Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Mariners' fourth loss in five games dropped their record to 60-57 after 117 games. This record is six wins worse than the 2007 pace, but four better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 15 better than last year, and 16 better than 2004. Sixty wins is also nine worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2003, 12 worse than 2002, and 24 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at loss number 57: 70-57 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 79-57 in 2002, 77-57 in 2003, 35-57 in 2004, 44-57 in 2005, 53-57 in 2006, 73-57 in 2007, and 36-57 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 10-for-35 on the evening, walking three times and striking out 11 times. They also went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. None of the Mariners' hits went for extra bases. Ichiro, Russell Branyan, and Rob Johnson had two hits apiece. Jack Hannahan and Ryan Langerhans both had a hit and a walk. Ken Griffey Jr. struck out three times and walked once in an 0-for-3 day. Maybe I should mention that the Mariners' offense has scored a total of seven runs in the past five games?
Mariner pitching wasn't a complete abomination. Starting pitching first. Luke French continued the Mariners' walk party, dishing out three free passes. He managed to make it through six innings. The one thing that sticks out in his line is that all four of the runs with which he was charged were unearned thanks to the miscommunication play between Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro in rightcenter, which I didn't see on video, but which read badly off the page, I can tell you that much. In the first, French got two quick outs but walked Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez before getting the third out. In the second, French gave up a leadoff single, then one out later the thing happened in the outfield. That was followed up by Jose Molina (number-nine hitter) singling to tie the game at 1-1, Derek Jeter hitting a sufficiently deep fly ball to score Melky Cabrera from third to make it 2-1, then Nick Swisher homering to make it 4-1 before French got out of it. French started off the third by walking Alex Rodriguez on four pitches, but he was erased on a double play. Then Cano and Jerry Hairston Jr. singled and doubled, respectively, with two out, though nobody ended up scoring. French allowed only one-out single in the fourth and a two-out single to Molina in the sixth the rest of the way. Basically, he settled down after the third. Other than the Bedardy pitch count, he was okay. French gave up four unearned runs on seven hits in six innings, walking three and striking out two. He threw 62 strikes out of 107 pitches, got three groundouts to 12 flyouts (a little steep), and faced 28 hitters to get 18 outs.
The bullpen finished out the final three innings for the Mariners. Sean White had his second straight two-inning appearance. In the seventh, he gave up one-out singles to Teixeira and Rodriguez, but got a double-play ball from Jorge Posada to end the threat. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning. White gave up two hits in two shutout innings, walking none and striking out two. He threw 17 strikes out of 27 pitches, got three groundouts to one flyout, and faced seven hitters to get six outs. David Aardsma got work in the ninth with the Mariners down 4-2, and as does every closer in a non-save situation, got roughed up a bit. Okay, maybe just roughed up on one pitch, which was a home run by Derek Jeter with one out that made it 5-2. Whatever. The game had been over since the seventh anyway. Aardsma gave up the home run, walking none and striking out one. He threw nine strikes on 12 pitches, got two flyouts, and faced four hitters to get three outs.
1) Rob Johnson
Let's see if I can get sufficient length out of these paragraphs without having watched the bulk of the game. Johnson went 2-for-4, catapulting his batting average to .231. He grounded into a double play to end the second inning, had an infield single with two out in the fourth that scored Griffey and cut the Yankees' lead to 4-2, hit another ifnield single in the sixth that loaded the bases with one out, and flew out to right with the bases empty to end the eighth. The Mariner catcher has gone 12-for-36 so far in August with two doubles and two RBIs. I guess it was an injury that kept him out of those couple of games where Johjima started, as opposed to Johjima's hitting knocking Johnson off the pedestal. I don't mind all this talk of Johnson being such a great receiver and being able to handle a game, but every time I see a ball go to the backstop with Felix Hernandez on the mound and I think it's a ball that should have been blocked, I get a bit mad. You could easily have Johjima back there having balls going through him, but still getting power hitting out of it.
2) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' first baseman went 2-for-4. He grounded out to first to lead off the second, singled with one out and Griffey on first in the fourth, singled with the bases empty and one out in the sixth, was at the plate when Ichiro was caught stealing to end the seventh (two aboard), and struck out swinging to lead off the eighth. Branyan is following up his awful .159-hitting July with a simply bad .207-hitting August. In July and August combined, Branyan has gone 26-for-146 (.178) with seven doubles and eight home runs (slugging .390), and he's driven in 28 runs. Maybe that's the weird part -- his RBI pace hasn't really fallen off at all. The home runs have fallen off a bit. In May and June, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was around two-to-one. In July, it was 2.75-to-one, and so far in August, it's 5.25-to-one. If I thought the Mariners had any chance of the playoffs (that Cleveland series did them in), I'd be a lot more concerned about this. Branyan ended the month of June with a .303 batting average for the season. We all thought he'd tail off a bit, but did anyone expect him to hit .178 over the next month and a half?
I guess maybe I put him here because I knew I'd have more to say about him than Hannahan or Langerhans, who I think are the only other two people I could have put here. I'm not glossing over the weird play that helped seal the game in the second inning. It definitely happened. At the plate, however, Ichiro reached on an error to lead off the first, lined out to right with a runner on first in the third, grounded to second with the bases empty and one out in the fifth, legged out an infield single to lead off the seventh, and singled with a runner on first and one out in the ninth. Of course, the other miscue that's associated with Ichiro is his unsuccessful attempt to steal third in the seventh, unless Branyan missed a sign or something. Then it's on Branyan. All told, Ichiro is now at 173 hits on the season, putting him on pace for a 244-hit season. He is 22 hits away from his 2000th Major League hit and is 27 hits away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. I'm still miffed over that fan the other night taking the fly ball away from Ichiro at the rightfield wall.
I guess maybe I'm tagging him with the whole thing that happened in the second inning. Well, that combined with his 1-for-5 day. While his year defensively started out very well, there have been the odd couple of missed catches (though not many) and the odd bad throw back to the infield. The guy is extremely good defensively, but he's not completely refined. He doesn't have very far to go, but he's not quite there yet. As for the play in the second inning (again, I haven't seen video of it), the centerfielder, as we're taught at a very young age, can and should call anyone off if he feels he has a chance at a fly ball. The description of the play that's in the AP wire article is a bit disconcerting, but maybe Gutierrez had the Endy Chavez/Yuniesky Betancourt collision replaying in his mind as the play happened. Sure, one possible outcome is obviously a fly ball being caught, but if the other possibility is Gutierrez and Ichiro colliding, get injured, and missing significant time, I'll take what really happened and take the loss, because without these two guys in the outfield, the Mariners are completely screwed.
Looks like it'll be a Sunday afternoon with the Iron Fister going up against the Yankee lineup.