Saturday, May 02, 2009
In roster news, Kenji Johjima drew back into the Mariner lineup, batting seventh. Though I like the job Rob Johnson has done filling in for Johjima, the odd thing is that the Mariners had a record of 6-7 without Johjima. Poor Jamie Burke was designated for assignment to make room. A slightly older move was the placing of Roy Corcoran on the disabled list. Jason Vargas took his place in the bullpen, meaning the bullpen actually has a lefthander in it. I read a Kirby Arnold piece where apparently Wakamatsu is just going to use Vargas as a long relief guy as opposed to a situational guy. I'm a fan of how Wakamatsu has been managing the bullpen so far though, though maybe it's been out of necessity. Right now it just seems he sends guys out there to get outs, matchups be damned. I like games that are over in 2.5 hours.
As for the pace, 14-9 makes the 2009 Mariners three games better than last year, two better than 2007, five better than 2006, two better than 2005, six better than 2004, and one better than 2000. The 14-9 record is one game off the pace of 2003, three behind 2002, and five behind 2001. In other words, it's the best start by the Mariners since 2003. That team started 42-19. Fun fact: the 2001 team didn't lose three straight games until their 149th game of the season. Also, the longest post-2003 winning streak was an eight-game winning streak in 2007. I guess the fun thing about this season so far is that they've only been under .500 for one day. There's been some scuffling since the 7-2 start, though. They've had five shots at getting to six games over .500, and they've only succeeded in getting there once, and that win made them 12-6. The sixth chance will come tonight.
Mariner hitting in this game went 12-for-36 as a whole, walking five times (one intentional) and striking out three times. No Mariner went hitless. Jose Lopez, Franklin Gutierrez, and Yuniesky Betancourt had two hits apiece. Since it's fun to take different parts of the lineup and clump their numbers together to get something impressive, I'll do that with the final four hitters of the lineup. The Mariners' sixth through ninth hitters combined to go 7-for-17 with five of the Mariners' RBIs. The only Seattle extra-base hits in the game were the fifth-inning homers by Russell Branyan and Gutierrez. Silva was a lot more charitable for extra-base hits with the other team, but that's for a different part of this post. The one-hit Mariners in the game were Ichiro, Endy Chavez, Mike Sweeney, Adrian Beltre, Russell Branyan, and Kenji Johjima. The team went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners.
With Silva doing what he did, the bullpen had to pick up the slack and pitch the final 16 outs of the game. They weren't completely flawless once again thanks to the Holliday blast off Sean White, but they nonetheless gave up only the one run, but didn't completely put the game out of reach, which I was very prepared for Miguel Batista to do. Batista would have been one of the gameball entries if not for the fact that Shawn Kelley got his first Major League win out of this. Batista came into the fourth inning with a runner aboard, but managed to strand him. The rest of his pitching line is spotless with no runs and no hits, and he faced seven hitters to get seven outs, though he did walk two batters. We're 23 games into the season, and Batista's been used eight times. He's thrown at least two innings in five of those appearances. With that, however, you take the bad, and he's had two outings where he's failed to get anyone out. Thanks in part to three unearned runs against Detroit, Batista has an ERA of 1.59, and that coupled with quite a few other things makes me wonder if I don't just want to see Batista in the rotation instead of Silva. I know he can be bad, but how much worse than Silva can he be?
1) Jose Lopez
A 14-pitch at-bat with a barrage of foulaways of two-strike pitches had everyone in the ballpark and watching on television on edge. There were a couple of those pitches I wished he left high, but he kept fouling off everything, and everyone watching was mentally exhausted, and Lopez looked like the at-bat was draining him as well. Ultimately, it ended with Lopez singling into rightfield, driving home Chavez with the winning run. Lopez had a 2-for-5 day, driving in three of the Mariners' eight runs. He is on a streak of three straight multi-hit games, and has had multiple hits in four of his last five games and five of his last seven. He has taken his batting average from .196 to .263 in the span of seven games. His 16 RBIs leads the team, and he is on pace for a 113-RBI season. That's despite his hot streak lately. He'll probably exceed that 113-RBI pace at some point. However, one big factor as to how many people are on base for Lopez is relative to how many runners the hitters in front of him are leaving on base. If Beltre's cold, there are going to be runners on base (six in this game).
2) Franklin Gutierrez
Just when I was about to give up on the guy in terms of power and big hits and things of that nature, he comes out and golfs a pitch over the fence. His two-run homer in the fifth brought the Mariner comeback all the way back, giving the Mariners their fifth and sixth unanswered runs. Also, don't look now, but Gutierrez has himself a five-game hitting streak. Just don't tell him. He's rode pine a couple of times for Wladimir Balentien to get some at-bats, but if he gets the bat warmed up, that may be a little harder to do thanks to Gutierrez's defense. That's too bad for Balentien because I think he's done some good things at the plate and he did have that one crazy catch as well. Gutierrez has used the five-game hitting streak to take his batting average from .191 to .246. He could hit .246 for the rest of the season and I'd be completely okay with it. He's making a lot of things in centerfield look extremely easy. Sure, Ryan Sweeney can make an over-the-shoulder basket catch, but Gutierrez would probably be sitting there on the warning track for three seconds waiting for it.
