Saturday, July 11, 2009
The Mariners' fourth loss in six games dropped their record to 44-42 after 86 games. The Mariners were six games better at this point in 2007. Forty-four wins is two better than the 2006 pace, six better than the 2005 pace, 10 better than last year's pace, and 12 better than the 2004 pace. The record is also seven wins worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.
Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-37 on the night, walking twice and striking out four times. Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, Ichiro, and Ken Griffey Jr. doubled. Ichiro had two hits and Griffey had three hits as the only multi-hit Mariners on the night. The team went a lousy 1-for-10 in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all.
The Mariners' starting pitcher will be covered below. Chris Jakubauskas threw the sixth inning and got the first two outs of the seventh. He allowed only a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz and a bunt single by Ian Kinsler. He threw 13 strikes out of 21 pitches, got all five outs on grounders, and faced six hitters to get five outs. Garrett Olson got the next three outs of the game, striking out one. Olson got a ground ball from Josh Hamilton to end the seventh, then started the eighth with an Andruw Jones flyout and a whiff of Hank Blalock. Shawn Kelley came in and allowed a single to Marlon Byrd and then threw a pitch that Nelson Cruz absolutely wrecked, getting a few rows deep into the leftfield bleachers. The Cruz mortar shot effectively ended the game, making it 6-2 for the Rangers (two-run Mariner eighth notwithstanding). Jarrod Saltalamacchia flew out to end that inning. In three outings since returning from the disabled list, Kelley has been ineffective twice. He was okay in Boston on July 3rd, had a five-run meltdown against Baltimore on Tuesday, and now this outing. Sean White threw a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout and two groundouts.
1) Ken Griffey Jr.
It's well documented that Junior ain't what he used to be, but he did turn in a 3-for-4 night. With Russell Branyan on third and one out in the first, he grounded to second, but Branyan was tagged out trying to score on the play. That was the only out Griffey would make on the night. He singled on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the fourth, he hit a one-out single in the sixth, and he doubled to move Jose Lopez to third with nobody out as a key part of the two-run eighth inning. He's in the middle of a .308 month of July, but I'll go back into his game log to find something more flattering -- in his last 16 games, Griffey has gone 12-for-47 (.255, his season average is .224) with two doubles and four home runs (slugging .553, his season slugging mark is .413). The greatest part about Griffey? He's hitting better than Ronny Cedeno. The worst part about Griffey? His batting average, dip in bat speed, and slow running speed. Still, now he's pretty much an everyday player (until we see more Chris Shelton) and he's hitting .072 better than the everyday shortstop.
It appears the Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder is starting to get the multi-hit mojo on again. It's not just the stinging singles with Ichiro, it's also the well-placed infield grounders that get beat out for hits, and it's not popping the high pitch the other way. After getting only one hit in six straight games, Ichiro had three hits in the first game of the series and went 2-for-4 in this game. In his nine-game hitting streak, Ichiro has gone 13-for-41 (.317, still below Ichiro standards) with four doubles (slugging .415). He has gone 14 games without hitting a home run, with his longest homer drought being 20 games to start the month of June. Ichiro hit .377 in May and .407 in June, so he's due to have at least some kind of dropoff in the month of July. I'm not saying I won't jump with unbridled glee if he somehow turns a .289 July into something that beats .407, I'm just saying it's highly unlikely it will happen. As for the last few games, it seems Ichiro has gotten the defensive hiccups out of his system that were there on the road trip.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
He only had one hit in this game, but it was an RBI double that somehow drove Griffey home from first base (hence the subsequent exhaustion and toweling off of Griffey in the dugout) and pushed the Mariners' lead at that point to 2-0. Gutierrez also had an RBI groundout in the eighth that cut the Mariners' deficit to 6-3. He had two flyouts to rightfield in between, and one of them was stung pretty well and I thought it might have a chance to leave the yard. The broadcast crew has been saying they've been working on him to pull the ball more, but if he can get the opposite-field stroke down, then the man's got some weapons. Gutierrez is 35-for-90 (.389) over his last 23 games, doubling five times and homering seven times (slugging .678). That span has picked his batting average up from .251 to .297, his on-base percentage from .324 to .359, and his slugging percentage from .339 to .451. It goes without saying that pitchers around the league are probably going to figure something out abuot Gutierrez in the second half of the season, though I'm hoping he'll find a way to adjust. I'm afraid for the All-Star break to come with this guy because I don't want the bat to cool off.
