Saturday, May 23, 2009
This was a good game to resume posting. Though he blew his chance at a nice script by losing to the Mets in his last start, Randy Johnson was making what probably was his final start in front of the Seattle crowd, and judging by the tip of the cap he gave the crowd, surely he thinks there's a good chance he thinks so as well. It turns out he's a bit older than he was when he threw as a Mariner, and he didn't have quite enough control or gas in the tank to get out of the sixth. Still, the Mariner offense didn't make him pay for the hitters he left aboard, but that's not really surprising. On the back burner to the Big Unitness, it was Jason Vargas taking another turn in the rotation and continuing his awesomeness. A perfect script would have had Ken Griffey Jr.'s pinch-hit fly ball with the bases loaded in the ninth get over the wall, but a win's a win.
Before I get going with the rest of this, the Mariners are 20-23, having gone a span of 25 games without winning consecutive games (they've dropped 17 of their last 25). Of the Bill Bavasi teams of Mariners, the 2009 team trails only the 2007 team's pace at this point, and by one game. Twenty wins is two ahead of 2005 and 2006, four ahead of last year, and five ahead of 2004. The current mark trails every Pat Gillick Mariner team -- three behind 2000, eight behind 2003, nine behind 2002, and 12 behind 2001.
Mariner hitting went a collective 11-for-45 in the game, walking seven times and striking out 11 times. The Mariners hit exactly zero extra-base hits in the game. They were 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez had two hits apiece. Every Mariner starter collected at least one hit. While cleanup hitter Wladimir Balentien struck out three times (hat trick), Russell Branyan walked three times (but also struck out twice). Needless to say, the bad number is 17 runners left aboard by Mariner hitters. Also, Ichiro extended his hitting streak to 16 games. Ichiro has gone hitless in only one game in the month of May, but is hitting a pedestrian (for him) .313 in the month. Over the hitting streak, Ichiro is hitting 24-for-72 (.333, duh), with three doubles and the two-homer game against the Red Sox accounting for the spikes in his slugging percentage.
Two of the Mariner pitchers will be covered below. The bullpen combined for five shutout innings of one-hit ball, walking nobody and striking out four. While those numbers are nice and everything, we should note that the Giants don't seem to like scoring runs very much this year. I mean, their cleanup hitter is Bengie Molina, for frick's sake. David Aardsma held the 1-1 tie in the 10th inning while striking out two, and Sean White held the tie as well in the 11th and 12th innings.
1) Jason Vargas
There's no flash and dash with this guy, but he has this penchant for getting the job done. Doing the Mariner bullpen a big favor, Vargas got through seven innings having given up only one run. The five shutout innings in his Mariner debut (extra-inning game against Oakland) left a good first impression on me, and he hasn't been letting the Mariners down since. Vargas has a fearlessness in him that reminds me a bit of Bobby Madritsch. He doesn't have the velocity on his pitches to make the radar gun explode, but he's not afraid to attack the hitters with what he has. In his seven innings of one-run ball, he gave up only two hits (one being the leadoff homer by Aaron Rowand), walking one and striking out seven. Vargas threw 68 strikes out of 106 pitches. He also had an incredibly tilted ratio of only two groundouts to 11 flyouts. There are some games where you're glad it's being played at Safeco Field rather than Arlington or Baltimore. Hopefully Vargas stays healthy. After five starts, it's so far so good. Hopefully we don't hear anything about shoulder capsules or a hip labrum or anything like that. Lastly, there’s no way Pablo Sandoval should be doing anything close to getting caught stealing or getting picked off of first. That’s brutal.
2) Mark Lowe
He throws fire because he's on fire. He's piled up six scoreless innings spread across five appearances, giving up only three hits. He has struck out seven hitters and walked only one over that span. The only bad numbers that jump out at you in his game log are a two-run outing on April 25th at Anaheim and a six-run (three earned) outing at Texas not too long ago on May 12th. I'm glad just I can finally connect with Lowe's awesomeness like we all did a few years ago when he ran that scoreless innings streak. The dude was unhittable then. When he and his wicked slider went on the shelf, Jon Huber came up and had nearly a similar slider. Still, as much as I liked Jon Huber, he was no Mark Lowe. While Dylan spits hot fire, Mark Lowe throws hot fire. After he went for the surgery, I thought there was no way he'd get the velocity back like he has. Since the nightmare outing in Arlington, Lowe has dropped his ERA from 4.70 down to 3.38. He should visit the opposing clubhouse and learn how to throw Mr. Snappy. He'd be the most-feared reliever in the league if he did.
3) Jose Lopez
He rattled the game-winning single off the manual scoreboard in leftfield. Since my mind is easily diverted, that reminds me of the Mariner promo where Ichiro sends the pitching machine to the showers and faces "The Closer." One of the balls Ichiro hits in that commercial rings off the manual scoreboard, and I can't recall an instance where Ichiro has EVER done that in a game, and if he did, it would have occurred in 2001 when he still drove the ball the other way. Since Lopez had his three-hit game in the extra-inning game against Oakland (May 3rd), he has gone 12-for-70 (.171) with three doubles and a homer, driving in only four runs (two of which came in this game). He had a six-game hit streak snapped on May 4th. He went 11-for-30 with a double in that streak. Lopez is hitting .207 for the month of May. When you try to put together a list of reasons why the Mariners have gone from a record of 12-6 to a record of 20-23, the lack of hitting and power hitting by Lopez can't be too far behind that of Beltre.
He's here pretty much for his error in the 12th nearly lost the game for the Mariners. Since walking three times in the first two games of the series against Boston, Betancourt hasn't drawn a walk since. Of course, he's only struck out twice since. He's 6-for-16 with a double since the last game in which he walked. Betancourt is hitting .222 for the month, which the biggest torpedo for his batting average being a four-game hitless stretch (the last game of which was his two-walk game against the Red Sox). Before the two-walk game, Betancourt had a difference of only .010 between his on-base percentage and his batting average. After the first two games of the Boston series, the difference was .027. The final two games of the Boston series saw him hit a homer and a double, tacking on .037 to his slugging percentage. He has also hit as many homers as Adrian Beltre. By the way, Franklin Gutierrez has hit one more homer than Beltre. Ichiro has hit double the home runs that Beltre has. Kenji Johjima has hit as many homers as Beltre. Mike Sweeney has hit as many homers as Beltre.
This is normally where I'd say something about Jarrod Washburn, but it's Garrett Olson taking his turn in the rotation. This definitely isn't 2003, Toto.