3) Shawn Kelley
Three cheers for his first Major League win. Kelley has made eight appearances this season and hadn't given up any runs until his last outing, a bump in the road to the tune of two runs in 1 1/3 innings. This time it was a pretty good bounceback outing as Kelley struck out two hitters over his 1 2/3 innings. He faced five hitters to get those five outs and threw 16 strikes in 26 pitches. Also, he inherited two of Sean White's runners when he took the mound with one out in the eighth inning. If only it weren't for Batista, this would be a no-name/low-salary group of relievers the Mariners have on their hands. As much as it would have been fun to keep JJ Putz and George Sherrill around, they would have gotten expensive, and what good is a bullpen if you can't score any runs for any leads to matter? It's like a couple years ago when Danys Baez was still kinda good but he was on Baltimore or Tampa Bay when they were horrible teams. I have to say that I like this philosophy that involves a cheap bullpen. It's a good thing.
People said he was pitching through some pain the last time out, but got through five innings for the win. What about this start? Maybe he should have hurt himself before he pitched, because he's making the fans hurt when they have to watch him pitch. Six runs (all earned) on six hits in 3 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out three. He threw 44 strikes out of 81 pitches. He got three groundouts to five strikeouts, which I'd normally say isn't Silva-esque, but since a normal Silva apparently isn't a good Silva, maybe the crappy Silva is the normal Silva. Silva faced 21 batters to get those 11 outs. Absolutely putrid. It's nice that the Mariners are 14-9 and everything, but how can we realistically expect this team to stay fairly decent when they're effectively punting away 20% of their games by letting Silva start every five days? I'm done with Silva. I know Batista in the rotation wouldn't be too much better, but is there really any way that Batista could be worse than Silva? Maybe every time that turn comes up in the rotation, you have one guy start and the other guy as the first guy out of the bullpen. It's a horrible waste of money, but I think that's as much as they can get out of these two guys.
Would Jarrod Washburn smack you in the face if you called him J-Rod instead of Jarrod?
Friday, May 01, 2009
Some people have said the Canucks looked a bit rusty in the first period, which may be partly true with how uncrisp they were on Chicago's first two penalties in the first period. They weren't getting enough shots away and I'm pretty sure they took consecutive offsides at one point. Another example of lack of sharpness by the Canucks early on was Sami Salo's multiple missings of the net. Before Andrew Ladd delivered Kyle Wellwood his first high-stick of the night, a poor play of the puck by Nikolai Khabibulin led to a wide-open net for Ryan Kesler, who maybe stickhandled a bit too much and had his stick tied up by Samuel Pahlsson before he could get a shot away with Matt Walker being the closest thing to a goalie near the net. Vancouver finally cashed in on the Blackhawks' third penalty, when Pavol Demitra converted on a nice down-low pass from Mats Sundin. The second assist on the play went to Wellwood, who displayed some nice puck movement and stick-to-itiveness, using the open ice and eventually finding Sundin in the left corner, who made the pass through the blue ice to Demitra. Late in the period, the Canucks could have been called multiple times for too many men on the ice, which infuriated coah Joel Quenneville on the Chicago bench. Overall, it was a decent home first period for the Canucks, though they probably should have been up by more than one goal. Still, a decent period after such a long layoff.
About 2:30 into the second period, Steve Bernier went with speed through the right faceoff dot and went to the net, puckhandling past a diving Brian Campbell and putting a decent shot on the net which was stopped by Khabibulin. Not long after, Vancouver tallied for their second goal. Henrik Sedin passed across toward Daniel Sedin from the blue line, but Jonathan Toews seemed to have it picked off. That was until Daniel bumped him off the puck (on the television feed you could almost convince yourself Daniel tossed Toews over using his stick). From there, Daniel and Bernier passed back and forth while Henrik skated from the right point to the net untouched when Daniel hit him with the pass for an easy goal. Duncan Keith seemed like he knew Henrik was coming on the play, but didn't know exactly where and didn't really do much about it. Ben Eager went off with a pretty dumb roughing penalty 6:22 into the period, and the only thing the Canucks didn't do well on the power play was score. The passing was great, but the finish was not. The CBC's Jim Hughson at one point said that "Sweet Georgia Brown" should be playing during the power play. At this point, and definitely when the Canucks scored their third goal, it almost seemed like the Canucks were toying with the Blackhawks. On the play leading to the third goal, Demitra skated across the right point and passed off to Alexander Edler, who got a shot on the net that was deflected behind the net to Wellwood. Kesler read the play nicely and went to the net to get the pass from Wellwood for a quick goal. Interestingly, Sundin signaled himself off the ice early in the shift, so Wellwood was the guy skating with Demitra and Kesler on the play. Forty seconds later, Patrick Kane high-stuck Wellwood (this time he got it in the mouth), putting the Canucks on a four-minute power play again. This time was just as fruitless as the first, though, and it signaled a bit of complacency for Vancouver. It wasn't without a Kesler breakaway (he hit the post), but it was still fruitless.
I've seen games like this where the Canucks take a big lead at home into the third period, then the road team scores early and swings all the momentum (I remember a Calgary game in particular). Chicago's first goal came 61 seconds into the period on a bit of a broken play. As play went into the Vancouver zone, Martin Havlat had the puck and it looked like Kesler and Edler ran into one another going after him, and though Havlat lost the puck, Patrick Kane was right behind him (and Kesler) and buried it. Demitra was watching Kane for a couple seconds, but his only defense was a swipe from behind with the stick. Kane was very very close to being offside on the play, apparently coming across the blue line as Keith carried the puck across. It was pretty close -- I can watch the clip in motion and think offside every time, though the freeze-frames seem to say it isn't offside. With about 12:20 to go in the period, a quick hold-in near the right point led to a pass from Daniel to Alex Burrows at the goal line on the far side, who went to a knee to try to go top shelf, but couldn't put it in. Other than this, though, it was an incredibly flat third period for the Canucks as Chicago took the game to them. The second goal came when a Brent Seabrook shot from the right point got padstopped, but the rebound went to an unmarked Kane, who had no one near him. Of course, it was the ridiculous Darcy Hordichuk roughing penalty that resulted in the power play for Chicago. On the tying goal, Demitra lost a loose puck battle with Keith, who a few seconds later shot to the net, which was stopped, but Dave Bolland put the rebound in. It looked like Willie Mitchell was on Bolland, but let him sneak a few feet away, far enough to be the first one to get to that loose puck.
