Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Mariners' eighth win in 11 games ran their season record to 51-44 after 95 games. Though three games worse than the 2007 pace, the record is six games better than 2006, nine better than 2005, and 14 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-one wins is also five worse than 2000, eight games worse than 2002 and 2003, and 17 worse than 2001. The records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at win 51: 51-35 in 2000, 51-14 in 2001, 51-29 in 2002, 51-26 in 2003, 51-80 in 2004, 51-67 in 2005, 51-53 in 2006, 51-37 in 2007, and 51-83 last season.
Seattle hitting went 8-for-34 on the afternoon, drawing zero walks and striking out nine times. All the Mariners' extra-base hits were doubles, and they were hit by Mike Sweeney, Jack Hannahan, and Jose Lopez. Multi-hit games were turned in by Ichiro and Sweeney, who had two hits apiece. The team went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position but stranded six runners in all. A bit of Mariner bad luck ensued in the second inning when Ryan Langerhans was hit in the wrist area with a pitch to lead off, then Rob Johnson made solid contact on a hit-and-run, but the ball found Placido Polanco's glove (he was moving over to cover second), and Langerhans was easily doubled off in what was then a 1-0 game for the Mariners. Ichiro's two-hit game put him at 137 hits for the season. He has hit a pathetic .305 for the month, sinking a .373 batting average coming into July to the .359 average he has now. Fret not, however, as Ichiro is still on pace for a 243-hit season, which would top every single-season hit total he's posted other than 2004. A 243-hit season would also put him at 2048 career hits, which would also mean he'd surpass 2000 Major League hits at some point.
Mariner pitching had another largely good day, and the starting pitcher and the closer will be addressed in the entries. Mark Lowe was brought into the eighth inning to protect a 2-0 lead. He promptly threw six straight pitches for balls, and pitching coach Rick Adair made the obligatory mound visit. Lowe then started really getting his breaking stuff over and freezing the Tiger hitters. Clete Thomas and ex-Mariner hack Ramon Santiago both were caught looking on 2-2 pitches. Then Curtis Granderson tagged the first pitch and sent it toward the Evil Scorewall in rightcenter, easily scoring the leadoff walk (Brandon Inge) and ending up with a triple. Thus, Lowe's day had ended. He threw eight strikes on 16 pitches and faced four hitters to get two (non-contact) outs. Sean White came in to face Placido Polanco with a runner on third, two out, and a 2-1 lead. Polanco grounded to Jack Hannahan at third, who made the throw to end the inning. White threw four of five pitches for strikes to his only hitter.
1) Jarrod Washburn
Wouldn't life be so much easier if only Erik Bedard could throw seven innings every time out? Washburn has thrown at least seven innings in ten of his 19 starts this season. Interestingly, the first nine outs he collected in this game were all via the flyout. Normally I'd cringe at that thought and think that doesn't lend well to home runs, but if there's one park where you can get away with getting that many flyouts, it's Comerica Park. Washburn got four groundouts and a whopping 14 flyouts. The game started a bit ominously for Washburn as the Tigers had two on and one out in the first, but Washburn dodged it. A leadoff single in the fifth by Brandon Inge was wiped away with the next hitter when Dusty Ryan bounced into a double play. Washburn retired 13 of the final 14 hitters he faced. It wouldn't be a stretch to think Washburn may have had more gas left in the tank since he'd only thrown 93 pitches after seven innings and he'd be facing the bottom third of the lineup if he'd come out for the eighth inning. Washburn gave up two hits in seven shutout innings, walking two and striking out three. He threw 55 strikes on 93 pitches and faced 24 hitters to get 21 outs.
2) Mike Sweeney
The Mariners didn't bring Sweeney back off the disabled list so they could not start him against lefthanded pitchers as the designated hitter. Ichiro led off the inning by beating out an infield single, then getting to second when Brandon Inge's throw got past first base. Russell Branyan whiffed on an 0-2 pitch and Jose Lopez lined out to center. The Mariners' only hopes for scratching out a run in the first rested on the shoulders of Sweeney, and luckily his back held up. Sweeney banged a 2-2 pitch down the leftfield line for a double, easily scoring Ichiro and staking the Mariners out to a 1-0 lead before Washburn set foot on the mound. In the sixth, Lopez led off with a double, and Sweeney followed that up with a single to left that only got Lopez to third. Wladimir Balentien bounced to short to get Sweeney out, but Lopez scored on the play for the final Mariner run to make it 2-0. Sweeney's outs were a groundout to short to lead off the fourth and a swinging strikeout with one out in the eighth. Sweeney's hitting a not-bad .258 on the season in limited action. He has played in 37 games and has gone hitless in 15 of them (four of those look like pinch-hit appearances in his game log).
3) David Aardsma
Mariner television broadcaster Dave Sims has taken to calling Aardsma the DA (district attorney) and using the phrase "case closed" for the Aardsma saves. In a way, the whole two-word thing kind of reminds me of "san shin" from the Kazuhiro Sasaki era. My, what an era that was. Amazingly, I'd have to say that right now I feel more confident with Aardsma on the mound in the ninth inning with a one-run lead than I did with Sasaki on the mound in 2000 and 2001. The two Aardsma blown saves almost seem like incredibly isolated incidents that are such terrible aberrations which needn't be discussed. Since his meltdown on July 8th against the Orioles, Aardsma has made good on all seven of his save chances, taking a 2.11 ERA down to 1.75. Aardsma's meltdown in Anaheim came in his ninth appearance after taking over the closer role. His meltdown in Baltimore came 14 outings later. Aardsma's gone eight outings without giving up a run. Interestingly, since taking over the closer's role, Aardsma hasn't given up isolated runs. He's either failing in colossal fashion or not giving up runs (getting the save).
I know he did great the night before, but someone has to go here, and I can't seem to piick anyone else. With Ichiro on second and nobody out in the first, Branyan struck out swinging. He flew out on the first pitch with one out in the third. With runners on the corners and two out in the fifth, he whiffed on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning. He flew out to center to end the seventh. It seems all it took was a flip of the calendar over to July to take all the nectar out of Branyan's bat, and hopefully a flip of the calendar over to the month of August can turn Branyan's bat back into the sizzling stick it was in April and May, and to a lesser degree, June. Luckily if July is the nightmare month for Branyan, we only have to wait one week for it to end. He's homered five times in July, which is more than his four-homer April, but .164 is by far his worst month. His 14 RBIs tops his ten-RBI month of April, however. Think about it this way -- the Mariners have a 12-7 record in the month of July despite Branyan hitting .164. He needs only four strikeouts for the rest of the month to make it his strikeouttiest month this season.
It's the return of Ryan Rowland-Smith into the rotation on Friday night. Hopefully it'll also mark the return of Franklin Gutierrez into the lineup.