Friday, May 15, 2009


There's nothing like suffering two crushing defeats less than 24 hours apart. It's wonderful, really. Remember back in April when we were looking at the standings and wondering how the Mariners were doing and how far they might be leading the division? Nowadays (and I did this with the Canucks when they hit their skid in January) I don't even look at the standings. The standings don't even matter until the Mariners manage to get their heads on straight again. I don't care how far back they are until they give us a reason to think it might matter if they're 20 games down when they get out of this or something. Other than the obvious issues with the Mariners' guy who prefers to be in the bullpen instead of starting, it's still disconcerting to know the Mariners just spent three games in Texas and scored one run, five runs, and two runs. Eight runs in three games. In Texas. Against the Rangers. How many teams out there are going to win even one game in a series at Texas while averaging less than three runs a game? Not many. The Mariners sure didn't.

Since their last winning streak (two games or more), the Mariners have dropped 13 of 17 games. Around this time last year, they lost 17 of 22 games between winning streaks. The Mariners have been under .500 after the third, 31st, 33rd, 34th, and 35th games of this season. The scariest thing, though, is that a three-game winning streak will only get the Mariners to .500. The team has fallen far and fallen quickly. The 16-19 mark is worse than all Bavasi-era Mariner teams other than the 2007 team (two games worse). The current pace is one game better than the 2006 pace, two better than the 2005 and 2008 paces, and four better than the 2004 pace (that team was busy losing 11 of 13 at this point). The 16-19 record is worse than every Gillick-era Mariner team -- two games worse than 2000, six games worse than 2003, nine games worse than 2002, and ten games worse than 2001. A bit of trivia here: the 2002 team took 45 games to drop four games behind the pace of the 2001 team. I remember the team started pretty hot, but that's still nuts. The 2002 team actually had a better record than the 2001 team after 16 games at 13-3.

Mariner hitting went a collective 5-for-32 in this game, walking exactly zero times (you can't blame Yuniesky Betancourt this time since he wasn't in the lineup) and striking out seven times. Jose Lopez turned in the only multi-hit game. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, and Wladimir Balentien had the other hits. Lopez, Beltre, and Balentien all doubled, accounting for all the Mariners' extra-base hits. Lopez was stranded after hitting his double. Beltre doubled in the fourth and scored on Balentien's two-out double. Beltre and Branyan both struck out twice. Beltre is hitting .259 in May after a .207 April. His double took his slugging mark to .444 for the month (.340 overall). He's still only hitting .227, on-base at .255, and slugging .340 for the year, though. Interesting note about Balentien -- he's 8-for-29 in May, and five of those hits are doubles. I hope Don Wakamatsu un-benches Betancourt soon since Ronny Cedeno is 5-for-36 (.139) on the year, not to mention his miscommunication with Beltre on a fly ball to the left side of the infield late in this game (Beltre was visibly pissed). Lastly, I'm a Franklin Gutierrez fan, but he's in a horrendous 1-for-20 slump. To his credit, he's walked three times in that slump.

I guess I'm covering all three of the Mariner pitchers in this game below, so I won't elaborate too much here. Maybe I'll combine the good stats of Felix Hernandez and David Aardsma. They combined to throw eight innings of shutout ball, giving up four hits and walking two hitters while striking out seven. They faced 30 hitters to get 24 outs. They got nine groundouts to eight flyouts. It was all roses with those two guys on the mound.

1) Felix Hernandez
The outing wasn't without a little bit of adversity for Felix, but at the end of the day, he still threw seven shutout innings. The final line was four hots, two walks (a bit of meh), and six strikeouts. He got eight groundouts to seven flyouts, and keeping the ratio tilted toward the groundball side is a good thing in Arlington. He threw 66 strikes out of 110 pitches and faced 27 hitters to get 21 outs. In short, after two bad outings, Felix got back on the horse and showed us what we've all wanted to see. The last two times out, we've all wanted him to be the stopper, but he wasn't able to come through. This time, he throws a gem and Brandon Morrow can't come through. I don't have to tell you this is a bad baseball team right now. They might get starting pitching one night, but the bullpen fails. They'll get hitting one night, but the starting pitching sucks. It's the mark of a bad baseball team. Back to Felix -- he's had eight starts so far, and has given up five or more runs in three of those starts. Oddly, he's only averaging 6 1/3 innings a start, which surprises me. That needs to get higher.

2) Jose Lopez
After going hitless in the first two games of the series, Lopez went 2-for-4 with a double. Extra-base hits are always nice to see, but they're kind of wet-blanketed when the hitters after you can't drive you in from second base. His signled in the fifth, however, did lead to him eventually scoring the first run of the game. Lopez is now hitting .246 for the month and .250 overall. He's on-base at a .271 clip for the month and a .294 clip overall. He's slugging .351 for May and .364 overall. In other words, those numbers were better for him in April than May. Wouldn't you know it, the Mariners have been worse as a whole in May. Still, I'll maintain that I'm not a big fan of Lopez hitting second in the lineup. I think it really takes away his RBI opportunities. It definitely did in this game -- Ichiro only got aboard once, and the bottom third of the lineup went 0-for-9. It's apparent now that they want to change Betancourt's approach at the plate, but before they got ticked off at him, I would have liked to see him hit second to take advantage of how aggressive he was. Ichiro's on first? Betancourt, hit and run.

