Saturday, August 01, 2009
The Mariners' sixth loss in eight games sent their record to 53-50 after 103 games. That record is four wins worse than the 2007 pace, but three better than 2006, eight better than 2005, 14 better than 2004, and 15 better than last year. Fifty-three wins is also seven worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002, 10 worse than 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when incurring their 50th loss: 69-50 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001 (they were done losing), 75-50 in 2002, 76-50 in 2003, 32-50 in 2004, 39-50 in 2005, 44-50 in 2006, 63-50 in 2007, and 28-50 last year.
Seattle hitting went 9-for-34 on the night, walking once and striking out five times. They were 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners in all. Franklin Gutierrez doubled and Jose Lopez homered for the only Mariner extra-base hits. Jack Wilson and Lopez had two and three hits, respectively, as the only Mariners with multiple hits. Kenji Johjima, Jack Hannahan, and Michael Saunders were the three hitless Mariner starters on the night. Ichiro went 1-for-4 to vault his hit total to 151 on the season with two months remaining. Two-hundred hits would be a ridiculously easy mark to attain, but he's on pace for 245 hits.
It actually wasn't too bad a night for any Mariner pitcher that wasn't the starter (below). Shawn Kelley threw the sixth inning, mowing down Hank Blalock, Andruw Jones, and Josh Hamilton in order. Kelley threw 12 strikes out of 19 pitches, struck out one, and got a groundout and a flyout. Miguel Batista, unfortunately not moved at the deadline, came out for the seventh and got two quick outs. He then gave up a single to the elder statesman Omar Vizquel and had a full count on Michael Young before the rains came. Note that the time of actual gameplay in this game was eight minutes shorter than the duration of the rain delay. The at-bat finished with Sean White throwing a ball way up and in for ball four, and Batista was charged with that walk. Batista threw 2/3 of an inning, walking one and striking out one. He threw 11 strikes out of 19 pitches and faced four hitters to get two outs. Sean White finished off the seventh and threw the eighth for Seattle. After throwing ball four to Young, White managed to get a flyout from Marlon Byrd. White then got two groundouts and a strikeout in a 1-2-3 eighth. He struck out one in his 1 1/3 inning, throwing eight strikes out of 11 pitches, and facing four hitters to get four outs.
1) Jose Lopez
It took ten innings into the series in Arlington for the Mariners to finally hit a home run. Thus, at that point the Mariners were only being outhomered by a 5-1 margin in the series. At the end of the game, the Rangers were outhomering the Mariners by a 7-1 margin with two games to go. Lopez had his first three-hit game since, well, the Roy Halladay start two days earlier. Lopez went 3-for-4 in the game, driving in three runs, all with two outs. In his last three games, Lopez has gone 7-for-12 with a double and two home runs, bumping the batting average up from .261 to .271 and his slugging percentage up from .426 to .450. Lopez only sat one (and change) game(s) with the back problem, but did pretty well in July where his fellow back-problem comrade, Russell Branyan, had a terrible month. Lopez had a .302 July, with an on-base mark of .327 (three walks, Betancourt rubbed off on him), and a slugging percentage of .519 (could be better, but oh well). That wasn't a horrible way to follow up a .329 June where he slugged .592. Lopez had a not-bad month, but Russell Branyan was the one Mariner praying like hell for the calendar to flip away from the month of July.
2) Jack Wilson
The new Mariners' shortstop collected his first two hits as a Mariner. He collected a one-out single in the second inning flew out to lead off the fifth, singled off Eddie Guardado to lead off the seventh, and grounded back to the mound in the ninth to put the Mariners down to their final out. He nearly pulled off a ridiculous defensive play where I'm not sure how he got a throw away as he appeared to be falling down and have no footing. It'll be fun watching Adrian Beltre and Wilson doing pure defensive nuttery over the final two months of the season. As a Pittsburgh Pirate, Wilson hit .341 in the month of June with an on-base percentage of .368. He doubled seven times and homered twice on his way to a .484 slugging percentage for June. However, he followed that up with an almost Branyanian decline in July, as he's finished with a .206 month with an on-base percentage of .267 and a slugging mark of .279. He doubled twice and homered once for his only extra-base hits of the month. Let's hope he doesn't suffer the standard "I moved from the NL to the AL, so now I have to suck" thing like Adrian Beltre and Jeff Cirillo did.
