Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I'd be empathetic to anyone out there who sat through Monday's 10-0 drubbing of the Mariners and might have been a little hesitant toward investing two hours of life toward watching Doug Fister attempt to hold the Angels at bay. However, for the brave ones that took a flyer on such a night of Mariner baseball, they were quite rewarded. For as badly as Mariner pitching was torched in the first game of the series, the pitching was just as good in this game. Looks like the Angels maybe should have saved a few runs from the night before for this game or something. This sets up Felix Hernandez throwing in the rubber game of the series on Wednesday afternoon, and apparently Felix is good, the Mariners will be at home, and the Mariners have some kind of weirdly good record in rubber games of series. Also, this game marked the return of Ichiro and Adrian Beltre to the lineup. Also, Jason Vargas and Mike Carp were the recalls from Tacoma on expanded roster day. Tacoma's on a playoff chase, so that's why the callups didn't come by the boatload.

The Mariners snapped a two-game losing streak to run their record to 69-64 after 133 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but six better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 18 better than 2004, and 19 better than last year. Sixty-nine wins is also three worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 26 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records at win number 69: 69-47 in 2000, 69-27 in 2001, 69-42 in 2002, 69-43 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-91 in 2005, 69-75 in 2006, 69-52 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went 7-for-31 on the night, walking once and striking out four times. They went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position (1-for-11 the past three games) and stranded seven runners in all. The top four hitters in the Mariner lineup did all the hitting in this one, combining to go 7-for-15 with a double and two RBIs. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-16 with a walk and two strikeouts. Multi-hit games were turned in by Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, and Mike Sweeney. Gutierrez snapped a two-game hitless streak and hopes to rebound from a .252 August. Jose Lopez drove in the game-winning RBI, which was his 80th RBI on the year. His lowest RBI month of the year was his 11-RBI July, but he's coming off his high-RBI month as he drove in 22 in August. Needless to say, he needs 20 more RBIs to get to 100 for the season, and he has a decent shot, especially if other teams are calling up their minor-leaguers and throwing them on the mound. Adrian Beltre went 0-for-4 in his first game back after Testiclegate, though two of his flyouts drove Bobby Abreu to the warning track in rightfield.

After such a horrid night on Monday, Mariner pitchers had a very good night, allowing only one run to the potent Angel offense. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Mark Lowe came in for Doug Fister, inheriting a runner on second base with one out. Lowe then got key fly balls from pinch-hitter Mike Napoli and Chone Figgins to end the inning. Lowe threw five strikes out of seven pitches. David Aardsma came in to nail down the ninth. He promptly allowed a single to Abreu, but got the next three hitters in order, striking out Kendry Morales to end the game. Aardsma threw 12 strikes out of 17 pitches, getting two flyouts and facing four hitters to get three outs.

1) Doug Fister
How seriously odd. Just five days earlier, I was lamenting aloud about how ironic it was that after shutting down the White Sox and Yankees, Fister's undoing came at the hands of the pathetic Royals. Fast-forward five days, and lo and behold, Fister's doing his thing again, shutting down a juggernaut of an offensive team. His only rough-up was that he gave up a run right after the Mariners got him a 1-0 lead in the first. Fister was also the proud benefactor of double-play balls in the third and fourth innings. The only hitter in the Angel lineup with multiple hits was Maicer Izturis, who drove in their only run. When Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero go hitless, it's probably a good night. Fister gave up one run on five hits in 7 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out two. He threw 70 strikes out of 107 pitches, got nine groundouts to 10 flyouts (decent ratio), and faced 26 hitters to get 22 outs. I guess I'm pretty intrigued when it comes to this guy. Still, I wonder how he'd have done if he was brought up early in the year like Jason Vargas and Garrett Olson. Would the same thing have happened to Fister? Would he have done good to pretty good in the first half and fallen off the cliff in the second half? I don't know how much of a read we can really get on Fister with only a month left in the season.

2) Mike Sweeney
If he keeps hitting, he'll keep getting gameballs. The Mariners' righthanded designated hitter has taken full advantage of the extra playing time resulting from Ken Griffey Jr.'s balky knee. Sweeney has collected hits in nine of his last 10 games, going 16-for-35 (.457) with five doubles, a home run (slugging .686), and eight RBIs. Yes, it's Mike Sweeney, who hadn't been playing most of the time this season with Griffey getting the bulk of the at-bats at designated hitter. Sweeney is a .269 hitter on the season and has been tearing it up for nearly two weeks. He hit .333 in August. I saw some of his postgame chat with Angie Three Names on FSN and the weird thing about Sweeney is that he doesn't look as aged as his birthdate reads until he's at the plate swinging a bat or running the basepaths. It still makes me uncomfortable watching Sweeney swinging a bat, but if he's hitting as well as he is right now, I can't really argue with the results. Maybe there's some unwritten karmic rule that only one out of Russell Branyan and Sweeney can have a mostly healthy back at any one time.

3) Ichiro
I wasn't sure how much longer I could really keep watching this team this year and how much longer I could keep caring without Ichiro in the lineup. He collected hits number 185 and 186 on the year in his first game since August 23rd at Cleveland. This of course leaves him nine hits short of 2000 Major League hits and 14 hits short of his ninth straight 200-hit season. Still, the hits might not yet come at the breakneck speed like they were earlier in the year since it appeared Ichiro's calf was still nagging at him just a tiny bit. One of his hits seemed sufficient enough to at least get an aggressive turn around first base from Ichiro, but he instead merely coasted to the bag. I can't help but think he's not quite 100 percent yet, and Dave Sims and Mike Blowers thought the same thing on the FSNW broadcast. I've dusted off the little Ichiro portion of the Excel table, and it seems he might still be on pace for a 234-hit season. I've wondered a few times this season whether Ichiro could stay in the Majors long enough to get to 3000 Major League hits, then last week I read a Yahoo Sports piece that went one further and thought Ichiro maybe could reach 4000 career hits. I think I'll wait for 3000 and just go from there. Four thousand is so so lofty. He's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer stateside if he gets 3000 hits, that's for sure.

Jack Wilson
Since coming back from the hamstring thing, Jack Wilson has looked better with the bat for the most part. This was not a good night for Jack Wilson at the plate, however. He was the final out in the second inning, though flying out with the bases empty isn't really demoralizing. He was also the final out in the fourth inning with the game tied 1-1, though this time the Mariners had runners at the corners and he flew out to rightfield. He then flew out with Kenji Johjima on first base to end the sixth inning. He was in the hole in the eighth inning when Mike Carp struck out as the final Mariner hitter of the night. What are the odds of that? Jack Wilson got to the plate three times and ended an inning all three times. In an evil way, that's really kind of impressive. At least there's no real complaining about Jack Wilson's defense. You know, now I'm really hoping another team picks up Josh Wilson next year because I'm really tired of typing out both of these guys' first and last names every time I refer to them. I know I can't be the only one who thinks this. Surely the guys in the print media are thinking the same thing.

Time to wrap up the series in the late afternoon with Felix throwing. Let's hope for Dominant Felix.

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