Wednesday, June 24, 2009
What a weird game this was. It's a minor miracle it was even a game at all since the Mariners were down 9-1 going into their half of the sixth inning. Then it got progressively more interesting, though ultimately the Mariners couldn't pull off a win. It's no secret that the pitching has been the strength of this team this year, and when the other team's scoring nine runs, any team is going to have trouble winning that game. The Mariners have virtually no chance of winning such a game. One realization I had during this game was that back in 2000-2003, this was the kind of game where on this very weblog we used the phrase "false hope" to describe any game where the Mariners are down a few runs, mount a decent comeback, and then lose by one or two runs. This year, such a comeback is welcome and rescues a game from being absolutely boring and lifeless. Back then, my expectations of the Mariners were pretty high, and those games were games they should have won and also games they should have never been that far down to begin with.
After tasting the rarefied air above the .500 mark over the off day, the Mariners returned to .500 at 35-35 after 70 games. That mark is two games behind the 2007 team's pace, but two ahead of 2006, three ahead of 2005, six ahead of 2004, and 11 ahead of last year's mess. Thirty-five wins is also five behind the 2000 pace, eight behind the 2002 pace, 13 behind the 2003 pace, and 18 behind the 2001 pace.
The Mariners collectively went 10-for-37 at the plate, walking three times and striking out 12 times (there is no way in hell Chad Gaudin should be striking out 11 Mariners in seven innings). Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Franklin Gutierrez, and Wladimir Balentien all had two hits apiece. Griffey and Russell Branyan homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. Ronny Cedeno proved that despite a .120 average, he isn't 100% worthless, he's just 99.99999999% worthless, drawing two walks (one of them with the bases loaded to give the Mariners an early 1-0 lead). For what it's worth, Cedeno's two strikeouts were quite brutal. Yuniesky Betancourt, Rob Johnson, and Balentien also struck out twice apiece, but Branyan outdid them all, netting a golden sombrero with four strikeouts.
The bullpen will be dealt with below, so it looks like Garrett Olson gets this paragraph. As per usual, Olson breezed through the first few innings, and this time that was exactly three innings. In the fourth, he gave up a single and got burned on a ball that I'm not sure how Adrian Gonzalez hit for a home run, but he did. So Olson and the Mariners were only down 2-1 after four innings. I wouldn't say he completely hit the wall in this outing, but he was definitely getting smacked around a bit more, and in the fifth inning, the Padres were starting their third turn through the lineup. The Padres tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Olson came out for the sixth and got Gonzalez swinging, but then Kevin Kouzmanoff got a single, and Chase Headley bounced a double over the wall. Olson left with the Mariners down 4-1 and with two runners in scoring position. Roy Corcoran came on in relief, and I'll get to that later. Olson gave up six runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out two. He threw 50 strikes out of 82 pitches. Olson's not Jakubauskas bad as a starter, but every start is the same and he just loses it. It's never a matter of pitch count with him, it's always the opposing hitters that make up Don Wakamatsu's mind as to whether Olson should be pulled. It seems Olson is never pulled because he ran the pitch count as far as it could go.
Seattle's leadoff hitter didn't warm up until the eighth and ninth innings. He singled to lead off the Mariners' four-run eighth inning that made it 9-6. After Cedeno drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, Ichiro hit another single to put two runners on and nobody out. Ichiro went 2-for-5 in the game and has amassed 98 hits on the season, putting him on pace for a 243-hit season. After hitting .306 in an abbreviated April, Ichiro hit .377 in May and is hitting .370 so far in the month of June. Another thing to consider is that Ichiro has not yet homered this month. His last homer was on May 31st in Anaheim, leaving him with a 19-game home run drought, tying his longest of the year. A previous 19-game homer drought went from April 24th to May 14th. Long story short, the man's due for a home run. The wire article made a big deal out of a foul ball that Ichiro hit along the rightfield line in the second inning with the bases loaded, and while on the FSNW broadcast they thought it might have gone over the bag fair, I do think the over-the-bag rule is a bit screwy (unless it's better defined in the rule book). For instance, if a ball bounces over the bag and it's next bounce is foul past the bag foul, that's called fair, but if a guy hits a home run ball that hooks foul, there's no way that ball wasn't technically fair went it went past the bag at 90 feet. Why isn't that a home run?
2) Ken Griffey Jr.
Isn't it only fitting that the guy that hits the Mariners' 5000th homer in franchise history is Griffey? It was a home run that seemed a bit benign -- it only cut the Padres' lead to 9-2 in the sixth, and there was no consultation of the replay when the ball bounced off the top of the wall and was grabbed by a fan, though it seemed possible the ball might bounce back into the field of play. At the time, if I'm one of the umpires, I'm probably not thinking about going to the replay booth to see whether a solo homer is going to make the difference between a 9-2 game and a 9-1 game, I just want to get out of the ballpark and get somewhere for dinner. Griffey also walked in the four-run Mariner eighth and led off the second inning with a single on an 0-2 pitch. Griffey has 33 walks on the season, only one short of Russell Branyan's 34, though Branyan was busy getting his strikeout on in this particular game. With 11 games to go until the halfway point of the season, is .225 with eight homers and 23 RBIs what we expected out of Griffey? To be fair, he's gone 7-for-18 (.388) over his past six games with two doubles, two homers (slugging .833), and seven RBIs.
3) Miguel Batista
Though he's definitely not in the gig of his choosing, Batista came out in the top of the eighth with the Mariners down 9-2 and in a low-pressure situation. He gave up a one-out walk, but got a double-play ball to end the inning. The Mariners then went on their run-scoring binge, their four-run eighth inning. Batista came back out to the mound for the ninth inning, but this time in a 9-6 game. He gave up a leadoff single to David Eckstein, but got flyouts out of the next three hitters. It might be a copout, but I'm putting Batista here because part of me expected him to fully implode and put the game way out of reach. Batista's last complete meltdown was on May 26th at Oakland, a four-run, two-walk, two-hit masterpiece in one-third of an inning that tacked a run and a half onto his ERA. Right now, his ERA sits at 3.09, which isn't too bad. He's walked 20 hitters and struck out 27, and that still needs work as well, but I don't remember him ever being good at that ratio. Oh well, he's coming off the books soon.
Garrett Olson left the game with two runners in scoring position and one out with the Mariners behind 4-1. Corcoran came into the game. After Corcoran finally got the two outs, the Padres led 9-1. Though he was definitely getting squeezed by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez (he might be the worst umpire I've seen since Laz Diaz), he walked Kyle "Billy" Blanks on four pitches to load the bases, then walked Henry Blanco on four pitches to force in a run to make it 5-1. From there, the next four plays were run-scoring plays as the Padres assembled an array of dinkers and a sacrifice fly for a run on each successive play. It was a backbreaker for sure. Corcoran put a dent into Olson's ERA by having both of his inherited runners cross the plate, but Corcoran did a bit of magic to his ERA, getting charged for three runs of his own. Olson had his ERA jump by 0.72 to 4.95. Corcoran is sitting at a cushy 7.30 ERA on the season. When's he's healthy and doing his thing, Corcoran can be fairly valuable, but he was on the shelf for a while, so he's going to have to shake the rust off a bit.
O frabjous day! Another day with Brandon Morrow on a pitch count!