Saturday, May 30, 2009
As mentioned, the Mariners won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game winning streak whose last day was on April 25th. The 2009 Mariners are now 23-26 at the 49-game mark, five games away from the one-third pole of the season. Of the Bavasi-era Mariner teams, 23 wins at this point is worse than only the 2007 team (by two wins). The total is one game better than the 2006 pace, three better than 2005, and five better than 2004 and last year. Eleven games into the season was the furthest any Gillick-era Mariner team went while being a below-.500 team (5-6 in 2003). Thus, 23 wins is worse than every Gillick-era team -- three worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 14 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting on this night went a torrid 11-for-33, walking twice and striking out three times. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Russell Branyan, and Endy Chavez all had two hits apiece to account for the Mariners' multi-hit games. Branyan and Ichiro both doubled, and Jose Lopez homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. Branyan would also be on here if not for the homer-robbing catch of Juan Rivera over the leftfield wall right before the Lopez homer. Lopez is on the homer list because Rivera barely missed catching the ball. I wouldn't have been able to live with back-to-back homer robberies against my team. The team went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners. Ichiro extended his hitting streak to 22 games with his 2-for-5 night. He has gone 38-for-97 (.392) during the streak with a .505 slugging percentage. Ichiro has had multi-hit games 11 times during the streak. Five of Ichiro's last six games have seen him come away with multiple hits. The guy's only been held hitless in one game in the month of May. He's hitting .364 this month with an on-base percentage of .403 and he's slugging .471. This paragraph's long and I haven't even addressed Yuniesky Betancourt's walk and sacrifice bunt. Where did they get this guy?
The only Mariner pitcher I mentioned below was the starter, so I'll talk bullpen here. Sean White came into the game with runners on the corners in a 4-2 game and retired two hitters to end the inning and the threat. Mark Lowe (in his second straight non-crap outing) and David Aardsma pitched scoreless ball over the final two innings, with Aardsma getting his seventh save in seven tries. Aardsma gave up a hit and walked one to make it interesting. In all, it was 2 2/3 innings of shutout relief for the Mariner bullpen. They faced 10 hitters to get those eight outs (no groundouts, three strikeouts, five flyouts).
1) Adrian Beltre
How bad is it when a 2-for-5 day lifts his batting average to a grand .216? It could have been 3-for-5 if not for Chone Figgins (or Who Willie Bloomquist Would Be If He Were Good) making a play behind the bag at third. Beltre is hitting .224 this month, so he really is hitting better in May, just negligibly. Beltre is .216 on the season with an on-base percentage of .249 and a slugging mark of .320. Ichiro, singles hitter extraordinaire, has hit one more homer than Beltre this season and is slugging .454 for the season (.134 higher than Beltre's). To Beltre's credit, since his five-game hitting drought (think Boston series), he has gone 10-for-34 (.294). That roll has the batting average up from .200 to .216. The whole team went through that extra-base hit drought not too long ago, and Beltre was an instrumental part of that, going eight games without an extra-base hit. That dropped the ol' slugging percentage from .340 to .306. I hope the guy plays himself into some trade value before the deadline, but I don't see it happening.
2) Jason Vargas
Vargas has four Mariner starts under his belt, and I'd have to say that so far it's been pretty good. It's really a shame he wasn't able to finish off the seventh inning, but Don Wakamatsu gave him every chance to do that. Vargas fell behind in the count on every hitter he faced in that inning, and once Kendry Morales hit that single, Wakamatsu yanked Vargas. Morales represented the tying run at first base, and Wakamatsu wasn't going to let Vargas even have a chance at possibly taking a loss in the game. I guess the only thing that would scare me abuot Vargas is the same thing that scared me about Mark Lowe -- he's been good for all six of his appearances, which means he's gotta be due for a crappy outing. He's walked nine guys and struck out 17, and I'd like the walks to not happen quite as much with him. For this game, Vargas faced 24 hitters to get 19 outs. He gave up two runs on four hits, walked two, and struck out two. He split groundouts and flyouts evenly with eight apiece. Vargas is fearless on the mound, which is better than having Carlos Silva pitch. That just gives you fear.
