Sunday, June 28, 2009
The Mariners' eighth win in 11 tries put them at 38-36 after 74 games. That record is three wins worse than the 2007 team's record at this point, but two wins better than 2006, five wins better than 2005, eight wins better than 2004, and 12 wins better than last year.
Mariner hitting went 12-for-39 in the game, walking once and striking out nine times (three of those were Felix Hernandez). Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez had two hits apiece, while Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez had three hits apiece. Ichiro doubled once, Gutierrez doubled twice, Branyan tripled, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Branyan both homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. The team went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all. Ichiro went 3-for-5 and I'm not putting him into the gameball entries because of the two defensive oddities he experienced out there with the missed catch and the odd sliding ball-off-the-leg play. Nonetheless, Ichiro's three hits put him at 109 on the season, putting him on pace for a 254-hit season. Ichiro is hitting a mere .414 so far in June and is hitting .375 on the season.
The Mariners' starting pitcher will be covered below. David Aardsma warmed up in preparation to close and got work anyway in the bottom of the ninth in a non-save situation as the Mariners had a 5-1 lead. As Kazuhiro Sasaki had done before him, Aardsma made it a bit interesting in a non-save situation but ultimately got the three outs he needed. He gave up a hit and a walk, striking out two. He threw only 10 strikes out of 21 pitches.
1) Felix Hernandez
He had a couple of rough innings in the early going to the point where I thought he'd be lucky to finish six innings. After the Dodgers' only run of the game on Ichiro's error, Felix set down 16 of the final 17 hitters he faced, and at the end of it, he had finished eight innings. He was throwing a heavy ball in this game, and that more than shows with the 11 groundball outs to four flyouts. He threw 73 strikes out of 117 pitches and faced 30 hitters to get 24 outs. Felix allowed only the unearned run on four hits, walking one, and striking out nine. Since getting the talking-to from Don Wakamatsu after the start against the Angels where he really wasn't holding runners on, Hernandez has been nothing short of awesome. In the seven starts since that aforementioned bad start, Felix has averaged 7 2/3 innings, 1.43 runs (0.71 earned), 5.43 hits, two walks, and 7.29 strikeouts per start for an ERA of 0.85. That's definitely ace material. While it's good that Felix hasn't managed to get the loss in any of his last seven starts, it's crap that he's had three no-decisions in those seven starts.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
You mean I get to have three hits out of Gutierrez and the diving catch? He's not Mike Cameron, but we've only seen the guy for three months and he's very good. He's probably not going to hit as many homers as Mike Cameron. He definitely won't strike out as much as Mike Cameron. Still, Cameron had the big-splash homer-robbing catch against Derek Jeter early on, and Gutierrez had a masterful running catch in the Metrodome back in the very early going. I've kept saying that I consider anything over .245 as gravy for this guy considering how awesome he is on defense. Gutierrez is hitting .267 for this team. He's hit seven homers on the season and should definitely reach double digits barring a horrific injury. Two things are for sure -- the guy's a ridiculous bargain, and he's making Jack Zduriencik look like an absolute genius. Going into the season, really the great unknown surrounding Gutierrez was whether or not he could hit. I thought we could be staring at a .230 hitter with awesome defense, but color me surprised on his offense so far.
3) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' first baseman has had his most homerrific month of the season. The pitch he wrecked in the ninth inning for the Mariners' fifth and final run of the game was his eighth homer in June, besting the seven homers he hit in May. Interestingly, Branyan finished the game with a triple and a home run, the two hardest hits to get when hitting for the cycle. The 2-for-5 day put Branyan back above .300 as he's now hitting .302. His season batting average hasn't been below .300 since May 17th, which is amazing considering the type of hitter we perceive Branyan to be. The massive extra-baseage on Branyan's hits pushed his season slugging percentage back over .600, and it's now at .613. Branyan has homered in four of his last seven games, and along with the one triple has slugged .733 over that span. Regardless of what team he's on at the end of July, I think we can agree that all Mariner fans have immensely enjoyed his time with the Mariners. It'll be a shame if he has to go, but as one of the Mariners' most tradeable assets, all offers have to be considered.
Some of Felix's pitches were breaking like crazy, sure, but even Johnson should have had that wild pitch. I've seen some balls that I swear Johnson should be getting to but isn't for whatever reason. Jarrod Washburn has said Johnson is one of the better receivers he's ever thrown to, but the recent catchers to compare Johnson to are Kenji Johjima and Jamie Burke, so come on. If you go back to Washburn's Angel days, you bring the Molina brothers into the conversation. I know Rob Johnson isn't going to turn into a Dan Wilson block-a-ball machine behind the plate, but sometimes I'm not so convinced of his surehandedness behind the plate, and since apparently the Mariners have the guy mainly for his defense and how well he plays catcher, that makes it a problem for me. This is all before we consider that Johnson is hitting all of .183 on the season. I wonder how much better this team would be if Johnson was hitting just not-suckly, like maybe .210 or .220. If you ask me, with Johjima back in the fold, Johnson's relegated right back to catching day games twice a week.
Garrett Olson will try to evade the hit-the-wall inning on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately I already know what happened as I'm typing this, but whatever.