was 8-for-24 in the six games previous to this one. I'll be incredibly pissed if this guy gets traded away for nothing, then pulls a Randy Johnson and homers 25 times over the final two months of the season. I hope someone out there can prove that Beltre's the awesomest defensive third baseman ever, because that's the only thing that's going to make his offensive ineptitude a bit more palatable.
It'll be Jason Vargas time on Friday night.