Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The Mariners have alternated wins and losses for the last four games, running their record to 55-51 after 106 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but three wins better than the 2006 pace, nine better than 2005, 15 better than last year, and 16 better than 2004. Fifty-five wins is also seven wins worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting win number 55: 55-38 in 2000, 55-19 in 2001, 55-33 in 2002, 55-31 in 2003, 55-90 in 2004, 55-74 in 2005, 55-57 in 2006, 55-46 in 2007, and 55-85 last year.
Seattle hitting went 14-for-41 in the game, walking four times and striking out a whopping 14 times. The Mariners also were 6-for-19 with runners in scoring position and they stranded 12 runners in all. Two hits apiece were turned in by Ichiro, Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, and Jack Wilson. Michael Saunders turned in a three-hit night. Gutierrez, Lopez, Wilson, and Branyan all doubled while Ichiro homered (leadoff). Branyan and Lopez drove in two runs apiece.
It didn't start out as a good night for Mariner pitching. Ryan Rowland-Smith had his first crappy big-league start of the year, blowing two leads before being pulled after four innings of work. He went to the mound in the first with a 1-0 lead and left down 2-1 with runs driven in by a Billy Butler double and a deep flyout by Alberto Callaspo. Rowland-Smith was burned once more in the second when Adrian Beltre threw wide of first base on a bunt by Alex Gordon, and it seemed Jose Lopez took forever to run it down, allowing Miguel Olivo to score from first on the play. Butler touched up Rowland-Smith again to lead off the third, but it was just for a single in an otherwise good inning. With a 4-3 lead in the fourth, Rowland-Smith gave it back and more when Gordon was driven in on Yuniesky Betancourt's triple. Betancourt was subsequently driven in with a sacrifice fly by David DeJesus, and the Royals led 5-4. Rowland-Smith gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits in four innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 47 strikes out of 77 pitches, got six groundouts to three flyouts, and faced 20 hitters to get 12 outs.
Now for the bullpen since that last paragraph was just too long. Shawn Kelley threw the fifth and sixth innings and only blew one lead, that being a 6-5 lead in the sixth, which turned into a 6-6 tie. A leadoff walk was the only blight in the fifth for Kelley. In the sixth, Olivo led off with a single, but one out later the Betancourt monster struck again, this time with a double to tie the score. Kelley gave up a run on two hits in two innings, walking one and striking out one. He threw 20 strikes out of 32 pitches, got one groundout to four flyouts, and faced nine hitters to get six outs. With a 7-6 Mariner lead, Miguel Batista inexplicably threw a 1-2-3 seventh, getting three air outs on 11 pitches. Mark Lowe threw the eighth and allowed a leadoff single before getting outs (two groundouts and a strikeout) from the next three hitters. David Aardsma proved to be a bit aadventurous in the ninth. Mike Jacobs hit a grounder up the middle that Aardsma probably shouldn't have put a glove on, but he did, and the ball slowed too much for Lopez to make a play. One out later, Mark teahen singled to move Jacobs' pinch runner (Mitch Maier) to third as the tying run. Aardsma then fell behind 3-0 and eventually walked Callaspo to load the bases. John Buck then swung at the first pitch and Ichiro ran and slid behind the tarp along the rightfield line to make the final out. Aardsma threw 14 strikes out of 25 pitches, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out one in the ninth. He faced six hitters to get three outs.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter just keeps going and going, and such. He went 2-for-5 with a walk and with the sliding catch for the Royals' 27th and final out of the game. First off, he homered to lead off the game. He then singled in the third inning to put two runners on with nobody out. The Mariners were down 3-1 at that point and had a 4-3 lead by the end of that inning. He got aboard in the fourth on an error. He then walked in the sixth to put two on and nobody out once again. The Mariners were down 5-4 at that point and had a 6-5 lead by the end of that inning. Unfortunately, Ichiro whiffed in his final two at-bats. All in all, Ichiro scored three of the Mariners' seven runs in a game where they needed every run they could get. Ichiro's current four-game hitting streak has him going 9-for-19 with a homer, but I'll bracket it differently. Ichiro's reached base in 11 of the last 12 games and has gone 22-for-38 (.579) with a double and a home run (slugging .684). He's also scored 13 runs, so that's about a run per game. Ichiro's at 157 hits on the season, putting him on a 247-hit pace. He's 38 hits away from 2000 Major League hits and 43 hits away from his ninth 200-hit season.
2) Michael Saunders
Definitely his best game at the plate as a Mariner. He singled to lead off the third and later scored on a Jose Lopez double. At that point, Saunders was done getting normal hits. He bunted for a base hit (he seems to know how to get it past the pitcher) to lead off the sixth and he ended up scoring the tying run in that inning. In the seventh, Jack Wilson got to second on an error to lead off, and Saunders was to bunt him over to third. Saunders bunted toward the third-base side and outran the throw to first by Jamey Wright. Saunders may not have an extra-base hit yet after nine games at the Major League level, but the dude's got some wheels for a 6'4" guy. With the way this guy bunts, it's like the Mariners haven't lost the only good thing that Ronny Cedeno brought to the table. Now if we could just get Saunders to get that pitchers' number off his back, then maybe everything would be kind of right with the world. Anyway, Saunders is 7-for-32 as a Mariner and is still trying to find his sea legs at the plate.
3) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' slugger went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. He doubled to score Saunders in the sixth to make it 5-5, and he singled in the seventh to score Wilson to account for the final 7-6 margin. They're not home runs yet, but they'll have to do. Branyan has gone eight games without hitting a home run, his longest such drought of the season. Branyan's now hitting .261 on the season, but I'll once again remind people that he was a .323 hitter on June 2nd, a .322 hitter on June 7th, and a .303 hitter on June 30th. The Mariners went 14-13 in the month of July, but how much better could they have been if Branyan would have hit just .220 instead of .159 in July? I know Branyan's been awesome for this team this season, but I'm surprised there hasn't been too much guff going Branyan's way for basically falling off the face of the earth in the month of July. Sure, the Mariners might have won a couple more games in July if Branyan wwas just kinda bad instead of horrible, but that wouldn't have made a difference with the Angels tearing ass out of the All-Star break and going 14-3.
Temptation would be to go with Ryan-Rowland Smith since the falloff of the pitching basically killed the Mariners' playoff hopes, but the Aussie never put the game out of reach, so I can't really give him the goat. Adrian Beltre came off the disabled list to play in his first game since June 28th in Los Angeles. He had the surgery to remove the bone chips from his left shoulder. At the plate, he went 0-for-5 with the hat trick (three strikeouts). In the field, he didn't convert the charging bunt throw that he's made a million times in the past, and he instead threw wide of first base. That play gave the Royals another run and a 3-1 lead in the second inning. Beltre has 56 games left this season to play for whatever free-agent contract he's going to get next year. Part of me wouldn't mind if he returned to the Mariners, but the price has to be right. Since Scott Boras is his agent, and Jack Zduriencik probably doesn't have the same kind of chumminess toward Boras like Bill Bavasi did, I'm guessing the price won't be right. I'll be trying to cherish the awesome third-base defense for the rest of the season.
So it's really going to be French tonight, but I already used the "sacre bleu" line after Sunday's post. Nuts.