Saturday, July 04, 2009
One game short of the halfway point of the season, the Mariners are 42-38 after 80 games of play. This mark is three games worse than the 2007 team's mark, but it's one better than 2006, eight better than 2005, 10 better than 2004, and 12 games better than last year. Forty-two wins is six games worse than 2000, nine games worse than 2002, 10 worse than 2003, and 17 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went a collective 7-for-31 at the plate, walking five times and striking out eight times. Chris Woodward had two hits and was the only Mariner with multiple hits. Russell Branyan doubled for the Mariners' only extra-base hit. Ryan Langerhans, though hitless, walked twice. The Mariners went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all.
Now for the pitching. The middle reliever will be covered below. Garrett Olson didn't take a relief appearance between this start and his last start, freeing him up to throw a full game's worth of pitches. The 104 pitches he threw in this game is a season high for him. He tends to have one inning that makes or breaks him in every start, and usually that's the fifth or sixth after he's cruised through four or five innings. This time, the second inning was his bug-a-boo. After getting a flyout on the first pitch to Jason Bay, he walked Rocco Baldelli, then fell behind on Jason Varitek before the former Mariner farmhand homered to give Boston an early 2-0 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury singled right after that, Julio Lugo walked one out later, but finally Olson caught JD Drew looking to end that inning. Olson got out of his bad inning having given up only two runs, and it ended up being enough. He cruised along until the seventh, when he walked Drew on five pitches with one out and was yanked. Olson gave up two runs on four hits, walking four (yiiiiiiikes) and striking out five. He threw 60 strikes out of 104 pitches, got five groundouts to nine flyouts, and faced 28 hitters to get 19 outs. David Aardsma had a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 17th save in 18 chances, getting an Ellsbury groundout, a Mark Kotsay flyout, and a George Kottaras pinch-hit looking strikeout to end the game.
1) Roy Corcoran
When Miguel Batista threw two innings in long relief on Thursday night, I thought it didn't put the Mariners in the best position for Saturday because usually Batista has been the first guy out of the pen during Olson's starts, much like Chris Jakubauskas has been the first guy out of the bullpen in Brandon Morrow's starts. Guess what? I forgot all about Roy Corcoran. Of course, maybe I forgot about him because his last two appearances had been disastrous -- he gave up three runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings against the Padres on June 23rd and he gave up two runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings at Dodger Stadium on June 26th, adding nearly two full runs to his ERA in two appearances. This was only his fifth appearance since coming back off the disabled list. He didn't allow runs in his first two appearances, but still walked a combined three hitters. He came into the seventh inning with Drew on first and one out and got ground balls from the next two hitters to end the inning. He got Jason Bay to whiff, David Ortiz to line out, and Jason Varitek to ground out to end the eighth. He threw 11 strikes out of 17 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, giving up no runs/hits/walks and striking out one, and getting three groundouts to one flyout. He faced five hitters and got them all out.
2) Chris Woodward
The Mariners' replacement third baseman is nine games into his Mariner tenure and has gone 10-for-28 (.357). He has yet to notch his first extra-base hit as a Mariner, but that will come in time. After all, Adrian Beltre didn't hit his first home run of the season until his 31st game, so Woodward's got 22 more games before he officially hits for less power than Beltre. Woodward's good enough at third, though as I've mentioned I'd rather have Chris Shelton there, Woodward at shortstop, and Ronny Cedeno designated for assignment. Come to think of it, I think Cedeno right now (hey, he had an error today) is more worthless than Wilson Valdez was with this team a couple of years ago. Still, it's nice to see Woodward be able to step into a starting role with this team and not completely crap the bed at the plate. Maybe I'm one for instant gratifications or good first impressions, but if you compare what he's done at third base and how he's taken hold of that role to what Wladimir Balentien has done in leftfield since Endy Chavez went down, there's not too much of a comparison. In fact, what Langerhans is doing in leftfield right now is a closer relative to what Woodward's done at third. Oh, by the way, I just riffed the entire paragraph and forgot to mention Woodward's parachute game-winning single that eluded Dustin Pedroia in shallow rightfield to score Balentien from third.
3) Russell Branyan
Surprisingly, the Mariners already had one hitter in the series reach the Triangle in centerfield at Fenway, and somehow it was Ronny Cedeno. Naturally, that means Branyan on Sunday has to absolutely demolish a pitch and either hit the Ted Williams ~520-foot seat in rightfield or maybe hit a ball over the Triangle completely. Anyway, Branyan went 1-for-3 in this game with two strikeouts. Branyan's two-out double in the third scored Ichiro to cut Boston's lead to 2-1, but Branyan was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. With runners on the corners and one out, Branyan hit a sufficiently deep fly ball to leftfield to score Woodward and tie the score at 2-2, where it stayed until the ninth inning. Branyan's two RBIs in this game put him at 45 RBIs on the season, three behind the team leader (Jose Lopez with 48). Branyan ended June hitting .303, and though he has a three-game hitting streak, he's only got three hits in the streak, making him 3-for-13 with a double and home run. That's sunk his batting average all the way down to .295 since he's batting .176 so far in July. Come on, did you really expect him to be a .300 hitter for the rest of the season?
