Saturday, May 30, 2009


It took over a month, but the Mariners finally have found a way to win consecutive games again. They got to John Lackey in the third inning, and those runs proved to be enough. The Mariners managed to tack on a couple of extra runs in the later innings, but ultimately they only needed the three from the third inning. Lackey wasn't horrible, and only the Jose Lopez homer made it five runs and pushed his line into mediocre territory. The homer was in the eighth inning, though, and though the rest of the division may not like it, it's encouraging for the Angels. Nonetheless, the Mariners won the first game of this three-game series. If, God forbid, the Mariners come away with a sweep, they'll be in a virtual tie with the Angels for second place in the division. All of a sudden, it'd be a season again. The AL West sucks, and that's the only reason it's fathomable that this team can go a whole month without winning consecutive games and somehow not be buried in the standings. Their 12-6 start had a lot to do with that too.

As mentioned, the Mariners won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game winning streak whose last day was on April 25th. The 2009 Mariners are now 23-26 at the 49-game mark, five games away from the one-third pole of the season. Of the Bavasi-era Mariner teams, 23 wins at this point is worse than only the 2007 team (by two wins). The total is one game better than the 2006 pace, three better than 2005, and five better than 2004 and last year. Eleven games into the season was the furthest any Gillick-era Mariner team went while being a below-.500 team (5-6 in 2003). Thus, 23 wins is worse than every Gillick-era team -- three worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 14 worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting on this night went a torrid 11-for-33, walking twice and striking out three times. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Russell Branyan, and Endy Chavez all had two hits apiece to account for the Mariners' multi-hit games. Branyan and Ichiro both doubled, and Jose Lopez homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. Branyan would also be on here if not for the homer-robbing catch of Juan Rivera over the leftfield wall right before the Lopez homer. Lopez is on the homer list because Rivera barely missed catching the ball. I wouldn't have been able to live with back-to-back homer robberies against my team. The team went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners. Ichiro extended his hitting streak to 22 games with his 2-for-5 night. He has gone 38-for-97 (.392) during the streak with a .505 slugging percentage. Ichiro has had multi-hit games 11 times during the streak. Five of Ichiro's last six games have seen him come away with multiple hits. The guy's only been held hitless in one game in the month of May. He's hitting .364 this month with an on-base percentage of .403 and he's slugging .471. This paragraph's long and I haven't even addressed Yuniesky Betancourt's walk and sacrifice bunt. Where did they get this guy?

The only Mariner pitcher I mentioned below was the starter, so I'll talk bullpen here. Sean White came into the game with runners on the corners in a 4-2 game and retired two hitters to end the inning and the threat. Mark Lowe (in his second straight non-crap outing) and David Aardsma pitched scoreless ball over the final two innings, with Aardsma getting his seventh save in seven tries. Aardsma gave up a hit and walked one to make it interesting. In all, it was 2 2/3 innings of shutout relief for the Mariner bullpen. They faced 10 hitters to get those eight outs (no groundouts, three strikeouts, five flyouts).

1) Adrian Beltre
How bad is it when a 2-for-5 day lifts his batting average to a grand .216? It could have been 3-for-5 if not for Chone Figgins (or Who Willie Bloomquist Would Be If He Were Good) making a play behind the bag at third. Beltre is hitting .224 this month, so he really is hitting better in May, just negligibly. Beltre is .216 on the season with an on-base percentage of .249 and a slugging mark of .320. Ichiro, singles hitter extraordinaire, has hit one more homer than Beltre this season and is slugging .454 for the season (.134 higher than Beltre's). To Beltre's credit, since his five-game hitting drought (think Boston series), he has gone 10-for-34 (.294). That roll has the batting average up from .200 to .216. The whole team went through that extra-base hit drought not too long ago, and Beltre was an instrumental part of that, going eight games without an extra-base hit. That dropped the ol' slugging percentage from .340 to .306. I hope the guy plays himself into some trade value before the deadline, but I don't see it happening.

2) Jason Vargas
Vargas has four Mariner starts under his belt, and I'd have to say that so far it's been pretty good. It's really a shame he wasn't able to finish off the seventh inning, but Don Wakamatsu gave him every chance to do that. Vargas fell behind in the count on every hitter he faced in that inning, and once Kendry Morales hit that single, Wakamatsu yanked Vargas. Morales represented the tying run at first base, and Wakamatsu wasn't going to let Vargas even have a chance at possibly taking a loss in the game. I guess the only thing that would scare me abuot Vargas is the same thing that scared me about Mark Lowe -- he's been good for all six of his appearances, which means he's gotta be due for a crappy outing. He's walked nine guys and struck out 17, and I'd like the walks to not happen quite as much with him. For this game, Vargas faced 24 hitters to get 19 outs. He gave up two runs on four hits, walked two, and struck out two. He split groundouts and flyouts evenly with eight apiece. Vargas is fearless on the mound, which is better than having Carlos Silva pitch. That just gives you fear.

3) Endy Chavez
With how much Don Wakamatsu likes Wladimir Balentien, Chavez isn't quite getting the playing time to be an everyday player. The Mariners have played in 26 games so far this month, and Chavez has appearned in 18 games, though he didn't get a plate appearance in four of those games (pinch runner). Chavez hit .305 in the month of April, though he definitely got the first eight games of the season to hit leadoff with Ichiro on the shelf. He went 2-for-14 in his first four games in May where he appeared at the plate, and it was around that point where we started seeing more Wladimir Balentien in leftfield. After getting 82 at-bats in April, Chavez has 46 at-bats in May with two games left to go. He's hitting .239 this month, he's on base at a .260 clip, and he's slugging .304. He's had four extra-base hits all season. He's walked 11 times on the season, but he's struck out 19 times, which seems a little high. His slugging percentage was lower than his on-base percentage until that triple that nearly cleared the rightfield fence in Oakland. Now he's gone 4-for-7 in his past two games.

Ken Griffey, Jr.
He's here only because it has to be somebody. Rob Johnson walked an went 0-for-3, while Griffey had the fortune of having somebody on third base went he flew out, getting him his one RBI of the game. The 0-for-3 night dropped the ol' batting average to .213. While I know Griffey's long in the tooth, it is a wee bit deflating to see him put what looks like a really good swing on the ball only to have it not even get to the warning track. It almost brings a tear to the eye. If there's one thing I'm thankful for this season, it's that Wakamatsu hasn't tried to sneak him back into the outfield since really early in the season. I was afraid we were going to see him out there two or three times a week. Luckily, Wakamatsu has found two options better than Griffey in leftfield, and Ichiro got healthy, making depth less of a question. I still can't help but think that Matt Tuiasosopo made the Opening Day roster and never got his name in the boxscore. They basically played with 24 guys in the dugout until he got sent back to Tacoma. Ouch.

It's a wonderful day for a Felix start, and hopefully tonight it's a good one.

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