Sunday, August 09, 2009


There wasn't going to be any late-inning magic in this game. The Mariners fell behind early, then tied it to get Ian Snell off the hook, but then the game turned into a drubbing. Tom Larscheid would call it a "clinker." In short, the game was a walk party. Ian Snell somehow managed to evade major damage in the first inning. The Mariners rallied back to tie it in the fourth, but Tampa Bay reasserted themselves in the fifth, and the game got out of hand in the eighth. This marks the fourth time in the last five games where the Mariners' starting pitcher has either been unsharp or just plain horrible. Lucas French was the exception out of those five starts, by the way. It's a good thing this team's not in a playoff hunt right now, or I'd be a bit ticked off about the fact that the entire rotation isn't really right. Doug Fister made his big-league debut in the game, taking Jason Vargas' spot in the rotation. Fister will start Tuesday's game against the White Sox. This leaves the Mariners with a rotation of Felix Hernandez, Ian Snell, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Lucas French, and Fister. Three righties and two lefties.

The laugher of a loss dropped the Mariners' record to 57-53 after 110 games. This pace is four games worse than 2007, but four better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, and 16 worse than 2004 and last year. Fifty-seven wins is also seven wins worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2003, 11 worse than 2002, and 23 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner records when getting loss number 53: 69-53 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 77-53 in 2002, 76-53 in 2003, 32-53 in 2004, 41-53 in 2005, 49-53 in 2006, 71-53 in 2007, and 35-53 last year.

Seattle hitting went a combined 8-for-35 on the night, walking three times and striking out nine times. The team also went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. Adrian Beltre, Franklin Gutierrez, and Michael Saunders all doubled, and Gutierrez also homered to round out the Mariners' extra-base hit output. So the good news is that half of the Mariners' hits went for extra bases. The bad news isn't only that they managed just eight hits in the game, but also that the first four hitters in the Mariner lineup combined to go 0-for-16 with two walks and five strikeouts. Ichiro and Russell Branyan both have the number four next to their name under the LOB column in the boxscore, though more specifically, Ichiro stranded a runner in scoring position with two out while Branyan stranded three under the same criteria. As for the daily Ichiro update, his zero-hit night stalled him at 163 hits on the season, and he's still on pace for 246 hits. He is still 32 hits away from 2000 Major League hits and 37 hits away from his ninth straight 200-hit season.

It was a brutal night for Mariner pitching, though that was mostly due to the starting pitcher, who will be dealt with below. Chris Jakubauskas came into the game with the bases loaded and one out in the second inning with the score 3-0 for Tampa Bay. Two pitches later, he got a double-play ball to end the inning. Jakubauskas retired the next six hitters he faced before Evan Longoria broke a 3-3 tie with a homer to lead off the fifth. Then he walked Ben Zobrist on four pitches, balked Zobrist to second with an iffy pickoff move, and served up a pitch on which Carlos Pena absolutely unloaded, making it 6-3 for the Rays. The Lithuanian Laser then set down the final six hitters he faced. Jakubauskas gave up three runs on two hits in 4 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out three. He got seven groundouts to four flyouts, threw 39 strikes out of 58 pitches, and faced 16 hitters to get 14 outs. Garrett Olson continued his freefall since the All-Star break, though it was a bit of a delayed reaction. He threw a 1-2-3 seventh, but walked the first two hitters in the eighth, both of which came around to score thanks to Sean White's doings. Olson gave up two runs on two walks in one-plus inning of work, striking out one. He threw 13 strikes out of 29 pitches and faced five hitters to get three outs. Sean White gave up three straight singles and a sacrifice fly, which loaded the bases then put four runs across the plate to account for the final 10-4 margin. White gave up two runs on three hits in one inning, throwing seven strikes on 12 pitches. He faced five hitters to get three outs. Doug Fister landed in the gameball section.

