Thursday, June 11, 2009


The Mariners needed a Felix night, that's for sure. Of course, they needed Felix to throw more like Felix. Still, truth be told, the Mariners could have Felix throw a nice game where he gives eight innings and gives up two runs, but if the Mariners only are able to score one run, they'll lose. That was completely within the realm of possibility in this game. Combine that with the fact that Adrian Beltre had never had a career hit against Jeremy Guthrie, and surely you wouldn't be crazy about a couple key factors for a Mariner win. It turns out the Mariners didn't get a lot of hits in quantity, but the quality of the hits was high. Also, Yuniesky Betancourt returned to the lineup, turning in a nice defensive play and driving a run home with a groundout. The only really unfortunate thing to happen in the game was Franklin Gutierrez fouling a ball off his left kneecap. He stayed in the game and finished the at-bat, but Don Wakamatsu walked over to the umpire before the inning-end commercial break had already begun, and from that point it was obvious that Wladimir Balentien would be playing leftfield and Endy Chavez would be slid over to left.

At the 59-game mark, the Mariners are 29-30. The mark is four wins behind that of the 2007 team, but better than all the other Bavasi-run teams. Twenty-nine wins is three better than the paces of the 2005 and 2006 teams, six better than the 2004 pace, and eight better than last year's abomination. The record is three worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001. The last time the Mariners were a .500 team was after they'd won the final game of a three-game series in Minnesota on May 10th. The Mariners lost the next game on their way to a sweep at the hands of the Rangers in Arlington (they'd also witness Brandon Morrow's personal nightmare). The point is, the Mariners blew their chance on May 12th to return to .500, and their next chance to return to .500 was the first game of this current Baltimore series, which they lost. Thanks to this win in the middle game of this Baltimore series, the rubber match won't just be for a series win, it'll be for the Mariners to get back to .500 for the first time in a month. For what it's worth, the low-water mark (recordwise) this season was five games under .500 (21-26 on May 26th), and the high-water mark was six games over .500 (12-6 on April 25th).

Mariner hitting combined to go 7-for-35 on the night, walking zero times and striking out four times. Beltre had two hits and Jose Lopez had three hits for the Mariners' multi-hit players. Ichiro and Beltre doubled, and Lopez homered twice to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners. While 1-for-7 looks bad, the amount of opportunities in this game was better than the night before (four). Ichiro went 1-for-3 and got hit by a pitch, snapping his multi-hit game streak at three. His batting average remained at .359, albeit a slightly lower .359. After playing in 51 games (haha), Ichiro has amassed 80 hits. His current pace will give him a 242-hit season. Even if he'd played the first eight games of the Mariners' season, there's probably still no way he'd be on a pace to smash his own record, so let's not get carried away.

Seattle's starting pitching will be covered below. The bullpen, however, finished out the final two innings of the game. Sean White is continuing his unheralded awesome season, mowing down all three hitters he faced in the eighth and recording a strikeout. This will totally put a Mark Lowe-style implosion curse on him, but White hasn't been charged with a run since May 9th in Minnesota, a string of 14 appearances. His ERA has gone from 3.38 to 1.48 in one month. David Aardsma recorded the save by mowing down his three hitters in the ninth with a strikeout as well. White and Aardsma split a groundout and a flyout apiece in their respective innings. After ending May with the horror show in Anaheim, Aardsma has given up only two total hits in four appearances so far this month.

1) Jose Lopez
Where's the fire, Jose? The Mariners' second baseman is on a four-game hitting streak, bumping his batting average from .227 to .245. In those four games, Lopez has gone 8-for-17 (.471) with a double and three homers (slugging 1.059 in that short short span, bumping the slug mark from .355 to .409), driving in six runs out of his 35 RBIs this season. Lopez only has eight homers so far this season, but he's hit five in his last 11 games to nurture the slugging percentage from the depths of .307 to its current .409. If Jose Lopez is a .260 hitter by the end of this month, then give him some credit for being resilient. Lopez has gotten crap for being a fast starter and an ugly finisher (i.e., the All-Star year), but this season might be the other way around, and it'll be completely different since he sucked for the first month and a half and surely couldn't spend the rest of the season going on like that. Surely that had to take a mental toll on him. It's nice to see Lopez jumping all over mistake pitches like he did in this game.

2) Felix Hernandez
A lot of people praised his last start, though I wasn't a big fan of it. This start, though, was much better. Looking at Felix's lines in his last two starts, I might be splitting hairs since he went seven innings in both starts and actually gave up one more hit in this start than the last (seven to six). He gave up one run in each start. Not that one less walk this time around was such a big deal. He struck out two less hitters this time around as well. If it wasn't for Brian Roberts, the Orioles wouldn't have done too much at all on the night. Felix's only sustained trouble came in the first inning, but once he wriggled out of that, it was off to the races other than when the Orioles got their run in the fifth. Probably the best thing about Felix's line, though, was 11 groundball outs to five flyouts. I wasn't tallying the amount of grounders that were hit right back to the mound, but it seemed like a lot more than usual. Sure, three of the seven hits he gave up were doubles, but Felix was having a pretty good rate of success. He gave up one run on seven hits, walking two and striking out five. He faced 29 hitters to get 21 outs.

3) Adrian Beltre
On the FSNW telecast, Dave Sims declared that Beltre was "back." While I'm a big fan of Sims, I guess the cynical side of me doesn't want to really accept this until his power stroke appears a little more frequently. That said, he's been doing fairly well averagewise since the 0-for-23 slump. The warmup started for Beltre on May 21st with a 2-for-4 day against the Angels. Starting with that aforementioned game, Beltre has gone a nearly Ichironian 27-for-76 (.355) while slugging .489 over that span. It's enough to bump the batting average from .200 to .250 (finally) and bump the slugging percentage from .300 to .360. By the way, he went 2-for-4 with a double in this game (I'm glad the double wasn't immediately followed by being tagged out after oversliding the bag, which nearly did happen) and he scored two of the Mariners' four runs of the game. Overall, I find myself a lot less pissed off about things when Beltre isn't flailing wildly at the slider low and away like Bret Boone used to love to do. I'm really glad Beltre doesn't have the deep-squat nauseating two-strike stance that Boone did.

Russell Branyan
The long moon shot foul ball that landed in the rightfield corner early in the game was the biggest thrill of the night of Branyan's at-bats. It's good that Beltre and Lopez seem to be warming up because the calendar has flipped over to June and Branyan's only had three extra-base hits so far this month. He's also only hitting .259 in June after a .333 April and a .317 May. If Branyan is tailing off a bit, it's completely understandable because he's been thoroughly exceeding expectations so far and he and Ichiro have basically carried this offense (or the tattered remains thereof) through the first two months of the season. He can probably sit back a tiny bit and watch Lopez and Beltre do some work like they should have been doing all along. Still, the Mariners would be well-served if Branyan scorches for the next month so that they can get an awesome haul for him on the trade market. I love what Branyan's done for this team, but this year's not the year for the Mariners, and the farm system needs its share of building.

Hopefully Garrett Olson can get into the seventh tonight.

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