Thursday, July 09, 2009


Okay, so the two things I'm about to mention aren't necessarily linked, but I think they're still facts -- (1) the bullpen is overworked, and (2) the bullpen has suffered meltdowns in three of the last four games. The game where they didn't melt down was Jarrod Washburn's complete game on Monday night, since the bullpen had that night off. What has the bullpen done in those three outings? They've combined for 11 innings, giving up 20 runs (17 earned) on 18 hits, walking 10 and striking out six. Still, this game went from the euphoria of possibly having the Mariners pull out a series win (they were 9-2 in rubber games to this point) to crashing down like a house of cards. This was a demoralizing loss, in the same group as the two Brandon Morrow meltdowns in Arlington and the previous David Aardsma meltdown in Anaheim.

The Mariners lost their third game in four tries, dropping them to a record of 43-41 after 84 games. That record is five wins worse than the 2007 team's record at that point, but one better than 2006, seven better than 2005, ten better than last year, and 11 better than 2004. Forty-three wins is also six worse than 2000, ten worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.

Seattle hitting went a combined 7-for-35 on the day, walking three times and striking out seven times. Jose Lopez went 2-for-4 and was the only Mariner on the afternoon to collect multiple hits. Ryan Langerhans doubled, and Lopez doubled and homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hitting. The team went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position (the "3" is almost worse than the "0" in that stat) and stranded eight runners in all. Ichiro had his sixth straight one-hit game, extending his overall hitting streak to seven games. Ichiro has gone 8-for-33 (.242) over those seven games, sinking his batting average from .368 to .356. As we know, this now makes Ichiro a terrible hitter and the Mariners should totally trade him right now if they know what's good for them. Hahaha. On a normal day, Lopez gets into the gameballs with his double and homer, but his two errors in the ninth wouldn't let me put him there. One play he just muffed, and the other one was a hoppy throw that handcuffed Russell Branyan at first (John Olerud has that and I'll contend that Richie Sexson would have had that too).

Mariner pitching was a bit of a grab bag. Four of the six pitchers they put on the mound are mentioned in the entries below. Jason Vargas threw waaaaay too many pitches in the first couple innings and at some points had a changeup going pretty well. Still, he may have thrown the most inefficient five innings of shutout ball I have ever witnessed. He had two on and one out in the first, he allowed a one-out double in the second, he had two on and two out in the third, he had two on and nobody out in the fourth, and turned a leadoff walk into a double-play ball in the fifth. He got out of every single one of those jams and the fifth was his easiest inning. Vargas allowed three hits in his five shutout innings, walking five (verrrrry high) and striking out six. He threw 54 strikes out of 97 pitches, getting seven groundouts to two flyouts, and facing 22 hitters to get 15 outs. Miguel Batista came out of the bullpen to start the sixth inning and sliced through Nolan Reimold, Luke Scott, and Melvin Mora with ease. Batista came back out for the seventh and a switch was thrown. Gregg Zaun hit a leadoff single, then Oscar Salazar drew a four-pitch walk. Adam Jones then grounded to third, where Chris Woodward gloved it cleanly, but bobbled and booted the transfer for an error. This is probably the second game where I'm thinking "boy, Beltre turns that into a double play." That probably should have been a 5-3 double play after a tag of third base. The lead runner at least should have been out. The single and the walk were Batista's doing for sure, but not the error. That's when Garrett Olson came into the game. Batista threw one scoreless inning, giving up one hit while walking one and striking out one. He threw 11 strikes on 18 pitches, got two flyouts, and faced six hitters to get three outs.

1) Garrett Olson
With Erik Bedard returning to a rotation that already has Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Brandon Morrow, and Jason Vargas, it appears Olson will be the man for depth and some lefthanded long relief. Don Wakamatsu seemed to use him for one or two starts, then bring him out of the bullpen once in between starts, then throw him five or six innings with a lower pitch count in his next start. His three previous appearances were all starts, but now he adds to the bullpen depth. All this said, what he did in this game was remarkable. Batista set the table and made a huge mess, but Olson cleaned it up. Olson came in with the impossible situation of having the bases loaded with nobody out. He got Nick Markakis to whiff for strike three, then got Ty Wigginton to ground to Ronny Cedeno for a double play to end the inning. You figured at that point that if the Orioles weren't going to score then, were they going to score at all? Unfortunately, Mariner fans know how that turned out. Nevertheless, all of Batista's ineptitude in the seventh was erased with only nine pitches by Olson, who faced two hitters and got the three all-important outs.

2) Mark Lowe
After the flame-throwing righthander got Luke Scott to go down swinging to end the eighth, I have to say I felt pretty confident about the Mariners' chances to win this game. It seems the sports gods completely frown upon the Seattle sports fan, though, so we Mariner fans would soon get a stimulus package filled with a cold dose of reality. Lowe threw a dominant eighth inning, going 0-2 on each of the first two hitters. Aubrey Huff flew out to center to lead off the inning, and Nolan Reimold was caught looking at a 2-2 pitch. Luke Scott, he of the seven RBIs on Tuesday night, whiffed on a 1-2 pitch. Lowe threw nine strikes on 13 pitches, getting one flyout. Lowe faced three hitters and retired them all. It appeared Lowe had recovered and rebounded from the icky outing he had in the final game of the Boston series (Sunday). Too bad he couldn't have come out to start the ninth inning, but then that's make for a closer controversy, and then everything could be in the toilet if you have that, and that's bad.

3) Sean White
I was about to throw Ryan Langerhans into a gameball here since White did allow one of his inherited runs to score, but then I remembered Langerhans tried to go from second to third on a ball hit right in front of him and that didn't turn out well at all. Additionally, hte inherited runner that scored on White's watch did so only because Jose Lopez threw a hard hopper to first that handcuffed Branyan, and Markakis scored as a result. White threw a scoreless ninth after Aardsma had gone and done his thing. White gave up one hit while walking and striking out zero. He faced four hitters to get three outs. I won't say he's fully back on the horse yet, but Don Wakamatsu felt great enough about his condition that he went back to the well of White for a second straight game, and in two games less than 24 hours apart. Make no mistake, this team really needs Sean White doing well if they hope to make any noise that sort of relates to a playoff race in the next couple months. Also, White somehow got the fake-to-third/throw-to-first move to work, and I swear he did it once earlier in the season as well.

David Aardsma
This is way too easy of a decision to make. The Mariners had as big a lead as you can hand over to a closer at 3-0 going into the ninth. You figure the guy's 17 for 18 when it comes to save chances, and this team's the Baltimore Orioles, not the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, or the Angels. Mora led off with a double, which seemed like an isolated incident at that point, but then Aardsma walked Gregg Zaun. Salazar then singled to load the bases with nobody out, but this time there was no Garrett Olson to bring out of the bullpen. Adam Jones rolled what was basically a swinging bunt toward third that was basically a do-or-die play for Chris Woodward, who tried the barehand and whiffed on the ball, allowing one run to come across and leaving the bases still loaded. It was at that point that Nick Markakis grounded what should have been a double-play ball to Lopez at second, but he muffed the play, making it 3-2 with the bases still loaded. The Ty Wigginton singled to make the implosion complete, giving the Orioles the 4-3 lead and chasing Aardsma. The Mariner closer faced six hitters and gave up five runs (three earned) on four hits, walking one and striking out none. He threw 12 strikes out of 22 pitches.

A Felix night can't come soon enough, but this bullpen is so gassed that they almost need Felix to throw the Mariners' second complete game in the span of four days.

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