Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Any number of good things can be said about how the Mariners made a game out of a pretty horrid looking start, but none of that can erase that a horrid start did indeed take place. It got bad pretty quickly as Garrett Olson had his second awful start in a row, and it got worse when Franklin Gutierrez crashed into the rightcenter scoreboard/fence thing and had to leave the game. While I won't say the Mariners' hopes of sneaking into a division title are shot, I have to agree with the people that say this team will sink if they sustain one more injury of any sufficient length. Of course, that might not matter if the Mariners can't get dividends out of the fourth spot in the starting rotation. I'll note that the Mariners are now 0-2 this season when presented with a chance to move up to seven games above .500 and are 2-6 when trying to jump to six games above .500. They'll have Felix Hernandez on the mound on Wednesday night to try to make that last record 3-6. Oh, and the roster move -- Mike Sweeney came off the disabled list, and Josh Wilson was designated for assignment. I still don't know what the frick Wilson was doing on this team.

The loss dropped the Mariners' record to 49-44 after 93 games. The record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than that of 2006, eight better than 2005, and 13 better than 2004 and last year. Forty-nine wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 18 worse than 2001. As for the records of the new millennium Mariner teams when getting their 44th loss: 61-44 in 2000, 106-44 in 2001, 69-44 in 2002 and 2003, 30-44 in 2004, 33-44 in 2005, 42-44 in 2006, 54-44 in 2007, and 24-44 last year.

Seattle hitting went a combined 13-for-40 on the night, walking once and striking out nine times. Two-hit games were turned in by Wladimir Balentien, Jack Hannahan, and Ronny Cedeno while Jose Lopez had three hits. Ichiro and Lopez doubled while Ryan Langerhans, Balentien, and Hannahan (twice) homered. The team went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all. Cedeno went 2-for-4 and has somehow run his hitting streak to eight games, going 11-for-27 (.407) with two doubles and a home run (slugging .593). He's taken a .149 batting average to .193 as a result, and is moving the Cedeno Line ever so closer to the Mendoza Line. Ichiro's double was his only hit in a 1-for-5 night, but he's still on pace for a 245-hit season.

The Mariners' starting pitcher will be discussed below. The bullpen threw the final 6 2/3 innings of the game for the Mariners. Chris Jakubauskas warmed up in the first inning but finally made it to the mound with one out and a runner on first base. He got Marcus Thames to fly out before walking Magglio Ordonez and then getting the long fly ball by Ryan Raburn to deep rightcenter that resulted in a Franklin Gutierrez-meets-scoreboard collision and a triple that scored two more runs and dented Olson's ERA. Brandon Inge grounded out to end that inning, but the Tigers led 8-1. Jakubauskas allowed only a two-out single in the third and a leadoff single along with a wild pitch in the fourth. Then Jakubauskas threw a 1-2-3 fifth. At least some Mariner pitched like a starter in this game. Jakubauskas threw 32 strikes out of 53 pitches, got three groundouts to seven flyouts, and faced 15 hitters to get 11 outs. Shawn Kelley allowed a two-out Miguel Cabrera homer in an otherwise harmless inning (other than the walk). Kelley threw ten strikes on 19 pitches. Roy Corcoran allowed a hit and a walk, but got out of the seventh unscathed. Sean White gave up a two-out double to Cabrera in an otherwise benign eighth inning. White threw 12 strikes out of 16 pitches.

1) Jack Hannahan
All he would have had to do was get two singles for this to be considered his best game as a Mariner. He greatly exceeded that, managing to homer twice in the game -- once off the starter Rick Porcello and once off Fu-Te Ni. The two homers were his first hits since the double he hit in his Mariner debut. I haven't been too big a fan of Hannahan's defense so far, but Jungle Jack hasn't been a Mariner that long yet. His first game as a Mariner was July 11th against the Rangers, and when you throw the All-Star break in there, he's only had so much action with his new team. Let's just hope Hannahan and Chris Woodward can be enough to patch the holes together until the day Adrian Beltre comes back. Okay, that's if Beltre can come back at some point. Let's just hope for maybe a combined .220 out of that third-base platoon before the everyday player comes back to town and provides the Mariner fans with otherworldly displays of awesomeness on defense. I know I'm starting to miss seeing those two or three plays every game that Beltre just makes look so easy.

2) Wladimir Balentien
Since he failed to take full advantage of Endy Chavez's season-ending injury, weird things have to take place for Balentien to get onto the lineup card or into the game. Weird things like Franklin Gutierrez crashing into a wall and having to leave the game have to happen for Balentien to get some play. In his first at-bat (top of the third), he had runners on the corners with one out and singled to score Lopez and cut the Detroit lead to 8-2. Balentien drew a two-out walk in the fifth and homered with one out in the seventh to cut the Mariners' lead to 9-7. He ended up 2-for-3 with a walk and strikeout, driving in two runs and scoring twice. Illustrating just how far he's fallen in the eyes of Don Wakamatsu, these two hits were Balentien's first hits since June 25th, and he's only played nine games since that date (nearly a month-long). It's almost maddening to see Balentien be able to crank homers and then watch him swing wildly in the ninth inning on a pitch in the dirt or just plain not have any sort of consistency at all as a hitter.

3) Jose Lopez
Three hits for the Mariners' second baseman pushes him to a .269 season average and a .442 slugging percentage that should probably be higher. Lopez hit the RBI single in the first that put the Mariners in their original 1-0 lead. Lopez then doubled in the third, flew out to lead off the fifth, whiffed to end the sixth, then hit a ball up the middle on which Placido Polanco just couldn't make a good throw from his backhand side. Lopez has 12 homers on the year, but I can't help but think this guy can hit with power more often and more consistently. That said, he's hit five doubles in his last six games, but hasn't homered in his last nine games, but that's not even close to his longest home-run drought of the season, which is 19 games (in the middle of the team-wide slugging slump of mid- to late-May). All told, Lopez is hitting .329 so far in July and rebounding from his awful .214 June, which is a good thing considering Russell Branyan is hitting .169 in July after his .265 June and his .317 May. They still need more power out of Lopez.

Garrett Olson
Make it two awful outings in a row for the versatile lefty. Pretty easy choice here for the goat. He couldn't get out of the third inning in the first game right after the All-Star break, but he outdid that in this game, failing to get out of the second inning. The guy was just everywhere with his pitches and had trouble getting the fastball over. Mike Blowers noted as much on the television broadcast that Olson couldn't get the fastball over and had to resort to the breaking ball to get ahead of hitters. Though totally nit-picky, I'll note that the 1-2 pitch to Magglio Ordonez with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning and a 1-1 score sure looked like strike three to me. Instead, Ordonez unloaded on a breaking ball on the next pitch and hit a grand slam to make it 5-1 in the first, still with nobody out at that point. What this brings me back to is the decision before the break to send down Jason Vargas. I thought they were so quick to make that move, but I chalked it up to the Mariners liking Olson's versatility over Vargas being just a starter only. Olson would probably get banished to the bullpen if anything, but who takes the rotation spot? Vargas? Ryan Rowland-Smith? Both, since Olson would be out and the fifth spot would appear again? By the way, Olson gave up seven runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out none. He threw 30 strikes out of 53 pitches, getting one groundout to three flyouts. He faced 12 hitters to get four outs.

Heard on the radio broadcast that Felix Hernandez is 9-2 when pitching right after a Mariner loss. Let's hope he makes it ten.

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