Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Mariners lost for just the fourth time in the last 11 games, dropping their record to 51-45 at the 96-game mark. The pace is three games worse than 2007, six better than 2006, nine better than 2005, 13 better than last year, and 14 better than 2004. Fifty-one wins is also six worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 18 worse than 2001. Records of post-millennium Mariner teams at their 45th loss: 62-45 in 2000, 110-45 in 2001, 71-45 in 2002, 69-45 in 2003, 31-45 in 2004, 33-45 in 2005, 42-45 in 2006, 54-45 in 2007, and 24-45 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 4-for-28 on the night, walking three times and striking out ten times. No Mariner recorded a multi-hit game, and no Mariner gathered an extra-base hit. Ichiro, Jose Lopez, Kenji Johjima, and Jack Hannahan collected the four Mariner hits. Russell Branyan, Chris Shelton, and Gutierrez drew the three Mariner walks. Branyan, Ronny Cedeno, and Jose Lopez all grounded into double plays.
The Mariners' starter will be covered below, as will one of the relievers. Shawn Kelley threw a scoreless 1-2-3 eighth inning to keep the Cleveland lead at 4-0. Facing the 2-3-4 hitters of Cleveland's lineup, Kelley got a fly ball from Asdrubal Cabrera, caught Shin-Soo Choo looking, and got a groundout from Victor Martinez. Kelley threw eight strikes on ten pitches. Chris Jakubauskas was needlessly used to finish the ninth inning, doing so by getting Jhonny Peralta, the tenth hitter of the inning, to bounce out to short. Jakubauskas threw four strikes out of seven pitches.
1) Ryan Rowland-Smith
For his first start with the big club since April 10th, there really wasn't a lot to complain about. On a night where the Mariners had no real stars on offense, it's the Aussie who's the easy number-one gameball. He got nicked in the second inning when Jhonny Peralta led off with a single and was doubled to third by Ryan Garko. Jamey Carroll was then walked on four pitches (probably the unintentional intentional variety) to load the bases, and Ben Francisco's sufficiently deep fly ball scored Peralta to make it 1-0. Including that out, Rowland-Smith retired 14 straight hitters leading into the seventh, when he was undone by two pitches, maybe three -- the Peralta leadoff single, the Travis Hafner home run that put Peralta across, and the Francisco homer with two out. A 1-0 game became a 4-0 game, and since the Mariners decided they weren't going to be hitting Aaron Laffey on this night, the game was over. If Rowland-Smith is able to keep this up, then it really augments the top three pitchers in the rotation, but since the top three could really become the top one or top two once the trade deadline rolls around, it's just nice the Mariners have some starting pitching depth. Rowland-Smith gave up four runs on five hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out sevevn. He threw 59 strikes out of 91 pitches, got nine groundouts and ten flyouts, and faced 28 hitters to get 21 outs.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 1-for-4 on the night. He led off the first inning with a single and was doubled off on a Russell Branyan fly ball. Ichiro also struck out to lead off the third, flew out with one out in the sixth, and flew out with Jack Hannahan on second to end the eighth inning. The one hit puts Ichiro at 138 hits on the season and puts him on pace for a 242-hit season, a mark he equaled in 2001 and obviously topped in 2004. I didn't put Ichiro here for his one hit, though. I put him here for his awesome defense. I know there were two great catches, but unfortunately I only have one embedded in my memory, and that came on a ball that was close to going into the stands along the rightfield line. Ichiro had to go a long way just to get to the right spot, and from that point it appeared a fan was trying to catch it over him, but luckily Ichiro caught the ball. It further cemented Ichiro's reputation as The Most Awesomest Awesome Ballplayer on the Mariners. Since no one wants to beat the Angels, these are the little things we have to hold onto.
3) Kenji Johjima
He hasn't been an everyday player since he got injured in late May. Now that he's back, he's been relegated to catching on the days where none of Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, and Erik Bedard are pitching. Since coming back from the injury, Johjima has hit 13-for-41 (.317) with two doubles (slugging .366) with two RBIs, a walk, and five strikeouts. Rob Johnson in that same time frame has gone 11-for-45 (.244) with four doubles and a homer (slugging .400). He's driven in six runs, walked six times, and struck out seven times in that span. It's pretty clear how much Don Wakamatsu values Rob Johnson's gamecalling over Kenji Johjima's offense, but if the team has a couple more nights where they hit like this, Rob Johnson's not going to help the offense. Still, I can only be so consumed with this since I believe the Mariners will be parting ways with at least one of Jarrod Washburn or Erik Bedard at the deadline. If one of those guys goes, I think Kenji maybe plays three out of every five days instead of his current two.
