Friday, September 04, 2009


Fresh off the ridiculousness of Felix Hernandez on Wednesday, the Mariners flew down to Oakland for a four-game series. The first game had Ian Snell gunning for his fourth straight win. The short answer is that he indeed got the fourth straight win, but the journey there was a bit rough, and frankly, he didn't have a good start. The Mariner offense saved him (my goodness, I'm really typing this) via the long ball. Six of the Mariners' seven runs on the night came via their three home runs. This win pushed the Mariners to seven games above .500, matching their high-water mark of the year back when they were 51-44 in late July. A win on Friday night will set a new high-water mark for the year (eight games above .500) and will get the Mariners a four-game winning streak. The Mariners haven't had a winning streak longer than three games since the original six-game streak that propelled them to an early 7-2 record in April and fed the fountains of eternal optimism. Since the season has an even number of games, the Mariners can't play .500 ball the rest of the way, so a 14-13 finish would make their season end at 85-77, which would be a mere 24-game turnaround from last year. It's been quite the season, that's for sure.

The Mariners' third straight win and eight in 11 games pushed their season record to 71-64 after 135 games. This pace is two games worse than the 2007 pace, but seven better than 2006, 13 better than 2005, 19 better than last year, and 20 better than 2004. Seventy-one wins is also two worse than 2000, seven worse than 2003, eight worse than 2002, and 25 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting their 71st win: 71-58 in 2000, 71-27 in 2001, 71-44 in 2002, 71-46 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 71-78 in 2006, 71-52 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went a stellar 10-for-35 on the night, walking twice and striking out four times. The team went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position (2-for-21 in the last five games) and stranded five runners in all. The multi-hit Mariners were Bill Hall, Mike Carp, and Kenji Johjima, all with two hits. Adrian Beltre and Carp doubled, while Franklin Gutierrez, Hall, and Johjima homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. Gutierrez got two of his three RBIs on the home run, but the third was on a bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt in the ninth. Ichiro walked and got a single for his 189th hit of the season, putting him six away from 2000 Major League hits and 11 away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. The third and fourth hitters in the Mariner lineup, Jose Lopez and Ken Griffey Jr., combined to go 0-for-9 on the night with two strikeouts. Also, Don Wakamatsu has concluded that Jack Wilson's bad enough with the bat that now he's batting ninth.

For the pitching as a whole, I guess it wasn't too bad for the Mariners. Ian Snell did about as bad as a pitcher could do without completely imploding. He threw a boatload of pitches in the first inning, but the Athletics somehow only scored two runs, and those runs never eclipsed the Mariners' four-spot from the first inning. Well, maybe Oakland would have scored an extra run in the first if Adam Kennedy didn't make a boneheaded baserunning move and take off for the plate on a bouncer to third base. Snell gave up three hits and a walk en route to two runs in the first. In the second, Snell gave up a leadoff single but got a double-play ball from the next hitter. Snell then gave up two singles and looked to have a grounder to end the inning, but Jack Wilson somehow airmailed Jose Lopez on what should have been an underhand toss to second base for the final out. Amazingly, Snell rebounded with a 1-2-3 third inning. Amazingly, three of Snell's four walks came in his final two innings, and he was done giving up runs by then. Snell gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings, walking four and striking out four. He got six groundouts to five flyouts, threw 59 strikes out of 107 pitches, and faced 26 hitters to get 15 outs. Chris Jakubauskas threw the next two innings and did well, giving up one hit but striking out three. His other three outs were via the flyout. The Lithuanian Laser threw 18 strikes out of 32 pitches and faced seven hitters to get six outs. Mark Lowe was taken yard by Daric Barton in the eighth, but he struck out two other hitters and got a flyout. He threw ten of 11 pitches for strikes, facing four hitters to get three outs. Finally, David Aardsma nearly had a 1-2-3 save, but Jack Cust's grounder to second went off the glove of Lopez and into rightfield. Aardsma took care of the final out himself, striking out Kurt Suzuki to end it. Aardsma threw eight of 10 pitches for strikes.