The Mariners' catcher and Ken Griffey Jr. had basically the same boxscore line in this game, but Griffey gets the non-goat because a certain someone took a first-pitch strike, took three balls, then fouled off three pitches before taking a walk. Wladimir Balentien pinch-ran for Griffey and scored the winning run on the dinker of a single into shallow rightfield. Thus, Griffey had a direct role in the victory. Johjima also walked on four pitches later in the ninth inning when Takashi Saito was competely losing his mind, but ultimately he wasn't the winning run, he didn't score, and he doesn't have the mystique of vintage awesomeness that Griffey has when he does something even remotely related to winning the game. Since coming back off the disabled list, Johjima has played in five games, going hitless in three of them, but collecting a combined five hits in the other two. He's only hit one extra-base hit (a double) since coming back, but eventually I think the bat will warm up and he'll look that much better than Rob Johnson, even with Johnson's three-double game on Friday night.
At least the Mariners already have five wins on the road trip, because Brandon Morrow is throwing tomorrow. Eeeeeyikes.
At the 79-game mark, the 2009 Seattle Mariners are 41-38 and are guaranteed a winning record when they reach the halfway point (81 games). The record, though four games worse than the 2007 team's record at this point, is one better than the 2006 team, eight better than 2005, nine better than 2004, and 12 better than last year. Forty-one wins is six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 17 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went a combined 13-for-44 on the night, walking twice and striking out five times. Ryan Langerhans and Ronny Cedeno had two hits apiece while Jose Lopez and Rob Johnson had three hits apiece. Lopez doubled once, Langerhans doubled twice, and Johnson doubled three times. Cedeno inexplicably homered, as did Lopez. The team was 5-for-15 with runners in scoring position and they stranded seven runners in all. The sixth through ninth hitters in the Mariner lineup combined to go 7-for-18 with five doubles and a home run, and that's even with Chris Woodward's 0-for-4.
Now for the Mariner arms, starting pitcher first. Felix Hernandez threw way too many pitches in the first inning and got into jams in each of the first two innings, though he escaped the second inning unscathed. He got into a two-out jam in the sixth (aided by Russell Branyan playing a ball he should have let Lopez have), but no Red Sox crossed the plate. In the seventh, Felix didn't get into a jam, but did give up a solo shot to JD Drew. It's a minor miracle Felix got through seven innings, but he did get dialed in after the first two innings. He gave up three runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out seven over seven innings. He threw 70 strikes out of 105 pitches, getting eight groundouts to six flyouts and facing 30 hitters to get 21 outs. Definitely not the best outing we've seen from Felix, but still pretty good.
Now for the bullpen. The first guy out of the bullpen is one of the entries below. Shawn Kelley came in to clean up Sean White's mess, and failed to do so. Kelley came in with two on and one out. He got Jacoby Ellsbury to fly out, but then Nick Green doubled off the Green Monster to tie the game, screwing Felix Hernandez out of a win. In a move on which I'm a bit iffy but can't argue with the results, Chris Jakubauskas came in to throw the ninth and tenth. He got five groundouts and a strikeout, setting down every hitter he faced. He ended up getting the win in this game. Mark Lowe threw a bunch of pitches to his first two hitters, but got both of them out. Then he made it interesting, giving up a solo shot to the ninth hitter in the Boston lineup, George Kottaras. With what was now a one-run lead, Lowe gave up a single to Drew and had Dustin Pedroia as the winning run coming to the plate. Luckily, Pedroia grounded to Woodward at third, who threw to second for the force on Drew. David Aardsma threw 29 pitches the night before, so I'm thinking that's why he didn't come out for the save, but Lowe threw 22 pitches himself the night before. Also, my gripe with the Jakubauskas move is that he won't be as well-rested when Morrow throws on Sunday. You figure Batista will be the first man out of the pen today, but he threw two innings in the final game in the Bronx, so he'll only have so much gas in the tank.
1) Rob Johnson
If this guy gets three hits, he's getting a gameball even if they're all in-between dinkers that parachute into the outfield, barely eluding the grasp of the fielders. Instead, Johnson doubled three times, including what held up as the game-winner, an 11th-inning double off Ramon Ramirez that plated the Mariners' final two runs of the game to make it 7-5 at that point. They ended up needing both of those runs for the nuttiness that ensued in the bottom half of the 11th inning. I guess Don Wakamatsu picked the right night to start Johnson over Kenji Johjima. Johnson is 4-for-8 in his last two games and 5-for-16 over his past four games. The doubles helped tack .035 onto his slugging percentage, which is now at .328 (still bad). Johnson is now hitting .203 and is over .200 for the first time since June 19th. He hit .162 in the month of June. This game aside, I still think you're punting away two lineup spots by starting Johnson and Cedeno in the same game. Also, I didn't Johnson in here because of defense, because it seems like a lot of the times there's a wild pitch thrown, I think he should have had it. He tried to backhand scoop one of Felix's wild pitches instead of using the body, for example, and supposedly they play this guy because of his defense.