Recently, Garrett Olson had two awful outings, purging himself from the starting rotation. At that point, I wondered who might take his spot. Would they call Jason Vargas back up? Would Chris Jakubauskas return to the rotation? Why not go nuts and throw Miguel Batista out there? I mean, he's done fairly well in relief this year. After this game, I consider that thought severely shelved. I pretty much called towel when Batista was brought into the game, and sometimes I hate being right. Peralta singled to lead off, Hafner then bounced an infield single to Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Garko homered on the next pitch to make it 7-0, then Jamey Carroll homered two pitches later to make it 8-0. At that point, all doubt was removed and the game was officially a laugher/clinker/stinker/etc. Batista then got a groundout followed by a four-pitch walk to Grady Sizemore. He then allowed a single, struck out Choo, and then allowed a Victor Martinez single that drove in Sizemore. Batista wasn't around for the final out, which is almost more damning than leaving him out on the mound to rot. Batista gave up five runs on six hits, walking one and striking out one. He threw 18 strikes out of 31 pitches and faced nine hitters to get two outs.
Looks like Erik Bedard in some non-televised afternoon madness. Screw you, Fox network. I'll purposely not watch whatever Fox network game they want to give us.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Mariners' eighth win in 11 games ran their season record to 51-44 after 95 games. Though three games worse than the 2007 pace, the record is six games better than 2006, nine better than 2005, and 14 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-one wins is also five worse than 2000, eight games worse than 2002 and 2003, and 17 worse than 2001. The records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at win 51: 51-35 in 2000, 51-14 in 2001, 51-29 in 2002, 51-26 in 2003, 51-80 in 2004, 51-67 in 2005, 51-53 in 2006, 51-37 in 2007, and 51-83 last season.
Seattle hitting went 8-for-34 on the afternoon, drawing zero walks and striking out nine times. All the Mariners' extra-base hits were doubles, and they were hit by Mike Sweeney, Jack Hannahan, and Jose Lopez. Multi-hit games were turned in by Ichiro and Sweeney, who had two hits apiece. The team went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position but stranded six runners in all. A bit of Mariner bad luck ensued in the second inning when Ryan Langerhans was hit in the wrist area with a pitch to lead off, then Rob Johnson made solid contact on a hit-and-run, but the ball found Placido Polanco's glove (he was moving over to cover second), and Langerhans was easily doubled off in what was then a 1-0 game for the Mariners. Ichiro's two-hit game put him at 137 hits for the season. He has hit a pathetic .305 for the month, sinking a .373 batting average coming into July to the .359 average he has now. Fret not, however, as Ichiro is still on pace for a 243-hit season, which would top every single-season hit total he's posted other than 2004. A 243-hit season would also put him at 2048 career hits, which would also mean he'd surpass 2000 Major League hits at some point.
Mariner pitching had another largely good day, and the starting pitcher and the closer will be addressed in the entries. Mark Lowe was brought into the eighth inning to protect a 2-0 lead. He promptly threw six straight pitches for balls, and pitching coach Rick Adair made the obligatory mound visit. Lowe then started really getting his breaking stuff over and freezing the Tiger hitters. Clete Thomas and ex-Mariner hack Ramon Santiago both were caught looking on 2-2 pitches. Then Curtis Granderson tagged the first pitch and sent it toward the Evil Scorewall in rightcenter, easily scoring the leadoff walk (Brandon Inge) and ending up with a triple. Thus, Lowe's day had ended. He threw eight strikes on 16 pitches and faced four hitters to get two (non-contact) outs. Sean White came in to face Placido Polanco with a runner on third, two out, and a 2-1 lead. Polanco grounded to Jack Hannahan at third, who made the throw to end the inning. White threw four of five pitches for strikes to his only hitter.
1) Jarrod Washburn
Wouldn't life be so much easier if only Erik Bedard could throw seven innings every time out? Washburn has thrown at least seven innings in ten of his 19 starts this season. Interestingly, the first nine outs he collected in this game were all via the flyout. Normally I'd cringe at that thought and think that doesn't lend well to home runs, but if there's one park where you can get away with getting that many flyouts, it's Comerica Park. Washburn got four groundouts and a whopping 14 flyouts. The game started a bit ominously for Washburn as the Tigers had two on and one out in the first, but Washburn dodged it. A leadoff single in the fifth by Brandon Inge was wiped away with the next hitter when Dusty Ryan bounced into a double play. Washburn retired 13 of the final 14 hitters he faced. It wouldn't be a stretch to think Washburn may have had more gas left in the tank since he'd only thrown 93 pitches after seven innings and he'd be facing the bottom third of the lineup if he'd come out for the eighth inning. Washburn gave up two hits in seven shutout innings, walking two and striking out three. He threw 55 strikes on 93 pitches and faced 24 hitters to get 21 outs.
2) Mike Sweeney
The Mariners didn't bring Sweeney back off the disabled list so they could not start him against lefthanded pitchers as the designated hitter. Ichiro led off the inning by beating out an infield single, then getting to second when Brandon Inge's throw got past first base. Russell Branyan whiffed on an 0-2 pitch and Jose Lopez lined out to center. The Mariners' only hopes for scratching out a run in the first rested on the shoulders of Sweeney, and luckily his back held up. Sweeney banged a 2-2 pitch down the leftfield line for a double, easily scoring Ichiro and staking the Mariners out to a 1-0 lead before Washburn set foot on the mound. In the sixth, Lopez led off with a double, and Sweeney followed that up with a single to left that only got Lopez to third. Wladimir Balentien bounced to short to get Sweeney out, but Lopez scored on the play for the final Mariner run to make it 2-0. Sweeney's outs were a groundout to short to lead off the fourth and a swinging strikeout with one out in the eighth. Sweeney's hitting a not-bad .258 on the season in limited action. He has played in 37 games and has gone hitless in 15 of them (four of those look like pinch-hit appearances in his game log).
