Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Mariners bumped up their record to 48-43 after 91 games. This pace is four games worse than 2007, but four games better than 2006, seven better than 2005, 12 better than last year, and 13 better than 2004. Forty-eight wins is also five worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 18 worse than 2001. In the new millennium, the record of each Mariner team after winning its 48th game: 48-32 in 2000, 48-13 in 2001, 48-29 in 2002, 48-22 in 2003, 48-80 in 2004, 48-63 in 2005, 48-51 in 2006, 48-36 in 2007, and 48-82 last season.
Seattle hitting went a brutal 5-for-29 on the night, walking three times and striking out six times. Ronny Cedeno and Franklin Gutierrez doubled and homered, respectively, for the only extra-base hits of the game by either team. No Mariner posted a multi-hit game. The team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position (on Russell Branyan's infield single that moved Wladimir Balentien to third for his only hit of the game) and stranded six runners in all. Interestingly, all three Mariners who drew walks went hitless in the game -- Ichiro (snapping a 13-game hitting streak), Ken Griffey Jr., and Balentien. As mentioned, the Ichiro hitting streak is dead at 13 games, and it was a streak that saw his season batting average actually dip from .368 to .361 going into this game. It now rests at .359 after an 0-for-2 night. Ichiro went 19-for-59 (.322) over the 13 games and is still on pace for a 243-hit season. By the way, he's not only a virtual lock for his ninth straight 200-hit season, he'll move past 2000 Major League hits before he gets to the 200 mark for the season. If he's not a lock for the Hall of Fame, it shouldn't take much longer past this year for Ichiro to cement his case.
Mariner pitching didn't have a Felix night, but they still fared pretty well. The starting pitcher will be covered below. With Jarrod Washburn unable to get out of a two-on, two-out situation in the seventh unscathed, Sean White was brought in to get the final out. It only took four pitches for White to get a ground ball to short to end the inning. White came back out for the eighth inning and had a 1-2-3 inning out of Cleveland's 1-2-3 hitters, getting Grady Sizemore to roll a 3-1 pitch to first, then getting flyouts from Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. White threw 13 strikes out of 20 pitches and retired all four hitters he faced. Similarly, David Aardsma closed the deal in the ninth, getting a grounder and two fly balls to end the game. Perhaps the only thing you could nit-pick at with Aardsma was that Travis Hafner flew out on a 3-1 pitch and Jhonny Peralta flew out on a 2-0 pitch. Aardsma threw four strikes out of nine pitches in his 1-2-3 inning.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
More great catches and another home run. He got a hold of a 1-0 Tomo Ohka pitch and put a good lickin' on it, driving it over the wall just to the right of dead centerfield. That homer was the 12th of the season for Gutierrez, and if he gets to 20 homers, Jack Zduriencik should be immortalized in bronze statue form on the sidewalk outside the centerfield gate at Safeco Field. With all the injuries and roster moves that have occurred lately, it appears Gutierrez isn't flustered in the least about being moved up to the fifth spot in the lineup. I seem to remember thinking having him hit second put too much pressure on him, but that having him hit ninth was a bit of a waste. Gutierrez was hitting .249 after the game on June 17th in San Diego. Since, he's gone 39-for-104 (.375) to raise the batting average to its current .294. Also, he's doubled six times and homered eight times (and driven in 20 runs) in that span to raise his slugging percentage from .349 to .461. All that has happened over the span of 27 games, which is a pretty good chunk of the season to be on such a tear. Something different out of Gutierrez in this game? A stolen base, his sixth of the season. Something more? The play where Gutierrez had Martinez gunned down at the plate, but Dana DeMuth called him safe. Could've been a shutout!
2) Jarrod Washburn
One thing's for sure -- Washburn didn't have one-hit stuff for this game. Nonetheless, it was more than good enough. I'd have liked for him to have finished the seventh inning, but if you figure that Washburn was at 105 pitches, that everyone in the bullpen not named Aardsma didn't throw the night before, and that Don Wakamatsu didn't want to risk Washburn possibly giving up a three-run homer which would put him on the hook for a loss, I really couldn't blame Wakamatsu for giving Washburn the hook at that point. Washburn threw a slow curveball enough for me to actually notice it, which more than likely means he threw it a lot more than usual. There were a couple of times he uncorked weird pitches when he couldn't find the release point on that curve as well. It's funny that I'm saying this because Washburn still didn't walk anybody, which epitomizes his extreme pitch-to-contact tendency. Washburn gave up one run on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out three. He threw 68 strikes out of 105 pitches and got five groundouts to 11 flyouts. He faced 26 hitters to get 20 outs.
3) Wladimir Balentien
It's not often that I throw a hitless Mariner into the gameball section. Could I have put Ronny Cedeno here since he somehow managed to hit a double to run his hitting streak to six games? Sure, I could, but Cedeno's boring me now. Instead, I'll go with Wladimir Balentien, who really shouldn't be on this team if Yuniesky Betancourt is gone too. That said, this game marked his first start since July 8th against Baltimore. It's no secret that Ryan Langerhans is getting the bulk of the playing time nowadays. Balentien plain failed to take the bull by the horns after he basically had the starting leftfield job served to him on a silver platter because of the Endy Chavez injury. Balentien went 0-for-3 with a walk in this game, but made his presence known defensively. The game was scoreless in the bottom of the second when Balentien gunned down Victor Martinez trying to stretch a single into a double (it wasn't close and Martinez is a catcher, but he still had to hit the target with the throw). Additionally, on a night where extreme flyball pitcher Washburn threw, Balentien caught eight of the 15 flyouts off Cleveland bats. Balentien was a busy man in leftfield, and it's a credit to him that there weren't any adventures out there.
Someone's got to wear the goat horns every night, and on this night it's going to be Jungle Jack Hannahan. Though he's not the zookeeper at the Cincinnati Zoo, Hannahan has been a bit of a zoo at the plate for the Mariners. I think maybe we've had the memory of his double from his Mariner debut etched into our memories, and he's pretty much rode that for the past week. Okay, I'll give him that semi-collision play with Victor Martinez when he scored the run on Friday night. Point is, that double in his Mariner debut has held up as Hannahan's only hit as a Mariner. He's 1-for-13 in four games with the Seattle Mariners. We heard about his count-working tendencies as soon as he got to the team, and he saw 17 pitches in four at-bats in this game. He had four plate appearances on Friday night and saw 22 pitches. The 11th and 12th were his other two games as a Mariner, and he saw 17 pitches in each of those games. Hopefully this Hannahan move eventually pays off with actual offense. If it doesn't, I'd rather have Chris Woodward or even Chris Shelton and his defensive adventures out there.
Looks like a day for Bedardation. Also a day for Chris Shelton to spell Branyan and his creaky back at first base.