He should have gotten the win in Boston, but then Miguel Batista and Mark Lowe did their thing and blew that game (surely you remember the five-run inning). A big difference between that outing and this one is that Morrow allowed three solo home runs in that game and walked only two hitters. In this game, he gave up the solo home run to Hank Blalock in the second inning which made it 2-1 for the Mariners, but no anomaly there since Blalock appears to have Morrow absolutely pwned. In the third inning, Morrow completely lost the radar and allowed back-to-back one-out walks to Omar Vizquel and Ian Kinsler. Morrow's next pitch got too much of the plate, and Michael Young tagged it over the rightfield wall. If the tone wasn't set with Blalock's homer, it definitely was set with Young's smash. The Rangers never looked back. Though it was the Nelson Cruz homer that holds up as the game winner, the Young home run vaulted the Rangers into the lead, and they never lost the lead from that point. Morrow's bad inning is almost like The Garrett Olson Bad Inning(tm), but with more walks.
It's going to be a hot day, so his name should be Burnwash instead of Washburn because that's the order I'd want, but whatever. Just throw another one-hit complete game shutout.
Friday, July 10, 2009
The Mariners' first win this season against the Rangers lifted their record to 44-41 after 85 games. This record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but two games better than 2006, seven better than 2005, 11 better than last year, and 12 better than 2004. Forty-four wins is also six games worse than 2000, ten worse than 2002 and 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.
Seattle hitters went a combined 6-for-28 in the game, walking four times and striking out five times. Ichiro doubled and Franklin Gutierrez homered (he absolutely did) for the Mariners' only extra-base hits. Gutierrez had two hits while Ichiro had three hits. The only other Mariner hit went to Rob Johnson. What was originally scored as a passed ball on Johnson was in the final boxscore as a Felix Hernandez wild pitch to let in the Rangers' only run of the game. The point being, Johnson's up with the big club because he handles the pitchers well, but I thought his defense was also part of that. The last couple times Felix has thrown, it seems Johnson has had more trouble than he should on pitches in the dirt. Anyway, the team went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position (Gutierrez's home run being the one hit) and they stranded six runners in all. Simple math in the boxscore says that Russell Branyan, Jose Lopez, Ken Griffey Jr., Ryan Langerhans, Chris Woodward, and Ronny Cedeno combined to go 0-for-17 on the night, walking four times and striking out four times.
The Mariners' starting pitcher will be covered below. The only other pitcher was the man that got the save. David Aardsma threw a perfect ninth inning, slicing through the 1-2-3 hitters in the Texas lineup just one day after melting down against the Baltimore Orioles. I know closers and fielders who make errors say the same thing about this, that after they blow a save or miss a chance in the field, they want their next chance right away. Aardsma got right back up onto the horse. In a way, it was almost better he blew that game against the Orioles instead of a division rival. Sure, I would have liked the series win, but if this win against the Rangers means the Mariners have that much better of a chance to take three of four from the Rangers or, God forbid, sweep the Rangers, then I'm all for it. Aardsma threw four strikes (three fly balls in play) on six pitches in his one inning of work.
1) Felix Hernandez
The number-one gameball and the number-two gameball could almost be one and the same here. Felix Hernandez in this game did what Felix Hernandez does when he's on. Usually I'd see his two walks in the boxscore on a night like this and say he could have been a bit better (which is kinda true), but what I've been missing is that the dude has been throwing more innings per start anyway, so I'll cut him a bit of slack. It's too bad that what went in the books as a wild pitch (I'm saying passed ball, I don't care) is what ruined the shutout, but the team will still gladly take the eight innings and the win. Felix gave up one run on three hits, walking two and striking out seven. He threw 74 strikes (17 in play) out of 112 pitches, getting ten groundouts and six flyouts, a ratio which is vintage Felix. He faced 27 hitters to get 24 outs. I'm just glad Felix has realized more quickly than Freddy Garcia a few years ago that it's okay to use your sinking stuff to get groundouts, and it helps you get deeper into the games. Garcia spent a while trying to blow the ball past people before realizing his changeup was his best pitch.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
