Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Mariners' fifth loss in their last seven games dropped their season record to 62-59 after 121 games. This pace is seven games worse than the 2007 pace, but six better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 16 better than last year, and 17 better than 2004. Sixty-two wins is also seven worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2003, 12 worse than 2002, and 25 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting loss number 59: 71-59 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 84-59 in 2002, 81-59 in 2003, 37-59 in 2004, 45-59 in 2005, 56-59 in 2006, 73-59 in 2007, and 38-59 last year.
Seattle hitting went 5-for-30 on the day, walking once and striking out six times. They stranded only one runner. Interestingly, they never had an at-bat with runners in scoring position. Ichiro doubled to lead off the game, was bunted over to third, watched as Jose Lopez was hit with a pitch, then scored on a sacrifice fly. Franklin Gutierrez drew the Mariners' only walk, but came all the way home on the Lopez home run. No Mariner got multiple hits. Interestingly (again), all five of the Mariners' hits went for extra bases, one of them being a double, and the other four being home runs. Ichiro had the double, and the home runs went to Jose Lopez, Kenji Johjima (off a high hanging breaking ball), Mike Sweeney, and Russell Branyan (absolute moon shot that nearly landed under the covered area at the back of the seats in rightfield). While you'd think the cavernous outfield of Comerica Park would really suit itself to Jarrod Washburn's fly ball tendencies, Washburn more than tested the boundaries of such a train of thought and lost. Washburn gave up all five of the Mariners' hits in this game.
The final two of the four Mariner pitchers will be covered below. Ryan Rowland-Smith started the game and looked absolutely stellar through three innings of work. Then he gave up a couple of solo home runs in the fourth that got the Tigers within two runs at 4-2. In the fifth, he pretty much hit the wall. He led off the inning by giving catcher Gerald Laird a four-pitch walk. He balked Laird over to second with two out during his four-pitch walk to Marcus Thames. Somehow, Rowland-Smith didn't allow any runs in that inning. In the sixth, Miguel Cabrera doubled to lead off, then the Aussie walked Brandon Inge (he of two crazy in-the-stands catches on the day) on four pitches. One out later, Rowland-Smith walked Clete Thomas on four pitches as well to load the bases with one out, spelling the end of his outing. The sad part was that he was leading 6-2 when he was yanked. Then the rains came. Jakubauskas came out and got a groundout to second from pinch-hitting Aubrey Huff that scored a run to make it 6-3. Then pinch-hitting Alex Avila stroked a single into centerfield to score the two remaining runs and set fire to Rowland-Smith's earned-run average. A Placido Polanco groundout mercifully ended the inning. Rowland-Smith gave up five runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking four and striking out four. He threw 51 strikes out of 86 pitches, got four groundouts to eight flyouts, and faced 25 hitters to get 16 outs. Jakubauskas allowed no runs on one hit in 2/3 inning, walking none and striking out none, but he came in with the bases loaded and all three of those runners scored. He threw 10 strikes out of 17 pitches, got one flyout and one groundout, and faced three hitters to get two outs.
1) Mike Sweeney
This game went a long way in Sweeney's campaign to prove himself not totally worthless. His solo home run with one out in the sixth inning put the Mariners up 5-2. On his follow-through, the bat broke over his back, which was visible in live action right before the view switched to pick up the leftfielder trying to track the ball. Thus, the legend will be of Sweeney hitting a homer so hard he broke his bat, though in reality (and as Mike Blowers pointed out), he probably and inadvertently had some sort of pre-existing crack in the bat before he'd even stepped to the plate. Looking at his game logs, I'd stop short of saying Sweeney's been Russell Branyan awful over the last two months since Branyan gets probably 80% more playing time than Sweeney. Still, Sweeney ended the month of June hitting .263 on the season. Since then, he's gone 7-for-47 (.149) with two home runs (slugging .319) and six RBIs. He's also walked five times and struck out seven times. I know the Mariners are under a new general manager and everything, but in past years, the Mariners haven't seemed to take anywhere close to 40 players in the dugout when the rosters expand in September. If they took something closer to 30, would they cut Sweeney loose to get a young'un or a AAAA player some at-bats?
2) Shawn Kelley
I'll have to admit I was kinda shaky putting him here at number two only because three hits in two innings looks a bit odd. Given the situation, though, he was great. Kelley came in for Jakubauskas and warmed up to the seventh-inning stretch. He allowed only a one-out single to Ryan Raburn in the seventh. In the eighth, he was burned when Thomas bunted himself aboard. Thomas bunted along the third-base side and Jack Hannahan charged and completely whiffed on the barehand attempt. It's just another reminder of how awesome Adrian Beltre is defensively at third base and also a reminder that Beltre would have absolutely totally gotten the out on that play. Then Ramon Santiago, of all people, singled to put two aboard with one out. Luckily Kelley got a lineout from Avila and a pop fly from Polanco to end the threat. Kelley gave up three hits in two shutout innings, walking none and striking out two. He threw 18 strikes out of 24 pitches, got four flyouts, and faced nine hitters to get six outs. Kelley has a five-outing scoreless streak over six innings.
3) Jose Lopez
I'd put him higher if not for the error, though if you actually see video of it, an error on that play is a wee bit harsh. Lopez really had to range over to get to the ball hit by Thomas. Anyway, Lopez delivered the hit that set the Mariners on the fast track to what looked to be a win. His two-run home run in the third inning with Franklin Gutierrez aboard turned a 1-0 Mariner lead into a 3-0 Mariner lead. Better yet, it gave Rowland-Smith a bit of breathing room on the mound, and he responded in the bottom half of the inning by retiring the Tigers in order. When Rowland-Smith got more than three runs to work with, though, that's when it got interesting. Concerning Lopez, he has 16 RBIs in August and we've still got 11 days to go in the month. He seems like a cinch to get 20 RBIs for the month. If he does, he'll finish the month with 77 RBIs on the season. The worst RBI month for Lopez this season was 11 in July. His best was his 20-RBI June. He's also had a couple of 13s in there. The point here is that Lopez should easily get to 90 RBIs for the season. I've said it once already, but 95 RBIs would be a very solid season for Lopez. He does have an outside shot at a 100-RBI season, which would be a very bright spot for this team.
Like I said, he's been a big part of why the Mariners have been able to get so many one-run wins this season. Unfortunately, if he blows a save, there's a good chance the Mariners are losing by one run, and that's exactly what happened in this game. He gave up a leadoff walk to Carlos Guillen to start the downward spiral. Raburn relented from his endless battering of the Mariners by popping out to Johjima. Cabrera was not so kind, drilling a double into the rightfield corner and pushing Guillen to third. Magglio Ordonez was intentionally walked to load the bases and put the double play in order. Inge got under a ball and flew out to center. Gutierrez made the catch in center and appeared to take an extra crow hop on his throw to the plate. That may have been the difference as the ball two-hopped Johjima and got to the plate a wee bit too late, and Guillen scored to make it 6-6. Then Thomas ripped a bal past a diving Branyan at first to end the game. The blown save was Aardsma's second in his last four outings and second in his last three save chances. I blame Major League Baseball's decision to remove the Spartan helmets from the bullpen.
Get ready to warm up some croissants and get all French tomorrow. Maybe some mustard as well.