Saturday, July 11, 2009


So the Mariners won't be sweeping this four-gamer against the Rangers, which is too bad. It's also too bad the Angels won as well on this night, so the Mariners lost ground twice. It's also too bad Brandon Morrow lost his command in the third inning, and Shawn Kelley threw a total meatball to Nelson Cruz in the eighth. I'd rather talk about the Yuniesky Betancourt trade to Kansas City for minor-league pitchers Dan Cortes (not the MTV guy from years ago, but rather a top-rated pitcher in the Royals organization) and Derrick Saito. Though the consensus is more of an addition by subtraction mentality, surely the same people don't want a .152 hitter to be their everyday shortstop, do they? When Don Wakamatsu puts Cedeno and Rob Johnson on the same lineup card, he's punting two lineup spots every night. Unless another shoe drops and another shortstop comes on board, this gives me an idea about how serious they are about contending this year. I've said many times that I don't care if they white-flag it this year and trade every that's not Ichiro or Felix Hernandez. I just can't accept that they want to win, yet have a .152 hitter as their starting shortstop.

The Mariners' fourth loss in six games dropped their record to 44-42 after 86 games. The Mariners were six games better at this point in 2007. Forty-four wins is two better than the 2006 pace, six better than the 2005 pace, 10 better than last year's pace, and 12 better than the 2004 pace. The record is also seven wins worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.

Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-37 on the night, walking twice and striking out four times. Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, Ichiro, and Ken Griffey Jr. doubled. Ichiro had two hits and Griffey had three hits as the only multi-hit Mariners on the night. The team went a lousy 1-for-10 in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all.

The Mariners' starting pitcher will be covered below. Chris Jakubauskas threw the sixth inning and got the first two outs of the seventh. He allowed only a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz and a bunt single by Ian Kinsler. He threw 13 strikes out of 21 pitches, got all five outs on grounders, and faced six hitters to get five outs. Garrett Olson got the next three outs of the game, striking out one. Olson got a ground ball from Josh Hamilton to end the seventh, then started the eighth with an Andruw Jones flyout and a whiff of Hank Blalock. Shawn Kelley came in and allowed a single to Marlon Byrd and then threw a pitch that Nelson Cruz absolutely wrecked, getting a few rows deep into the leftfield bleachers. The Cruz mortar shot effectively ended the game, making it 6-2 for the Rangers (two-run Mariner eighth notwithstanding). Jarrod Saltalamacchia flew out to end that inning. In three outings since returning from the disabled list, Kelley has been ineffective twice. He was okay in Boston on July 3rd, had a five-run meltdown against Baltimore on Tuesday, and now this outing. Sean White threw a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout and two groundouts.

1) Ken Griffey Jr.
It's well documented that Junior ain't what he used to be, but he did turn in a 3-for-4 night. With Russell Branyan on third and one out in the first, he grounded to second, but Branyan was tagged out trying to score on the play. That was the only out Griffey would make on the night. He singled on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the fourth, he hit a one-out single in the sixth, and he doubled to move Jose Lopez to third with nobody out as a key part of the two-run eighth inning. He's in the middle of a .308 month of July, but I'll go back into his game log to find something more flattering -- in his last 16 games, Griffey has gone 12-for-47 (.255, his season average is .224) with two doubles and four home runs (slugging .553, his season slugging mark is .413). The greatest part about Griffey? He's hitting better than Ronny Cedeno. The worst part about Griffey? His batting average, dip in bat speed, and slow running speed. Still, now he's pretty much an everyday player (until we see more Chris Shelton) and he's hitting .072 better than the everyday shortstop.

2) Ichiro
It appears the Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder is starting to get the multi-hit mojo on again. It's not just the stinging singles with Ichiro, it's also the well-placed infield grounders that get beat out for hits, and it's not popping the high pitch the other way. After getting only one hit in six straight games, Ichiro had three hits in the first game of the series and went 2-for-4 in this game. In his nine-game hitting streak, Ichiro has gone 13-for-41 (.317, still below Ichiro standards) with four doubles (slugging .415). He has gone 14 games without hitting a home run, with his longest homer drought being 20 games to start the month of June. Ichiro hit .377 in May and .407 in June, so he's due to have at least some kind of dropoff in the month of July. I'm not saying I won't jump with unbridled glee if he somehow turns a .289 July into something that beats .407, I'm just saying it's highly unlikely it will happen. As for the last few games, it seems Ichiro has gotten the defensive hiccups out of his system that were there on the road trip.

3) Franklin Gutierrez
He only had one hit in this game, but it was an RBI double that somehow drove Griffey home from first base (hence the subsequent exhaustion and toweling off of Griffey in the dugout) and pushed the Mariners' lead at that point to 2-0. Gutierrez also had an RBI groundout in the eighth that cut the Mariners' deficit to 6-3. He had two flyouts to rightfield in between, and one of them was stung pretty well and I thought it might have a chance to leave the yard. The broadcast crew has been saying they've been working on him to pull the ball more, but if he can get the opposite-field stroke down, then the man's got some weapons. Gutierrez is 35-for-90 (.389) over his last 23 games, doubling five times and homering seven times (slugging .678). That span has picked his batting average up from .251 to .297, his on-base percentage from .324 to .359, and his slugging percentage from .339 to .451. It goes without saying that pitchers around the league are probably going to figure something out abuot Gutierrez in the second half of the season, though I'm hoping he'll find a way to adjust. I'm afraid for the All-Star break to come with this guy because I don't want the bat to cool off.

Brandon Morrow
He should have gotten the win in Boston, but then Miguel Batista and Mark Lowe did their thing and blew that game (surely you remember the five-run inning). A big difference between that outing and this one is that Morrow allowed three solo home runs in that game and walked only two hitters. In this game, he gave up the solo home run to Hank Blalock in the second inning which made it 2-1 for the Mariners, but no anomaly there since Blalock appears to have Morrow absolutely pwned. In the third inning, Morrow completely lost the radar and allowed back-to-back one-out walks to Omar Vizquel and Ian Kinsler. Morrow's next pitch got too much of the plate, and Michael Young tagged it over the rightfield wall. If the tone wasn't set with Blalock's homer, it definitely was set with Young's smash. The Rangers never looked back. Though it was the Nelson Cruz homer that holds up as the game winner, the Young home run vaulted the Rangers into the lead, and they never lost the lead from that point. Morrow's bad inning is almost like The Garrett Olson Bad Inning(tm), but with more walks.

It's going to be a hot day, so his name should be Burnwash instead of Washburn because that's the order I'd want, but whatever. Just throw another one-hit complete game shutout.

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