3) David Aardsma
Another day, another clutch inning of relief for Aardsma. Throwing on his second straight day and holding a 2-0 lead, Aardsma sliced through Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Josh Hamilton in order, ending it by striking out Hamilton. He threw nine strikes on only 13 pitches. In complete hindsight, it might have been better to trot him back out there for the ninth, but he had thrown the day before. It also wouldn't have sent that nice of a message to Morrow. Of course, they could have passed it off as not wanting to throw Morrow on back-to-back days, but I guess they've got more confidence in his arm and shoulder than they did before. As for Aardsma, he walked six and struck out eight in April, but that ratio is becoming nicer in May as he's walked five and struck out ten. Surprisingly, even as he might be even more fastball dependent than Morrow, Aardsma's only been taken yard once this season. Aardsma has only given up runs in two of his 17 appearances. He has allowed his in six of his appearances. Unfortunately, he has handed out walks in nine of his outings.

Brandon Morrow
There still part of me that wants Don Wakamatsu to tell Morrow that it's better for the team that he's in the rotation. Carlos Silva is down and the fifth spot in the rotation is only as solid as Chris Jakubauskas' next good start (who knows when that'll come). I don't mind having Aardsma close. If anything, Aardsma's been much more deserving of the closer role than Morrow, who asked to be in the bullpen. How many people out there think Morrow has the mental makeup of a closer in this league? I'm not so sure anymore. He's got to throw more pitches than a fastball, that's for sure. His fastball might be his best pitch, but against a team that feasts on fastballs, maybe it'd be a good idea to mix a few off-speed pitches in there. At least now he's the trivia answer to "Mariner pitcher off whom Hank Blalock homered in the final at-bat on consecutive days." Morrow's horrific line had him giving up three runs on three hits, two of which were homers. Chris Davis busted out the driver on his homer that ended the game.

One more time to see if the Lithuanian Laser is more like the laser we'd like him to be as opposed to the guy that allows mega-parabolae.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009


Down go the Mariners again. They blew leads of 3-0, 4-3, and 5-4 before losing the game in the bottom of the 11th. Part of the good news is that they managed to hit some homers in Texas like normal teams do. Something bad is that two of those three homers were solo shots and the other was merely a two-run homer. Make it 12 of the last 16 dropped for Seattle. They've gone 16 games without a winning streak (i.e., at least two straight wins). It's like the Mariners keep thinking of new ways to lose. This time, the Mariners got a run in the 11th and set it up for Brandon Morrow to close. If anything, the game ended with him on the mound, though not with the preferred outcome.

The Mariners 12th loss in 16 games dropped them to 16-18. While it's two games worse than the 2007 team, the mark is better than any other Bavasi team of Mariners. It's two games better than 2006 and 2008, five games better than 2005, and four games better than 2004. It goes without saying now that the record is worse than all the Gillick Mariner teams. It's two wins worse than 2000, five worse than 2003, eight worse than 2002, and nine worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting went a collective 8-for-39 in the game, walking three times and striking out ten times. Russell Branyan and Kenji Johjima had two hits apiece, accounting for all of the multi-hit Mariners. Wladimir Balentien doubled, while Adrian Beltre, Kenji Johjima, and Branyan chimed in with homers to account for the Mariners' output of extra-base hits. The team left 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners. Hitless Mariners included Jose Lopez (0-for-3), Ken Griffey Jr. (0-for-5), and Franklin Gutierrez (0-for-4). Beltre's homer was his only hit of the game in a 1-for-5 night. Similarly, Balentien's clutch double to the rightfield corner in the 11th to get the Mariners a 5-4 lead was his only hit of the game as well, but hits like that will definitely get him more at-bats. Though I don't expect much out of Ronny Cedeno offensively, his ridiculously awesome push bunt that brought CJ Wilson to the ground in the 10th was his only hit of the game.

Now for the pitching, not including the closing (covered below). The Mariners can always use a deep start from Jarrod Washburn every time out, but the bottom of the fourth absolutely destroyed his pitch count, and Washburn only got through six innings. Okay, a big part of that was due to the four walks he issued. He gave up four runs on seven hits and struck out five in the six innings. He threw 66 strikes out of 110 pitches and split a ratio of six groundouts and flyouts apiece. He faced 28 hitters to get 18 outs. It definitely wasn't the best start for Washburn, but considering he walked four hitters, it could have been a whole lot worse. The damage control he did in the fourth helped keep this game close. Meanwhile, the bullpen (David Aardsma, Sean White, Garrett Olson) threw four scoreless innings to keep the game tied at 4-4 until the 11th. They combined to give up two hits, walking three and striking out five in that span of time, facing 18 hitters to get 12 outs.

