Saturday, August 29, 2009


Though the Mariners didn't beat the tar out of the Royals tonight, the Royals showed the marks of a bad baseball team. Three plays stick out in particular. One is the play where Mike Sweeney scored from third on a comebacker to the mound, which is just ridiculous. The second play was the one where a runner was on third with two out, and Mark Teahen charged a ball and misjudged the hop, resulting in a run. The third play was the throw to first that Billy Butler just plum had go off his glove. The Royals were charged with two errors in the game, and when you couple that with the Mariner offense scoring six runs, that's a winning recipe for Felix Hernandez even when he doesn't have his A-game. Really, I view the whole thing as karmic payback for when the umpire called Josh Anderson safe at second on a stolen base attempt even though he was out (Anderson later scored). After the loss in the first game of the series, I'm just glad the Mariners were able to right the ship and restore normalcy. The Mariners, while not an incredible team, are a middling team that should be able to eat a bottom-feeder in the standings. An oddity for the night was that Mike Sweeney got the start against the righthanded Brian Bannister. Ichiro again sat out with the strained calf muscle. During the game, Russell Branyan apparently had his back acting up on him, so a four-way replacement happened -- Michael Saunders came in to play leftfield (and took Branyan's lineup spot), Ryan Langerhans moved over to rightfield, Bill Hall moved in to play third, and Jack Hannahan moved over to play first base. All hail versatility!

The Mariners' fourth win in their last five games raised their season record to 67-62 after 129 games. This pace is seven games worse than the 2007 pace, but seven games better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 18 better than 2004, and 20 better than last year. Sixty-seven wins is also four worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, 10 worse than 2002, and 26 worse than 2001. Other records of new-millennium Mariner teams when getting the 67th win: 67-46 in 2000, 67-26 in 2001, 67-42 in 2002, 67-43 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 67-87 in 2005, 67-73 in 2006, 67-52 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went 7-for-33 on the night, walking three times and striking out only eight times (hey!), stemming the double-digit strikeout binge the offense has been on lately. The team also went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. The Mariners are 7-for-54 in the last seven games with runners in scoring position. The only extra-base hit of the night for the Mariners was a Bill Hall double. The only multi-hit Mariner on the night was Mike Sweeney, who had two hits and walked. The 8-9-1 hitters in the Mariner lineup (Ryan Langerhans/Rob Johnson/Franklin Gutierrez) combined to go 0-for-11 with a walk and four strikeouts. The multiple-strikeout Mariner hitters were Jack Hannahan and Langerhans, who both did so twice.

As for Mariner pitching, it was a good night. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Sean White started the eighth inning and came in to protect a 6-3 lead. He sandwiched a groundout with two flyouts, setting down all three hitters he faced. White threw nine strikes out of 15 pitches. David Aardsma allowed a leadoff single to Mike Jacobs, but got the next three hitters out. Aardsma got two flyouts and a strikeout, giving up one hit. He faced four hitters to get three out and threw 12 strikes out of 23 pitches. An interesting note about Aardsma -- he's given up at least one hit in each of his eight save opportunities this month, and he's blown two of those saves. Also interesting is that in every one of Aardsma's blown saves, he's never managed to get the third out before being pulled.

1) Mike Sweeney
You know, the Mariners' righthanded designated hitter had a five-game hitting streak even before Kansas City rolled into town to provide some extra motivation. Sweeney got the start despite the righthandedness of Kansas City's starting pitcher, Brian Bannister. That said, this was one of his best games of the year. It turns out there were some baserunning hijinks again this time, but I guess that's Sweeney for you. Let's go over the anatomy of an awesome day for Sweeney. In the second, with Branyan on first and nobody out, Sweeney singled. He and Branyan moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, and a groundout to the right side by Hall moved both runners another 90 feet and giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Josh Wilson tapped a ball back toward the mound, and Bannister came off the mound to field it. As soon as Bannister rared back to throw to first, Sweeney darted toward the plate, and he slid in just under the tag of former Mariner catcher Miguel Olivo. I immediately declared the night a success for the Mariners since there's no way in hell I'm going to see Sweeney score on a comebacker to the mound ever again. Sweeney then led off the fourth with a single and scored on a single by Josh Wilson. Sweeney popped out to lead off the sixth, then walked with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh to force in the Mariners' sixth and final run of the game, accounting for the final 6-3 margin. So, Sweeney is 11-for-22 over his last six games with four doubles, a home run, and five RBIs.