This kid has been absolutely unreal. The way he's going, I'm almost afraid for the All-Star break to come. I just have that typical Seattle sports fan cynicism that feels like he's going to hit .215 after the break because he'lll get thrown off by the break. I keep saying this, but I didn't expect this guy to do anything this quickly on offense, and I sure didn't expect to see him mature this quickly as a hitter in the span of three and a half months. He's really jumping on some pitches now. I don't look at him and think he has an outside shot at 20 homers this season, but some of the balls he's hit and how far they've gone might have me thinking otherwise. The CJ Wilson pitch he hit onto the landing was really teed up by Gutierrez. It was quite the emotional swing from a bleak game to a "is it gonna go?" feeling to doing some weird celebratory arm-shaking thing that I haven't done since the Canucks were in the playoffs a couple months ago. It also made Felx Hernandez go nuts in the dugout. On his 12-game hitting streak, Gutierrez is 23-for-48 (.479) with four doubles and three home runs (slugging .729). He's also hit safely in 20 of his last 22 games.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter had a six-game streak where he only got one hit per game, going 6-for-29 (.207), which is an Ichiro slump, sinking his batting average from .370 to a pedestrian .356. This was enough to make Ichiro mad, so he went 3-for-4 in this game with the double that led off the eighth and led to unbridled joy and celebration. This bumped his batting average up to .361, where it hasn't been since July 5th, where it was .362 after the Boston series. He's 11-for-37 (.297) in his current eight-game hitting streak with three doubles. Ichiro has never gone hitless in consecutive games this season. The closest he's come to a hitless slump was when he had an 0-for-4 night against the Tigers on April 18th, went 2-for-4 the next night against the Tigers, then went 0-for-4 after the off day in the first game against Tampa Bay on April 21st. He went hitless in two of three games. The guy's insane, and the bar is raised so high that he can still be on an eight-game hitting streak and not be awesome vintage Ichiro.
The Mariners' second baseman went 0-for-4. He grounded into a double play to end the first inning, popped out to short to end the third inning, popped out to first to end the fifth inning, and flew out to right for the second out of the eighth inning when he could have put the Mariners ahead with one swing of the bat. Lopez does this, though, over the course of the season. He'll have two or three games of awesome or two or three games of good, then sprinkle in an 0-for-3 or an 0-for-4. That's pretty much how it holds up in his game log. How much crap can I really give the guy when he had a vital home run the day before in a game the Mariners should have won? I'll go on to say that I hope the Mariners don't have to play the guy at third base, but I have a feeling that's what's going to happen. If it has to be a choice between Lopez playing third and Branyan playing third, I'm more afraid of Branyan's hitting mojo getting thrown off than I am of Lopez's hitting mojo getting shaken. Branyan playing third would allow a lot more versatility with the rest of the lineup and bench, though.
Hopefully Morrow is better against the Rangers in five or more innings tonight than he was in a couple of short appearances in mid-May.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
The Mariners lost their third game in four tries, dropping them to a record of 43-41 after 84 games. That record is five wins worse than the 2007 team's record at that point, but one better than 2006, seven better than 2005, ten better than last year, and 11 better than 2004. Forty-three wins is also six worse than 2000, ten worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.
Seattle hitting went a combined 7-for-35 on the day, walking three times and striking out seven times. Jose Lopez went 2-for-4 and was the only Mariner on the afternoon to collect multiple hits. Ryan Langerhans doubled, and Lopez doubled and homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hitting. The team went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position (the "3" is almost worse than the "0" in that stat) and stranded eight runners in all. Ichiro had his sixth straight one-hit game, extending his overall hitting streak to seven games. Ichiro has gone 8-for-33 (.242) over those seven games, sinking his batting average from .368 to .356. As we know, this now makes Ichiro a terrible hitter and the Mariners should totally trade him right now if they know what's good for them. Hahaha. On a normal day, Lopez gets into the gameballs with his double and homer, but his two errors in the ninth wouldn't let me put him there. One play he just muffed, and the other one was a hoppy throw that handcuffed Russell Branyan at first (John Olerud has that and I'll contend that Richie Sexson would have had that too).