3) David Aardsma
Mariner television broadcaster Dave Sims has taken to calling Aardsma the DA (district attorney) and using the phrase "case closed" for the Aardsma saves. In a way, the whole two-word thing kind of reminds me of "san shin" from the Kazuhiro Sasaki era. My, what an era that was. Amazingly, I'd have to say that right now I feel more confident with Aardsma on the mound in the ninth inning with a one-run lead than I did with Sasaki on the mound in 2000 and 2001. The two Aardsma blown saves almost seem like incredibly isolated incidents that are such terrible aberrations which needn't be discussed. Since his meltdown on July 8th against the Orioles, Aardsma has made good on all seven of his save chances, taking a 2.11 ERA down to 1.75. Aardsma's meltdown in Anaheim came in his ninth appearance after taking over the closer role. His meltdown in Baltimore came 14 outings later. Aardsma's gone eight outings without giving up a run. Interestingly, since taking over the closer's role, Aardsma hasn't given up isolated runs. He's either failing in colossal fashion or not giving up runs (getting the save).
I know he did great the night before, but someone has to go here, and I can't seem to piick anyone else. With Ichiro on second and nobody out in the first, Branyan struck out swinging. He flew out on the first pitch with one out in the third. With runners on the corners and two out in the fifth, he whiffed on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning. He flew out to center to end the seventh. It seems all it took was a flip of the calendar over to July to take all the nectar out of Branyan's bat, and hopefully a flip of the calendar over to the month of August can turn Branyan's bat back into the sizzling stick it was in April and May, and to a lesser degree, June. Luckily if July is the nightmare month for Branyan, we only have to wait one week for it to end. He's homered five times in July, which is more than his four-homer April, but .164 is by far his worst month. His 14 RBIs tops his ten-RBI month of April, however. Think about it this way -- the Mariners have a 12-7 record in the month of July despite Branyan hitting .164. He needs only four strikeouts for the rest of the month to make it his strikeouttiest month this season.
It's the return of Ryan Rowland-Smith into the rotation on Friday night. Hopefully it'll also mark the return of Franklin Gutierrez into the lineup.
The Mariners' seventh win in their last ten games has run their record to 50-44 after 94 games. This pace is four games worse than that of the 2007 team, but six games bebtter than 2006, nine better than 2005, 13 better than 2004, and 14 better than last year. Fifty wins at this point is also five worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002 and 2003, and 18 worse than 2001. As for the records of the other post-millennium Mariner teams at win number 50: 50-35 in 2000, 50-14 in 2001, 50-29 in 2002, 50-25 in 2003, 50-80 in 2004, 50-67 in 2005, 50-53 in 2006, 50-36 in 2007, and 50-82 last season.
Seattle hitting went an awful 2-for-29 on the night, walking five times and striking out three times. Since there were only two Mariner hits, and by two different people, obviously no Mariner collected multiple hits. The only extra-base hit was the winner, the home run by Russell Branyan. The team went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runs in all. If I could give a fourth gameball, on this night I'd give it to Ryan Langerhans not just for getting the first Mariner hit of the game in the fifth inning, but also for drawing two walks on a night when baserunners for Seattle were at a premium since Armando Galarraga rendered the Mariners punchless. Langerhans drew a two-out walk in the second, broke up Galarraga's no-hitter with a one-out single in the fifth, drew yet another two-out walk in the seventh, and popped out foul with Wladimir Balentien on first and one out. Since I don't have the guy listed as a goat tonight, I've got to roast Jack Hannahan on the baserunning blunder that nearly cost the Mariners the game. Hannahan drew a leadoff walk and was moved to second on a ground ball by Ronny Cedeno (hitting streak snapped). Ichiro then rolled a ball to short, and Hannahan took off for third with the play right in front of him. Former awful Mariner Ramon Santiago threw to third and had Hannahan by a mile. It's known that Hannahan's a Don Wakamatsu guy, and I hope he gets straightened out for that play. If the Mariners lose this game, the Northwest is letting Hannahan have it.
Mariner pitching had what turned out to be a great night. Since two of the pitchers are mentioned below, that leaves Mark Lowe out of the bullpen for the eighth inning. With the Mariners just having leapfrogged the Tigers for the lead, Lowe came in and had to face Placido Polanco, Miguel Cabrera, and Clete Thomas, the 2-3-4 hitters in the Detroit lineup. He got flyouts from the first two and a swinging strikeout from the third. Lowe threw seven strikes on ten pitches in his 1-2-3 inning that very effectively bridged the starter Hernandez to the closer David Aardsma.