3) Endy Chavez
With how much Don Wakamatsu likes Wladimir Balentien, Chavez isn't quite getting the playing time to be an everyday player. The Mariners have played in 26 games so far this month, and Chavez has appearned in 18 games, though he didn't get a plate appearance in four of those games (pinch runner). Chavez hit .305 in the month of April, though he definitely got the first eight games of the season to hit leadoff with Ichiro on the shelf. He went 2-for-14 in his first four games in May where he appeared at the plate, and it was around that point where we started seeing more Wladimir Balentien in leftfield. After getting 82 at-bats in April, Chavez has 46 at-bats in May with two games left to go. He's hitting .239 this month, he's on base at a .260 clip, and he's slugging .304. He's had four extra-base hits all season. He's walked 11 times on the season, but he's struck out 19 times, which seems a little high. His slugging percentage was lower than his on-base percentage until that triple that nearly cleared the rightfield fence in Oakland. Now he's gone 4-for-7 in his past two games.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
He's here only because it has to be somebody. Rob Johnson walked an went 0-for-3, while Griffey had the fortune of having somebody on third base went he flew out, getting him his one RBI of the game. The 0-for-3 night dropped the ol' batting average to .213. While I know Griffey's long in the tooth, it is a wee bit deflating to see him put what looks like a really good swing on the ball only to have it not even get to the warning track. It almost brings a tear to the eye. If there's one thing I'm thankful for this season, it's that Wakamatsu hasn't tried to sneak him back into the outfield since really early in the season. I was afraid we were going to see him out there two or three times a week. Luckily, Wakamatsu has found two options better than Griffey in leftfield, and Ichiro got healthy, making depth less of a question. I still can't help but think that Matt Tuiasosopo made the Opening Day roster and never got his name in the boxscore. They basically played with 24 guys in the dugout until he got sent back to Tacoma. Ouch.
It's a wonderful day for a Felix start, and hopefully tonight it's a good one.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
This year's edition of the Seattle Mariners is now 22-26 after 48 games. They enter Friday trying to win consecutive games for the first time in ten tries, spanning over a month (April 25th). They are three games worse than the 2007 team, but they match or are better than all other Bavasi-era Mariner teams -- they match the 2006 team, have three wins on the 2005 team, and have four wins on both the 2004 team and last year's team. Conversely, their record is worse than every Gillick-era team -- it's four games worse than 2000, nine games worse than 2002 and 2003, and 14 games worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went 11-for-36 for the game, walking twice and striking out nine times. Seven of the Mariners' 11 hits went for extra bases. Rob Johnson and Franklin Gutierrez doubled twice apiece, and Ichiro doubled as well. Endy Chavez buggy-whipped a down-and-in pitch and nearly lined it over the rightfield wall, but settled for a triple. Russell Branyan vaporized a ball and ended up with a two-run homer. Adding to this, four Mariners in the lineup went hitless, but all the ones that did get hits got two or more hits, and they're the five guys I already mentioned in this paragraph. Use of the phrase "five guys" of course makes me think of an East Coast place called Five Guys that is nothing short of awesome. The double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, and hot sauce with a small order of fries was my Seahawk Sunday lunch when I was in Norfolk during football season. Anyway... The Mariners started out ominously when Ichiro doubled and stole third with nobody out and he didn't score. They finished 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Since I gave one of the gameballs to Erik Bedard below, that leaves the bullpen. Sean White finished up the seventh inning for Bedard and threw the eighth inning as well, successfully holding a 4-1 lead before the Mariner offense played some add-on in the top of the ninth. White has all zeroes in his linescore other than the innings pitched and the ERA (1.90). He faced four hitters and got all of them out (one groundout, three flyouts). Thus, David Aardsma got some work in the ninth, though not in a save situation. He threw a perfect ninth, striking out one. There would be no implosion from the bullpen on this afternoon.
1) Russell Branyan
The big blow in the Mariners' extra-base hit barrage of the day belonged to the big-swinging lefty, who broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth by completely obliterating a Trevor Cahill pitch and sending it into the seats high above the field in rightcenter. He went 2-for-4 in the game with the two-run homer and he also scored another run. Branyan had gone the last seven games without an extra-base hit, let alone a home run. Branyan has driven in 23 runs on the season, which of course could be more if there were more runners on base in front of him and he wasn't leading off so many innings (thanks, Adrian Beltre). Anyway, Branyan is hitting .311 on the season, is on-base at a .398 clip, and is slugging .608 on the season. Though he hasn't had any brutal hitless stretches in the month of May, the aforementioned seven-game extra-base drought did slice about .050 off his slugging percentage until this game. I have to say Branyan is doing pretty well, and I'm looking forward to Jack Zduriencik flipping him for a couple of pretty good prospects come late June or July. Then it'll be Mike Carp Mania.
