Sunday, August 09, 2009


Though the Mariners have gotten a ton of one-run wins this season, much to the glee of David Aardsma and much to the detriment of our stress levels, it's nice to see the Mariners get a laugher in their favor every once in a while. Today was that day. Franklin Gutierrez homered to break a 2-2 tie and the barrage began. The piece de resistance came on the grand slam by Russell Branyan, which all but ended the game. The Mariners played some long ball, and it turns out the ol' Scott Kazmir ain't what he used to be. The Mariners, as per the Marines-sponsored stat during the game, came in with an 11-3 record in rubber games of series. Make it 12-3, I guess. Also, big thanks to Ryan Rowland-Smith for getting the deepest into a game of any Mariner starting pitcher without getting clobbered (so scratch the seven-inning, seven-earned-run start by Jason Vargas) since Felix Hernandez did so on the 1st of the month. The game also saw Russell Branyan being moved down to sixth on the lineup card, with Franklin Gutierrez being moved up to the second slot. It worked.

The Mariners have alternated wins and losses for the last five games, but this win ran their record to 58-53 after 111 games. This pace is four wins worse than the 2007 pace, but four better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 16 better than last year, and 17 better than 2004. Fifty-eight wins is also seven worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2003, 11 worse than 2002, and 22 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting their 58th win: 58-40 in 2000, 58-21 in 2001, 58-34 in 2002, 58-35 in 2003, 58-94 in 2004, 58-77 in 2005, 58-69 in 2006, 58-46 in 2007, and 58-99 last year.

Seattle hitting went a combined 14-for-35 on the afternoon, walking four times and striking out five times. The team also went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position while stranding seven runners on base. Kenji Johjima and Michael Saunders, the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup, went hitless. The first seven hitters in the Mariner lineup all had hits. Ichiro, Mike Sweeney, and Adrian Beltre had two hits apiece while Franklin Gutierrez and Jose Lopez had three hits apiece. Less than 24 hours after the 1-4 hitters in the Mariner lineup went 0-for-16 with two walks and four strikeouts, the 1-5 hitters in the Mariner lineup went 12-for-22 with one walk, one strikeout and five RBIs (and Russell Branyan hit sixth), and they scored nine of the Mariners' 11 runs on the day. Ichiro and Lopez doubled, while Gutierrez and Branyan homered.

Mariner pitching cut down on the walks compared to the night before, though there were still walks. Starting pitcher first -- less than 24 hours after Ian Snell lost his marbles in the first inning, Ryan Rowland-Smith walked Ben Zobrist to load the bases with one out in the first. Luck was on his side, however, as Pat Burrell smoked a pitch up the middle that Jose Lopez caught, and Lopez doubled off the runner at second to end the inning. Rowland-Smith gave up a leadoff single in the second, and one out later, Dioner Navarro homered to put the Rays into a 2-1 lead. He allowed a two-out walk before the inning ended. The Aussie allowed a one-out walk in a third inning that saw him strike out the side. He struck out the first two hitters in the fourth before BJ Upton lined out to end the inning. Rowland-Smith had a stretch from the second inning to the fourth where he struck out six of seven hitters. He threw a 1-2-3 fifth, then alloewd a one-out Burrell single in the sixth. Rowland-Smith then walked Willy Aybar to make it dicey before getting a double-play ball to end the inning. Rowland-Smith got two quick outs before allowing two straight singles to end his outing. Rowland-Smith gave up two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out six. He got four groundouts to nine flyouts, threw 70 strikes out of 109 pitches, and faced 29 hitters to get 20 outs.

The bullpen finished off the last 2 1/3 innings for the Mariners. Shawn Kelley came into the seventh inning with runners on the corners and two out. Two pitches later, Evan Longoria grounded out to end the inning. Kelley got two quick outs in the eighth before hitting Aybar with a pitch. With Gabe Gross at the plate, Aybar moved to second on an indifference play and found himself on third after Kelley balked. No matter, though, as Kelley caught Gross looking to end the eighth. Kelley gave up no runs or hits in his 1 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out two. He got a groundout and flyout and threw 13 out of 20 pitches for strikes. He faced five hitters to get four outs. Lastly, with the Mariners up 11-2 going into the ninth, the situation practically begged for Miguel Batista to be put into the game. Batista got the first two hitters out before Jason Bartlett singled. Gregg Zaun hit for the pitcher Russ Springer (Burrell the DH was moved into leftfield) and whiffed on an 0-2 pitch to end the game. Batista got two groundouts with the strikeout in his inning of work, giving up one hit. He threw eight out of nine pitches for strikes and faced four hitters to get three outs.