2) Ronny Cedeno
To be honest, I kind of miss burying Cedeno on a nearly nightly basis. Though he went 0-for-7 over the two previous games, he hung a 2-for-5 in this game with a mind-bending home run and a single. Three hitters after Langerhans had the fan catch a foul ball and then hit a double, Cedeno got a low knuckleball and somehow reached the out-of-play part of the Triangle in centerfield, breaking a 2-2 tie and making it 4-2 for the Mariners. As we well know, Cedeno's not supposed to be hitting home runs like that, and it's almost a carrot. It's nice that he homered, don't get me wrong, but I'd almost rather it get just barely over the rightfield wall or something rather than let us know that he has even the potential to hit a ball as far as he did. Cedeno also hit a one-out single in the seventh. Also, Cedeno's defense appears to be coming around a bit, though that probably comes with repetition. Cedeno was hitting .117 after the second game in Dodger Stadium, but five games later, he's at .143 thanks to a torrid 5-for-18 stretch. Okay, he still sucks.
3) Ryan Langerhans
We're only two games into Langerhans' tenure as a Mariner, but if he stays hot for a week, it makes it that much easier for Don Wakamatsu and the Mariner braintrust to lose faith and confidence in Wladimir Balentien. Sure, Langerhans could revert into a .250 hitter, but even considering that, Langerhans is lefthanded, and if Wakamatsu goes with strict matchups, Balentien's really not going to see the field a lot. He could be relegated to pinch-hit duty against lefties when a righthander is starting for the other team. Sure, the Mariners still make the Mike Morse-for-Langerhans trade for depth even if Balentien was doing well, but he hasn't done much to take the bull by the horns in leftfield after Endy Chavez went down with the horrific knee injury. It's entirely possible that Balentien just lost his last chance to be the everyday leftfielder for the Seattle Mariners. As for Langerhans, if he keeps hitting the ball hard and plays a passable leftfield, he's going to stay there for a while. Talk about an opportunity for Langerhans.
On KJR Friday afternoon, Tacoma News Tribune writer Ryan Divish hinted that White could be headed to the disabled list if he had a couple more bad outings and that the team hoped they could make him last to the All-Star break, when he could get some well-needed rest. This was a bad outing. The Mariners had a 5-3 lead and White came out for the eighth inning. He got David Ortiz to fly out, so not bad there. He walked Jason Bay on four pitches, and that's definitely bad. He started out 2-0 on Mark Kotsay, who eventually singled on a full count. White was then pulled from the game with two on and one out. For White's efforts, Kelley let the two runs in to burn White's ERA. White gave up two runs on one hit in 1/3 inning, walking one and striking out none. He threw six strikes out of 13 pitches, got one flyout, and faced three hitters to get one out. After a game on June 24th against the Padres, White had an ERA of 1.78. Two outings later, White is sitting with an ERA of 2.95 after giving up five runs in 1 1/3 innings over his last two appearances. It's sad to see since he's been a dependable horse in the bullpen up to this point.
Looks like Garrett Olson followed by Miguel Batista (probably) today.
Friday, July 03, 2009
The Mariners salvaged the final game of the series in the Bronx, boosting their record to 40-38 after 78 games. The 2007 team was five games better at this point. Still, 40 wins is one better than the 2006 pace, seven better than the 2005 pace, eight better than the 2004 pace, and 12 better than last year's pace. Forty wins is also six games worse than 2000, nine games worse than 2002, 12 games worse than 2003, and 17 games worse than 2001.
Seattle hitting went a collective 12-for-36 at the plate, walking three times and striking out nine times. Franklin Gutierrez had three hits while Ichiro, Kenji Johjima, Ryan Langerhans, and Chris Woodward had two hits apiece. Doubles were hit by Ichiro (twice) and Langerhans while homers were hit by Gutierrez and Russell Branyan (a mighty blast by him). Since I didn't give Branyan the gameball, I'll just say his homer in the ninth was a thing of beauty, just a cannon blast to the batter's eye in centerfield, basically breaking the game in favor of the Mariners. Ichiro also wasn't gameballed due to his weird error on a Hideki Matsui fly ball, but he did get two hits on the night and walked and stole a base as well. Ichiro is now hitting .370 on the season and is on pace for a 251-hit season. Kenji Johjima may not handle pitchers quite as well as Rob Johnson, but he can put up the odd 2-for-3 and gun down the odd baserunner. Johjima also scored two of the Mariners' runs in the game.
I didn't put any of the Mariner pitchers in the entries below, so I'll deal with them all here. Here's the starting pitching paragraph. Jason Vargas pitched despite flu-like symptoms, explaining why he was pulled after only four innings. Vargas had a really tough second inning as Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano were both in scoring position with nobody out. Luckily the next two run-scoring plays were fly balls to the outfield, though Ichiro dropped the second one. Vargas got the next two hitters to end the second inning. In the fourth inning, Vargas allowed Cano to single his way aboard, then Matsui drove one out to make it a 6-4 lead for the Mariners. Vargas got through the inning and was replaced by Miguel Batista. Vargas gave up four runs on four hits, walking one and striking out two in four innings of work. He threw 41 strikes out of 65 pitches, got three groundouts to six flyouts, and faced 17 hitters to get 12 outs.