2) Erik Bedard
He got a little deeper into the game than we're used to seeing, and that's gotta count for something. Bedard threw 77 strikes out of 108 pitches, but this time 108 pitches was enough to get him through 6 2/3 innings instead of barely getting out of the fifth. Bedard gave up a run on five hits, walking two, and striking out five. He got nine outs via the ground and six via the flyball. Bedard faced 27 hitters to get 20 outs. Erik Bedard has made nine starts so far, and I'd have to say two of them were outstanding, three of them were good, and four of them were mediocre. Okay, so I pretty much lumped in starts of five innings or less into "mediocre," but if this guy is supposedly the number-two starter, that's what I'm going to do. Anyway, Bedard is now 3-2 on the year with a sparkling 2.48 ERA. Bedard has thrown 54 1/3 innings this year, which averages out to six innings per start. Come on. Out of a number-two starter, I want him into the seventh every time out, but apparently that's way way waaaaaaay too much to ask out of him. He nearly finished seven innings in this game, though.
Only on a team like the Mariners could the team score six runs and not manage to drive home their leadoff hitter who went 3-for-4 and drew an intentional walk. Ichiro has had multi-hit games in four of the last five games to the tune of 12-for-20 (.600), helping his batting average jump from .310 to .343. He managed to hit a double in this game as well, good considering he'd gone six games without an extra-base hit. Ichiro is on base at a .374 clip and is slugging .449. The slugging mark is the highest it's been since April 26th. Of course, the number I haven't mentioned yet is the hitting streak, which is now at 21 games. Ichiro has gone 36-for-92 (.391) and has slugged .500 over the streak. It's no secret that the Mariner bullpen needs the Thursday off day, but Ichiro's probably the one guy that doesn't want the off day. I wouldn't be surprised if the hitting streak is snapped on Friday night in Anaheim. Sigh, Anaheim. Hopefully Ichiro can keep this going and get driven in once in a while. If the Mariners manage to take three of four against the Angels, they'll 25-27 and we might have a season again. A sweep gets the Mariners back to .500.
So the Mariners managed to score six runs in this game. You figure Beltre, who figures to be such an instrumental hitter in the lineup, would have had something to do with those six runs, right? Wrong. He went 0-for-5 with a strikeout. To his credit, his name doesn't show up in the boxscore next to "runners left in scoring position, 2 out." Though he didn't strand anyone to end an inning, he did leave four runners on base. Beltre's line shows up beautifully in his game-to-game log since it's a "5" in the at-bats column and it's a bunch of zeroes except for the one strikeout. Beltre's hitting .212 on the season, he's on-base at a .245 clip, and he's slugging .317. In an attempt to twist some of Beltre's numbers positively, he was 8-for-24 in the six games previous to this one. I'll be incredibly pissed if this guy gets traded away for nothing, then pulls a Randy Johnson and homers 25 times over the final two months of the season. I hope someone out there can prove that Beltre's the awesomest defensive third baseman ever, because that's the only thing that's going to make his offensive ineptitude a bit more palatable.
It'll be Jason Vargas time on Friday night.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The 2009 Seattle Mariners are now 21-26 at the 47-game mark. They have gone a span of 31 games without winning consecutive games. The last win that was part of a streak was the final game of a three-game winning streak (April 25th). Since that point, the Mariners have lost 20 of 29 games (winning percentage of .310 in that span -- even last year's team finished with a .377 mark). After the pretty good start this team had, they've now spent two weeks under .500. Who'll get traded first? Of the Bill Bavasi Mariner teams, they are still worse than only the 2007 team, who was 25-22 at this point. The 21 wins ties the 2006 team, is three wins better than the 2005 and 2008 teams, and is four better than the 2004 team. In comparison to the Gillick teams, 21 wins is four worse than 2000, ten worse than 2002 and 2003, and 14 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting combined to go 9-for-34 at the plate, walking once and striking out three times. Mike Sweeney, Adrian Beltre, and Rob Johnson all doubled to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. As the true mark of a bad team, the Mariners finally got good starting pitching and got hits with runners in scoring position (3-for-6), but now the bullpen crapped itself. The play of the game that signals the universe has plotted against the Mariners, however, is the play where Mike Sweeney would have scored rounding third base but fell down due to back spasms. As someone who just experienced something similar (spasm or mega-cramp), I can tell you that it really really sucks, especially if you can't walk for two days. Sweeney was able to get back to third base, so that was encouraging. Anyway, that would have left the Mariners with at least a 3-0 lead coming out of the first inning. As for the Ichiro update, he went 1-for-4 and drove in a run. In other words, Ichiro's up to a 20-game hitting streak over which he's gone 33-for-88 (.375). He was hitting .291 before the hitting streak started as is now at .333.
