Thursday, October 01, 2009


The game was out of doubt pretty early on, but the big picture didn't change -- this win guaranteed a winning season for the Mariners. Yes, 2009 is a winning season, just one year after a completely unwatchable Mariner team lost 101 games. I expected maybe the mid-70s in the win column, maybe an incremental improvement on last year, but to have a winning season? Given what the Mariners have gone through since the end of the Pat Gillick era, I won't be scoffing at any winning seasons for a while. At least not until the expectations rise again and we're not content with just playoff appearances, but that's probably at least three years away. Also, in probably his final homestand, Ken Griffey Jr. hit a three-run homer for the second straight game, this one putting the Mariners on the board with a 3-0 lead in the first inning. The Mariners led 4-0 after the first inning and 6-0 after the second inning, and the game was pretty much in cruise control. I don't have the attendance numbers within reach, but just looking at the pre-game pan shots of the crowd, it was looking pretty sparse out there. Hopefully the weekend is different.

This win pushed the Mariners' record to 82-76 after 158 games. This is two wins worse than the 2007 team's pace at this point, but it's also six better than 2006, 15 better than 2005, 20 better than 2004, and 24 better than last year. Eighty-two wins is also seven worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, 10 worse than 2002, and 31 worse than 2001. Other Mariner teams' records when winning their 82nd game: 82-66 in 2000, 82-31 in 2001, 82-58 in 2002, 82-59 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 78-84 in 2006, 82-71 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.

Seattle hitting went 12-for-36 on the night, walking once and striking out 10 times. They also went 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. Multi-hit games were turned in by Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Adrian Beltre, and Michael Saunders. Jack Hannahan and Jose Lopez both doubled, Ichiro and Saunders both tripled, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Moore both homered. Lopez's double was his 40th of the season to go with his 25 home runs. Moore's homer was his first as a big leaguer. Griffey's three-run homer (his second in back-to-back nights) was the big blow in the first inning, allowing Morrow to cruise. Lopez, Griffey, Moore, and Josh Wilson struck out twice each.

The Mariner arms had a good night, as one might guess since Oakland was shut out. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Shawn Kelley threw the ninth inning and successfully protected a 7-0 lead. He gave up only a two-out single to Landon Powell, the only Oakland hit of the game that reached the outfield. Kelley got a flyout from Adam Kennedy to lead off before striking out Rajai Davis and Jack Cust. Kelley threw 12 strikes out of 20 pitches and faced four hitters to get three outs.

1) Brandon Morrow
There were moments in this game where I was reminded of the broken-up perfect game Morrow threw against the Yankees. It was apparent pretty early on that Morrow was dealing and had great command of all of his pitches, and he was throwing just enough breaking stuff. As the game went on, I started realizing things like -- hey, has he given up a hit yet? Has he walked anybody yet? The only hit Morrow gave up was on a one-out roller up the middle by Rajai Davis. Josh Wilson made a really nice play to plug up the hole and throw quickly to first, and only the breakneck speed of Davis kept it from being eight no-hit innings for Morrow. Other than that, it was seven incredible innings and one slightly cumbersome one. The eighth inning finally saw Morrow lose the radar as he allowed consecutive walks with two out before getting a flyout to mercifully end the inning. If not for the two walks, we're probably looking at a complete-game shutout for Morrow. Nonetheless, he retired the first 10 Oakland hitters, then retired the next 13 after the Davis single. This easily is in the top three of all of Morrow's big-league starts. Morrow gave up one hit in eight shutout innings, walking two and striking out a career-high nine. He got five groundouts and 10 flyouts, threw 70 strikes out of 105 pitches, and faced 27 hitters to get 24 outs.

2) Franklin Gutierrez
The injury to Russell Branyan has opened up the number-two spot in the lineup to the more obvious choice to fill that role, and it's Gutierrez. This game saw him go 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. He scored two runs and struck out once. The RBI was his 67th of the season to go with 18 home runs and a .282 batting average. This guy has been nothing short of awesome this year, surpassing even my most optimistic expectations. I was the guy that would be content with him hitting .240 if he was playing that kind of defense out in centerfield. Instead, we see that kind of defense along with a .282 hitter with 18 homers and 67 RBIs. The future is so bright I have to wear shades or something, except this is for optimism and not a nuclear winter like in the musical reference. Gutierrez moved Ichiro to second with a nobody-out single in the first. He singled again in the second with nobody out, but that scored Ichiro from third to make it 5-0. Gutierrez walked with two out and Michael Saunders on third base in the third inning.

3) Michael Saunders
This kid just cannot buy a home run. I don't think he'll be hitting one this season. He's got four games left to do it, but he probably won't be playing all four of those games (more like two). It's been 114 at-bats, and he'd be hard-pressed to get any closer than he did with the hit that went for a triple -- it was a well-struck line drive that needed about one more foot of vertical to clear the rightfield wall. He came very very close. Instead, it banked off the wall and got away from rightfielder Travis Buck, and Saunders sprinted all the way to third since he has crazy speed. Saunders' other hit was a one-out single in the eighth inning. Don Wakamatsu has given Saunders a good deal of playing time since the call-up before the deadline, and it appears he's being groomed to be the everyday leftfielder for years to come, but is that a good thing? The Mariners are sacrificing enough power hitting with their rightfielder, so can they really afford that in left? There's a chance Jose Lopez will be the only carryover power hitter on next year's team. I guess it's up to Jack Zduriencik to uncover some more power somewhere on the wires.

Josh Wilson
He made the nice play and nearly preserved Brandon Morrow's then-perfect game, but Rajai Davis proved to be just too quick of a runner. That's the good news, but the reason Wilson is here is because he was the only hitless Mariner on the night (not counting Kenji Johjima, who was hitless, but also got hit above the body armor above the left elbow). I still think this guy's played himself onto a Major League roster for next year and could probably play 80-90 games or something. He's a .201 hitter on the year, which is bad, but I can't count the number of times where I say to myself, "how did Ronny Cedeno get any playing time over this guy?" In the big scheme of things, though, he shouldn't be a Mariner next year because he can't hit consistently. Thus, with Josh Wilson and Rob Johnson, for me it's a big "thanks, but no thanks" when I think about their relation to the Mariners' plans for next season. Josh Wilson hopefully will be supplanted by a healthy Jack Wilson that can actually hit (unless they move him too), and Johnson saw Adam Moore hit an opposite-field homer in this game, so he's basically screwed.

The Iron Fister will end the series against Oakland.

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