Mariner pitching was a bit of a grab bag. Four of the six pitchers they put on the mound are mentioned in the entries below. Jason Vargas threw waaaaay too many pitches in the first couple innings and at some points had a changeup going pretty well. Still, he may have thrown the most inefficient five innings of shutout ball I have ever witnessed. He had two on and one out in the first, he allowed a one-out double in the second, he had two on and two out in the third, he had two on and nobody out in the fourth, and turned a leadoff walk into a double-play ball in the fifth. He got out of every single one of those jams and the fifth was his easiest inning. Vargas allowed three hits in his five shutout innings, walking five (verrrrry high) and striking out six. He threw 54 strikes out of 97 pitches, getting seven groundouts to two flyouts, and facing 22 hitters to get 15 outs. Miguel Batista came out of the bullpen to start the sixth inning and sliced through Nolan Reimold, Luke Scott, and Melvin Mora with ease. Batista came back out for the seventh and a switch was thrown. Gregg Zaun hit a leadoff single, then Oscar Salazar drew a four-pitch walk. Adam Jones then grounded to third, where Chris Woodward gloved it cleanly, but bobbled and booted the transfer for an error. This is probably the second game where I'm thinking "boy, Beltre turns that into a double play." That probably should have been a 5-3 double play after a tag of third base. The lead runner at least should have been out. The single and the walk were Batista's doing for sure, but not the error. That's when Garrett Olson came into the game. Batista threw one scoreless inning, giving up one hit while walking one and striking out one. He threw 11 strikes on 18 pitches, got two flyouts, and faced six hitters to get three outs.
1) Garrett Olson
With Erik Bedard returning to a rotation that already has Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Brandon Morrow, and Jason Vargas, it appears Olson will be the man for depth and some lefthanded long relief. Don Wakamatsu seemed to use him for one or two starts, then bring him out of the bullpen once in between starts, then throw him five or six innings with a lower pitch count in his next start. His three previous appearances were all starts, but now he adds to the bullpen depth. All this said, what he did in this game was remarkable. Batista set the table and made a huge mess, but Olson cleaned it up. Olson came in with the impossible situation of having the bases loaded with nobody out. He got Nick Markakis to whiff for strike three, then got Ty Wigginton to ground to Ronny Cedeno for a double play to end the inning. You figured at that point that if the Orioles weren't going to score then, were they going to score at all? Unfortunately, Mariner fans know how that turned out. Nevertheless, all of Batista's ineptitude in the seventh was erased with only nine pitches by Olson, who faced two hitters and got the three all-important outs.
2) Mark Lowe
After the flame-throwing righthander got Luke Scott to go down swinging to end the eighth, I have to say I felt pretty confident about the Mariners' chances to win this game. It seems the sports gods completely frown upon the Seattle sports fan, though, so we Mariner fans would soon get a stimulus package filled with a cold dose of reality. Lowe threw a dominant eighth inning, going 0-2 on each of the first two hitters. Aubrey Huff flew out to center to lead off the inning, and Nolan Reimold was caught looking at a 2-2 pitch. Luke Scott, he of the seven RBIs on Tuesday night, whiffed on a 1-2 pitch. Lowe threw nine strikes on 13 pitches, getting one flyout. Lowe faced three hitters and retired them all. It appeared Lowe had recovered and rebounded from the icky outing he had in the final game of the Boston series (Sunday). Too bad he couldn't have come out to start the ninth inning, but then that's make for a closer controversy, and then everything could be in the toilet if you have that, and that's bad.
3) Sean White
I was about to throw Ryan Langerhans into a gameball here since White did allow one of his inherited runs to score, but then I remembered Langerhans tried to go from second to third on a ball hit right in front of him and that didn't turn out well at all. Additionally, hte inherited runner that scored on White's watch did so only because Jose Lopez threw a hard hopper to first that handcuffed Branyan, and Markakis scored as a result. White threw a scoreless ninth after Aardsma had gone and done his thing. White gave up one hit while walking and striking out zero. He faced four hitters to get three outs. I won't say he's fully back on the horse yet, but Don Wakamatsu felt great enough about his condition that he went back to the well of White for a second straight game, and in two games less than 24 hours apart. Make no mistake, this team really needs Sean White doing well if they hope to make any noise that sort of relates to a playoff race in the next couple months. Also, White somehow got the fake-to-third/throw-to-first move to work, and I swear he did it once earlier in the season as well.
This is way too easy of a decision to make. The Mariners had as big a lead as you can hand over to a closer at 3-0 going into the ninth. You figure the guy's 17 for 18 when it comes to save chances, and this team's the Baltimore Orioles, not the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, or the Angels. Mora led off with a double, which seemed like an isolated incident at that point, but then Aardsma walked Gregg Zaun. Salazar then singled to load the bases with nobody out, but this time there was no Garrett Olson to bring out of the bullpen. Adam Jones rolled what was basically a swinging bunt toward third that was basically a do-or-die play for Chris Woodward, who tried the barehand and whiffed on the ball, allowing one run to come across and leaving the bases still loaded. It was at that point that Nick Markakis grounded what should have been a double-play ball to Lopez at second, but he muffed the play, making it 3-2 with the bases still loaded. The Ty Wigginton singled to make the implosion complete, giving the Orioles the 4-3 lead and chasing Aardsma. The Mariner closer faced six hitters and gave up five runs (three earned) on four hits, walking one and striking out none. He threw 12 strikes out of 22 pitches.