I'm sure I'll get to the Mariner pitching below. Even the goat will tie in the one pitcher that won't get one of these entries...
1) Jarrod Washburn
Usually I don't give a gameball to an entrenched starting pitcher if he only goes six innings, but Washburn still has a bit of a squeaky left knee and it was his first start in a couple turns through the rotation. Washburn threw six shutout innings, giving up six hits and walking one. He struck out four hitters as well. Washburn threw 61 strikes out of 97 pitches and faced 24 hitters to get 18 outs. He got six groundouts to eight flyouts, which to me seems a little bit more tilted to the groundball end of the spectrum than I'm used to seeing out of him. After starting the season 3-0, Washburn is 3-3 and his record stomps my dreams of having him go 13-2 and reaping the rewards at the trade deadline. If you look at his game-by-game log (I do that with most of these gameball/goat entries now), Washburn in six games (maybe seven) has put up numbers that look like those of a winning pitcher. If he was the pitcher of record every time out and you took a gander at this log, he could be 6-2, 6-3, or 7-2. Instead, he's a .500 pitcher. I don't think there's any way he makes it past the deadline with this team, but if he does, the tanking should be frigging epic.
2) Adrian Beltre
Unless you're begging for a home run out of him (legitimate gripe), you'd have to say a 2-for-4 day with a double and an RBI is a fairly good day for Beltre. Two extra-base hits in the last three games have bumped his slugging percentage from .306 to .326, which is still pretty pathetic for Beltre, but it'll be baby steps here for a while. Can you imagine how much better we'd feel about Beltre if he went on a crazy tear right now? Maybe a eight homers in the next ten games or something? We'd all be celebrating that, sure, but we'd also be lamenting where that kind of power was for the first month and a half of the season. If he did go on exactly the kind of tear I just specified, he'd have 11 homers as a result. He'd finally be on the home run-hitting pace that we've been expecting out of him ever since he got here. That of course means he probably wouldn't be able to keep up with that sort of pace. Does anyone see Beltre breaking 30 homers this season? I certainly don't. Maybe he'll hit 20. This isn't really that great of a walk-year performance for Beltre right now.
3) Yuniesky Betancourt
The Mariners' shortstop went 2-for-4, scoring a run. He's now hitting .265 on the season and .225 for the month of May. Betancourt has been a tough guy to strike out, and he's only done so three times in May. To offset that, he's walked seven times this month. We're three games into the Betancourt-at-two-slot experiment, and I'm liking what I'm seeing so far. I'd like to see more hit-and-run with Betancourt, but that's something I think they should have tried before they benched him to drill patience into his head. Betancourt has not had an on-base percentage over .300 since May 4th. The entire team went through that 31-straight-non-extra-base-hits streak, and Betancourt is no exception as he has gone the last seven games without an extra-base hit. He's hit six singles in that span (6-for-22) and walked twice. I guess if there's one thing Betancourt's been better at this season, it's that he hasn't been caught stealing yet. He's 3-for-3 when stealing bases. Incredible. Lest we forget his first Major League hit was a triple, and I thought he would have used that speed a little better since.
Batista and Mark Lowe were kind of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumb in this game, but I'll give the goat to Batista for setting the table for the carnage. I haven't been able to use this one for a while, but here we go -- it doesn't matter if he's writing a novel or if he's pitching, with Batista it's always murder. Batista got one man out, then ended up yielding two singles and two walks. When he was pulled, the Mariners led 3-1 and the bases were loaded. Lowe made fully sure that Batista would pay for his ineptitude as all of the runners Lowe inherited ended up crossing the plate. While it's easy to pile on Batista here, he had thrown seven straight scoreless outings over 8 1/3 innings. As is the case for all relief pitchers, a bad outing balloons the ol' ERA, which for Batista went from 2.28 all the way up to 3.75, effectively undoing the last seven outings strictly in ERA terms (he was at 3.52 after his last bad outing). Batista in this outing faced five hitters to get one out and threw 14 strikes out of 25 pitches.
