Sunday, August 02, 2009


For the slim margin of people that didn't think the Mariners' playoff hopes were kaput before the series began, it was believed that the Mariners needed to take three of four in Arlington against the Rangers to keep any hope alive. After the exact opposite happens and Texas instead is the team that takes three out of four, it's gotta be over then, right? If Canuck radio color commentator Tom Larscheid had to react to something like this, I think he'd say "it's 'good night, Irene.'" For the Mariners to make the playoffs, they'd need 1995 to happen all over again. In 1995, the Mariners were buyers around the deadline and got Vince Coleman and Andy Benes. There was a Wild Card carrot as well before the division title came within shouting distance. Needless to say, the Mariners can't be a third-place team in their own division to get the Wild Card, and thanks to this series, they're now six games back of the second-place team in their own division. Three cheers for the Rangers, who netted a two-game advantage on the Mariners with this series. Meaningful baseball in the Metroplex might last through the end of August after all. Wait, you mean I had to talk about Jack Wilson nearly losing his mind at the end of the game on what should have been a foul ball instead of a strikeout? I'm sorry, I just don't have it in me. This team bats Griffey fourth most nights of the week, so how seriously can I take this team?

The Mariners' seventh loss in their last 10 games dropped their season record to 54-51 after 105 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 team's pace, but two wins better than 2006, eight better than 2005, 14 better than last year, and 15 better than 2004. Fifty-four wins is also seven worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 22 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting their 51st loss: 69-51 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 75-51 in 2002, 76-51 in 2003, 32-51 in 2004, 41-51 in 2005, 45-51 in 2006, 66-51 in 2007, and 31-51 last year.

Seattle hitting went 6-for-30 on the night, walking twice and striking out eight times. They also went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners in all. In an effort to make Scott Feldman look like Warren Spahn, the Mariners tallied zero extra-base hits in the game. Ichiro and Jose Lopez notched two hits apiece as the only multi-hit Mariner hitters. Every Mariner in the starting lineup struck out exactly once except for Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey made up for it, however, by going 0-for-4 and leaving five runners aboard. Jack Hannahan went 1-for-3 and also walked once, so that reinforces his whole count-working proclivity, at least until Adrian Beltre comes back on Tuesday and banishes him to utilitydom.

Mariner pitching didn't get completely clobbered at all on this night. As a matter of fact, the two teams managed six hits apiece. The problem was that the Mariner offense had zero extra-base hits while Mariner arms allowed four in the form of one double and three home runs. Unsurprisingly, that kind of stuff can break a game, and it definitely did here. Still, if the Mariners aren't going to score more than two runs, they only have a real chance to win 20% of the time (i.e., when Felix Hernandez starts). In this game, Sean White (hilariously listed as Jack White in the initial AP wire article) came in after the seventh inning stretch, spelling Ian Snell. Nelson Cruz singled on White's second pitch. White got a deep fly ball from Josh Hamilton that sent Cruz to second. White's next pitch was rung off the rightfield foul pole by Jarrod Saltalamacchia to break the tie and make it 4-2, which held up as the final margin. With the way the Mariners were hitting, the game was basically over, not to say they didn't put up a bit of a fight in the ninth. White gave up two runs on two hits in his inning, throwing seven strikes out of 13 pitches. He got two groundouts and a flyout and faced five hitters to get three outs. Shawn Kelley faced the second through fifth hitters in the Texas lineup in the eighth, allowing only a two-out single by Marlon Byrd. Kelley threw eight strikes on ten pitches, got one groundout to two flyouts, and faced four hitters to get three outs.

1) Jose Lopez
Make it a five-game hitting streak for the Mariners' second baseman. Lopez singled with two out in the sixth to drive in Michael Saunders and pull the Mariners to within a run at 2-1. He also singled with one on and nobody out in the ninth, moving Russell Branyan to second base. Yes, the Mariners had two on and nobody out in the ninth and failed to score. Lopez's outs include a whiffing strikeout to end the first and a 4-6 fielder's choice for the second out in the fourth. Lopez has gone 12-for-21 (.571) over the last five games with two doubles and three home runs (slugging 1.095), and he's driven in eight runs as well. He's currently a .278 hitter on the season, though he finished at .282 in 2006 and .297 last season (all for naught, sheesh). This is Lopez's fourth year as a regular, and last year had his career highs in pretty much every offensive category. He currently has 15 homers, so he should top the 17 homers he hit last year. He drove in his 60th run tonight, and his top RBI month this year was 20 in June, but he's had double-digit RBIs in every month this season, so topping his 89 RBIs from last year is definitely within the realm of possibility. He has 103 hits at this point, but he has to get 88 hits in two months to equal his 191-hit season last year. It's really too bad the Mariners' abhorrent 2008 completely obscured Lopez's best season as a big-leaguer.

