Sunday, July 26, 2009
The Mariners lost their second straight to drop their record to 51-46 after 97 games. This pace is three games behind the 2007 pace, but five better than 2006, nine better than 2005, and 13 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-one wins is also six worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 19 worse than 2001. Records of new-millennium Mariner teams at 46 losses -- 62-46 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 72-46 in 2002, 69-46 in 2003, 32-46 in 2004, 33-46 in 2005, 42-46 in 2006, 54-46 in 2007, and 24-46 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 7-for-35 on the day, walking three times and striking out four times. Rob Johnson, Ichiro, and Russell Branyan all doubled to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez had two hits apiece as the only multi-hit Mariners. It looks like the okayness is over for Ronny Cedeno, who is hitless in the last four games. A 19-game semi-tear for Cedeno saw him go 20-for-67 (.299) with three doubles, a triple, and three home runs (slugging .507), but it looks like the Mariners now can designate him for assignment too, as far as I'm concerned. Seems like .193 is as high as Cedeno wanted to go with his batting average.
Now for the Mariner arms, for whom it was really not a good day. The starter and the pitcher who finished the game are addressed below. That leaves Chris Jakubauskas, who had to get the final Cleveland out the night before thanks to Miguel Batista's ineptitude. Turns out Batista had rubbed off on the Lithuanian Laser. Jakubauskas came in to start the fourth. Ryan Garko greeted him with a leadoff single on an 0-2 pitch. Chris Gimenez then homered on his first pitch to stretch a 2-0 lead to 4-0 for Cleveland. Asdrubal Cabrera ran an 0-2 count full before bouncing a double over the wall in centerfield. One out later, a Shin-Soo Choo grounder to short was for naught thanks to Cedeno's high throw to first (he's worthless again!). Singles by Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta followed to make it 6-0 before the inning mercifully ended. Too bad Jakubauskas had to come out for the fifth as well. With one out, Gimenez singled, and one out later, Cabrera went yard to make it 8-0. Jakubauskas nailed Ben Francisco with his next and final pitch, making for a wee bit of spark for a game that needed it. Jakubauskas gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out none. He threw 32 strikes out of 53 pitches, got one groundout to four flyouts, and faced 14 hitters to get five outs (yuck).
1) Franklin Gutierrez
Unfortunately, even for a game like this where the Mariners are way out of it, I still have to pick these gameballs. Luckily a couple of the Mariners actually were hitting. In just his second game since coming back from the stiff neck, Gutierrez went 2-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. Just when I thought he might get his rhythm thrown off for having those couple of days off, the guy's sitting at .296 again for the season. In his last 32 games, he's gone hitless in consecutive games only once, and that's probably just because he was injured after one at-bat in Detroit when he crashed into the scorewall. In his last 32 games, Gutierrez has gone 44-for-121 (.364) with six doubles and nine homers (slugging .636) with 23 RBIs. He's also walked eight times and struck out 24 times. This crazy stretch has raised his season batting average from .251 to .296, his on-base percentage from .324 to .358, and his slugging percentage from .339 to .457. All this in just short of a month and a half. A stiff neck that puts Gutierrez out for a couple days is nothing that will stop him from being awesome and doing awesome things at the plate and in centerfield.
The Mariner leadoff hitter's 2-for-5 day puts him at 140 hits on the season, and he's on pace for a 242-hit season. With the Mariners now 12-8 in the month of July and having an ungodly scoreless streak over the last three games that ended in the ninth inning of this game, I'd have to say that even though the pitching's been very substandard the last couple games, this team could probably be at least two wins better for the month if Ichiro was hitting better than .308 in July and if Branyan was hitting something closer to even .240 in July instead of his current .160. Batting Branyan right behind Ichiro might be Don Wakamatsu's master stroke of the season, but I think the magic might have worn off, and it's probably time to tweak the lineup again. Back to Ichiro, though, it's well known that the offense can go somewhere only if he's getting somewhere, and sometimes Ichiro has awesome nights but the offense wastes his efforts. When Ichiro's just a shade below awesomeness like he has been this month, that sort of has a cascade effect on the rest of the offense.
3) Garrett Olson
Sometimes I have a soft spot in my heart for bullpen guys thath have to come into a game and eat a ton of innings. This is one of those times. It was Olson's first game since being banished back to the bullpen, and he nearly ended up throwing starter-type innings. He came in to finish the fifth after Jakubauskas hit Francisco on the way out. Olson got a groundout to end that threat. Olson got two quick outs to start the sixth, but then Travis Hafner doubled and Garko homered to make it 10-0. Olson held Cleveland scoreless for the rest of the game, a premise that proved to be unattainable up to that point in the game for the Mariners. Olson then faced the next ten hitters and got ten outs thanks to double-play balls in the seventh and ninth. Olson gave up two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 38 strikes out of 61 pitches, getting seven groundouts and three flyouts. Olson faced 15 hitters to get 13 outs. After a night where Ryan Rowland-Smith was the brightest spot in an otherwise horrid game, Olson might have been the brightest spot in this game. It was either him or Michael Saunders nearly hitting one out.
Screw it, I'm done with this. Cut the cord, cut bait, cash it in, whatever. I listened to this game in the car while driving/waiting for a ferry/riding a ferry, and it was just maddening listening to this guy pitch. After Bedard had been yanked, Niehaus said Bedard had, "pretty much pitched himself out of this game." I'm not sure which one of Steve Sandmeyer or Jason Puckett said it on KJR, but they're right when they say that even when Bedard's on top of his game, he's merely the best five-inning pitcher in baseball. With what he consistently puts out on the mound with every start, I think he's good enough definitely to be a fifth starter and probably to be a fourth starter. This team pretty much has him as a third starter, but they need someone who can soak up just a couple more innings so the bullpen's not cashed for when the fourth and fifth starters throw. Even if Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn do their jobs, that still only covers two-fifths of the rotation every time through. Of course, maybe I shouldn't be all miffed about this since the trade deadline is just days away and hopefully this guy is gone and I won't have to worry about how he screws up the rotation. Bedard gave up two runs on two hits in three innings, walking four and striking out six. He threw 47 strikes out of 81 pitches and got two groundouts to one flyout. He faced 15 hitters to get nine outs.
Probably Vargas today to try and prevent the sweep.