Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This win pushed the Mariners' record to 81-76 after 157 games, guaranteeing this won't be a losing season. The record at this point is two games worse than the 2007 team, but five better than 2006, 14 better than 2005, 20 better than 2004, and 23 better than last year. Eighty-one 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 winning their 81st game: 81-66 in 2000, 81-31 in 2001, 81-57 in 2002 and 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 78-84 in 2006, 81-70 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 9-for-32 on the night, walking twice and striking out five times. They went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. Adrian Beltre and Josh Wilson had two hits apiece as the only multi-hit Mariners, and they both doubled. Bill Hall also doubled, and Ken Griffey Jr. homered to account for the rest of the Mariners' extra-base hits. Ichiro picked up his 217th hit of the season with five games remaining in the season. Despite missing 16 games this season, Ichiro has already surpassed his hit totals from 2002, 2003, 2005, and last year. If he collects more than seven hits over the final five games, Ichiro can also eclipse his 224-hit season from 2006. Again, this is despite missing 16 games due to injury. He's at .351 on the season, which roughly matches his .351 season in 2007 and is below only his crazy 2004 season when he finished with a .372 mark. Jose Lopez is still sitting at 92 RBIs after another RBI-less night, his sixth straight. I thought after Ichiro got his milestone that Lopez getting to 100 RBIs would be the final attainable individual Mariner goal, but now it seems a more likely scenario would involve Franklin Gutierrez popping two more home runs and finishing with a 20-homer season.
The Mariner arms had a fairly decent night. The starter and the closer will be covered below. Mark Lowe came into the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two out and the Mariners ahead 6-2. Lowe got Cliff Pennington to go down swinging to end the threat. Lowe four pitches, all strikes, to the only hitter he faced. This snapped Lowe's two-outing crappy streak.
1) Felix Hernandez
Like I mentioned in the intro paragraph, Felix has absolutely turned a corner this season. If there's only one fact to support that statement, it's that he can struggle for an inning or two, yet when you look at the boxscore a few hours later, there he is with a start of seven or more innings and two or three runs or less. I guess I'm putting him here at the number-one gameball, which I wouldn't normally do if he's walking four hitters in a game like he did here. It started oddly enough as Felix threw a 1-2-3 first inning, then hti Kurt Suzuki with a pitch to lead off the second inning, then the next hitter walked. A strikeout and a double play ended that threat. A one-out Jack Cust walk in the fourth came around to score after a wild pitch pushed him to second, a groundout pushed him to third, then a Mark Ellis single pushed Cust across with the tying run at 1-1. Eric Patterson then singled, and the throw to third was late, so that made it two in scoring position with two out, but a foul pop ended that. Felix had seet down eight straight before Patterson singled with one out in the seventh. Pennington then singled to make it two on with one out, but Felix got the next two hitters out. Finally, Felix allowed consecutive singles to lead off the eighth. A grounder resulted in an out and runners at the corners, then Daric Barton's fly ball scored Travis Buck to make it 6-2. Felix hit Ellis with a pitch, then walked Patterson to load the bases and earn a trip to the showers. It used to be a five-inning start when Felix struggled this badly, but these days he's into the eighth. Felix gave up two runs on seven hits, walking four and striking out four in 7 2/3 innings of work. He got 11 groundouts and eight flyouts, threw 69 strikes out of 120 pitches, and faced 35 hitters to get 23 outs.
2) Ken Griffey Jr.
There's five games remaining after this game, and it appears there's a little bit more memory-making juice left in that bat of his. With two runners aboard and one out in the fifth inning, Griffey jumped all over Trevor Cahill's first pitch and sent it into the rightfield stands to make it a 5-1 lead for the Mariners. He also drew a leadoff four-pitch walk in the second inning, was pushed to third on a double by Beltre, and scored on a Bill Hall groundout for the first run of the game. Griffey struck out with runners on the corners to end the third inning, then struck out with the bases empty and one out in the seventh. He had time off from August 28th to September 2nd, and while I'm sure his knee was swelling and stuff, the rest probably was given to rest him up for the final stretch. Somehow I get the feeling we won't be seeing a lot of Mike Sweeney at all on this final homestand. The .214 hitter this season will definitely get the applause, though I'm hoping his cohort in clubhouse cohesiveness (and .283 hitter) will get some pinch-hit love.
3) Adrian Beltre
The Mariners' third baseman went 2-for-4 with a double and drilled the ball on the two hits he had. It almost made me harken back to other times in the Beltre era in Seattle. Sadly, while hopefully none of us were stupid enough to think Beltre had to have a 48-homer season to fulfill the contract he signed back in the winter after the 2004 season, it's really too bad we never saw a 30-homer season or even a 100-RBI season. In fact, we pretty much saw exactly what he was doing before the monster 2004 season, except with a small uptick in home runs. In 2007, he homered 26 times and finished tantalizingly close to the century mark with 99 RBIs. He doubled Griffey to third base with nobody out in the second inning and Hall's RBI groundout (that scored Griffey) pushed him to third. He led off the fourth with a groundout before following up Griffey's homer with a groundout in the fifth. He also singled with two out in the seventh. Beltre's rounding out what so far is a .209 month of September, which obviously is awful. After the first major injury he had this season, he hit .390 (with little power) for a little over a week in August. He came from Testiclegate, but it appears his bat didn't.
This was a fairly classic case of a closer coming into something other than a save situation and making it a bit muddy. You know it's bad when the manager comes out to the mound instead of the pitching coach when something's going awry on the mound. Adam Kennedy got aboard when he fouled off an 0-2 pitch, but his bat hit Rob Johnson's glove during the swing, so he was awarded first base on catcher's interference. That's definitely not on Aardsma, but what came thereafter was. Aardsma walked Rajai Davis on four pitches and one out later gave up a Kurt Suzuki single that drove home both of the runners to make it 6-4. Luckily this is when Aardsma clamped down, getting a pop fly from Jack Cust and a flyout from Daric Barton. I'm hoping we get to see some vintage 2009 Aardsma a couple times in the final five games of the season to cap off an amazing year for the guy. The great thing to me is that he pitched well enough to force Brandon Morrow out of the closer's role and out of the bullpen. Our reward is more than likely seeing Morrow walk five guys in six innings tonight, but hopefully it'll be better next year.
It'll be one final appearance for Brandon Morrow this season.