Sunday, September 27, 2009


Well, make it three straight losses and four of five. After the awesome Felix Hernandez start in the first game of the series in Toronto, the Mariners dropped the final three. The first of the losses was just a plain ol' domination by Roy Halladay, so that was a bit understandable, but having a lead in the eighth inning and nailing down that lead has been a hallmark of Mariner pitching this entire year, and the bullpen has not been able to exhibit that over the last couple days. A 4-2 lead in the eighth turned into a tie game on Saturday afternoon and a 4-3 lead turned into a 5-4 hole in the eighth inning today. You can also add to that an eighth-inning Mark Lowe implosion that led to a 5-4 defeat in Tampa Bay on Wednesday. You know I'll always say that the season started feeling weird when Major League Baseball ordered the Spartan helmets out of the bullpen. Really, though, only so much matters when the Mariners have basically been playing for pride for the last two months.
That may sound bad, but it's a lot better compared to last year at this same time.

The Mariners' fourth loss in five games sent their record to 80-76 after 156 games. This pace is three games worse than 2007, but five better than 2006, 13 better than 2005, 20 better than 2004, and 23 better than last year. Eighty wins is also seven wins worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, 10 worse than 2002, and 31 worse than 2001. Records of other Mariner teams when losing their 76th: 91-71 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 93-69 in 2002 and 2003, 45-76 in 2004, 56-76 in 2005, 69-76 in 2006, 88-74 in 2007, and 46-76 last year.

Seattle hitting went a combined 7-for-34 in the game, walking twice and striking out seven times. Kenji Johjima was the only Mariner with multiple hits, getting two. The Mariners' only extra-base hits were four solo shots, hit by Johjima, Matt Tuiasosopo, Franklin Gutierrez, and Mike Sweeney. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, and Josh Wilson all went hitless. Ichiro's hitless game made it his first back-to-back hitless games in a verrrrry long time (I don't have the info on me right now, and I type these things offline). Hall struck out twice and has piled up 45 strikeouts (and eight walks) as a Mariner to go with 15 hits, two home runs, 10 RBIs, a .236 average, and a .345 slugging percentage. Again, that's 45 strikeouts for Hall out of 110 at-bats as a Mariner. I knew he liked to get his strikeout on, but this is a bit ridiculous. I also thought Hall might come around a bit with the bat, but it hasn't happened as he's in a 2-for-22 slump over the last eight games.

As for the Mariner arms, there were seven pretty good innings and one really bad one. Both pitchers ended up in the entries below, so this paragraph is pretty easy for me.

1) Kenji Johjima
He hasn't had this much playing time since May, when he appeared in 18 games. Johjima has appeared in 17 games in September and the Mariners have six left to play. More importantly for Johjima, he's rebounded from an awful .191 August with a .292 September. Johjima has also doubled five times and homered twice, making for a .583 slugging percentage for September. His last two games have seen him go 4-for-7 with two doubles and a homer. By the way, in this game he went 2-for-3 with a solo shot that put the Mariners on the board at 1-0 in the fifth inning. As for his other at-bats, he singled with two out in the second, walked with two out to push Beltre to second in the sixth, and flew out to right to end the eighth. I'm beginning to think Johjima's getting more playing time because of a combination of the brass thinking that they should get their money's worth out of him, that Rob Johnson's a bit nicked up, and that they've soured on Johnson as a catcher. I don't hate Rob Johnson, but I don't want to see him catching for this team next year. Unless he proves he can hit .240, he shouldn't have a future with this team. Of course, now I have to be pissed off at Johjima's ridiculous contract extension because he's holding back Adam Moore instead of Jeff Clement. I'll have a lot of time in the offseason to do that.

2) Matt Tuiasosopo
It's always a good day when you hit your first big-league home run. His homer was the second of three Mariner solo shots off Brian Tallet in the fifth inning. I'm glad he got this out of the way in his sixth game this season. This of course means Tuiasosopo has one more home run than Michael Saunders, and Saunders had played consistently for nearly six weeks, though he had 11 days off before playing consistently over the last week. That's 110 at-bats for Saunders and no home runs. Anyway, Tuiasosopo is 5-for-19 (.263) with a double and an RBI in six games at the big-league level this season. He played second base in this game with Jose Lopez playing first, though he's listed as a third baseman on his stats page. Thus, the Mariners have some options next year on the infield. Probably the only sure thing is that Jack Wilson plays short since he's got so much money sunk into him and that Jose Lopez will play second or first. I think Tuiasosopo's best shot with the team is probably at third base since Beltre's going to walk and playing Jack Hannahan at third base isn't very future-oriented for this team. I feel bad for Tuiasosopo breaking north with the team and sitting the bench for two weeks before being sent down and not playing until the 17th, but I think Tuiasosopo will spend at least half the season in Tacoma again, but he'll get called up earlier. Really, though, who knows? We're dealing with Jack Zduriencik here, and he could work all sorts of magic in the offseason and there could still be a lot of turnover.

3) Ryan Rowland-Smith
He goes into the books as having thrown seven-plus innings, but it's the plus that's the devil in the details. It's really too bad. He set down the first nine hitters he faced, had a one-hitter through five innings, and had a two-hitter through six innings. The Blue Jays finally touched him up in the seventh. Vernon Wells hit a one-out single, and Randy Ruiz rang a double to move Wells to third. A sufficiently deep Rod Barajas fly ball made it 3-1, and a Kevin Millar single made it 3-2. Rowland-Smith had thrown 104 pitches at the end of seven innings (if my count-back using the ESPN.com play-by-play is right) and came back to the mound to start the eighth inning after Mike Sweeney added an insurance run with a leadoff homer in the top half of the inning. John McDonald led off the bottom half with a double, followed by a Jose Bautista single to drive home the run, making it a 4-3 game. Aaron Hill walked to push Bautista to second, and Don Wakamatsu had seen enough. Unfortunately, Mark Lowe was coming off two horrible outings, Shawn Kelley gave up the winning homer the night before, and David Aardsma apparently had a bit of a sore neck (Brian Tallet should have had one after the fifth inning), so Wakamatsu went with Miguel Batista. That'll be covered below. Rowland-Smith gave up five runs on seven hits in seven-plus innings, walking one and striking out three. He got two groundouts and 16 flyouts (and yet Tallet was the one giving up four homers), faced 29 hitters to get 21 outs, and threw 74 strikes out of 114 pitches.

Miguel Batista
What's hilarious about this is that I've given the goat to a guy who shows up in the boxscore as having thrown an inning of two-hit shutout ball. Of course, the reason he's here is because he came into the game with two runners on and they both scored, putting the Blue Jays in the lead and setting fire to Ryan Rowland-Smith's ERA and tagging him with the loss. Not that Batista doesn't come away with anything bad -- he was tagged for his fourth blown save of the year, though that doesn't really mean much since he's not the closer anyway and hasn't done so in a while. If you look at his game-by-game log, you'll notice that Batista hasn't given up runs in the last five outings, though that does include this one. This means he's probably due to suck more until he gives up some runs. Another thing that can be picked out of the game log is that Batista had a 1.69 ERA over his eight appearances in August, giving up only two runs in 10 2/3 innings. Of course, the same game log I'm looking at doesn't have a little column for inherited runners scored, so...yeah.

A Felix night on Tuesday. I need it. You need it. We need it.

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