1) Kenji Johjima
The Mariners' black-sheep catcher turned in his best boxscore line since August 16th, when he doubled and homered against the Yankees. He led off the second with a groundout, but then Johjima started swinging the bat. With one out and the Mariners leading 4-3 in the fourth, Johjima got hold of a pitch and drove it out of the yard to leftcenter, expanding the Mariners' lead to 6-3. He also walked with a man on second and two out in the sixth and singled with one on and nobody out in the ninth. The home run for Johjima, his seventh of the season, was his fourth in a span of less than a month. Rob Johnson's hit two home runs the entire season despite getting the bulk of the playing time behind the plate. At least Johnson has hit .261 since July 1st, though he's a .221 hitter for the season. I wonder just how conclusive we can be about this season when it comes to Johjima. When the Mariners' rotation was healthy and clicking (as short a time as it was), Don Wakamatsu thre Rob Johnson behind the plate for all the good pitchers' starts (Hernandez, Washburn, Bedard) and put Johjima behind the plate for the scraps (Jakubauskas, Olson, Vargas), so of COURSE Johnson was going to have a crazy catchers' ERA compared to that of Johjima. That catchers' ERA stat may have been the most overblown stat of the season.

2) Bill Hall
The Brewer castoff is now 11-for-43 (.256) as a Mariner, thanks in part to this 2-for-4 night. With a man on second and the Mariners ahead 2-0 in the first, Hall put a jolt into a pitch and rode it over the wall in left, doubling the Mariners' lead to 4-0. He also led off the fourth with a single. While Hall is 11-for-43 as a Mariner, he's slugging .419 after roughly two weeks as a Mariner. Additionally, leftfield was where he played tonight, one night after having played second base. If you ask me, it was nice having Hall kill the baseball instead of Michael Saunders swinging and missing repeatedly. If Hall really pans out with the Mariners, he could end up being a Mark McLemore, except with pop in his bat. Best of all, the Mariners got him for a song. Any awesomeness he might generate could offset any of the letdown caused by Jack Wilson's complete lack of impressiveness (on offense) so far. This shapes up interestingly for next year's team. I think we can presume that centerfield, rightfield, shortstop, and second base (or wherever Lopez plays) are pretty much locked up. That leaves leftfield and the corners as places to rotate Hall or any other kind of supersub Jack Zduriencik can unearth. I guess.

3) Mike Carp
This was Carp's first multi-hit game at the big-league level since a two-hit game against the Diamondbacks on June 21st. He popped out foul to end the first inning, so no celebration for that. Then he flew out with a man on and nobody out in the fourth. Again, no celebration. In the sixth, Carp rang a two-out double into the gap in rightcenter. Celebration. Finally, he singled to lead off the ninth inning. The hits were Carp's fourth and fifth at the Major League level. So where does Carp fit into next year's plans? Presuming Russell Branyan doesn't come back (I don't think they'll pony up too far for what he'll command), can you really have Carp at first? Will this team have any power hitting at all? The way it's going, Lopez (and maybe Hall) could be the only hitter on the team with any pop next year, which is worrisome. Needless to say, the Mariners will have some money to spend next winter when it comes to bringing more power to the team. Otherwise, I guess you're hoping Lopez develops 30-homer power, Gutierrez develops 20-homer power, and Ichiro reaches double digits in homers. I know it's way early, but I can't help but think about how lucky this team's been this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if they had a slightly worse record next year just because all the elements will still be settling.

Jose Lopez
The reasons for this are pretty simple. One is that the Mariners' leading RBI man went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in the game. Two is that David Aardsma's save-clinching ground ball go off the glove of Lopez. He's due for a big game with the bat soon, as he hasn't had a multi-hit game since August 26th, eight games ago. In the last eight games, Lopez has gone 3-for-27 (.111) with a double, a home run, and two RBIs. Come on, Jose, that's no way to mount a run for a 100-RBI season. Come on. Another way to look at this -- how on earth does Lopez only go 2-for-13 in a four-game series against Kansas City pitching? That's a wee bit awful. The next series was against the Angels, and Lopez went 1-for-9. Lopez has to get to 90 RBIs, he should get 95 RBIs, and if he got hot, he could get 100 RBIs. Lopez has had a couple five-homer months this season, and a five-homer month of September will give Lopez a 25-homer season. Can you imagine if Lopez pulls off a 25-homer, 100-RBI season? Best of all, he was raised in the Mariners' system! I'm really not used to this whole thing about position players coming through the Mariners' system and actually turning out to be something.

The Aussie will go on Friday night in beautiful Oakland.

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