1) Kenji Johjima
The Mariner catcher went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the fourth (there were two out). The homer expanded the Mariners' lead at that point to 3-0. Johjima also inexplicably stole second, though that was more off of Brandon McCarthy than Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Don't look now, but Johjima has a four-game hitting streak going, and two of those games are multi-hit games. He also has a double and a homer in that span, and any bit of extra-base power on this club helps. The streak has lifted his batting average from .220 to .273, his on-base percentage from .238 to .298, and his slugging percentage from .317 to .418. Okay, he's only played 15 games this season, so take from that sample what you will. What I keep saying is that you're not going to get homers out of Rob Johnson. As much as we like the way Johnson handles pitchers and has a swing at the plate that doesn't try to do too much, he can't wreck a pitch on the inner half of the plate like Johjima can. Johjima's hitting .273 right now. If Johjima keeps hitting above .250, Johnson's definitely not going to catch more than twice a week. Johnson just doesn't hit with any power.

2) Sean White
This was his first good outing after three iffy-to-bad outings. His delivery still makes me uncomfortable when I watch it, but a line of 1 2/3 hitless innings with a walk and two strikeouts doesn't. He threw 13 strikes out of 23 pitches, facing seven batters to get five outs. In a bullpen that's a no-name bullpen other than Miguel Batista and Brandon Morrow, White has done okay. He didn't give up an earned run in four apperances in April. He has given up runs in three of his seven appearances in May, and has a 5.00 ERA so far this month. I kinda miss having Sean Green around so that the Mariner bullpen had a Sean Green and a Sean White. Weren't those the days? You know, when the Mariners were even worse than they are now? Ah, yes. The nostalgia. White's one of those players that looks completely unremarkable in every way when I'm watching him, so it's his results that have to sell me. In this game, he was pretty good. Thus, it's the number-two gameball. We need to run a query on whether or not he's related to ex-Blue Jay Devon White. I mean, they share the same last name, so it's got to be a possibility.

3) Russell Branyan
He had gone seven games without hitting a home run. In that span, Branyan went 4-for-26 with two doubles and zero RBIs. After striking out 16 times in all of April, Branyan has really gotten his strikeout on in May, where he has done so 15 times. He struck out 11 times in his 4-for-26 drought. Branyan's slugging percentage was steadily dropping over that seven-game homerless span, going from .667 down to .554 until this game. A homer and a single got that slugging mark back up to .581. For the record, his on-base percentage was its highest after the 5-for-5 game in Chicago at .443, and it was only above .400 for the three games after that. Branyan is hitting .286, on-base at a .350 clip,a and he's slugging .581. I'm content with Branyan hitting .250 and hitting for pretty good power. Is it bad to expect the lefthanded version of a good Richie Sexson? I don't think it is. Branyan probably hit the homer because he was either dismayed with Brandon McCarthy looking like a beanpole or that McCarthy looks like he's 10% torso and 90% legs. Seriously, that was weird.

Brandon Morrow
He's had two appearances since coming off the disabled list, and they've both been rocky outings. After nearly blowing the save in Minnesota on Sunday, Morrow finished the job this time. With runners on first and second and one out, Morrow threw a fastball to Hank Blalock. I won't complain about the location of the pitch, which was pretty low, but Blalock does like hitting fastballs, and he went down and got it, and that hit cleared the bases and won the game. Michael Young led off the inning with a single, and while that's less than desirable, the guy's been hitting everything lately. I know Josh Hamilton is Josh Hamilton, but walking him equaled putting the winning run on first base, and at that point, there were two on and nobody out. I did see Morrow try to slip a breaking ball in there a couple of times in the 11th, so maybe there's some good that comes out of this. Normally you'd like to get Morrow back on the horse the very next day if you have the lead in the ninth, but since they really haven't tried to throw him on back-to-back days, he's probably not going to close for Felix today.

Hopefully a Felix Day can be a good thing again.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Well, I guess the Mariners did show a tiny bit of fight in this game, at least enough to tie up the game in the seventh. The fans were just sitting down after the seventh-inning stretch and suddenly the game was over. Okay, so we know it all went to hell in the bottom of the seventh as the Rangers teed off on Mark Lowe. The Mariners have dropped 11 of their last 15 and the offense has gone into the tank. They scored some runs in the last Felix game, and they finally pulled off a win on Sunday in Minnesota. What you have to be worried about in this game is that the Mariners, facing someone other than Kevin Millwood, couldn't manage more than one run on four hits in a very hitter-friendly ballpark. I can cut Russell Branyan a little slack since he's at least had a hot streak this season (as has Franklin Gutierrez), but Adrian Beltre hung up another 0-for-4.

The mark of 16-17 is one game worse than the pace of the 2007 team, but is better than every other Bavasi team of Mariners. It is two games better than last year, three games better than 2005 and 2006, and four better than 2004. The pace is worse than all of the Gillick-era Mariner teams -- one game worse than 2000, five worse than 2003, seven worse than 2002, and eight worse than 2001. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, the Mariners have dropped 11 of 15, and around this time last year, they were busy losing 17 of 22 between winning streaks.

Mariner hitting went a collective 4-for-31, walking twice and striking out three times. No single Mariner hitter collected more than one hit. Kenji Johjima drove in the Mariners' only run and accounted for the Mariners' only extra-base hit with his double in the seventh. Once the game was over, none of the Mariners 2-3-4 hitters (Jose Lopez, Ken Griffey Jr., Adrian Beltre) were hitting over .250. It was the worst of times, and it was the worst of times.

