Monday, August 17, 2009


Coming into the game, the Mariners had scored seven runs over the past five days. When they jumped into the lead to make it 2-1, it was a tiny bit surprising. When they fell behind 3-2, it wasn't as surprising. At that point, one would doubt their ability to score any more runs. In the fifth, they vaulted back into the lead at 4-3. They hadn't scored as many as four runs in a game since six days earlier. Then came the five-run seventh, when I was just hoping after while that they'd save some runs for the road trip. There was a point in the game (not when it was scoreless) where the Mariners and Yankees shared the exact same runs-hits-errors line. In the final boxscore, the disparity is pretty unbelievable. Thus, in the pursuit of the best record in baseball, the Yankees were able to net only two games on the Mariners in the series. Yes, the Mariners only have 13 games to make up to get to baseball's best record. Let's just be grateful the Mariners didn't get swept at home in a four-game series by the Yankees. That would not have been cool.

The Mariners snapped a three-game losing streak, running their record to 61-57 after 118 games. This record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, and 16 better than 2004 and last year. Sixty-one wins is also eight worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2001, 11 worse than 2002, and 24 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at their 61st win: 61-43 in 2000, 61-21 in 2001, 61-39 in 2002 and 2003, 61-96 in 2004, 61-79 in 2005, 61-69 in 2006, 61-49 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting had their hitting shoes on in this game, going 15-for-39, walking three times and striking out five times. They also went 7-for-18 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. Ryan Langerhans went 0-for-4 as the only hitless Mariner, though even he managed to draw a walk. Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Jack Hannahan, Kenji Johjima, and Josh Wilson all had two hits apiece while Jose Lopez got himself three hits. Johjima, Josh Wilson, and Gutierrez all doubled once while Lopez doubled twice. Johjima tallied the only Mariner home run of the day. Russell Branyan went 1-for-3 and also walked. Ichiro drove in two runs and Lopez drove in three.

What a day for Seattle pitching. The starting pitcher has the number-one gameball, so that will be addressed below. After the Mariners' five-run seventh, Chris Jakubauskas mopped up the final two innings, though I'd argue for Miguel Batista for that role. Okay, maybe not, since it was the Yankees they were dealing with. Anyway, the Lithuanian Laser faced six hitters and got all of them out in order. He threw 17 strikes out of 26 pitches, got one groundout to two flyouts, and faced six hitters to get six outs. Odd thing is that Jakubauskas is only two outings removed from giving up three runs and two homers in 4 2/3 innings, but since that was in relief of Ian Snell, it actually looked great by comparison.

1) Doug Fister
This was quite the outing the Iron Fister threw for his first Major League win. Against a team that racked up 20 runs against the Mariners in the first three games of the series, Fister was only touched up for three runs, and nothing past the fourth inning. For me, the biggest thing was that Fister didn't walk anyone, making him the first Mariner starting pitcher since Ryan Rowland-Smith on July 29th to not walk anyone. In this 16-game span of starting pitchers walking people, they walked a total of 53 hitters for an average of 3.3 walks per start. I know I certainly was getting tired of watching Mariner starting pitchers hand out free passes left and right. Along came Fister, whose only run-scoring hits given up were a Derek Jeter double in the third and a Nick Swisher home run in the fourth. As for any other jams -- Jeter singled to lead off the game, but he was stranded on first. Lastly, Fister escaped what could have been a game-breaking situation when Johnny Damon grounded out with runners on the corners and two outs to end the inning. Fister gave up three runs on eight hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out four. He threw 66 strikes out of 101 pitches, got five groundouts to 12 flyouts, and faced 29 hitters to get 21 outs.

2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman went 3-for-5 in the game, driving in three runs. He grounded out with the bases empty to end the first inning. He doubled with the bases loaded and two out in the third to get the Mariners in the lead at 2-1. He singled with one on and one out in the fifth, moving Branyan to second and later scored on a single by Gutierrez. With runners on the corners and two out in the sixth, he ended the inning by grounding into a 6-4 fielder's choice. In the seventh, with runners at first and second with two out, Lopez doubled to score Ichiro from second and send Branyan to third. That made the score 9-3 for the Mariners, rounding out their insane seventh inning as well as the day for Lopez at the plate. Lopez was hitting .230 at the end of May. He followed that up with a .329 June, a .302 July, and so far a .309 month of August. He has driven in 14 runs so far this month, but his high for any month this season was his 20-RBI June. He should break that easily, the way he's going. With how hot he is right now, Lopez should be a cinch for a 90-RBI season. Finishing with 95 RBIs would be solid as well, but he has an outside chance at a 100-RBI season. Again, that's if he keeps this up.

3) Kenji Johjima
While I'm not holding my breath expecting him to get more playing time, I hope Don Wakamatsu throws him behind the plate in five days when Fister comes back up in the rotation. If how a catcher handles the pitchers is that important, we better see Johjima behind the plate in Fister's next start. If you ask me, Johjima should be catching two out of every five days, and possibly more based on the power he can give you at the plate. After a couple of hitless games, Johjima went 2-for-4 in this game with a double and a home run, marking the first time this year he's had two extra-base hits in the same game. Johjima struck out swingign to lead off the third, doubled with a man on first and one out in the fourth, grounded out with runners on first and second and two out to end the fifth (Mariners led 4-3), was hit with a pitch to load the bases in the seventh (he ended up scoring the 7-3 run), and blasted off against Chad Gaudin in the eighth to account for the final 10-3 margin. I can't rip on Rob Johnson much at the plate this month if only because he's hitting .333 while Johjima's hitting .190. Still, I think being able to handle pitchers is one thing, but being a passed-ball factory when Felix Hernandez is throwing is quite another.

Ryan Langerhans
He might have still been smarting from the bases-loaded strikeout the night before that should have been a walk. While being used sparingly as a reserve while Michael Saunders is being groomed as the leftfielder of the future, Langerhans has hit .190 this month. He hit .228 last month when he was getting more playing time and when Michael Saunders either hadn't been brought up yet or wasn't getting everyday playing time. If nothing else at all, the Mariners have gotten two home runs out of him, one of them a game-ender against Tampa Bay on the 7th that mercifully ended an 11-inning game. If you ask me, that's more than the Mariners ever got out of Mike Morse, with the best part being that Ryan Langerhans never tested positive for steroids and wasn't suspended for using steroids. Ain't that just grand? Langerhans drew a walk with one out in the third (and scored the Mariners' first run), but that was his only time aboard. He grounded out with two on and one out in the fourth (Mariners were down 3-2), He flew out to lead off the sixth, he whiffed with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh (Mariners were up 4-3), and he grounded out with the bases empty to end the eighth as the Mariners' final out.

Now that the Yankees took three out of four, it's time to start the road trip with Felix tomorrow.

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