Saturday, April 18, 2009


You know, the baseball season is still young, but if more things happen to this team like they did in the bottom of the fifth inning, it makes you want to believe that maybe this team just has some sort of charmed existence. Sure, the body of work after 11 games is an 8-3 season, but how many times did Mariner fans sit there after a game last year and feel that happy? How many innings did you sit through where the Mariners just wowed you and made you really glad you were watching? I was flipping back and forth between this game and Blues/Canucks Game 2, but I saw most of that fifth inning, and the whole time I was sitting there not believing what I was seeing, and it just continued. The Mariners were being no-hit by Justin Verlander for four innings and they just couldn't touch him. Also, I hadn't seen him throw that hard since when he had that first good season with the Tigers. Of course, the wire article quotes Don Wakamatsu as basically saying that the Mariners weren't swinging at a lot of first pitches, and then they suddenly started swinging at first pitches and early in the count. It's the Betancourt philosophy!

That bottom of the fifth, though, was such an odd array of events. It started out with three hits before it got weird. A Rob Johnson bunt isn't so weird, sure, but the Betancourt grounder to third is when it started getting weird. Brandon Inge bounced the throw home that would have had Russell Branyan dead to rights at the plate. Instead, Gerald Laird couldn't corral the ball and Branyan scored, with the price of the run being tightness in his back. The weirdness kept coming as Franklin Gutierrez push-bunted to the right side. Ichiro singled, which isn't so unusual, but then Verlander wild-pitched off Laird's glove to make it 5-3 for the Mariners. That was just a million kinds of weird all wrapped up into one inning.

On the hitting side of the boxscore ledger, Adrian Beltre had the only multi-hit game for the Mariners as well as the only extra-base hits. Hitless games were turned in by Endy Chavez (0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout) and Rob Johnson (0-for-3 with a strikeout...and a bunt). The remaining six hitters in the Mariner lineup recorded a hit apiece. The Mariners collectively hit 8-for-31, walking twice and striking out nine times.

As for the pitching, Felix Hernandez dug himself out of the deep hole that was the second inning. He faced 27 batters to get 18 outs (six innings). He gave up three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out six. He recorded eight groundball outs to five flyball outs -- in other words, it was a lot more Felixian (Felician?) than the same ratio from his start last Saturday. The bullpen finished off the last third of the game, combining to throw three innings of two-hit shutout ball, walking one and striking out four. The bullpen collectively faced ten hitters, one over the minimum.

1) Adrian Beltre
Beltre went 2-for-4, scoring once and driving in a run. One of the doubles he hit probably would have left most ballyards in the Majors. It was hit so hard into leftcenter. I remember the giant flashy Nikon advertisement in leftcenter coming into view on the screen. As much as I hate how flashy that advertisement is and how I wish they could mandate that all the outfield wall ads could just be one color (white), I can't really say I'm putting my money where my mouth is since the Nikon D60 I got a few months is such an awesome camera. That said, Beltre was 0-for-13 before his first double of the game. His batting average was raised to .214 and his doubles total was, well, doubled to four on the year. I said in one of my pieces earlier in the year that if the Mariners were close enough to trick people into thinking they might have a chance to make the playoffs, this is the one year where I'd be okay with white-flag trades because it's never been about this year. That includes Erik Bedard, that includes Jarrod Washburn (who should have been gone last season), and as much as I love watching him play and that he's the best third baseman in franchise history, that includes Beltre. Enjoy this ride for sure, but unless this team is crazy awesome, the plan for the Mariners isn't to live in the now, as Garth Algar would say.

2) Brandon Morrow
I guess when Morrow pulled the rug out from under everyone and proclaimed his love for all things bullpen, I might have had a split-second where I wished he was lefthanded. It'd be all right for now, but when Philippe Aumont comes up, then they'd both be lefthanded...I don't know. You could play matchup, I guess. It'd be like Bullpen Matchup With High Draft Picks. A fun, albeit unnecessary game, that. All told, Morrow in this game put up a nice line of a 1-2-3 ninth inning, striking out two hitters and throwing 11 strikes and one ball en route to his third save of the season. We've seen the Felix/Verlander matchup a couple times over the last few years, but you know what I'd like to see? Brandon Morrow against Justin Verlander. Unlike Felix/Verlander, it appears the only we'll have Morrow/Verlander will be only in dreams. In between molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

3) Franklin Gutierrez
Maybe I shouldn't put a guy here just because his push bunt was nothing short of awesome and was his only hit of the game. I'll make up some crap about how his outfield defense is awesome, and how the pressure isn't on him to produce offensively as much when he's the ninth hitter in the lineup instead of the second hitter. I'll bring up that he's hitting .212, but that's only .002 less than what Beltre's hitting even after two doubles in this game. Maybe I'll bring up the thought that if Felix is a groundball machine like he should be, you could make an argument that the Felix starts are the one time every five days where you might get away with benching Gutierrez (and starting Balentien somewhere in the outfield) if his bat stays cold. Maybe I'll bring up how it's weird that Mike Cameron let us know pretty quick how good he was with the glove, and Franklin Gutierrez did the same thing too with that catch in Minnesota. It took only a couple years without it to realize how spoiled we were in terms of centerfield defense for 15 seasons as Mariner fans. It's back.

Rob Johnson
I originally had Betancourt here, but I've found that I have more copy in my mind right now that relates in some way to Johnson. His bunt in the fifth inning to move Branyan to third base was great -- no argument there. The pitchers like how he handles them behind the plate, so no argument there either. If this team is punting all three outfield positions in terms of power hitting, can you really justify keeping another Dan Wilson (sweeping conclusion, I know) behind the plate? In a decent amount of Wilson years, there was at least some sock in the outfield, usually in the form of Ken Griffey, Jr. or Jay Buhner or even Mike Cameron to a lesser extent. Now unless Ichiro sacrifices average for some power and hits (i.e., a .312 and 12 homers type of year), you have an outfield with no pop. What I'm trying to say is Jeff Clement has a much higher offensive ceiling than Rob Johnson, and every one of us knows that. He also has a much higher offensive ceiling than Jamie Burke, but HE'S STILL SITTING IN TACOMA WHILE THE MARINERS ARE CARRYING TWO OF THE SAME GUY. Clement has nothing left to prove in Tacoma. What a waste.

Also, 8-3 still matches the Mariners' 2001 franchise-best start.

Which Erik Bedard will we see tonight?

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It seemed the Blues were a bit more up to the task of solving Roberto Luongo in this game, but Luongo was more than up to the task. He had his share of luck, sure, as there were a couple of posts and the shot where he got a piece of it, and it fluttered past and hit the crossbar, but those moments where he was lucky were eclipsed by the moments where he was just plain good. He made some kick saves that were completely insane. There were shots that found their way through a lot of traffic that I don't even know how he saw or got. Needless to say, he kept Vancouver in a deadlock (and Saint Louis off the scoreboard) until the Canucks scored late in the second period to make life a little easier.

