Saturday, July 04, 2009


The Mariners left home on June 25th, about to depart on a nine-game road trip that would take them through Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park. A decent consensus of people thought the road trip would be successful if the Mariners could go 4-5, which would have put them at 41-40 at the end of the trip (and the numerical end of the first half of the season). Instead, the Mariners won this Independence Day game and are guaranteed a winning road trip, which so far is at 5-3. The Felix game yesterday was the one game they definitely needed, and anything else was gravy, especially with Garrett Olson and Brandon Morrow throwing the final two games of the series.

One game short of the halfway point of the season, the Mariners are 42-38 after 80 games of play. This mark is three games worse than the 2007 team's mark, but it's one better than 2006, eight better than 2005, 10 better than 2004, and 12 games better than last year. Forty-two wins is six games worse than 2000, nine games worse than 2002, 10 worse than 2003, and 17 worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting went a collective 7-for-31 at the plate, walking five times and striking out eight times. Chris Woodward had two hits and was the only Mariner with multiple hits. Russell Branyan doubled for the Mariners' only extra-base hit. Ryan Langerhans, though hitless, walked twice. The Mariners went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all.

Now for the pitching. The middle reliever will be covered below. Garrett Olson didn't take a relief appearance between this start and his last start, freeing him up to throw a full game's worth of pitches. The 104 pitches he threw in this game is a season high for him. He tends to have one inning that makes or breaks him in every start, and usually that's the fifth or sixth after he's cruised through four or five innings. This time, the second inning was his bug-a-boo. After getting a flyout on the first pitch to Jason Bay, he walked Rocco Baldelli, then fell behind on Jason Varitek before the former Mariner farmhand homered to give Boston an early 2-0 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury singled right after that, Julio Lugo walked one out later, but finally Olson caught JD Drew looking to end that inning. Olson got out of his bad inning having given up only two runs, and it ended up being enough. He cruised along until the seventh, when he walked Drew on five pitches with one out and was yanked. Olson gave up two runs on four hits, walking four (yiiiiiiikes) and striking out five. He threw 60 strikes out of 104 pitches, got five groundouts to nine flyouts, and faced 28 hitters to get 19 outs. David Aardsma had a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 17th save in 18 chances, getting an Ellsbury groundout, a Mark Kotsay flyout, and a George Kottaras pinch-hit looking strikeout to end the game.

1) Roy Corcoran
When Miguel Batista threw two innings in long relief on Thursday night, I thought it didn't put the Mariners in the best position for Saturday because usually Batista has been the first guy out of the pen during Olson's starts, much like Chris Jakubauskas has been the first guy out of the bullpen in Brandon Morrow's starts. Guess what? I forgot all about Roy Corcoran. Of course, maybe I forgot about him because his last two appearances had been disastrous -- he gave up three runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings against the Padres on June 23rd and he gave up two runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings at Dodger Stadium on June 26th, adding nearly two full runs to his ERA in two appearances. This was only his fifth appearance since coming back off the disabled list. He didn't allow runs in his first two appearances, but still walked a combined three hitters. He came into the seventh inning with Drew on first and one out and got ground balls from the next two hitters to end the inning. He got Jason Bay to whiff, David Ortiz to line out, and Jason Varitek to ground out to end the eighth. He threw 11 strikes out of 17 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, giving up no runs/hits/walks and striking out one, and getting three groundouts to one flyout. He faced five hitters and got them all out.

2) Chris Woodward
The Mariners' replacement third baseman is nine games into his Mariner tenure and has gone 10-for-28 (.357). He has yet to notch his first extra-base hit as a Mariner, but that will come in time. After all, Adrian Beltre didn't hit his first home run of the season until his 31st game, so Woodward's got 22 more games before he officially hits for less power than Beltre. Woodward's good enough at third, though as I've mentioned I'd rather have Chris Shelton there, Woodward at shortstop, and Ronny Cedeno designated for assignment. Come to think of it, I think Cedeno right now (hey, he had an error today) is more worthless than Wilson Valdez was with this team a couple of years ago. Still, it's nice to see Woodward be able to step into a starting role with this team and not completely crap the bed at the plate. Maybe I'm one for instant gratifications or good first impressions, but if you compare what he's done at third base and how he's taken hold of that role to what Wladimir Balentien has done in leftfield since Endy Chavez went down, there's not too much of a comparison. In fact, what Langerhans is doing in leftfield right now is a closer relative to what Woodward's done at third. Oh, by the way, I just riffed the entire paragraph and forgot to mention Woodward's parachute game-winning single that eluded Dustin Pedroia in shallow rightfield to score Balentien from third.

3) Russell Branyan
Surprisingly, the Mariners already had one hitter in the series reach the Triangle in centerfield at Fenway, and somehow it was Ronny Cedeno. Naturally, that means Branyan on Sunday has to absolutely demolish a pitch and either hit the Ted Williams ~520-foot seat in rightfield or maybe hit a ball over the Triangle completely. Anyway, Branyan went 1-for-3 in this game with two strikeouts. Branyan's two-out double in the third scored Ichiro to cut Boston's lead to 2-1, but Branyan was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. With runners on the corners and one out, Branyan hit a sufficiently deep fly ball to leftfield to score Woodward and tie the score at 2-2, where it stayed until the ninth inning. Branyan's two RBIs in this game put him at 45 RBIs on the season, three behind the team leader (Jose Lopez with 48). Branyan ended June hitting .303, and though he has a three-game hitting streak, he's only got three hits in the streak, making him 3-for-13 with a double and home run. That's sunk his batting average all the way down to .295 since he's batting .176 so far in July. Come on, did you really expect him to be a .300 hitter for the rest of the season?

Kenji Johjima
The Mariners' catcher and Ken Griffey Jr. had basically the same boxscore line in this game, but Griffey gets the non-goat because a certain someone took a first-pitch strike, took three balls, then fouled off three pitches before taking a walk. Wladimir Balentien pinch-ran for Griffey and scored the winning run on the dinker of a single into shallow rightfield. Thus, Griffey had a direct role in the victory. Johjima also walked on four pitches later in the ninth inning when Takashi Saito was competely losing his mind, but ultimately he wasn't the winning run, he didn't score, and he doesn't have the mystique of vintage awesomeness that Griffey has when he does something even remotely related to winning the game. Since coming back off the disabled list, Johjima has played in five games, going hitless in three of them, but collecting a combined five hits in the other two. He's only hit one extra-base hit (a double) since coming back, but eventually I think the bat will warm up and he'll look that much better than Rob Johnson, even with Johnson's three-double game on Friday night.

At least the Mariners already have five wins on the road trip, because Brandon Morrow is throwing tomorrow. Eeeeeyikes.

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