Friday, June 12, 2009
The Mariners' sixth win in their last eight games finally got them back to the .500 mark, where they haven't been since they won at Minnesota on May 10th. I guess if you plotted this out on a line graph with time as the independent variable and wins as the dependent variable, it'd look like a messed-up sine wave, but the premise is still there. The Mariners were above .500 for most of the season before May 10th, and they've been below .500 up until this game. Anyway, the Mariners are 30-30 at the 60-game mark, better than all but one Bavasi-run Mariner team, that team being the 2007 edition which was 34-26 at this point. Thirty wins is three wins better than the 2006 pace, four wins better than the 2005 pace, six wins better than the 2004 pace, and nine wins better than last year's debacle. Compared to the Gillick-era Mariner teams, thirty wins is three worse than the 2000 team, seven worse than the 2002 team, 11 worse than the 2003 team, and 17 worse than the 2001 team.
Mariner hitting went a combined 12-for-35 on the night, walking five times and striking out six times. Ichiro, Russell Branyan, and Ken Griffey, Jr. all had two hits apiece while Adrian Beltre had three hits. Jose Lopez and Wladimir Balentien went hitless, but Lopez drove a run in with a groundout, and Balentien drew two walks. Even Guillermo Quiroz managed a hit in this game. Yuniesky Betancourt doubled, Ichiro doubled and tripled, and Branyan homered for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. The team finally made some hay with runners in scoring position, going 3-for-9 in such situations. They stranded nine runners on base.
Seattle's starting pitching will be covered below. The bullpen finished the final four innings of the game, giving up one run on two hits, walking none and striking out three. The one run and two hits belonged to Chris Jakubauskas, who gave up his first run this month, which was also his first run (he wild-pitched a runner in from third) since being moved back to the bullpen. He's still got a June ERA of 1.42, though his season mark is an ungodly 5.82. His high-water mark was 7.67, by the way, and he's at 5.82 now. Jakubauskas faced eight hitters to get six outs and got a groundout with four flyouts. Mark Lowe threw a perfect eighth inning, getting a grounder and two flyouts. David Aardsma pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two and getting a fly ball. Aardsma went to a couple of full counts and needed 18 pitches to get through the ninth, but that was the extent of the turbulence.
1) Adrian Beltre
Okay, let's temper our excitement with this: the guy has hit 14 doubles and four homers this season. The guy is still not hitting for power. I didn't mind the last homer, though, which was the one where he unloaded in the final game of the Baltimore series in Seattle. Beltre went 3-for-4 in this game, driving in a run and walking once. Once Beltre snapped his 0-for-23 slump, he went 15-for-43 to finish the month of May. He's gone 15-for-37 so far this month, which makes him a 30-for-80 hitter (.375) over that span, in which he's gotten his batting average up from .200 to its current .258. To be honest with you, I never thought Beltre would raise his numbers that quickly. At least, not this year. I didn't see too many encouraging signs early in the year for Beltre, but he's making better contact. He's not hitting for power, like I mentioned, but these last three weeks are slowly erasing the memories of his start to the season, which was the seven weeks of suck. It can't erase those memories, sure, because the Mariners' slide wouldn't have been quite as precipitous had Beltre just been below-average at the plate, but maybe Beltre has finally righted the ship...and increased his trade value.
2) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' first baseman went 2-for-4 with a homer, scoring twice and driving in three runs. For what it's worth, Branyan is averaging 1.93 total bases per hit. Ichiro is averaging 1.38 bases per hit. Obviously, you don't need these last two tidbits to tell you Branyan's a power hitter and Ichiro's a singles hitter. Still, 1.93...Branyan's averaging nearly a double every time he gets a hit. If he gets contact and reaches base safely, don't be surprised if he's standing on second base or trotting around the bases. Branyan is hitting .290 for the month so far, cooling down a tiny bit from his torrid .317 May. The slugging percentage for June is still on par with that of May, though, so maybe Branyan will be able to keep up his ridiculously good plate awesomeness for a while longer. I'd really like to see what this guy could fetch in a trade. It's really a shame the Mariners have to stock up the system and go young, because I'd love to keep Branyan around for the low price tag that's on him. That guy's going to get paid handsomely next year.
3) Ken Griffey, Jr.
The Mariners' designated hitter and centerfielder emeritus had a 2-for-4 night, though he did need a little bit of luck on one of the hits. It seems like it wasn't too long ago where Griffey was in a bit of a rut and some people were ready to give up on him. It seems like every time it gets to this point, he gets a couple hits or reminds us that there is indeed something still left in his bat. Part of me thinks they should have sent him on the play where he was running the bases right behind Beltre, but I'm guessing Beltre would have opened up the gap before he got to the plate. All told, Griffey's night snapped a three-game hitless streak. The low-water mark in May was .205 for Griffey, and his high-water mark (other than the first day of the season) is .239, which he got to thanks to the May 24th game against San Francisco. Though the Mariners had an off day on Monday (and Thursday of last week), Griffey has played in each of the Mariners' games (eight) this month. I'd have more of an argument here if the Mariners didn't have those off days, but Griffey needs the rest or he digs himself a hole. Also, Mike Sweeney can't just rot on the bench if the Mariners face a string of eight righties in a row.
This is only because someone had to go here, but I think the worst night of any on-field Mariner probably belonged to Olson. The positive spin, of course, is that he managed to get through five innings despite how badly he struggled in the first two innings. Over the course of that first inning, the Orioles kept hitting deep fly balls, but Luke Scott was the guy that finally cleared the wall in leftcenter. The negative spin has more to do with the prolonged tiring of the bullpen, but the Mariners had an off day this week and an off day last week, so maybe it's not so bad. Olson faced 23 hitters to get 15 outs. He gave up two runs on five hits, walked three, and struck out one. He threw 64 strikes on 94 pitches, getting four groundouts and ten flyouts (not really the ballpark where you want that tilted a ratio toward the flyball side). Oddly, Olson had thrown two relief appearances since his last start on the last day of May, where the Angels rocked him for five runs in 5 1/3 innings (the Aardsma meltdown game). The most games Olson has started in a row this season is two. It seems they start him once and throw him in the bullpen for a couple of appearances before his next start.
Flyball pitcher Jarrod Washburn will hope like hell the humidor is working tonight.