3) Russell Branyan
Since sitting the whole Toronto series with the back injury, the Mariners' biggest power threat has been moved down one spot in the batting order to third, where he probably should have been all along. That's not to say that having Branyan hit second didn't work. That said, no one on the Mariners was praying like hell for July to end more than Branyan. Branyan hit .317 in May, getting on-base at a .412 clip and slugging .614. He had a bit of decline in June, hitting .265, getting on-base at a .376 clip,. and slugging .590. As for July, it's a forgettable one for Branyan, who hit .159, had a on-base percentage of .262, and slugging .375. Branyan was a .323 hitter on June 2nd, and we all knew that was way too high to maintain. That said, I didn't think his decline would be quite this precipitous. I guess the end result is that his season numbers look a lot more Branyanian than the all-world numbers he had after the first two months of the season. Now he's a .264 hitter with an on-base mark of .363 and a slugging percentage of .544. He's hit 24 homers and driven in 55 runs.
I don't want to necessarily repeat everything from the Garrett Olson paragraph one night earlier, but the Mariners' rotation depth was a hell of a lot better when Vargas and Olson were turning in average starts. It really didn't help that they both went to crap around roughly the same time. Vargas' last start before the All-Star game was a five-inning start against the Orioles in Seattle where he didn't give up any runs. The Mariners deemed him the fifth starter and sent him to Tacoma as the fifth starter wouldn't have to throw again until about a week after the All-Star break. Consequently, they kept Olson up with the big club. Olson made five appearances between July 8th and July 26th (Vargas' big-club appearance gap). He had two very good appearances out of the bullpen, followed by two awful starts and one innings-eating bullpen appearance against Cleveland where he mopped up after the awfulness of Erik Bedard and Chris Jakubauskas. Now that Olson and Vargas have been turning in subpar starts, and now that Jarrod Washburn's gone and Erik Bedard's hurt/crap, the Mariners' rotation is Felix Hernandez and pray for rain. By the way, Vargas threw 50 strikes out of 80 pitches in his five innings of work. he gave up five runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out two. He got seven groundouts and seven strikeouts, and faced 22 hitters to get 15 outs.
There's no better time for a Felix Hernandez start than tonight.
Friday, July 31, 2009
The Mariners' fifth loss in seven games ran their record to 53-49 after 102 games. That's three games worse than the 2007 pace, but four better than 2006, nine better than 2005, 14 better than 2004, and 15 better than last year. Fifty-three wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 20 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records at the 49th loss: 69-49 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001 (they never got to 49), 74-49 in 2002 and 2003, 32-49 in 2004, 39-49 in 2005, 44-49 in 2006, 60-49 in 2007, and 26-49 last year.
Seattle hitting combined for a putride 3-for-30 on the night, walking twice and striking out ten times against no-namer Derek Holland. The only Mariner hits on the night (all singles) were turned in by Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, and Jack Hannahan. The bottom third of the Mariner lineup combined to go 0-for-8 on the night, walking once and striking out four times. Holland had a no-hitter through 4 2/3 innings and a one-hitter through 8 2/3 innings. That's about all you need to know about how the Mariners did on offense in this game. Still, to expect the offense to score runs even when it's clicking is stupid.