1) Felix Hernandez
Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I really feared the next week for the Mariners with the way it was going early in the game. Tuesday's game was just an avalanche of suck with Garrett Olson crapping the bed and Franklin Gutierrez crashing into the scorewall and having to leave that game. This game started out with Detroit singling on the second and third pitches of the first inning, then Ichiro dropped what looked to be a pretty easy catch in foul ground down the rightfield line. That's what Hernandez buckled down, striking out Miguel Cabrera and catching Clete Thomas looking. Felix had Marcus Thames 1-2 but walked him, then got Josh Anderson to fly out and end the inning. Disaster averted, and a 1-2-3 second inning followed. Then came the third inning, which had three broken-bat singles and a stolen base. The Polanco steal made me think in the back of my mind that maybe Felix should have been holding the runners on better (i.e., the Wakamatsu talk that turned his season around). Then Thomas singled on the next pitch (with two out) and it'd have been a shame if that was the difference in the game. In addition, Rob Johnson couldn't corral strike three to lead off the fourth inning, and Ryan Raburn was aboard as a result. Luckily by this point Felix was locked in, and Johnson even gunned down Raburn at second to help matters. Hernandez retired 11 of the last 12 hitters he faced. Not his best start, but the way he worked through the early adversity was incredible. He gave up one run on six hits, walking one and striking out eight in his seven innings of work. He got eight groundouts to five flyouts, throwing 75 strikes out of 112 pitches. He faced 28 hitters to get 21 outs.
2) Russell Branyan
The guy's had a pretty awful month of July. With more than a week to go, Branyan has struck out 26 times in July, and he could easily top his 31-strikeout May. Oddly, he hit .317 in May. My exact words after Hannahan was thrown out due to his boneheaded baserunning: "this one's over unless Branyan hits a home run right here." Branyan then proceeded to destroy the second pitch he saw from Bobby Seay, sending the baseball's tattered remains somewhere beyond the fence in rightcenter. I guess that's the scary thing with Branyan -- even when he's having a .174 month of July, when he does manage to get a hit, it could go for extra bases. Branyan has exactly 12 hits this month, with three of them being doubles and five of them being home runs. That's eight of his 12 hits in July that have gone for extra bases. The .317 month of May that Branyan had was unreal and it'd be stupid to expect that out of him, but if Branyan had do something more along the lines of his .265 month of June in the months of August and September, this team will be pretty well off.
3) David Aardsma
Someone's got to close it out. Who'd have thought that two soul-crushing blown saves by Brandon Morrow could lead to one of the Mariners' biggest success stories of the season? With the Mariners unable to take advantage of a one-out walk in the top half of the ninth, Aardsma only had one run's worth of cushion with which to work. He had the 4-5-6 hitters in the Detroit lineup coming to the plate. He got a harmless fly ball to center off the bat of Thames. Anderson took two pitches and came up empty swinging at the third. Inge came to the plate and Aardsma sneakily dropped in two splitters for strikes before simply blowing a fastball past him. The setup during the Inge at-bat was just beautiful. They've brought it up on the broadcasts, but it bears repeating -- Aardsma's only been the full-time closer of this team since mid-May (Brandon Morrow's two blown saves were May 13th and 14th), and he's still made good on 23 of 25 save opportunities. Aardsma threw nine strikes out of 11 pitches. Not to rub it in, but does anyone miss JJ Putz right now?
Ken Griffey Jr.
For all the seemingly innocuous walks he's drawn this year that somehow start rallies, the emeritus Mariner really wasn't working the count on this night, and it helped the unhittable Armando Galarraga get into the eighth inning. Griffey flew out on the second pitch to lead off the second, popped out to third on the first pitch to end the fourth, tagged a 1-2 pitch but lined out to right to lead off the seventh, and flew out to right on the second pitch to lead off the ninth. Griffey saw nine pitches in four at-bats in the game out of the cleanup spot. Jose Lopez saw only ten pitches one spot ahead of him, so Griffey wasn't alone in his lack of count work. By way of comparison, Balentien saw 19 pitches, Langerhans saw 20, and Ichiro saw 23 pitches on the night. When Griffey's throwing hitless nights out there, it makes me glad Mike Sweeney came back off the disabled list. It also makes me glad that the team designated Josh Wilson for assignment instead of moving Chris Shelton off the roster. By the way, Griffey hasn't homered since Canada Day, July 1st. He's in a 15-game homerless drought, his longest of the season.