The officials enabled this game to get tons more flow than Game 1. They called three less minor penalties before the skirmish at the final horn. Only one penalty was called in the first period, at which one of the CBC guys (Jim Hughson/Craig Simpson) joked that the Blues/Canucks game that had just started might end before Flyers/Penguins Game 2 ended (it was running concurrently and in overtime at that point). The game went 9:20 without a penalty call, and there weren't a lot of play stoppages in that first half of the first period. It was just rolling lines and rhythm and all that jazz. The Canucks went until 3:39 had elapsed in the second period without getting whistled for a penalty, and even then it was Shane O'Brien getting the call, which is sort of obligatory for him. He also got hit for slashing four minutes after he got out of the box from his first penalty. By the same token, after Crombeen's penalty late in the second period, the Blues played the whole third period without being penalized (again, until the final-horn skirmish).

As for the goals themselves, it's a shame that will all the opportunities the Canucks had (and with all the stops that Chris Mason came up with) that the first puck that went through was the one that did. Mats Sundin's deflection of a Pavol Demitra shot was partially stopped by Mason, but it got through and crawled across the goal line. It sort of reminded me of Trevor Linden's deflection goal in Game 7 against Dallas (that one was much bigger, obviously) or the Jeff Cowan overtime winner in Anaheim (again, an overtime winner is more important) just by how the puck snuck through. Needless to say, most Canuck fans hope this is what gets Sundin energized and helps him elevate his game since his speed probably can't be elevated. The second Canuck goal was pure stick-to-itiveness by Alex Burrows, who wound around the back of the net and punched it from the far side. I haven't heard the Shorthouse/Larscheid call of the goal yet, but I could imagine Larscheid mentioning something about how Burrows isn't afraid to go into the dirty areas to get goals, and based on the massive shot he took from a couple of Blues right after he let the shot go, that was a dirty area. He paid the price for that shot and that goal, but it was well worth it as Vancouver doubled their lead with half a period to go in the game. Saint Louis needed two goals toward the end and pulled Mason from the net for an extra attacker pretty early, and Henrik Sedin potted the empty-netter with 1:24 left to put the game on ice.

I had a hunch going into this game that Saint Louis was going to score the first goal of the game. Little did I know they wouldn't score the second or third goals as well. I have no idea how much longer Luongo can keep playing out of his mind, but we might as well enjoy it while he does. Frankly, I hope in Saint Louis that the offense can pick up more of the slack (off to say after a three-goal output in a shutout) and maybe that the defense can tighten up a bit and limit some of the chances on Luongo so that he doesn't have to stand on his head, as much fan as it is watching him do just that.

Yeah, Game 3 of Canucks and Blues from Saint Louis will be on Sunday, it will air on the CBC (for the lucky ones) and Versus at 4pm. Please note that in western Washington, Sports Radio 950 KJR-AM is airing the game as well. Presumably it will be the Canucks Radio Network broadcast based on the promos they were running on Friday.

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Friday, April 17, 2009


A day after Ryan Rowland-Smith was DL'd and Ichiro was brought up, this day started with Kenji Johjima getting DL'd and Matt Tuiasosopo getting sent down to Tacoma. The Mariners brought up Sean White and Jamie Burke from Tacoma. Don Wakamatsu said before Opening Day that he wanted everyone on the roster to get a chance to play in that first series in Minnesota. The Mariners got nine games into their season, and Wakamatsu never got poor Tuiasosopo on the field. The guy's been rotting on the bench for a week and a half, and now he'll get some playing time in Tacoma. I hope he hasn't lost his swing from sitting down for that long. Now the Mariners have Rob Johnson and Burke, two catchers' catchers. Maybe Erik Bedard throws to Burke on Saturday.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Mariners had a chance to beat the pace of the 2001 Mariners with a win in this game, one they ultimately didn't get. Instead, they merely matched the ten-game pace of the 2001 Mariners with their 7-3 start. Now if they can win 13 of their next 14, they'll match the 20-4 start of the 2001 team. Then I think we can really be sold that this team might play meaningful baseball into August.

The good news is that the top of the Mariner lineup went 4-for-12 collectively. The bad news is that the rest of the lineup combined for a jubilant night of 0-for-18 with a walk and three strikeouts. Even Adrian Beltre's RBI came because he beat out what could have been a double-play ball. The team went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, and the zero in that statistic probably means less than the four -- the Mariners didn't get many runners aboard on this night. Everyone went hitless except for Ichiro, Endy Chavez (2-for-4 for the Mariners' only multi-hit game), and Mike Sweeney. All four of the Mariners' hits were singles. Wladimir Balentien swung on a full-count pitch about a foot off the plate outside with the bases loaded in the fourth. A walk there gets the Mariners a 2-0 lead. Apart from that bump in the road, the Mariners had trouble getting anything from the Joe Saunders Groundball Machine Experience (12 groundouts, six flyouts). This wasn't quite a laugher for the Angels as a four-run game can't really be called a laugher, but there was no air left in the Mariners after that five-run sixth for the Angels.

I'll deal with the starting pitching below, as well as the first pitcher to come out of the bullpen. The final two pitchers, Mark Lowe and Sean White, combined for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out three and giving up two hits. The only blemish was that Lowe let one of Corcoran's runners score.

1) Chris Jakubauskas
The Lithuanian laser (via southern California) turned in an emergency start that surpassed my expectations. I thought this game had a good chance to be a complete throwaway after four innings, but it turns out Jakubauskas gave the Mariners a pretty good chance to win until Roy Corcoran came in and wrecked his ERA, then played add-on. He also threw a pretty good load of strikes (21 balls, 60 strikes compared to Saunders' 38 balls and 53 strikes). He threw to 21 batters to get 16 outs, getting six outs via the ground and seven through the air. He struck out three Angels. He gave up five hits, with only one extra-base hit, a Torii Hunter double. I don't know how far Jakubauskas can milk this appearance or how long he'll stick with this club. If the Mariners eventually get a lefthander in that bullpen, I think Jakubauskas' just cemented his spot a little better. He's shown versatility, after all, and any team's brass seems to like that. How's about Jakubauskas closes and we throw Brandon Morrow into the rotation since he can't seem to throw back-to-back days? Oh, you mean he doesn't want to start? Tough s%*#.

2) Endy Chavez
Another multi-hit game for Chavez. This time he took the reins in centerfield as Franklin Gutierrez and his major awesome outfield skills and tepid bat rode the pine. The presence of Gutierrez probably wouldn't have helped the first-and-third fest the Angels were putting on in the top of the sixth. That was just a merry-go-round that couldn't seem to be stopped. Over the course of a full season, though, I'm hoping this whole benching-of-Gutierrez thing happens a lot less often since this team really is weaker without him in centerfield. Hopefully Wakamatsu just spelled him for a day. Needless to say, Gutierrez helps himself every time he gets a hit. We can't expect him to be Mike Cameron with the bat. Okay, we can hope for .260 with probably not a lot of strikeouts and nowhere near the power that Cameron had, but if we're sitting here in mid-June and Gutierrez is hitting .210, as much as I like having his defense out there, it makes it a lot easier for Wakamatsu to bench him. That's too bad since I imagine Chavez as the Randy Winn to Cameron-like Gutierrez -- sure, he can play centerfield, but would you really want him out there every night?

