Saturday, April 11, 2009
As for the hitting, the Mariners were 9-for-33 with three walks and five strikeouts. They stranded five runners but were 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Multi-hit games belonged to Endy Chavez (3-for-5, two RBIs) and Russell Branyan (2-for-4, one strikeout). Yuniesky Betancourt rang a double for the team's only extra-base hit. The 0-fers on this night went to Franklin Gutierrez, Adrian Beltre, and Ken Griffey, Jr. To Junior's credit, he was only 0-for-1 and ended up drawing three walks. He also ran way too far on a Matt Holliday fly ball to the rightfield foul line. Luckily Griffey's hamstrings and other leg parts seemed to have no ill effect after he made that catch. Griffey was eventually replaced, but that was because he walked his way aboard in the eighth and Wladimir Balentien ran for him as the possible insurance run.
1) Endy Chavez
Pretty much the only flaw I saw in his game today was that I thought he should have caught that ball that fell for a double at the leftfield wall. The amazing thing was that he wasn't short of the ball, it looked like the ball went just beside his glove as opposed to over it. In any event, 3-for-5 with two more RBIs as the temporary leadoff hitter is nothing at which to scoff. The odd thing about most of his hits is that they aren't a bunch of line drives over the infield -- all of his hits seem to be stung off the bat, then they just find holes or narrowly elude the grasp of the infielders. I hope that's a sustainable thing. Granted, Chavez maintaining his current .409 batting average surely isn't sustainable, but I'm just hoping it's more based on his awesomeness than pure luck. As nice of a surprise that the Chavez emergence is, I'm not sure where I'd slot him into the lineup once Ichiro returns. I guess maybe you can put him at #2 and bump Gutierrez to the bottom third of the lineup somewhere.
2) David Aardsma
The A-Man (the Baard?) mowed down all six hitters he faced, amounting for two shutout innings while holding a one-run lead. It's quite a way to earn your first save in the Majors. I've seen him on television before, throwing for other teams, but I guess I just never realized just how hard Aardsma can throw. Other than Morrow and Batista, who unfortunately aren't serviceable starters right now like they should be, this is largely a no-name bullpen. Having guys around like Kelley, Jakubauskas, and Aardsma appears thus far to be a good way to get decent innings on the cheap, and that's a credit to Jack Zduriencik and friends over at Mariners central command. Aardsma struck out one of his six hitters, got another to ground out, and got the other four on fly balls. He threw 14 strikes and 11 balls. I have a feeling any homer he gives up will be a complete moon shot if anyone manages to hit his fastball on the nose, though it probably won't be as majestic as the Mark McGwire blast off of Randy Johnson.
3) Shawn Kelley
Kelley didn't exactly get a soft landing for his big-league debut. Instead, with the A's having drawn to within a run during the previous inning, Don Wakamatsu handed him the ball. Kelley gave up a hit, sure, but retired the other three hitters he faced (a grounder and two strikeouts) for a scoreless seventh inning. In odd numerical news, I think 23 looks really weird as a pitchers' number. To me it's always been a hitter's number -- Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, and such. Maybe Kelley should flip it around and go with 32. As long as he doesn't pull any single-digit crap like Rob Bell did a few years ago. Anyway, Kelley seems like a good idea after one outing, but we'll need to see some more appearances before we really get a handle on him. So far, he's tons better than Kevin Jarvis.
I really wanted him to do well in this game, but it just wasn't meant to be. He was all over the place. Luckily, thanks to Jarrod Washburn's long outing the day before, there was more than enough gas left in the bullpen arms to pick up the slack for a bad outing by Rowland-Smith. In one of my few prognostications that ever go right, I told my dad in the second inning that the Aussie wouldn't get past the fourth inning, and somehow that's what happened. Rowland-Smith left the game with two runners aboard and one out in the fourth, leaving that situation to Chris Jakubauskas. The Aussie went 3 1/3 innings, giving up two unearned runs on four hits with a strikeout. Of course, the first Oakland run in the bottom of the first scored when Rowland-Smith came off the mound to field a grounder and threw the ball about ten feet wide of the first-base bag and into the runner and into foul ground, allowing the first run to score all the way from first base. That play seemed to affect him for the rest of his outing. His final pitch count reads as 36 balls and 46 strikes. He faced 20 hitters in the game and walked four. Despite this, the Mariners were not behind when he left the game and already had the lead they would'nt relinquish. I have to say that Rowland-Smith's penchant for working fast could have been a detriment -- it seemed he could never take a moment to gather himself, and I swear he quick-pitched Orlando Cabrera at one point. Hopefully on the next turn through the rotation, the Aussie does what we know he can do.
