Thursday, August 27, 2009


In 2001, some Mariner fans tacked the "Two outs...so what?" line onto the team. This game, it was more like "worst record and second-lowest home run total in the American League...so what!" Doug Fister's first three Major League starts proved to be great, and they came against the White Sox, Yankees, and Indians. Obviously, it would then come as no surprise that the horrible Royals would prove to be his undoing. Well, it was a combination of that and Kyle Davies' thing where he's inexplicably better on the road than at home. Thus, the Mariner hitters never got it on track, and the Royals got ahead and never looked back. This game was over in the sixth inning. The weeknight crowds at the games lately have been pretty thin (i.e., under 20000), but it's games like this that really make the crowd seem as thin as the paid attendance figures say it is. While this wasn't the unwatchable baseball the Mariners were playing last year, this really wasn't anything you'd talk about at the watercooler the next day for more than 10 seconds. Did I mention the team needs Ichiro back on the field?

The Mariners had their three-game winning streak snapped and are now at 66-62 after 128 games. This pace is seven games worse than the 2007 mark, but seven games better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 18 better than 2004, and 19 better than last year. Sixty-six wins is also four worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2003, 11 worse than 2002, and 26 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records at 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-35 on the night, walking three times and striking out 10 times. The double-digit strikeouts means Mariner hitting has struck out 10 or more times in four of the last five games and nine times in the last 14 games. They went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. The Mariners are 6-for-48 in the last six games with runners in scoring position. There were three multi-hit Mariners on the night, all three of them getting two hits -- Franklin Gutierrez, Kenji Johjima, and Jack Wilson. The Mariners had only two extra-base hits, one being a Bill Hall double, and the other being Jack Wilson's first Mariner home run. As mentioned, the strikeout train chugged along again. The bottom four hitters in the Mariner lineup combined to go 5-for-16 (not bad) with three RBIs (not bad) and seven strikeouts (yikes). Russell Branyan and Johjima struck out twice apiece while Michael Saunders turned in the hat trick. Saunders has struck out seven times (out of 11 at-bats) in the last three games. In the got-aboard-more-than-once category, Bill Hall doubled and walked, and Jack Hannahan walked twice. While I'm here, I'll just say I bumped Johjima from the gameballs because of his passed ball.

It wasn't the best night for Mariner pitching, that's for sure. The starting pitching will be covered below. Shawn Kelley started the seventh inning with the Mariners down 5-2. He got two quick outs before walking Josh Anderson. He had an 0-2 count on David DeJesus, who homered five pitches later to blow the game open and make it 7-2 for Kansas City. Kelley got the final out of the inning, but the damage was done. Kelley gave up two runs on one hit, walking one and striking out one. He threw 22 strikes out of 33 pitches, and faced five hitters to get three outs. Randy Messenger had a much softer landing this time than in his last outing. He got two quick outs in the eighth, then Alberto Callaspo was gunned down at second by Hall to end the inning after trying to stretch a single into a double. As for the ninth, Brayan Pena one-hopped a ball over the centerfield wall for a double, then went to third on a wild pitch one out later. The Royals' eighth and final run scored on an infield single. Messenger gave up a run on three hits, walking none and striking out one. He got two groundouts and two flyouts, faced eight hitters to get six outs, and threw 19 strikes out of 33 pitches.

1) Jack Wilson
I guess I've figured out the solution -- I give Jack Wilson the goat, and the next night he does awesome. The Mariners' starting shortstop was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in the game, though he still slipped a couple strikeouts in there to keep everyone honest. Okay, and the home run was in the ninth when not even I cared what was going on in the game, and my ears kinda perked up when I heard Dave Sims' voice rising in tone and getting louder. Jack Wilson had look out of sorts at the plate over the last coming back from his injury, but tonight he showed he is indeed worth something at the plate and hasn't totally lost it at the plate. He's apparently going to wait a while before he realizes he's a National League guy on an American League team in Seattle, at which point he'll immediately hit .220, but the Mariners won't really face the music and move him since they have so much money tied up in him. Wait, this is supposed to be a gameball paragraph... The best part about Jack Wilson having a night like this is that I don't have to wonder whether Josh Wilson could have done the same thing. I think maybe we should ask Jack Wilson if he can go back to Pittsburgh and sort of make off with that one Vince Lombardi trophy and put it in Renton where it belongs.