1) Franklin Gutierrez
Even on Friday night, when he struck out four times, he still drew the walk and was the tying run on base when Ryan Langerhans defied all odds to end the 11-inning game with a home run. The Mariners' centerfielder was back to his awesome self one night later, going 3-for-4 in the game with two RBIs with only one strikeout this time. With the Mariners down 3-0 in the second, Beltre doubled with one out, then Gutierrez followed it up with a laser-beam home run into the back of the visitors' bullpen in leftcenter to cut the Rays' lead to 3-2. The home run was his first since July 18th and only his third extra-base hit since that last homer. On July 18th, his slugging percentage was .461, but it sunk down to .436 coming into this game. With a couple more 1-for-3s or 2-for-4s in the next few games, Gutierrez will get back over .300. Gutierrez also singled to lead off the fourth and doubled into rightcenter to lead off the sixth. Notice how he led off two innings with hits since Beltre wasn't getting it done in front of him (though Beltre double before the homer).

2) Michael Saunders
The Mariners are obviously forgoing more playing time for Ryan Langerhans so that they can groom Saunders to be the leftfielder long term. Saunders has now hit safely in four of the last five games, going 9-for-19 (.474) with a double and a triple (slugging .632), driving in two runs. Probably the only uncomfortable play of the game that involved Saunders was the parachute hit that landed between him, Gutierrez, and Jack Wilson in shallow leftcenter. Saunders was just short of it on the sliding attempt. I'm still getting used to not having some sort of righthanded-hitting backup leftfielder, just like I'm still getting used to the absence of Chris Woodward as a righthanded-hitting backup non-first baseman. Most of the ways you slice it, Saunders is doing quite well for himself after just two weeks at the big-league level. The only thing that seems to missing from his big-league resume is a home run, but I think it'll only be a matter of time. Ladies and gentlemen, Michael freakin' Saunders. You betcha.

3) Doug Fister
The Mariners sent Jason Vargas down to Tacoma to bring up this guy, a rightie. He got his feet wet tonight, waded around a bit in the shallow end of the pool and stuff. He got two quick outs before yielding his first Major League hit, a single by Pat Burrell. With Gabe Gross at the plate, Fister then threw his first Major League wild pitch to move Burrell to second. Four pitches later, Fister issued his first Major League walk, with Gross being the recipient. Up to the plate came Gregg Zaun, who looked at strike one, fouled off a pitch for strike two, and whiffed at the third pitch of the at-bat for strike three, giving Fister his first Major League strikeout. Fister, whose name is totally not Foster, gave up a hit and a walk in his one inning of work, striking out one. He threw 11 strikes out of 19 pitches and faced five hitters to get three outs. Fister threw out of the bullpen in this game, but is slated to start against the White Sox on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Vargas will be in Tacoma trying to figure out what the hell happened to his season. And Olson will be doing the same, except at the Major League level, for whatever reason.

Ian Snell
I think I can speak for all Mariner fans when I say that this had better be rock bottom for Snell as a Mariner. Really, can it get worse than this? If he outdoes this in his next start by not getting out of the first inning, I'll be extremely disappointed. What's the anatomy of a horrible Snell start? He walked the first hitter of the game on four pitches. He somehow got a flyout from Carl Crawford. As for the next four hitters, there was a walk and a single, followed by two more walks. Two runs crossed the plate, but somehow Snell got Willy Aybar to strike out and got a tapper back to the mound to end the inning. As bad as Snell was, I will mention that plate umpire Tim Tschida was absolutely not giving the low strike, and Snell paid dearly. As for the second inning, Jason Bartlett walked on a 3-1 pitch to lead off, Crawford doubled on a 3-1 pitch, then Evan Longoria's grounder scored Bartlett from third to make it 3-0. Ben Zobrist then walked on a full count to load the bases with one out and chase Snell. Mercy killing.

Will an infusion of Australianism in the form of Ryan Rowland-Smith give the Mariners the series win? Will the Mariners rock the Kazmir? Day baseball at the Safe, indeed.

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