Saturday, July 18, 2009


The recipe for a Mariner victory in this game was pretty simple -- have Felix Hernandez throw, and have the offense score just enough runs for the win. Felix did what he's been doing, and the offense scored two runs from scratch with two out in the fourth for a 3-0 lead, and the Mariners never looked back. Though he didn't outdo or match Cliff Lee the night before by throwing a complete game, Felix has evolved into the losing streak stopper, a title not really known of in these parts since Randy Johnson was a Mariner.

The Mariners got their first win after the All-Star break to bump their record to 47-43 after 90 games. This is five games worse than the 2007 team's record at this point. It's also three games better than 2006, seven games better than 2005, 12 games better than last year, and 13 games better than 2004. Forty-seven wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, ten worse than 2002, and 18 worse than 2001.

Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-37 on the night, walking four times and striking out five times. Ryan Langerhans, Jose Lopez (twice), and Rob Johnson doubled. Franklin Gutierrez hit the only home run of the game. Ichiro and Ronny Cedeno (huh?) had two hits apiece while Jose Lopez had a three-hit night. The team stranded eight runners in all, but went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Ken Griffey Jr. got a strikeout hat trick on a 1-for-5 night, while Gutierrez had a homer for his only hit. Jack Hannahan went 0-for-2 (two strikeouts), but walked twice and scored twice. One of the Hannahan runs came on a play where he disrupted Victor Martinez on what could have been a play at the plate. Ichiro went a ho-hum 2-for-5, putting him at 131 hits on the season. The Mariners' leadoff hitter is on pace for a 246-hit season.

Mariner pitching had a good night because of a certain starting pitcher who's really good. The only other pitcher in the game was David Aardsma, who hadn't seen game action in five nights. Aardsma struck out former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo and got flyouts from proven Mariner killer Victor Martinez as well as Travis Hafner to end the game. The Mariner closer in a non-save situation threw eight strikes out of 13 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning.

1) Felix Hernandez
It wasn't a complete game, he faltered a bit toward the end, he had to deal with a couple of pesky Cleveland hitters who got into deep counts, and unfortunately he lost the shutout in the sixth inning. All that said, the number for which I'm most happy for Felix Hernandez on this night is the one walk. What stings just a tiny bit is that the walk didn't come until he fell behind 3-0 on Luis Valbuena and couldn't get him to put anything in play. Felix nearly got out of this game without walking anyone. Maybe I'm kind of hard on Felix when it comes to walks, but I really if he doesn't have a one or a zero in the bases on balls column after a start, I think he could have done better. Since the turning-point awful game against the Angels (May 19th), it's well known that Felix has been all kinds of awesome. Still, he'd walked one, one, three, two, four (complete game at San Diego), two, one, two, and two hitters in his last nine starts. I guess a true testament to the trust Don Wakamatsu has in Felix was demonstrated when Wakamatsu let him finish the eighth inning even after the walk to Valbuena (107 pitches at that point) and even after the two-out double by Grady Sizemore on his 110th pitch. I'll take a wild guess and say their cutoff for Felix is 120 pitches. Hernandez gave up two runs on five hits in eight innings, walking one and striking out eight. He threw 68 strikes out of 112 pitches and got nine groundouts to six flyouts. he faced 29 hitters to get 24 outs.

2) Ronny Cedeno
He went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. Again, I miss burying this guy. June 26th represented his low at the plate for this year, and he was hitting .117 after an 0-for-3 game at Dodger Stadium. Since that point, Cedeno has gone 16-for-56 (.286) with two doubles, a triple, and three homers (slugging .518) over his last 16 games. He's gotten the batting average up from .117 to .180, so I guess that has to count for something. His defense hasn't been incredibly awesome like some people seem to want to point out, but I'll gladly accept slightly above average as a description of Cedeno's defense. Don't look now, but Cedeno's also having a five-game hitting streak along the lines of 7-for-16 with a double and a homer. I guess maybe the funniest thing about Cedeno is that the football referee from the one Miller Lite commercial could totally flag Cedeno for a "trying to fit in" penalty due to his tribal arm band tattoo. I'll gladly bury Cedeno again the next time he hangs an 0-for-4 and looks like a minor-leaguer at the plate or if he strings together three straight hitless nights, but until then, I guess I'll enjoy the shortstop position not being a complete black hole.