So, Chicago had gone from three goals down to a tie score in the span of 13:30 and evened the score with 5:29 left in regulation. They had all the momentum at that point and were looking to finish it in regulation or in overtime. The Blackhawks had a 4-on-2 break when Kris Versteeg on the right side passed to Walker, who didn't get the pass and put it off his skate to Walker. At this point, Bernier tapped it away and Wellwood skated through the neutral zone on what slowly evolved into an unthinkable 4-on-1. Mason Raymond took the puck toward the net, then passed across to Bernier, who shot but was robbed by Khabibulin. Luckily for Vancouver, Salo jumped into the play and poked home the rebound, which held up as the game winner. Inside the final minute, Khabibulin was pulled from the net and Chicago looked to tie again. A puck went into the right-wing corner and got by Campbell as the play went the other way. Burrows passed to Ryan Johnson to finish the game into the empty net. If you look at replay of his, Chicago has three of their guys below the goal line in the Vancouver end when the puck gets by Campbell's stick. The CBC showed Scotty Bowman's reaction in the skybox, where color man Craig Simpson read the lips and surmised that Bowman wasn't happy about Campbell's positioning on the play. All told, two pretty big gaffes by the Blackhawks led to two Vancouver goals to finish off Game 1. The game ended with a blast of the goal horn, which is new to me for Vancouver.
Needless to say, I'm hoping along with millions of Canuck fans that the Canucks have learned their lesson and tighten it up defensively from here on out against the Blackhawks. Chicago, however, knows they can score on Luongo, though I'm hoping that's more of a byproduct of the Canucks not being sharp defensively. If the Canucks tighten down the screws defensively like they did in the final three games of the regular season, it will help their cause immensely. It also helps to bury some pucks on four-minute power plays too. Anyway, though they played 40 pretty dominant minutes of hockey, it's definitely no secret now that Chicago can score goals in a hurry. There's too much firepower on that team, so it doesn't help Vancouver to be sloppy defensively or take ill-advised penalties. Let's hope the Canucks have gotten their sea legs and are way more crisp in Game 2. A loss in Game 2 gives home ice advantage to Chicago unless they pull one out in the Windy City, so it's imperative for the Canucks to hold serve and win Game 2.
The Tom Larscheid quote of the day, which hopefully the Canucks can take to heart if they get a lead like that again: "Never give a sucker an even break."
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The loss leaves the Mariners with a 13-9 mark at the end of April. I think anyone at the end of spring training would have gladly taken that record. Thirteen wins and nine losses matches the pace of the 2000 team. It's one game ahead of the 2007 and 2005 paces, five games ahead of 2006, and six games ahead of 2004. Conversely, the current pace is a game back of the 2003 team, four games back of the 2002 team, and five behind the crazy regular season of 2001.
Mariner hitters collectively went 12-for-37, walking twice and striking out seven times. The hitless Mariners were the 5-7 hitters in the lineup: Russell Branyan, Wladimir Balentien, and Rob Johnson. They combined to make an 0-for-12 hole in the lineup, striking out four times. This of course means the six Mariners with hits went 12-for-25 with two walks and three strikeouts. As for extra-base hits, Beltre, Lopez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. all hit a double apiece. The conclusion we can reach at the end of this series in Chicago is that they should have saved some of the Felix runs for the front end of the doubleheader and the Wednesday afternoon game. All told, the Mariners aren't going to be winning many games where they give up six runs. The Mariners don't have a seven-run offense. Multi-hit Mariners were Jose Lopez at 2-for-5, Franklin Gutierrez and Yuniesky Betancourt at 2-for-4, and Adrian Beltre at 4-for-4.
Now for the pitching. Erik Bedard had a below-average start for sure, though it wasn't completely horrendous. He threw waaaaay too many pitches in the first inning and held on for the rest of his outing before being yanked after facing two batters in the sixth. He may have lasted a few hitters more, but Don Wakamatsu had a very well-rested bullpen thanks to the starting pitching in the doubleheader the day before. Bedard left with two runners on and a 3-1 lead and was the pitcher of record. Shawn Kelley let those runners score, damaging Bedard's ERA and making his line look a bit worse. Bedard gave up three runs on six hits with an AJ Pierzynski homer (his first hit off a lefty all season), walking three and striking out three (and hitting Carlos Quentin twice with pitches) over five-plus innings. He threw 54 strikes out of 92 pitches and got three groundouts and seven flyouts. Bedard faced 24 hitters to get 15 outs. He definitely was not as sharp as he'd been earlier in the season. It took a great Ichiro catch (ending the inning) to prevent the game from getting out of hand in the fifth.
As for the bullpen, one of the entries below will go to Shawn Kelley. A bullpen that used to hold the league's leading ERA is now getting touched up a bit more often. The bullpen finished off the last four innings of the game, putting up a combined line of three runs on six hits, walking one and striking out four, and giving up two homers (Kelley's). Mark Lowe labored a bit through a 27-pitch eighth inning in which he faced five hitters. I think there might be some regression to the mean going on here. Most of the starting pitchers seem to be picking up the slack. The offense hasn't quite gotten themselves in gear yet, and definitely not with much consistency. As an aside, we haven't seen Brandon Morrow throwing in a while either.