Now for the bullpen. Batista came out for the fifth as the pitcher of record and allowed only a two-out walk in the sixth in his two innings of work. Batista struck out one hitter, threw 11 strikes out of 22 pitches, got three groundouts to two flyouts, and faced seven hitters to get six outs (and it held up for the win). Mark Lowe then threw the seventh and eighth. Matsui doubled to lead off the seventh, but Lowe got the next three hitters out. He then sliced through Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez in order in the eighth. Lowe also struck out one hitter, threw 15 strikes out of 22 pitches, got one groundout to four flyouts, and faced seven hitters to get six outs. Branyan's ninth-inning homer made it a non-save situation, but David Aardsma was brought in, which basically invokes a seemigly karmic law where the closer has trouble in a non-save situation. Robinson Cano fouled off three pitches with two strikes before leading off with a single. Then Nick Swisher singled off Aardsma. Matsui ran an 0-2 count full and fouled off four pitches with two strikes until flying out, and then it got easier. Melky Cabrera then flew out and pinch-hitting Jorge Posada struck out to end the game.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
The man's on fire. He's on a five-game hitting streak in which he's gone 12-for-21 (.571) with two doubles and a homer (slugging .810). It's been quite the five games for Gutierrez at the plate, that's for sure. He's taken a fairly good .258 season batting average to .285 in just those five games. Obvious mathematics shows that he's above .250, which means if he goes 1-for-4, his batting average goes down that night. I never thought he'd get to that point this season. Gutierrez has hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games, going 23-for-59 (.390) with three doubles and five homers (slugging .695). Gutierrez has hit five of his eight homers this season in the last 15 games, and he pretty much killed that pitch off CC Sabathia. The random awesome defensive play of the day was when Gutierrez ran to the wall to get a fly ball off the bat of Rodriguez to end the eighth inning. I thought the thing was gone when it left the bat, but this was one of the few occurrences where the new Yankee Stadium held the ball in the yard.
2) Chris Woodward
The Mariners' stand-in third baseman went 2-for-3 on the night, He drove in Kenji Johjima from third with a fly ball in the second inning for the Mariners' third run, making it 3-0 at that point. With two runners on and one out in the fourth, Woodward singled to drive in Gutierrez, making it 4-2 for the Mariners. Woodward also had a base hit with one out in the eighth, but was gunned down trying to stretch it into a double. Luckily the Mariners were already up 6-4 at that point, but it would have been nice to have some runs in the eighth (though they definitely got the insurance in the ninth). Woodward has hit the field in seven games as a Mariner and I'd have to say he's been largely defensively sound except for that first game after Adrian Beltre left. He's gone 8-for-21 (.381) at the plate and walked twice, but hasn't yet collected an extra-base hit, though he came very close in this game to his first double. What's great is that so far, I haven't had to complain about yet another bat weighing down the bottom third of the lineup. When it's Rob Johnson and Ronny Cedeno back there, the Mariners are punting two lineup spots already. Don Wakamatsu got the solution half-right in this game by starting Johjima over Johnson.
3) Ryan Langerhans
Other than the groundout that led off the eighth inning, Langerhans was really tagging the ball. He went 2-for-4 with a double in the game, though he was caught stealing at one point. I'd have to say after one game that the dividends from trading away Mike Morse are paying off already. Though I'd have to say the Mariners need another shortstop or another third baseman at this point, I was very glad to see Jack Zduriencik finally cut bait with Morse and get something worthwhile for him. As people have said regarding the trade, if Morse can't crack the Major League roster for the Washington Nationals, he's not going to do it at all. What I remember about Morse in 2005 involves him coming up for a couple of weeks and hitting well, then Yuniesky Betancourt came along and blew him out of the water defensively. Betancourt's ascension not only pushed Morse out of the shortstop position, people may have forgotten that it pushed Adam Jones into the outfield. Think about that the next time any of you are out there playing a what-if game.
If you compare what the Mariners are paying Griffey and what they're paying Sweeney, they're definitely playing Griffey like someone who's making as much as he is, and Sweeney is playing comparatively less. He hit .308 in April, .182 in May, and .323 last month. The bad news is that if that pattern holds up, he'll have a crappy July. Since the 4-for-4 game against the Padres on June 25th, Sweeney has gone 0-for-10 in the two games he's played. Sweeney's hitting .252 on the season, which is respectable. I won't deny that I'm still uncomfortable when I watch the guy swing since he looks like he has the most uncomfortable swing. He can be a bat coming off the bench, sure, but it's a little bit harder to do now since you don't have Endy Chavez to pinch-run for him after he gets on base. Sure, you could have Josh Wilson do the pinch-running thing, and I guess there's whoever's not playing leftfield that day, but you don't get the same trusted speed that you did with Chavez. If only Sweeney could kind of run, it'd be nice. There's no way he beats out an infield grounder.
A Felix night and a knuckleballer in the same game? That sounds like must-see television to me.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
The Mariners lost consecutive games for the first time since they were swept in three games in Denver. This dropped them to 39-38 at the 77-game mark. This makes them five games worse than the 2007 team was at this point, but one game better than the 2006 team, six better than the 2005 team, seven better than the 2004 team, and 11 better than last year's team. Thirty-nine wins is six games worse than the 2000 team, nine worse than 2002, 12 games worse than 2003, and 17 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went 6-for-31 in the game, walking once and striking out six times. The Mariners' centerfielder of old in Ken Griffey Jr. went 2-for-4 and the current centerfielder, Franklin Gutierrez, went 2-for-3 with a walk. Five of the remaining seven hitters in the Mariner lineup went hitless. Jose Lopez doubled and Griffey homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded three runners in all.