3) Sean White
On a night when there weren't too many bright spots, Sean White was recalled from Tacoma and threw a near-perfect eighth and ninth innings. His line shows as two innings with no runs/hits/walks/strikeouts, but he faced seven batters instead of six. I'm pretty sure that extra hitter (I've been making all of these pieces without the game logs in front of me) was due to a Beltre error on a really terrible hop. Nonetheless, White was a fresh arm, and he did quite well and didn't let a four-run deficit get out of hand. You might make a case for Mark Lowe here, but his line was slightly less impressive, and he let one of Roy Corcoran's runners score, though Corcoran probably deserved it by that point. One thing that can be said about both Lowe and White, however, is that their ERAs are both 0.00. That's more impressive for Lowe, who's been out there a few times. Somehow I doubt White would rather be in Tacoma for the home opener tonight and taking in the brand-new LED video screen and all that good stuff. I wonder if that thing will visually distract me on Highway 16 as much as the Emerald Queen's monstrosity does when I'm driving on I-5 through Tacoma.

Roy Corcoran
Again, this is one of those goats given for highest crap-per-time ratio. We found out how much damage Corcoran can do with 13 pitches. Eight of those were strikes, and three of them were hits. He gave up three runs, though one of those was let in my Lowe. He did manage to get a groundout. His ERA spiked a bit to 6.75. Maybe it's just me, but it seems lately like the Mariner bullpen has done well as a whole, but every night one of the relievers has an okay to bad night. Corcoran was the guy in this game, Batista's been the guy a couple times, Jakubauskas gave up two runs in his debut, Aardsma kind of scared me in the extra-inning game. Maybe I'm just scaring myself, but maybe this is a trend, and maybe there will be more nights were a reliever just completely craps the bed and puts the game out of reach. There will be other nights when Carlos Silva will do that before the bullpen can, sure, but as long as this team is tricking us into thinking it might possibly be good, this could be something about which we should be concerned.

Felix the Cat against Justin Verlander. I'm less sold on Verlander now than I was when he first came up. I wish this matchup was about two or three years ago, even though I know it already happened at least once.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009


Okay, I was busy watching playoff hockey, and while I did catch some of this game on the FSNW replay, most of this will be a boxscore gander. One quick oddity before I go on here -- the Mariners after nine games have matched the 2001 team, who also started 7-2. With a win in the final game of this series against the Angels, the Mariners have a chance to go 8-2 and be ahead of the 2001 Mariners, who lost in their tenth game and started 7-3. Their record after their fourth loss was 11-4. After their fifth loss, the 2001 team's record was 20-5. Anyway, the team could have an 8-2 mark after the next game, but it's probably a bad time to have to send Chris Jakubauskas to the mound for his first Major League start. It's really too bad because I wanted to see how Ryan Rowland-Smith would rebound from his icky start the first time through the rotation. Instead, he was placed on the disabled list. What threw me off was when the Mariners had Cesar Jimenez trot out on the red carpet for Opening Day, but the dude's not on the active roster yet and he hasn't fully recovered healthwise. I thought for a second that the Mariners had their lefthanded reliever for a second.

I didn't expect the Mariners to get a complete laugher against the Angels. That team may not have most of their rotation in proper working order, but the team's not chop liver. Jered Weaver was hit hard in terms of hits (ten), but only gave up four runs in his five-plus innings of work, leaving in the same half-inning with the Chavez and Griffey back-to-back homers. Still, even after that, the game was still very much within reach for the Angels. That was before Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger got rocked in the seventh. Jepsen cleaned up Weaver's mess in the sixth, but had some trouble and left some runners on, then Bulger couldn't get outs from any of the four hitters he faced. Bulger succeeded smashingly in having his ERA bulge and hemorrhage. The damage didn't stop until Justin Speier came in and grabbed the final two outs of the seventh.

As you might imagine, the hitting looks good in an 11-3 win. The only hitless games were on the bats of Adrian Beltre (0-for-4 with a run, strikeout, and walk each) and Franklin Gutierrez (0-for-1 scoring once, driving in a run, walking twice, and getting caught stealing once). Jose Lopez and Russell Branyan (a double) got one hit apiece, but Ichiro, Endy Chavez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Kenji Johjima, and even his injury replacement Rob Johnson (with a double) had two hits apiece. Yuniesky Betancourt held down the eighth spot in the lineup and went 3-for-5 with a double, scoring once. Chavez, Griffey, and Ichiro accounted for the Mariners' three homers. The team went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

The Mariner pitching was good enough. Jarrod Washburn had a fairly good start against his former team. He threw 89 pitches through six innings and probably could have come out for the seventh, but it's early in the season, so I'll let that slide. Washburn gave up two runs, didn't walk anyone, and struck out four. He gave up four hits, but two of them were doubles (Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu) and one was a Torii Hunter homer. Washburn faced 22 hitters to record 18 outs. Washburn got six groundouts and eight flyouts, which I think is a little less skewed toward the flyball end of the spectrum in comparison to vintage Washburn. As for the bullpen, Miguel Batista came out for the seventh (I'll get to that later), then Shawn Kelley came out and provided decent pitching to end the same inning to preserve a one-run lead, then came out in the eighth to protect a much more cushy eight-run lead. Mark Lowe threw a perfect low-pressure ninth to end it. Kelley and Lowe combined for a three-inning, two-hit, two-strikeout last three innings of relief.

1) Ichiro
Looks like the only thing that has a bleeding ulcer now is the starting pitching machine that got sent to the showers in the commercial. He may have missed the first eight games of the season, but Ichiro marked his return with a 2-for-5 night with a stolen base and a grand slam. He tied the record for hits by a Japanese professional baseball player (Isao Harimoto, who was present), and now has 198 hits to go to make it nine straight 200-hit seasons. His only blemish in the boxscore is that he grounded into a double play. The weird thing about the grand slam is that Ichiro's swing on that ball was not a prototypical Ichiro swing. It didn't seem quite as balanced as his usual swings, and the homer wasn't the usual screaming line drive over the wall that I'm used to seeing. This was as close to a nine-iron rainmaker as I've ever seen Ichiro hit. One look at the boxscore from this game also says that Ichiro is currently hitting .400! Can he keep it up? Is this a charmed season? Hahaha, let the rose-colored glasses be worn! Don't worry, I'm keeping the realism to myself.

