Tuesday, August 11, 2009


This was quite the topsy-turvy game indeed, what with the lead changes. The entire day was kind of weird, seeing as to how the sun never came out today and Puget Sound saw its first true rain in weeks. Thus, the roof was closed (or extended, per official ballpark speak) for the first time in a while. What happened? Both starting pitchers cruised until both starting pitchers kind of hit the wall. Gavin Floyd gave up a couple of hits while Luke French continued the walk party of the Mariners' starting pitchers of late, instead rebranding it as a Skywalk party (in fact, through the last turn in the rotation, the starting pitchers have averaged nearly a walk per inning). Other than that, the game provided me with a couple of nice moments where I say, "get the f#*$ out!" to my television screen. Beautiful moments, those.

The Mariners' fifth win in seven games and sixth in nine games ran their record to 59-53 after 112 games. This pace is four wins worse than the 2007 mark after 112 games, but four better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 16 better than last year, and 17 better than 2004. Fifty-nine wins is also seven worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 22 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting win number 59: 59-43 in 2000, 59-21 in 2001, 59-36 in 2002 and 2003, 59-94 in 2004, 59-78 in 2005, 59-69 in 2006, 59-47 in 2007, and 59-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went 9-for-31 in the game, walking three times and striking out seven times. They also went 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners in all. Multi-hit games were turned in by Ken Griffey Jr. and Adrian Beltre, who had two hits apice. The only hitless Mariners were Jack Wilson and Michael Saunders, who still managed to draw a walk apiece, so their plate appearances weren't completely fruitless. Franklin Gutierrez also singled and walked, maintaining his .300 average and getting the on-base percentage up a tick. Ichiro, though victim of a questionable strikeout, singled in the game to make him 15-for-43 (.349) in the month of August. Since it's the world of Ichiro we're dealing with here, that's actually lower than his season average, which now rests at .362. Ichiro got two hits in each of the first six games of this month, by the way, but he's gone 3-for-13 in the three games since, so he's totally fallen off the face of the earth. Anyway, Ichiro's at 166 hits on the season, 29 short of 2000 Major League hits and 34 short of his ninth straight 200-hit season.

Mariner starting pitching will be covered below. As for the bullpen, they threw 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball, though Sean White had a 3-2 lead turn into a 4-3 deficit on his watch. White came into the sixth inning after Luke French had walked the bases loaded. While it would have been nice to get a double-play ball out of Carlos Quentin, White fell behind and had to throw a strike on a 3-1 pitch, which Quentin smacked for a double. French was out of the running for a win and was now on the hook for the loss. White got a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning. Ramon Castro led off the seventh with a single, but White got a double-play ball to erase him and allowed only a two-out Gordon Beckham single before the inning ended. White gave up no runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out one. He threw 15 strikes out of 25 pitches, got three groundouts and a flyout, and faced seven hitters to get five outs. Mark Lowe is one of the entries below, so that leaves David Aardsma. Aardsma gave up a leadoff single to Alexei Ramirez before asserting dominance. Mark Kotsay lined out to Michael Saunders in left, then AJ Pierzynski grounded into a nicely-turned 4-6-3 double play to end it. Aardsma threw 14 strikes out of 20 pitches and faced three hitters to get three outs, though it wasn't really a 1-2-3 inning. All in all, it's 27 saves in 29 chances for Aardsma, but I don't remember a single DA reference or "case closed" from Dave Sims. Go figure.

1) Ken Griffey Jr.
I know this isn't the first time I've mentioned it here in this space, but here it goes again. This was another one of those nights where Griffey -- the elder statesman, the Mariner emeritus -- leaves you a little reminder that he's still got something left in the tank, no matter how close you may have gotten to giving up on him. He may not necessarily be doing it with the home run like he used to back in the day, but singles can do the job. After Gavin Floyd retired the first ten hitters he faced, Franklin Gutierrez walked and Jose Lopez doubled him over to third. Up to the plate stepped Griffey, and he singled up the middle to break a scoreless tie and make it 2-0 in the fourth. As for the other single, he led off the sixth inning with a single which would have been nice if it had led directly to a rally, but then Adrian Beltre snuffed that out immediately by grounding into an around-the-horn double play. Interestingly, the Mariners took that two-out situation and turned it into a three-run inning thanks to a couple of long balls. All told, Griffey somehow remains relevant and not completely useless despite his .223 batting average.