Who's rooting for a two-hour, 15-minute complete-game shutout for Washburn? Aren't we all?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The loss dropped the Mariners' record to 49-44 after 93 games. The record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than that of 2006, eight better than 2005, and 13 better than 2004 and last year. Forty-nine wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 18 worse than 2001. As for the records of the new millennium Mariner teams when getting their 44th loss: 61-44 in 2000, 106-44 in 2001, 69-44 in 2002 and 2003, 30-44 in 2004, 33-44 in 2005, 42-44 in 2006, 54-44 in 2007, and 24-44 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 13-for-40 on the night, walking once and striking out nine times. Two-hit games were turned in by Wladimir Balentien, Jack Hannahan, and Ronny Cedeno while Jose Lopez had three hits. Ichiro and Lopez doubled while Ryan Langerhans, Balentien, and Hannahan (twice) homered. The team went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all. Cedeno went 2-for-4 and has somehow run his hitting streak to eight games, going 11-for-27 (.407) with two doubles and a home run (slugging .593). He's taken a .149 batting average to .193 as a result, and is moving the Cedeno Line ever so closer to the Mendoza Line. Ichiro's double was his only hit in a 1-for-5 night, but he's still on pace for a 245-hit season.
The Mariners' starting pitcher will be discussed below. The bullpen threw the final 6 2/3 innings of the game for the Mariners. Chris Jakubauskas warmed up in the first inning but finally made it to the mound with one out and a runner on first base. He got Marcus Thames to fly out before walking Magglio Ordonez and then getting the long fly ball by Ryan Raburn to deep rightcenter that resulted in a Franklin Gutierrez-meets-scoreboard collision and a triple that scored two more runs and dented Olson's ERA. Brandon Inge grounded out to end that inning, but the Tigers led 8-1. Jakubauskas allowed only a two-out single in the third and a leadoff single along with a wild pitch in the fourth. Then Jakubauskas threw a 1-2-3 fifth. At least some Mariner pitched like a starter in this game. Jakubauskas threw 32 strikes out of 53 pitches, got three groundouts to seven flyouts, and faced 15 hitters to get 11 outs. Shawn Kelley allowed a two-out Miguel Cabrera homer in an otherwise harmless inning (other than the walk). Kelley threw ten strikes on 19 pitches. Roy Corcoran allowed a hit and a walk, but got out of the seventh unscathed. Sean White gave up a two-out double to Cabrera in an otherwise benign eighth inning. White threw 12 strikes out of 16 pitches.
1) Jack Hannahan
All he would have had to do was get two singles for this to be considered his best game as a Mariner. He greatly exceeded that, managing to homer twice in the game -- once off the starter Rick Porcello and once off Fu-Te Ni. The two homers were his first hits since the double he hit in his Mariner debut. I haven't been too big a fan of Hannahan's defense so far, but Jungle Jack hasn't been a Mariner that long yet. His first game as a Mariner was July 11th against the Rangers, and when you throw the All-Star break in there, he's only had so much action with his new team. Let's just hope Hannahan and Chris Woodward can be enough to patch the holes together until the day Adrian Beltre comes back. Okay, that's if Beltre can come back at some point. Let's just hope for maybe a combined .220 out of that third-base platoon before the everyday player comes back to town and provides the Mariner fans with otherworldly displays of awesomeness on defense. I know I'm starting to miss seeing those two or three plays every game that Beltre just makes look so easy.
2) Wladimir Balentien
Since he failed to take full advantage of Endy Chavez's season-ending injury, weird things have to take place for Balentien to get onto the lineup card or into the game. Weird things like Franklin Gutierrez crashing into a wall and having to leave the game have to happen for Balentien to get some play. In his first at-bat (top of the third), he had runners on the corners with one out and singled to score Lopez and cut the Detroit lead to 8-2. Balentien drew a two-out walk in the fifth and homered with one out in the seventh to cut the Mariners' lead to 9-7. He ended up 2-for-3 with a walk and strikeout, driving in two runs and scoring twice. Illustrating just how far he's fallen in the eyes of Don Wakamatsu, these two hits were Balentien's first hits since June 25th, and he's only played nine games since that date (nearly a month-long). It's almost maddening to see Balentien be able to crank homers and then watch him swing wildly in the ninth inning on a pitch in the dirt or just plain not have any sort of consistency at all as a hitter.
3) Jose Lopez
Three hits for the Mariners' second baseman pushes him to a .269 season average and a .442 slugging percentage that should probably be higher. Lopez hit the RBI single in the first that put the Mariners in their original 1-0 lead. Lopez then doubled in the third, flew out to lead off the fifth, whiffed to end the sixth, then hit a ball up the middle on which Placido Polanco just couldn't make a good throw from his backhand side. Lopez has 12 homers on the year, but I can't help but think this guy can hit with power more often and more consistently. That said, he's hit five doubles in his last six games, but hasn't homered in his last nine games, but that's not even close to his longest home-run drought of the season, which is 19 games (in the middle of the team-wide slugging slump of mid- to late-May). All told, Lopez is hitting .329 so far in July and rebounding from his awful .214 June, which is a good thing considering Russell Branyan is hitting .169 in July after his .265 June and his .317 May. They still need more power out of Lopez.