It wasn't a good night for the Mariner arms, and it seems like I've been saying that way too much lately. The starting pitcher will be discussed below. That leaves Chris Jakubauskas, who ate the rest of the innings after Garrett Olson was lifted from the game with two on, two out, and Michael Young coming to the plate. Jakubauskas threw a 1-1 pitch for a ball when Rob Johnson caught Omar Vizquel leaning too far off of first base, ending the inning. Though the fourth ended with Young at the plate, Young led off the fifth and tagged Jakubauskas nonetheless with a home run to make it 5-0 for Texas. Marlon Byrd followed up with a single, but Jakubauskas got a fly ball and a double play to end the fifth. Jakubauskas weathered a leadoff walk and a Hannahan error to escape the sixth unscathed. He allowed a one-out single to Young before Byrd followed up with a homer to cap the Rangers' scoring, making it 7-0. He allowed a Hank Blalock single, but got a double-play ball to end that threat. He then threw a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Jakubauskas threw three runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out one. He threw 37 strikes out of 62 pitches, got seven groundouts and four flyouts, and faced 17 hitters to get 13 outs.
1) Jose Lopez
Selecting gameballs for this game was a really tough job. Mariner pitching was pretty awful, and the offense did virtually nothing until the ninth inning, so for tonight this is a pretty rough one. Usually I never have this much trouble picking gameballs. Anyway, the first one goes to Lopez, who had the only Seattle RBI of the game. With two out in the ninth, Lopez came up with two on and two out right after Warner Madrigal came into the game and managed to get a single to plate Ichiro from second. Just like that, it was 7-1 for the Mariners, and Derek Holland was surely a bit miffed in the dugout seeing one of his runners cross the plate. Even as a Mariner fan, knowing the team was going to lose anyway, I wish Ron Washington would have left Holland in to try to finish the game, 118 pitches be damned. I don't think it would have taken more than about eight pitches to get Lopez out. In related news, after a few years of being paired with Yuniesky Betancourt and a few weeks of being paired with Ronny Cedeno, Lopez now has to get to the positioning and fielding nuances of Jack Wilson in the middle infield.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
Did I mention it was a rough night to select gameballs? With Ichiro on first and two out in the ninth, Gutierrez singled to move Ichiro to second. Gutierrez is now hitting .296 on the season. The only time Gutierrez has gone hitless in consecutive games since June 14th was when he went hitless on July 21st and 24th, but that's a bit flimsy since he ran into the wall in Detroit on the 21st and only got one at-bat in that game. June 13th and 14th in Colorado marked the last time Gutierrez got a full game's worth of at-bats in consecutive games and went hitless both times. Since then, Gutierrez has gone 50-for-141 (.355) with six doubles and nine home runs (slugging .589) over a span of 37 games. In a game where nothing really happened, I guess I can only fill the rest of this paragraph with lavish praise for Gutierrez. He hasn't homered since the Mariners were in Cleveland. At that point, I thought he might have an outside shot at a 20-homer season, but now I'd have to say it looks like the target might be more like 15 or 16. Oops, that wasn't lavish praise. That's the kind of night it was in Arlington.
3) Rob Johnson
Here's how bad the game was. Rob Johnson was hitless, but he snuck into the gameball section. Why? Well, Jack Hannahan was the remaining Mariner that had a base hit, but he threw into the runner at first trying to complete a double play (i.e., error). Johnson went hitless, but he did draw a walk, and he did manage to make a Kenji Johjima-like pickoff of Omar Vizquel at first base to end the fifth inning. Part of me wants to be happy that Johnson has that kind of arm, part of me wants to discount the play because it's Vizquel, but still part of me wants to tell Johnson to take it easy on the old man. Most of us remember Little O as a Mariner, the defensive wiz that he was. Most of us remember the barehand play for the final out of Chris Bosio's no-hitter. The only thing that ticks me off about Vizquel is that he couldn't hit for crap as a Mariner, then he went to Cleveland and turned into an awesome hitter. That really chapped my hide. Of course, Alex Rodriguez was waiting in the wings, so I can only be so mad at this whole thing. I also remember bitching a lot about Dan Wilson back in the day because he was a good glove/good receiver/no bat catcher, but he hit about .220 or .230 at his worst. Rob Johnson's hitting .209 on the season.