In real life, you can't take Mark Lowe's outing out of the equation, but I'll do it for this paragraph. Other Mariner pitchers combined to go 7 1/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits, walking four and striking out eight. Vargas and Miguel Batista were the only ones that threw with any kind of high pressure. Sean White and Garrett Olson finally made it into the game, but that came after Lowe was laid to waste.

1) Jason Vargas
It's the first non-Silva outing at the third slot in the rotation, and it was a very refreshing one. I've liked what I've seen from Vargas so far. Really, the only problem I have with him isn't with the pitcher or the pitching at all -- it's the fact that there's way too much space below the surname and above the numbers on the back of his uniform. Of course, the broadcast crew mentioned the crazy hip labrum injury he had and the surgery he had to have, then that makes me uncomfortable while Vargas is doing the leg kick and rotating the hips toward the plate, etc. I guess I'm just afraid I'm going to see something scary on the mound, a la Dave Dravecky, Brad Holman, Josias Manzanillo, or even Shawn Kelley. I'm just glad the Mariners finally got Silva out of the rotation, though I can't help but wonder if Silva's injury is like one of those bullcrap NBA injuries late in the season where you put a guy on the injured list with some "injury" and dress someone else on the bench. After throwing 24 pitches four days earlier, Vargas threw 73 pitches (43 strikes) and got through five innings relatively unscathed. If the offense wasn't so horrible, one run would have put him in line for the win. He walked two and struck out three, and got five groundouts to seven flyouts. Six of the first nine outs he got were flyouts, and those really tested what the Ballpark would hold. Unfortunately, Chris Davis finally bounced one off the top of the wall.

2) Kenji Johjima
I'll put him here for the clutch hit of the game. It's kind of easy to do when there were only three more candidates for clutch hit of the game, and none of the others drove in any runs. After being out for 2.5 weeks, Johjima has still managed to drive in seven runs. Without adjusting for the injury time, that's a 34-RBI pace, which is a bit low. His seventh-inning double drove in the Mariners' only run of the game. Johjima is hitting .255, is on-base at a .269 clip, and is slugging .353. He has hit as many homers as Beltre (one). I hope Rob Johnson enjoyed the two weeks of playing time he had. Unless Johjima falls off the face of the earth offensively or suffers some crazy injury and misses significant time, Johnson isn't going to be playing more than every Sunday and every getaway day. I've always wanted Jeff Clement up with the big club, but maybe it's better that he's not because there's not a lot of playing time to be had. Back to Johjima's hit -- what I couldn't believe was that he took it to rightfield. Johjima's been such a dead pull hitter, I was surprised to see that.

3) Ken Griffey, Jr.
Junior walks where other Mariners fear to walk. Seriously, though, Griffey has walked 17 times, and he isn't quite an everyday player. He drew two walks in this 1-for-2 game and is now hitting .225. I guess if there's one thing I'm glad about when it comes to the usage of Griffey, it's that Don Wakamatsu isn't still trying to sneak him into leftfield or rightfield on defense. Thank goodness for that. I'd rather have him pull a hamstring running the bases instead of pulling a hamstring trying to get to a ball in the outfield. It's good that we haven't been hearing about Griffey complaining about his role in the media or anything, so that's good. So far, Griffey has proved a lot more of his worth on offense, definitely more so that Adrian Beltre has. Did I mention Griffey has hit two more homers this season than Beltre, despite his limited playing time? Yes, it's true. Griffey is on pace for a 15-homer season. I don't think that's exactly what any of us were hoping for, but it's not completely crappy.

Mark Lowe
Sometimes players just have bad days. Unfortunately for Lowe, his bad day completely torpedoed any chance the Mariners might have had against the Rangers. Of course, their lack of offense did them in as well, and they're not going to win a lot of games where they have to score eight runs. After Miguel Batista dug bases-loaded hole for itself and somehow got out of it in the sixth, Lowe came on for the seventh and never got out of the seventh. He faced eight hitters and got only two of them out. The Josh Hamilton two-run blast held up as the winner, but Lowe was getting drilled, defensive miscues notwithstanding. Three of the six runs he gave up were unearned. Lowe threw 32 pitches and only got the two outs before Sean White had to come in and try to stop the bleeding. Again, it was six runs (three earned) on five hits with no walks or strikeouts in two-thirds of an inning, throwing 23 strikes on 32 pitches. Out of all of his 15 appearances, he's had definitely two crappy outings, and maybe three.

Washburn throws tonight. It will be simply Washburnian.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I'll start off by saying I'm not going to bury Roberto Luongo. I think two of those goals were on Mattias Ohlund getting blown past, and he probably just played his last game as a Canuck. I can't put it on Luongo to stop a centering pass that goes off Alex Edler's skate about two feet in front of him either. I just referenced three of the Blackhawks' seven goals, and they won by two. Still, at some point the Canucks needed Luongo to steal a game, and he hadn't done so since the clincher of the first-round series against the Blues. While I won't deny that this Chicago series made Luongo look more like an ordinary goaltender compared to the awesome one we saw during the season (when he wasn't hurt), the team made way too many mistakes in front of him and hung him out to dry too many times. Luongo can only bail out the guys in front of him so many times. Really the only goal I'm miffed about and the one I'd put on Luongo is the Patrick Kane wraparound that tied the game at 5-5 (though that was partially attributed to Willie Mitchell not being able to corral a loose puck behind his own net). That should haunt Luongo until he wins a Cup. I know it's going to haunt me until that happens.

