Sunday, May 31, 2009


I'll stop well short of saying this team might get their groove back, but I will say that this game was the type of game they won in April. This was the kind of game that they definitely should not win, but defying all logic and probability, somehow they won. Felix Hernandez was mostly cruising and looked to maybe get into the eighth until Rob Johnson had a strikeout pitch one-hop off his mask, allowing Vladimir Guerrero to get aboard with two out in the sixth. Felix faced two more hitters in the sixth after that. The second break against Felix was after he came back from 3-0 to force a full count on Maicer Izturis. Felix got the grounder he wanted, but Russell Branyan couldn't get a hold of it, and the leadoff runner was on. Felix struggled after that. Wouldn't you know it if the breaks didn't eventually turn the Mariners' way. Miguel Batista managed to get through the ninth without having the winning run cross the plate, and then Wladimir Balentien hit a ball hard behind the bag at third that went off Chone Figgins' glove and down the line. That went for a double, and Balentien came in from third on a Yuniesky Betancourt fly ball that I didn't think was deep enough to score Balentien, but he slid away from the tag even though the throw looked to have had him beat. The final break was David Aardsma getting the comebacker from Torii Hunter to turn the double play in the 10th en route to his eighth save in eight chances. What a game. I'm just glad Erick Aybar's RBI double didn't hold up as the game winner in a 1-0 Angel win.

Someone douse the Mariners with water because they're on fire with their three-game winning streak. At 24-26 after 50 games, the mark is better than all but the 2007 team (by two games) in terms of Bavasi-run Mariner teams. Twenty-four wins is two better than the 2006 team, three better than the 2003 team, five better than the 2004 team, and six better than last year's team. As I mentioned in one of the other game posts, no Gillick-era team took a below-.500 mark past the 11th game of the season, so these current Mariners are worse than every Gillick team recordwise. A 24-win mark is two games worse than the 2000 pace, eight games worse than both the 2002 and 2003 paces, and 14 games worse than the 2001 pace.

Mariner hitting went a collective 9-for-35 in the game, walking once and striking out five times. Wladimir Balentien hit the key double, and Jose Lopez hit the game-tying homer to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. Adrian Beltre went 3-for-4 and Russell Branyan went 2-for-4 to account for the Mariners' multi-hit hitters. Among the hitless Mariners were Yuniesky Betancourt (though he had the go-ahead RBI on the sacrifice fly), Ken Griffey Jr. (0-for-5, ouch), Rob Johnson, and Franklin Gutierrez (who bunted the go-ahead run to third in the 10th). Griffey has gone hitless in his last five games and is 0-for-18 in that span, sinking the batting average from .239 to .205. It's really too bad, because he was really warming up for a while there. unfortunately, I think this is one of those things where he can't be playing this much -- he's only playing this much because Mike Sweeney got hurt.

I covered the starting pitching and Brandon Morrow below. That leaves Mark Lowe, Miguel Batista, and David Aardsma. Lowe stranded the one runner left over when Felix Hernandez got pulled. It was one hitter and one flyout for Lowe. Batista gave up the leadoff single to Erick Aybar, who was bunted over to second, then made it to third on a groundout. With the winning run 90 feet away with two out, batista got a flyout from Bobby Abreu to end the threat and push the game to extra innings. Finally, David Aardsma faced three hitters in the 10th to get three outs, although he did have to start a double play to make that happen. Overall, the bullpen threw 2 1/3 innings of good relief and one inning of very bad relief that put the game all but out of doubt.

1) Adrian Beltre
He went 3-for-4, and he'll get the gameball even though his three singles were mostly inconsequential. He singled with two out and nobody on base in the sixth. He singled with one out and nobody on base in the ninth, and scored on the Jose Lopez home run (a little more consequential). He singled in the 10th with Ichiro on first and two out and the score already 4-3. He was hit by a pitch in the first and led off the fourth with a groundout, so those were his other plate appearances. Beltre has hit himself aboard in seven of his last nine games and gone 13-for-38 (.342) and slugged .447 over that span. Beltre's season batting average has gone up by .027 to .227, his on-base percentage has gone up .031 (.262), and his slugging mark went up .028 (.328). In that nine-game span, Beltre has an 0-for-3 game and an 0-for-5 game weighing down all the numbers. Also, the dude still needs to hit with some power. Ever notice how the little things like the automatic checkswing appeal to first base and the bat flip thing he does on a foul ball of a way-outside pitch get annoying when he's not doing well?

2) Jose Lopez
Russell Branyan was the one non-Beltre guy that went for multiple hits in this game, but his one error nearly cost the Mariners this game. So, I'll go with the guy that tied the game with one swing of the bat. When Beltre and Branyan got on base with two out in the ninth and the Mariners down 3-0, I couldn't help but think, "oh man, now is when I want Branyan up." Three pitches into his at-bat, Lopez made me gladly eat my words, turning on a pitch and destroying it, putting it into an equipment/vomitorium-like thing in leftfield to tie the game. The only way that could have been more clutch would be if it were a full count with the bases loaded and the Mariners got a lead out of it. The Mariners were down to their last strike before Beltre singled, for goodness' sake. Anyway, Lopez has homered in each of the last two games, pumping the slugging percentage up by .032 to .339 in that span. Since he's only gone 2-for-7 in that span, the on-base percentage in the same span has only gone up by .001 (.260). Lopez, despite these three very huge RBI, is still hitting .219 on the season and only .194 in the month of May. I'll add that Lopez was in on two of the four double plays the Mariners turned in the game.

3) Felix Hernandez
I was cursing at the television when it became apparent that Felix was definitely not going to get through the seventh inning. I really wanted him to finish it. It definitely wasn't as good as his last start, but the Giants are a terrible hitting team. At the same time, it was definitely all kinds of better than two starts ago, which was the stolen-base fest for the Angels. For me, other than the innings pitched, the rest of Felix's line in this game is sparkling. He gave up only an unearned run on six hits, walking one and striking out six. He threw 74 strikes out of 113 pitches, and got nine groundouts to six flyouts. He faced 27 hitters to get 20 outs. With his game log in front of me, I'll say that out of his 11 starts, Felix has had five outstanding starts, one pretty good start (this one), one mediocre start, and four horrible starts. He is averaging 6 2/3 innings per start (I'd like that to get closer to seven) and 102 pitches (66 strikes) per start, along with 1.8 walks and 6.5 strikeouts per start. I'm hoping Felix is warming up with the weather because this team needs to get on a roll.

Brandon Morrow
It could have been Russell Branyan in this spot with that huge error if not for Morrow completely outdoing him in the goat competition. I'll add that Ken Griffey Jr. also went 0-for-5 and I'm still choosing Morrow for this. After getting the 2.5 weeks on the shelf, Morrow has taken the mound seven times and has had runs cross the plate in six of those appearances (one appearance had an unearned run). That stacks up as 11 runs (10 earned) given up in 8 2/3 innings. To heck with the 10.38 ERA, he's giving up 1.15 earned runs per inning. I think it's time for the Mariner brass to make up their minds once and for all on whether Morrow's a reliever or a starter (please pick starter), and send him down now so he can get some confidence and work on some pitches. If they keep him up with the big club for too much longer, he will cost this team a few more ballgames. Those games might not steamroll the soul like the back-to-back blown saves in Texas, but they'd still be losses. Oh, by the way, in this game he threw one inning (the eighth) and gave up two runs on three hits, walking one and striking out none. He threw 13 strikes out of 23 pitches.

The Lithuanian Laser has been deemed not ready for starting primetime, so it looks like it's an afternoon with Garrett Olson.

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