2) Felix Hernandez
I'm just glad that the walk train seems to have finally come to the end of the line for the Mariners' ace. After walking 14 hitters over his first three starts this August, Felix has walked only two hitters over his last three starts. I threw a stat into one of the posts in the last few days about how the Mariners' starting staff just lost their radar completely after the trade deadline, and Felix was more than part of that loss of control. I don't know if he's quite back to vintage Felix yet, but if he's walking one hitter or no hitters in his starts, then he can't be that far away. Felix now has a record of 13-5 on the year. Mix that in with a stat I heard on the Softy show a week ago, and his record could be even more impressive -- Felix has given up three earned runs or less in all but one of his nine no-decisions. The one exception is a five-inning, five-run start in his second start of the year (at Oakland). I'm not going to sit here and tell you that he should have won all nine of those games and that he should have a record of 22-5 right now (as nice as that'd be). I will say that in a just world, maybe three, four, or maybe even five of those no-decisions should break into the win column for Felix. The guy could have nearly 18 wins right now, and we'd all be screaming Cy Young for the guy. I think the only way he wins the Cy Young is if he runs the table the rest of the year, and even then he'd be up against pitchers on playoff teams. Maybe it's good to keep his price down if the Mariners are trying to re-sign him. Anyway, Felix gave up three runs on five hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out six. He got 11 groundouts to four flyouts (one Mitch Maier home run), faced 27 hitters to get 21 outs, and threw 63 strikes out of 104 pitches.

3) Josh Wilson
The FSN broadcast crew noted that nothing was really wrong with Jack Wilson, but that the team had planned to give Jack Wilson some rest for either this game or Saturday's game. They chose this game. Cue Josh Wilson back into the scheme of things. Since returning to the Mariners on August 13th, Josh Wilson had gone 13-for-38 (.342) with two doubles and three mind-bending home runs, along with five RBIs. He had a six-game stretch where he went 11-for-22 with two doubles and two homers. He didn't go nuts with a multiple-hit barrage in this game, but he did manage to drive in half the Mariners' six runs on the night. The first run he drove in was largely Sweeney's doing since that was the aforementioned play where Sweeney scored from third on a tapper back to the mound. Again, that's insane, and something I'll more than likely never see again. In the fourth, Josh Wilson had his only hit of the game, singling into leftcenter with nobody out to drive in both Hall and Sweeney to blow the game open and put the Mariners up by a 5-1 margin. How do his totally weird numbers look now? In the last half-month, he's gone 14-for-42 (.333) with two doubles, three home runs, and eight RBIs. He's also no slouch defensively. I'll say once more that I don't think Josh Wilson necessarily has a future for this team, but thanks to this last couple weeks, I have to think he'll get significant playing time for some team next year.

Ryan Langerhans
It's just one of those nights where the goat just has to be somebody even though nobody horribly sucked. It just so happens that tonight the goat is the guy who went 0-for-4 and struck out twice. Yes, even the guy that homered to end two games in the span of 18 days isn't immune to wearing the goat horns. Maybe the whole move to rightfield in the fifth inning is what threw him for a loop. He still had two at-bats after that. Anyway, here comes the Langerhans night of futility. He struck out swinging to end the second, though the bases were empty thanks to Sweeney being completely nuts. With Josh Wilson on first and nobody out in the fourth, Langerhans flew out to center. In the sixth, Josh Wilson again was on first, but this time with two out, and Langerhans popped out to second to end the inning. Lastly, Langerhans whiffed with the bases clear and one out in the eighth. While Langerhans didn't have the best night at the plate, it's worth noting that he didn't strand 10 guys on base or anything. It was just one of those nights. He's earned a few of those here and there thanks to those two game-ending home runs.

Maybe Saturday will be a day where the Royals ask what that Snell is. This is where I realize the Mariners have a Snell and used to have a Snelling. Odd.

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