A Felix night can't come soon enough, but this bullpen is so gassed that they almost need Felix to throw the Mariners' second complete game in the span of four days.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
The Mariners are now at 43-40 after 83 team games. This is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but is one better than 2006, eight better than 2005, and 11 worse than both 2004 and last year. Forty-three wins is six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went a combined 7-for-32 on the night, walking six times and walking seven times. Ronny Cedeno had two hits as the only multi-hit Mariner. Jose Lopez, Ken Griffey Jr. (who luckily wasn't injured), and Cedeno doubled, and Franklin Gutierrez homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. The team went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all. Ichiro had his fifth straight one-hit game, going 1-for-4. That five-game streak has sunk his season batting average from .370 to a pedestrian .358. He's following up a .407 June with a .219 July (so far). I'm not worried because I know Ichiro's going to get mad and go nuts again. Russell Branyan and Ryan Langerhans (three strikeouts) both went 0-for-4, but thanks to the bullpen, I get to mention them here instead of in the goat entry.
Now for the arms. The starter is below, as is one of the bullpen guys. Shawn Kelley came into the top of the sixth with one out and the Orioles up 5-3, having gotten three runs across. After going 0-2 on Melvin Mora, he gave up an RBI single to make it 6-3 before getting a double-play ball to end the inning. Then came the seventh. Adam Jones singled with one out, Nick Markakis drew a walk, and then Ty Wigginton doubled to score Jones and make it 7-3. Aubrey Huff was intentionally walked to set up a double play, but then Nolan Reimold singled to score Markakis and Wigginton to make it 9-3. Roy Corcoran came in for Kelley, and gave up a homer on his first pitch to Luke Scott to make it 12-3 and cap the Orioles' scoring. Kelley gave up five runs on four hits, walking two and striking out none in his inning of work. He threw 13 strikes out of 26 pitches, getting two groundouts and one flyout, and facing eight hitters to get three outs. Corcoran gave up one run on one hit, walking one and striking out none in 1 2/3 innings of work. He threw 10 strikes out of 14 pitches, got all five outs on groundouts, and faced six hitters to get five outs. Sean White threw a complete soft-landing ninth, striking out one.
1) Erik Bedard
He threw about as well as you could throw on a limited pitch count. Maybe that's what kept him going. Maybe Bedard is the shutdown lefthanded long reliever the Mariners only kinda/sorta need. After the first inning, Bedard pretty much locked it down. He was freezing hitters with the breaking stuff. Bedard went four innings and gave up two runs on two hits, walking one and striking out eight. He threw 46 strikes out of 72 pitches, and got two groundouts and two flyouts. He faced 16 hitters to get 12 outs. Read that again -- he struck out half the hitters he faced, and eight of his 12 recorded outs were via the strikeout. Granted, it's not a style of pitching that lends itself well to working deep into ballgames, but when it's working, it can be fun to watch. Unfortunately for the team, the bullpen will have to pick up after his scraps the next few outings until he gets back up to speed with the pitch count and everything. This game was almost a double-whammy for the team because not only did the bullpen have to pick up for Bedard, the bullpen was absolutely horrible in picking up after Bedard.
2) Ronny Cedeno
The Mariners' fill-in shortstop went 2-for-4 on the night (a bunt single and a meaningless double in the ninth) and was the only Mariner to collect multiple hits. He's now hitting .156 and might soon hit his weight if he keeps it up. Right now, we're still left to draw a line even lower than the Mendoza Line and call it the Cedeno Line. In an attempt to look at his game log and find the most flattering numbers, the best I can come up with is that Cedeno has hit safely in four of his last five games, going 6-for-21 (.286) with a double, triple, and home run (slugging .571). You could go back to June 28th and say that he's gone 9-for-34 (.265) with a double, triple, and two home runs (slugging .529). Yuniesky Betancourt was injured on June 24th. From June 25th onward as starting shortstop, Cedeno has gone 9-for-42 (.214) with a double, triple, and two home runs, driving in seven runs, walking twice, and striking out 12 times. Still, I can't argue with bumping the batting average from .117 up to .156 in about a week and a half.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
If someone else was really good at the plate on this night, I would have given this one to someone else. Gutierrez threw wild trying to make a play at the plate in the first inning, and was rightfully charged with an error (an honest one, not like that one where the runner slid in front of his throw at the plate and he was charged with an error). Secondly, on the triple by Scott...that's the first time this year where a ball went out that far and Gutierrez missed a ball I thought he should have had. Gutierrez has put the bar so high defensively that I almost feel like I need a week of awesome mistake-free centerfield out of him to full regain my slightly dented confidence in him again. I'm hoping it's an isolated incident. The FSN crew was saying the ball might have knuckled and sliced on him, but I still can't believe that ball got by him. The Orioles led 5-3 after that play and never looked back. It's too bad, since Gutierrez atoned for that first-inning error with a first-inning three-run blast into the bullpen for his ninth homer of the season to get the Mariners their first three runs, and that lead held up until the fifth.