Seattle's starting pitcher will be covered below. Miguel Batista threw the eighth inning for the Mariners, giving up one hit in one shutout inning and getting three groundouts. He threw six strikes out of eight pitches and faced three hitters to get three outs. We've seen terrible stretches out of Batista, but those seem to now be in the not-too-distant past, like in April or something. He's doing well and isn't complaining much about how badly he wants to start. It's not a mystery that the guy wants to start. A week or two ago, I was almost inclined to let him start since Garrett Olson was having a bit of trouble.
1) Ken Griffey Jr.
I can't remember the last time I was this pleased with a .219 hitter. We're not quite at the halfway point of the season and Griffey has reached double digits in home runs. I'm sure some people had certain expectations of the guy before the season started, and I think after a couple weeks it was pretty clear what the Mariners and their fans could realistically expect out of him. He's warmed up a bit lately, hitting four homers in his last eight games (two pinch-hit appearances). He's 6-for-25 (.240) in that span, which isn't anything to write home about, but four of those six hits are homers, which means a slugging percentage of .720 over those eight games. If Griffey somehow reaches 20 homers this season, that's money well spent. Griffey has walked 35 times on the season, only one walk short of everyday player Russell Branyan. The cyclical trend early in the season seemed like Griffey would get a couple hits and then fall off to the point where people were ready to give up on him, then he'd put a little carrot out there to remind you that there's still something left. It's been quite a while since he's looked completely overmatched for a week at a time.
2) Jarrod Washburn
This guy really needs to get traded. I don't know how much longer he's going to be able to stand not getting run support, but he also only has maybe a handful of starts left to get his trade value higher. His record is 4-6 over 15 starts. Out of his 15 starts, he's only had three starts where he's given up more than four runs (he lost them all, deservedly). In his three other losses, he gave up two (one earned), one, and four (this game) runs. His no-decisions saw him give up one, four, zero, one, and three (two earned) runs. I don't think it's unrealistic to say that on a team with a decent offense, Washburn could have a record along the lines of 9-3 (I'll leave a couple of no-decisions in there because we've gotta keep it somewhat real). How much more awesomely tradeable would Washburn be if he was 9-3 right now? Hopefully some teams with needs out there can sort through the bullcrap of the Mariners' lack of offense. As for this game, Washburn got burned by three bad pitches that all went over the fence (Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez) and accounted for all four of the Yankees' runs. He gave up four runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out six in seven innings. He threw 60 strikes out of 100 pitches, getting eight groundouts to seven flyouts and facing 29 hitters to get 21 outs.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
The one thing you could bash him for in this game was when he took off on a 2-2 count with two out and was easily gunned down at second to end the sixth inning. Even if he stays on, he'd have had to be driven in by Chris Woodward with a triple or something since Rob Johnson and Ronny Cedeno were up after Woodward and they weren't going to do it. Anyway, it was another night of the same awesome defense and a couple of hits for Gutierrez, fast becoming The Most Awesomest Centerfielder In Baseball. Gutierrez has collected hits in 12 of his last 14 games, going 20-for-54 (.370) and slugging .648 (three doubles, fuor home runs). In a little over two weeks, he's gone from a .253 hitter to a .278 hitter. You can imagine how awesome I think this is because to me, everything over .245 is pure gravy if Gutierrez is healthy and playing the kind of centerfield we see him playing out there every day. Gutierrez is the Mariners' third great centerfielder in the last 20 years, and we Mariner fans have been incredibly spoiled with the quality of centerfield defense over the last two decades.
Mariners' television play-by-play man Dave Sims remarked that Branyan was wearing a collar of size four. The Mariners' first baseman went 0-for-4, striking out all four times he was in the batters box. On June 23rd, Branyan also struck out four times. A glut of strikeouts is pretty much what everyone expected out of Branyan, though the fact that he was a .300 hitter coming into this game made the strikeouts a lot easier to take. Still, any game where Ichiro and Branyan combine to go 0-for-8 doesn't bode well for the Mariners' chances to win. Oddly, neither does the fact that there's a zero in the LOB column next to Branyan's name. I guess if there was ever a night where Branyan could strike out four times, why not have it be the night where there's nobody on when he's at the plate? To me, that's almost worse than the fact he struck out four times. The 0-for-4 night snapped Branyan's hitting streak at ten games. He went 11-for-40 (.275), which actually sunk his batting average (now below .300 for the first time since May 15th), but he tripled once and homered four times (slugged .625).
I'm fearing the brooms as it's Vargas going up against XL Sabathia in the final game of the series.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Yet another series-starting loss dropped the Mariners' record to 39-37 after 76 games. This is four games worse than the 2007 team was at this point, but is also two games better than 2006, six games better than 2005, eight games better than 2004, and 12 games better than last year. Compared to the Gillick-era teams, this record is six games worse than 2000, eight games worse than 2002, 11 games worse than 2003, and 17 games worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went 12-for-35 on the night, walking four times and striking out seven times. Ichiro and Chris Woodward had two hits apiece while Franklin Gutierrez and Kenji Johjima had three hits apiece. Johjima doubled and Ronny Cedeno homered (inexplicably) to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners overall. Though Johjima was 3-for-4 with a double (how often does Rob Johnson do that?), the non-hit was a rally-killing double-play with two aboard in the second inning. Chris Woodward's two hits were negated by his double-error play in the bottom half of the second inning. Two runs scored before the inning ended. Don Wakamatsu probably didn't feel very confident in Wladimir Balentien hitting, so he snuck Ken Griffey Jr. into leftfield as well as Mike Sweeney at designated hitter. Unfortunately, the 3-4-5 combination of Jose Lopez, Griffey, and Sweeney combined to go 0-for-13 in this game, walking twice and striking out twice.
