Saturday, June 27, 2009
The cold hard reality of a nine-game road trip against good teams smacked the Mariners a bit Seaand knocked them off their two-games-above-.500 perch. The Mariners are 37-36 after 73 games, which is three wins behind the 2007 team, one better than the 2006 team, four better than the 2005 team, seven better than the 2004 team, and 11 better than last year's ugh. Thirty-seven wins is also six worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002, 12 worse than 2003, and 17 worse than 2001.
Seattle hitting went a combined 6-for-32 on the night, walking once and striking out ten times. Jose Lopez had three hits and Ichiro had two. Russell Branyan got a hit as well, but the other six Mariners in the lineup had zero-hit nights. The Mariners didn't manage to get a single extra-base hit in the game. Adrian Beltre hung up an 0-for-4 night, Franklin Gutierrez was 0-for-3 but with a walk (and two strikeouts), and Wladimir Balentien went 0-for-3, striking out three times for a hat trick. The team went 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners on the night.
It was not a banner night for Mariner pitching. The starter will be covered below. Roy Corcoran took on two of Jason Vargas' runners and managed to strand them to end the fifth inning, but gave up a two-run homer to Andre Ethier in the sixth. Miguel Batista threw the seventh and eighth innings and gave up Ethier's third and final homer in the eighth. Corcoran gave up two runs on three hits in his 1 1/3 innings of work, walking one and striking out one. Corcoran faced nine hitters to get four outs. Batista gave up a run on two hits with no walks or strikeouts in his two innings of work. Batista faced eight hitters to get six outs.
1) Jose Lopez
His first game coming off the bereavement list was a rough one, but the second game was much better. Well, it was better for him individually because the team sucked. Lopez went 3-for-4 at the plate, driving in both Mariner runs. He singled with two on and one out in the fourth to cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-1 and he singled with Ichiro on second with two out in the sixth to cut the Dodgers' lead to 5-2. Lopez still leads the team with 44 RBIs despite spending a week away from the team. It probably won't happen, but if Lopez somehow gets a 100-RBI season out of this, it'll be a good thing, and the team could really use it. He could cement his role at second base for a couple of years if he did completely establish himself at the plate. We've made no secret this season that the team needs as mnuch power hitting as it can get, and Lopez (though not with power in this game) has been the only worthwhile power hitter not named Russell Branyan that the Mariners have had this season. If Lopez can get his batting average up to about .270 or .275 and ends the year with 95 or so RBIs and 20 homers, it'll be a good season.
Two more hits for the Mariners' leadoff hitter. Ichiro went 2-for-4 in this game, being driven in twice by Lopez to account for both of the Mariners' runs. Ichiro is hitting .404 for the month of June, somehow surpassing what I thought was a nutty .377 in May. Ichiro is sitting with a .371 batting average for the year so far. Absolutely nuts. I know some people have suggested he move to other places in the lineup to spread the goodness around, but now that Endy Chavez is gone, I don't think it's an option to move him out of the leadoff spot, especially when he's doing this good. It's not his fault he gets aboard all the time and doesn't score as often as he should. The guy needs someone to get him home more often. Though Ichiro has been incredibly nuts so far this season, he's still not on pace to break his own 262-hit single-season record, but he is on pace for a 251-hit season. Let's say you gave him four at-bats for all the eight games he missed and gave him the number of hits correspondent to his current average -- that'd have him 11 or 12 more hits, which would put him on pace to tie or break the record. What if he hadn't missed those eight games? Also, Ichiro has a six-game multi-hit game streak during which he's gone 16-for-27 (.593).
3) Russell Branyan
He had a broken-bat floater of a single with Ichiro on and nobody out in the fourth inning in what looked to be a promising Mariner rally. Branyan is hitting .300 on the season. He's really gotten his strikeout on lately, striking out ten times in the last six games despite his current seven-game hitting streak. Part of the Ichiro streak was like this -- Ichiro would get one hit to keep the streak going, but it'd sink his average. Branyan hasn't had a multi-hit game since June 11th, and as a result, his batting average has sunk from .317 down to its current .300. He's gone 9-for-36 (.250) over his last 11 games, though maybe getting hit in the wrist is part of the season for his slight dropoff in production. Nonetheless, he's still chipped in the key homer, and his slugging percentage is still hovering around .600 at .596. Frankly, going into the season I thought the guy was going to hit .250 altogether, so I'm more than pleasantly surprised with what Branyan's brought to the table. Of course, his awesomeness to me is exactly why they should trade this guy now because his value might not get much higher. This is the one year where I'm okay with them totally being sellers and not buyers, playoff hunt be damned.
I don't know what kind of book the Dodgers had on Jason Vargas going in, but the Dodger hitters had Vargas absolutely solved in this game. Vargas got a 1-2-3 first inning, but it was all downhill from there. Casey Blake led off the second inning with a double that was half a foot or so from clearing the wall in rightfield. James Loney singled, and one out later, Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer for his first of three homers on the night. Matt Kemp followed that up with a single, but Vargas got a double-play ball from Clayton Kershaw (the pitcher) to end the inning. It was only three runs, but at that point it didn't seem insurmountable. Juan Pierre singled to lead off the third, but he was gunned down trying to steal, and Vargas faced only three hitters in that inning. The Mariners scored one in the fourth, but Kenji Johjima's double-play ball with the bases loaded killed that rally and Vargas was nicked again in the fourth. Blake put the ball over the wall this time to lead off, though the rest of the inning was largely without incident. Kemp got a weird triple (shouldn't have been more than a double) to lead of the fifth, then Kershaw (pitcher) somehow singled in that run. Vargas didn't make it out of the inning. In 4 2/3 innings of work, Vargas gave up five runs on nine hits, walking one and striking out two. He threw 48 strikes out of 75 pitches and got seven groundouts to four flyouts. He faced 21 hitters to get 14 outs. He's done great work this season, but he's proven himself more than human with this start and the seven-run start two outings ago.
Wouldn't you know it, it'll be another Felix night.