Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Mariner fans felt somewhat confident that Felix Hernandez could stop the bleeding and put up a W after another Mariner loss. He'd be their best chance at it, that's for sure. So what happens when the pitcher you depended on so much proves every once in a while that he can be human? I guess you pin your hopes on Jarrod Washburn if he's still with the team or else this losing streak could easily be eight games long before Felix gets another chance to throw. To ramp up the difficulty of Felix's outing, Jose Lopez and Russell Branyan were both out with sore backs, meaning there wasn't a whole lot of punch in the lineup after Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, and maybe Chris Shelton. I'm actually a bit surprised that the lineup the Mariners trotted out onto the field managed to push across four runs. What a lineup, though -- Jack Hannahan hitting .194 in the fifth spot, Rob Johnson hitting .216 in the sixth spot, and Griffey hitting .211 in the third spot...at least two of those three guys should never be hitting anywhere other than the bottom third of the lineup.

The Mariners' fourth straight loss dropped their record to 51-48 after 99 games. This pace is three wins worse than 2007, but three better than 2006, eight worse than 2005, and 13 worse than 2004 and last year. Fifty-one wins is also seven wins worse than the 2000 pace, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Other post-millennium Mariner teams' records after their 48th loss: 69-48 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001 (they were good), 74-48 in 2002, 73-48 in 2003, 32-48 in 2004, 35-48 in 2005, 44-48 in 2006, 60-48 in 2007, and 26-48 last year.

Seattle hitting went a combined 12-for-37 on the night (12 singles), walking twice and striking out seven times. They also were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners as a team. Chris Shelton and Rob Johnson had two hits apiece while Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez had three hits apiece. Gutierrez has extended his crazy 34-game tear to 48-for-130 (.369) with six doubles and nine homers (slugging .623), driving in 26 runs. Since coming back from the neck injury, Gutierrez has gone 6-for-15 with six RBIs and no extra-base hits. The truly amazing thing, though, is that Gutierrez finished the night as a .300 hitter on the season. It was one thing when he was a .300 hitter on May 6th, but it's quite another thing on July 27th. As for the badness in the lineup, Ronny Cedeno went 0-for-4 to put himself into an 0-for-22 slump. Adrian Beltre can't come back soon enough for the Mariners as Jack Hannahan appears to be hitting like the man playing to his immediate left on the diamond. Hannahan was a .193 hitter on the season before he became a Mariner, and he's been a .194 hitter since.

Mariner pitching proved to be another night of ugh. The starting pitcher's paragraph is the goat entry. Of course, since Felix is awesome, he still manages to get into the sixth inning in an awful outing, and he really should have gotten out of the sixth if not for some horrible luck. Sean White came into the sixth with two out and runners on the corners, and ended the inning with an Aaron Hill 5-4 fielder's choice. White had to work around an ungodly error by Gutierrez in centerfield, who had a sure catch in front of the 405-foot marker in centerfield, but just plum had the ball go off the glove, which was pretty much a microcosm of the entire night. Adam Lind hit the error fly ball and ended up on third base. Lind scored two pitches later on a Scott Rolen sufficiently deep fly ball. White gave up a crushed double by Vernon Wells, but got out of the rest of the inning unscathed. White got roughed up in the eighth, giving up singles to Rod Barajas and Joe Inglett to start the inning. One out later, Hill walked to load the bases. With Lind at the plate, Rob Johnson whiffed with his glove on a pitch, and it went to the backstop to move everyone up 90 feet and make it 9-4. Lind hit a deep fly ball to score Inglett and make it 10-4. Rolen followed that up with an RBI double before the inning ended. White gave up four runs (three earned) in 2 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out none. He threw 28 strikes out of 46 pitches, getting two groundouts and five flyouts. He faced 13 hitters to get seven outs. David Aardsma got his first work of the homestand, allowing only a leadoff walk in the ninth.

1) Chris Shelton
With regular first baseman Russell Branyan taking the night off to rest a sore back, Shelton seized the opportunity when tossed into the field at first base and slotted into fourth in the lineup. Trying to make up for lost time when he should have already been called up anyway, Shelton went 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs. With two runners in scoring position and one out in the first, Shelton hit a grounder to short that scored Ichiro from third to tie the game at 1-1. In the fourth, Shelton followed up Ken Griffey Jr.'s leadoff single with a single of his own. The Mariners tied the score at 2-2 by the end of that inning. With runners on first and second with two out in the fifth, Shelton tagged a single to left to score Ichiro and put the Mariners into a 4-3 lead. That marked the end of happy times for the Mariners in this game. In the seventh, Shelton had Ichiro on first with two out and drew a walk. If there were no sentimental value involved, I'd gladly toss away the Griffey/Mike Sweeney designated hitter platoon for a Shelton/Jeff Clement platoon.

2) Ichiro
The Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder just keeps going and going. A 3-for-5 night puts Ichiro at 145 hits for the season and puts him on pace to end the season with 245 hits. Again, it makes him a virtual lock to get to 200 hits for the ninth straight season and a lock to collect his 2000th Major League hit. Ichir led off the first with a single, flew out with one out in the third, singled with Michael Saunders on first with one out in the fifth, singled to lead off the seventh, and flew out to left for the second out of the ninth. Ichiro wasn't doing so hot earlier in July, but his current angry five-game hitting streak has seen him go 10-for-22 with a double, raising his batting average from .357 to its current .363 mark. It's too bad the team hasn't followed suit after Ichiro's hitting in the last five games. Ichiro is now hitting .330 for July, still a shade off from his .377 May and his unreal .407 June. Time goes on, and this is Ichiro's ninth year as a Mariner, but it's still a joy to get to watch this guy play every night.

3) Rob Johnson
I weighed the fact that Johnson doesn't have a lot of offensive games like this despite his one passed ball versus Gutierrez's three-hit game despite his awful error in the seventh. I figured I had to pick one of those guys, and I went with Johnson, who went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Johnson singled to lead off the second, singled to score Griffey in the fourth to tie the game at 2-2, walked to lead off the sixth, and grounded out to lead off the eighth. That's a lot of times for Johnson to be leading off innings at the plate. For the record, it was Jack Hannahan and his 0-for-4 with seven in the LOB column that hit in the fifth spot ahead of Johnson in this game. After while, I get a bit tired of having the fact that Johnson can call a good game getting shoved down my throat. I get it already. It didn't help in this game, but that's beside the point. I can only care so much about a good game being called when your lineup spot is being completely punted away. For much of the year, that has been Rob Johnson. On this night, it wasn't.

Felix Hernandez
This is the third straight game I've had the starting pitcher as the goat. Coming in with a 10-2 record when starting after a Mariner loss, the Blue Jays found Hernandez to be very hittable. This of course means Felix was off. He struck out only two Toronto hitters on the night, his lowest total of any start this season, with his previous low being three strikeouts in that fateful game against the Angels were Don Wakamatsu had a sit-down with him after the game. Felix just wasn't missing any bats with his pitches. He hadn't given up two homers in a game since two bad starts that began the month of May, starts in which he gave up two homers apiece. Based purely on runs given up, this was Felix's worst start of the season. The worst thing about it is that the bullpen is completely screwed for the next four days unless Jarrod Washburn throws seven or eight innings tonight. If Washburn's not with the team, the bullpen's screwed for the next four days. Felix gave up seven runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings of work, walking one and striking out two. He threw 65 strikes out of 103 pitches and got eight groundouts with five flyouts. He faced 28 hitters to get 17 outs.

So it's still Washburn throwing tonight, right? Riiiiight?

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