It'll be an afternoon of Bedardation. That could be good or bad.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The Mariners blew their ninth chance to win consecutive games for the first time since April 25th, and they have alternated wins and losses for the last seven games. At 21-25, the Mariners current pace is tied or better than all Bavasi-era times except for the 2007 team, which was 24-22 (three games better). Twenty-one wins matches the 2006 pace and is three games better than the 2005 pace and last year, and it's four games better than the 2004 pace. As for the Gillick era, all four of his Mariner squads had better marks as 21 wins is four games worse than 2000, nine games worse than 2002 and 2003, and 13 games worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting combined to go 8-for-33 at the plate, walking twice and striking out six times. Mike Sweeney doubled and Kenji Johjima homered on a broken toe to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. Ichiro got four hits and Franklin Gutierrez had two hits to account for multi-hit outings for Mariner hitters. The most daunting thing in the boxscore for the Mariner offense is the 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Bruuuuuuutal.
Seattle's starting pitching in the game will be covered below. Here I'll deal with the bullpen. Denny Stark threw 1 2/3 innings of mostly harmless relief with two walks being the only blemish on his line. He even helped out Chris Jakubauskas by stranding his two runners. Stark faced five hitters to get five outs. Brandon Morrow did some mop-up work, throwing the sixth and seventh innings, and not even giving up a home run this time. He gave up an unearned run on one hit, walked two, and struck out three. He faced 10 hitters to get six outs, and threw 30 strikes on 52 pitches in his two innings. Still, so-so right now is a step up for Morrow, so I'll take that. Sean White threw a largely inconsequential eighth inning of work, giving up one hit and retiring the other three hitters he faced.
All hail the king of the infield hit. In a 4-for-4 day, his first three hits were all infield hits before he managed to get a ball out of the infield. Ichiro also stole a base. The four-hit outing bumped Ichiro's batting average from .319 to .335, his on-base percentage from .351 to .365, and his slugging percentage from .428 to .441 (even with all singles). Ichiro is hitting .352 for the month of May, he's on base at .391 this month, and he's slugging .454 for the month. Lest I forget to mention the extension of the hitting streak, which is now at 19 games. Ryan Zimmerman had a long streak earlier this year, but I'm sure he can't beat out the infield grounder like Ichiro can. Ichiro has gone 32-for-84 (.381) over the span of the streak. Like most of the Mariners lately, Ichiro has gone a while without an extra-base hit, which in his case is five games. He has gone eight games without a walk, though you can also take that to mean the Mariners never have runners on and first base open in the late innings of a close game.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder went 2-for-4 with a strikeout and was his usual defensive self. He is now hitting .265 on the season, and he's on-base at a .344 clip, but only slugging .353. He hasn't had an extra-base hit since he homered on May 4th in a 3-for-4 home game against Texas. His slugging percentage was at .461 after that game and has now lost over .100 points. I won't lie, I thought we were going to see a bit more power from this guy given that he was popping the occasional long ball earlier in the season. For instance, Gutierrez has a May on-base mark (.379) that is higher than his slugging percentage for the month (.373). I know I've been saying that I consider anything above .240 at the plate for Gutierrez as a bonus, but every little extra bit helps this team, and they need anything right now in terms of extra-base hits. It should be noted that Gutierrez is hitting .293 for the month of May, which is way better than I imagined him being at any point this season. He puts a lot of goose eggs up there, but it seems when he gets hits, it's always a multi-hit game. He's had 11 hitless games, three one-hit games, and nine games of two hits or more in the month of May.