Canuck fans are left with what might have happened if Willie Mitchell clears the puck in Game 4, which the Canucks all but had in the bag. The Canucks would have had a 3-1 series lead, and while I won't deny the Blackhawks would have had enough left in them to win three straight elimination games, it still would have been a lot to ask. All told, every one of the Canucks made some kind of pretty good sized mistake in the series, whether it be ill-advised penalties, bad clearing attempts, or just plain not producing. The thing about the Blackhawks is that they made the Canucks pay -- they didn't just make Vancouver pay for their penalties, they made them pay for one bad pass or an errant clearing attempt. Ever since that failed Mitchell clearing attempt, there were parts of these games that harkened back to last January, when it seemed every time the Canucks made a mistake, it was in the back of their net. There were a lot of broken plays in the Vancouver end that became goals one or two passes later for the Blackhawks.

The Canucks were just done in by their own mistakes and by Chicago's youth and speed. For Vancouver, they were never stronger on the puck in the offensive zone in the series than they were in Game 6. The Sedins managed to actually have some sort of cycling going on. There were quite a few times when the Canucks would keep fighting to keep pucks in the zone and they got some chances out of it. Kyle Wellwood even managed to find room in front of Nikolai Khabibulin on the Shane O'Brien goal. Alex Burrows also got up front on one of the Daniel Sedin goals. There were a ton more chances for Vancouver in this game than the two previous games. The problem, though, was that although they were getting more shots to the net, they deviated from an earlier plan -- Alain Vigneault said a couple games earlier that they didn't want to trade chances with the Blackhawks. Maybe they did some reevaluating or something, but normally if you have a 7-5 game involving the Canucks, the other team will have scored the seven goals.

Really, we should have known this wasn't going to go well when the Canucks had a stranglehold on Game 4 and couldn't even win that game. In terms of mistakes, the Canucks picked a hell of a time to jump in the time machine and go back to January. And what's with losing two of three games on home ice? Again, way too Januarian.

...and Alex Burrows or someone should have leveled Kris Versteeg after he ripped off the arrow-shot Bourdon tribute thing.

Anyway, I'll probably have more on this when I get a hold of the video.

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Monday, May 11, 2009


Okay, I'll admit it's pretty jack to start writing a piece about Game 5 with less than three hours to go before Game 6.

In Game 4, the Canucks tried to sit on that 1-0 lead and it almost worked. Then they made one mistake (what should have been a clear by Willie Mitchell) and it ended up in the back of their net. What could have been a 3-1 series lead was instead a tied series at two apiece. Fast forward to Saturday night, and it's an errant clear by Ryan Kesler, it's an errant clear by Ryan Johnson, it's undisciplined penalties late in the game, it's Sami Salo and Ryan Kesler colliding while they had Roberto Luongo pulled from the net and the team down a goal, etc. The Saint Louis series was completely different since Vancouver had an answer for everything that the Blues threw at them. That's hasn't been the case in this Chicago series. Game 4 was pretty much the only game where they played something close to a 60-minute game (sans overtime), and even though they controlled the game and had a stranglehold on it, they still weren't getting enough shots to the net. If the best they could do is play the suffocating defensive style and still not get that many shots away, then that's not going to be enough to win tonight, the series is over, and I shave off the playoff beard tonight.

The margin of error for the Canucks in this series has been small, and it's been way too small to allow for the mistakes they've made. I just want a win tonight just so the team can prove they have some pride and some fight left in them. Heck, the Boston Bruins have gotten themselves into a situation where they have to win three straight to move on, and they're the top seed, so the pressure must be incredible. In a way, the Canucks are in the same situation the Bruins are in -- they're down 3-2 in the series going into the other team's arena. They say home ice in the playoffs doesn't mean much until Game 7, and I'm hoping the Canucks get to a Game 7 for that to matter. It mattered against the Dallas Stars two years ago. Of course, I remember the two years before the lockout where it mattered less and the Canucks dropped two straight Games 7 on home ice (2003 against Minnesota, 2004 against Calgary).

As for the goals...
-- The first goal had Dustin Byfuglien (who the Canucks don't have an answer for) banging home a rebound off a right point shot by Brian Campbell. Mattias Ohlund just wasn't quick enough to get a hold of the rebound, and Byfuglien beat him to the puck and scored. No one was close to Campbell at the right point, which somewhat justifies Don Cherry's harping during this series about covering the points.

-- The second goal was Vancouver's first, tying the game at 1-1. Kyle Wellwood looked like he was passing somewhere other than the low slot, but it banked off a defenseman's skate and Ryan Kesler was down low and deflected it into the net. That goal doesn't happen if Kesler doesn't have his stick on the ice.