2) Ken Griffey, Jr.
Griffey hit his 400th Mariner home run, something that came nine years too late. It was a crying shame that the 1999 season ended with the Griffey ticker on the rightcenter stairs stuck on 398 career homers. He hit his 400th career blast in Cincinnati, which seemed like a travesty to me. Anyway, he's become the first player in Major League history to hit 400 homers with one team and 200 with another. To me, it's somewhat a sort of obscure stat, but not a lot of players play their whole careers with one team anymore, so the good players having two or three long stays at cities over a long career are more the norm than they used to be. As for the homer itself, that was a classic Griffey shot, unlike the homer on Opening Day in Minnesota. You had the follow-through, the bat drop, the admiring of the fly ball, there was no doubt. It was great hearing the call of the homer and seeing and hearing the crowd go nuts, but as the ball came down, I saw a huge glut of empty seats out there in rightcenter. I know the second home game of the season is usually a hard sell since it's mid-week two months before summer starts and with school still in session, but that looked like every bit of an 18516 crowd out there for this game.

3) Endy Chavez
He had the front end of the back-to-back homers with Griffey. His homer was a laser of a line drive. It was a homer, of course, which means it wasn't a punch of a base hit that sort of found a hole just beyond the reach of an infielder. That's a good thing. With the return of Ichiro, it also signaled the advent of the Mariners' ultramega outfield of Chavez/Gutierrez/Ichiro. Chavez went 2-for-4 with the homer off Jered Weaver. He also walked once and struck out once. If you've got money on him finishing the season with a .400 average, he's hitting .405 right now. If you really have money on that, you should probably get some help because you're a compulsive gambler. Chavez was placed into the second spot for the first time this season, and Gutierrez was batting ninth. To credit Gutierrez, he filled the role of a nice on-base presence getting on in the ninth slot before the order rolled over since he walked twice (also bunted once). Maybe Chavez goes to the ninth spot eventually, maybe not. I like him at second right now until he gets cold.

Miguel Batista
Bringing a key principle back from my 2006 game pieces, this one is basically given to the highest crap-per-time ratio. Batista faced all of three hitters. Two of them got hits, with one of them being a Torii Hunter double. He recorded a strikeout but wasn't credited with 1/3 of an inning, which is probably where that Rob Johnson passed ball figures into his line. He threw four balls and five strikes and gave up a run along the way. It's definitely not the worst outing he's had, and now that I'm typing this paragraph I'm thinking maybe I should have gone with Beltre here, but I saw him make a throw to first from ten feet past the third-base bag down the line, so I'm not giving him the goat even with the 0-for-4. Beltre's too cool and too awesome to be wearing goat horns, his .206 average be damned. Besides, his .206 average also represents well for the local area code. In other words, it's Batista getting the goat kinda by default, but these are the depths to which you have to go when your team laid an 11-3 whuppin' on the other team.

The J-Man throws tonight. Or the C-Man. Or Big C. The Lithuanian Laser? If Ilgauskas is Lithuanian and Jakubauskas' name is a bit similar, maybe that'd work.

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Well, in short, the Canucks killed all but one penalty, then took a one-goal lead after 40 minutes to the bank.

In long, though...

My goodness, were there enough penalties called in this game? So much for playoff hockey having the officials swallow the whistles. That's probably more of a Game 7 thing. Anyway, there was five-on-five hockey for exactly 39:24 of this game. Which means, combined, that the equivalent to an entire period of hockey was played on special teams. No wonder a lot of the game seemed a bit disjointed -- it didn't allow for a lot of end-to-end stuff, rolling lines, and that kind of thing. It's a miracle the game went a whole 7:37 before Alex Edler got put into the box for that elbowing penalty along the end boards. I thought the fact that Alain Vigneault put the fourth line out for the opening faceoff would set the tone for the game, but it was the snowing of Roberto Luongo that started the rash of post-whistle extracurricular activity. Some stupid post-whistle penalties were called, and some weren't. After Mattias Ohlund got called for interference, the post-whistle scrum that ended the play nearly resulted in Shane O'Brien getting the gate, but fortunately for him, he didn't. Instead, Sami Salo slashed a stick out of someone's hands 19 seconds into the penalty kill, setting up Vancouver's big kill of the game.

Unfazed by the snowings, Roberto Luongo looked fine in net. He saw everything, and as usual, he tends to stop everything he sees. The Vancouver defense wasn't allowing a lot of havoc to occur in front of their net, and thus, there weren't too many moments where Luongo could be considered close to being under siege. Most of the shots were swallowed up by Luongo or cleared away if there were rebounds. In other words, barely any second chances, which is important because the lone Saint Louis goal was on a big rebound. If Luongo was a tiny bit more lucky, Brad Boyes' goal could have been stopped by the goal stick. I won't say that could have been the series-turning equivalent to Kirk Gibson homering in Game 1 of the World Series on one leg, but you never know. Of course, if Luongo added a shutout to the two shutouts that ended the regular season, the pressure on him to keep that going in the next game probably would have been unreal. All told, Luongo stopped 25 of 26 shots.

Though they took the one-goal lead into the third period, they didn't completely sit back to milk the lead, which really they should never do. As Tom Larscheid would say, "never give a sucker an even break." The Canucks had quite a few chances to pot a dagger goal, but never did. Mason Raymond hitting the post comes to mind, Carlo Colaiacovo's big pokecheck on the Alex Burrows breakaway comes to mind. The bottom line is, the Canucks didn't bury the Blues, and that's really all the Blues need to believe that they still have a chance in this series. Sure, the Canucks are one win closer to winning this series than the Blues are, but the Canucks didn't dominate them or demoralize them.

I think there was a shift in the third period where Rick Rypien pretty much was hitting everything that moved. On his third (I think) hit of the shift, he got sent to the box for charging since he did a bit of a lunge job on the hit, maybe left the feet a little bit. I guess I think about two things immediately -- one, how many times has a shift like that occurred for the Canucks this season, and two, how different would the Canucks' season have been if they guy didn't miss 70-some-odd games?

Maybe it's just me, but there seemed to be a litany of offside infractions in this game. I know it happened at least once with the Sedin line and once with the Kesler line, though I'm sure they were more than likely multiple offenders. Maybe I'm more scrutinizing with this, but it seemed like the players just weren't in sync as much as they'd probably like to be. Something seemed a bit off, and it's not just how slow Mats Sundin is skating either.

Still, the turning point in this game was probably the Canucks' kill of a 1:41-long two-man advantage for the Blues. This was the closest Luongo was to being under siege in the game, and it was an incredibly long shift for Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, and Willie Mitchell, who failed on a couple attempts to clear pucks, but still managed to block a few shots and tip pucks away from danger areas. It also wasn't easy since even if they did manage to clear the puck, two of their defensemen (Ohlund and Salo) were in the box. A Saint Louis goal at that point would have tied the game at 1-1 and done wonders for their confidence. Instead, the penalty kill came through and the Canucks never trailed in the game.

Lastly, I think Kyle Wellwood is going to score at some point in this series. I'll completely steal Larscheid's words and bring up Wellwood's poise with the puck and how he never rushes the play. There was a play where he made a real nice move toward the net and didn't ultimately get a shot away, but it's quite the teaser.

Game 2 is Friday night. As is the case for any team that wins Game 1 in a series, Vancouver will see how Saint Louis adjusts and adjust accordingly.

