Saturday, June 27, 2009
The cold hard reality of a nine-game road trip against good teams smacked the Mariners a bit Seaand knocked them off their two-games-above-.500 perch. The Mariners are 37-36 after 73 games, which is three wins behind the 2007 team, one better than the 2006 team, four better than the 2005 team, seven better than the 2004 team, and 11 better than last year's ugh. Thirty-seven wins is also six worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002, 12 worse than 2003, and 17 worse than 2001.
Seattle hitting went a combined 6-for-32 on the night, walking once and striking out ten times. Jose Lopez had three hits and Ichiro had two. Russell Branyan got a hit as well, but the other six Mariners in the lineup had zero-hit nights. The Mariners didn't manage to get a single extra-base hit in the game. Adrian Beltre hung up an 0-for-4 night, Franklin Gutierrez was 0-for-3 but with a walk (and two strikeouts), and Wladimir Balentien went 0-for-3, striking out three times for a hat trick. The team went 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners on the night.
It was not a banner night for Mariner pitching. The starter will be covered below. Roy Corcoran took on two of Jason Vargas' runners and managed to strand them to end the fifth inning, but gave up a two-run homer to Andre Ethier in the sixth. Miguel Batista threw the seventh and eighth innings and gave up Ethier's third and final homer in the eighth. Corcoran gave up two runs on three hits in his 1 1/3 innings of work, walking one and striking out one. Corcoran faced nine hitters to get four outs. Batista gave up a run on two hits with no walks or strikeouts in his two innings of work. Batista faced eight hitters to get six outs.
1) Jose Lopez
His first game coming off the bereavement list was a rough one, but the second game was much better. Well, it was better for him individually because the team sucked. Lopez went 3-for-4 at the plate, driving in both Mariner runs. He singled with two on and one out in the fourth to cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-1 and he singled with Ichiro on second with two out in the sixth to cut the Dodgers' lead to 5-2. Lopez still leads the team with 44 RBIs despite spending a week away from the team. It probably won't happen, but if Lopez somehow gets a 100-RBI season out of this, it'll be a good thing, and the team could really use it. He could cement his role at second base for a couple of years if he did completely establish himself at the plate. We've made no secret this season that the team needs as mnuch power hitting as it can get, and Lopez (though not with power in this game) has been the only worthwhile power hitter not named Russell Branyan that the Mariners have had this season. If Lopez can get his batting average up to about .270 or .275 and ends the year with 95 or so RBIs and 20 homers, it'll be a good season.
Two more hits for the Mariners' leadoff hitter. Ichiro went 2-for-4 in this game, being driven in twice by Lopez to account for both of the Mariners' runs. Ichiro is hitting .404 for the month of June, somehow surpassing what I thought was a nutty .377 in May. Ichiro is sitting with a .371 batting average for the year so far. Absolutely nuts. I know some people have suggested he move to other places in the lineup to spread the goodness around, but now that Endy Chavez is gone, I don't think it's an option to move him out of the leadoff spot, especially when he's doing this good. It's not his fault he gets aboard all the time and doesn't score as often as he should. The guy needs someone to get him home more often. Though Ichiro has been incredibly nuts so far this season, he's still not on pace to break his own 262-hit single-season record, but he is on pace for a 251-hit season. Let's say you gave him four at-bats for all the eight games he missed and gave him the number of hits correspondent to his current average -- that'd have him 11 or 12 more hits, which would put him on pace to tie or break the record. What if he hadn't missed those eight games? Also, Ichiro has a six-game multi-hit game streak during which he's gone 16-for-27 (.593).
3) Russell Branyan
He had a broken-bat floater of a single with Ichiro on and nobody out in the fourth inning in what looked to be a promising Mariner rally. Branyan is hitting .300 on the season. He's really gotten his strikeout on lately, striking out ten times in the last six games despite his current seven-game hitting streak. Part of the Ichiro streak was like this -- Ichiro would get one hit to keep the streak going, but it'd sink his average. Branyan hasn't had a multi-hit game since June 11th, and as a result, his batting average has sunk from .317 down to its current .300. He's gone 9-for-36 (.250) over his last 11 games, though maybe getting hit in the wrist is part of the season for his slight dropoff in production. Nonetheless, he's still chipped in the key homer, and his slugging percentage is still hovering around .600 at .596. Frankly, going into the season I thought the guy was going to hit .250 altogether, so I'm more than pleasantly surprised with what Branyan's brought to the table. Of course, his awesomeness to me is exactly why they should trade this guy now because his value might not get much higher. This is the one year where I'm okay with them totally being sellers and not buyers, playoff hunt be damned.
