Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Fresh off a loss in a Felix Hernandez start (which totally buzzkilled his whole streak-snapping aura), the Mariners returned home to face their nemesis, the Oakland Athletics. Though the A's aren't what they used to be, to a certain extent you can kind of throw out the record books and everything and just let the teams play baseball. Okay, that's not entirely true since Oakland is kinda rebuilding and going young. Again. Of course, anything I just said pales in comparison to the big news that came before the game, which was that Ichiro would sit with a calf strain. This marked the ninth game Ichiro missed this season. Ichiro played in 157 games in each of his first two seasons in Seattle, and that was his previous low for games played in a season in the Majors. Now he'll finish with 153 at the most. As for other things about the game -- was there a chance in hell that Ian Snell would get his second straight win? The same pitcher that had two of the most awful starts by any Mariner pitcher this year? I guess if Snell could beat any team, it'd be Oakland. Still, there was the argument that if Snell didn't have his control, the Oakland hitters would just sit up there and take all the walks they could get. Jack Cust certainly would do that.

The win by the Mariners ran their record to 64-61 after 125 games. This record is eight wins worse than the 2007 team, but seven wins better than 2006, 11 better than 2005, 17 better than 2004, and 18 better than last year. Sixty-four wins is also six worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2002, 12 worse than 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when grabbing win number 64: 64-46 in 2000, 64-24 in 2001, 64-42 in 2002 and 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 64-81 in 2005, 64-71 in 2006, 64-50 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went 9-for-32 on the night, walking four times and also striking out four times. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners in all as they failed to give Vin Mazzaro the early exit he surely deserved. Extra-base hits were turned in by Lopez (double and home run) and Ken Griffey Jr., who also homered. Multi-hit games were turned in by the aforementioned Lopez and Griffey (two hits apiece), as well as Franklin Gutierrez, who was bumped into the leadoff spot and went 3-for-4 with a walk. The other Mariner getting aboard more than once was Bill Hall, who had a hit and a walk while playing rightfield in place of the calf-strained Ichiro. I should note that Lopez drove in his 76th run of the season, and still has an outside shot at a 100-RBI season.

As for Mariner pitching, I'd have to say if the staff only allows one run, it had to have been a pretty good night. The starting pitcher will be discussed below. Sean White came in and threw the seventh and eighth innings, facing six hitters and retiring them all in order, picking up a strikeout along the way. White threw 16 strikes out of 23 pitches and got three groundouts to two flyouts. David Aardsma picked up save number 29, setting down three straight hitters after allowing a leadoff double by Jack Cust. Elise Woodward on KJR brought up a stat the other day about how Aardsma's last 1-2-3 inning in a save situation was eons ago. Normally I'd be worked up about that, but I can only expect Aardsma to get away with so much when he's trying to repeatedly pump fastballs by people. Anyway, Aardsma threw seven strikes out of 12 pitches, got two flyouts, and struck out one in his inning of work.

1) Ken Griffey Jr.
When the elder statesman/Mariner emeritus has a night like this one, he's pretty much destined for the gameball. It's a guarantee he's here unless Felix Hernandez throws an eight-inning one-hitter or something. In this game, Junior went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run that came in the at-bat after he was hit in the calf with a pitch. Griffey seemed no worse for the wear, obviously, after line-driving his home run over the rightfield wall. The home run came in the fifth and capped the Mariners' scoring. Steve Sandmeyer said on KJR this morning that he'd lost a bet with a friend since Griffey had hit his 13th home run of the year on Sunday. Sandmeyer then revealed that he took the under, with the over-under being 12. When quizzed about this by Mitch Levy, Sandmeyer said he thought Griffey would miss a lot of time. I guess I didn't realize it until it was brought up on the radio, but isn't it massively surprising that Griffey hasn't missed significant time or ended up on the disabled list? Griffey could easily take a spa week or a spa month, and goodness knows if he'll get up this morning since that right calf is probably going to be sore, but it's pretty amazing he hasn't ended up on the DL yet.