Make it two awful outings in a row for the versatile lefty. Pretty easy choice here for the goat. He couldn't get out of the third inning in the first game right after the All-Star break, but he outdid that in this game, failing to get out of the second inning. The guy was just everywhere with his pitches and had trouble getting the fastball over. Mike Blowers noted as much on the television broadcast that Olson couldn't get the fastball over and had to resort to the breaking ball to get ahead of hitters. Though totally nit-picky, I'll note that the 1-2 pitch to Magglio Ordonez with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning and a 1-1 score sure looked like strike three to me. Instead, Ordonez unloaded on a breaking ball on the next pitch and hit a grand slam to make it 5-1 in the first, still with nobody out at that point. What this brings me back to is the decision before the break to send down Jason Vargas. I thought they were so quick to make that move, but I chalked it up to the Mariners liking Olson's versatility over Vargas being just a starter only. Olson would probably get banished to the bullpen if anything, but who takes the rotation spot? Vargas? Ryan Rowland-Smith? Both, since Olson would be out and the fifth spot would appear again? By the way, Olson gave up seven runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out none. He threw 30 strikes out of 53 pitches, getting one groundout to three flyouts. He faced 12 hitters to get four outs.
Heard on the radio broadcast that Felix Hernandez is 9-2 when pitching right after a Mariner loss. Let's hope he makes it ten.
Monday, July 20, 2009
The Mariners ran their record to 49-43 after 92 games. The pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than that of 2006, eight better than 2005, 13 better than last year, and 14 better than 2004. Forty-nine wins is also five worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 17 worse than 2001. As for the records of new millennium Mariner teams winning their respective 49th games, the 2000 team was 49-33, the 2001 team was 49-13, the 2002 team was 49-29, the 2003 team was 49-24, the 2004 team was 49-80, the 2005 team was 49-63, the 2006 team was 49-52, the 2007 team was 49-36, and last year's team was 49-82.
Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-35 on the day, walking four times and striking out six times. Doubles were hit by Chris Shelton (hitting cleanup), Jose Lopez, and Ichiro, while Branyan snapped a four-game homerless drought. Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez had two hits apiece while Ichiro had three. The team went a paltry 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten runners in all. Also of note, Gutierrez stole his seventh base of the season and second in consecutive games while Ichiro stole his 20th, breaking 20 steals in each of his first nine seasons, the ninth player to do so since 1901. In the same way as I think of the "getting 200 hits in each of his first nine seasons" statistic, I think these "first __ seasons" records are kind of bogus for Ichiro since he played pro ball at Japan's highest level for a few years before coming to the Majors. It's not like he was a fresh-out-of-the-minors 22-year-old rookie in 2001 when he got 200 hits.
Now for the Mariner arms. The starting pitching unfortunately will be discussed below. Miguel Batista threw one pitch to finish the fifth inning after Erik Bedard was yanked following the Jose Lopez mishap that tied the score. Batista appeared to be rolling to start the sixth as well, getting two swinging strikeouts to start the inning, but then he hit the wall. Batista created quite the huge jam (four-pitch walk, double, walk to load the bases) before getting Asdrubal Cabrera to ground out to end the inning. Batista threw 17 strikes out of 28 pitches, facing seven hitters to get four outs. Shawn Kelley sliced through the 3-4-5 hitters in the Cleveland lineup, getting a flyout followed by two strikeouts. It was enough to net Kelley his first win since May 5th. Kelley threw eight strikes out of 11 pitches. Mark Lowe threw the eighth and was tagged for a single on the first pitch by Ryan Garko, but then settled down, getting a strikeout, flyout, and grounder to end the inning. Lowe threw ten strikes out of 13 pitches. Finally, David Aardsma had the top of the order in the ninth and got two outs before issuing a walk to Choo. Victor Martinez drove the second pitch deep to rightfield, but Ichiro leaped to make the catch at the wall to end it. However you draw it up, it's 22 saves in 24 chances for Aardsma.
1) Russell Branyan
I had a strange feeling on Saturday night that maybe this whole idea of Branyan riding the pine for a day was going to go by the wayside. I mean, everyone else on this team saw Adrian Beltre supposedly going off for surgery, but going out and playing anyway. After Ichiro singled on an 0-2 pitch to start the game and moved to second on a wild pitch, Aaron Laffey threw a 2-1 pitch that Branyan clobbered over the wall in rightcenter, and the ball may have had a vapor trail coming from it. The decision not to rest Branyan had paid off already. Branyan's other hit was a two-out single in the fourth that pushed Ichiro to third. Probably the only thing for which you could knock him was whiffing on three straight pitches after Ichiro led off the seventh with a double (the game was tied 3-3 at that point, and they didn't score that inning). Still, I figure you can only squeeze so much out of Branyan's bat in any one game, so I'll take the two-run homer. If Branyan warms it up a bit, it'll be a lot easier for this team. The Mariners are 12-6 in July despite Branyan hitting .180 in the same time frame.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
No extra-base hits this time, but the guy just keeps going and going, netting a 2-for-5 with a stolen base in this one. He's hit safely 25 of his last 27 games and 26 of 29. In the 27-game span, he's gone 41-for-109 (.376) six doubles and eight homers (slugging .651). That raised his season batting average from .249 to its current .295, as well as his slugging percentage from .349 to .460. Additionally, Gutierrez has 24 hits in July with 11 games to go in the month. Barring an absolutely epic collapse (think something along the lines of 2-for-44), Gutierrez is a lead-pipe cinch to eclipse his 26-hit month of May as his most prolific hitting month of the season. I'm enjoying the heck out of this since I'd be the one sitting here more than content if the guy was hitting .240 because of his otherworldly awesome defensive skills. I've said anything above .240 would be gravy, and now there's so much gravy you can barely see the mashed potatoes. I guess at that point maybe you'd hope there was some steak or other kind of meat on the plate on which to pour the surplus gravy. Hopefully not lost in this awkward food analogy is the fact that Gutierrez has been wildly exceeding expectations for the last month and change.