Does everyone remember how great the Mariners' rotation looked not even three or four weeks ago? It had Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn at the top, just dominating. It had Erik Bedard, who looked to be getting healthy and had a few okay starts. Then there was Jason Vargas, who stepped in and had some very good starts. Then there was Olson, who did some spot starts with some bullpen appearances thrown in there too. After the All-Star break, it's like a switch was flipped or something. He started twice coming out of the break and was absolutely awful. For him, it was two straight awful starts and his third awful outing in his last five starts. On this night, the Texas hitters had Olson absolutely solved. There were no cheap hits. Just look at his line -- he gave up six hits and three of them went over the wall. He's been a flyball pitcher this season, and if you mix that with Arlington, it's just a bad situation. You figure the Mariners might have had a decent chance to win, but there are nights where the offense is going to make some no-name look like Christy Mathewson out there. This was one of those nights. In the scope of the whole rotation, though...how is it now? You have Felix, you might not have Washburn in a few hours, you have a dinged-up Bedard, you have Rowland-Smith, and you have nobody seeming to want to take that fifth spot, unless Ian Snell has a great next start or two with Tacoma. If you're trying to win with pitching and defense and you lose the pitching, and there's no semblance of offense, it's not a recipe for winning.
Looks like Vargas. Hope it turns out better than last time.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
With the Mariners' second straight win, they have run their record to 53-48 after 101 games. This record is two games off the pace of 2007, but four wins better than 2006, nine better than 2005, 14 better than 2004, and 15 better than last year. Fifty-three wins is also five worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002 and 2003, and 19 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when collecting their 53rd win: 53-37 in 2000, 53-16 in 2001, 53-31 in 2002, 53-28 in 2003, 53-89 in 2004, 53-69 in 2005, 53-54 in 2006, 53-39 in 2007, and 53-83 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 11-for-35 on the day, walking zero times and striking out six times. The team went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners in all. Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro had two hits apiece while Jose Lopez had a 3-for-4 day. Lopez doubled and homered, and Griffey doubled twice to account for all the Mariners' extra-base hits. Chris Shelton netted a hat trick with three strikeouts on his 1-for-4 night. Since he's not mentioned in the gameballs, Ichiro's 2-for-4 day puts him at 150 hits on the season, and he's on pace for a 248-hit season.
The Mariner arms had a pretty good day. The starter is below, so here's the bullpen. Not even 24 hours after blowing a lead to screw Jarrod Washburn out of a win, Lowe came out for the eighth to hold a 3-2 lead. He got Rod Barajas to strike out on three pitches, got a first-pitch groundout from Jose Bautista, and got a groundout from Marco Scutaro. Lowe threw seven strikes out of eight pitches in his 1-2-3 inning. After getting the entire three-game Cleveland series off because the Mariners never presented any closing chances, Aardsma was put into an out-of-reach game in the first game of this series to get some work, but then held a tie game in the ninth of the second game of the series. Working on his third straight day, Aardsma didn't implode like he did in Anaheim. He allowed a leadoff walk to make things dicey, but then got strikeouts from Adam Lind and Scott Rolen, then got a groundball from Alex Rios to third for a 5-4 forceout of Hill at second to end the game. Aardsma threw 11 strikes out of 20 pitches and faced four hitters to get three outs.
1) Ryan Rowland-Smith
I don't know how any Mariner fan could be anything less than pleased with the way this Aussie has thrown since being called back to the big club. He might not have come back as soon as everyone thought he would, but now that he's back, he's notched back-to-back seven-inning starts that both been good starts. Much like the last start where he was twice bitten by the long ball, Rowland-Smith lost a one-run lead and found himself a run behind thanks to one hanging breaking ball. That's getting bitten by the homer, though it's also the Mariner offense not giving him more than one run with which to work. Rowland-Smith went up against Roy Halladay and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, for goodness' sake. The only Toronto baserunner in the first six innings was Kevin Millar getting aboard by being hit with a pitch to start the third. Unfortunately, Aaron Hill led off the seventh with a single to break up the no-hitter, and three pitches later, Adam Lind crushed that hanging breaking ball into some deep seats just to the right of the hitters' backdrop. In a short span of time, the no-hitter disappeared, the shutout disappeared, and the Mariners found themselves behind. Luckily the offense picked him up after the stretch. Rowland-Smith gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out four. He threw 60 strikes out of 89 pitches and got three groundouts to 14 flyouts (whoa). The Aussie faced 25 hitters to get 21 outs.