2) Franklin Gutierrez
From June 16th to August 12th, Gutierrez didn't got hitless in consecutive games in which he got a full set of at-bats (that's the quirk I have to put in for that game in Detroit where he crashed into the wall and messed up his neck). That's how Gutierrez turned from a .251 hitter to a .300 hitter in just under two months. Then Gutierrez had a couple of goose eggs, one ending the Yankee series and another starting the series against the White Sox. Including his 3-for-4 night with a walk in this game, Gutierrez is 10-for-48 (.208) from August 12th to the present with a double, no RBIs, six walks, 14 strikeouts, and two stolen bases. Gutierrez hasn't had the best week and a half, though the whole re-upheaval of the lineup with Adrian Beltre being injured might have had something to do with it. He hit leadoff in this game and did a great job, but there was also the one time a couple weeks ago where Gutierrez hit second again and Russell Branyan was bumped down in the order. All told, Gutierrez is still hitting .264 for the month, which is above what I expected him to hit for the entire season, so that's a plus.

3) Ian Snell
If Felix Hernandez went six innings and gave up one run, he wouldn't even make it into the gameball section. Ian Snell, however, who has had two horrific starts out of his four overall starts as a Mariner, will land himself into the gameballs if he goes six and mostly averts disaster without walking a ton of hitters. His first hiccup inning came in the third, when he issued both of his walks, but nothing came of it. In fact, Snell somehow took a no-hitter into the fifth, when Daric Barton broke it up with a two-out single. Snell appeared to lose it a bit toward the latter part of the sixth inning. He allowed a single to Kurt Suzuki with two on and two out that broke up the shutout bid. Snell gave up one run on four hits in six innings of work, walking two and striking out two. He threw 60 strikes out of 99 pitches, got seven groundouts to nine flyouts, and faced 24 hitters to get 18 outs. Best of all, Snell wasn't awful and was completely watchable. I guess the next step for Snell now that he's gotten two straight wins is to see if he can stretch out past the sixth inning.

Russell Branyan
Again, I won't try and hash too much over a very terrible error that I never got the chance to see with my own eyes. All I've been hearing was that it was a pretty bad gaffe on a pretty routine play. Instead of two outs and nobody on in the sixth, suddenly Felix Hernandez had a runner on first and one out. Though you'd think this shouldn't affect how Felix goes about his business on the mound, the floodgates opened on Felix. What used to be a one-run deficit for the Mariners at that point became a five-run deficit. It didn't take very long at all, I'm sure. Of course, it wasn't just the back-breaking error that Lopez gave to this game. No, it was also the 0-for-4 with a strikeout. With runners on the corners and two out in the third (Indians up 1-0), Lopez grounded out to end the inning. This team looks to Lopez for RBIs, lest we forget. With the Mariners down 2-1 in the fifth, Lopez had a runner on third and lined out to end the inning. It was not the best day for the Mariners' second baseman. It still doesn't erase his outside shot at a 100-RBI season.
Okay, so the big first baseman had three good games on the road trip. He homered in three straight games, went 5-for-12, drove in five runs, and even drew a couple of walks. He's followed up those three games with two goose eggs. I know Gutierrez was hitting directly in front of him, but there's no way Gutierrez should be able to go 3-for-4 with a walk and score zero times. Part of the blame goes to Branyan. One day, we may figure out just how balky Branyan's back has been since the beginning of July, when his numbers really started taking a nosedive. Maybe it'll be like when you discover so-and-so hockey player didn't skate quite as quickly or didn't have as much of a scoring touch because they'd been skating with a broken heelbone for the last two months or they've been trying to shoot pucks with two broken bones in one of their hands. Anyway, this 0-for-5 night makes Branyan 18-for-90 for the month, a .200 hitter in August. It seems bad, and it is. What's worse is that .200 for August is actually an improvement over his .159-hitting July. That was just all kinds of awful.

We'll see if the Aussie can make the A's 'roo the day they stepped into Safeco Field...

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