Seattle pitching had a bad night. Brandon Morrow won't have to worry about a pitch count soon, at least. He threw 58 strikes out of 98 pitches (not a great ratio) in this game, but only got through 4 2/3 innings. I can't tack Chris Woodward's error on him, but the five walks are on him. He gave up three runs (one earned) on five hits, walking the aforementioned five and striking out four. He got eight groundball outs to two flyouts, which is encouraging, but he faced 24 hitters to get 14 outs. He had to do big damage control in the second after Woodward's error play, and only one more run scored. Additionally, Morrow loaded the bases with nobody (including two walks) in the fourth, but got a flyout, run-scoring groundout, and strikeout to get out of it having only given up one run. Chris Jakubauskas again was the first man to throw after Morrow, getting a bases-loaded strikeout of Hideki Matsui to end the fifth. He cruised along into the seventh, when Johnny Damon bounced a ball just fair and over the fence, then one out later, Alex Rodriguez demolished a high pitch. Really, Jakubauskas' line looks bad, but it was really just one pitch gone wrong. He threw 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs (on the homer) on two hits (the double and homer), walking none and striking out three. He threw 29 strikes out of 40 pitches, getting one groundout to three flyouts, and facing nine hitters to get seven outs. Sean White will be covered below.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
He had two very good long running catches and went 3-for-5, though a couple of those hits were total in-betweeners that managed to drop. But hey, in the boxscore, all the hits might as well be line drives. His two-out single in the fifth inning tied the game at 3-3. Through three months of the season, Gutierrez is hitting .274, is on base at a .360 clip, and is slugging .406. For the month of June, though, Gutierrez hit .304 and slugged .519 with an on-base percentage of .360. He homered twice in April, three times in May, and four times in June. That's nine homers through three months, and if you could do convenient things like multiply that by two, that'd be 18 home runs over a season. If you ask me, he's surpassed all offensive expectations I've had for him for this season. I'll say 15 homers for him is great. Still, the guy has an outside shot at 20 homers. In a couple years, his offensive output could be like Mike Cameron without the strikeouts if he can get above 20 homers a season. No doubt the east coast got a good looksie at Gutierrez last night.
How do you top a month of May in which you hit .377? You do it with a month of June in which you hit .407. Just when you thought Ichiro might fade off a bit after having the long hitting streak snapped, he has a barrage of multi-hit games. In June, he went hitless twice, had eight one-hit games, had ten two-hit games, four three-hit games, and a four-hit game. In other words, that's 15 multi-hit games for Ichiro out of 25 total games in June. The banner week for Ichiro was when he had multi-hit games in seven straight games, going 19-for-32 and bumping his batting average from .347 to .375 in a week's time. He is on pace for a 254-hit season, which would be three short of George Sisler's (broken) record. Still, if you figure Ichiro missed eight games, and that he's an everyday player, he missed out on 32 or so at-bats. If you extrapolate Ichiro's current average onto the eight games he missed, he'd have around 12 more hits, or 124 after 76 games. That would put him on pace afor a 264-hit season, which would break his own record of 262 hits. The point is, the dude's on freakin' fire.
3) Ronny Cedeno
The last two games have been like Ronny Cedeno Apocalypse. He went 2-for-4 and I basically had to gameball him after Sunday's game, and in this game he lays down two good bunts, has a couple of good defensive plays, and somehow hits a home run (totally a new Yankee Stadium homer, but still a homer). The results out of this game pretty much leave me no choice but to throw him in the gameball entries again. Don't get me wrong, I won't hesitate at the chance to bury this guy, and he is still a .140 hitter, but he's throwing some carrots out there. I still can't believe there isn't at least one guy in Tacoma who wouldn't hit better than .140 at the Major League level. While I'm talking about Tacoma, I think it's pretty clear that not only should Chris Shelton be up with the big club, Mike Carp is just rotting on the bench at the big-league level now that Russell Branyan came back after leaving the club for a couple of days. Unless you're going to play Carp at third base or leftfield, you might as well send him back to Tacoma. Back to Cedeno, though, I'll regain my form the next time he pulls an 0-for-4 and strikes out twice.
As you watched the game, it was Brandon Morrow who was the starting pitcher, but it was Sean White who had the Morrow-style implosion. He threw the eighth inning and it was simply an inning of horrors. Matsui stroked a double to lead off. Nick Swisher bunted along the third-base line, and while White picked it up, he stumbled and couldn't get off a throw (yet another occurrence where Beltre might have had it). Melky Cabrera then doubled on the first pitch to get the Yankees a 6-5 lead. Derek Jeter hit a two-run single right after that to make for the final 8-5 margin of the game. If nothing else, White set down the next three hitters in order, so it could have been way worse. White went one inning and gave up three runs on four hits, walking none and striking out none. He got one groundout to two flyouts and threw 12 strikes out of 20 pitches. He faced seven hitters to get three outs. Maybe the amazing thing is that White can have an appearance as bad as this one and his ERA is still only at 2.48. It was at 1.78 before the game, but he's still been money.
