Thursday, June 04, 2009


Though they horrendously dropped the final game of the series in Anaheim on Sunday and flew home to lose with a whimper on Monday night against the Orioles, the Mariners still found a way to win their second straight series, and they did so in dramatic fashion. The Mariners gladly take their two-game winning streak into Thursday's off day before starting a home series with the Minnesota Twins on Friday. Better yet, we'll be able to watch the Twins and not have to deal with the horrible distant too-high/dead-center camera.

At the one-third pole of the season, the Mariners are 26-28 after 54 games. Of the Bavasi-run Mariner teams, that mark is worse than only the 2007 team, who had 29 wins at this point. Of the other Bavasi teams, 26 wins is three better than the 2005 team, four better than the 2006 team, and six better than the 2004 and 2008 teams. Of the Gillick-run Mariner teams, 26 wins is three worse than the 2000 team, eight worse than the 2002 team, ten worse than the 2003 team, and 16 worse than the 2001 team. I'll note that the 2001 team had won their tenth straight game at this point en route to a 15-game winning streak. The 2003 team won their fifth straight en route to a nine-game winning streak.

Mariner hitting went a combined 9-for-31 on the night, walking five times (three intentionally) and striking out five times. Adrian Beltre doubled and homered en route to a 3-for-5 game, and Franklin Gutierrez tripled en route to a 2-for-3 game to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits and multi-hit games. The team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and that one hit came on the final play of the game. The team stranded 11 runners on base. Since he's not mentioned in the gameballs (maybe I should have), Ichiro stung a single through the right side for his only hit of the game, extending his hitting streak to 27 games. Ichiro has gone 47-for-119 (.395) and has slugged .538 during it. Ichiro's line goes in the boxscore as 1-for-3 with a walk, but that was in the ninth after Gutierrez tripled with one out and they walked Ichiro and Russell Branyan to load the bases for Adrian Beltre. Up until the last week, that would have been a great idea. Let's also note here that Branyan's line shows as 0-for-2 with three walks, but two of those were intentional walks to get to Beltre. Branyan never crossed the plate in the game, though that's probably more to do with the hitters behind Beltre.

Seattle pitching as a whole did fairly well. I thought Don Wakamatsu might have had a short fuse with Jason Vargas when he pulled him in the sixth with two on and one out. I thought maybe he was just trying to get him the win. Vargas had thrown 85 pitches at that point and surely had more left in the tank. That said, there were guys in the bullpen that were very well rested and the next day was an off day. Chris Jakubauskas last pitched on Monday. Mark Lowe last pitched on Saturday in Anaheim. David Aardsma's last appearance was Sunday afternoon's meltdown in Anaheim. Those are the three guys that came into the game after Vargas left, so I sort of understand the short leash with Vargas. Too bad Jakubauskas couldn't hold the 2-1 lead, which devolved into a tie game. After that, though, it was pretty much lights-out relief from the bullpen. Tally it all together, and really the only bad thing was Jakubauskas allowing the RBI single to Luke Scott, and that run goes against Vargas. The bullpen went 3 2/3 innings, allowing two hits, walking none, and striking out two. They got four groundball outs to three flyouts, facing 11 hitters to get 11 outs (hooray for double-play balls).

1) Franklin Gutierrez
Make it back-to-back multi-hit games for the Mariners' centerfielder. The pitch he hit for a triple was driven pretty well, and that would probably go for a home run in a lot of other ballparks in the Majors (it just barely missed being one here). Most centerfielders wouldn't come anywhere near catching that ball, and Adam Jones nearly did (but he didn't, so thank goodness the Mariners traded him and four other guys for Erik Bedard, hahaha). Gutierrez saw the play unfolding and turned on the jets to get to third, setting the scene for the intentional walk-a-thon and Beltre's game-ender. Gutierrez is 4-for-6 with the triple and two walks over the last two games, raising his season batting average from .255 to .270. His slugging percentage has gone from .344 to .368 thanks to the two-game tear, and the on-base percentage has gone from .330 to .348. Once again, I’ll finish this out by paying homage to the awesome range that Gutierrez has in centerfield. It’s occurred to me that a lot of the running catches Gutierrez makes are full-extension diving catches for other lesser centerfielders.

2) Adrian Beltre
Okay, the only reason he isn't the first gameball is because that error was huge (it loaded the bases) and the team totally had to bail him out. That said, it's been a while since we've seen him drill the baseball like he did in this game. The double he hit in the first inning was drilled, and he destroyed the pitch he hit for a homer in the third inning. I almost jumped out of my chair along with my usual saying of "get out..." That homer vaulted the Mariners to a 2-1 lead they held until the sixth, when the Orioles managed to tie the game. Gutierrez hit the aforementioned triple, then Baltimore manager Dave Tremblay walked Ichiro and Branyan to load the bases with one out. The situation begged for Beltre to either come through, and the flip side to this would have involved Beltre grounding into a double-play with a drawn-in infield. Luckily he shot a single just past the reach of Cesar Izturis at shortstop and the game was over. All that was left was for Beltre to outrun the rest of the team and their gentle nudges (something akin to slugbugs) of congratulations. Beltre's 3-for-5 night while driving in all three of the Mariners' runs may have been his best offensive night of the year. He didn't homer in the 4-for-4 game he had in Chicago.

3) David Aardsma
The Mariner closer's meltdown of a first blown save of the season came on Sunday. Aardsma had thrown in four straight games for the Mariners over the span of five nights. The meltdown came on Sunday, but it appeared the two days of rest surely didn't hurt. It wasn't a save situation, but the team needed someone to get some high-pressure outs in a tie game, and Aardsma was up to the task. He gave up a hit, but got a double-play ball to erase that runner. Funny thing is that even after Aardsma’s meltdown, his ERA ballooned to a still-awesome 2.13. It went down to 2.05 after this outing. Aardsma had thrown 14 straight scoreless outings before the meltdown. I think the first time Kazuhiro Sasaki blew a save (I think) was in a game against Kansas City, and I remember how badly it sucked since he’d been so good. I remember another incident where Eric Chavez homered down the leftfield line in Oakland off Sasaki. The thing with closers is that when they’re good, I know they’re good and I have confidence in them and everything, but I really remember the blown saves and bad outings.

Jose Lopez
He's here because the other hitless Mariner, Ronny Cedeno, still managed to at least lay a bunt down. The line for Lopez in this game looks like a whole lot of nothing. He went 0-for-4, grounded into a double play, and left two runners in scoring position. Still, coming off a night where he doubled three times, I guess I can give him a bit of a break. I didn’t think I’d say it this year, but I hope Lopez gets on some kind of Beltre-style tear soon. The last tear he had straddled the months of April and May, when over a nine-game span he went 15-for-41 (.366), though he only hit one double over that stretch. His batting average sat at .272 at that point and sunk as low as .216, but now it’s at .231. If nothing else, before this game he had a five-game run of 8-for-19 with four doubles and two homers, bumping the slugging percentage from .307 to .369. I don’t have to tell you this team needs more power in the lineup. They need runs, runs, and more runs.

Friday will be a Felix night, though let’s hope Francisco Liriano doesn’t find himself.

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