Friday, July 31, 2009


For me, the home series against Cleveland was the death knell for the Mariners' playoff hopes. The run was nice while it lasted. The Toronto series was nice for pride and everything, but I'm off the playoff boat. Plus, the first game of that series with Felix Hernandez getting hit around was really discouraging, though the Mariners did even the score and beat Roy Halladay in the finale. For the Mariners to even have anything close to a morsel of hope for the playoffs, they'd have to take three of four in Arlington. How did they start out? Well, they're going to have to win the final three games of this series. If you're playing in Arlington and the Rangers hit five home runs, you basically have no chance in hell of winning. Plus, that'd mean the Mariners would have to score five runs to win that game, and the odds of that happening are pretty long. In other news, Jack Wilson made his Mariner debut at shortstop, thankfully taking over on a semi-permanent basis for the awful Ronny Cedeno. Unfortunately, Wilson hung up a hitless night just like Cedeno would, so maybe he's gotta settle in a bit. Also, I heard a Pittsburgh media guy on KJR yesterday who said Wilson kind of looks like Steve-O, and he kind of does.

The Mariners' fifth loss in seven games ran their record to 53-49 after 102 games. That's three games worse than the 2007 pace, but four better than 2006, nine better than 2005, 14 better than 2004, and 15 better than last year. Fifty-three wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 20 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records at the 49th loss: 69-49 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001 (they never got to 49), 74-49 in 2002 and 2003, 32-49 in 2004, 39-49 in 2005, 44-49 in 2006, 60-49 in 2007, and 26-49 last year.

Seattle hitting combined for a putride 3-for-30 on the night, walking twice and striking out ten times against no-namer Derek Holland. The only Mariner hits on the night (all singles) were turned in by Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, and Jack Hannahan. The bottom third of the Mariner lineup combined to go 0-for-8 on the night, walking once and striking out four times. Holland had a no-hitter through 4 2/3 innings and a one-hitter through 8 2/3 innings. That's about all you need to know about how the Mariners did on offense in this game. Still, to expect the offense to score runs even when it's clicking is stupid.

It wasn't a good night for the Mariner arms, and it seems like I've been saying that way too much lately. The starting pitcher will be discussed below. That leaves Chris Jakubauskas, who ate the rest of the innings after Garrett Olson was lifted from the game with two on, two out, and Michael Young coming to the plate. Jakubauskas threw a 1-1 pitch for a ball when Rob Johnson caught Omar Vizquel leaning too far off of first base, ending the inning. Though the fourth ended with Young at the plate, Young led off the fifth and tagged Jakubauskas nonetheless with a home run to make it 5-0 for Texas. Marlon Byrd followed up with a single, but Jakubauskas got a fly ball and a double play to end the fifth. Jakubauskas weathered a leadoff walk and a Hannahan error to escape the sixth unscathed. He allowed a one-out single to Young before Byrd followed up with a homer to cap the Rangers' scoring, making it 7-0. He allowed a Hank Blalock single, but got a double-play ball to end that threat. He then threw a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Jakubauskas threw three runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out one. He threw 37 strikes out of 62 pitches, got seven groundouts and four flyouts, and faced 17 hitters to get 13 outs.

1) Jose Lopez
Selecting gameballs for this game was a really tough job. Mariner pitching was pretty awful, and the offense did virtually nothing until the ninth inning, so for tonight this is a pretty rough one. Usually I never have this much trouble picking gameballs. Anyway, the first one goes to Lopez, who had the only Seattle RBI of the game. With two out in the ninth, Lopez came up with two on and two out right after Warner Madrigal came into the game and managed to get a single to plate Ichiro from second. Just like that, it was 7-1 for the Mariners, and Derek Holland was surely a bit miffed in the dugout seeing one of his runners cross the plate. Even as a Mariner fan, knowing the team was going to lose anyway, I wish Ron Washington would have left Holland in to try to finish the game, 118 pitches be damned. I don't think it would have taken more than about eight pitches to get Lopez out. In related news, after a few years of being paired with Yuniesky Betancourt and a few weeks of being paired with Ronny Cedeno, Lopez now has to get to the positioning and fielding nuances of Jack Wilson in the middle infield.

2) Franklin Gutierrez
Did I mention it was a rough night to select gameballs? With Ichiro on first and two out in the ninth, Gutierrez singled to move Ichiro to second. Gutierrez is now hitting .296 on the season. The only time Gutierrez has gone hitless in consecutive games since June 14th was when he went hitless on July 21st and 24th, but that's a bit flimsy since he ran into the wall in Detroit on the 21st and only got one at-bat in that game. June 13th and 14th in Colorado marked the last time Gutierrez got a full game's worth of at-bats in consecutive games and went hitless both times. Since then, Gutierrez has gone 50-for-141 (.355) with six doubles and nine home runs (slugging .589) over a span of 37 games. In a game where nothing really happened, I guess I can only fill the rest of this paragraph with lavish praise for Gutierrez. He hasn't homered since the Mariners were in Cleveland. At that point, I thought he might have an outside shot at a 20-homer season, but now I'd have to say it looks like the target might be more like 15 or 16. Oops, that wasn't lavish praise. That's the kind of night it was in Arlington.

3) Rob Johnson
Here's how bad the game was. Rob Johnson was hitless, but he snuck into the gameball section. Why? Well, Jack Hannahan was the remaining Mariner that had a base hit, but he threw into the runner at first trying to complete a double play (i.e., error). Johnson went hitless, but he did draw a walk, and he did manage to make a Kenji Johjima-like pickoff of Omar Vizquel at first base to end the fifth inning. Part of me wants to be happy that Johnson has that kind of arm, part of me wants to discount the play because it's Vizquel, but still part of me wants to tell Johnson to take it easy on the old man. Most of us remember Little O as a Mariner, the defensive wiz that he was. Most of us remember the barehand play for the final out of Chris Bosio's no-hitter. The only thing that ticks me off about Vizquel is that he couldn't hit for crap as a Mariner, then he went to Cleveland and turned into an awesome hitter. That really chapped my hide. Of course, Alex Rodriguez was waiting in the wings, so I can only be so mad at this whole thing. I also remember bitching a lot about Dan Wilson back in the day because he was a good glove/good receiver/no bat catcher, but he hit about .220 or .230 at his worst. Rob Johnson's hitting .209 on the season.

Garrett Olson
Does everyone remember how great the Mariners' rotation looked not even three or four weeks ago? It had Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn at the top, just dominating. It had Erik Bedard, who looked to be getting healthy and had a few okay starts. Then there was Jason Vargas, who stepped in and had some very good starts. Then there was Olson, who did some spot starts with some bullpen appearances thrown in there too. After the All-Star break, it's like a switch was flipped or something. He started twice coming out of the break and was absolutely awful. For him, it was two straight awful starts and his third awful outing in his last five starts. On this night, the Texas hitters had Olson absolutely solved. There were no cheap hits. Just look at his line -- he gave up six hits and three of them went over the wall. He's been a flyball pitcher this season, and if you mix that with Arlington, it's just a bad situation. You figure the Mariners might have had a decent chance to win, but there are nights where the offense is going to make some no-name look like Christy Mathewson out there. This was one of those nights. In the scope of the whole rotation, though...how is it now? You have Felix, you might not have Washburn in a few hours, you have a dinged-up Bedard, you have Rowland-Smith, and you have nobody seeming to want to take that fifth spot, unless Ian Snell has a great next start or two with Tacoma. If you're trying to win with pitching and defense and you lose the pitching, and there's no semblance of offense, it's not a recipe for winning.

Looks like Vargas. Hope it turns out better than last time.

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