If the Aussie threw, that means Felix is going today. What a great day for a game to not be televised. Bastards, the whole lot of 'em.
Friday, April 10, 2009
With the end of this game, I rejoiced about not having to put up with the Twins' God-awful main camera angle. That's ripped right from ESPN's uber-mega-failed Dead Center experiment, which I hated with every fiber of my being. At least they passed it off a bit by saying it was the precursor to their ultimate goal, which was the K-Zone graphic. I can deal with that. But for the parks (Saint Louis included) that have turned to this camera angle, it's like they're doing it just to mess with my head. People have watched baseball just fine for decades with a fairly low-height camera in leftcenter. I'm very comfortable with my grasp of what looks like a strike and what doesn't and what a crazy breaking ball looks like and what a laser-beam fastball looks like. The dead-center, much-too-high camera just messes with everything I know in terms of watching a baseball game. The most hilariously bad example of the Dead Center experiment happened when ESPN had a game at San Francisco, and their very-high camera was getting whipped around hard by the wind. It was like Blair Witch baseball.
Okay, more related to the game...the Mariner offense racked up eight hits (8-for-32) with a couple of doubles. All/both of their runs were driven in with two-out singles -- one off the bat of Adrian Beltre in the first inning, and the bookender in the ninth by Rob Johnson in his first start of the season. Multi-hit games were notched by Beltre and Wladimir Balentien (who wasn't exposed on defense). The 0-fers went to Mike Sweeney, Jose Lopez, and Yuniesky Betancourt. For the record, Ken Griffey, Jr. was given the day off, and I'm glad Wakamatsu seems to be taking the resting Griffey thing seriously.
As for the pitching, well, it was nice to have starting pitching like this after the rubbish in the third game of the series and the just-not-good-enough start in the second game. In short, if the bullpen arms feel rested for the next three or four days, they've got Jarrod Washburn to thank for that. And Franklin Gutierrez. This leads us to...
1) Jarrod Washburn
I can't really find much to complain about with eight shutout innings. Washburn gave up five hits and the only trouble he really got into was in the eighth inning, but he wriggled his way out of the jam. At that point, the Mariners only led 1-0, but Rob Johnson drove in the insurance run in the ninth. In any event, Washburn faced 29 hitters, with 12 of them getting out via the fly ball. It's known that the Mariners got a hold of Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez for their defensive wizardry, which will be awesomely augmented when Ichiro returns. As will be the case for any really good Jarrod Washburn start this season (this being the first), the outfield will help make him look really good. Some of the flies to the outfield that were falling before for singles and doubles won't be falling now. If this helps maximize Washburn's trade value before the deadline, then the acquisitions of Chavez and Gutierrez will have paid for themselves. Speaking of which...
2) Franklin Gutierrez
He hit a double to go 1-for-3 and was driven in by Beltre in the first inning, sure, but it's what happened in the bottom half of the same inning which serves as Exhibit A as to why this guy's a Mariner. That diving catch in the leftcenter gap...wow. I'm approaching watching the Mariners on defense completely differently now -- in the past if a fly ball off an opponent's bat wasn't an obvious can of corn, I thought it had a good chance of falling for some kind of hit. Now, even some of the hits that seem like gappers off the bat have me wondering if Gutierrez or Chavez (I can't wait for Ichiro to be part of this) can run it down. I'm incredibly psyched about this Chavez/Gutierrez/Ichiro outfield that hopefully takes the field very soon.