I don't know what kind of book the Dodgers had on Jason Vargas going in, but the Dodger hitters had Vargas absolutely solved in this game. Vargas got a 1-2-3 first inning, but it was all downhill from there. Casey Blake led off the second inning with a double that was half a foot or so from clearing the wall in rightfield. James Loney singled, and one out later, Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer for his first of three homers on the night. Matt Kemp followed that up with a single, but Vargas got a double-play ball from Clayton Kershaw (the pitcher) to end the inning. It was only three runs, but at that point it didn't seem insurmountable. Juan Pierre singled to lead off the third, but he was gunned down trying to steal, and Vargas faced only three hitters in that inning. The Mariners scored one in the fourth, but Kenji Johjima's double-play ball with the bases loaded killed that rally and Vargas was nicked again in the fourth. Blake put the ball over the wall this time to lead off, though the rest of the inning was largely without incident. Kemp got a weird triple (shouldn't have been more than a double) to lead of the fifth, then Kershaw (pitcher) somehow singled in that run. Vargas didn't make it out of the inning. In 4 2/3 innings of work, Vargas gave up five runs on nine hits, walking one and striking out two. He threw 48 strikes out of 75 pitches and got seven groundouts to four flyouts. He faced 21 hitters to get 14 outs. He's done great work this season, but he's proven himself more than human with this start and the seven-run start two outings ago.
Wouldn't you know it, it'll be another Felix night.
Friday, June 26, 2009
With this win, the Mariners ascended to two games above .500, somewhere they hadn't been since they were 15-13 after 28 games. After 72 games, the Mariners are 37-35, two games worse than the 2007 team at this point, but two games better than 2006, four games better than 2005, seven games better than 2004, and 12 games better than last year's uggggghhhh. Thirty-seven wins is five worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 17 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went 15-for-36 in the game, walking five times and also striking out five times. Adrian Beltre had three hits while Ichiro and Mike Sweeney had four hits apiece. Sweeney, Rob Johnson, Ichiro, and Beltre all doubled, while Ichiro and Wladimir Balentien homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. The team went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners overall. Only Ronny Cedeno (0-for-2) and Jose Lopez (back from the bereavement list, going 0-for-5) went hitless.
One of the Mariner pitchers is covered below. Jarrod Washburn, meanwhile, managed to get some run support and had a pretty smooth ride after the Mariners staked him out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning. Trouble nearly came in the fourth inning when Kevin Kouzmanoff bounced a double over the fence to lead off the inning. Washburn got the next three hitters out to quash the threat, but was eventually nicked in the sixth inning when Chase Headley blasted a two-run homer. Washburn gave up two runs on six hits in six innings of work, walking one and striking out six. He threw 67 strikes out of 102 pitches, got six groundouts and flyouts apiece, and faced 25 hitters to get 18 outs. Mark Lowe came into the seventh inning with two on and nobody out and finished that inning as well as the eighth. He allowed only a two-out walk in the seventh and a one-out double in the eighth. He got one groundout to four flyouts and faced eight hitters to get six outs. Miguel Batista pitched a perfect ninth, getting two groundouts and a flyout and lowering his ERA to 3.00.
1) Mike Sweeney
It would take something pretty crazy to happen for Sweeney to get four hits and not get the number-one gameball that night. It'd have to be something pretty irrationally awesome, like a four-hit game by Ronny Cedeno, Rob Johnson, or this new Josh Wilson fella I know virtually nothing about. The hilarious thing about all this is that with a mere one game, Sweeney tacked .027 onto his batting average, going from a meh .248 to a pretty respectable .275. One of the balls he drove in this game looked like he totally front-footed it, but if that gets the job done, then it gets the job done. I'll also mention that not only was it a 4-for-4 day for Sweeney, he also managed to draw a walk, so it's all sorts of crazy for the on-base percentage, which went up by .030 to .322 as a result of the game. Unsurprisingly, this is Sweeney's first four-hit game of the year, and in all seriousness, I hope you all enjoyed it because it's more than likely his last four-game hit of the season. I'd have to say that safe money bets against Sweeney having another four-hit game.
