Wednesday, August 26, 2009


With the Mariners down 2-1 in the eighth, Franklin Gutierrez walked with one out, and Ken Griffey Jr. came off the bench to pinch-hit for Jack Hannahan. Griffey ended up striking out, though Gutierrez did cross the plate in the inning (thank you, Adam Kennedy). Bill Hall was moved to third base from rightfield, and Ryan Langerhans filled the spot in the outfield. I guess maybe Don Wakamatsu should have cut out the middle man (Griffey) in the eighth? Of course, on the surface, pinch-hitting for lefty Hannahan with lefty Langerhans seems a bit redundant, but Langerhans drove a pitch over the rightfield wall to end a game for the second time in 18 days. Really, he finished the job that Russell Branyan started with that high fly that was caught at the wall by Ryan Sweeney in the ninth. Where are the Mariners now? As I've said a few times in this space, they've been out of the wild-card race since getting swept at home by Cleveland about a month ago. I think what's left is to raise the high-water mark of the season, which is seven games above .500. The Mariners are currently four games above .500.

The extra-inning win raised the Mariners' record to 65-61 after 126 games. This pace is eight wins worse than that of the 2007 team, but it's also eight better than 2006, 11 better than 2005, and 19 better than 2004 and last year. Sixty-five wins is also five worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when netting their 65th win: 65-46 in 2000, 65-25 in 2001, 65-42 in 2002, 65-42 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 65-85 in 2005, 65-73 in 2006, 65-50 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went 8-for-35 on the night, walking three times and striking out a plentiful 13 times, making it the seventh time in the last 12 games that Mariner hitting has amassed double-digit strikeouts in a game. The team also went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. Another flattering stat -- the Mariners are now 0-for-17 in the last three games (and 1-for-27 in the last four games) with runners in scoring position. The only multi-hit Mariner on the night was Franklin Gutierrez, who went 2-for-4 and has gone 5-for-8 with two walks and a stolen base while filling in for Ichiro at the top of the lineup the last two games. The bottom third of the lineup was flummoxed by Oakland pitching, going 2-for-11 on the night while striking out seven times (one walk). Jack Wilson and Michael Saunders both struck out twice, while Bill Hall (who was great defensively) and Kenji Johjima both went for the hat trick and struck out three times. Extra-base hits went to Mike Sweeney, who doubled, and to Branyan and Langerhans, who both homered.

As for the pitching, it's really too bad the starter couldn't come away with the win. He'll be discussed below. Shawn Kelley came into the seventh inning with runners on first and second with one out and with Oakland just having obtained a 2-1 lead. He then got a hot grounder to Branyan at first followed by a flyout to end the threat. In the eighth, he allowed only a two-out single to Nomar Garciaparra, probably because he felt bad for him or something. Kelley gave up one hit and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings. He threw 23 strikes out of 29 pitches, got one groundout to two flyouts, and faced six hitters to get five outs. With the Mariners having tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, David Aardsma threw the ninth to hold the tie, and he threw a rare 1-2-3 inning. He got a flyout, groundout, and strikeout, throwing 11 strikes out of 14 pitches. Finally, Mark Lowe threw a 1-2-3 10th inning, getting a groundout and two pop flies, and throwing six strikes on seven pitches. Hooray bullpen for throwing 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

1) Ryan Langerhans
It's been an interesting month for Langerhans. On August 7th, he homered to end a home game against Tampa Bay. On Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, he made a really long run to catch a fly ball and almost snow-coned it, but then he collided right-shoulderfirst into the leftfield wall. He stayed in the game, probably thinking that if Adrian Beltre can take a hard grounder to the testicle and play five more innings, the least he could do was stay in if he could still move his non-throwing arm. In this game, the legend continued. Hall was moved to third as the defensive replacement for Hannahan in the ninth, and Langerhans was called off the bench to fill Hall's vacant spot in rightfield. Gutierrez got aboard with one out in the eighth inning and Griffey couldn't get a hit in the pinch. The 10th inning came, and Gutierrez got aboard again, this time with a single. Langerhans got ahead 2-0 in the count before falling back to 2-2. Then Craig Breslow threw a pitch that Langerhans found quite opportune, and he drove it over the rightfield wall to end the game. Langerhans has amassed exactly 86 at-bats in his tenure as a Mariner, but I'd have to think he's already contributed more to this team than Mike Morse ever did, and with less substance abuse (though Morse got hit in the minors, but whatever)! Morse's most memorable moment in Seattle might have been when he addressed Mike Hargrove as "Big Dog."