3) Kenji Johjima
I guess I'll give him one of these before he hits the shelf for a couple of weeks with that broken toe. Pesky ex-Angel Adam Kennedy spiked Johjima in the foot on a play at the plate and Johjima's toe was broken. Undaunted, Johjima stayed in the game for his next at-bat, in which he jumped all over an inside pitch, as he does from time to time, and homered to leftfield for the Mariners' only run of the game. It was an interesting piece of programming by the FSNNW crew who spotted Johjima in the dugout taking off his sock and wincing while trying to put it back on. Mike Blowers had a vintage Blowersian reaction to this, saying something like, "mmmph" or a groan or something. In any event, Rob Johnson's probably jumping for joy because this is the only way he was going to get regular playing time again this season. Johjima will head to the shelf with a .250 batting average and three homers (yes, as many as Adrian Beltre) to his name for the season. With this comes the question of lineup shuffling -- Johjima hit seventh in this game, but does that mean Rob Johnson hits seventh?
Okay, so we've seen eight starts out of the Lithuanian Laser. Four of the starts have been good to pretty good. One of the starts was bad, but three of the starts were completely atrocious. With Ryan Rowland-Smith supposedly not too far away from coming back to the rotation, the time might be nigh to send this guy back to the bullpen. When Jakubauskas is bad, he's really bad, and he definitely was really bad in this game. He faced 19 hitters to get 10 outs. He gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits, walking three and striking out two, throwing 43 strikes out of 79 pitches. It's tough because he's had really good flashes of brilliance, but he's had games like this where he loses command of everything and just doesn't look ready for prime time (though it was a day game, humor me). With Carlos Silva out of the picture for the time being, Jakubauskas is the weakest remaining link in the starting rotation. If the alternative is to push him down to the bullpen and move a Garrett Olson or Jason Vargas into his spot when Rowland-Smith comes back, I can't say I'd be against it.
It'll be a Washburnian night in the caverns in Oakland tonight.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The Mariners were able to come away with the rubber game of the series with the Giants and have now won two of their last three series. Monday's game in Oakland will represent the Mariners ninth try since the 25th of April where they will have a shot to win consecutive games. At 21-24, the Mariners are better after 45 games than every Bavasi-era Mariner team sans 2007 (they were 23-22). They are one better than the 2006 pace, three better than 2005 and last year, and four better than 2004. Three games under .500 is worse than every Gillick-era Mariner team -- it's three worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002 and 2003, and 12 worse than 2001.
Seattle hitting combined to go a mere 5-for-26 on the day, walking five times (thanks, Zito) and striking out six times. They stranded three runners as a team. Jose Lopez doubled, and both Ken Griffey, Jr. and Adrian Beltre homered (really, he did, and he crushed it) to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. Griffey's homer snapped a streak for the Mariners where each of their last 31 hits had been singles. The team went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and that one hit was the Beltre homer, which he blasted into the leftcenter bullpen. I almost forgot what it looked like when Beltre covers a pitch like that. Ichiro had the only multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 and scoring a run. Ichiro is up to 53 hits and is on pace for a 221-hit season (again, taking Ichiro's eight missed games out of the equation). Also regarding paces, the Mariners are four or five games past the quarter-pole, so based on today, Griffey might hit 20 homers and Beltre might reach double digits in homers.
Mariner starting pitching will be covered below. The only Mariner reliever to hit the mound in this game was David Aardsma, and luckily because things had gone well in the eight innings previous, he came on in the ninth to hold down a one-run lead. Thankfully for the Mariners, he did, one hit notwithstanding. Apart from that, Aardsma got a flyout and struck out two. He faced four hitters to get three outs. Aardsma is 6-for-6 with save opportunities.
1) Felix Hernandez
When he started struggling in the fifth inning, I didn't think there was any way he'd get past the seventh. Lo and behold, Felix finished with an eight-inning outing, his first of the month of May after two in the month of April. The fielding error by Branyan got Felix off the hook for an ERA dent (he only was burned on the eighth-inning Fred Lewis homer) as the Mariner ace goes in the books as having given up only one earned run on seven hits in eight innings. He walked one and struck out ten for his first double-digit strikeout game of the season. He got six groundouts and eight flyouts. He threw 83 strikes out of 112 pitches, which is almost what Erik Bedard would do in two or three less innings. Previously, the only start this month where Felix looked like a pitching ace was the game at Texas where he threw seven shutout innings before Brandon Morrow had his meltdown. In his three other starts, Felix was getting roughed up bigtime. Felix had a 2.38 ERA after April, and two starts later it was at 4.09. The bottom line is that Felix is now 5-3, and we have to find a way to get him to 20 wins. Okay, that's unrealistic.
2) Ken Griffey, Jr.