I mentioned a couple days ago that Ichiro was due for a home run. The Mariners' leadoff hitter finally ended his 20-game homerless drought by leading off the Mariners' half of the first inning with a solo shot to rightfield. He led off the following inning with a double and led off the fourth with a single. He also led off the ninth with an Ichiro Special, i.e., the infield single. The only blemishes for Ichiro in this boxscore were the one groundout and when he got hung out to dry on a steal attempt. All told, Ichiro's not just on an eight-game hitting streak, he's had five straight multi-hit games as well. Over those five games, Ichiro has gone 14-for-23 (.609) with a double, triple, and home run (.870). Ironically, Ichiro was a triple from the cycle in this game. Before Ichiro had his long hitting streak snapped, he was hitting .353 and I thought there would be no way he'd get back to that. This 4-for-5 game put him at .369 on the season, and he picked up .008 on the batting average in one day. He also now has a .500 slugging percentage.
3) Adrian Beltre
It's three cheers for the man who is hitting on one shoulder. Make it a 3-for-5 day for the Mariners' third baseman, putting him at .264 on the season. Other than in the first two weeks of the season when batting averages don't matter in any way, shape, or form, Beltre's high-water mark is .265, which he hit a little over a week ago. Beltre is hitting .346 so far this month, but has only homered twice in June. Of course, I'm not sure how much power hitting we can really expect out of Beltre when he's got raucous bone chips in his left shoulder that really need to be removed. nto the disabled list and getting the bone chips cleared. Maybe all is not lost for Beltre, since his monster 2004 season was largely completed with a broken foot.
Despite having thrown two innings the night before, Jarrod Washburn was at the end of his rope and Don Wakamatsu went to the well again, bringing out the Lithuanian Laser to bridge the gap from Washburn to the end of the bullpen. This time, Wakamatsu rolled snake eyes. Edgar Gonzalez homered on the second pitch, Henry Blanco ground-rule doubled to left, and Everth Cabrera drew a walk. That was all she wrote for Jakubauskas, who was yanked for Mark Lowe, who came in and cleaned up the mess quite nicely. Jakubauskas faced three hitters and got none of them out, and while that's bad, I think this one hangs mostly on Wakamatsu and not Jakubauskas. I was definitely raising an eyebrow after Jakubauskas was the first pitcher coming out of the bullpen to relieve Washburn. I'd rather have seen Miguel Batista in that situation if you're looking for middle relief. Actually, if the starting rotation didn't have everyone get hurt, Garrett Olson or Jason Vargas might have been decent in that role, though they'd have been more of the very long-relief guys, as in one or more innings.
I wish there was some sort of Scully SAP button on my television so I could hear him call the game for Prime Ticket tomorrow, but alas, there is not. It’ll be Vargas.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The Mariners got back above .500 with this win, putting them at 36-35 after 71 games. This mark is two games back of the 2007 team's pace, but two ahead of the pace of 2006, four ahead of the pace of 2005, seven ahead of the 2004 pace, and 11 ahead of last year's pace. Thirty-six wins is five behind 2000, eight behind 2002, 12 behind 2003, and 18 behind 2001.
Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-32, walking three times and striking out four times. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Franklin Gutierrez, and Yuniesky Betancourt had two hits apiece. Beltre and Betancourt doubled, and Russell Branyan and Gutierrez homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. The team went 3-for-6 (huh?) with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners. Ichiro went 2-for-4 to put himself at 100 hits on the season, and he's on pace for a 244-hit season.
One of the four Mariner pitchers are covered below. Here are the rest. Reportedly on a pitch count of 85, Brandon Morrow threw 87 over the first five innings of this game. Unfortunately for Morrow, the tying run came in on his final pitch, sinking his chances for his first win of the season. He seems to be improving a little bit every start, but until this continues for another month or so, I'm just content to not see Morrow implode whenever he gets into trouble. The trouble Morrow had in this game was confined to the Kevin Kouzmanoff two-run homer in the second inning and the couple of hits he allowed in the fifth that tied the game. Morrow gave up three hits on six hits in five innings, walking one and striking out four. He threw 57 strikes out of 87 pitches, getting three groundouts to six flyouts. Morrow faced 19 hitters to get 15 outs. Sean White threw the eighth inning and maintained a 3-3 tie before he was in line for the win. He gave up (all with two out) a hit and walked one in his inning, so there was a wee bit of turbulence. David Aardsma walked one and struck out two in the ninth on the way to his 15th save. White and Aardsma faced nine hitters to get six outs.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
His last four home runs have been hit against San Diego pitching. He went 2-for-4 with the homer that game the Mariners a 4-3 lead going into the ninth inning and paving the way for a Mariner win. In the last eight games, Gutierrez has piled up a double and four home runs, bumping his slugging percentage from .339 to its current .395. His batting average has gone from .251 to .260 in the same amount of time. We're nine games away from the halfway point of the season, and Gutierrez has seven homers on the season. He could break double digits and hit .245 on the season, and I'll be all right with it because the defense of Gutierrez is simply nothing short of awesome. Your Jim Edmonds types of the world will manage to get onto SportsCenter on the Top 10 Plays or land themselves a Web Gem, but Gutierrez is so fast and gets such a great jump that the resultant play never involves a full-extension dive. Any plays Gutierrez pulls off this season that'd appease the four-letter network would probably have Gutierrez running a mile to get a ball or robbing someone of a home run.
