Wednesday, June 17, 2009


After a sweep at the hands of the mile-high buzzsaw Colorado Rockies, the Mariners took a day off and returned to action in San Diego against the Padres, a team with not much more than one hitter in their lineup. In this game, though, Kevin Correia made Mariner hitters look even more tame than usual, though he made two mistakes that ended up over the wall. It took a mammoth performance from Felix Hernandez to make it so five Mariner hits would be enough for a Mariner victory. Upward ho! The road back to .500 begins again.

At the 64-game mark, the Mariners have a record of 31-33. That's four wins worse than the 2007 Mariners were at this point, but better than every other Bavasi-run team -- one better than the 2006 team, three better than the 2005 team, five better than the 2004 team, and eight better than last year's perfect s%*#storm. Compared with the Gillick-era Mariner teams, 31 wins is four worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002, 12 worse than 2003, and 19 worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting went a combined 3-for-30 on the night, walking twice and striking out six times. Ken Griffey Jr. had the only single, and the other two hits were solo home runs by Franklin Gutierrez and Adrian Beltre. Griffey's two-run single that padded the Mariner lead in the ninth was the Mariners' only hit in two chances with runners in scoring position. The Mariners stranded one runner on base, though they barely had any runners at all. Not a lot of hitting on this night, and that included Ichiro, who went a quiet 0-for-4 with a strikeout, sending his batting average plummeting all the way down to .354. Maybe it was due to the negative aura of Bret Boone, who was in the stadium and visited the Mariners' broadcast booth. Ichiro had a lot of hitless company in the Mariner lineup since I've already mentioned the three guys that did get hits.

Usually the paragraph I put right here is reserved for whatever pitchers I don't mention in the gameball or goat entries, but since there was only one pitcher in this game and he's a gameball, nothing goes here. Ain't that a b'.

1) Felix Hernandez
The only deceptive thing about his line are the four walks. If four walks weren't in the boxscore for Felix, and I hadn't seen this game, I'd be tempted to think he could have been more dominant. He really couldn't have been much more dominant than he was, and he was obviously a ton more efficient when it came to the hitters that he wasn't walking. I know we used to use the term "heavy ball" a lot with Freddy Garcia in his prime, but Felix was throwing a heavy ball in this game, the ball with late movement that the Padre hitters were either whiffing over or hitting the top half of and grounding harmlessly to the infielders. The best thing about this complete-game two-hitter, of course, is the complete rest of the bullpen, which is something they'll need since Jarrod Washburn is the only opening-day member of the starting rotation that's still in the rotation. Other than him, it's a bunch of fill-in guys and Brandon Morrow, all of whom you can't really expect to get deep into ballgames. Felix gave up two hits, walked four and struck out six. He faced 32 hitters to get 27 outs, and got 12 groundouts to eight flyouts (great ratio for him).

2) Franklin Gutierrez
He made a great catch at the wall in centerfield to save an extra-base hit, which now we almost come to expect from Gutierrez, but he also unloaded on a mistake pitch from Correia and put it well over the same wall. I didn't think he could hit a ball that far in that park, but lo and behold, he did. In the early going of the season, Gutierrez was hitting the odd home run, but not so much lately. He last homered on May 4th against Texas in a 3-for-4 game that bumped his batting average up to .303. To his credit, the lowest his batting average has gotten since then is .251 (the game before this one). Not counting this game, from May 5th to June 14th, Gutierrez went 23-for-104 (.221) with two doubles and a triple (slugged .260) and six RBIs. I'll venture to guess the league figured out a way to pitch to this guy, but as I've been saying all along, I'll gladly settle for .245 or .250 out of this guy if it means we get to see that calibre of defensive play in centerfield. Have we been spoiled as Mariner fans when it comes to centerfielders or have we been spoiled as Mariner fans when it comes to centerfielders?

3) Adrian Beltre
Two home runs in the month of June? Where's the fire, Adrian? Oddly, Ichiro had a hitting streak snapped in this game, but Beltre has a modest eight-game hitting streak going in which he's 14-for-33 (.424) with five doubles, a home run (slugging .667), and five RBIs. If we go all the way back to the start of his tear on May 21st, Beltre has gone 36-for-97 (.371) with seven doubles, three home runs (slugging .536), and 15 RBIs. It's a testament to his early-season suck that slugging .536 over 23 games can only get his slugging percentage up to .389 on the year. Just reading over this paragraph and look at his numbers for this year, half of Beltre's RBIs have come in the last 23 games. He basically waited until the season was one-fourth over with to finally heat up. I hope he tears it up through July, because then his trade value will be pretty high. That's a good thing. I don't care where this team is on July 31st, this team has to sell, sell, sell, and if the name isn't Felix Hernandez or Ichiro, they can go and I won't put up an argument against it.

Yuniesky Betancourt
He saw 12 pitches in this game. He put the fourth pitch into play in his first at-bat and worked a 3-1 count his second time up. The only problem is that both of those at-bats resulted in very weak outs. The first was a pop foul to the first baseman and the catcher caught the foul pop on the second one (on a 3-1 pitch...thought I should mention that again). I guess maybe he just doesn't know how to handle having a 3-1 count on him. I don't know. In his next at-bat, he grounded out on the second pitch, and in his final at-bat, he grounded out on the first pitch. I guess since he didn't get rewarded by seeing more pitches the first two times at the plate, he just threw everything out the window and decided he'd swing at the first pitch that looked okay. It should be noted that the other guy I was going to put into the goat spot was Ichiro for going hitless, but he did have a couple of pretty good catches in rightfield late in the game. Those and the fact that Betancourt's first two outs were pretty weak were the main reasons he got this paragraph instead of Ichiro.

Our reward for this Felix start? Seeing if Garrett Olson can get through six innings.

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