Monday, July 20, 2009


There you have it, wins in three of four games for the Mariners coming out of the All-Star break. Three of four is successful, a sweep would have been nice, but Cliff Lee was just a buzzsaw in the first game. This game had a bit of tribulation though. The Mariners had an early lead and tried to hang on, but the Indians managed to tie it in the fifth inning thanks to a broken-bat groundball with wicked English that handcuffed a certain second baseman. Nonetheless, the Mariners got the lead back and managed to close it out with a semi-dramatic ending. Also, everyone's glad Russell Branyan asked his way into the lineup on a day in which he originally was going to sit. Also, the Mariners equaled their high-water mark of the season at six games above .500, a mark last achieved back when they were 12-6. For the record, the Mariners' low-water mark this season is five games under .500, when they were 21-26 during that month-long span where they never won consecutive games. That almost seems like eons ago.

The Mariners ran their record to 49-43 after 92 games. The pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than that of 2006, eight better than 2005, 13 better than last year, and 14 better than 2004. Forty-nine wins is also five worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 17 worse than 2001. As for the records of new millennium Mariner teams winning their respective 49th games, the 2000 team was 49-33, the 2001 team was 49-13, the 2002 team was 49-29, the 2003 team was 49-24, the 2004 team was 49-80, the 2005 team was 49-63, the 2006 team was 49-52, the 2007 team was 49-36, and last year's team was 49-82.

Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-35 on the day, walking four times and striking out six times. Doubles were hit by Chris Shelton (hitting cleanup), Jose Lopez, and Ichiro, while Branyan snapped a four-game homerless drought. Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez had two hits apiece while Ichiro had three. The team went a paltry 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten runners in all. Also of note, Gutierrez stole his seventh base of the season and second in consecutive games while Ichiro stole his 20th, breaking 20 steals in each of his first nine seasons, the ninth player to do so since 1901. In the same way as I think of the "getting 200 hits in each of his first nine seasons" statistic, I think these "first __ seasons" records are kind of bogus for Ichiro since he played pro ball at Japan's highest level for a few years before coming to the Majors. It's not like he was a fresh-out-of-the-minors 22-year-old rookie in 2001 when he got 200 hits.

Now for the Mariner arms. The starting pitching unfortunately will be discussed below. Miguel Batista threw one pitch to finish the fifth inning after Erik Bedard was yanked following the Jose Lopez mishap that tied the score. Batista appeared to be rolling to start the sixth as well, getting two swinging strikeouts to start the inning, but then he hit the wall. Batista created quite the huge jam (four-pitch walk, double, walk to load the bases) before getting Asdrubal Cabrera to ground out to end the inning. Batista threw 17 strikes out of 28 pitches, facing seven hitters to get four outs. Shawn Kelley sliced through the 3-4-5 hitters in the Cleveland lineup, getting a flyout followed by two strikeouts. It was enough to net Kelley his first win since May 5th. Kelley threw eight strikes out of 11 pitches. Mark Lowe threw the eighth and was tagged for a single on the first pitch by Ryan Garko, but then settled down, getting a strikeout, flyout, and grounder to end the inning. Lowe threw ten strikes out of 13 pitches. Finally, David Aardsma had the top of the order in the ninth and got two outs before issuing a walk to Choo. Victor Martinez drove the second pitch deep to rightfield, but Ichiro leaped to make the catch at the wall to end it. However you draw it up, it's 22 saves in 24 chances for Aardsma.

1) Russell Branyan
I had a strange feeling on Saturday night that maybe this whole idea of Branyan riding the pine for a day was going to go by the wayside. I mean, everyone else on this team saw Adrian Beltre supposedly going off for surgery, but going out and playing anyway. After Ichiro singled on an 0-2 pitch to start the game and moved to second on a wild pitch, Aaron Laffey threw a 2-1 pitch that Branyan clobbered over the wall in rightcenter, and the ball may have had a vapor trail coming from it. The decision not to rest Branyan had paid off already. Branyan's other hit was a two-out single in the fourth that pushed Ichiro to third. Probably the only thing for which you could knock him was whiffing on three straight pitches after Ichiro led off the seventh with a double (the game was tied 3-3 at that point, and they didn't score that inning). Still, I figure you can only squeeze so much out of Branyan's bat in any one game, so I'll take the two-run homer. If Branyan warms it up a bit, it'll be a lot easier for this team. The Mariners are 12-6 in July despite Branyan hitting .180 in the same time frame.