-- The third goal put the Canucks out to a 2-1 lead, and it ended with Mats Sundin showing some life, ripping a slapshot through on a 3-on-2 with the Sedins. The play started when a Chicago pass from the end boards got through all the Blackhawks and ended up on Henrik Sedin's stick.

-- The fourth goal tied the game at 2-2. Ryan Kesler was knocked down along the end boards on the penalty kill (Shane O'Brien got the extra two minutes in a late-period skirmish), but got back up and found the puck on his stick. I'm not sure whether he was woozy or what, but he tried clearing the puck down to the middle of the ice with one hand on the stick, and it was very much held in by Campbell. Luongo probably saw the puck through two of his own defensemen and Troy Brouwer in front. Still, a mistake ends up in the back of the net. I hate to say it, but it reminds me of January, a time long ago before the Canucks had truly found themselves. Toward the end of that God-awful run, the Canucks were coming close to winning games, but every mistake they made ended up in the back of their net.

-- The fifth goal, which the Canucks needed, instead ended up on the stick of the Blackhawks. Trying to kill off a power play (on an overaggressive high-sticking penalty that Kevin Bieksa can't take that late in the game), Ryan Johnson failed to clear the puck and it was held in. Mitchell in front tried to slash Byfuglien's stick out of his hands, but broke his own stick instead. He motioned to Johnson to give him his stick, but there was never a sufficiently long gap in the play to get the stick. Mitchell, with no stick, couldn't pick off the right-dot pass from Patrick Kane to Dave Bolland. Luongo played for a shot off Kane's stick, and was therefore completely out of position when the puck was on Bolland's stick.

-- The sixth goal was an empty-netter that iced it when a centering attempt went off a couple of sticks and toward the blue line. Salo and Kesler were near the blue line and got tangled up, and both were taken out of the play. As a result, Martin Havlat skated to the empty net untouched and scored easily.

One thing brought up by the radio postgame guys was the fact that after the Sundin goal that made it 2-1 for Vancouver, the Canucks had six shots the rest of the way. That's not going to get it done. The other thing that Tom Larscheid brought up is that if Kyle Wellwood buries his chance on that 2-on-1 midway through the third period, the Canucks win that game. Then again, your best players have to be your best players. The Canucks shouldn't have to depend on Kyle Wellwood to win games for them. That should be on the Sedins, Alex Burrows< Ryan Kesler, Luongo, Mitchell, Ohlund, and Bieksa before it's on Wellwood.

I just have a bad feeling about tonight. I really do. Then what am I left with? The Mariners? They can't hit. I can't wait three-plus months for the Seahawks to start playing.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009


There wasn't much joy in Marinerville when the Mariners sent Felix Hernandez to the mound on Saturday night to stop a five-game losing streak and it didn't happen. The good news was that the offense scored six runs, but the pitching staff gave up way too many runs. In this game, Mariner fans hoped Erik Bedard could perform some shutdown duty to help the Mariners win. The Mariners did win, sure, but the way they did was not quite anticipated.

The Mariners fought back to .500 at 16 wins and 16 losses. That pace after 32 games ties them with the 2007 team and is better than all other Bavasi teams. A .500 mark is three wins better than the 2005, 2006, and 2008 teams and is four better than the 2004 team. The pace is worse than every Gillick team -- it's one worse than 2000, five worse than 2003, six worse than 2002, and seven worse than 2001.

Mariner hitters went a collective 10-for-37, walking twice and striking out eight times. Out of all the Mariner starters, only Yuniesky Betancourt went hitless, doing so with an 0-for-4 day, sinking his batting average to .265. Multi-hit games were turned in by Ken Griffey Jr. and Adrian Beltre. Griffey, Endy Chavez, and Wladimir Balentien all doubled and Griffey and Jose Lopez homered to account for all the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven on base. Betancourt stranded a runner in scoring position to end an inning (on top of swinging at the first pitch with the bases loaded and two out on Saturday), as did Rob Johnson. Johnson also hung a hat trick with three strikeouts.

Starting pitching will be covered below. The Mariner bullpen pitched the final 4 1/3 innings of the game. Mark Lowe would have a spotless two-inning line if it weren't for two walks. He ended the fifth inning (stranding Bedard's runner) and pitched into the seventh, leaving a runner on with two out for Miguel Batista, who ended that inning by striking out the only man he faced. Lowe faced eight hitters to get six outs. Both Lowe and Batista did their part in keeping the Mariners to a 2-0 deficit and no wider. David Aardsma will be covered below. Brandon Morrow had a very bumpy ninth, throwing ten straight balls at one point. After giving up an RBI single to Joe Mauer that made it 5-3 for the Mariners, Morrow threw the ten straight balls to walk Justin Morneau and Mike Cuddyer to load the bases. Brendan Harris took Morrow to a full count before grounding to Beltre at third to end the game. In his first appearance since April 23rd, Morrow threw 19 strikes on 35 pitches. He walked the two aforementioned hitters and struck out one, and also gave up two hits. It was a Senor Smokian performance.

1) Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey may not hit a lot this year and he may not hit a lot of homers, but I think it's safe to say every one of them will be some sort of key home run. His game-tying homer that hit a Subway $25000 giveaway sign over the baggy in rightfield certainly fit under the "flair for the dramatic" column. The Mariners have played ten games in May, and Griffey has played in five. Though he's definitely been used sparingly, he is hitting .278 for the month (5-for-18). Two May doubles and a homer leave him with a .556 slugging mark for the month and a .385 slugging percentage for the season (he had a .329 slugging percentage coming into the game). Griffey has played in 22 games this season and his three homers mean he has two more than Adrian Beltre. I'm going to keep pulling the more-homers-than-Beltre stat until Beltre snaps out of it and eclipses everyone on the roster except for Russell Branyan and maybe Lopez in homers. It'll be almost as good as Jeremy's Not-So-Productive Out-Making Box from the 2004 season. Okay, maybe it won't be.

2) Adrian Beltre
Where's the fire, Adrian? Seriously, though, it's good to see Beltre on a four-game hitting streak, though he didn't hit for extra bases of any sort in this game. It was Saturday's game that vaulted Beltre's slugging percentage by 48 points, but the pink-bat game only bumped it up to .328. The two-hit game took his batting average from .226 to .234, though, so it's movin' on up for Beltre. I'm hoping he goes on a 2004ian tear before the Mariners inevitably trade him. I don't immediately have a 2004 Beltre game log within my reach, but I could imagine what kind of ridiculous things Beltre would have to do to match his 2004 pace. Beltre didn't drive in any runs in this game, but is on a 72-RBI pace for the season. Obviously, he's going to have to pick up the pace if this team is going to get anywhere. With the luck of the Seattle sports fan, I can imagine some scenario where the Mariners are in the pennant race (it's a crap division, remember) on July 31st and they keep all of Beltre, Bedard, and Washburn, and then they go on a 20-game losing streak or something. In that case, I hope those compensatory draft picks are awesome ones.

3) David Aardsma
Aardsma has thrown in 14 games this season and has given up runs in only two of those appearances. A day after striking out the side in his only inning of work, Aardsma turned in another shutout inning, striking out only one hitter this time. Aardsma threw six strikes on only nine pitches, getting two flyouts along with the strikeout. Aardsma's ERA now sits at 1.88 on the season. He has walked nine hitters and struck out 15 on the season. The walks are still a bit high. I'm hoping we see a bit more of the breaking stuff out of him. I think if Aardsma had three pitches and could consistently throw two of them for strikes and the other for a show-me pitch every once in a while, he would be really good. Come to think of it, if Aardsma did that, he'd probably be Brandon Morrow, but older. Anyway, Aardsma's been pretty good, and I think that's probably some sort of karmic payback for all the elementary school kids that probably teased him and called him Aardsma the aardvark or something. I bet it happened.

Erik Bedard
The bullpen had been worked hard for the last two games (three of the last four), and coming off the heels of a bad Felix Hernandez start, what does the Mariners' supposed number-two pitcher do? He doesn't get out of the fifth inning, that's what he does. In a game where the Mariners could have used Bedard to step up and really be awesome, Bedard was simply average Bedard. Some people might say, "well, he didn't have his best stuff and didn't get shelled." At some point, not getting shelled and simply just being okay is not going to be enough. Sure, people can use that rationale and try to convince themselves that Bedard's been incredibly awesome this year, and while he's been good, he hasn't come close to reaching his potential. Sure, everyone can live with starts where he gives up three runs or less (which has been every single start for him this year), but this start was his shortest of the year, and it was his fourth start of six innings or less. That's out of seven starts. He's averaging six innings a start. Maybe Washburn's fourth in the rotation for a reason -- to space out the bullpen workload since Bedard, Silva (not for a while, though), and Jakubauskas have been working the bullpen hard.

Looks like it's start number one for Jason Vargas on Tuesday. I could use an off day from Mariner baseball, but the problem is that I'll be watching the Canucks try to stave off elimination, so it'll be a stressful night and one that hopefully doesn't end with my playoff beard disappearing.

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The first Minnesota hitter, Denard Span, hit a fly ball to leftfield that Wladimir Balentien lost in the roof, and it fell for a double. It was a bad start for the Mariners, to say the least. It wasn't a complete whitewash like Friday's game was, but when your team is going through a bad stretch and Felix Hernandez comes up in the rotation, you're hoping you can pull out a win. After the Twins jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the Mariners twice fought back to within a run at 4-3 and 6-5 before the game really got out of reach.