3) Adrian Beltre
He didn't come out to play third base until the ninth inning, but even in his absence there, Ronny Cedeno made a very Beltre-like play. That aside, Beltre took some rest as the DH and drove in the go-ahead run in the first. He finished 2-for-2, but also with two walks. Maybe since Glen Perkins was a lefty he wasn't chasing sliders low and away (Boone style), maybe not. Either way, Beltre didn't strike out in this game. If Beltre keeps his torrid pace of .385 hitting, the Mariners will get an incredible haul at the deadline. Let's root for 30 homers and 100 RBIs for Beltre at the All-Star break. Let's make this happen. Also, let's have Erik Bedard with 15 wins at the All-Star break. I'd actually be happier with that than if Beltre had those astronomical pipe-dream numbers I just posted. How about the Mariners get some starting pitching AND DRAFT SOME STARTING PITCHERS THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY MAKE THE BIG CLUB AND STICK AS STARTING PITCHERS!!!!
It had to be somebody. Less than 24 hours after the middle infielders combined to go 5-for-8, they went 0-for-7 in this game. Lopez hung an 0-for-4 and struck out twice, and he has a number 5 under that little "LOB" column all the way to the right of the boxscore I'm seeing. It could be worse, though. I could have easily chosen the body-of-work method of goat selection and chosen Mike Sweeney because he still hasn't recorded a hit this season. It may be the only thing Sweeney has in common with Delmon Young, as a matter of fact. Let's all keep in mind Chris Shelton and Jeff Clement could both be batting .000 at the Major League level right now, but instead we have Mike Sweeney doing it. Hooray veteran leadership! Hooray clubhouse chemistry! I know, it's only been four games, and that's what I'm trying to tell myself. Anyway, let's have Lopez bring us a 30-homer season with decent defense. Aw, screw it. Let's have Lopez shoot for 73 dingers. Aim high. Ridiculously high.
Aussie against the A's. Hyphens, glasses, and kangaroos, oh my!
Thursday, April 09, 2009
The positives included the bullpen, as Chris Jakubauskas and Mark Lowe chimed in with solid performances, and the hitting of the middle infielders. Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez combined to go 5-for-8 with two RBIs, a double, and a homer, scoring twice. Also, the Mariners did not get completely clobbered despite having Carlos Silva on the mound as the starting pitcher.
Negatives? Pretty much everything Silva-related, which I'll get to below. That leaves us with hitting performances, as Franklin Gutierrez and Kenji Johjima were the hitless parties. It was nice seeing Gutierrez hit the last couple days, but until his bat comes around consistently, they're paying him for his defense. Johjima, on the other hand, has shown nothing in terms of carryover of his decent hitting from the World Baseball Classic. Again, it's only three games, but if Johjima keeps hitting like this, the secret Japanese vault will open again and he'll get another four-year contract extension or something. Additionally, there were a couple points in Bedard's start where there seemed to be some more communication or handling issues, so Johjima's still got that to deal with. There isn't a Jamie Burke to whom Bedard can throw.
1) Chris Jakubauskas
Like Roy Corcoran the night before, Jakubauskas came into a one-run game. Unlike Corcoran, the J-Man was making his Major League debut and was down a run instead of ahead. Corcoran mowed through all six of his hitters while Jakubauskas faced seven, giving up a hit and issuing a walk. He did, however, strike out two, and was on one end of the pickoff of Cuddyer at second base to thwart a two-out rally by the Twins. I have no clue how long this guy is going to stick with the big club, but two scoreless innings and an inning-ending pickoff will make his debut stick in the back of your mind for a while.
2) Yuniesky Betancourt
The Cuban isn't here just because he was on the back end of the pickoff play. Yuni the Impatient went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a double, scoring once. Much has been said about his defense getting a little more shoddy and much has been said about his impatience at the plate. We're three games in, and I haven't seen anything too brutal out of Betancourt so far defensively. At the plate, if Betancourt goes 3-for-4, I really don't give a crap how free-swinging he is. If you combine the adage of "you can't walk off the island" with the fact that the best hitter on the Mariners since Betancourt's arrival has been Ichiro (a guy who would much rather hit his way aboard than walk), maybe it's not such a surprise that Betancourt wants to swing at one of the first three pitches he sees. Sure, I wouldn't mind seeing him work the count a bit, but if it's not a Betancourt-y thing to do, then I don't have a problem with it if he's tossing the occasional multi-hit game into the mix. If he does it with Ichiro around, he'll be on base for the best singles hitter in the Majors.