2) Chris Jakubauskas
The way it's been since Morrow has been working back into the starter's role at the Major League level has Chris Jakubauskas being the first guy in long relief out of the bullpen. Jakubauskas threw two perfect innings (the sixth and seventh), striking out one. He threw 13 strikes on 24 pitches, got three groundouts to two flyouts, and faced six hitters to get six outs. Jakubauskas showed some nice potential in the starting rotation, but it's become blatantly apparent since his move to the bullpen that the Lithuanian Laser has found a home in the bullpen for the rest of this season. I think he's generally okay as a starter until the hitters start seeing him one more or two more times. He had a 6.45 ERA before he was sent back to the bullpen. This month, he's been in the bullpen for all seven appearances and has a 1.29 ERA over those seven appearances. Unfortunately for Jakubauskas, mathematics isn't on his side since even his awesome stuff in the bullpen this month as only lowered his season ERA to 5.22.
3) Yuniesky Betancourt
In all likelihood, this will probably be the last of anything I can give to the Mariners' shortstop for probably a few weeks. He pulled up lame halfway down the first-base line on a fielder's choice, so somehow he was safe on the play, but at that point Chris Woodward came out to pinch run, though Woodward supposedly had a bit of a groin injury. If he was still well enough to run, why didn't he start the game at second base so I didn't have to see Ronny Cedeno? After Betancourt left the game, Cedeno slotted to shortstop while Woodward stayed in at second. Given Woodward's semi-gimpy groin, I thought we'd see another occurrence of non-Seahawk Josh Wilson. Betancourt went 2-for-4 in this game, missing a homer by only a few inches. Over the last seven games, Betancourt had gone 10-for-26 (.385) with three doubles, three RBIs, two walks (!!!), and three strikeouts. He'll to the shelf (and most likely the disabled list) hitting .250 on the season with a .278 on-base percentage and a .330 slugging percentage.
It's like having Dan Wilson again, except Johnson can't block balls as well. He sure hits like I imagine Wilson hitting. Though he was a passable hitter when Johjima was out during the month of April, Johnson is showing he's a bad hitter as he's hitting all of .188 on the season. It's almost too bad Jamie Burke can't catch every day because at least then the Mariners would have a fighting chance when the lineup swings down to the bottom third. Johnson hit a respectable .256 in April, hit a Cedeno-esque .125 in May, and is hitting .172 in June. It's bad when the only solace I can take out of Johnson's offensive performance is that he's not as bad as Ronny Cedeno. At least the pitchers like throwing to him, I guess. When Johjima comes back and hits a homer, though, I'll be sitting here watching the game saying, "Rob Johnson can't do that." I'd have a lot less of a problem with Rob Johnson if he could just manage to hit .235. He'd have to go on quite the tear over probably a couple weeks to even get to that.
It'll be a day game to get sunburned and Washburned.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
What a weird game this was. It's a minor miracle it was even a game at all since the Mariners were down 9-1 going into their half of the sixth inning. Then it got progressively more interesting, though ultimately the Mariners couldn't pull off a win. It's no secret that the pitching has been the strength of this team this year, and when the other team's scoring nine runs, any team is going to have trouble winning that game. The Mariners have virtually no chance of winning such a game. One realization I had during this game was that back in 2000-2003, this was the kind of game where on this very weblog we used the phrase "false hope" to describe any game where the Mariners are down a few runs, mount a decent comeback, and then lose by one or two runs. This year, such a comeback is welcome and rescues a game from being absolutely boring and lifeless. Back then, my expectations of the Mariners were pretty high, and those games were games they should have won and also games they should have never been that far down to begin with.