1) Franklin Gutierrez
This guy's been on a tear for nearly two months. The last athlete on a favorite team of mine that exceeded expectations this wildly was Alex Burrows of the Canucks, who came out of nowhere to nearly post a 30-goal season. The only time Gutierrez has been hitless in consecutive games since June 16th was partially aided by him running into the wall in Detroit on July 21st. He was hitless in that game and went hitless in his first game back after nursing the stiff neck. From June 16th to the present, Gutierrez has gone 62-for-177 (.350) with nine doubles, 11 home runs, and 31 RBIs. He's got a slugging percentage of .588 over this 45-game span, and the .350 clip at the plate has bumped his batting average from .249 all the way up to its current .300. What's astounding now isn't necessarily the fact that Gutierrez is hitting .300, it's the fact that he's been at .290 or better for the past month. In this game, his two-out smash with Ichiro aboard broke a 2-2 tie in the second inning, making it 4-2. The Mariners never looked back. Gutierrez also singled to lead off the fifth and sixth innings.

2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman had a seven-game hitting streak snapped on Thursday in Kansas City. If you look at a Lopez game-by-game log for the season, he seems to get his hits four games or so at a time, then goes hitless before getting another few straight games of hits. Coming into this game, Lopez had sandwiched a 1-for-5 night with a couple of 0-for-4s. Sunday afternoon in the park proved to be a tonic for Lopez, who went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI in this game. He got things rolling in the first inning, singling Ichiro in from second with one out. He followed up Gutierrez's leadoff single in the fifth with a double of his own to move Gutierrez to third. The Mariners had a 4-2 lead turn into a 7-2 lead when the inning was done. Finally, Lopez led off the eighth with a single, but by that point the Mariners were done scoring runs. From June 1st onward, Lopez has gone 70-for-219 (.320) with 19 doubles, 10 home runs, and 40 RBIs. In this 53-game span, Lopez has also slugged at a .543 clip. I'd have to say Lopez has a decent shot at a 90-RBI season and an outside shot at a 100-RBI season.

3) Mike Sweeney
I know they only bring him out against lefties and maybe if they had him out there more it might decrease his productivity. Still, based on on-field contributions alone, it's a whole lot easier trying to defend Sweeney having a spot on the roster than it is trying to defend Ken Griffey Jr. having a spot on the roster. Not that Griffey's hits don't have a flair for the dramatic or anything. Sweeney went 2-for-3 with a walk in this game. He singled to lead off the third inning, hit a sacrifice fly to drive in the run that made it 6-2, walked with one on and one out in the sixth, and singled to lead off the ninth. Sweeney's a .248 hitter on the season and hasn't been completely worthless. Maybe in the years to come, the Mariners can actually use the designated hitter spot like it's supposed to be used, i.e., rotating it around to different players to give them a day off from the field, and giving other players some reps on defense. Though this year is kind of an anomaly with the Griffey thing presenting itself, I still wonder why this organization is so married to trying to find an everyday DH and/or the next Edgar. It's not going to happen.

Kenji Johjima
On a day like this where the Mariners pushed 11 runs across the plate and the pitching wasn't too bad, it looks like I have to pick whoever the worst hitter was on the day, and on this day it happens to be the Mariner catcher. In his first action since August 4th, Johjima put the ball in play four times and was out every time. He flew out in each of his first three at-bats and grounded out in his fourth and final at-bat in the sixth. He flew out with one on and one out in the second, flew out to lead off the fourth, flew out with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth, and grounded out with the bases empty to end the seventh inning. To his credit, he nearly parachuted a single into leftfield, only to be completely robbed by Carl Crawford on a sliding catch. I'd say more about how Johjima is doing this season and what he might end up with at the end of the year, but he's just becoming less and less relevant on this team. However, it's a bit of a mystery to see what pitchers he will actually receive since Jarrod Washburn is no longer on the team and Erik Bedard is on the shelf.

We go from an Australian throwing on a Sunday afternoon to a French throwing on a Half-Price Family Night tomorrow.

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