The game got out away with Jakubauskas throwing in the sixth inning. Jakubauskas came into the sixth with a 3-2 lead. Nick Markakis got down 0-2 but ended up with a leadoff single. Ty Wigginton grounded out to short to move Markakis to second. Aubrey Huff was intentionally walked to set up what would have been an inning-ending double play. Nolan Reimold singled on the first pitch to tie the game, move Huff to second, and put Jakubauskas on the ropes. Luke Scott, who drove in seven runs in this game, then hit a ball over the head of Franklin Gutierrez (as mentioned above, I really thought he should have had it) for what went in the books and the boxscore as a clean triple to make it 5-3. Jakubauskas threw a good fifth inning, but he didn't get out of the sixth, which ended up being a house of horrors. He gave up four runs on four hits in his 1 1/3 innings of work, walking one (intentionally). He threw 20 strikes out of 33 pitches, got three groundouts to one flyout, and faced eight hitters to get four outs. Most importantly, thanks to the ineptitude of most of the bullpen, the fresh arms available for today's game are Miguel Batista, David Aardsma, Mark Lowe, and Garrett Olson.
Here's to hoping for a seven-inning outing from Jason Vargas.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Now past the halfway point of the season, the Mariners are 43-39 after 82 games. This is three games worse than their 2007 pace, but it's one better than 2006, eight better than 2005, 11 better than 2004, and 12 better than last year. The mark is six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, 10 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001. I should note that before these 2009 Mariners lost 20 of 29 by not winning consecutive games for an entire month, their high-water mark was six games above .500, and they are now up to four games above even. It's been a long road back for this team.
Seattle hitting went a combined 9-for-32 in the game, walking four times and striking out seven. Doubles were hit by Franklin Gutierrez, Ryan Langerhans, and Chris Woodward, and Russell Branyan chipped in with a home run to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. Gutierrez had two hits other than the double and was the only Mariner with multiple hits on the night. The team went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. Ichiro had his fourth straight 1-for-5 game, a streak that has dropped his batting average from .370 to .360. Only in the world of Ichiro is a one-hit streak nearly as bad as a hitless streak for a mere mortal player. Whatever...the guy's still on pace for a 246-hit season. Ichiro looks like a cinch to get 200 hits for the ninth straight season, but apparently (as I heard on KJR the other day) he has a, eight-year streak of 100 runs scored per season that is in great jeopardy -- he's scored 41 runs through 82 games. The KJR dialogue went on to say that if Ichiro ends up with 100 runs at the end of the season, this team would have won 90 games, which would be awesome. Still, it’s quite pie-in-the-sky on both things happening.
Mariner pitching...well, there was only one pitcher, so look for him in the gameballs.