3) Jose Lopez
He singled with two out in the first and was stranded. He rolled a double down the leftfield line that was caught by a fan in the third inning. He stroked a double into leftcenter to lead off the seventh, and he later scored to make it 6-1 for the Mariners. The first two hits were largely meaningless, but the third helped to pad the lead. Like Cedeno, Lopez also has a five-game hitting streak, but Lopez has gone 8-for-21 (.381) with three doubles (slugging .524). After hitting .329 in the month of June, Lopez is hitting a more modest but still good .288 in July. The three-hit game was his first since the third of July in Boston. Lopez is at 12 homers on the year so far, but I think he needs to find his power stroke even more if this team's going to have a chance to compete for the division title. He could get to 20 homers this season, which would be a great thing on a team where power hitting is at a huge premium. Any power hitting threat in the lineup that isn't name Russell Branyan can gladly take a regular spot in the Mariners' starting lineup, thank you very much.

Russell Branyan
One night after being charged with two errors, the Mariners' slugger went 0-for-5. Pretty much no one else had anything close to a goat-worthy entry since the only other hitless Mariner (Jack Hannahan) scored two of the Mariners' six runs. Branyan hit .317 in May, which was nuts, then hit .265 in June, which is more like what you would expect out of Branyan. Then the calendar flipped over to July. Folks, Branyan has gone 8-for-54 (.148) in the month of July with three doubles and three homers (slugging .370). I know everyone had an easy time expecting Branyan to fall off a bit after having a pretty awesome first half, but I don't think anyone saw a .148-in-July kind of fall. Branyan hasn't had a single multi-hit game this month and has gone hitless six times in 14 games. All in all, it's a great way to sink a .303 batting average down to .275 in a matter of two and a half weeks. I'm guessing most people who think the Mariners have a shot at the playoffs imagined a healthy and thunderous Branyan. Instead, someone's going to have to step up for him. Also, maybe it's a sign that Wakamatsu should get Branyan out of the second slot in the lineup.

Washburn against the somehow-still-in-baseball Tomokazu "Tomo" Ohka.

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Friday, July 17, 2009


An optimistic Mariner fan going into this game would have figured that the Mariners could make Cliff Lee throw some pitches and try to get into the Indians' awful bullpen. Buoyed by a decent start by Garrett Olson, the Mariners would be able to put together just enough runs to beat Cleveland to take the toughest pitching matchup of the series and set themselves up for an outside shot at a four-game sweep. Instead, it didn't take very long in this game to see what was going on, and it didn't take long for the game to be out of doubt. It definitely was not going to be Garrett Olson's night, and it was absolutely Cliff Lee's night. End of story.

The loss dropped the Mariners to 46-43 after 89 games. This record is five games worse than the pace of the 2007 team, but three better than that of the 2006 team, seven better than the 2005 team, 11 better than last year's team, and 13 better than the 2004 team. Forty-six wins is also six worse than 2000, ten worse than 2002 and 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting went a combined 9-for-35 on the night, walking zero times and striking out six times. Russell Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez both doubled, and Ronny Cedeno inexplicably homered. Jose Lopez with two hits and Kenji Johjima with three hits were the multi-hit Mariners. The team was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. Ichiro went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, during which he's gone 17-for-54 (.315) with four doubles (slugging .389). After being at .375 on June 27th, Ichiro now sits at a pedestrian .360. Though he doesn't get the goat for this game, I must add that Chris Woodward had some at-bats against Cliff Lee that were very Cedeno-like if anything. Woodward looked completely overmatched and struck out three times out of his four plate appearances. Additionally, Branyan's double in the first got away from the outfielders and conceivably could have been a triple, but word came out after the game that Branyan felt something in his back on the play, but also that he ended up being okay. I'll get to Branyan whiffing on a basic putout in the Olson paragraph.