The Canucks took a year away from playoff hockey, but I'm so glad it's back.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I can't say I was expecting too much out of this game, this home opener. Of course there would be a giant ovation for Ken Griffey, Jr. upon his return, and we definitely saw that. The roof was closed when the players had their red-carpet introductions, but luckily it was opened once all of the pregame festivities were done. Then we were left with the daunting task of entrusting Carlos Silva to hold down the offense of the Angels. I just imagined too-flat, too-high not-quite-sinkers getting clobbered. I was expecting six innings out of Silva, tops. We saw better, though.

On the hitting side of the ledger, Ronny Cedeno (0-for-3 with a walk, scoring once), Adrian Beltre (0-for-4, striking out once, stealing a base, and driving in a run), and Jose Lopez (0-for-4 with a long fly that Bobby Abreu caught at the leftfield wall) were the hitless Mariners. Endy Chavez was the only multi-hit Mariner on this day, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. The offensive went a combined 7-for-31 with three walks and six strikeouts. Franklin Gutierrez recorded the only extra-base hit for the Mariners, the double that put him aboard as the winning run in the bottom of the 10th.

As for the pitching, I don't want to mention anyone that will get their paragraphs below, so I'll mention the bullpen as a whole. After Silva went his seven innings, the bullpen went the final three innings. To get those nine outs, they faced 16 batters. They gave up three hits, five walks, and struck out one. Needless to say, those aren't exactly 1-2-3 innings the bullpen was throwing out there. Other than not being able to crush Darren freaking Oliver (seriously) over the span of three innings, probably the most upsetting thing about this game was how erratic the bullpen was. Five walks (one intentional) in 16 batters is a lot. One positive is that Brandon Morrow's ERA is now all the way down to 7.36, so that's good. The way Roy Corcoran threw today, I was just glad that his ERA is still 0.00 after that 10th inning.

As an aside, I must mention that I'm not a fan of the direction where all the Fox/FSN telecasts took their on-screen graphics. The font they're using can sometimes be borderline unreadable when small letters are being used (letters that were legible in years past). The font is just too boxy, and the serifs make numbers like 6 and 9 look barely discernable from 8. The best graphics I've ever seen used on Fox were from the 2003 NFL season, where the score graphic on the screen used only the team logos and no letters. CBS uses Silicon Graphics, and I wish Fox could do the same in this case.

Anyway, back to stuff related to the game.

1) Carlos Silva
Back in 2005 and 2006 when I used to write longer game pieces for every game, I noticed that sometimes I'd give out gameballs for certain performances I thought I may never see again that season. Silva definitely had one of those performances in this game. There were moments of brilliance, and there were moments of vintage Silva -- the Mariners got him a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth before he served up that pitch that Torii Hunter absolutely wrecked/demolished/clobbered/obliterated in the top of the sixth. Silva gave up two runs and four hits over his seven innings, walking one and striking out four, needing 99 pitches (58 strikes). Of the four hits, two were doubles, and one was the Hunter solo shot. Silva faced 27 batters to get 21 outs. He got seven outs via ground and 10 outs via air. I guess that fly-friendly ratio might signal to me that maybe Silva wasn't completely himself out there. That ratio isn't Washburn-esque by any means, but I'd be more used to a flipped ratio of ten groundouts and seven flyouts. The fact that Silva faced 27 batters and 21 of them put the ball in play, however, doesn't surprise me.

2) Endy Chavez
As long as Chavez keeps hitting, I'll keep putting him into this section. One of the hits was laced hard over the infield and wasn't a seeing-eye or hole-finder of a hit, so that was good. Franklin Gutierrez was bumped down to eighth in the order, possibly making it easier for Chavez to move down to second if/when Ichiro returns for the second game of the series. I like the move of Gutierrez down because I don't know if you really want to throw him that many at-bats just yet. I don't feel like moving Betancourt out of ninth. Yet. Unless you move him to second? We know from this game that the bunt in the 10th didn't turn out like complete crap like we're used to out of Betancourt; it was actually quite good. I just want to see him hit, I care less about the bunting and patience and good stuff. One hilarious thing about this game: there was a point where a hit dropped in front of Chavez in right, and for some reason I thought it was Griffey out there and immediately thought someone else should be in rightfield before I caught myself.

3) Franklin Gutierrez
The centerfielder was moved down to the eighth spot in the lineup and went 1-for-2 with the Mariners' only extra-base hit. He also walked once and struck out once. He scored twice, including the Mariners' winning run in the tenth, which came right after he rocked that double. I was hoping that thing would be a homer, but you can't have everything, I guess. Like I mentioned in the Chavez paragraph, I think moving Gutierrez down in the order is better so he's not up to bat quite as many times and it's easier to hide his shortcomings at the plate. If he warms up later, I wouldn't be against moving him back up to the second spot in the lineup. As for the second game of this series, color me many shades of excited at the thought of finally being able to see the Chavez/Gutierrez/Ichiro outfield. Doubles into the gap? There should be a lot less of those now. Jarrod Washburn probably can't wait for this outfield to be playing behind him. This should be wonderful.

David Aardsma
I figured one of the bullpen guys needed to be in this spot, and it's going to be Aardsma. It's one thing to throw all fastballs all the time, but it's another to throw them waist-high or higher. It looks great when the fastballs are blowing past the hitters, but it's going to be quite another if Aardsma is on with the bases loaded and Vladimir Guerrero turns one of those fastballs around. This guy needs a second pitch like it's nobody's business, though I doubt he'll get one anytime soon. Eddie Guardado showed JJ Putz the splitter before he left Seattle. I wish there could be something similar here for one of the pitchers to show Aardsma how to throw something else. Even a straight change would at least give the hitters something else to look at. So far, Aardsma throws it up there and says, "catch me if you can" with his fastball. It's one thing if that pitch has pinpoint control on it, but he's throwing the ball and it's que sera, sera. If he had a changeup, I bet he could make some hitters look copletely foolish.

Wednesday could see the Angels get washed, burned, or Washburned. I'm just glad I don't have to settle for MLB.tv sticking me with the Angels feed and having Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler wax poetic about Washburn and tell everyone how awesome he was as an Angel. Bleah.

Keep in mind the next one of these I do will probably be strictly off the boxscore due to Game 1 of Blues/Canucks, which will be running concurrently with the Mariner game.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009


And hooray for that horribly bad post title.

For me, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best postseason tournament in all of sports. March Madness for college basketball may come close, but the run for the Cup is unmatched. No other playoff can have me on the edge of my seat in Game 1. Goals can happen at any time, and a fluky bounce or something in the first minute of Game 1 could set the tone for the entire series. By the same token, one team could be peppering the goalie with pucks for minutes at a time only to have the other team pop the puck in at the other end. Things can change so quickly in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that's what makes it riveting. What's also odd is that usually from game to game, momentum doesn't really matter -- usually it seems like a within-game thing. Also, for the most part, home ice really doesn't matter until Game 7.