Other odds and ends include Griffey's nice two-run double in the fifth (and Beltre's fister into centerfield that scored the last of the Mariners' runs), Ichiro's only hit of the game going off the first-base bag (Wilson Betemit doubled off the same bag to bring the White Sox within a run), Balentien's diving catch/#1 Web Gem to end the third inning, and Rob Johnson gunning down two runners at second base in the same inning.
1) Adrian Beltre
Good to have you back, Adrian. Probably the weakest of his four hits was the one that staked the Mariners out to a 3-1 lead, a lead which didn't last too long. His 4-for-4 day (with a double and 1-for-2 day stealing second base) skyrocketed his batting average to .207. Beltre has the reputation of being a very slow starter, and it'll be great if and when he warms up at the plate. The good thing is that the defense is still there. There was a play in this game where Beltre fielded a bunt and pulled Branyan off the bag at first, but it went in the books as an infield hit, even though I thought the throw had a chance to get the runner. Beltre ended the month without a homer and with 10 RBIs. It's completely unrealistic to expect him to keep that zero-homer pace, though he does have 10 RBIs. That's a 74-RBI pace, which would definitely be a disappointment, but we haven't seen Beltre warm up in any way yet. This game looks good beacuse of four hits and a double, but until this guy starts hitting home runs, I don't think we have a legitimate grasp of how this year will turn out for him.
2) Jose Lopez
I'm really not sure about having this guy hit second in the lineup. I'm all for Yuniesky Betancourt hitting there because I think it would take advantage of his aggressiveness. I think putting Franklin Gutierrez in that spot puts too much pressure on him to hit when he doesn't have a full grasp of hitting (with consistency) yet at the Major League level. Lopez is a guy I want hitting fifth or sixth, though. Certainly he could have hit anywhere from fifth to seventh and would have helped partially fill the black hole in that part of the lineup. I think he could bat anywhere from second to sixth in this lineup, but he's probably best suited for fifth or sixth. Based on this year's results, however, Lopez is more suited for the third spot than Griffey is, but then again, nearly everyone else on the roster at this point is hitting better than Griffey is. Lopez had a 2-for-5 (with a double) day bumped his batting average up to .253. I'm hoping that climbs its way toward .280, and I'd like a 25-homer, 100-RBI season out of the guy.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
Gutierrez was robbed by a Dye diving catch in the fourth inning. If not for that catch, Gutierrez would have had a three-hit day. Until Gutierrez is hitting better than .250, I'm more than likely going to have Gutierrez somewhere in the gameball entries for every multi-hit game he manages to scratch out. Gutierrez hit eighth in this game, which I guess I'm comfortable with. He's far down enough in the lineup to where there's not too much pressure on him. He's not hitting in front of Ichiro like Betancourt (ninth) did in this game, so there's not too much pressure for him to get on base so that there's someone aboard when Ichiro's hitting. I think we'll have a better grasp of what Gutierrez can do at the plate after another month of baseball has passed. The 2-for-4 day put Gutierrez at a .230 mark for the season, and I'd say about .240 is passable what with how awesome his defense is. If he can get to .240 at the plate, I think it becomes that much harder to take him out of centerfield for an occasiobal day off. No doubt his non-hittingness at the plate has helped Wladimir Balentien get some at-bats as of late, and he hasn't done that bad either.
Definitely a bump in the road for Kelley. He came in with a 3-1 lead and two runners on base. They both scored. He came out for the seventh inning as well and couldn't preserve the tie score either. He gave up the back-to-back homers to Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye to effectively end the game in the seventh. Kelley faced seven batters to get four outs, giving up two runs on three hits, walking none and striking out two. He threw 22 strikes out of 32 pitches and got two flyouts with no groundouts. I think most of the guys in the bullpen have gotten in their one bad outing, whereas Miguel Batista and Roy Corcoran have turned in one bad season so far. It's going to be really interesting to see what facet of the team ends up picking up the slack of another facet of the team. Or it could just not happen at all and the team could go in the tank. At some point an outing like this was bound to happen to Kelley. This isn't the 2001 bullpen we're talking about here -- this is a much more unproven rag-tag bunch than that bullpen was.
Yeah, I think I need a day off before having to watch Carlos Silva. I also need a day off to watch playoff hockey without worrying about a baseball game running concurrently, so that's nice too.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Still, this is a Mariner game piece about the awesome team win on a cold Tuesday night in Chicago. The Mariners split the doubleheader to end with a record of 13-8. That's four games off the 2001 and 2002 paces, but matches the the 2003 pace and is one ahead of the 2000 pace. The Mariners are two games ahead of the 2007 and 2008 teams, three up on the 2005 team, and six ahead of the awful 2004 start. It should be noted that at 11-10, the 2008 Mariners had just seen a winning record for the final time.
Collectively, the Mariners went 19-for-44 at the plate, walking twice and striking out three times. Endy Chavez was the only hitless Mariner. Six Mariners had multi-hit games. Ichiro, Mike Sweeney, Jose Lopez, and Wladimir Balentien had two hits apiece. Yuniesky Betancourt had four hits, and Russell Branyan went nuts and amassed five hits. Extra-base hits belonged to Branyan (two doubles), Sweeney (double), and Betancourt (home run). The team went an insane 10-for-20 with runners in scoring position, but what's even more startling is that they still left ten runners aboard. It was not a good night for Chicago pitching, which is obviously what you'd expect when you give up nine runs and 19 hits. That's a lot of hits.
