Sunday, September 06, 2009
The end to the Mariners' four-game winning streak dropped their record to 72-65 after 137 games. This pace is two games worse than the 2007 mark at this point, but eight better than 2006, 13 better than 2005, 18 better than last year, and 21 better than 2004. Seventy-two wins is also two worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002 and 2003, and 26 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting loss number 65: 76-65 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 88-65 in 2002, 86-65 in 2003, 39-65 in 2004, 49-65 in 2005, 56-65 in 2006, 74-65 in 2007, and 38-65 last year.
Seattle hitting went 12-for-38 in the game, walking four times and striking out a whopping 11 times. The team went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. The multi-hit Mariners were Jose Lopez (two hits), Ichiro (three), and Mike Sweeney (four hits...wow). The only two Mariner extra-base hits were home runs by Sweeney and Lopez. Since it's pretty obvious French is the goat, I have to address the bad parts of Mariner hitting here. The 0-for-4s in the lineup came from Franklin Gutierrez and Adrian Beltre (both of whom drew a walk). The lone 0-for-5 came from Bill Hall, who struck out all five times. Four strikeouts is the golden sombrero, but I'm not sure what five gets you. That's insane.
It was not a good night for Mariner pitching. The starting pitcher will be covered below. In his first big-league appearance in nearly a month, Jason Vargas came into the fourth inning with runners on the corners, two out, and Oakland leading 5-3. He got the next hitter out to end the inning, then threw a 1-2-3 fifth and a 1-2-3 sixth. Vargas got two groundouts and three flyouts, struck out two, threw 13 strikes out of 19 pitches, and set down all seven hitters he faced over 2 1/3 innings. Miguel Batista came in for the seventh. While he's written novels about murder and sometimes watching him pitch is basically murder, he pretty much threw dirt on the grave in this one. He was greeted with a leadoff double, but got a double-play ball to end that inning. It was in the eighth where he fell apart, though he now had Kenji Johjima catching instead of Rob Johnson. Kurt Suzuki singled to lead off, and one out later, Nomar Garciaparra singled as well. That was followed by three straight doubles and a walk. Oakland put four runs on the board and led 9-3 at this point, and Batista was pulled. He gave up four runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out none. He got three groundouts and a flyout, threw 21 strikes out of 35 pitches, and faced 10 hitters to get four outs. Randy Messenger came in for Batista and got his only two hitters out to round out the night for Mariner pitching. Messenger threw five strikes on eight pitches and got a flyout and a strikeout.
1) Mike Sweeney
What a tear fot this guy. He's only gotten fairly steady playing time for about a month, but I didn't think he'd be able to keep this up. Though the magnitudes of tear won't quite be parallel in the comparison I'm about to make, this somewhat reminds me of when Gutierrez started hitting and hitting. I just kept wondering when Gutierrez would stop hitting and start hitting the skids, but it never really happened (he did eventually cool off a bit). The Mariners' righthanded designated hitter went 4-for-5 with a home run and an RBI in this game. Since August 20th, Sweeney has gone 21-for-48 (.438) with five doubles, two home runs (slugging .667), and nine RBIs. Sweeeney's day of awesome started when he homered to lead off the second inning and give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. He then singled with one out and the bases empty in the third. With two out and one on in the fifth, he singled. He also singled immediately after the Lopez homer in the ninth. His lone out came when he struck out with runners on the corners and one out with the Mariners down 5-3 in the seventh. Still, that one strikeout can only detract so much from a four-hit night.
The march simply continues for the Mariners' leadoff hitter. This game saw him go 3-for-5. Since coming back from his calf injury, Ichiro has gone 10-for-22 to make for a .455-hitting September. The balky calf might be part of the reason, but all 10 of Ichiro's hits since coming back have been singles. His last extra-base hit was a double that came on August 23rd at Cleveland, right before he hit the shelf. Ichiro legged out an infield single to load the bases with one out in the first inning, singled to lead off the seventh, and singled to lead off the ninth. The hit barrage leaves him one hit away from his 2000th Major League hit and six away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. If my little Excel equation thingie is still correct, Ichiro's still on pace for a 234-hit season despite missing over a dozen games. If he got 234 hits, that total would be larger than five of his eight prior Major League seasons (2001, 2004, and 2007 were better). Again, this is all despite missing the amount of games he's missed. I just hope Ichiro isn't quite as creaky next year, though I hope that's a realistic expectation.
3) Jose Lopez
Well, it's nice to have the Mariners' second baseman come back at the plate. Lopez hadn't undergone the wholw week-long slump phenomenon since mid-May. Over the last nine games (not including this game), Lopez had gone 4-for-32 (.125) with a double and a home run (slugging .344). The good news is that it seems the home run in Friday's game may have gotten him on the right track. He went 2-for-5 in this game with a home run. Sure, the home run came in the ninth inning and therefore was completely meaningless in the scope of the game, but a home run is a home run nonetheless. As for the Lopez RBI quest, he now has 83 on the season. He has four RBIs in September despite going 4-for-21. The Mariners have about four weeks remaining on the schedule, so if you simply multiply four by four, he'll end up with 99 RBIs on the season. After Ichiro is done getting his 2000th Major League hit and 200th hit of the season, I think the final great individual accomplishment left for any of the Mariners is for Lopez to get to 100 RBIs. Was Alex Rodriguez the last Mariner to come through the minor-league system and collect a 100-RBI season? Well, I guess you could say Bret Boone did, but he spent quite a few years away before he did.
Simply put, his last two starts have been his worst two starts as a Mariner. I have a feeling that if the next start is this bad, it'll be his last for the season and he'll get demoted to the bullpen. In his seven starts as a Mariner, French has averaged 5 1/3 innings, 4.29 runs (3.71 earned), 7.1 hits, 2.4 walks, and 3.1 strikeouts. His pitch count has averaged 91 pitches (58 strikes). If you took that line every time out, that's a number-five line. He also averages four groundouts and eight flyouts a start. Can you guess what also augments the flyout numbers? If you guessed home runs, you're very much correct. French has given up eight homers over his seven Mariner starts (1.14 per start, though you don't really need much more than the discrete math to make the point). If this guy can basically be another Jarrod Washburn, I suggest Rick Adair shows him how to throw a cutter immediately. Okay, I'm sure the real approach is more along the lines of having French gain more confidence in spotting the stuff he has before they show him how to throw any more pitches.
It'll be a Sunday afternoon with the Iron Fister.