It's a night to get Washburned tonight. Or washed and burned.
Monday, June 29, 2009
The Mariners' ninth win in 12 games catapulted them to three games above .500, a place they haven't been since they were 15-12, five games into the month of May. They are 39-36 after 75 games, and that record is three games worse than the 2007 team's pace, but three better than the 2006 pace, six better than 2005, eight better than 2004, and 13 better than last year.
Seattle hitting went 9-for-36 in the game, walking zero times and striking out six times. Jose Lopez collected three hits while Ronny Cedeno somehow collected two. Lopez also doubled for the only extra-base hit of the game for the Mariners. The team went 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners overall.
Seattle's starting pitcher will be covered below. The Mariner bullpen handled the final four innings of the game, which they were in decent shape to do since the pitching didn't implode in the first two games of the series and since the Mariners had the next day off. Much like Chris Jakubauskas is the first guy out of the bullpen when Brandon Morrow gets the start, it appears Miguel Batista is the first guy out of the bullpen when Garrett Olson is getting the start. Batista threw the sixth and seventh innings, giving up a hit and a walk, and gettting four groundouts to one flyout. Batista faced seven hitters to get six outs. Mark Lowe threw the eighth inning and struck out one while retiring the side in order. David Aardsma threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save, striking out Matt Kemp to end the game. There you have it, four innings of one-hit shutout ball by the Mariner bullpen.
1) Ronny Cedeno
If this guy goes 2-for-4 and I don't give him the number one gameball, he's never going to get one. He's turned in some decent defensive plays and a couple of good bunts here and there, proving himself to be just worthless, which is better than the "completely worthless" tag that I was throwing around just last week. Even still, with Adrian Beltre apparently now really and totally going to the disabled list this time, I'm designating Cedeno for assignment and bringing up Chris Shelton because there's no way Shelton's going to hit worse than Cedeno at the big-league level. Or I'd throw Josh Wilson into the fire until he proves he can't hit anything over .150 over two weeks of play. If all Cedeno can do is bunt, there's no way I'm keeping him on the roster if he's hitting .133 on the season like he is right now. This 2-for-4 game doubled his hitting output for the month of June. He can't hit (except for this game), he can field decently but nowhere close to what people's expectations were of him...how could this guy play on any Major League team, anyway? It's like having Luis Ugueto except you're playing him every day.
2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman went 0-for-5 in his first game back from the bereavement list after the loss of his sister in Venezuela. In the three games since, Lopez has gone 8-for-12 with a double and four RBIs. He's found the hitting shoes he had on before he left for Venezuela, but he hasn't found the power stroke yet. Lopez seems to toss in the odd 0-fer here and there, but when he does get hits, he tends to have multi-hit games -- he has seven hitless games, three one-hit games, two two-hit games, and six three-hit games in the month of June. Lopez is hitting .347 for the month, and I'm glad we didn't have to think too long about having both Lopez and Betancourt gone at the same time. He's hitting .263 on the season, the highest it's been since early May, when the numbers fluctuate so much that it matters a little bit less. One interesting thing is that Lopez hasn't walked in June, and thus his on-base percentage for the month (.333) is lower than his batting average for the month. Still, the Mariners will be better off when Lopez finds the home-run stroke again.
3) Garrett Olson
It's almost on cue in every one of Olson's starts -- he rolls along and almost teases you through the first three or four innings, then he hits the wall. The same thing happened in this outing, but the wall wasn't a brick wall. It was more made of cardboard or couch pillows, and therefore Olson was able to make it through the fifth inning and qualify for the win. It's become clear over his last two starts that it's usually not his pitch count that runs Olson from the game, it's moer than likely how hard the opposing hitters are hitting the pitches. I think another factor is that I think they keep his pitch counts low during the starts in case they need him out of the bullpen midway between his starts. It could be the other way around -- they could bring him out of the pen anyway and keep his count low on his subsequent start. If you look at his game log, he usually throws something like two starts, then a bullpen appearance or two, then another start or two. His role is kind of reminding me of Ryan Franklin's role with the team back in 2002-2003.
I guess between Griffey's 0-for-4, Johjima's 0-for-4, and the fact that Ronny Cedeno didn't go 0-for-4, I went with Johjima's 0-for-4. Since we know of people like Jarrod Washburn saying Rob Johnson is one of the best receivers he's thrown to -- and we never hear anyone say stuff like that about Johjima -- it's clear that Johjima's worth with this team is when he's in the batter's box. When Johjima is going 0-for-4, they might as well have Rob Johnson behind the plate that night. I know the second that Johjima hits a home run (it'll be his first since May 25th) I'll probably just say, "Rob Johnson can't do that," and then forget about most of the stuff I've said here regarding Johjima. That is, until the next time he goes 0-for-4. If Johjima can get his current .229 average up to about .265 or .270 by the end of the year, I think I'll be sort of content with that. I'm just resigned to the fact that the Mariners have him until they don't have him, and that won't happen for another couple of years.
