Wednesday, August 26, 2009


How do we know the Oakland Athletics are officially having a bad year? They're having a bad year when the Mariners can sweep them at home. They'd be having a horrible year if the Mariners swept them in Oakland. Anyway, the Mariners completed the sweep in this game by getting ahead early and hanging on until the end. Really, that sounds more like the 2000-2001 recipe for Mariner wins. One of the stats the television broadcast rolled out tonight was that the Mariners are tied with the Yankees for the league lead in walk-off wins with 11. That's 11 out of the Mariners' 66 wins coming in the final at-bat, and as a Mariner fan, I'm really not used to those kinds of wins happening that often. Tonight's game was almost a polar opposite of a walk-off win. Of course, the Mariners should buy Rajai Davis a nice big steak dinner for the two fly balls he had go off his glove, one of which led directly to scoring for Seattle. Thank you kindly, Rajai Davis. Finally, I'm not sure what exactly Mariner third-base coach Bruce Hines was thinking tonight -- he gambled badly twice and got lucky once. With two out in the second and Rob Johnson on second, Franklin Gutierrez singled hard into rightfield. Hines sent Johnson (catcher, though fast for a catcher) home, and it was so obvious the play wasn't even going to be close. Johnson was out by about 15 feet. The Mariners were up 2-0 at that point, but the game ended up getting closer, so that run could have been very important. As for the second time, the fifth Mariner run (insurance) came when Mike Sweeney singled with Lopez on second and two out. Hines sent Lopez home, and the throw had Lopez beat, but luckily it was wide, or else Lopez would have been out by 10 feet. I guess Bruce Hines realized he worked in Seattle and shared a name with Hines Ward or something.

The Mariners' third straight win (i.e., sweep of Oakland) bumped their record up to 66-61 after 127 games. This pace is seven games worse than the 2007 pace, but eight better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 19 better than 2004, and 20 better than last year. Sixty-six wins is also four worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when obtaining win number 66: 66-46 in 2000, 66-25 in 2001, 66-42 in 2002 and 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 66-86 in 2005, 66-73 in 2006, 66-50 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went 8-for-31 on the night, walking three times and striking out 10 times, making it the third time in the last four games and the eighth time in the last 13 games that Mariner hitting has piled up double-digit strikeouts in a game. The Mariners snapped their three-game hitless drought with runners in scoring position, managing to go 3-for-13 in this game. This makes them 4-for-40 with runners in scoring position over the last five games. Two Mariners racked up multiple hits on the night as Jose Lopez and Mike Sweeney got two hits apiece. As for people getting aboard more than once, Jack Hannahan went 1-for-2, walked twice, and score three of the Mariners' five runs. Sweeney, Rob Johnson, Hannahan, and Lopez all doubled, and Lopez added a home run. I mentioned the strikeout plethora, and that again was anchored by the bottom of the lineup as Jack Wilson struck out three times for the hat trick, and Michael Saunders liked the strikeout so much he did it twice. Other than the last two hitters I mentioned, only Russell Branyan went hitless, going 0-for-3 with a walk in the sixth spot in the lineup.

As for Mariner pitching, it wasn't a bad night at all. Luke French only walked one hitter this time out after walking three in his last start. It's not just about French, though, it's about the entire Mariner staff, who had walked a lot of hitters lately. In the last five games (i.e., one trip through the rotation), Mariner starts have walked a total of four hitters. In the previous turn in the rotation, Mariner starts walked 11 hitters. In the turn before that, the rotation walked 16 hitters. In the turn previous to that, Mariner starts walked 25 hitters (Jason Vargas issued the first three walks). August has been a walk party for the Mariners' starting pitchers, but luckily it appears to be tapering off a bit. In the third, French allowed a couple of one-out singles, but quelled the threat. In the fourth, he threw a pretty high-and-tight pitch on which Jack Cust somehow got around and hit a high-arc majestic home run to pull Oakland to a 3-1 deficit. French stranded Ryan Sweeney on second after a leadoff double in the fifth. French's real trouble came in the sixth, when Davis got aboard and Kurt Suzuki mashed a homer off the concrete bullpen divider in leftcenter. French got two more outs before walking Mark Ellis to bring Don Wakamatsu out with the hook. French wasn't being yanked on pitch count, but rather the fact that Wakamatsu wasn't going to let French possibly take a loss if something happened with Ryan Sweeney. It's too bad since he pretty much cruised through the first five innings. French gave up three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out four. He got three groundouts to 10 flyouts, threw 53 strikes out of 86 pitches, and faced 24 hitters to get 17 outs. Miguel Batista then finished off that inning and threw a 1-2-3 seventh, proving himself to be worth a modicum of my give-a-damn. He threw eight strikes out of 10 pitches, got three flyouts and struck out one, and retired all four hitters he faced. Mark Lowe gave up a leadoff single in the eighth before retiring the next three hitters. He threw nine strikes out of 14 pitches and got a grounder and two flyouts with his four hitters. Lastly, David Aardsma made for a dicey ninth. The first two hitters got aboard with singles before Aardsma caught the next two hitters looking and got a groundout from Adam Kennedy to end it.

