Saturday, July 18, 2009
The Mariners got their first win after the All-Star break to bump their record to 47-43 after 90 games. This is five games worse than the 2007 team's record at this point. It's also three games better than 2006, seven games better than 2005, 12 games better than last year, and 13 games better than 2004. Forty-seven wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, ten worse than 2002, and 18 worse than 2001.
Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-37 on the night, walking four times and striking out five times. Ryan Langerhans, Jose Lopez (twice), and Rob Johnson doubled. Franklin Gutierrez hit the only home run of the game. Ichiro and Ronny Cedeno (huh?) had two hits apiece while Jose Lopez had a three-hit night. The team stranded eight runners in all, but went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Ken Griffey Jr. got a strikeout hat trick on a 1-for-5 night, while Gutierrez had a homer for his only hit. Jack Hannahan went 0-for-2 (two strikeouts), but walked twice and scored twice. One of the Hannahan runs came on a play where he disrupted Victor Martinez on what could have been a play at the plate. Ichiro went a ho-hum 2-for-5, putting him at 131 hits on the season. The Mariners' leadoff hitter is on pace for a 246-hit season.
Mariner pitching had a good night because of a certain starting pitcher who's really good. The only other pitcher in the game was David Aardsma, who hadn't seen game action in five nights. Aardsma struck out former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo and got flyouts from proven Mariner killer Victor Martinez as well as Travis Hafner to end the game. The Mariner closer in a non-save situation threw eight strikes out of 13 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning.
1) Felix Hernandez
It wasn't a complete game, he faltered a bit toward the end, he had to deal with a couple of pesky Cleveland hitters who got into deep counts, and unfortunately he lost the shutout in the sixth inning. All that said, the number for which I'm most happy for Felix Hernandez on this night is the one walk. What stings just a tiny bit is that the walk didn't come until he fell behind 3-0 on Luis Valbuena and couldn't get him to put anything in play. Felix nearly got out of this game without walking anyone. Maybe I'm kind of hard on Felix when it comes to walks, but I really if he doesn't have a one or a zero in the bases on balls column after a start, I think he could have done better. Since the turning-point awful game against the Angels (May 19th), it's well known that Felix has been all kinds of awesome. Still, he'd walked one, one, three, two, four (complete game at San Diego), two, one, two, and two hitters in his last nine starts. I guess a true testament to the trust Don Wakamatsu has in Felix was demonstrated when Wakamatsu let him finish the eighth inning even after the walk to Valbuena (107 pitches at that point) and even after the two-out double by Grady Sizemore on his 110th pitch. I'll take a wild guess and say their cutoff for Felix is 120 pitches. Hernandez gave up two runs on five hits in eight innings, walking one and striking out eight. He threw 68 strikes out of 112 pitches and got nine groundouts to six flyouts. he faced 29 hitters to get 24 outs.
2) Ronny Cedeno
He went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. Again, I miss burying this guy. June 26th represented his low at the plate for this year, and he was hitting .117 after an 0-for-3 game at Dodger Stadium. Since that point, Cedeno has gone 16-for-56 (.286) with two doubles, a triple, and three homers (slugging .518) over his last 16 games. He's gotten the batting average up from .117 to .180, so I guess that has to count for something. His defense hasn't been incredibly awesome like some people seem to want to point out, but I'll gladly accept slightly above average as a description of Cedeno's defense. Don't look now, but Cedeno's also having a five-game hitting streak along the lines of 7-for-16 with a double and a homer. I guess maybe the funniest thing about Cedeno is that the football referee from the one Miller Lite commercial could totally flag Cedeno for a "trying to fit in" penalty due to his tribal arm band tattoo. I'll gladly bury Cedeno again the next time he hangs an 0-for-4 and looks like a minor-leaguer at the plate or if he strings together three straight hitless nights, but until then, I guess I'll enjoy the shortstop position not being a complete black hole.
3) Jose Lopez
He singled with two out in the first and was stranded. He rolled a double down the leftfield line that was caught by a fan in the third inning. He stroked a double into leftcenter to lead off the seventh, and he later scored to make it 6-1 for the Mariners. The first two hits were largely meaningless, but the third helped to pad the lead. Like Cedeno, Lopez also has a five-game hitting streak, but Lopez has gone 8-for-21 (.381) with three doubles (slugging .524). After hitting .329 in the month of June, Lopez is hitting a more modest but still good .288 in July. The three-hit game was his first since the third of July in Boston. Lopez is at 12 homers on the year so far, but I think he needs to find his power stroke even more if this team's going to have a chance to compete for the division title. He could get to 20 homers this season, which would be a great thing on a team where power hitting is at a huge premium. Any power hitting threat in the lineup that isn't name Russell Branyan can gladly take a regular spot in the Mariners' starting lineup, thank you very much.
One night after being charged with two errors, the Mariners' slugger went 0-for-5. Pretty much no one else had anything close to a goat-worthy entry since the only other hitless Mariner (Jack Hannahan) scored two of the Mariners' six runs. Branyan hit .317 in May, which was nuts, then hit .265 in June, which is more like what you would expect out of Branyan. Then the calendar flipped over to July. Folks, Branyan has gone 8-for-54 (.148) in the month of July with three doubles and three homers (slugging .370). I know everyone had an easy time expecting Branyan to fall off a bit after having a pretty awesome first half, but I don't think anyone saw a .148-in-July kind of fall. Branyan hasn't had a single multi-hit game this month and has gone hitless six times in 14 games. All in all, it's a great way to sink a .303 batting average down to .275 in a matter of two and a half weeks. I'm guessing most people who think the Mariners have a shot at the playoffs imagined a healthy and thunderous Branyan. Instead, someone's going to have to step up for him. Also, maybe it's a sign that Wakamatsu should get Branyan out of the second slot in the lineup.
Washburn against the somehow-still-in-baseball Tomokazu "Tomo" Ohka.