Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The win bumped the Mariners' record to 62-58 after 120 games. The record is six wins worse than the 2007 pace, but six worse than 2006, 10 worse than 2005, 16 worse than last year, and 17 worse than 2004. Sixty-two wins is also seven worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Other records of new-millennium Mariner teams at win number 62: 62-44 in 2000, 62-23 in 2001, 62-40 in 2002, 62-40 in 2003, 62-96 in 2004, 62-81 in 2005, 62-69 in 2006, 62-49 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went 8-for-35 on the night, drawing one walk and striking out a whopping 12 times. They also went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. Ichiro's home run was the only Mariner extra-base hit. Multi-hit Mariners included Ichiro, Michael Saunders (his return), and Josh Wilson (whaaa???). Multi-strikeout Mariners included Jack Hannahan and Josh Wilson (two strikeouts), Franklin Gutierrez (three strikeouts, hat trick), and Russell Branyan (four, golden sombrero).
Mariner pitching was pretty good. After giving up a combined 11 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last two starts, Snell somehow gave up only one run in this game. He still walked three hitters, so the ship isn't completely righted, but this start was definitely a step in the right direction. I thought Don Wakamatsu should have left him out there until the tying run got aboard in the sixth, but that's when Wakamatsu came out with the hook. Snell gave up three singles and Carlos Guillen's home run, which was the only Tiger extra-base hit of the game. Snell gave up one run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking three hitters and striking out two. He threw 54 strikes out of 98 pitches, getting seven groundouts to eight flyouts, and facing 23 hitters to get 17 outs. Sean White then came in, getting the final out of the sixth and giving up only one hit in his 1 1/3 innings of work. He threw nine strikes out of 13 pitches, getting three groundouts and striking out one. He faced five hitters to get four outs. Mark Lowe struck out two hitters in the eighth inning and got a groundout as well, snapping his two-outing crappy streak and three-outing sketchy streak. He threw 10 strikes out of 12 pitches. David Aardsma struck out two hitters and got a groundout in the ninth, giving up a hit along the way. Aardsma threw 15 strikes out of 22 pitches.
The beat just continues with the Mariners' leadoff hitter. Usually it's just Ichiro getting a hit or two and being driven in once or twice. This time, Ichiro put in a little flair of clutch, getting the biggest hit of the game by homering in the fifth inning off Justin Verlander (after really looking like crap on a strikeout in the first inning) to get the Mariners a 3-0 lead. Little did we know at that point that it'd be enough for Ian Snell to get his first win as a Mariner. The home run was Ichiro's first since August 4th at Kansas City. With the 2-for-4 night, Ichiro is hitting .380 so far in the month of August, which follows up a .336 July, a .407 June, a .377 May, and a .306 small-sample-size April. Ichiro is currently a .366 hitter for the season, and has accumulated 181 hits. He is now 14 hits shy of his 2000th Major League hit and 19 short of his ninth straight 200-hit season. He is on pace to finish with 249 hits despite missing the first eight games of the season. If he had eight extra games and four at-bats per game with the same batting average, Ichiro could have 11 or 12 more hits, which would give him 260 or 261 hits, dangerously close to matching his own single-season record of 262 hits.
2) Josh Wilson
You know, when Jack Wilson comes back from the gimpy hamstring, I'm not so sure you don't bump Jack Hannahan back to the bench and see if Josh Wilson's cool with playing a little third base. The Mariners' stopgap shortstop played for the Mariners on July 18th, was shuffled off the roster, and returned on August 13th against the Yankees when Jack Wilson went off with a hamstring injury that's at least partially on Felix Hernandez. Since returning, Josh Wilson has inexplicably been hitting -- yes, hitting -- and he had his third straight two-hit game. He has gone 6-for-11 in his last three games, doubling once and homering once, and he's driven in four runs along the way. Since returning after nearly a month away from the big club, Josh Wilson has gone 8-for-22 (.364) with a double, two home runs, and four RBIs. In the same time frame, Hannahan has gone 5-for-21 with an RBI and three walks. I say the Mariners milk Josh Wilson's hot streak until it cools. This may be the best value the guy may ever have. Maybe you can sneak him through waivers and deal him for something...?
3) Michael Saunders
The Canadian-born leftfielder last played on August 14th against the Yankees. He returned in this game by going 2-for-4, with both hits being singles. Also, he stole the second base of his young Major League career, going all Usain Bolt on Verlander and Gerald Laird. Saunders is one tall guy, but he's got quite the stride and quite the speed. I'm impressed. I don't know how top-notch Saunders is defensively, but what I do know is that he's fast and has shown the ability to reach over the wall to rob a home run. He has gone 17-for-64 (.266) over 19 games in his Major League career. I guess the fun thing about his hitting is that I'd be looking at his offensive output a lot differently if this entire thing was in September and he was creaming AAA pitching (not that this is a Willie Bloomquist reference or anything). Saunders is pulling all of this off against legitimate Major League pitching. Sadly, Saunders is still looking for his first Major League home run. Hopefully it comes before the end of the season.
I won't say it's the elephant in the room, but let's just call it what it is -- Russell Branyan has sucked for over a month and a half. I know he apparently has a balky back, but if that's so, they've got to move him down in the lineup. On August 9th, Wakamatsu slotted Branyan in the sixth spot in the lineup, and Branyan hit a grand slam in that game. There's nothing to lose right now by moving Branyan down in the order. Having him hit second was a master stroke by Wakamatsu earlier in the season, but now the horse has been beaten to death and new strategies have to be implemented. My lineup would be something like Ichiro/Wilson/Lopez/Griffey (begrudingly)/Gutierrez/Johjima/Branyan/Hannahan/Saunders. The pressure has to be taken off of Branyan a little bit. Let's tally it all up -- from July 1st to now, Branyan has gone 28-for-157 (.178) with seven doubles, eight home runs (slugging .376), and 30 RBIs. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is also awful, as he's walked 18 times and struck out 61 times. It's Branyan's nature to strike out due to the type of hitter he is, but he's really poured it on lately. By the way, in the series against Cleveland that ended Seattle's playoff hopes, Branyan went 1-for-12 with a double, an RBI, a walk, and three strikeouts.
Aaaaaand the Aussie will throw in the day game against a familiar lefthander with the last name of Washburn.