Sunday, August 02, 2009


Just like that, the calendar turned over a page and July was done. Here comes August, a month in which the Mariners are historically bad over their history. After dropping the first two games of this series in Arlington, Felix Hernandez took the mound to give the Mariners their best chance of splitting the series against the Rangers. If there was one good thing about this game, it's that the Mariners followed a time-tested template of getting the lead early and playing add-on. Also, in roster move news, Chris Shelton got caught up in the numbers game and was designated for assignment to make room for new acquisition Luke French.

The Mariners ran their record to 54-50 after 104 games. That record is four games worse than the 2007 team at this point, but three better than 2006, nine better than 2005, and 15 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-four wins is also seven worse than 2001, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Records of new-millennium Mariner teams when getting their 54th win: 54-38 in 2000, 54-17 in 2001, 54-31 in 2002, 54-29 in 2003, 54-90 in 2004, 54-72 in 2005, 54-57 in 2006, 54-39 in 2007, and 54-83 last year.

Seattle hitting went a combined 16-for-43 on the night, walking four times and walking eight times. The team went a putrid 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 runners in all (also putrid). Russell Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez turned in 0-for-5s as the only hitless Mariners, while the other seven hitters in the Mariner lineup collected two or more hits each. Jose Lopez and Ken Griffey Jr. had three hits apiece. Griffey, Jack Wilson (twice), and Lopez doubled. Ryan Langerhans legged out a triple, while Griffey and Lopez also homered. Ichiro stole a base and threw Omar Vizquel out at home (I thought he was safe) along with his 2-for-6 night. It was almost a 3-for-6 night until an in-game scoring change adjusted his infield single in the first inning to an error by the pitcher Tommy Hunter. Ichiro is now at 153 hits on the season and is on pace for 245 hits. Also, additional props shall be passed along to Ryan Langerhans, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI triple and a leaping catch where he banged against the wall to prevent an extra-base hit. One of Jack Wilson's two doubles came when David Murphy casually played a normal single in leftfield and Wilson took full advantage of it, making Murphy look like a lazy ballplayer.

Now for the Mariner arms. For the second straight start, Felix Hernandez wasn't himself. Luckily the Rangers didn't find Felix anywhere near as hittable as the Blue Jays did five nights earlier, but the Rangers took more walks. Still, it was some defensive plays that bailed him out of some innings. For instance, what the Rangers wanted to be a Marlon Byrd sacrifice fly to make it 3-1 instead became a 9-2 double play to end the first inning on Ichiro's gunning down of Vizquel at the plate. Again, I'll mention Langerhans making the leaping catch against the wall. A leadoff walk in the fifth was erased when Vizquel lined out to Branyan, who stepped on the bag to double off Andrus. For his 21st and final out of the game, Felix snared a line drive right at him off the bat of Michael Young (though that inning featured the baserunning heroics of Saltalamacchia, who was nearly picked off of second and had Andrus run up his back on a dropped third strike). All this said, he still wasn't sharp, though Dave Niehaus noted of the plate umpire's "postage stamp" strike zone size. With two out and one out in the second, Hernandez walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia on four pitches, went from an 0-2 count to walking Elvis Andrus, then went from an 0-2 count to a full count before getting Vizquel to fly out and end the inning. Hernandez gave up two runs on six hits in seven innings, walking four and striking out two. He threw 58 strikes out of 104 pitches and got five groundouts with 11 flyouts. He faced 29 hitters to get 21 outs. Mark Lowe threw a pretty impressive eighth and ninth, getting out all six hitters he faced. Lowe struck out three hitters and got three fly balls, throwing 21 strikes out of 32 pitches.

1) Ken Griffey Jr.
The designated hitter and Mariner emeritus set the tone for the entire game in the first inning. Runners were on first and second with nobody out, but Griffey whiffed at the first two pitches he saw. Ichiro and Jose Lopez went to third and second when Hunter threw a wild pitch that made the count full. Then Griffey drove a pitch onto the grassy hitters' backdrop in centerfield, something I didn't know he could still do. Just like that, Hernandez had a 3-0 lead to work with as son as he stepped onto the mound. Griffey also doubled down the rightfield line to lead off the third and scored on Jack Hannahan's RBI single. Griffey drove in the first three runs of the game and was driven in for the fourth run. He flew out for the second out in the fourth with two on to curtail some of the awesomeness. He moved Lopez to third with a grounder to first for the second out of the sixth. Finally, singled to follow up a Lopez leadoff homer in the eighth. Any time you have Griffey drive in three runs and score twice, you gladly take those days. He's 7-for-18 (.389) with three doubles, a homer, and six RBIs during his current four-game hitting streak with a slugging percentage of .722.

2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners second baseman went 3-for-5 with a walk, a double, a home run, and two RBIs in this game. Lopez drew a walk in the first before scoring on the Griffey home run. He whiffed to end the second. He singled with one out in the fourth to move Branyan to second. With Ichiro on first and one out in the sixth, he hit a double into the rightfield corner to score Ichiro from first to make it 6-1. He homered over the leftfield wall to lead off the eighth and make it 7-2. In his final at-bat, the mojo had been spent as he grounded into an inning-ending double play with Ichiro on first. In his current four-game hitting streak, Lopez has gone 10-for-17 (.588) with two doubles and three home runs (slugging 1.235). He's also driven in seven runs in those four games. That stretch has been enough to bump his batting average from .266 to .275, his on-base percentage from .290 to .305, and his slugging percentage from .426 to .463. Griffey in this game hit his first home run in a calendar month. Lopez hit his third in four games, but before that, he had a 15-game homerless drought.

3) Jack Hannahan
I'm guessing I better back up the truck of gameballs to Hannahan before Adrian Beltre comes back on Tuesday and makes Hannahan all but irrelevant. Actually, when Beltre comes back, and with the fact that Hannahan is lefthanded, it's probably Chris Woodward with the writing on the wall, but that's a discussion for Tuesday. Hannahan had quite the day. He drove in Griffey for the fourth run of the game en route to a 2-for-3 day with two walks, sending his on-base percentage through the frigging roof. Interestingly, despite getting on base four times, he didn't end up scoring at all, which is more a testament to the Mariners' 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and 14 stranded runners, which are both still awful stats even when the Mariners do manage to score seven runs in a game. In 17 games as a Mariner, Hannahan has gone 14-for-53 (.264) with two doubles, two homers, five RBIs, six walks, and 13 strikeouts. He's on base at a .344 clip and is slugging .415. Again, it's all praise until the Hannahan era effectively ends (at least this year) due to Beltre's return.

Russell Branyan
It's no doubt the Mariner first baseman had an awful July. A man who hit .323 on June 2nd was hitting .264 at the end of July due to a .159 month of July. As anxious as I am to see him snap out of it, a simple turn of the calendar didn't appear to immediately do the trick for Branyan, who went 0-for-5 with two strikes. He also left a whopping eight runners aboard, though he did get hit by a pitch. He managed to get on base after all. Branyan had seven homers in the month of May and eight in the month of June. He had five in all of July, and I can't help but think if that's two or three more wins for the Mariners if Branyan hits two or three more homers last month. Who am I kidding? The Mariners would still be a half-dozen games back right now, at best. Not even Branyan at his awesomest could have negated the cosmic ineptitude that was Mariner pitching in the weekend series with Cleveland in Seattle. If there was one thing that put the death knell on this season, it was the pitching finally being unable to carry the entire team on its back, and that's why this team's playoff hopes were declared dead late in the afternoon on July 26th.

It's the Mariner debut of Ian Snell coming tonight. Will Snell lay down his Law?

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