Seattle starting pitching did not have a good night, and that will be covered below. The bullpen threw the final 5 1/3 innings for the Mariners and gave up only an unearned run that came around to score. Ironically, the run was unearned because the error was on Chris Jakubauskas, who was thrown a bit off balance moving onto the back slope of the mound while trying to field a high chopper. He muffed the play to allow former Mariner farmhand Asdrubal Cabrera to reach first base. Cabrera came around to score what was the fourth Cleveland run of the game, which effectively was a completely meaningless run. Jakubauskas came into the game in the third with a runner on first and two out. He allowed a single to Jhonny Peralta but got a Ben Francisco groundout to end that inning. He threw a 1-2-3 fourth but then had the fifth inning where his error accounted for the unearned run. There was a key strikeout of Victor Martinez in there, but it didn't completely bail out Jakubauskas, who gave up only the unearned run on two hits in 2 1/3 innings, facing 11 hitters to get those seven outs. He threw 23 strikes out of 46 pitches (terrible ratio) and walked one and struck out one. Shawn Kelley allowed two hits in a scoreless sixth, snapping a two-outing streak of absolutely horrible pitching. Roy Corcoran threw a one-hit shutout seventh, and Mark Lowe weathered a leadoff error when Woodward tried to play a high chopper down the third-base line that he should have let go foul. Lowe retired the next three hitters in order.

1) Jose Lopez
I would have put Johjima here, but I saw too many wild pitches and balls thrown in the dirt that I really felt Johjima should have had. Lopez singled to lead off the sixth and singled with two out in the eighth. In other words, he went 2-for-4 and none of the hits came until the game was effectively over. The Indians made it 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth, and that margin held up clear through to the end of the game. Despite being one of the looser cogs in the Mariners' infield defense, Lopez was not part of the carnival of four errors that helped befall the Mariners on this night. Lopez has a four-game hitting streak going (5-for-17, .294) and has hit safely in seven of his last eight games (9-for-34, .265). After driving in 20 runs in the month of June, Lopez will have to pick it up in July if he hopes to match it since he's only at five RBIs on the month so far. Can Lopez drive in 15 more runs in the next two weeks? If he does, I have the feeling the Mariners will be doing quite well and definitely will still be in the division race at the trade deadline.

2) Kenji Johjima
The Mariner catcher had a 3-for-4 game at Yankee Stadium that included a double, so this might not have been his best game of the year at the plate, but it's pretty close. Johjima singled with two out in the second, singled to lead off the seventh, and infield singled with two out in the ninth. He had three hits on a night where the entire team had nine hits, so that's not bad. Johjima also gunned down two runners trying to steal bases. Other than the fact that I think there are some pitches in the dirt that I think he (and Rob Johnson) really have to get more often than not, Johjima may have had his best game of the season. Johjima is hitting .270, which Rob Johnson won't touch this season. Still, the catcher's ERA stat for the starting pitchers is definitely going to Johnson again, but that's what happens when you let Johnson catch Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Jarrod Washburn while you leave Johjima with the remaining scraps of the rotation. Anyway, this team could use someone to get hot int he second half, and some more offensive output from Johjima would surely help.

3) Ronny Cedeno
Just about every non-pitcher on the Mariners' roster is a better hitter than Cedeno. He may be a slightly less infuriating hitter than Yuniesky Betancourt, but I don't think there's any way he ends up with a .240 or better batting average like Betancourt. Case in point, his current .171 mark. Still, it's incredibly odd that for being one of the worst hitters in all of baseball, his last two home runs are completely dumbfounding. His homer to dead centerfield at Fenway Park off Tim Wakefield required muscle that none of us knew he had, and the home run he hit in this game went over the wall in rightfield and was tagged pretty well. Even though the park in Cleveland that I refuse to call by its current name (how about Flo Park?) has been a hitters' park, there's hitters on the Mariners who have really good power that have trouble taking the ball out of the park to the opposite field. I don't know if there's any real conclusion to draw out of this. That is, unless you want to go all conspiracy theory and go straight for the gusto -- obviously Cedeno's on HGH and should undergo a battery of blood and urine tests. If they nip it in the bud while he's a .171 hitter, they won't have to worry about it being fake if he hits 70 home runs after the All-Star break. When you write these pieces late at night like I do, the theatre of the mind is alive and well.