3) Russell Branyan
I could have gone with Jose Lopez here for having the other multi-hit game for the Mariners, but I'm going with Branyan. I needed to see something out of his bat in this game, and I'm glad I saw him hit that home run. It looked like a pretty easy swing (it looked like a distant cousin of a Jim Edmonds homer swing), but that homer was quite the wallop. The homer was a two-run shot that tied the game at 2-2 in the second inning. That accounted for his 1-for-3 day and the two RBIs. He also struck out twice (Branyanian) and walked once. I always imagined Branyan as a lefthanded version of the good version of Richie Sexson, and not just because Branyan eventually was the replacement after Sexson was traded to Milwaukee. There will be homers and there will be strikeouts.
There were two 0-for-4s in the Mariner lineup, but good gracious. After three games, the Mariners' starting pitchers have gone 18 innings. Eight of those innings were thrown by Felix Hernandez. Thus, the bullpen threw 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday night and three innings in this game. Does anyone have the over-under on exploding arms in the Mariner bullpen this season? I guess reinforcements could come down the line in the form of Josh Fields and Chad Cordero. Seriously, though, after Felix Hernandez, I'm pretty worried about the workload that's going to be shouldered by the bullpen this season. I think Jarrod Washburn will fare better than Silva and Bedard in terms of innings, and I think Ryan Rowland-Smith will as well. Anyway, it's good to know that Silva took the same magic from his final start with Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic into the Metrodome for this start. Five innings, six runs, eight hits, a walk, two strikeouts, two homers, 98 pitches. Awful.
I guess we'll see just how good this revamped Mariner outfield can make Jarrod Washburn look.
...and rest in peace, young Nick Adenhart.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
The Mariners scored early and often, building a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning. After four innings, Erik Bedard had been about as good as you'd expect out of him, maybe even better. Even his pitch count was very economical after four innings. Then the Twins' half of the fifth inning reared its ugly head, and Bedard started getting hit around a bit. After it was all done, Bedard ran his pitch count up to 85 and didn't come out for the sixth. Coming off injury, however, I guess holding back on him a bit wouldn't be a bad thing. Still, part of me thinks that if five good innings is the best you can get out of your #2 starter, it's time to not make that guy a #2 starter and it's time to get a new #2 starter. Easier said than done, of course, but to me the dropoff between Felix and Bedard seems pretty drastic. The dropoff between Bedard and the rest of the rotation, though, is nightmarish. Positives for Bedard include his ability to get his breaking stuff over for strikes as well as recording zero walks. The bad news would probably be that he faced 22 batters and six of them got hits, two of which were of the extra-base variety.
As for the collective hitting, the Mariners were 11-for-35 with three walks and four strikeouts, so not too bad a game there. Too bad there was only one extra-base hit. The 8-9-1-2 hitters in the lineup (Balentien-Betancourt-Chavez-Gutierrez) went 9-for-18 with three RBIs and scored all five of the Mariners' runs. Of course, this means the rest of the lineup (3-7 hitters) had a 2-for-13 night along with three walks. One of the hits was a two-run single by Beltre.
1) Roy Corcoran
Corcoran came out for the sixth inning with a one-run lead. He then mowed through all six hitters he faced. Two innings, two strikeouts, one flyout, and three groundouts. I feel pretty good about having him in the Mariner bullpen. Along with David Aardsma, I felt pretty good about the Mariner bullpen as a whole. That was before the 9th inning came, of course. More on that later.
2) Endy Chavez
Ichiro's gone for at least one more week. In the leadoff spot in this game, Chavez was 3-for-5, driving in two runs and scoring twice himself. No real defensive miscues, not that there should be, since it's Endy Chavez. The numbers look good, yes, even though Chavez seems to specialize in the seeing-eye single. Still, I like the swings (fairly level) that Chavez is putting on the ball, especially for a leadoff hitter (for the time being).
3) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' new centerfielder went 2-for-5 with a double and drove in a run. It's only been two games, but I like what I'm seeing out of this guy. Maybe it's just psychological, maybe I just want to tell myself he's covering a lot of ground in centerfield, but there already have been a couple times where a Minnesota hitter looks like he's just hit a gapper, and I see the same camera angle that usually tells me it's going to be a double, then Gutierrez is already there, making the catch. He doesn't seem like he's running full speed or anything when he's catching the ball, either. It's only been two games, but so far he might be making it all look ridiculously easy out there.
I know the organization (mostly under Bavasi) has been playing yo-yo with Morrow being a reliever or being a starter, back and forth, etc. I have a real problem with Morrow forcing the organization's hand and saying he should be in the bullpen. I think they should have just said, "tough s%*@, we need you in the rotation. It's better for the team," and made it so. To the game itself, Morrow needed only one more out to notch a win for the Mariners before it all went south. I was displeased when Wakamatsu came to pull him -- if Morrow's the one that wanted to close so damn bad, why not let him lie in the bed that he made? I say sink or swim with him. When I saw Batista come in from the bullpen, it was pretty much a death wish. Instead of just giving away the game (i.e., bringing in Batista), why don't you just live and die by Morrow? It's what Morrow wants, so take off the training wheels and take off the water wings, and let the guy sink or swim. He told you he wanted to close, now let him show you something. Maybe half my goat goes to Wakamatsu, I don't know.
Silva's throwing tonight? God help us all.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
An opener can't really go much better than that. Felix wins and Junior homers in his first game back in a Mariner uniform. Okay, maybe it could have been better if Felix hadn't turned his ankle in the first inning. The collective hearts of Mariner fans everywhere surely sank for a few seconds there. Felix didn't seem to follow through especially well on the warmup pitches given to him, but he stayed in the game. I wouldn't have blamed Wakamatsu if he'd have pulled Felix at that point. My only real gripe was over Felix going out for the eighth inning with his pitch count at 90. I know Felix went 200 innings last year, and he's the horse and everything, but I guess I don't want them to ramp him up too quickly. Then again, he did throw for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, so he's been stretched out a bit already. Still, I was a little iffy on how much work Felix should get considering the ankle tweak.
Gameballs -- I guess maybe this will be like a three stars kind of thing...
1) Felix Hernandez
It definitely didn't feel like the most dominant start for Felix, but after you look at his final line (a run on five hits in eight innings), you can't really argue with the results. What's amazing is that despite three walks and six strikeouts, he was able to get through eight innings with 97 pitches. He recorded 13 groundouts to five flyouts, the latter of which helped minimize the possibility of defensive hijinks for a certain old-kneed veteran playing rightfield.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
His two-run homer just past the glove of Carlos Gomez put the game effectively out of reach. He also drew a walk and scored twice. He didn't have a big splash defensive moment like Mike Cameron had in his Mariner debut, but it'll come.
3) Ken Griffey, Jr.
There's still something left in that bat after all. On the home-run pitch, I thought, "is that really gonna go?" I guess I was surprised at how hard it was hit. Thanks to Felix's awesomeness, there also weren't too many balls hit his way in rightfield, so they were able to get away with having him out there. The reward, of course, was being able to DH Mike Sweeney, which worked out wonderfully (0-for-4, one strikeout).
The boxscore line itself is exactly the same as Sweeney's -- 0-for-4 with a strikeout, stranding one runner. What doesn't show up in the boxscore is Branyan's oddly-breaking bat that didn't break away until his backswing, where the barrel end clubbed Mike Redmond hard behind the plate. His other other broken bat flung many rows into the box seats on the first-base side, luckily without impaling anyone. No colossal errors at first base, though, so I guess it could have been worse. At least when Edgar had bats fly into the crowd, there was a pretty good chance it would be a whole bat.
Now we brace ourselves for Bedardation.