That said, I'll do some mostly ill-educated guesses on who gets through the first round...

East quarterfinals
(1) Boston Bruins v. (8) Montreal Canadiens
After the running of the team into the ground by Jeremy Jacobs, it's nice to see the Bruins finally succeed despite Jacobs. That fan base really needed something to cheer about, and they had one hell of a team this year. As for the Habs, the centennial celebration of the Canadiens in Montreal was nice, but the season for the team on the ice was a turbulent one. Everything was criticized in a topsy-turvy season, from Alexei Kovalev to the goalie situation to GM/coach Bob Gainey to Ryan O'Byrne's own goal. Guy Carbonneau failed to survive the season as the bench boss of the bleu, blanc et rouge. As much as I thought Carey Price was an awesome junior goalie for Tri-City and as much as I think he'll be a solid goaltender in this league one day, he (or Jaroslav Halak) has his work cut out for him with this Boston team. Consider for a second the crap the Boston brass got when they traded Brad Boyes for Dennis Wideman. Boyes hit the 30-goal plateau for the Blues this season. That notwithstanding, the Bruins still scored a crapton of goals this season, and the Canadiens seem a bit shaky and not on the strongest foot entering the playoffs. Still, it's an Original Six rivalry, which makes it immediately watchable.
Bruins in six

(2) Washington Capitals v. (7) New York Rangers
It'll be fun to see how high Alexander Ovechkin elevates his game in the Big Apple. Ultimately, the Caps aren't going to win this series with their defense. Not defensively, anyway. Defenseman Mike Green scored way too many goals for a defenseman this season, which shows just how offensively minded the Capitals are. However, Washington's goalie is Jose Theodore, who I still don't think is anywhere close to what he was in Montreal (in odd news, where is David Aebischer now?). Thus, Washington will want the ice tilted to the Rangers' end not just to hold Henrik Lundqvist under siege and score as many goals as possible, but to keep the puck nowhere close to Theodore. I don't think they want their defensemen having to actually play defense. So, the Caps have the firepower advantage with their forwards, while the Rangers have the better goaltender. Worse yet for the Rangers, they don't really score a lot. Still, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez have all kinds of good playoff experience. Markus Naslund, on the other hand... well, at least they don't look to him for leadership abilities.
Capitals in five

(3) New Jersey Devils v. (6) Carolina Hurricanes
The Devils had an incredible regular season and they played a majority of it without Martin Brodeur. Tim Clemmensen got a whole bunch of wins in net, and I'm pretty sure if the Devils manage to win the Cup, he'll get his name etched on it without even playing a minute in the playoffs. As for the Hurricanes, they really got it together and reaped the benefits of getting Erik Cole back into a Canes uniform. In net, it's a matchup of Cup-winning goaltenders with Brodeur going up against Cam Ward, whose team beat the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers in the Final the year after the lockout, bringing the Cup to the South, but sadly not to Hartford. Still, the Devils were a great team in the regular season, and it's not a Jacques Lemaire team -- they score way more than they did back in the day. That said, I think Carolina could steal a game or two.
Devils in five

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins v. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Here's the other rivalry series in the East. The Battle of Pennsylvania pits the Penguins, who in another lifetime I could see myself liking, against the Flyers, who had a rash of dirty players not too long ago and who I hate. There's not much I like about the Flyers. A lot of it stems from the fact that Comcast's hockey studio for Versus is in Philadelphia and as a result they were shoving Flyer games down our throats even when the team was complete crap. The Penguins have the well-documented names of Crosby and Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury won't be content with just getting to the Final this time. As for the Flyers, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards scored way too many goals this season, and Simon Gagne brings the experience and leadership and that good stuff. If I were a Flyer fan, though, I'd be a little weary of putting my hopes upon Martin Biron in net. Yikes. Also add to the situation that the Flyers could have had home-ice in this series if they could have beaten the Rangers at home in their final game of the season.
Penguins in six

West quarterfinals
(1) San Jose Sharks v. (8) Anaheim Ducks
The Sharks and Ducks are the two teams I fear the most as a Canuck fan because they could physically dominate the Canucks with their size and physical play. The good thing would be that if the Canucks and Sharks advanced past the first round, the Canucks wouldn't draw the Sharks until the West finals. The Canucks could only drawn the Ducks in the second round if both Detroit and San Jose got taken out in the first round, and there's no way that's happening. The Sharks, like the Red Wings, were a bit sluggish in the last week or so of the season, but managed to snag the President's Trophy regardless. As we know, however, the President's Trophy does not necessarily a Stanley Cup winner make. Of course, that advantage gets them the Shark Tank crowd for any Game 5 and Game 7 throughout the playoffs, and what an advantage that is. I really hope the Bay Area is giving a crap about this team, because let's face it, what other team in Bay Area sports right now isn't crap or coming off a crap season? As for the Ducks, it took them a while to find their stride. I thought they might have trouble when they lost Dustin Penner to Kevin Lowe's offer sheet tactic, but now they've just plugged in Bobby Ryan with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan's now the better player than Penner. The Ducks won the Cup a mere two years ago, and most of that nucleus is still intact. This won't be your usual 1st against 8th seed matchup.
Sharks in seven

(2) Detroit Red Wings v. (7) Columbus Blue Jackets
Along with Sharks/Ducks, this is the other intra-division rivalry in the West playoffs. Obviously, it's the elite organization against the new kids on the block. Detroit stumbled through the last week or so of the regular season, and many are a bit wary of Chris Osgood's goaltending. No one's doubting what the man's done in the past in terms of Stanley Cup wins, but he's getting up there in age and lately, well, there's been shakiness. The Blue Jackets were a very hot team for a good part of the season to finally vault themselves into the playoffs for the first time, though they did level off a little. Still, if I had a sum of money riding on whether Chris Osgood or Steve Mason could steal a game right now, I'm going to have to go with Mason. Sure, experience is on the side of Osgood, but Mason is having this beginner's luck like Cam Ward when he rode all the way to the Cup. Columbus may also be getting Derick Brassard back, which will help. Also, Rick Nash is an elite and hungry young player, while RJ Umberger scored some huge goals for the Flyers in last year's playoffs. If Detroit had solid goaltending right now and a healthy Marian Hossa, they'd win this series in a walk. I'm eager to see if Ken Hitchcock outcoaches Mike Babcock. I think he might. Contrasting styles, you know.
Blue Jackets in seven