Garrett Olson
The Mariners' hopes in this game were staked on Olson throwing a passable start and the offense being able to scratch out just enough runs for the bullpen to hold up the lead. Instead, Olson had three-ball counts against seven of the 14 hitters he faced (if my count on the ESPN.com play-by-play log is right) and never was able to get any sort of rhythm or control going. Cleveland got the lead in the first and never looked back, though Russell Branyan's whiff on what should have been a routine putout at first base didn't help matters. Branyan went straight to the dugout for some sunglasses after losing that ball in the sun. Complete hindsight here would make a fan rethink about whether it should have been Jason Vargas that stayed with the big club instead of Olson. Frankly, I still don't have a problem with Olson staying up because he can do stuff out of the bullpen if needed. Olson threw only 34 strikes out of 69 pitches in his 2 2/3 innings and Cleveland wasn't swinging at a lot of crap pitches. He gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits, walking three and striking out two. He faced 14 hitters to get eight outs in by far his shortest start of the season (he'd gone five innings or more in each of his eight previous starts), and Wakamatsu pulling him was really a mercy killing, if anything.

The game after horrible starting pitching is a good time for a Felix Hernandez start. Let's hope he wasn't thrown off by the All-Star break.

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Monday, July 13, 2009


Sure enough, the Mariners took three of four from the Rangers in a key series right before the All-Star break. I think before the season that any Mariner fan would have gladly taken four games over .500 and four games off the division lead at this point in the season. It's been quite the first half, with the Mariners winning a decent share of games they had no business winning, while still losing a couple of games they shouldn't have lost (they're mostly young). I think the most telling difference between this team and last year's team, though, is that this team is extremely watchable as last year's team was completely unwatchable. That team last year was incredibly hard to watch. I sat there on most nights wondering exactly how the Mariners were going to lose that night. It's changed so quickly. If this team finishes with a .500 season, they'll have gotten a 20-game improvement over just one season ago, and that's amazing in itself.

The 2009 Seattle Mariners find themselves with a record of 46-42 after 88 games heading into the All-Star break. This record is five games worse than in 2007, but four better than 2006, seven better than 2005, 11 better than last year, and 13 better than 2004. Forty-six wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, ten worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.

Mariner hitting went a combined 11-for-35 on the day, walking four times and striking out eight times. Multi-hit games were achieved by Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, and Ronny Cedeno (his "base hit" to third base was totally an error, I don't care what anybody says). Jose Lopez and Cedeno doubled for the only extra-base hits from Mariner bats. Hitless Mariners were Russell Branyan and Jack Hannahan. The team went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten runners in all.

Now for the starting pitching. In his second start since returning from the disabled list, Erik Bedard had a considerably more crappy outing than his first outing coming off the shelf. Somehow, if it weren't for one really bad pitch thrown to Hank Blalock (two-run home run), Bedard might have gotten by unscathed. If he wasn't just coming off of injury, you would swear that this was just one of Bedard's vintage frustrating outings. Bedard gave up two runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking four hitters (verrrry high) and striking out five. He threw 56 strikes out of 93 pitches, getting seven groundouts to four flyouts (nice) and facing 24 hitters to get 17 outs. Bedard had two on and one out in the first, but got a double-play ball from Andruw Jones (lineout to Gutierrez, who doubled Michael Young off of second) to end the inning. A jam originated in the second inning when Hank Blalock and Marlon Byrd led off the inning with singles, but Bedard got Nelson Cruz to strike out, then got a double-play ball from Taylor Teagarden. After Jack Hannahan (supposedly a good defender) short-hopped Branyan at first to lead off the inning, Bedard compounded the situation by walking Josh Hamilton. Bedard then got a ground ball to force out Jones, then got Cruz to bounce into a force at second. Teagarden led of the fifth by bouncing a ball to third that Hannahan bobbled for an error, but Bedard retired the next three hitters. Bedard walked Jones to lead off the sixth and got ahead 0-2 on Blalock, who eventually and authoritatively homered to cut the Mariners' lead to 3-2. Bedard struck out Byrd before being pulled. He was definitely not without adventures and jams in this start.

