Friday, August 21, 2009


Fresh off a series in which they could have easily swept the Tigers (but definitely should have taken two of three), the Mariners moved over to Cleveland for the weekend. This game marked the Mariner debut of new acquisition Bill Hall, who played in leftfield, though apparently will play third base tomorrow. Though we've gotten quite used to it over the last five seasons, it's the time of year where you start not caring so much about the wins and losses, but rather the little things. You might watch a player or two and they tease you into thinking they could be awesome next year. You might see Ichiro make a crazy play that justified the two and a half hours you spent in front of the television watching the Mariners lose (or get pasted, if this were last year). You might watch Russell Branyan vaporize a baseball using only a bat. The playoffs are far out of reach, but there are still things to make watching the Mariners on a nightly basis worthwhile, and as long as there isn't Seahawk football to interfere with it, I'll totally continue watching the Mariners.

The Mariners have alternated wins and losses for the last six games, and this win bumped their record up to 63-59 after 122 games. This pace is seven games worse than the 2007 pace, but seven better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, and 17 better than 2004 and last year. Sixty-three wins is also six wins worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 24 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting win number 63: 63-46 in 2000, 63-24 in 2001, 63-41 in 2002, 63-40 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 63-81 in 2005, 63-69 in 2006, 63-49 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went an awesome 14-for-38 on the night, walking four times and striking out three times. They went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. They had six extra-base hits in the game, but unlike last night, they had other supplementary hits and were able to win this game. Doubles went to Ichiro, Josh Wilson, and Bill Hall. Home runs were hit by Josh wilson, Jose Lopez, and Russell Branyan. Jack Hannahan and Rob Johnson were the only hitless Mariners. Ichiro oddly was the only one-hit Mariner. Lopez, Mike Sweeney, Branyan, Hall, and Josh Wilson all had two hits apiece. Franklin Gutierrez went 3-for-5. He singled with one out in the third and later scored the Mariners' second run to make it 2-1. That single was the first of three straight that went right past shortstop. He also singled to plate Ichiro with one out in the fourth to make it 5-1. The final hit for Gutierrez was a leadoff single in the ninth, and he ended up scoring the final Mariners' run of the game to make it 9-4. Lopez singled in the third inning to follow Gutierrez, but then turned on a pitch in the fourth and drove it inside the foul pole in leftfield for a homer to break the game open and make it 7-1. Mike Sweeney drew a leadoff walk in the second and scored after some baserunning hijinks. He singled to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead in the third, and he also singled in the ninth to push Gutierrez to third with one out.

As for the pitching, it wasn't bad. Luke French didn't knock anyone's socks off, but he threw six serviceable innings. He struck out Grady Sizemore with runners on the corners and two out (one run in) in the second, though admittedly striking out Sizemore is easier this year. French got a key strikeout to end a fourth inning that had runners on first and second with two out. The true disaster aversion came when the Indians had runners on first and second with one out and had already scored in the fifth to make it 7-2. Peralta grounded to Hannahan past the bag at third to start a 5-3 double play to end the inning. French got touched up for another run in the sixth, but he never had the floodgate-exploding inning. French gave up three runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out six. He threw 66 strikes out of 100 pitches, got three groundouts to nine flyouts, and faced 28 hitters to get 18 outs. The Mariners went into the seventh-inning stretch leading 8-3, which meant it was the perfect time to put in Miguel Batista. He gave up a one-out single to Asdrubal Cabrera followed by a Shin-Soo Choo double that scored Cabrera to make it 8-4. Those were the two hits he gave up, and his one-out walk in the eighth was erased on a double-play ball. Batista gave up one run on two hits, walking one and striking out none. He threw 13 strikes out of 26 pitches, getting four groundouts to two flyouts, and facing eight hitters to get six outs. Lastly, Sean White allowed only a two-out single in the ninth, throwing eight strikes out of 12 pitches.

1) Russell Branyan
I really hope this game is a turning point for him. He went 2-for-3 with two walks (and a strikeout), driving in two runs. Boxscore-wise, this was easily the best game Branyan has had since May 18th. You'd have to look back to that game against the Angels to find a similar combination of walks, extra-base hits, and a multi-hit game for Branyan. One interesting note before I go further -- Branyan hasn't had a multi-homer game this season. Thus, he's homered 29 times in 29 different games. First off, Branyan followed up Sweeney's leadoff walk with one of his own in the second. He walked again to load the bases in the third with one out, but struck out to end the fourth. Then Branyan would get some hits. Branyan obliterated a Tomo Ohka pitch and sent it high into the night, depositing it well into the seats in rightfield to make it 8-3 in the seventh. Branyan also legged out an infield single in the ninth to drive in Gutierrez with the final Mariner run to make it 9-4. It wasn't a two-homer, two-double night for Branyan, but it was nice to see he could pound the ball and still take a couple walks just two nights after he struck out four times in a game.

2) Bill Hall
It was a good Mariner debut for the newest Mariner. Playing leftfield, Hall made an immediate impact in his first at-bat as a Mariner, driving in Sweeney (albeit hesitantly on Sweeney's part) for the first run of the game. He drove in another run in his second at-bat, flying out with the bases loaded to score Lopez and make it 3-1. His final hit of the night was a gapper in the seventh that came right after Branyan's home run. Defensively, Hall had a bobble or two in the outfield, but maybe it's jitters or maybe he'll just be playing more infield in the future. Still, the contact he made at the plate tonight left me pretty impressed. As brought up on the broadcast, he has a bit of a hitch in his swing, but if he can lay the lumber on the ball, I can sort of ignore the hitch. This is a guy that has had a 30-homer season at the big-league level before, so we know the potential is there. We also know he's dropped off the face of the earth since, but the price to see if they can turn him around again was basically nothing, so why the hell not?

3) Josh Wilson
Looks like this Wilson will have to enjoy the hell out of these next couple days before Jack Wilson comes back from the hamstring injury. Still, the reports a few days ago were that Jack Wilson was going to come back in the Cleveland series, but it seems like his return date just keeps getting pushed further and further away. If we still get to see inexplicably worthwhile hitting out of Josh Wilson, however, I'm fine with it. This guy may eventually get pushed off the roster, but he's had a very good week and change, which I'd have to think has impressed someone around the Majors looking for a spare part to piece out their roster. The Mariners' other shortstop named Wilson went 2-for-4 on the night with a double (he nearly got the triple but was gunned down) and a home run. Since coming back to the big club, he has gone 10-for-29 (.345) with two doubles, three home runs (slugging .700), and five RBIs. I can't believe this is the same guy I thought was a waste of a roster spot not too long ago. It's like having the good version of Ronny Cedeno, except without the unfulfilled hype about him possibly being your Opening Day starter back in April.

Jack Hannahan
He turned a key double play that totally bailed out Luke French in the fifth inning, but apart from his count-working ability at the plate, that was about it for his worthy contributions for the night. He had by far the worst boxscore line of the night, going 0-for-5 and striking out twice. Also, there's a number seven in the left-on-base column next to his name. He left four runners in scoring position with two out. His night at the plate started in the second inning when he lined out to first base and Hall was doubled off of first. Hannahan then flew out with runners on first and second to end the third inning. He grounded out to second with the bases empty and one out in the fifth. He whiffed with Hall on third and two out to end the seventh. Finally, he whiffed with two runners in scoring position to end the ninth. Hall's playing third tomorrow, and at the very least that means a platoon situation for Hannahan, if not a bigger cut in playing time. Hannahan's lefthandedness guarantees he'll get at least some playing time, but the Mariners want to see what they have in Hall.

Saturday night's all right for fighting with the Iron Fister.

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