Looks like someone was mad after having a 13-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday. The Mariners' leadoff hitter led off the game with a single, walked (unintentionally!) with two out in the fourth, led off the seventh with a double, led off the ninth with a single, and stole third base later in the ninth before scoring the Mariners' fifth and final run of the game on what should have been a double-play ball to end the inning (cheap RBI for Gutierrez though). Ichiro is now at 134 hits for the season, putting him on pace for a 246-hit season. Scary thing is, all of this is holding up despite Ichiro only hitting .319 so far in July. Only in the magical world of all things Ichiro can a .319 month be considered substandard. Also with the stolen bases, Ichiro has been successful on 20 of 27 attempts for the season. I'm sure Tim Kurkjian or the Elias Sports Bureau could pull it up and give me some related crazy numbers, but Ichiro is one double away from yet another 20-double, 20-steal season. It'd be awesome if he could pull off a 20-triple, 20-steal season or a regular 20/20 season, but the man can only do so much.
Surely no one thought I was going to put Ronny Cedeno here for his awful scoring attempt, right? I cringe when anyone brings up the notion that the Mariners' top three in the starting rotation can stack up against anyone else in the Majors because I simply don't know whick Erik Bedard I'm going to get. Am I going to get the awesome Bedard that gets into the seventh inning or later and gives up a run or two? Am I going to get the Bedard that throws fairly well, but has one kind of iffy inning, but still gets through six just fine? Or am I going to get the one that misses spots, walks a few people, and throws way too many pitches in too short a time? The Bedard that threw against the Indians in this game was the latter of the three. Part of me's almost glad Lopez booted that ball in the fifth to tie the game, because it would have been a pretty half-baked win for Bedard. After a good first inning, Bedard gave back part of the 3-0 lead on a Jhonny Peralta walk followed by a Ben Francisco blast. He gave up a leadoff walk to Grady Sizemore to lead off the third, but left unscathed. Two singles in the fourth didn't amount to anything. In the fifth, another Sizemore leadoff walk was what came around to score and tie the game. Sizemore walked and was bunted to second, Choo whiffed, then Victor Martinez hit the broken-bat, spinning grounder that Lopez had scoot past him to tie the game. Bedard then got the hook. He gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits, walking three and striking out six in 4 2/3 innings. He threw 61 strikes out of 93 pitches, getting four flyouts and four groundouts and facing 22 hitters to get 14 outs.
An off day before Garrett Olson takes the mound in scenic Detroit. It won't be Hernandez, Washburn, or Bedard throwing, so Kenji Johjima looks to be a sure bet for some playing time.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Mariners bumped up their record to 48-43 after 91 games. This pace is four games worse than 2007, but four games better than 2006, seven better than 2005, 12 better than last year, and 13 better than 2004. Forty-eight wins is also five worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 18 worse than 2001. In the new millennium, the record of each Mariner team after winning its 48th game: 48-32 in 2000, 48-13 in 2001, 48-29 in 2002, 48-22 in 2003, 48-80 in 2004, 48-63 in 2005, 48-51 in 2006, 48-36 in 2007, and 48-82 last season.
Seattle hitting went a brutal 5-for-29 on the night, walking three times and striking out six times. Ronny Cedeno and Franklin Gutierrez doubled and homered, respectively, for the only extra-base hits of the game by either team. No Mariner posted a multi-hit game. The team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position (on Russell Branyan's infield single that moved Wladimir Balentien to third for his only hit of the game) and stranded six runners in all. Interestingly, all three Mariners who drew walks went hitless in the game -- Ichiro (snapping a 13-game hitting streak), Ken Griffey Jr., and Balentien. As mentioned, the Ichiro hitting streak is dead at 13 games, and it was a streak that saw his season batting average actually dip from .368 to .361 going into this game. It now rests at .359 after an 0-for-2 night. Ichiro went 19-for-59 (.322) over the 13 games and is still on pace for a 243-hit season. By the way, he's not only a virtual lock for his ninth straight 200-hit season, he'll move past 2000 Major League hits before he gets to the 200 mark for the season. If he's not a lock for the Hall of Fame, it shouldn't take much longer past this year for Ichiro to cement his case.