Starting pitching will again be covered in the first gameball paragraph since Felix was incredibly good. That leaves the bullpen, whose lone representative in this doubleheader was Roy Corcoran. So far this season, not a lot of good things have happened when Corcoran has taken the mound. His ERA is sitting at 7.27, and his results so far are like Miguel Batista Lite. I guess there's something to be said about getting work in during a game where you've got a huge lead. The same thing used to happen to Kazuhiro Sasaki. Actually, the same thing happened to Sasaki whenever you put him into any situation that wasn't a save situation. Anyway, Corcoran buys vintage John Deeres and has a thick drawl in his voice, and while that's all good and fun, it's less fun when he's doing what he's done on the mound so far this season.
1) Felix Hernandez
How about three loud cheers of awesome for the Mariners' ace? He had 100 pitches at the end of his eight innings, and if the game was urgent, he surely could have come back out for the ninth, but you're not going to hear me complaining about pulling him after eight innings in this situation and this early in the season. In his eight shutout innings, the Cat faced 28 hitters to get 24 outs. He gave up four hits, walked one, and struck out nine, making it pretty incredible that he was able to get all the way through eight innings. If you tell me Felix is going to strike out nine guys and walk one, I'll probably assume he got yanked at some point in the seventh inning because basic math states it takes at least three pitches to strike out a hitter. The boxscore alone pretty much tells you that if Chicago's hitters weren't striking out, they were swinging really early in the count at the first good pitch they saw since Felix was absolutely on fire. It's kind of like the philosophy the Mariners used to take against Tim Hudson and Carlos Silva when they were dealing, which is to swing early in the count. As further evidence of the awesome performance, Felix recorded ten groundball outs to five flyouts. He also threw 73 of his 100 pitches for strikes.
2) Russell Branyan
It's nice having this guy back, that's for sure. While it wasn't a homerfest, I think any Mariner fan will take a night of 5-for-5 out of Branyan. This got his batting average up from .292 to .358, but he had a few days off. It might be time to fire up the nickname brainstorming for this guy. I've heard Big Russ, but that's too simple. Boomer Branyan? Crush? Crusher? Crushell Branyan? Bash? Basher? Blaster? The Asploder? Something has to be done about this. In any event, Branyan only drove in one run, but scored twice without the benefit of hitting a homer to score himself. Though he didn't homer, Branyan doubled twice to help out the ol' slugging percentage, and seven total bases in a game will do that for a hitter. Interestingly, Branyan did this despite hitting sixth in the lineup, with Jose Lopez hitting in front of him and Wladimir Balentien hitting behind him. I think we're seeing some out-of-the-box lineup thinking with Don Wakamatsu since he keeps hitting Ken Griffey, Jr. third and hit Mike Sweeney third in this game, and moved Yuniesky Betancourt out of ninth, batting Jamie Burke ninth instead. Or maybe weird things just happen when Gutierrez and Griffey get the night off.
3) Yuniesky Betancourt
He bounced back nicely after narrowly missing a seventh-inning homer in the front end of the doubleheader. He had an incredible night, going 4-for-5 and hitting a three-run homer en route to a five-RBI game. He also stole a base. The homer was his first of the season, and Betancourt racked up seven total bases in the game just as Branyan did. This helped the 6-7-8 hitters in the Mariner lineup to combine for an 11-for-14 night with seven RBIs, scoring four runs. Betancourt is now hitting .292 on the season, helping (along with your Branyans and Chavezes of the world) to pick up some of the slack until Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez come around. What I think about sometimes is that if Ichiro hits himself aboard, and if you like to do the hit-and-run thing, I don't think I'd be too averse to Betancourt hitting second since he wouldn't be up there to walk and he's proven he likes to swing early in the count and make contact. Perhaps if Wakamatsu can't drill patience into Betancourt's head, maybe it's time to use Betancourt's aggressive hitting to the team's advantage.
There weren't any crazy errors in the field for the Mariners and since I've already made my mind up that Roy Corcoran didn't completely crap the bed in the ninth, Chavez will wear the goat horns for going hitless. What's weird is that despite playing in all 21 games for the Mariners up to this point and having the at-bats to show for it, Chavez went 0-for-5 and still saw his batting average plummet by 20 points, going from .325 to .305. He also has a fat "7" under the "LOB" column in the boxscore, with three of those runners left in scoring position with two out. Thanks to a 2-for-6 day, Ichiro (.310) has finally eclipsed Chavez in terms of batting average. Good to have you back, Ichiro. It's not so nice to have Chavez go 0-for-5 though. Don't think I wouldn't take a .305 year out of Chavez; I just don't think it's going to hold up. I'll settle for .280 or .290 out of him with the way he's started. Add the crazy rangey defense as well and Chavez has been a useful player and helped the Mariners weather the storm while Ichiro was on the shelf for the first eight games of the season. It almost makes me want to get a 107.7 The End sticker and throw a "Y" on the end of it for "endy." I'd have to admit I had an End sticker, though, and that's not so cool and it isn't totally negated by defacing said sticker.
Now we'd be left preparing for a morning Bedardation, except I'm typing this stuff during that game.
I'm typing these on Wednesday morning, and Jen Mueller of FSNW just passed along that the Mariners have been on top of the AL West for 18 days, which is their longest such streak since a 119-day streak. You figure that happened in 2001, right? Wrong. That was in 2003. I don't have to tell you that one of the 119 days the Mariners led the AL West wasn't on the last day of the 2003 season. That's really the last time the Mariners were really in the heat of a playoff race, but in a way, they would have limped into the playoffs. I've referred to it many times, but that's the year they started out 42-19 and went 51-50 the rest of the way. A complete letdown and travesty in Bob Melvin's first year as a big-league manager. The following year, however -- Melvin's last year in Seattle and Bill Bavasi's first year -- really took the cake. The odd thing is that the Mariners lost 101 games last season and lost 99 in 2004, but I felt way worse after the 2004 season since Bavasi was the guy in charge to get the Mariners out of the mess. Turned out well.