Seattle's sixth straight loss dropped them to 15-16. Around this time last season, the Mariners were busy losing 17 of 22 between winning streaks to go from 11-10 to 16-27, laying waste to 2008. We might like this year's team better, sure, but how much better will we like it if the results turn out to be the same? The current record is better than every Bavasi team except for one, and that's the 2007 team, whose record was better by one game at 16-15. Fifteen wins is still two better than 2005 and last year, and it's three better than 2004 and 2006. The current Mariners have a record worse than all the Gillick teams -- two wins worse than 2000, five worse than 2003, seven worse than 2002, and eight worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting went a collective 10-for-34(?!), walking three times and striking out six times. Multi-hit games were had by Ichiro and Kenji Johjima, who had two hits apiece, and Adrian Beltre, who went 3-for-4(?!). Extra-base hits went to doubles by Jose Lopez and Beltre, and homers by Mike Sweeney and Beltre(?!!?!!?!!!). Johjima picked up an RBI with two out as the team hit 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Beltre also stole a base to add to his day, but I decided that two errors in a game (he's on pace for a 37-error season) and getting nailed trying to steal third is enough to negate Beltre's three hits with a homer and a steal. The power day vaulted Beltre's slugging percentage from .275 to .323 in one night, his on-base percentage from .242 to .258 in one night, and his batting average from .208 to .226 in one night. After collecting 18 hits in 22 games last month, Beltre has ten hits in nine games so far this month. The homer puts him at a torrid pace for five homers (5.22 with the math) on the year. That'd be a hell of a walk year performance for Beltre. Maybe he's determined to suck because that's the only way his price could be low enough for Seattle.

Starting pitching will be covered below. After Sean White got out of the fifth inning, the Twins were done scoring runs. Denny Stark, David Aardsma, and Miguel Batista pitched shutout ball the rest of the way, though trying to keep the Mariners within four runs is only so much pressure since the offense only has so much going for it. The latter three guys in the bullpen combined for three innings of no-hit shutout ball, walking three (two were Stark's) and striking out six (Aardsma struck out the side), facing 13 hitters to get nine outs.

1) Ichiro
Another ho-hum multi-hit game for Seattle's leadoff hitter. Five of his name games this month have resulted in multi-hit games. His batting average is now at .320, his on-base is at .358, and he's slugging at a .417 clip, with his two doubles, a triple, and two homers buoying that number. Ichiro has gone 8-for-17 in his current four-game hitting streak. If you calculate all of Ichiro's pace extrapolations to 154 games (since he was out for the first eight games of the season), he's on pace for a 221-hit season. 2/23 = x/154 He's also on pace for 13 doubles, 7 triples, and 13 homers, along with 33 walks, 60 strikeouts, and 33 steals (caught 13 times). I'm sure exactly zero of the pace numbers I have will come true. Well, maybe the 221 hits is the most likely of all of those things to happen. I know this might be crying from beneath the abyss right now, but if your team isn't getting anywhere with a guy that gets 200 hits a season, is it time to be without that guy? I know this isn't exactly a new argument or anything, and we'd be bereft of any sure-fire entertainment on a nightly basis.

2) Kenji Johjima
The Mariner catcher went 2-for-4 with an RBI, skyrocketing his batting average to .250. As much as I like what Rob Johnson did behind the plate and how he didn't try to do too much with his swing, but he just doesn't have the power potential that Johjima has. Sure, Johnson has a pretty short stroke, and he can handle the play at the plate, but he can't jump all over an inside pitch like Johjima is capable of doing. Maybe the pitchers still hate throwing to Johjima, though. I mean, they're 2-7 since Johjima came back to the lineup, so that probably has to mean something. That said, if you were a pitcher, why would you even think of throwing Johjima a pitch that wasn't over the outside corner? He can't hit the other way. Should we be satisfied if he just hits .250 the rest of the season? Or should we expect something more along the lines of .270? I know what we really want is Johjima off the roster altogether, but unless someone (Kansas City) is stupid enough to trade for the guy, the Mariners are stuck with Johjima.

3) David Aardsma
He struck out the side in the seventh inning, giving him 14 strikeouts on the season in 13 1/3 innings over 13 appearances. He's walked nine hitters, which is a bit high, but not all too surprising. Carlos Silva was placed on the disabled list, Jason Vargas will take his place in the rotation, and Brandon Morrow was activated off the disabled list. Hopefully this means we don't have to depend on Aardsma to close games for a while. Needless to say, there haven't been a lot of opportunities over the last six games for saves. It almost brings us full circle to the beginning of the season -- remember when we were completely unoptimistic about the team and it was pretty much pointless to have a closer since they were going to lose a bunch of games anyway? Maybe if the team's bad enough to where this is the case, they can push Morrow back into the starting rotation. After all, Morrow works for the Mariners, not the other way around. I'm still very displeased with that entire thing, in case you can't tell. Yup.

Felix Hernandez
Last time out, Felix battled a flu. This time, a trainer and Don Wakamatsu came out in the fourth inning to see if something was wrong, and Felix shook them off. While it'd be great if Felix was feeling fine and dandy, part of me almost thinks an injury would be a better explanation for Felix having outings like the last two he's had. He gave up six runs (five earned) over four innings in this game, walking three and striking out two. He threw 50 strikes on 81 pitches and got six groundouts to three flyouts. He faced 20 batters to get 12 outs. He gave up the back-to-back homers to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the third inning. I don't know what's stricken Felix, and I can be forgiving to an extent, but when this team's lost five straight, they kind of look to this guy to be the stopper. This team won't be winning too many games when Felix Hernandez is giving up five and six runs. With the offense the way it's been, Hernandez and the starting pitchers don't have a lot of margin for error. Even in f the starters have a great game and give up four runs, that still means the Mariners have to score five. Right now, that's a big "yikes" for this team.

Time for massive Bedardation. If he doesn't step up, this losing streak could get very long.

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