2) Franklin Gutierrez
No extra-base hits this time, but the guy just keeps going and going, netting a 2-for-5 with a stolen base in this one. He's hit safely 25 of his last 27 games and 26 of 29. In the 27-game span, he's gone 41-for-109 (.376) six doubles and eight homers (slugging .651). That raised his season batting average from .249 to its current .295, as well as his slugging percentage from .349 to .460. Additionally, Gutierrez has 24 hits in July with 11 games to go in the month. Barring an absolutely epic collapse (think something along the lines of 2-for-44), Gutierrez is a lead-pipe cinch to eclipse his 26-hit month of May as his most prolific hitting month of the season. I'm enjoying the heck out of this since I'd be the one sitting here more than content if the guy was hitting .240 because of his otherworldly awesome defensive skills. I've said anything above .240 would be gravy, and now there's so much gravy you can barely see the mashed potatoes. I guess at that point maybe you'd hope there was some steak or other kind of meat on the plate on which to pour the surplus gravy. Hopefully not lost in this awkward food analogy is the fact that Gutierrez has been wildly exceeding expectations for the last month and change.

3) Ichiro
Looks like someone was mad after having a 13-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday. The Mariners' leadoff hitter led off the game with a single, walked (unintentionally!) with two out in the fourth, led off the seventh with a double, led off the ninth with a single, and stole third base later in the ninth before scoring the Mariners' fifth and final run of the game on what should have been a double-play ball to end the inning (cheap RBI for Gutierrez though). Ichiro is now at 134 hits for the season, putting him on pace for a 246-hit season. Scary thing is, all of this is holding up despite Ichiro only hitting .319 so far in July. Only in the magical world of all things Ichiro can a .319 month be considered substandard. Also with the stolen bases, Ichiro has been successful on 20 of 27 attempts for the season. I'm sure Tim Kurkjian or the Elias Sports Bureau could pull it up and give me some related crazy numbers, but Ichiro is one double away from yet another 20-double, 20-steal season. It'd be awesome if he could pull off a 20-triple, 20-steal season or a regular 20/20 season, but the man can only do so much.

Erik Bedard
Surely no one thought I was going to put Ronny Cedeno here for his awful scoring attempt, right? I cringe when anyone brings up the notion that the Mariners' top three in the starting rotation can stack up against anyone else in the Majors because I simply don't know whick Erik Bedard I'm going to get. Am I going to get the awesome Bedard that gets into the seventh inning or later and gives up a run or two? Am I going to get the Bedard that throws fairly well, but has one kind of iffy inning, but still gets through six just fine? Or am I going to get the one that misses spots, walks a few people, and throws way too many pitches in too short a time? The Bedard that threw against the Indians in this game was the latter of the three. Part of me's almost glad Lopez booted that ball in the fifth to tie the game, because it would have been a pretty half-baked win for Bedard. After a good first inning, Bedard gave back part of the 3-0 lead on a Jhonny Peralta walk followed by a Ben Francisco blast. He gave up a leadoff walk to Grady Sizemore to lead off the third, but left unscathed. Two singles in the fourth didn't amount to anything. In the fifth, another Sizemore leadoff walk was what came around to score and tie the game. Sizemore walked and was bunted to second, Choo whiffed, then Victor Martinez hit the broken-bat, spinning grounder that Lopez had scoot past him to tie the game. Bedard then got the hook. He gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits, walking three and striking out six in 4 2/3 innings. He threw 61 strikes out of 93 pitches, getting four flyouts and four groundouts and facing 22 hitters to get 14 outs.

An off day before Garrett Olson takes the mound in scenic Detroit. It won't be Hernandez, Washburn, or Bedard throwing, so Kenji Johjima looks to be a sure bet for some playing time.

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