2) Mark Lowe
After the Mariners got the lead in the sixth, I felt pretty good about the Mariners' chances in the game. First off, Sean White would start the seventh inning with the bases clear, so that was a plus. Then it just came down to whoever would throw the eighth before Aardsma came out in the ninth. That someone was Lowe. The opposing hitters? Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin. The outcome? Thome was caught looking, Konerko went down swinging, and Quentin flew out to center. That, Mariner fans, is how you slice through the meat of the White Sox order. This outing took his ERA back down under 3.00, now at 2.98, the lowest it's been since April, when the sample sizes are so small it doesn't even matter. If you take the multiply-by-nine factor out of the ERA, Lowe gives up .331 runs per inning. Most of the time he's throwing an inning per outing, so you could say he gets nicked (runs) every third or fourth outing. That's deceiving, though, since it skews toward the two meltdowns he's had. A look at his game log says he gets nicked up closer to every seven or eight outings. Still, Lowe has looked unhittable at times this season, and this game was one of those times.

3) Kenji Johjima
When the front three of the Mariners' rotation consisted of Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, and Erik Bedard, Johjima ended up catching the scraps of the rotation, and you heard all the ballyhoos of catchers' ERA and everything like that. Of course Rob Johnson's catching ERA was going to be awesome if those three guys were all he caught. Thus, it seemed Johjima was a complete write-off of the team and we were just counting down the days left on his contract, even though it runs past this season. Put Bedard on the shelf and trade away Washburn, however, and it puts a bit of a question mark on the catching situation. Sure, Johnson's still catching Felix, though Felix hasn't been himself since the All-Star Game. Lo and behold, look who's played in back-to-back games? Johjima didn't dazzle anyone with an 0-for-4 day on Sunday and presiding over Ryan Rowland-Smith's four walks. Luke French also walked six guys with him behind the plate also, so that won't help. In the sixth inning, the game was tied at 4-4 thanks to Russell Branyan's cannon blast off the VisitLasVegas.com sign under the Hit It Here Cafe. Jack Wilson walked, and Johjima stepped to the plate. Johjima then jumped all over Tony Pena's third pitch, sending it into the back of the Chicago bullpen to make it 6-4. Johnson has one home run to show for all that playing time, while Johjima has four. Johjima has five doubles, four homers, and a .252 average in 151 at-bats while Johnson has 16 doubles, two triples, one homer, and a .231 average in 195 at-bats. Point is, I think Johjima's going to get some more time behind the plate from this point to the end of the season.

Luke French
Here's a short treatise on the Mariners' walk party. Felix Hernandez started off August by walking four hitters. Ian Snell then walked three in his first Mariner start. Ryan Rowland-Smith stemmed the tide a bit with a one-walk start. French then one-walked his way to his first Mariner victory in Kansas City. Then Jason Vargas walked three in his swan song before heading to Tacoma. Instead of righting the ship, Felix walked six. Snell crapped the bed and walked six of his own. The Aussie then walked four. Finally, French walked six in this game. In the last turn through the Mariners' rotation, the starting pitchers have walked 25 hitters, and the starting staff has walked 34 hitters this month. Despite this, the Mariners are 6-3 in August. As for French, he mostly cruised in this game, facing the minimum 13 hitters through 4 1/3 innings. He ran into some trouble in the fifth, giving up a one-out Quentin double and a two-out Jayson Nix walk before nine-hitting Castro doubled to the wall in rightcenter to tie it at 2-2. Then came the God-awful sixth that saw French walk the first two hitters, strike out Thome, then walk Konerko to load the bases, spelling the end for French. He gave up four runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking six (uuugggghh) and striking out five. He threw 50 strikes out of 90 pitches, got four groundouts to five flyouts, and faced 23 hitters to get 16 outs. It's a shame since he wasn't doing too bad until he lost the radar in the sixth.

Know what tonight is? It’ll be the Major League starting debut of Doug "Iron" Fister. His last name just begs for a nickname. Even the G-rated possibilities are nearly endless.

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