1) Jarrod Washburn
He definitely threw his best start of the season, his best start of his Mariner tenure, and though I wasn't following his travails every day when he was in Anaheim, this was the first one-hitter he's thrown in his career. He attributes a lot of his success this season to a sinking two-seam fastball and some mechanical adjustments shown to him by pitching coach Rick Adair and bullpen coach John Wetteland. I say whatever he's been doing, keep doing it. Lost in the glow of this one-hitter is the fact that the Mariners actually scored five runs for the guy. Earlier in the season, this could easily have been a one-hitter where Washburn lost 1-0. One look at the game logs and you see that Washburn in his 16 starts has given up zero earned runs three times, one earned run four times, two earned runs four times, four earned runs three times, and six earned runs twice. His record is 5-6, but he could easily be a 10-game or 11-game winner at this point if the team scored runs for him on a semi-consistent basis. At that point, though, you'd have to consider him an All-Star. He is verrrry tradeable at this point. Washburn gave up only the one hit in nine innings of work, striking out three and walking none. He threw 75 strikes out of 110 pitches, got 11 groundouts and 13 flyouts (not as high a flyball ratio as usual), and faced 28 hitters to get 27 outs.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
With Ichiro and Russell Branyan cooling down just a shade, who'd have thought it'd be the Mariners' centerfielder who would be picking up the slack? The only bad thing he did in this game was get gunned down by a wide margin trying to steal third base. Gutierrez went 3-for-4 in this game, his fourth three-hit game in his current nine-game hitting streak. In his hitting streak, he has gone 19-for-38 (.500) with three doubles and a home run (slugging .658). Gutierrez has hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games. Over that stretch, he has gone 30-for-76 (.395) with four doubles and five home runs (slugging .645). His batting average went from .258 to .293 with the nine-game hitting streak, and from .251 to .293 with the 19-game stretch. His slugging percentage over the 19 games has gone from .339 to .429. This guy could be hitting .300 by the All-Star break, which I'm sure exactly none of us Mariner fans expecting going into this season. Behold, Mariner fans, and bask in the glory of your awesome centerfielder.
3) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' first baseman took out his All-Star snub frustration (there were way too many good first basemen, and too many from bigger media markets) out on a 3-0 pitch that was destroyed and ended up over the wall in leftcenter. I was hoping Branyan would chime in with something since the Mariners just had a three-game series in Boston in which Branyan didn't hit a single homer. I wanted to see him reach the red Ted Williams seat in rightfield, but it was not to be. For the record, the longest home-run drought for Branyan this season has been seven games, which happened twice in the month of May. He still homered seven times in May. Branyan is currently on a five-game hitting streak, but it's a lot like the one Ichiro is on where all of the games are one-hit games. Thus, Branyan has gone 5-for-20 over that five-game streak with a double and two home runs, but his batting average has sunk from .298 to .294. Still, who expected 20 homers at the halfway point from Branyan? Who expected 21 homers after 82 games? It's like Jack Zduriencik had a magic touch with Branyan that Bill Bavasi wished he'd had with Scott Spiezio.
Ah, welcome back, old friend. Cedeno came close to not being worthless in this game when he nearly suicide squeezed Rob Johnson home from third base in the fifth inning. He didn't whiff on the bunt, but he fouled it off. Cedeno otherwise was back to having terrible at-bats where it looked like he either didn't have a clue or he was completely overmatched. I know the division sucks and I know the Mariners aren't out of contention for a playoff spot, but along with three fifths of the rotation not being to work deep into games and an overworked bullpen, the fact that the starting shortstop is hitting .145 right now is yet another thing that proves there are too many holes in this team for them to be sellers at the trade deadline. Apparently Yuniesky Betancourt will be back with the team at some point after the break, so I'm anticipating the day when a shortstop hitting .145 will be replaced by a shortstop hitting closer to .250. Versatility is overrated. I thought we learned that already with Willie Bloomquist.
Hooray, nothing like a Tuesday night with Erik Bedard on a pitch count.
Monday, July 06, 2009
The Mariners are 42-39 at the mathematical halfway point of the season, 81 games. This is four games worse than 2007's mark at that point, but one game better than 2006, seven better than 2005, 10 better than 2004, and 11 better than last year. Last year's Mariners won their 42nd game on August 3rd. Forty-two wins is six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, 11 worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.
Mariner hitting went a combined 8-for-34 in the game, walking three times and striking out 12 times. Ronny Cedeno's key triple was the Mariners' only extra-base hit in the series. Franklin Gutierrez had two hits and was the only Mariner to amass multiple hits in this game. The team went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. Ichiro turned in his third straight 1-for-5 game. Only in the world of Ichiro could you have a four-game hitting streak and have your batting average sink from .368 to .362 because you went 5-for-19 in the streak. Ichiro topped his .377 May with a .407 June, but it seems the last handful games have been a bit of a leveling off -- Ichiro's hitting .217 so far in June. Maybe hitting against Tim Wakefield really screwed him up or something. Also, Cedeno homered deep to centerfield against Tim Wakefield, yet Russell Branyan didn't homer in the series at Fenway. Baseball's a real screwy game sometimes.