2) Ryan Rowland-Smith
Of the five pitchers in the Mariners' starting rotation, only Doug Fister and the Aussie have managed to record an out in the seventh inning in any of the past seven games. It has been a wee bit rough for the rotation since the trading deadline, and the pressure lies on Rowland-Smith and Felix Hernandez to eat up the innings since Ian Snell, Luke French, and Doug Fister can't really be depended upon to go further than about six innings. Rowland-Smith stumbled out of the gate at first, allowing a double and two singles with two out to stake Oakland out to a 1-0 lead. He then set down the next seven hitters and nine of the next 10 hitters. He got a key groundout with two on and two out to end the fourth. The Aussie made sure a leadoff bunt single that moved to second with one out went for naught in the fifth. After a 1-2-3 sixth, Rowland-Smith nearly lost his bearings in the seventh. He allowed a leadoff double followed by a hard-hit shallow single that put runners on the corners with nobody out. After Cliff Pennington flew out, the Aussie needed only a well-placed grounder to end the inning, but instead, Kennedy dropped a single in front of Hall in rightfield to put Oakland up 2-1 and put Rowland-Smith on the hook, and that hit chased him from the game. Rowland-Smith gave up two runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out one. He got seven groundouts to 11 flyouts (early on it was a heavy flyout-leaning ratio), faced 28 hitters to get 19 outs, and threw 65 strikes out of 98 pitches.

3) Franklin Gutierrez
As I mentioned above, Gutierrez has filled in for Ichiro in the leadoff role the last two nights and has gone 5-for-8 with a walk and a stolen base. It's obvious Gutierrez isn't going to hit leadoff as long as Ichiro is healthy, but it's very nice to see Gutierrez step up when Ichiro isn't around. Endy Chavez filled in admirably in the leadoff role for the first eight games of the season, and now Gutierrez is doing it. He'll have another chance in today's game as well. Gutierrez has had a bit of a rough month at the plate, but is still hitting .275 in August. The guy went nearly three months without going hitless in consecutive games where he didn't get injured in one of them, so we've got to cut him a bit of slack. He had a .300 season average on August 11th, but has gone 12-for-52 (.231) since. He was bound to hit a rough patch at some point, but what causes my pure elation when it comes to Gutierrez is that his rough month still has him hitting .275. This was a guy who I'd have been happy with if he just played awesome defense and hit .240, and now .275 is an off month for him. Yes, the Mariners and their fans have been spoiled with great centerfield play since 1989, with maybe a couple of the post-Cameron years taken out.

Jose Lopez
This is what Lopez does. His longest hitting streak this year is eight games. Instead of putting together a long hitting streak, what Lopez seems to do is rake and have three multi-hit games in a row or get multiple hits in three of four games, then he'll hang up a goose egg. On the last road trip, Lopez had a three-game streak that saw him go 4-for-13 with a double, two home runs, and four RBIs. The game after that, he went 0-for-4 and committed the game-breaking error in Felix Hernandez's start on Sunday. To start the homestand, Lopez went 2-for-3 with a double and a homer and had a great game. In this game, he hung up another goose egg, going 0-for-4. It's unfortunate, since as a leading RBI man on this team, he grounded into a first-pitch double play with two on and nobody out in a 1-1 tied game in the sixth. That was a bit deflating for me, and I'd have to say that if he gets a hit right there, Rowland-Smith probably manages to get a win out of this. Anyway, the caveat applies -- Lopez does this from time to time, but his better games are pretty good games. His worse games are like Sunday's game.

Let's see if French turns the Athletics into foie gras.

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