(3) Vancouver Canucks v. (6) Saint Louis Blues
As a Canuck fan, I'm probably more afraid of this series than I should be. The teams split the season series, but the Blues are a pretty good young team and a pretty hot team right now. People have hailed TJ Oshie as a Mike Bossy clone. The Blues matched the Canucks' offer sheet to David Backes, and he had a great season for Saint Louis. Chris Mason left Nashville but appears to have gotten back on the tracks with the Blues. It's not all just young players for the Blues, though. Keith Tkachuk has tons of experience in the league, and Paul Kariya could be waiting in the wings. Also, Andy McDonald won a Cup with the Ducks. What do the Canucks have going for them? Hopefully two scoring lines and an incredibly focused goaltender. I think if they pass well out of their own end and avoid stupid penalties, everything should take care of itself. For the record, the Canucks' two-month tear from 13 points down at the end of January all the way to the division lead was 20-5-1. After the Canucks grabbed only one point out of a possible six to start the month of April, they returned to their defensive strengths, allowing only one goal over the final three games (i.e., Luongo ended with two shutouts). Of course, the Twins have to look more like they did during the regular season. This year, though, the Canucks don't look like a team that will easily get pushed around. If Mats Sundin has anything good to add to this conversation, I'm all ears.
Canucks in six

(4) Chicago Blackhawks v. (5) Calgary Flames
I've seen places that aren't giving Calgary any chance at all in this series, saying it'll be a sweep. While it would be hilarious for a Mike Keenan-coached team to get swept in the first round, I think a team with Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff on it is too good to get swept. They'll luck themselves into at least one win. Of course, it took Calgary's injury spate and late-season swoon to blow a 13-point division lead to the Canucks. The problem is that the Flames never really got it back toward the end of the season. When the Canucks started pulling the Flames and Blackhawks closer in the standings, I thought they'd just get the fourth seed and that the division title was out of reach. What happened wasn't what I planned -- the Flames stayed pedestrian, but the Blackhawks seemed to be getting their swagger back, putting the Northwest leaders at either a third seed for a division title or losing home-ice advantage in the first round and facing the Blackhawks. That's the bad news for the Flames -- they haven't been clicking for a couple of months, and the Blackhawks might have found their mojo again. Chicago also has a Cup winner in net. I don't think the Flames can win by doing it with offense because Chicago can outdo them in terms of offensive firepower, and I don't think the Flames are strong enough on defense to control the game that way. Some are saying bloodbath, but I won't quite go that far.
Blackhawks in five

...and we'll have some more fun.

East semifinals
(1) Boston Bruins v. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins
Bruins in seven

(2) Washington Capitals v. (3) New Jersey Devils
Devils in six

West semifinals
(1) San Jose Sharks v. (7) Columbus Blue Jackets
Sharks in six

(3) Vancouver Canucks v. (4) Chicago Blackhawks
Canucks in seven

East final
(1) Boston Bruins v. (3) New Jersey Devils
Devils in six

West final
(1) San Jose Sharks v. (3) Vancouver Canucks
Sharks in six

Stanley Cup final
(E3) New Jersey Devils v. (W1) San Jose Sharks
Sharks in seven

...of course, what I really want to happen would be to put the Canucks over the Sharks and winning the Cup. I also wouldn't want New Jersey in the Cup final, and I'm sure the NHL's marketing department sure as hell doesn't want that. They also want the complete opposite East final given the semifinal matchups I came up with. The NHL would crap themselves if they got a Washington/Pittsburgh East final.

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Monday, April 13, 2009


So...who expected this Mariner team to be 5-2 going into the opening homestand? I'm sure a lot of us thought one of the few positives of the first two weeks of play would be Ken Griffey, Jr. stepping to the plate in Safeco Field in a Mariner uniform. Instead, we'll be getting that along with a team that isn't 2-5 or 1-6 or 0-7. I saw an FSNW graphic that this was the best start since the Mariners' best start since the 2001 season. The first thing that popped up in my mind was that that doesn't say much for 2002 and 2003 (both teams were 4-3 after seven games). The second thing is that this team definitely will not end up like the 2001 team, though if they somehow win 15 of their next 17 games like that team did, I'm not going to complain. Of course, the side effect of that happening would be that it might convince management to hold onto an Erik Bedard or a Jarrod Washburn. This might be a season where I would fully advocate a white-flag trade. Let's say they could maybe have a sort of chance now, or they could take a step back now to take one forward next year or the year after and get further.

Oh, the game. I can't really talk much about the hitting here thanks to the pitching being so good in this game, but I'll try. The teams combined for six hits in the game, three per side. Endy Chavez, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Sweeney accounted for the Mariner hits, with Sweeney's double being the only one that went for extra bases. The team was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Chavez stole a base, which isn't so unusual, but Russell Branyan managed to steal second, which was very unusual.

I'll talk about the Mariners' starting pitching below and talk about the other guy that pitched today, David Aardsma. Brandon Morrow had closed out the game the day before, and Aardsma closed the game before that. Maybe we have a Closer A and a Closer B on this team? They both bring the heat, though Morrow seems to have more fluid mechanics. Having Aardsma able to get these outs now is good if Morrow's arm explodes or Morrow (hopefully) has a change of heart and doesn't mind going back into the rotation. With Aardsma and Morrow, the Mariners have two guys that can nail down games. With Batista, the Mariners have a guy who was Toronto's closer for a year, but who these days can't be trusted with leads of less than four runs and those kinds of things. Maybe the Mariners can shoot a hole into the whole "you need a closer and you need to make a decision as to who it will be" philosophy.

1) Erik Bedard
The only way Bedard could have been any better would have been to get the complete game. Unfortunately for him, things started to get a little hairy, so Wakamatsu brought in the righthanded Aardsma despite the fact that the next hitter, Jason Giambi, was lefthanded. Nonetheless, it's nice to know that the ceiling for a Bedard start is in fact something close to a complete game. He threw 102 pitches over his 8 1/3 shutout innings, walking only one and striking out seven while scattering three hits (all singles). He split evenly between groundouts and flyouts at nine apiece. He recorded 25 outs and faced only 29 batters, four over the minimum. While there's no way I expect this out of Bedard in his next start, I wouldn't mind a strong seven innings every time out, not that I expect him to do that. I'd be feeling pretty good about 3/5 of the rotation if Bedard could go seven innings every time.

2) Mike Sweeney
I still get uncomfortable watching Sweeney swing the bat, but I can't argue with a double that goes to the wall and drives in the only run of the game. The worthwhile on-field and in-boxscore contributions from Sweeney have slowly become a little less rare. That's a good thing. He hit sixth in the lineup in this game, and I guess I can understand that. I'm not really high on the idea of Griffey batting third, but as I look at this boxscore, it's pretty apparent Wakamatsu was going for a left-right-left-right thing which held up through the first two-thirds of the lineup. Honestly, I'd rather see Branyan hitting third instead of Griffey, but that's just me. In other news, the left-right thing could have gone all the way through the lineup if, say, Jeff Clement was on the roster. Rob Johnson was the catcher in this game and hung and 0-for-3. All in all, Sweeney is hitting .250 so far this season in not-quite-everyday duty. Let's hope the .250 thing goes up and the not-quite-everyday thing stays the same.