After tasting the rarefied air above the .500 mark over the off day, the Mariners returned to .500 at 35-35 after 70 games. That mark is two games behind the 2007 team's pace, but two ahead of 2006, three ahead of 2005, six ahead of 2004, and 11 ahead of last year's mess. Thirty-five wins is also five behind the 2000 pace, eight behind the 2002 pace, 13 behind the 2003 pace, and 18 behind the 2001 pace.
The Mariners collectively went 10-for-37 at the plate, walking three times and striking out 12 times (there is no way in hell Chad Gaudin should be striking out 11 Mariners in seven innings). Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Franklin Gutierrez, and Wladimir Balentien all had two hits apiece. Griffey and Russell Branyan homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. Ronny Cedeno proved that despite a .120 average, he isn't 100% worthless, he's just 99.99999999% worthless, drawing two walks (one of them with the bases loaded to give the Mariners an early 1-0 lead). For what it's worth, Cedeno's two strikeouts were quite brutal. Yuniesky Betancourt, Rob Johnson, and Balentien also struck out twice apiece, but Branyan outdid them all, netting a golden sombrero with four strikeouts.
The bullpen will be dealt with below, so it looks like Garrett Olson gets this paragraph. As per usual, Olson breezed through the first few innings, and this time that was exactly three innings. In the fourth, he gave up a single and got burned on a ball that I'm not sure how Adrian Gonzalez hit for a home run, but he did. So Olson and the Mariners were only down 2-1 after four innings. I wouldn't say he completely hit the wall in this outing, but he was definitely getting smacked around a bit more, and in the fifth inning, the Padres were starting their third turn through the lineup. The Padres tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Olson came out for the sixth and got Gonzalez swinging, but then Kevin Kouzmanoff got a single, and Chase Headley bounced a double over the wall. Olson left with the Mariners down 4-1 and with two runners in scoring position. Roy Corcoran came on in relief, and I'll get to that later. Olson gave up six runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out two. He threw 50 strikes out of 82 pitches. Olson's not Jakubauskas bad as a starter, but every start is the same and he just loses it. It's never a matter of pitch count with him, it's always the opposing hitters that make up Don Wakamatsu's mind as to whether Olson should be pulled. It seems Olson is never pulled because he ran the pitch count as far as it could go.
Seattle's leadoff hitter didn't warm up until the eighth and ninth innings. He singled to lead off the Mariners' four-run eighth inning that made it 9-6. After Cedeno drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, Ichiro hit another single to put two runners on and nobody out. Ichiro went 2-for-5 in the game and has amassed 98 hits on the season, putting him on pace for a 243-hit season. After hitting .306 in an abbreviated April, Ichiro hit .377 in May and is hitting .370 so far in the month of June. Another thing to consider is that Ichiro has not yet homered this month. His last homer was on May 31st in Anaheim, leaving him with a 19-game home run drought, tying his longest of the year. A previous 19-game homer drought went from April 24th to May 14th. Long story short, the man's due for a home run. The wire article made a big deal out of a foul ball that Ichiro hit along the rightfield line in the second inning with the bases loaded, and while on the FSNW broadcast they thought it might have gone over the bag fair, I do think the over-the-bag rule is a bit screwy (unless it's better defined in the rule book). For instance, if a ball bounces over the bag and it's next bounce is foul past the bag foul, that's called fair, but if a guy hits a home run ball that hooks foul, there's no way that ball wasn't technically fair went it went past the bag at 90 feet. Why isn't that a home run?
2) Ken Griffey Jr.
Isn't it only fitting that the guy that hits the Mariners' 5000th homer in franchise history is Griffey? It was a home run that seemed a bit benign -- it only cut the Padres' lead to 9-2 in the sixth, and there was no consultation of the replay when the ball bounced off the top of the wall and was grabbed by a fan, though it seemed possible the ball might bounce back into the field of play. At the time, if I'm one of the umpires, I'm probably not thinking about going to the replay booth to see whether a solo homer is going to make the difference between a 9-2 game and a 9-1 game, I just want to get out of the ballpark and get somewhere for dinner. Griffey also walked in the four-run Mariner eighth and led off the second inning with a single on an 0-2 pitch. Griffey has 33 walks on the season, only one short of Russell Branyan's 34, though Branyan was busy getting his strikeout on in this particular game. With 11 games to go until the halfway point of the season, is .225 with eight homers and 23 RBIs what we expected out of Griffey? To be fair, he's gone 7-for-18 (.388) over his past six games with two doubles, two homers (slugging .833), and seven RBIs.