Now for the bullpen. Miguel Batista was the first man out of the bullpen and gave up a homer to Cruz on the first pitch, tying the game and supplanting Bedard as the Mariner pitcher of record. Batista struck out Teagarden to end the sixth, then threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Mark Lowe threw a 1-2-3 eighth inning after the offense got themselves a 5-3 lead. David Aardsma allowed only a two-out walk in the ninth inning to record his 20th save in 22 opportunities. Batista gave up one run on one hit in 1 1/3 innings, throwing seven strikes out of nine pitches, facing five hitters to get four outs. Lowe threw seven strikes out of ten pitches. Aardsma threw 13 strikes out of 19 pitches, got one groundout and a flyout, and faced four hitters to get three outs.

1) Franklin Gutierrez
It's almost too bad the All-Star break has to come when you think of the Mariners' centerfielder. Gutierrez goes into the break having hit safely in 22 of his last 25 games. Over that span, he's gone 37-for-98 (.378) with five doubles and seven home runs (slugging .643). I just hope Gutierrez doesn't have his awesomeness hit the wall after the break. It kind of amazes me how he can does this with what seems like so wide of a batting stance (kinda like Jose Lopez). On the main camera angle during every pitch, it almost looks like Gutierrez is dug into the batters box with the insteps of both feet. He doesn't have the wide stance of a Jeff Bagwell or a Tony Phillips, but I guess maybe that makes it easier to get some lift on the ball to drive it. I know every time I tried such a stance, it never worked for me. Anyway, Gutierrez goes into the books having had a great first half of the season. I should mention that before the last 25 games, Gutierrez was a .251 hitter with a .339 slugging percentage. Now he's at .295 and slugging .445.

2) Chris Shelton
Here's the fun part where I try to squeeze a normal-sized paragraph out of someone who's only played two games as a Mariner. I had been clamoring for such a move since well before Yuniesky Betancourt went off with the injury, but I was doing so with the assumption that it would push Ronny Cedeno and his lively .168-hitting bat off the roster. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened yet. That said, the reason Shelton's in this spot is because of his tie-breaking single in the seventh inning. With two on and two out, Shelton was brought off the bench to pinch hit for Ryan Langerhans against lefthander CJ Wilson. Shelton fouled off a 2-0 pitch and whiffed on a 3-1 pitch, but connected on a full count, singling into leftcenter and driving in the pinch-running Luis Ugueto, I mean, Josh Wilson from second base with the go-ahead run to make it 4-3. I know they brought up Shelton from Tacoma to basically take Sweeney's role while Sweeney is injured, but I hope he sticks with the big club even after Sweeney comes back from the injury.

3) Ichiro
The Mariners' leadoff hitter has gone 8-for-17 in the last four games with a couple of doubles. His hitting streak is now at 11 games, having gone 16-for-50 (.320) over that span with four doubles (slugging .400). He's still hitting a paltry .296 so far in the month of July, though, so he's going to have to pick it up in the last half of the month to top the .407 from the month of June. Okay, that's a tall order. Maybe he can top the .377 from May. Okay, that's a tall order as well. Ichiro is sitting at .362 going into the break, and he's on pace for a 246-hit season. He has 126 hits right now, and it'll basically take a freak injury to derail him from getting his ninth straight 200-hit season. The guy's a lead-pipe cinch to get 2000 Major League hits. If this guy somehow manages to get to 3000 hits in a Major League uniform, he'll be the best (singles) hitter of the last 60 or so years if not of all-time when you consider what he'd already done in Japan when he came over to Seattle. The whole solution to all of this, of course, is for Ichiro to hit about .500 over the second half so he can hit .400 and break his own single-season record of 262 hits.