3) Endy Chavez
The Mariners' stand-in leadoff hitter was 1-for-2 in this game with two walks, declaring himself an on-base machine who happens to hit .379. If, God Forbid, Ichiro falls just short of 200 hits this season, can we just add Chavez's hits to Ichiro's total and call it 200 anyway? While it'd be sad to see the 200-hit streak gone, I'd sacrifice it for playoff baseball. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here, though, because this team will have to keep this pace for about a month and a half before I start dreaming big dreams. Big dreams are a bit hard to dream when I trust only two or maybe three guys in the starting rotation. I do wonder which phase of the Mariners is going to fall off the face of the earth first. I have a feeling the rotation will be 2/5 good every time out and probably the offense will give out first, I think. It's maybe bad that I see the offense hitting a drought before I see the bullpen imploding for a week or two. Back to Chavez, though, I hope he can keep up even 80% of what he's doing right now when Ichiro draws back into the lineup.

Franklin Gutierrez
Okay, largely he's in Seattle for defensive purposes, and I've enjoyed the fact that he's chipped in a couple times during this first week of play. There were tons of 0-fers in the lineup for this game since Trevor Cahill pitched so well, but Gutierrez not only went 0-for-4, he managed to ground into two double plays, both times doubling off Chavez on the front end. At this pace, I think it's probably a good idea to slot Gutierrez seventh or eighth and bat Chavez second when Ichiro comes back. I say leave Betancourt at ninth unless somehow you have the cojones to bat him second. Of course, another byproduct of Gutierrez having a cold bat might be the possibility of Cedeno spelling him in centerfield, but right now that's an argument between .185 with awesome centerfield defense and a .143-hitting utility guy. I think that's probably the only scenario right now where Gutierrez could possibly get benched. I don't see anyone else drawing into centerfield. In a different-positions note, poor Matt Tuiasosopo still hasn't seen the field after seven games of play.

The Mariners return tomorrow, which is nice. Griffey returns in a Mariner uniform, which is fun. It may all come crashing down to earth since Carlos Silva will be on the mound. Can he be good just this once?

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Sunday, April 12, 2009


Thanks to the fact that I currently reside in the Pacific Northwest and thanks to the Fox network's idiotic exclusivity deal that forced everyone in the region to watch Red Sox/Angels, I did not see this game. I didn't listen to too much of it, either, and I only saw a couple of highlights. So, this one's pretty much going to be conclusions I can make from the boxscore. Basically, the Mariners trailed 5-3 after seven innings, then scored the final five runs of the game over the final two innings.

The short version of the story relating to Mariner pitching is that Felix Hernandez didn't quite have it, only getting through five innings. Luckily for the Mariners, Monday is an off day, so the bullpen can get a day of rest -- they'll have done three straight games of tough work between picking up after Rowland-Smith's short outing, finishing off after Felix only went five, and cleaning up after Erik Bedard's no-more-than-six-innings start sure to come here in a few hours. I don't expect the Mariners to contend for a playoff spot this season or even get to .500, but Felix getting deep into games every five days correlates directly with the bullpen's workload for the four following days. Most notably, the bullpen has to be well-rested after Felix throws because Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva are going to need the bullpen to pick up after their scraps. You know who I think would help the starting rotation? Brandon Morrow. You know what might help the bullpen? Ryan Rowland-Smith, who is lefthanded. That'd be a bunk deal for the Aussie, though.

As for the hitting, the Mariners went a torrid 12-for-36. Only Wladimir Balentien (0-for-2 with a walk before being pulled) and Ronny Cedeno (0-for-3 with a walk, scoring once) were hitless. The multi-hit games belonged to Russell Branyan (2-for-3 with a solo shot, walk, and strikeout), Yuniesky Betancourt (2-for-4, scoring once), and Mike Sweeney (3-for-5, scoring once and driving in a run). The only extra-base hits were Branyan's homer and a two-run double in the only at-bat for Jose Lopez. Driving in two runs apiece were Franklin Gutierrez, Lopez, and Kenji Johjima, who finally showed us something offensively this season, along with...

1) Mike Sweeney
I've been hoping for what seems like a long time for this guy to give us some good reason for his being on the team than the overrated "he's a great veteran presence in the clubhouse." I sometimes would scare myself into thinking that the Mariners would keep this guy because of his clubhouse presence despite his hitting .053 or whatever a worst-case scenario could be. So, to remind us that he isn't completely dead weight, he tosses in a 3-for-5 day as a designated hitter in the third spot (eek, I think that's too high) in the lineup. I thought when the Mariners brought back Ken Griffey, Jr. that they were trying like they have since 2004 to replace Edgar Martinez with another everyday DH. Frankly, I never agreed with that philosophy because Edgars do not grow on trees (what tree did Carl Everett fall from?). Though we have to put up with Griffey in the field every once in a while, it does help toward the rotation of the DH as a means of resting legs for various fielders. Back to Sweeney, hopefully this 3-for-5 day wakes up his bat.

2) Miguel Batista
If I was watching this game and Felix didn't come out for the sixth, and Batista came out with a two-run deficit, I would have just stopped caring. I would have expected Batista to just throw away any chance the Mariners would have had at coming back into this game. Naturally, since I wasn't watching, Batista gave up one hit but retired the other six batters he faced over his two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh. If Batista does what we expect of him, we're not even talking about a comeback victory by the Mariners. Instead, Batista does well. I'm still not comfortable when he throws, but hey, you gotta take baby steps.

3) Russell Branyan
It's six games into the season and Branyan is hitting at a .333 clip with two homers and three RBIs, and he's even drawing the occasional walk. He hasn't been completely brutal defensively at first base. If only the Mariners could magically rid themselves of the dead weight/albatross contracts on their roster, perhaps they'd be a crazy team in terms of value. Pickups like Branyan would be a big part of this. Sure, you have your key cogs that are going to make money, but if you can catch lightning by doing research on miscellaneous spare parts and bringing them aboard, then that's mega awesome while the Yankees spend crazy millions so they can miss the postseason completely. If Don Wakamatsu finds a way to keep all these spare parts happy in terms of playing time, then he'll have done a pretty solid job as Mariner manager for the year 2009. I've mentioned before that I prefer the Donnie Walker nickname for Don Wakamatsu, though I'm sure Intentional Wak or Wak 'N Roll will also work. Odd note is that he's wearing the number that Kazuhiro Sasaki used to wear.

Felix Hernandez
The one thing that doesn't look bad in the boxscore for Felix is the eight strikeouts. On the other hand, when Felix is dealing or close to it, he's a lot more efficient with pitches and getting a ton of groundouts and getting into the seventh and eighth innings. As mentioned, here he only got through five innings. He walked two hitters and nailed one with a pitch. He gave up five runs on seven hits, one of those hits being the Jack Cust two-run homer. Probably the one stat in the boxscore that lets you know that Felix didn't have it: zero groundouts, seven flyouts. That is really not a Felix-type game at all. Since I of course didn't see the game, that tells me that Felix must not have had the downward movement on his pitches that he usually has, so none of the Oakland hitters were beating those balls into the ground like we're all accustomed to seeing. The really good news for the Mariners is that they were able to pull out the win despite Felix not putting together a start that we usually expect out of him. That probably says more about this team so far this season than anything else.

We're an hour or so away from getting hit in the Bedards.

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