3) Miguel Batista
Though he's definitely not in the gig of his choosing, Batista came out in the top of the eighth with the Mariners down 9-2 and in a low-pressure situation. He gave up a one-out walk, but got a double-play ball to end the inning. The Mariners then went on their run-scoring binge, their four-run eighth inning. Batista came back out to the mound for the ninth inning, but this time in a 9-6 game. He gave up a leadoff single to David Eckstein, but got flyouts out of the next three hitters. It might be a copout, but I'm putting Batista here because part of me expected him to fully implode and put the game way out of reach. Batista's last complete meltdown was on May 26th at Oakland, a four-run, two-walk, two-hit masterpiece in one-third of an inning that tacked a run and a half onto his ERA. Right now, his ERA sits at 3.09, which isn't too bad. He's walked 20 hitters and struck out 27, and that still needs work as well, but I don't remember him ever being good at that ratio. Oh well, he's coming off the books soon.
Garrett Olson left the game with two runners in scoring position and one out with the Mariners behind 4-1. Corcoran came into the game. After Corcoran finally got the two outs, the Padres led 9-1. Though he was definitely getting squeezed by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez (he might be the worst umpire I've seen since Laz Diaz), he walked Kyle "Billy" Blanks on four pitches to load the bases, then walked Henry Blanco on four pitches to force in a run to make it 5-1. From there, the next four plays were run-scoring plays as the Padres assembled an array of dinkers and a sacrifice fly for a run on each successive play. It was a backbreaker for sure. Corcoran put a dent into Olson's ERA by having both of his inherited runners cross the plate, but Corcoran did a bit of magic to his ERA, getting charged for three runs of his own. Olson had his ERA jump by 0.72 to 4.95. Corcoran is sitting at a cushy 7.30 ERA on the season. When's he's healthy and doing his thing, Corcoran can be fairly valuable, but he was on the shelf for a while, so he's going to have to shake the rust off a bit.
O frabjous day! Another day with Brandon Morrow on a pitch count!
Monday, June 22, 2009
At the 69-game mark, the 2009 Seattle Mariners have a record of 35-34. Though that's two games worse than the 2007 team was at this point, it's three wins better than the 2006 team, four better than the 2005 team, six better than the 2004 team, and 11 better than last year's debacle. Thirty-five wins is also four wins worse than 2000, seven worse than 2002, 12 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went a combined 11-for-34 in the game, walking seven times (two intentionally) and striking out four times. Mike Carp had two hits while Ichiro and Yuniesky Betancourt had three hits apiece. Franklin Gutierrez doubled and Ichiro tripled to account for Seattle's extra-base hit output. The team went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded a mere 12 runners. Since I put Carp as a gameball instead of Betancourt, I'll mention that Betancourt is on the long slow road to respectability concerning his batting average. He went hitless in three games from June 13th-16th, but since then he's gone 8-for-19 (.421) with a couple of doubles, a walk (?!), and three RBIs. I guess maybe I kept him from the gameball in this one because he was nabbed trying to steal second after leading off the seventh inning with a single (the Mariners were ahead 1-0).
Seattle's starting pitcher will be discussed below. Garrett Olson relieved Felix Hernandez immediately after the latter gave up a go-ahead home run to Mark Reynolds with one out in the top of the eighth. Olson needed only six pitches to get the final two outs of the eighth inning, leaving him very fresh if he's needed for another spot start within the next week. Mark Lowe threw the ninth, getting a groundout to lead off, then getting two looking strikeouts with a two-out double sandwiched in between. Truth be told, when Augie Ojeda stretched that single into a double, the throw from Wladimir Balentien in left had Ojeda beat at second, but Cedeno wasn't quite in the right place with the tag. Though it's less than optimal, I'm not burying Cedeno in the goat section in this post. Not this time. Anyway, Lowe had the slider dancing, hence the two strikeouts looking.
1) Felix Hernandez
It wasn't as good as his last start, but how can we expect a complete-game shutout from Felix again? The Mariners' ace threw less pitches per inning as he approached the tail end of his start and carried a scoreless innings streak that was snapped at 20 innings by Mark Reynolds in the top of the eighth. If anything, Felix got screwed out of the win thanks to the Mariners' awful offense that allows absolutely no room for error. Felix's room for error was something less than walking Justin Upton ahead of the Reynolds home run. The pitch that Reynolds hit for a home run was pretty low, and I couldn't believe that ball left the field of play, even with the roof closed. Again, it was a crying shame since Felix was cruising up to that point, and it made Betancourt's blown steal attempt in the bottom of the seventh sting a little bit more. Felix gave up two runs on six hits in 7 1/3 innings of work, walking two hitters and striking out eight. He threw 69 strikes on 112 pitches and got eight groundouts to seven flyouts. He faced 31 hitters to get 22 outs.