Jack Hannahan
In his very first start at third base after Adrian Beltre went off for the surgery on his left-shoulder bone spur, Chris Woodward had an error and some other misadventures at third base. In his second start at third base for the Mariners, Jack Hannahan had two errors. Supposedly, good to great defense is part of the reason Hannahan was brought aboard for the Mariners, and hopefully the errors are now out of his system. The Mariners now look like they can basically do a platoon-fest with leftfield and with third base, leaving Wladimir Balentien (you traded Betancourt, you might as well trade him) and Chris Woodward (possibly, kind of early to tell) as the odd men out. I should add that Hannahan struck out twice en route to an 0-for-4 day at the plate, which is partially due to the baseball gods not digging the fact that his Oakland batting gloves don't match with the rest of his uniform. The other funny thing is that Hannahan jumped onto the roster and immediately took Betancourt's number 7. If Hannahan can hit .250, I'll be okay with Hannahan. If Ronny Cedeno hit .250, I'd jump with glee because it's not going to freaking happen.

Olson on Thursday after the break in Cleveland.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009


After losing in the second game of the four-game series against the Rangers, the Mariners had a chance with a win to guarantee a series split and guarantee themselves of being over .500 going into the All-Star break. I think pretty much any Mariner fan before the season would have gladly taken the team being over .500 at the break, especially if they knew they'd be only four games back of the division lead. Also, it was another day and another roster move for the Mariners as they sent away minor-league pitcher Justin Sousa to Oakland for third-baseman Jack Hannahan, who apparently is good defensively and has the reputation for being an anti-Betancourt when it comes to working counts, though he hasn't hit too well this season. I'm not sure where this leaves Chris Woodward in the logjam of infielders, but I do know it still doesn't address the shortstop situation.

The Mariners pushed their record to 45-42 after 87 games. This record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but three better than the 2006 pace, six better than 2005, ten better than last year, and 12 better than 2004. Forty-five wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, ten worse than 2003, and 18 worse than 2001.

Seattle hitting went 7-for-29 on the night, walking five times and striking out five times. No single Mariner hitter collected multiple hits. Ken Griffey Jr. and Franklin Gutierrez were the only hitless Mariners, turning in twin 0-for-4s. Jack Hannahan doubled in his Mariner debut, while Russell Branyan and Rob Johnson homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hits. Ichiro went 1-for-4 with his hit being a hard single through a drawn-in infield to bring home Jack Hannahan from third base, which got the Mariners their fourth and final run to make it 4-1. Ichiro's hitting streak stands at 10 games, during which he's gone 14-for-45 (.311) with four doubles (slugging .400). Ryan Langerhans went 1-for-3 with a walk. The team went 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners in all. If Ronny Cedeno hadn't gotten the base hit, I'd bury him in this post for the fielding error.

The Mariners' starting pitcher will be covered below. The bullpen ended up protecting a 4-1 lead after the Mariner offense's doings in the seventh inning. Mark Lowe threw the eighth inning and got two groundouts and a strikeout on 12 pitches (nine strikes), slicing through the 1-2-3 hitters in the lineup. David Aardsma allowed only a two-out double by Marlon Byrd (on which Byrd was nearly thrown out at second base for the third time in the game). Aardsma got a leadoff groundout and sandwiched the double with whiffing strikeouts of Hank Blalock and Nelson Cruz. Aardsma threw nine strikes out of 15 pitches.