Two of the Mariners' pitchers will be covered below. Miguel Batista was the first arm out of the pen, coming out right after the seventh inning stretch to protect a 4-3 lead. That was the plan, anyway. He got a quick flyout, got one strike on JD Drew, then threw four straight balls. Dustin Pedroia then singled, then Batista got Kevin Youkilis flew out. Batista was one out away from getting out of the jam. He went 3-0 on David Ortiz, who was green-lit on that count and singled to score drew and tie the game. Blown save to Batista, Mark Lowe into the game. Fast-forwarding past most of the rest of the carnage, Sean White came into the same inning with two out and on a 1-1 count to Jason Varitek threw a pitch that got away from Kenji Johjima (passed ball), scoring Jacoby Ellsbury to make for the final margin of 8-4. Varitek struck out looking two pitches later. Batista threw eight strikes out of 19 pitches in his 2/3 inning on two hits and one walk. He got two flyouts and faced five hitters to get the two outs. White allowed no hits or runs in his 1 1/3 innings, throwing 12 strikes on 20 pitches, getting two groundouts and a flyout, and facing four hitters to get four outs.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
His defense isn't cooling down, and neither is his bat as of late. The Mariners' centerfielder has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games. In those 16 games, he has gone 26-for-66 (.394) with three doubles and four home runs (slugging .621). He followed up a respectable .277 May with a good .304 June. Now he's following up June with what so far is a .429 July. This production is coming from a guy from whom I'd be content with a .245 season average. I really didn't expect a lot of offensive production from Gutierrez this year. I thought he had some potential a year or two down the road, but I really was not expecting much this season. Gutierrez is at .286 on the season, and I think it'd be insane to expect him to finish the season as a .286 hitter. At the same time, if he finished at .245 it'd still meet my expectations, but that'd have to be a monumental slide to get him down to .245. I think he'll finish around .260 maybe. If he stays around .280 or so, I think the team should absolutely lock the guy up for three to four years.
2) Ronny Cedeno
I must once again say that I miss burying this guy on a near nightly basis. In the Boston series, he went 4-for-13 with a triple and a home run, driving in five runs and stealing a base along the way. Of course, even the awesomeness of his performance in the series bumped his average up to .150, which reminds you just how much he was an endless glass of suck over the first half of the season. Cedeno hit .104 last month, and if I had the connection and the savvy to do it right now, I'd go through every Major League roster and see if any of the other 29 teams had a semi-regular starter that hit worse than .104 in the month of June. It still boggles my mind that he is still on this team or on any Major League roster. At some point, you have to ask yourself if you really give a damn about his versatility if he's hitting .150. I'd be more ticked off about this if I expected the Mariners to be a playoff team, but could you imagine if the Mariners missed the playoffs by three games at the end of the season? All I'd be able to think about is how much better the Mariners would have done if they had a shortstop that could just hit .240.
3) Brandon Morrow
This was definitely Morrow's best start of the season. Granted, the bar isn't very high at all, but the only thing that came close to undoing Morrow were the three home runs he allowed, but even then, they were all solo homers. Morrow went six innings and have up three runs on six hits, walking two and striking out seven. He threw 60 strikes out of 98 pitches, got four groundouts and seven flyouts, and faced 26 hitters to get 18 outs. Morrow has taken five turns through the rotation, and here is his average per-start line: 4 2/3 innings (keep in mind the pitch limits), 2.4 runs (2 earned), 5 hits, 2.6 walks (still high), 5 strikeouts, 4.2 groundouts, and 4 flyouts. Sure, I'm still on the edge of my seat when Morrow is on the mound, but maybe it's time I cut Morrow a little slack. Sure, I'd much rather Morrow have been sent down to Tacoma to work on his secondary pitches and his command, but Morrow wasn't completely clobbered in any of his appearances since returning to the rotation. If he gets into the seventh inning, I think we can officially declare him to be pretty much back as a starter.
I really could have given this to Miguel Batista since he set the table in the bottom of the seventh and blew the lead, but the roof simply fell in on Mark Lowe. He came in from the bullpen and immediately walked Jason Bay on four pitches. He threw two more balls to Ellsbury before finally getting a strike, but then threw two more balls, loading the bases. Mark Kotsay whiffed on a 3-1 pitch, but punched the next pitch through the right side, scoring two runs and effectively ending the game. Lowe threw 15 pitches, of which 11 were balls and only four were strikes. Dude couldn't hit the water if he threw the baseball off the side of a boat. He didn't throw the night before, but did throw the two nights that, so if you think throwing three games in four days is overworking Lowe, you could go for that argument. Lowe has given up one earned run in each of his last two appearances, his first earned runs allowed since his May 23rd meltdown against the Giants. That of course means he didn't give up an earned run at all in the month of June.
Monday night is a night to get washed and burned.