Monday, July 06, 2009


At 5-3 on the road trip, the Mariners had more than secured a successful road trip. They had a 4-3 lead at the seventh-inning stretch, and one had to feel pretty good about the Mariners' chances to come away with an unreal 6-3 road trip. It would only take an absolute meltdown by the bullpen to nullify a sixth win. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened. You had to figure that the overwork of the bullpen would have to catch up with them, right? This team has a rotation where you can only expect Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn to work deep into games, two emergency starters in Garrett Olson and Jason Vargas who have settled into their roles, and Brandon Morrow has been working into the rotation on a pitch count for the last month. At some point, the bullpen was going to wear down, and the outcome here is probably an indication of some wear and tear.

The Mariners are 42-39 at the mathematical halfway point of the season, 81 games. This is four games worse than 2007's mark at that point, but one game better than 2006, seven better than 2005, 10 better than 2004, and 11 better than last year. Last year's Mariners won their 42nd game on August 3rd. Forty-two wins is six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting went a combined 8-for-34 in the game, walking three times and striking out 12 times. Ronny Cedeno's key triple was the Mariners' only extra-base hit in the series. Franklin Gutierrez had two hits and was the only Mariner to amass multiple hits in this game. The team went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. Ichiro turned in his third straight 1-for-5 game. Only in the world of Ichiro could you have a four-game hitting streak and have your batting average sink from .368 to .362 because you went 5-for-19 in the streak. Ichiro topped his .377 May with a .407 June, but it seems the last handful games have been a bit of a leveling off -- Ichiro's hitting .217 so far in June. Maybe hitting against Tim Wakefield really screwed him up or something. Also, Cedeno homered deep to centerfield against Tim Wakefield, yet Russell Branyan didn't homer in the series at Fenway. Baseball's a real screwy game sometimes.

Two of the Mariners' pitchers will be covered below. Miguel Batista was the first arm out of the pen, coming out right after the seventh inning stretch to protect a 4-3 lead. That was the plan, anyway. He got a quick flyout, got one strike on JD Drew, then threw four straight balls. Dustin Pedroia then singled, then Batista got Kevin Youkilis flew out. Batista was one out away from getting out of the jam. He went 3-0 on David Ortiz, who was green-lit on that count and singled to score drew and tie the game. Blown save to Batista, Mark Lowe into the game. Fast-forwarding past most of the rest of the carnage, Sean White came into the same inning with two out and on a 1-1 count to Jason Varitek threw a pitch that got away from Kenji Johjima (passed ball), scoring Jacoby Ellsbury to make for the final margin of 8-4. Varitek struck out looking two pitches later. Batista threw eight strikes out of 19 pitches in his 2/3 inning on two hits and one walk. He got two flyouts and faced five hitters to get the two outs. White allowed no hits or runs in his 1 1/3 innings, throwing 12 strikes on 20 pitches, getting two groundouts and a flyout, and facing four hitters to get four outs.

1) Franklin Gutierrez
His defense isn't cooling down, and neither is his bat as of late. The Mariners' centerfielder has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games. In those 16 games, he has gone 26-for-66 (.394) with three doubles and four home runs (slugging .621). He followed up a respectable .277 May with a good .304 June. Now he's following up June with what so far is a .429 July. This production is coming from a guy from whom I'd be content with a .245 season average. I really didn't expect a lot of offensive production from Gutierrez this year. I thought he had some potential a year or two down the road, but I really was not expecting much this season. Gutierrez is at .286 on the season, and I think it'd be insane to expect him to finish the season as a .286 hitter. At the same time, if he finished at .245 it'd still meet my expectations, but that'd have to be a monumental slide to get him down to .245. I think he'll finish around .260 maybe. If he stays around .280 or so, I think the team should absolutely lock the guy up for three to four years.

2) Ronny Cedeno
I must once again say that I miss burying this guy on a near nightly basis. In the Boston series, he went 4-for-13 with a triple and a home run, driving in five runs and stealing a base along the way. Of course, even the awesomeness of his performance in the series bumped his average up to .150, which reminds you just how much he was an endless glass of suck over the first half of the season. Cedeno hit .104 last month, and if I had the connection and the savvy to do it right now, I'd go through every Major League roster and see if any of the other 29 teams had a semi-regular starter that hit worse than .104 in the month of June. It still boggles my mind that he is still on this team or on any Major League roster. At some point, you have to ask yourself if you really give a damn about his versatility if he's hitting .150. I'd be more ticked off about this if I expected the Mariners to be a playoff team, but could you imagine if the Mariners missed the playoffs by three games at the end of the season? All I'd be able to think about is how much better the Mariners would have done if they had a shortstop that could just hit .240.

3) Brandon Morrow
This was definitely Morrow's best start of the season. Granted, the bar isn't very high at all, but the only thing that came close to undoing Morrow were the three home runs he allowed, but even then, they were all solo homers. Morrow went six innings and have up three runs on six hits, walking two and striking out seven. He threw 60 strikes out of 98 pitches, got four groundouts and seven flyouts, and faced 26 hitters to get 18 outs. Morrow has taken five turns through the rotation, and here is his average per-start line: 4 2/3 innings (keep in mind the pitch limits), 2.4 runs (2 earned), 5 hits, 2.6 walks (still high), 5 strikeouts, 4.2 groundouts, and 4 flyouts. Sure, I'm still on the edge of my seat when Morrow is on the mound, but maybe it's time I cut Morrow a little slack. Sure, I'd much rather Morrow have been sent down to Tacoma to work on his secondary pitches and his command, but Morrow wasn't completely clobbered in any of his appearances since returning to the rotation. If he gets into the seventh inning, I think we can officially declare him to be pretty much back as a starter.

Mark Lowe
I really could have given this to Miguel Batista since he set the table in the bottom of the seventh and blew the lead, but the roof simply fell in on Mark Lowe. He came in from the bullpen and immediately walked Jason Bay on four pitches. He threw two more balls to Ellsbury before finally getting a strike, but then threw two more balls, loading the bases. Mark Kotsay whiffed on a 3-1 pitch, but punched the next pitch through the right side, scoring two runs and effectively ending the game. Lowe threw 15 pitches, of which 11 were balls and only four were strikes. Dude couldn't hit the water if he threw the baseball off the side of a boat. He didn't throw the night before, but did throw the two nights that, so if you think throwing three games in four days is overworking Lowe, you could go for that argument. Lowe has given up one earned run in each of his last two appearances, his first earned runs allowed since his May 23rd meltdown against the Giants. That of course means he didn't give up an earned run at all in the month of June.

Monday night is a night to get washed and burned.

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