Before we go on, Seattle's 12-8 pace after 20 games matches the 20-game mark of the 2000 and 2003 Mariner teams. The pace is two games ahead of the paces of 2008, 2007, and 2005. The 12-8 mark is four behind the paces of 2001 and 2002. It's also five games ahead of the awful paces of 2004 and 2006.
All the Mariners' pitching in this game will be covered in the first gameball paragraph because Chris Jakubauskas did such an awesome job and the bullpen wasn't a factor since they never had to come out and pitch.
Mariner hitting went a combined 4-for-33, and apparently they were blind and unable to see that Bartolo Colon was wearing a White Sox uniform instead of a Cleveland Indians uniform. Only Endy Chavez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Rob Johnson, and Franklin Gutierrez got base hits for the Mariners. Griffey and Johnson both had doubles for their hits. Rob Johnson was able to capitalize on the Brent Lillibridge muffed double-play ball, hitting the RBI double to drive in the Mariners' only run of the game. Seattle finished 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners very nearly went ahead in the ninth when Yuniesky Betancourt jumped all over a Bobby Jenks fastball, but what would have been a three-run homer to put the Mariners up 4-2 instead was just foul down the leftfield line. Betancourt would end up taking his anger into the nightcap. Yes he did.
1) Chris Jakubauskas
The great thing is that the Lithuanian Laser turned in an incredible start. The bad thing is that this we'll probably sitting here at the end of the year talking about how this was Jakubauskas' best start of the year, but he lost thanks to the inept offense. I really don't think he'll have a better outing than he did here. It was too good. Jakubauskas went eight innings for the complete game. He faced 27 hitters to get 24 outs. He had a perfect game going through the first ten hitters he faced (3 1/3 innings). He was befallen by his only mistakes -- his only walk of the game (Josh Fields) came in to score and the first hit he surrendered (Carlos Quentin) came around to score on Paul Konerko's double. He threw 59 strikes out of 88 pitches and got nine flyouts against 11 flyouts. Jakubauskas walked one and struck out four of the White Sox. If there would have been a ninth inning, I'm sure Jakubauskas would have taken the mound to start the final inning. Why not? In any case, Jakubauskas gave the Mariners something they probably didn't figure they'd have on the Jakubauskas end of the doubleheader: bullpen rest. With the bullpen not having to work in the first half of the doubleheader and with Felix Hernandez going in the nightcap, the bullpen probably was planning to consult Junior's spa day cronies.
2) Rob Johnson
The Mariner catcher went 1-for-3 with the double that drove in the Mariners' only run of the game. He's got a pretty simple swipe of a swing and he doesn't get the arms extended too much. He certaintly doesn't try to do too much with the ball, and for someone that's not really expected to hit too much, that's probably a good thing. What's better is that I don't have to spend time arguing that Jeff Clement could be up here grounding into double plays and hitting .210 and that Johnson's a complete waste of a roster spot. Instead, Johnson is hitting .282 in near-everyday duty since Kenji Johjima was placed on the disabled list and is turning out not to be a waste of a roster spot. Clement, however, is being turned into a complete waste of a high overall draft pick by the Mariner brass, and that's a crying shame. I've thought since Johjima got injured that Clement should at least be on the team splitting time with Johnson. How long will it take for the Mariners to completely erase all the vestiges of Bavasi's ugly reign in Seattle?
3) Franklin Gutierrez
You have to reach a bit when the team only gets four hits and only one pitcher hit the mound. Gutierrez hit a single and struck out once. The 1-for-3 day raised his potent batting average to .211. This still hasn't managed to make his defense any less awesome. Knowing that he's hitting .211 is still better than having to see a commercial for Bret Michaels' next gig at the Emerald Queen Casino like I just saw. Gutierrez and his .211 mark have more street cred than Bret Michaels. You could argue that .211 is the thorn of Gutierrez while his defense is the rose. If you have the Chappelle's Show DVDs, this just gives you another reason to go to the "White People Dancing" sketch to see the part where John Mayer plays "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" to a couple of police officers. In a related note, we've gone from "remember when MTV played music?" to "remember when VH1 played music?" to "remember when MTV2 played music?" It's really awful is what it is. You could watch a random 30-minute block of MTV programming and there's probably a good chance you'd see more musical talent on American Idol. By the way, good job, Franklin Gutierrez.
Again, I'll revert to the "your best players have to be your best players" adage. When the Mariner offense needs to capitalize off an error to even get a run on the board, I figure it's natural for me to look at the top of the lineup and the Mariners' best hitter to see how he did. Ichiro was 0-for-4 with a strikeout, finishing the day at the .308 mark.
Felix went in the nightcap. Oh yes.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The Mariner bats combined to go a paltry 5-for-31 in this game, drawing three walks and striking out nine times. Five Mariners went hitless, and only Jose Lopez had a multi-hit game. Seattle didn't manage to scratch out any extra-base hits. The Mariners were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, which is bad because they were hitless with runners in scoring position, but also bad because there were only three such opportunities. Endy Chavez also grounded into a double play. There really isn't a lot to talk about when it comes to how the Mariner offense did in this final game of the series.