After the Mariners' leadoff hitter saw his small eight-game hitting streak end (15-for-34), it appeared he might be cooling off a little bit. He went hitless on June 16th in San Diego, the first game of a 3-for-17 stretch that lasted four games and sank Ichiro's batting average from .360 to .347. In the final two games of the Arizona series, Ichiro went 6-for-9 with a triple, his first extra-base hit since June 11th, ending an eight-game extra-base hit drought for the Mariners' leadoff hitter. Ichiro also drew an intentional walk, good for his 13th overall walk this season. Ichiro has 96 hits through 69 team games, though he's only been available for 61 games. He is on pace for a 242-hit season. I think I was listening to the Mariners' radio broadcast and they mentioned that 30 of Ichiro's hits this season have been infield hits, which is just completely nuts. It's quite often that my dad brings up the thought of just how much Wade Boggs would have been if he'd had Ichiro's speed. It wouldn't be a question of hits, really, just that Boggs could have probably hit .400 with breakneck speed.
3) Mike Carp
With Russell Branyan getting a day off to heal from getting a baseball to the wrist, the guy that's been called the best bat in the Mariners' system got the start at first base. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and was slotted third in the lineup as Don Wakamatsu decided to throw him to the wolves and find out how he would do. The man's 23 years old but has the face of someone who's 35. Maybe it's like a Benjamin Button thing -- he'll look 23 when he's 35. Carp drew a two-out walk in the first, flew out to lead off the fourth, singled to lead off the sixth, and grounded out with one out in the ninth to move runners to second and third. I'm still waiting to see the power stroke on this guy because that way I'll truly know that he's arrived. If he hits third and is playing first base, if he goes yard Branyan style, it'll be awesome, and not to mention it might be easier to part with Branyan that way. Branyan and David Aardsma might be the Mariners' most tradeable assets here with a month and a half remaining until the trade deadline.
He's only here because it has to be somebody. I weighed his three missed bunts with two on and nobody out in the ninth against Ronny Cedeno's handling of a Balentien throw that should have had Augie Ojeda dead to rights to end the top of the ninth, and I went with Woodward. He played third base as Beltre got the day off, but he went 0-for-4 and left two runners in scoring position, though he did manage to draw a walk. I'm still waiting for Cedeno to get his walking papers, but apparently Don Wakamatsu and Jack Zduriencik still like his "versatility" despite the fact that he's hitting every bit of .123. So if someone asks you today what Ronny Cedeno's batting average, just tell them he's easy to get out as .123. I'm nearly convinced that it'd almost be a defensive wash if Mike Morse came up right now and replaced Cedeno. They'd probably be playing him as much as Cedeno anyway. Anyway, Woodward went 4-for-7 in the first two games of this series (his first two games as a Mariner) and hung up and 0-for-4 in this one, so I can only bust him so much.
Apparently Garrett Olson threw six pitches in this game and is slated to go tomorrow. I'm guessing this gameday (Sunday) was his throw day.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
After 68 games, the 2009 Mariners have returned to .500 at 34-34. While two wins worse than the pace of the 2007 team, 34 wins is three better than the 2005 and 2006 paces, five better than the 2004 pace, and 10 better than last year. Thirty-four wins is also four worse than 2000, seven worse than 2002, 12 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went a combined 12-for-34 on the night, walking three times and striking out eight times. Wladimir Balentien, Chris Woodward, and Yuniesky Betancourt had two hits apiece while Ichiro had three hits to account for the Mariners with multi-hit nights. Betancourt doubled and Balentien homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners. Though I didn't gameball him, Ichiro's three-hit game puts him at 93 hits on the season. He is on pace for a 239-hit season, but is currently on an extra-base hit drought of eight games.