His Opening Day heroics aside, we spent much of April justifying Junior's existence with the fact that the clubhouse wasn't in complete shambles like it was last year. We were trying to throw some dirt over his numbers that suggested he was over the hill -- he hit .200 in April, had a .342 on-base mark, and slugged .333. So far in May, he's hitting .286, he's on base at a .397 clip, and is slugging .510. Of his 14 hits so far in May, five of them have gone for extra bases -- two doubles and three homers. In this game, he hit the two-run homer in the first that gave the Mariners a good hold on the game through the first four innings. He stung that ball really well, though I'd have to say I'd trade that homer in if I can get the grand slam to end the game on Friday night in the ninth inning. All told, Griffey has a shot at a 20-homer season. Given how he looked a bit too slow for most of April, I'll gladly take 20 homers out of Griffey. It's not just the homers, either -- there are going to be instances where the team's down a run in the ninth and this guy draws a leadoff walk or something.
3) Yuniesky Betancourt
I've been suggesting for a while that Betancourt hit second in the lineup to take advantage of his aggressiveness. While I thought he had a good day at the plate, it wasn't because of his aggressiveness at all. Rather, for the second time this season, he managed to walk twice in the same game. Also, he bunted a couple of runners over in another at-bat, and in another at-bat with runners on base hit the ball hard to the right side, but right at first baseman Travis Ishikawa to start a 3-6-3 double play. While the 0-for-1 dropped Betancourt from .266 to .264 hittingwise, the walks jumped the on-base percentage from .290 to .297 (woooo!). Sadly, Betancourt hit .303 in April and is only hitting .219 so far in May. Of course, the other badness is that Betancourt hit four doubles, a triple, and a homer in April but has only a double and a homer to account for his May extra-base output. Betancourt's May on-base percentage at .296 is higher than his slugging percentage (.281). The funny thing is that after all the trials Betancourt has gone through this year and how some people were thinking Ronny Cedeno might possibly grab the starting shortstop job, every time Cedeno's been out there (sans injury) he hasn't exactly taken the bull by the horns.
It has to be somebody, and today it's the Mariners' best power hitter, for the fielding error that started the badness that occurred in the fifth, and definitely for his 0-for-4 day at the plate, striking out three times for the hat trick. Despite this, Branyan is still a .305 hitter on the season and is slugging at a .596 clip (he'd hovered above .600 since the second game of the Boston series about a week ago). Seeing as to how the Mariners went 31 straight hits without an extra-base hit, Branyan is not excepted and hasn't had an extra-base hit in the last six games, his longest such drought this season. He had a similar five-game drought earlier this month. If we play the pace game again, Branyan is on pace for a 36-homer, 72-RBI season. While I would be more than pleased with a 36-homer season, this team really needs to get more runners on base ahead of him. Hopefully that's partially taken care of if and when Beltre heats up. Since Branyan is lefthanded, he'll never put a ball onto Royal Brougham in gameplay, but I'd definitely like to see him hit the big staircase in rightcenter. Not likely, but we can dream.
It'll be Lithuanian Laser Night in Oakland.
The Mariners blew their eighth chance to win consecutive games for the first time since April 25th, the last day of a three-game winning streak that made the Mariners 12-6. That's a span of 26 games since their last winning streak. The 2009 Mariners at 20-24 are better than all but one Bavasi-era Mariner team, that being the 2007 team, who were 22-22 at this point. The current Mariner pace is one game better than the 2006 team, two better than the 2005 team, three better last year, and four better than the 2004 team. Unsurprisingly, four games under .500 is worse than every Gillick-era team -- it's three worse than the 2000 team, nine behind the 2002 and 2003 teams, and 12 worse than the 2001 team.
Mariner hitters combined to go 10-for-33, walking zero times and striking out seven times. The team stranded six runners. Ichiro, Russell Branyan, and Franklin Gutierrez all had multi-hit games, getting two hits apiece. It's also a weird day when Kenji Johjima manages to steal a base safely, but Gutierrez fails in his attempt. For yet another game, the Mariners managed zero extra-base hits. A John Boyle article that ran in the Kitsap Sun this morning pointed out that all of the Mariners' last 31 hits have been singles. I guess I never saw the Mariner offense taking after Ichiro in quite this way. The Mariners managed ten hits in this game to only score one run. My dad responded to this by saying, "that's hard to do."