2) Ichiro
Make it another day and another couple of hits for Ichiro. The Mariners' leadoff hitter got aboard on an infield hit in the fourth and singled in the sixth to load the bases with nobody out. The Mariners were down 1-0 at that point but they led 2-1 before the inning was over. On a team with any semblance of offense, the score's 4-1 or 5-1 after that inning's over with, but these are the Mariners we're dealing with here, lest we forget. As for his outs, he led off the game with a flyout and whiffed at three pitches to end the eighth. Ichiro is now at 155 hits for the season, putting him on pace for a 246-hit season. He is only 40 hits away from 2000 Major League hits, which is phenomenally outstanding as well as a complete lock. His 2000th hit could come by the end of this month with the way he hits. It'll either be late August or early September, barring an injury or other unspecified Act of God. Five hits after his 2000th Major League hit will be his 200th of the season itself, which will give him nine straight 200-hit seasons, unequaled by any mere mortal who has played the game. To illustrate just how much of a lock this is, I'll give you this: the Mariners have 57 games remaining on their schedule. Let's say Ichiro has four at-bats in each of those games, giving him 228 at-bats. He would need to hit .175 the rest of the way to get his 2000th Major League hit, and hit .197 to get 200 hits for the season. In other words, he'd achieve both milestones if he hit like Ronny Cedeno for the rest of the season. It's a lock, people.

3) Ian Snell
For his first start in the American League and his first start as a Mariner, I can't really complain at all. He hasn't even been a Mariner for a week yet, but he was thrust into the rotation after not having pitched in a Major League ballgame since facing Cleveland in Pittsburgh on June 23rd. I must say if there's one thing that sticks out to me in his game log, it's that he was allowed to throw 131 pitches in a seven-inning start (loss) at Milwaukee on April 29th. For what it's worth, he did walk four hitters in that start. Now that I look at his log some more, though, the walks are looking to be par for the course this year. Including this three-walk, four-strikeout start, Snell's walk-to-strikeout ratio is 47-to-56, which is actually pretty atrocious. Of course, it's known that weird circumstances have surrounded Snell's year in Pittsburgh, from being asked to be sent down to Snell's 17-strikeout game at the AAA level. If Rick Adair and Don Wakamatsu can straighten this guy out and work magic with Luke French, next year could be fun. I'm looking forward to seeing Snell's next start after a few more days working with Rob Johnson. Or that other guy.

Ken Griffey Jr.
I could go after Snell or White for giving up three homers since Mariner pitching gave up so many damn homers in the series, but in a game where the offense scores two runs, I have to pick someone with a baseball bat, and one night after he was golden, I'm going to have to pick the elder statesman. Griffey went 0-for-4 and left five runners aboard. He popped foul to third to lead off the second, so no real RBI opportunity there, and he'd be a lead weight on the basepaths, so no harm there. Lopez was on first (after Omar Vizquel let the fly ball drop to force out Ichiro at second) with two out in the fourth and Griffey grounded to the mound to end the inning, but no runner in scoring position and it wasn't Ichiro on first, so I can only dish so much crap his way for that. In the sixth, with the Mariners having put two runs across, Griffey had runners on the corners with one out and bounced into a 6-4-3 double play in definitely his most damning at-bat of the night. His final at-bat was with two on and nobody out in the ninth, when he grounded to second to move two runners into scoring position. That wasn't a completely worthless out since a flyout wouldn't have moved both runners. Still, just one hit in either of his final two at-bats would have made a world of difference in this game.

A day off followed by the beginning of the Luke French era in Seattle. Hopefully the dividends are more like tasty chicken cordon bleu rather than something that would make us say "sacre bleu!"

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