Seattle's starting pitcher will be covered below. The bullpen gave up an unearned run in the ninth, but that was thanks to Ronny Cedeno (more to say about that later). It was two innings with one unearned run for Sean White and David Aardsma. White walked one, struck out one, and gave up a hit in his inning-plus, so it was sort of a shaky outing even without Cedeno's doings. Aardsma did what he usually does, blowing the ball by the hitters, though he did strike out Gerardo Parra on an actual honest-to-God breaking ball (Mike Blowers says it's a splitter). Aardsma came into the game with two runners on, nobody out, and the tying run in the on-deck circle and got himself the save. He got two strikeouts and the foul pop down the leftfield line that Balentien managed to catch.
1) Jason Vargas
The only other one of Vargas' starts that could be better than this one was his seven-strikeout performance against the Giants on May 22nd. After Justin Upton singled in the first to put two on and one out, Vargas set down the next 17 hitters he faced (though the first of those resulted in Felipe Lopez scoring thanks to Rob Johnson's brain-lapse throw to second). Vargas had it locked in like we've seen Garrett Olson get locked in, only Vargas didn't hit the wall like Olson tends to do. Upton got the hit before Vargas set down 17 straight, and Upton snapped that streak with a solo homer in the seventh that tied the score at 2-2, putting Vargas in jeopardy of not getting the win. Luckily the Mariner offense picked him up in the bottom half of the inning. Vargas gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out four. He threw 60 strikes out of 98 pitches and got six flyouts and 11 groundouts. Vargas faced 24 hitters to get 21 outs. Vargas didn't even break 100 pitches to get through seven innings, and for someone that's basically a call-up, that's not bad after eight turns through the rotation.
2) Wladimir Balentien
Knowing the power potential that Balentien has, it's crazy that he hadn't homered since April 25th, and that his homer in this game was only his second of the season. His power potential seemed to be just that -- potential. Still, this 2-for-4 game has to be in consideration for his best game of the season. His solo homer in the fourth inning was a mistake of a high fastball that Balentien tagged and deposited into the bullpen in leftcenter, putting the Mariners ahead 2-1. He also hit a two-out single in the second inning. Those hits notwithstanding, his best play of the game may have been on defense as Miguel Montero popped a fly ball down the leftfield line, and Balentien grabbed the fly ball away through a few arms of fans (come on, fans, if you're sitting that close to the foul line, you probably shouldn't be reaching out to get many balls). All told, this is obviously Balentien's big chance to seize this leftfield job and put any competition out of doubt. We're one game post-Chavez, and Balentien has done well.
3) Yuniesky Betancourt
The Mariners' shortstop has seen his batting average take a tumble ever since the calendar turned over to May. He went 2-for-4 on May 1st and was hitting .313, but thanks to a .214 May and a .189 June so far, he's at .239 on the season. He's a few hits away from mediocrity, but a few more hits from decent to above-average at the plate. He led off the seventh inningh by shooting a ball into the hole on the left side, but Stephen Drew had to range too far to pick it up and couldn't get off a throw (it likely would have been late anyway). The Mariners later loaded the bases with nobody out in the inning. Betancourt was on third with the bases loaded, but that's when Ronny Cedeno decided on his own (apparently) to bunt, and didn't get too good of a bunt off, hanging Betancourt out to dry (he would have been the go-ahead run). In the eighth, Betancourt came to the plate with two on and nobody out and crushed what was basically a grooved fastball for a one-hop double off the centerfield wall, driving in two runs to make it 6-2 and put the game out of doubt.
Where do I start? He's proved he can't hit, so I'm not going to beat that dead horse just yet. He's laid down some good bunts this season, so I'll give him that. I wholeheartedly disagreed with pinch-hitting Cedeno for Adrian Beltre, three strikeouts be damned, because ultimately Beltre could do something, but you also lose on defense. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Cedeno came on to hit for Beltre (an insult to Beltre) and bunted to the pitcher, who forced out Betancourt easily at home. Betancourt didn't take off until the bunt was down, signaling that the squeeze was not on. That's on Cedeno. It doesn't stop there, though. In the top of the ninth, Cedeno stepped in at second base as Woodward moved to third in Beltre's spot. Woodward made a nice snag and a very quick turn on a grounder by Drew. Cedeno managed to not come up with the throw from Woodward, and no outs were recorded on a play that should have been a double play. If that play goes through, maybe the Mariners don't have to use Aardsma and they have him rested for the final game of the series. If Aardsma has to throw Sunday, he'll be in his third straight game. The point of this paragraph -- Cedeno can't hit and he can't field. He's worthless, and once Lopez is back, Cedeno should either be cut loose or just doing spot duty for Balentien in leftfield until Woodward sucks.
Fathers Day is a good day for a Felix day.