I'll cover the Mariners' starting pitching in one of the entries below. Roy Corcoran's two-thirds of an inning in the eighth put some more blemishes on the bullpen's sparkling ERA. Corcoran gave up two runs on four hits, facing six batters to get two outs, and he left two runners aboard before Mark Lowe came in and got the final Angel out of the eighth. In other words, Corcoran is lucky he wasn't tagged with giving up four runs in this game. Nonetheless, Corcoran's ERA sits at 7.04. Divide that by nine and you get 0.78 runs per inning that Corcoran on average gives up. If he appears one inning at a time, he's giving up a run at least every other outing. Thanks to the Ian Furness show on KJR, I know Corcoran recently bought a vintage John Deere 3020, but unfortunately that isn't making any of his numbers look better so far. As for the rest of the bullpen, Lowe only had to throw one pitch, and Sean White got five outs and gave up two hits while walking one, but he did let one of Jarrod Washburn's runners touch the plate.
How do I scratch together three gameballs in a game where the Mariners failed to score? I'll try...
1) Jose Lopez
He gets the first gameball because of the two hits. Going 2-for-4, Lopez was the only Mariner with a multi-hit game, raising his average to .238. Though he went hitless on Saturday night, he was 3-for-4 in the series opener. He has only hit two homers so far, but since apparently people not named Branyan aren't going to be hitting home runs, only so much can be pinned on Lopez. However, he's only hit two doubles as well. That's four hits out of his 15 that have been for extra bases. Lopez has played in all 19 of the Mariners' games this season, and despite his subpar hitting, is still on pace for a 102-RBI season. After striking out in each of the first five games and six of the first seven, Lopez has not struck out in any of the last five games (or six of the last seven, or 10 of 12, or 11 of 14). He might be hitting light so far, but I can't say I've ever sat here and thought that Ronny Cedeno is worthy of stealing regular playing time from Lopez. You'd probably be able to make a better case for Cedeno stealing some of Betancourt's playing time based on defensive focus even though Betancourt's hitting .266, which is higher than anyone in today's lineup except for Ichiro, Chavez, and Branyan.
2) Sean White
I know he threw for this team last year, but there's still a lot I don't know about Sean White. He's only appeared in four games so far this season. He still hasn't been charged with an earned run. I know that when both he and Sean Green were on the team, the Mariners had Sean Green and Sean White, and it was too bad there wasn't a Sean Brown, Sean Redd, Sean Blue, or Sean Black somewhere in the system to bring up to the big club. If there was any year to do it, it would have been last year. If he keeps his numbers nice for a few more appearances, maybe my opinion will change, but so far all I can think about Sean White is that everything about him is completely unremarkable, whether it be his stuff, his appearance, or his name. If the Mariner bullpen had Sean White along with a John Smith, Dave Johnson, Dan Clark, and a Jim Ward, it would give me a bit less to write about. Okay, maybe it'd give me more about since the bullpen would have the most common names in America. It'd be one of those things where you could get an authentic jersey with their name on the back and you might actually share the dude's last name, so it's kind of your jersey too. That's kind of against hockey jersey etiquette, but my last name isn't Luongo, Kesler, or Burrows, so I don't have to worry.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
Should I be putting Gutierrez in this slot just because he got one hit even though he struck out twice and is still only hitting .204? If I'm really reaching for something to write about, then it's a yes. I've probably said this in one of my game pieces here this season -- since Gutierrez has awesome defensive skills, I'd say a passable season for him at the plate would be about .240. In other words, my idea of a successful season for Gutierrez equates to \Mike Cameron without the power at the plate. With the team's big offensive guns largely taking an IV drip full of fail, only so much can be pinned on Gutierrez. While it would be nice for someone to step up on offense while Beltre, Griffey, and Lopez aren't doing so well (Chavez is doing a respectable job of this), we can't expect Franklin Gutierrez to be carrying the mail for this team at the plate. It's years away from happening if it ever does happen. The Mariners just need him to be something other than a black hole when he's batting. Anything else should be a bonus considering his amazing defensive prowess.
Looks like Carlos Silva showed up in the series against the Angels after all, except he was a day late, less heavy, lefthanded, and white. His line looks like a vintage Silva line to which we've grown so accustomed. Washburn threw 58 strikes out of 99 pitches over 5 1/3 innings. He faced 27 batters to get 16 outs. He gave up six runs on eight hits and walked three. He gave up two homers and two doubles. Washburn got seven groundouts and nine flyouts. Apparently we've been hearing that Washburn has reinvented himself and started throwing more sinkers, helping him get to a 3-0 start. It's nice of him to get that advice in his contract year. Did it really take this long for someone to tell him that maybe trying to get hitters out with high fastballs that just break 90mph isn't a good idea? The fact that he's been able to get away with it this long just baffles me. Maybe some more good can come out of this though. Maybe Washburn will now just have to be 11-1 at the deadline before he's moved. Maybe Washburn shows Aardsma how to throw sinking stuff, or maybe he shows Morrow how to throw sinking stuff. If Guardado showed Putz the splitter before he left, maybe there's hope.
A chance for the Lithuanian Laser to redeem himself -- tomorrow. Too bad he'll be throwing in Chicago at a park I like to call Coors Light. Coors really isn't Coors anymore since the humidor, but I'll just stop now before it gets more weird...