1) Jarrod Washburn
The Mariner lefty was pulled after seven innings and 94 pitches, and a friend of mine watching the game at the time wondered aloud why, since he surely had more gas left in the tank and the hitters weren't getting too much of a beat on him. Then he thought maybe there was an aim to pull Washburn to keep his trade value really high, i.e., maybe if you leave him in another inning, he gets into a jam or something. Pretty much the only mystery about Washburn's outing was that he twice walked number-nine hitter Elvis Andrus, which means Ian Kinsler came up at least twice with runners aboard. Kinsler doubled Andrus home in such a situation in the third to make it 1-0 for the Rangers. Washburn got into a one-out jam in the fifth by giving up a double to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and then walking Andrus, a dangerous situation to say the least. Luckily he then got a grounder back to him (moving the runners), and finished it by jamming Michael Young and getting an inning-ending groundout to second. I don't know how washburn's trade value is going to be any higher. I guess maybe he goes away for the shortstop the Mariners may get in a trade. He gave up one run on four hits in seven innings, walking two and striking out three. He threw 58 strikes out of 93 pitches, getting eight groundouts and nine flyouts, and facing 27 hitters to get 21 outs.

2) Rob Johnson
It seems a lot of the times lately where I bury Ronny Cedeno and Rob Johnson, they come through. After foul-bunting on an 0-1 pitch with a runner on first and nobody out, Johnson took a ball and then put a charge into a Kevin Millwood offering, driving it and hitting the roof of the Mariner bullpen bench, knocking over one of the 300 helmets resting atop the roof (I'm sure one of those guys out there is at least partly miffed about that). Johnson still gets the high praise from some people for having an incredible catcher's ERA, which will happen when you're catching Felix Hernandez and Washburn and leaving Johjima with the scraps of the rotation. I like to make the point with Cedeno that I don't care how good his defense supposedly is or how versatile he is if he's hitting .157. Similarly, I don't necessarily care how great Johnson can handle pitchers or call a game if he's hitting .201 and finally hit his first homer of the season. Still, I value his presence on the team a lot more than I value Cedeno's presence, since I think the latter can be easily replaced.

3) Russell Branyan
The Mariner first baseman hasn't gone longer than seven games this season without hitting a home run. His home run in this game snapped a four-game homer drought. Branyan unloaded into a Millwood pitch in the third, knocking it off an advertising board beneath the Hit It Here Cafe. When any ball goes near the Hit It Here Cafe, this is where I bring up the fact that Randy Winn once homered off the windows off of the Cafe. It was surprising sometimes how Winn could put a charge into the ball. Anyway, Branyan's home run tied the game at 1-1 back in the third inning and put him at 22 homers on the season, basically making him a lock to get to 30 homers (no, I'm totally not jinxing him). Branyan's cheap one-year deal is looking like money well spent, as will Griffey's deal if he manages to get to 20 homers. It should be noted that Branyan's fallen off a bit in July, hitting .171 for the month so far, following a .265 June and .317 May. His batting average and slugging percentage have floated below .300 and .600 respectively for the first time since April, when the sample sizes are too small to matter.

Ken Griffey Jr.
It had to be between Gutierrez and Griffey, and since Gutierrez threw to second base to take advantage of what Marlon Byrd calls baserunning, I guess I pretty much have to put Griffey here. Griffey went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He jogged toward first on a ball grounded to Blalock at first, but Blalock completely boned the toss to Millwood covering first, and Griffey got aboard. Griffey grounded out to lead off the fourth, was caught looking right after Jose Lopez led off the sixth with a single, and flew out to lead off the eighth. I guess the one thing I'm glad about with Griffey this season is that all we're hearing about regarding the clubhouse and everything is that he's unbridled fun and joy, that he's not sulking and moping around and sort of doing his own thing in the corner (not that Yuniesky Betancourt was doing that this season or anything). I think it's refreshing that Griffey knows his role and knows his limits when it seems a lot of players in any sport in the twilight of their careers don't have a grasp of what they realistically expect out of themselves. Griffey does, it seems.

Hooray for Bedard on a slightly higher pitch count today on what appears to be a cloudy, rainy, kinda dreary Sunday.

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