1) Jose Lopez
Last night I had Lopez in the goat entries, though mentioning all the caveats when it comes to Lopez. He doesn't just tear it up and go on long streaks for 15 games at a time. His approach is more like having four awesome games, then hanging up a goose egg. While I'm not entirely sure this game would qualify as stupendously awesome, Lopez went 2-for-4 in the game with a double, a home run, and two RBIs. He also scored the two Mariner runs that Jack Hannahan didn't score. After Hannahan drew a one-out walk in the first, Lopez saw the right pitch from Gio Gonzalez and blasted it to the back of the Mariner bullpen in leftcenter to open the scoring (putting the Mariners up 2-0) and giving Luke French a good bit of breathing room. He followed a leadoff Hannahan walk in the fifth with a double to push Hannahan to third. He struck out looking after Hannahan led off the third with a double. He also hit the second fly ball that Davis had go off his glove in the game, this one coming in the seventh. The two runs batted in for Lopez give him 78 for the season. He has 21 for the month, which is now his highest RBI month of this season, with five days left to go in August. If he gets any more RBIs in the next five days, he'll gave a decent shot at ending the season with 100 RBIs, especially since some of the teams the Mariners face will be trotted out their AAAA pitchers for cups of coffee. Lopez is hitting .279 and slugging .519 for the month.

2) Mike Sweeney
I guess it's the fact that Sweeney plays sparingly that makes me surprised that he's quite a few notches above worthless when it comes to contributing. In the boxscore for the game, he shows as going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, along with a strikeout. In the first, he followed the Lopez home run with a long drive to center that Davis had, but it went off the pinkie finger of his glove, and Sweeney got a double out of it. With one out in the third and Hannahan on second, Sweeney flew out to right on a 2-0 pitch. With two runners in scoring position and nobody out in the fifth, Sweeney whiffed on a breaking ball down and in and was not pleased with himself. Finally, in the seventh, the Mariners had Lopez on second after the Davis gaffe, and Sweeney drove him home with that single, though I guess Sweeney can thank Hines' craziness for the RBI on that play. Again, despite playing sparingly, Sweeney's having a bit of a hot streak lately, going 9-for-19 in his last five games with four doubles, a home run, and four RBIs. He's hitting .308 and slugging .564 so far in August. Who says they're the Dog Days? That's preposterous talk.

3) Bill Hall
He has an obvious hitch to start off his swing, but it looks like he just lays into the ball and drives through it. In five games wearing a Mariner uniform, Hall has gone 6-for-19 (.316) with a double and four RBIs. I guess maybe only the one walk to seven strikeouts might be concerning somewhere down the line, but right now it looks like the Mariners may have a versatile player who can not only defend and hit, but can put a licking on the ball. The guy's displayed massive power in the past, though that was in Milwaukee and everything. It might be sad that the Mariners might be kicking the best third baseman they've ever had to the curb, but I guess that may be tempered by the notion that if Hall turns into anything at all, the benefit-cost ratio would be so radically in the Mariners' favor that it'd make the Adrian Beltre signing look like a complete joke. They'd go from high-dollar productive third baseman to bargain-basement productive third baseman. Of course, going too far along that line of thinking would be akin to putting the cart before the horse and everything, so I'll just stop it with that. For the record, I really liked the Beltre signing at the time, and I'm pretty sure you can go back to that offseason in the Sports and B's archive and find that I did.

Jack Wilson
This is getting weird. Jack Wilson goes down, and Josh Wilson fills the spot. Then Josh Wilson hits like we'd expect a healthy Jack Wilson to hit. Now Jack Wilson has come back from his hamstring injury. The problem is, now Jack Wilson is hitting how we'd imagine a normal Josh Wilson to hit. This is a bit ridiculous. I know it reeks of small sample size, but Jack Wilson has gone 1-for-12 since coming back and has struck out six times. Granted, he wasn't exactly tearing the American League on fire after getting to the Mariners, but in this Oakland series he looked out of sorts at the plate. I don't know if he's got to work out the kinks in his swing (he last played August 12th before this series) or if the hamstring thing is affecting something in the foundation of his swing. Something doesn't seem right watching Jack Wilson at the plate. That Josh Wilson, though, that there guy has a swing that could put a ball onto Royal Brougham. That guy should be the everyday shortstop over this hack Jack Wilson. This Josh Wilson's an all-star, and his number 16's going to hang from the rafters at Safeco Field. Yee-haw! Okay, so we know Jack Wilson will get every chance in the future and next spring to be the Mariners' starting shortstop because they've got too much money invested in the guy. I think Josh Wilson could play himself into a crappy starting lineup next year though. Someone out there had to have been watching over the past two weeks.

Looks like the Iron Fister will try to knock the crowns off the Royals.

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