Two of the Mariner pitchers will be covered below. Miguel Batista threw a pins-and-needles seventh inning, making it a little too interesting thanks to a walk and two hits. Still, Batista escaped the jam without giving up a run. Denny Stark stopped the carnage in the eighth inning and finished up in the ninth, and even he gave up two hits and walked one, but his relief stint wasn't exactly high-pressure stuff. What's interesting is that the Mariner pitchers not named Mark Lowe combined to walk four hitters, but none of them came around to score.
At 51 hits, Ichiro is on pace (knocking off eight games for his season-starting injury) for a 218-hit season. In his current 17-game hitting streak, Ichiro has gone 26-for-76 (.342) with three doubles and two homers. After his last hitless game, Ichiro was hitting .291. The hitting streak has pumped that number up to .315. He's hitting .320 for the month of May. In a sign of how pathetic the Mariner offense has been, Ichiro scored eight times in 14 games in the month of April (two of those runs were homers). In 22 games this month, Ichiro has scored only seven times, with two of those runs being homers as well. I wonder if this is where the Mariners need Ichiro to turn up the power stroke or not, seeing as to how the Mariners aren't scoring runs. There was a year where Ichiro toned down the average a bit and reached double digits in home runs, but I'm not sure if they quite need to change the philosophy there just yet. Really, we'd just prefer that Adrian Beltre hit .280, smack 35 homers, and drive in 100 runs. That'd solve a ton of problems with this offense.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
He's tailed off after a five-game multi-hit streak (11-for-19, .579) which ended in the beginning part of the month. After going 3-for-4 against Texas on May 4th, Gutierrez was a .303 hitter. Now, he's at .262, thanks largely to nine hitless games since. I've much enjoyed watching Gutierrez this season, and I'm anxious to see what he turns into over the next couple years. I'm fine and dandy with a .240 season out of him as long as the defense is there, but after seeing him hit the odd home run, I'd like to see some more extra-base hits out of him. After three doubles and a homer in April, Gutierrez has had two homers as his only extra-base hits in the month of May. As a result, his on-base percentage for May is a mere .002 lower than his slugging percentage. Again, sort of echoing the Mariners' lack of power lately, Gutierrez hasn't had an extra-base hit since that May 4th game in Texas. His slugging percentage has gone from .446 to .354 as a result. I'd just like to see more of the odd double here and there.
Not a bad outing in a spot start in place of Jarrod Washburn. Olson threw six shutout innings, giving up four hits, walking two hitters, and striking out four. You'd like the two walks to be a bit lower, but he managed to wriggle out of every semi-sticky situation he got into. Olson didn't come out for the seventh inning after having thrown only 85 pitches, but this being a spot start and everything, he didn't do too badly. Frankly, I'm having a lot of fun watching Jason Vargas and Garrett Olson pitch instead of any instance of Carlos Silva. I also find myself a lot less ticked off when Vargas, Olson, or Chris Jakubauskas is pitching as opposed to when Silva or Erik Bedard are throwing. Part of me almost hopes the Mariners make up some injury with Silva to keep him out for the year, kinda like how in the NBA there are some bullcrap injuries toward the later parts of the season so others can fill in on the roster. I don't care if I ever see Silva throw again for this team. I'm already looking forward to the Mariners trading people away, though, so my mindset for the rest of this season isn't really focused on winning anything this year.
After having thrown four of the last five nights, fatigue might have finally caught up to Lowe. Though he'd been completely lights-out in his last five outings, it wasn't to be this time. After getting the first two hitters out, the Giants started a merry-go-round that didn't end until Denny Stark took over for Lowe in the eighth inning. When it was all over, Lowe had given up five runs on four hits and walked two, also giving up the homer to Fred Lewis. As sadly stated by Dave Sims at the end of the carnage, Rich Aurilia made both the second and the third outs of the inning. Lowe faced eight hitters, though it was the last six hitters that lit him up with the four hits and two walks. The slaughter made Lowe's ERA jump by nearly two runs, going from 3.38 to 5.32. 'Twas really not a good day for Lowe, but on the other hand, how many games is this team going to win when it only scores one run? Lowe may have had the roof fall in, but he's definitely not the only problem with this team. Lowe can't put a bat in his hand.
Too bad the matchup today isn't Barry Zito circa 2002 against Felix Hernandez.