2) Bill Hall
He's being billed as versatile and as a very good athlete, and he's done nothing so far to dispute either of those claims. In only six games as a Mariner, Hall has already appeared at third base, leftfield, and now rightfield the last couple nights. In this game, he went 1-for-3 with a walk (and a strikeout) and an outfield assist when he gunned down Callaspo trying to stretch a single into a double. He is not chop liver defensively, that's for sure. I'm intrigued as to what this guy can do over a full season against American League pitching. Hopefully it'll be better than what Adrian Beltre did in his first full year against American League pitching. Needless to say, Hall will never be a better defender at any position as Beltre is at third, so that's probably a wash. One hilarious thing is that this is the Royals' only trip into Seattle this season, and Willie Bloomquist sat the bench in the first game of the series. The other hilarious thing? Hall is probably going to be all kinds of better than Bloomquist. Hall could turn out way better than Mark McLemore, even (yes, I know Hall's shown good home-run power in the past). Intriguing, it is.

3) Franklin Gutierrez
Maybe I could say that the Mariners' centerfielder is pulling an Endy Chavez at the plate? Much like Chavez filled in admirably in the leadoff spot for Ichiro, Gutierrez is doing the same. Gutierrez has been in the leadoff slot the last four games and has gone 8-for-17, turning him into a .292 hitter from his previous .289. I guess maybe the bad thing is that he was gunned down in the first inning trying to stretch a single into a double. That's really too bad, because I was going to launch into the whole diatribe about how Gutierrez is feeling all the crappiness that Ichiro feels when he gets on base and doesn't get driven in because the rest of the lineup sucks. Anyway, he went 2-for-5 in this game, with one of the hits being the one where he was thrown out at second. The other hit was his RBI single in the fifth, which pulled the Mariners to within a run at 3-2. I'll tell you what's a bit worrisome for me about Gutierrez -- it's his power drought this month. He homered in consecutive games in the Tampa Bay series, but those are his only dingers of the month. He's gone homerless in the last 17 games and hasn't had an extra-base hit of any kind in the last 10 games. This was a guy who I thought had a pretty good chance at 20 homers. Now he has an outside shot at 20 homers. He ended July with 12 homers on the season. He's at 14 right now.

Doug Fister
Maybe it's just a surprise that Fister hasn't been in this paragraph yet. It wasn't until his fourth Major League start (fifth Major League appearance) that Fister finally experienced some growing pains and landed himself in the goat entry. In his first and third starts, he showed a heavy tendency toward groundouts. In his start in Yankee Stadium in between, he leaned toward flyouts, but I think that's more because everything in that new place is weird and crazy. In this start against Kansas City, Fister got seven groundouts and six flyouts. While that ratio's good for most pitchers, for Fister it probably wasn't. Sure, he got six flyouts, but three other fly balls went over the outfield walls. It should be noted, however, that no windows, females, or skeet were involved. Now that I've got that completely unnecessary pop culture reference out of the way, it really was too bad that of all teams, the Royals had to be the team to take Fister to the woodshed. It's not like I expect this team to sniff anywhere near the top of the wildcard standings, but this team hasn't had a winning streak longer than three games since the original six-game winning streak that vaulted them to 7-2 back in April. Damn. All told, Fister gave up five runs on five hits, walking one and striking out five in six innings of work. He got seven groundouts to six flyouts, faced 24 hitters to get 18 outs, and threw 57 strikes out of 86 pitches.

I'm normally jazzed when it comes to Felix Hernandez starting the next day, but lately a win with him on the mound isn't a lock like it used to be. Not when the freakin' Royals are turning the Safe into a launch pad.

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