Mariner pitching didn't have a Felix night, but they still fared pretty well. The starting pitcher will be covered below. With Jarrod Washburn unable to get out of a two-on, two-out situation in the seventh unscathed, Sean White was brought in to get the final out. It only took four pitches for White to get a ground ball to short to end the inning. White came back out for the eighth inning and had a 1-2-3 inning out of Cleveland's 1-2-3 hitters, getting Grady Sizemore to roll a 3-1 pitch to first, then getting flyouts from Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. White threw 13 strikes out of 20 pitches and retired all four hitters he faced. Similarly, David Aardsma closed the deal in the ninth, getting a grounder and two fly balls to end the game. Perhaps the only thing you could nit-pick at with Aardsma was that Travis Hafner flew out on a 3-1 pitch and Jhonny Peralta flew out on a 2-0 pitch. Aardsma threw four strikes out of nine pitches in his 1-2-3 inning.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
More great catches and another home run. He got a hold of a 1-0 Tomo Ohka pitch and put a good lickin' on it, driving it over the wall just to the right of dead centerfield. That homer was the 12th of the season for Gutierrez, and if he gets to 20 homers, Jack Zduriencik should be immortalized in bronze statue form on the sidewalk outside the centerfield gate at Safeco Field. With all the injuries and roster moves that have occurred lately, it appears Gutierrez isn't flustered in the least about being moved up to the fifth spot in the lineup. I seem to remember thinking having him hit second put too much pressure on him, but that having him hit ninth was a bit of a waste. Gutierrez was hitting .249 after the game on June 17th in San Diego. Since, he's gone 39-for-104 (.375) to raise the batting average to its current .294. Also, he's doubled six times and homered eight times (and driven in 20 runs) in that span to raise his slugging percentage from .349 to .461. All that has happened over the span of 27 games, which is a pretty good chunk of the season to be on such a tear. Something different out of Gutierrez in this game? A stolen base, his sixth of the season. Something more? The play where Gutierrez had Martinez gunned down at the plate, but Dana DeMuth called him safe. Could've been a shutout!
2) Jarrod Washburn
One thing's for sure -- Washburn didn't have one-hit stuff for this game. Nonetheless, it was more than good enough. I'd have liked for him to have finished the seventh inning, but if you figure that Washburn was at 105 pitches, that everyone in the bullpen not named Aardsma didn't throw the night before, and that Don Wakamatsu didn't want to risk Washburn possibly giving up a three-run homer which would put him on the hook for a loss, I really couldn't blame Wakamatsu for giving Washburn the hook at that point. Washburn threw a slow curveball enough for me to actually notice it, which more than likely means he threw it a lot more than usual. There were a couple of times he uncorked weird pitches when he couldn't find the release point on that curve as well. It's funny that I'm saying this because Washburn still didn't walk anybody, which epitomizes his extreme pitch-to-contact tendency. Washburn gave up one run on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out three. He threw 68 strikes out of 105 pitches and got five groundouts to 11 flyouts. He faced 26 hitters to get 20 outs.
3) Wladimir Balentien
It's not often that I throw a hitless Mariner into the gameball section. Could I have put Ronny Cedeno here since he somehow managed to hit a double to run his hitting streak to six games? Sure, I could, but Cedeno's boring me now. Instead, I'll go with Wladimir Balentien, who really shouldn't be on this team if Yuniesky Betancourt is gone too. That said, this game marked his first start since July 8th against Baltimore. It's no secret that Ryan Langerhans is getting the bulk of the playing time nowadays. Balentien plain failed to take the bull by the horns after he basically had the starting leftfield job served to him on a silver platter because of the Endy Chavez injury. Balentien went 0-for-3 with a walk in this game, but made his presence known defensively. The game was scoreless in the bottom of the second when Balentien gunned down Victor Martinez trying to stretch a single into a double (it wasn't close and Martinez is a catcher, but he still had to hit the target with the throw). Additionally, on a night where extreme flyball pitcher Washburn threw, Balentien caught eight of the 15 flyouts off Cleveland bats. Balentien was a busy man in leftfield, and it's a credit to him that there weren't any adventures out there.
Someone's got to wear the goat horns every night, and on this night it's going to be Jungle Jack Hannahan. Though he's not the zookeeper at the Cincinnati Zoo, Hannahan has been a bit of a zoo at the plate for the Mariners. I think maybe we've had the memory of his double from his Mariner debut etched into our memories, and he's pretty much rode that for the past week. Okay, I'll give him that semi-collision play with Victor Martinez when he scored the run on Friday night. Point is, that double in his Mariner debut has held up as Hannahan's only hit as a Mariner. He's 1-for-13 in four games with the Seattle Mariners. We heard about his count-working tendencies as soon as he got to the team, and he saw 17 pitches in four at-bats in this game. He had four plate appearances on Friday night and saw 22 pitches. The 11th and 12th were his other two games as a Mariner, and he saw 17 pitches in each of those games. Hopefully this Hannahan move eventually pays off with actual offense. If it doesn't, I'd rather have Chris Woodward or even Chris Shelton and his defensive adventures out there.
Looks like a day for Bedardation. Also a day for Chris Shelton to spell Branyan and his creaky back at first base.