Sunday, July 12, 2009


After losing in the second game of the four-game series against the Rangers, the Mariners had a chance with a win to guarantee a series split and guarantee themselves of being over .500 going into the All-Star break. I think pretty much any Mariner fan before the season would have gladly taken the team being over .500 at the break, especially if they knew they'd be only four games back of the division lead. Also, it was another day and another roster move for the Mariners as they sent away minor-league pitcher Justin Sousa to Oakland for third-baseman Jack Hannahan, who apparently is good defensively and has the reputation for being an anti-Betancourt when it comes to working counts, though he hasn't hit too well this season. I'm not sure where this leaves Chris Woodward in the logjam of infielders, but I do know it still doesn't address the shortstop situation.

The Mariners pushed their record to 45-42 after 87 games. This record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but three better than the 2006 pace, six better than 2005, ten better than last year, and 12 better than 2004. Forty-five wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, ten worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.

Seattle hitting went 7-for-29 on the night, walking five times and striking out five times. No single Mariner hitter collected multiple hits. Ken Griffey Jr. and Franklin Gutierrez were the only hitless Mariners, turning in twin 0-for-4s. Jack Hannahan doubled in his Mariner debut, while Russell Branyan and Rob Johnson homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. Ichiro went 1-for-4 with his hit being a hard single through a drawn-in infield to bring home Jack Hannahan from third base, which got the Mariners their fourth and final run to make it 4-1. Ichiro's hitting streak stands at 10 games, during which he's gone 14-for-45 (.311) with four doubles (slugging .400). Ryan Langerhans went 1-for-3 with a walk. The team went 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners in all. If Ronny Cedeno hadn't gotten the base hit, I'd bury him in this post for the fielding error.

The Mariners' starting pitcher will be covered below. The bullpen ended up protecting a 4-1 lead after the Mariner offense's doings in the seventh inning. Mark Lowe threw the eighth inning and got two groundouts and a strikeout on 12 pitches (nine strikes), slicing through the 1-2-3 hitters in the lineup. David Aardsma allowed only a two-out double by Marlon Byrd (on which Byrd was nearly thrown out at second base for the third time in the game). Aardsma got a leadoff groundout and sandwiched the double with whiffing strikeouts of Hank Blalock and Nelson Cruz. Aardsma threw nine strikes out of 15 pitches.

1) Jarrod Washburn
The Mariner lefty was pulled after seven innings and 94 pitches, and a friend of mine watching the game at the time wondered aloud why, since he surely had more gas left in the tank and the hitters weren't getting too much of a beat on him. Then he thought maybe there was an aim to pull Washburn to keep his trade value really high, i.e., maybe if you leave him in another inning, he gets into a jam or something. Pretty much the only mystery about Washburn's outing was that he twice walked number-nine hitter Elvis Andrus, which means Ian Kinsler came up at least twice with runners aboard. Kinsler doubled Andrus home in such a situation in the third to make it 1-0 for the Rangers. Washburn got into a one-out jam in the fifth by giving up a double to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and then walking Andrus, a dangerous situation to say the least. Luckily he then got a grounder back to him (moving the runners), and finished it by jamming Michael Young and getting an inning-ending groundout to second. I don't know how washburn's trade value is going to be any higher. I guess maybe he goes away for the shortstop the Mariners may get in a trade. He gave up one run on four hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out three. He threw 58 strikes out of 93 pitches, getting eight groundouts and nine flyouts, and facing 27 hitters to get 21 outs.

2) Rob Johnson
It seems a lot of the times lately where I bury Ronny Cedeno and Rob Johnson, they come through. After foul-bunting on an 0-1 pitch with a runner on first and nobody out, Johnson took a ball and then put a charge into a Kevin Millwood offering, driving it and hitting the roof of the Mariner bullpen bench, knocking over one of the 300 helmets resting atop the roof (I'm sure one of those guys out there is at least partly miffed about that). Johnson still gets the high praise from some people for having an incredible catcher's ERA, which will happen when you're catching Felix Hernandez and Washburn and leaving Johjima with the scraps of the rotation. I like to make the point with Cedeno that I don't care how good his defense supposedly is or how versatile he is if he's hitting .157. Similarly, I don't necessarily care how great Johnson can handle pitchers or call a game if he's hitting .201 and finally hit his first homer of the season. Still, I value his presence on the team a lot more than I value Cedeno's presence, since I think the latter can be easily replaced.

3) Russell Branyan
The Mariner first baseman hasn't gone longer than seven games this season without hitting a home run. His home run in this game snapped a four-game homer drought. Branyan unloaded into a Millwood pitch in the third, knocking it off an advertising board beneath the Hit It Here Cafe. When any ball goes near the Hit It Here Cafe, this is where I bring up the fact that Randy Winn once homered off the windows off of the Cafe. It was surprising sometimes how Winn could put a charge into the ball. Anyway, Branyan's home run tied the game at 1-1 back in the third inning and put him at 22 homers on the season, basically making him a lock to get to 30 homers (no, I'm totally not jinxing him). Branyan's cheap one-year deal is looking like money well spent, as will Griffey's deal if he manages to get to 20 homers. It should be noted that Branyan's fallen off a bit in July, hitting .171 for the month so far, following a .265 June and .317 May. His batting average and slugging percentage have floated below .300 and .600 respectively for the first time since April, when the sample sizes are too small to matter.

Ken Griffey Jr.
It had to be between Gutierrez and Griffey, and since Gutierrez threw to second base to take advantage of what Marlon Byrd calls baserunning, I guess I pretty much have to put Griffey here. Griffey went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He jogged toward first on a ball grounded to Blalock at first, but Blalock completely boned the toss to Millwood covering first, and Griffey got aboard. Griffey grounded out to lead off the fourth, was caught looking right after Jose Lopez led off the sixth with a single, and flew out to lead off the eighth. I guess the one thing I'm glad about with Griffey this season is that all we're hearing about regarding the clubhouse and everything is that he's unbridled fun and joy, that he's not sulking and moping around and sort of doing his own thing in the corner (not that Yuniesky Betancourt was doing that this season or anything). I think it's refreshing that Griffey knows his role and knows his limits when it seems a lot of players in any sport in the twilight of their careers don't have a grasp of what they realistically expect out of themselves. Griffey does, it seems.

Hooray for Bedard on a slightly higher pitch count today on what appears to be a cloudy, rainy, kinda dreary Sunday.

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