I'm not ready to give Carlos Silva a gameball just yet. He apparently pitched through a bit of pain in this game and the trainer did come out at one point, but Silva begged Don Wakamatsu to leave him in the game and finish out five innings for the win. Silva threw two perfect innings to start out before things hit the fan a bit, coinciding with whatever was causing pain for him. He gave up three runs and six hits over his five innings, walking one and striking out one. He threw 43 of 72 pitches for strikes and recorded eight groundouts to six flyouts. He faced 22 batters to get 15 outs. It had been 301 calendar days since Silva had last recorded a win, so hopefully this can be a boost of confidence for him. Though it's pretty clear how his tenure in Seattle will be remembered, ultimately the team will be better off if Silva does well. Hopefully he's 11-2 at the All Star break and becomes immediately tradeable. Kendry Morales homered to lead off the fourth, but Silva also allowed a video-review double that was nicely snagged by a fan over the rightfield scoreboard wearing a Mariner cap.
I'll lump the bullpen into one of the entries below.
The Mariners were 12-for-37 at the plate, walking twice and striking out nine times. Only Endy Chavez and Jose Lopez went hitless. Ken Griffey, Jr., Adrian Beltre, Rob Johnson, and Yuniesky Betancourt grabbed a hit apiece. Wladimir Balentien had two hits, and Ichiro quietly had three base hits. Johnson and Betancourt both doubled off Major League newbie Anthony Ortega. Branyan and Balentien both homered off Ortega. The team went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners. The 3-5 hitters in the lineup combined to go 5-for-14, scoring five times and driving in six runs, walking once and striking out five times. The 7-8-9-1 hitters went 7-for-16, scoring four times and driving in three runs while striking out three times.
1) Russell Branyan
It's nice to see some power return to the Mariner lineup. The only problem so far is that Branyan's really been the only legitimate threat on this team. The Mariners are glad to have him back on the field, though we'd all like to see him involved in less plays at the plate and in general less plays where he has to slide. His slide into third base was pretty jarring. Anyway, Branyan went 3-for-5, driving in four runs and scoring twice as well as striking out twice. In his two games coming back since injury, he's 5-for-8 with six RBIs, two homers, and a double with two walks and two strikeouts. He was on the shelf for five games, and the Mariners went 2-3 in those games. If and when Beltre gets hot, the lineup will look great with more than one dependable power threat. The way the lineup was made, a team could walk Branyan to face Jose Lopez, who is hitting .220 but isn't in anywhere near the funk that Beltre is in. If Branyan was slotted before Beltre, that could be an instant walk if Branyan really gets hot. Hopefully having Branyan behind Beltre would mean better pitches for Beltre to hit. Beltre went 1-for-5 in the game.
It seemed like a pretty quiet 3-for-5 night for Ichiro. The Mariners' leadoff hitter is hitting .341, which unfortunately is also his on-base percentage, which means he's not walking himself aboard. He's thrown a double and a couple of homers into the mix, so that advances the slugging percentage up a few ticks (it's at .500). His last four games have seen him go 9-for-21 with the double, homer, and a steal (though he was caught once). Folks, I don't think the 2001 version of Ichiro will ever return, but that still leaves us to watch one of the best singles hitters ever to walk the earth. We are 18 games into the Mariners' season, but Ichiro is only ten games into his (not counting World Baseball Classic stuff). You have to account for his eight games out to make this work (i.e., 154-game season), but Ichiro is on a 231-hit pace despite having eight less games with which to accumulate hits. Again, I'm only looking at a ten-game sample of Ichiro, but getting to 200 hits for the ninth straight season might still be a walk (ha, irony) for this guy. We haven't seen anything too crazy defensively out of him yet, though he did do some Spider-Man stuff on that Matthews non-homer.
3) Wladimir Balentien
He went 2-for-4 with a solo homer that was absolutely ripped, hitting below the Del Taco sign in the equipment tunnel past the leftfield fence. He hit in the seventh spot in the lineup and played leftfield, with Chavez moving over to center. As much as I like Franklin Gutierrez defensively, and as much as I think he needs more at-bats to find himself on offense, Balentien may have earned himself more playing time with what he did in this game. It's no secret the Mariners need some pop in their lineup, and though it's somewhat unharnessed, we know Balentien has pop in his bat, certainly more than Gutierrez. If Gutierrez is hitting .196, it forces Wakamatsu to at least consider hiding Balentien in the field so the Mariners can have his bat in the lineup. When Griffey is hitting .200 and Beltre is hitting .171 and are both going to be in the lineup on most days, you have to find some hits in other spots in the lineup wherever you can. Also consider that Silva being a groundball pitcher (though less so in this game)
The Angels scored five runs in the last three innings of the game. The Mariners were ahead 9-3 at the seventh inning stretch. Maybe Aardsma got the wool pulled over his eyes along with the rest of the bullpen when Brandon Morrow (right shoulder stiffness) didn't show up. I certainly wondered what was happening when Aardsma came out for the ninth and Morrow hadn't thrown the night before. Aardsma recorded a five-alarm save, coming in with a 9-6 game and ending it at 9-8. Aardsma's outing included a complete destruction of a pitch by Torii Hunter that resulted in a home run. Aardsma threw 12 strikes out of 21 pitches and faced five hitters to get three outs. Really, though, you could argue that two and maybe three of the four bullpen guys that threw more than one pitch (good pitch by Shawn Kelley) were ineffective. The Mariners came in with the best bullpen ERA in the Majors. The bullpen went four innings and gave up five runs on five hits and three walks. They struck out two hitters. It was not a good day for the bullpen. ...but something's gotta go wrong if Silva threw in the game, right?
Jarrod Washburn throws against his former team once again. Luckily we in the Northwest have the Mariner feed, but if you're unlucky enough to have the Angels' TV feed for this game, prepare for a couple hours' worth of Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler fawning over how good Washburn was for the Angels. Sadly, even though Washburn isn't what he was with the Angels, they could really use him right now.