Our reward for this? Watching Brandon Morrow start in the new Yankee Stadium against Joba Chamberlain. This could be really bad or kinda good.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The Mariners' eighth win in 11 tries put them at 38-36 after 74 games. That record is three wins worse than the 2007 team's record at this point, but two wins better than 2006, five wins better than 2005, eight wins better than 2004, and 12 wins better than last year.
Mariner hitting went 12-for-39 in the game, walking once and striking out nine times (three of those were Felix Hernandez). Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez had two hits apiece, while Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez had three hits apiece. Ichiro doubled once, Gutierrez doubled twice, Branyan tripled, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Branyan both homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. The team went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all. Ichiro went 3-for-5 and I'm not putting him into the gameball entries because of the two defensive oddities he experienced out there with the missed catch and the odd sliding ball-off-the-leg play. Nonetheless, Ichiro's three hits put him at 109 on the season, putting him on pace for a 254-hit season. Ichiro is hitting a mere .414 so far in June and is hitting .375 on the season.
The Mariners' starting pitcher will be covered below. David Aardsma warmed up in preparation to close and got work anyway in the bottom of the ninth in a non-save situation as the Mariners had a 5-1 lead. As Kazuhiro Sasaki had done before him, Aardsma made it a bit interesting in a non-save situation but ultimately got the three outs he needed. He gave up a hit and a walk, striking out two. He threw only 10 strikes out of 21 pitches.
1) Felix Hernandez
He had a couple of rough innings in the early going to the point where I thought he'd be lucky to finish six innings. After the Dodgers' only run of the game on Ichiro's error, Felix set down 16 of the final 17 hitters he faced, and at the end of it, he had finished eight innings. He was throwing a heavy ball in this game, and that more than shows with the 11 groundball outs to four flyouts. He threw 73 strikes out of 117 pitches and faced 30 hitters to get 24 outs. Felix allowed only the unearned run on four hits, walking one, and striking out nine. Since getting the talking-to from Don Wakamatsu after the start against the Angels where he really wasn't holding runners on, Hernandez has been nothing short of awesome. In the seven starts since that aforementioned bad start, Felix has averaged 7 2/3 innings, 1.43 runs (0.71 earned), 5.43 hits, two walks, and 7.29 strikeouts per start for an ERA of 0.85. That's definitely ace material. While it's good that Felix hasn't managed to get the loss in any of his last seven starts, it's crap that he's had three no-decisions in those seven starts.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
You mean I get to have three hits out of Gutierrez and the diving catch? He's not Mike Cameron, but we've only seen the guy for three months and he's very good. He's probably not going to hit as many homers as Mike Cameron. He definitely won't strike out as much as Mike Cameron. Still, Cameron had the big-splash homer-robbing catch against Derek Jeter early on, and Gutierrez had a masterful running catch in the Metrodome back in the very early going. I've kept saying that I consider anything over .245 as gravy for this guy considering how awesome he is on defense. Gutierrez is hitting .267 for this team. He's hit seven homers on the season and should definitely reach double digits barring a horrific injury. Two things are for sure -- the guy's a ridiculous bargain, and he's making Jack Zduriencik look like an absolute genius. Going into the season, really the great unknown surrounding Gutierrez was whether or not he could hit. I thought we could be staring at a .230 hitter with awesome defense, but color me surprised on his offense so far.
3) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' first baseman has had his most homerrific month of the season. The pitch he wrecked in the ninth inning for the Mariners' fifth and final run of the game was his eighth homer in June, besting the seven homers he hit in May. Interestingly, Branyan finished the game with a triple and a home run, the two hardest hits to get when hitting for the cycle. The 2-for-5 day put Branyan back above .300 as he's now hitting .302. His season batting average hasn't been below .300 since May 17th, which is amazing considering the type of hitter we perceive Branyan to be. The massive extra-baseage on Branyan's hits pushed his season slugging percentage back over .600, and it's now at .613. Branyan has homered in four of his last seven games, and along with the one triple has slugged .733 over that span. Regardless of what team he's on at the end of July, I think we can agree that all Mariner fans have immensely enjoyed his time with the Mariners. It'll be a shame if he has to go, but as one of the Mariners' most tradeable assets, all offers have to be considered.
Some of Felix's pitches were breaking like crazy, sure, but even Johnson should have had that wild pitch. I've seen some balls that I swear Johnson should be getting to but isn't for whatever reason. Jarrod Washburn has said Johnson is one of the better receivers he's ever thrown to, but the recent catchers to compare Johnson to are Kenji Johjima and Jamie Burke, so come on. If you go back to Washburn's Angel days, you bring the Molina brothers into the conversation. I know Rob Johnson isn't going to turn into a Dan Wilson block-a-ball machine behind the plate, but sometimes I'm not so convinced of his surehandedness behind the plate, and since apparently the Mariners have the guy mainly for his defense and how well he plays catcher, that makes it a problem for me. This is all before we consider that Johnson is hitting all of .183 on the season. I wonder how much better this team would be if Johnson was hitting just not-suckly, like maybe .210 or .220. If you ask me, with Johjima back in the fold, Johnson's relegated right back to catching day games twice a week.
Garrett Olson will try to evade the hit-the-wall inning on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately I already know what happened as I'm typing this, but whatever.