Saturday, August 22, 2009


There have been some pretty disconcerting losses lately. Granted, this one didn't involve blowing a 6-2 lead and having the other team scoring the final five runs of the game, but it was still disappointing. It was disappointing because the Mariners had opportunities to break the 3-3 tie late in the game. They had a runner on third with nobody out in the eighth, had a leadoff walk in the ninth, and had a leadoff double and a man on third with one out in the 10th. Also, though he's not the goat, this game wasn't Michael Saunders' finest hour -- he lost a ball in the lights in the seventh, and that runner ended up scoring the tying run after he obstructed Franklin Gutierrez, who was trying to nail the runner at the plate. Then Saunders popped out on a bunt attempt in the ninth after the leadoff hitter got aboard. The latest roster more involved Chris Jakubauskas and his iffy shoulder being optioned to Tacoma and Randy Messenger being called up in his place. Oddly, Cleveland in a way shot the Messenger to end this game.

The Mariners have alternated wins and losses for the last seven games and have lost six of nine, leaving their record at 63-60 after 123 games. That record is eight 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 the 2000 pace, 11 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting loss number 60: 71-60 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 84-60 in 2002, 82-60 in 2003, 38-60 in 2004, 46-60 in 2005, 56-60 in 2006, 73-60 in 2007, and 38-60 last year.

Seattle hitting went 11-for-42 in the game, walking three times and striking out seven times. They also were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. Hitless starters included Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, and Kenji Johjima (ouch to all). Multi-hit Mariners were Bill Hall (two hits), Mike Sweeney (three), and Josh Wilson (three). Jose Lopez doubled and Sweeney doubled twice, while Russell Branyan homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. Hall struck out twice, and Branyan outdid him by striking out three times for the hat trick.

Mariner pitching did pretty well tonight. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Mark Lowe came into the game with one out in the seventh and two runners in scoring position. Andy Marte hit a fly ball to leftcenter, and Luis Valbuena tagged up at third. Franklin Gutierrez was able to get to the ball and made the catch, but had to throw on the brakes a bit while trying to make his throw because Michael Saunders cut in front of him as he made the catch. That may have been the difference between an out and a tie game. What resulted was a 3-3 tie. Lowe got Grady Sizemore to fly out and end the inning, and Lowe threw a 1-2-3 eighth inning as well. Lowe, tagged with the blown save due to the sacrifice fly, gave up no runs or hits in 1 2/3 innings, walking and striking out none. He threw 15 strikes out of 23 pitches, got one groundout to four flyouts, and faced five hitters to get five outs. Shawn Kelley allowed only a hit batter with two out in the ninth and a two-out walk in the 10th. Kelley gave up no runs or hits in two innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 19 strikes out of 30 pitches, got one groundout to two flyouts, and faced eight hitters to get six outs. New call-up Randy Messenger got two quick outs before throwing a 2-0 pitch in the wrong spot to former Mariner Valbuena, who tagged it inside the rightfield foul pole to end the game. Messenger gave up one run on one hit in 2/3 inning, walking and striking out none. He threw six strikes out of nine pitches and got a groundout and a flyout. He faced three hitters and got two outs, but really could have used that third out.

1) Josh Wilson
The guy's not Jack Wilson. My, what a week and change this has been for Josh Wilson. He continued it again in this game, going 3-for-4 with a walk. Since his return to the Mariners, Josh Wilson has gone 13-for-33 (.394) with two doubles, three home runs (slugging .727), and five RBIs. Without taking the time to pour through the game logs of Yuniesky Betancourt and Ronny Cedeno, I'll go out on a limb and say this is the best nine-game span that any Mariner shortstop has had at the plate this season. It's definitely better than what what Cedeno was putting out there on a nightly basis. I guess maybe it's fun because I expected absolutely nothing out of this guy. I seem to remember calling him the Luis Ugueto of this roster when he was up with the Mariners the first time. Now, he's turning dividends, and with Jack Zduriencik showing he can get value out of just about anything on this team, maybe when Josh Wilson gets shuffled off this roster, the Mariners can get something of value for him. This team might be treading water right now, but it's still a fun time to be a Mariner fan.

2) Mike Sweeney
In the last three games, the Mariners' righthanded designated hitter has gone 6-for-11 with two doubles, a home run, and three RBIs. After hitting a brutal .125 in a July that was infested with back injuries (only 24 at-bats), Sweeney is 9-for-31 (.290) so far in August. Oddly, it seems Sweeney's awesomeness is an every-other-month thing -- he hit .308 in April, .182 in May, .323 in June, .125 in July, and is now at .290 in August. Luckily the rosters expand in September, because if Sweeney sucked with a 25-man roster next month, I'd seriously think about cutting him. Instead, he'll be around to mentor any and all call-ups that come into the dugout. I really wish I could have watched more of this guy while he was in his prime, though. I wish I could remember what it looked like when he could tattoo a ball and it wouldn't look uncomfortable. He had six 20-homer seasons, for goodness' sake, and he had five .300 seasons. He also drove in 100 runs twice. In his prime, he walked just about as much as he struck out. Does someone have a Sweeney highlight reel on YouTube? It might be worth watching.

3) Doug Fister
I know he just made his first appearance on August 8th, and I know this start was only his third start in the Majors, but the guy hasn't had an awful start yet. I guess what's odd with this start compared to his last start was that against the Yankees last Sunday, his outs were heavily flyout-heavy. In this start and his first start, he's gotten a ton of groundouts. In his first start against the White Sox, Fister got nine groundouts to five flyouts. In this game against the Indians, Fister got 13 groundouts to two flyouts. Fister stood to get the win when he left the game, though the events leading up to his getting pulled were unfortunate. The seventh inning started with Valbuena hitting a fly ball that should have been caught by Saunders in left, but he lost the ball in the lights. Thus, a hustling Valbuena ended up on second base. Kelly Shoppach then squared up to bunt and was hit with a pitch by Fister. At least it got the double play in order, I guess. Then Matt LaPorta twice failed on bunt attempts, but ended up with a swinging bunt that Fister fielded. Then Lowe came in and gave up a fly ball and that weird stuff took place in the outfield. Fister gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits in 6 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out four. He threw 59 strikes out of 86 pitches and faced 26 hitters to get 19 outs.

I guess if there's one good thing going into Sunday's game, it's that if Ichiro went hitless in this game, he'll definitely get a hit on Sunday. He hasn't gone hitless in consecutive games this season. Even with an 0-for-5 in this game, he's still hitting .344 for the month. He led off the seventh with a groundout, which I guess is a situation where you'd like him to ignite the offense. In the ninth, with Josh Wilson having led off the inning with a walk, Ichiro struck out swinging for the second out. In the 11th, he was the Mariners' final out with Saunders on first. Maybe it's a bit odd that Ichiro didn't come up in some more clutch situations, but you still like to see him get aboard. Maybe if he gets on, Gutierrez gets more hittable pitches, I don't know. All I know is that if Ichiro gets a couple of hits and not just a walk, maybe he's on a couple more times, and two more baserunners could have meant anything in this game. They only lost by one. Hey, notice how the Mariners have been losing one-run games lately instead of winning them?

Iron Fister in this game means Felix the next day.

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