Thursday, July 30, 2009
With the Mariners' second straight win, they have run their record to 53-48 after 101 games. This record is two games off the pace of 2007, but four wins better than 2006, nine better than 2005, 14 better than 2004, and 15 better than last year. Fifty-three wins is also five worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002 and 2003, and 19 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when collecting their 53rd win: 53-37 in 2000, 53-16 in 2001, 53-31 in 2002, 53-28 in 2003, 53-89 in 2004, 53-69 in 2005, 53-54 in 2006, 53-39 in 2007, and 53-83 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-35 on the day, walking zero times and striking out six times. The team went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners in all. Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro had two hits apiece while Jose Lopez had a 3-for-4 day. Lopez doubled and homered, and Griffey doubled twice to account for all the Mariners' extra-base hits. Chris Shelton netted a hat trick with three strikeouts on his 1-for-4 night. Since he's not mentioned in the gameballs, Ichiro's 2-for-4 day puts him at 150 hits on the season, and he's on pace for a 248-hit season.
The Mariner arms had a pretty good day. The starter is below, so here's the bullpen. Not even 24 hours after blowing a lead to screw Jarrod Washburn out of a win, Lowe came out for the eighth to hold a 3-2 lead. He got Rod Barajas to strike out on three pitches, got a first-pitch groundout from Jose Bautista, and got a groundout from Marco Scutaro. Lowe threw seven strikes out of eight pitches in his 1-2-3 inning. After getting the entire three-game Cleveland series off because the Mariners never presented any closing chances, Aardsma was put into an out-of-reach game in the first game of this series to get some work, but then held a tie game in the ninth of the second game of the series. Working on his third straight day, Aardsma didn't implode like he did in Anaheim. He allowed a leadoff walk to make things dicey, but then got strikeouts from Adam Lind and Scott Rolen, then got a groundball from Alex Rios to third for a 5-4 forceout of Hill at second to end the game. Aardsma threw 11 strikes out of 20 pitches and faced four hitters to get three outs.
1) Ryan Rowland-Smith
I don't know how any Mariner fan could be anything less than pleased with the way this Aussie has thrown since being called back to the big club. He might not have come back as soon as everyone thought he would, but now that he's back, he's notched back-to-back seven-inning starts that both been good starts. Much like the last start where he was twice bitten by the long ball, Rowland-Smith lost a one-run lead and found himself a run behind thanks to one hanging breaking ball. That's getting bitten by the homer, though it's also the Mariner offense not giving him more than one run with which to work. Rowland-Smith went up against Roy Halladay and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, for goodness' sake. The only Toronto baserunner in the first six innings was Kevin Millar getting aboard by being hit with a pitch to start the third. Unfortunately, Aaron Hill led off the seventh with a single to break up the no-hitter, and three pitches later, Adam Lind crushed that hanging breaking ball into some deep seats just to the right of the hitters' backdrop. In a short span of time, the no-hitter disappeared, the shutout disappeared, and the Mariners found themselves behind. Luckily the offense picked him up after the stretch. Rowland-Smith gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out four. He threw 60 strikes out of 89 pitches and got three groundouts to 14 flyouts (whoa). The Aussie faced 25 hitters to get 21 outs.
2) Ken Griffey Jr.
On July 29th, the Mariners' lefthanded designated hitter doubled his July RBI total with one swing of the bat. It had been a while since Griffey had chimed in with a big hit to remind us of his existence, but the opportunity presented itself on a blazing hot afternoon at Safeco Field, and Junior delivered. He was 2-for-4 on the day. He doubled to follow up the Jose Lopez homer in the fifth, but there were already two outs. His other hit was the game-winner in the seventh. Griffey had the bases loaded with one out and the Mariners down 2-1. Lately, Griffey's had some pretty iffy at-bats where he either looks overmatched or even when he looks to have put a good lickin' on a ball, it ends up not going far at all. Griffey got just enough of that pitch from Halladay to send it just inside the line in the rightfield corner, netting himself a double (yes, even him) and netting the Mariners two runs on the play as Michael Saunders and Ichiro scored to make it 3-2. Griffey's now a .215 hitter. I made the mistake of checking an Atlanta boxscore to see what kind of batting average Garret Anderson had. All I'll say is if you're a Mariner fan, you might not want to check an Atlanta boxscore to seek out that information about Garret Anderson.
3) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman shook off the sore back and got the start one day after doing the pinch-hitting thing. Lopez went 3-for-4 despite playing this game under the blazing sun. He started the day off with a two-out double in the first. He grounded out with Ichiro on second and one out in the third. Then came the fifth. Lopez worked a 1-2 count full and then dropped the barrel on a pitch, sending it to the back of the visitors' bullpen and putting the Mariners up 1-0. With one out in the seventh, Lopez singled to load the bases. The 3-for-4 day from Lopez bumped his batting average up to .266 on the season, his on-base percentage to .295, and his slugging percentage to .440. The home run was the first one for Lopez since July 8th at home against the Orioles. Lopez was only a triple away from the cycle in this game, but I'm not sure I ever want to see him trying to leg out a triple. It's good to have Lopez and his offensive pop back into the lineup. Now if Russell Branyan returns and doesn't get traded, the Mariner lineup will be almost all the way back healthy.
The goat was between Johjima and Franklin Gutierrez, and maybe Chris Shelton if you hated his three strikeouts badly enough. The deciding factor here was definitely Johjima's getting thrown out at the plate. In the second in a scoreless game, Johjima was hit with a pitch to get aboard. Jack Hannahan half-evaded Kevin Millar's tag while running down the first-base line, moving Johjima to second. Chris Woodward drove a 3-1 pitch into left for a single, and Jose Bautista had the ball as Johjima was rounding third base. I can't put this all on Johjima because third-base coach Bruce Hines was absolutely waving him to the plate, but that play at the plate wasn't even close. The throw home beat Johjima by at least five feet. I do have to sympathize with the opinion of "they're facing Halladay, so they'd better try to score any chance they have rather than hold runners or throw them out." For all his faults with handling pitchers, Johjima is still a .265 hitter this season in limited action. If Johjima can be something slightly above worthless, that'd make the big money he's due a little easier to swallow.
Looks like it's Garrett Olson to take back his spot in the starting rotation. Hopefully there won't be a lot of fly balls in Texas...