2) Ken Griffey Jr.
On July 29th, the Mariners' lefthanded designated hitter doubled his July RBI total with one swing of the bat. It had been a while since Griffey had chimed in with a big hit to remind us of his existence, but the opportunity presented itself on a blazing hot afternoon at Safeco Field, and Junior delivered. He was 2-for-4 on the day. He doubled to follow up the Jose Lopez homer in the fifth, but there were already two outs. His other hit was the game-winner in the seventh. Griffey had the bases loaded with one out and the Mariners down 2-1. Lately, Griffey's had some pretty iffy at-bats where he either looks overmatched or even when he looks to have put a good lickin' on a ball, it ends up not going far at all. Griffey got just enough of that pitch from Halladay to send it just inside the line in the rightfield corner, netting himself a double (yes, even him) and netting the Mariners two runs on the play as Michael Saunders and Ichiro scored to make it 3-2. Griffey's now a .215 hitter. I made the mistake of checking an Atlanta boxscore to see what kind of batting average Garret Anderson had. All I'll say is if you're a Mariner fan, you might not want to check an Atlanta boxscore to seek out that information about Garret Anderson.
3) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman shook off the sore back and got the start one day after doing the pinch-hitting thing. Lopez went 3-for-4 despite playing this game under the blazing sun. He started the day off with a two-out double in the first. He grounded out with Ichiro on second and one out in the third. Then came the fifth. Lopez worked a 1-2 count full and then dropped the barrel on a pitch, sending it to the back of the visitors' bullpen and putting the Mariners up 1-0. With one out in the seventh, Lopez singled to load the bases. The 3-for-4 day from Lopez bumped his batting average up to .266 on the season, his on-base percentage to .295, and his slugging percentage to .440. The home run was the first one for Lopez since July 8th at home against the Orioles. Lopez was only a triple away from the cycle in this game, but I'm not sure I ever want to see him trying to leg out a triple. It's good to have Lopez and his offensive pop back into the lineup. Now if Russell Branyan returns and doesn't get traded, the Mariner lineup will be almost all the way back healthy.
The goat was between Johjima and Franklin Gutierrez, and maybe Chris Shelton if you hated his three strikeouts badly enough. The deciding factor here was definitely Johjima's getting thrown out at the plate. In the second in a scoreless game, Johjima was hit with a pitch to get aboard. Jack Hannahan half-evaded Kevin Millar's tag while running down the first-base line, moving Johjima to second. Chris Woodward drove a 3-1 pitch into left for a single, and Jose Bautista had the ball as Johjima was rounding third base. I can't put this all on Johjima because third-base coach Bruce Hines was absolutely waving him to the plate, but that play at the plate wasn't even close. The throw home beat Johjima by at least five feet. I do have to sympathize with the opinion of "they're facing Halladay, so they'd better try to score any chance they have rather than hold runners or throw them out." For all his faults with handling pitchers, Johjima is still a .265 hitter this season in limited action. If Johjima can be something slightly above worthless, that'd make the big money he's due a little easier to swallow.
Looks like it's Garrett Olson to take back his spot in the starting rotation. Hopefully there won't be a lot of fly balls in Texas...
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The win snapped the Mariners' losing streak at four games and moved them to a 52-48 record after 100 games. The pace is two wins worse than the 2007 team, but four better than 2006, eight better than 2005, and 14 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-two wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 20 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting the 52nd win: 52-36 in 2000, 52-14 in 2001, 52-30 in 2002, 52-26 in 2003, 52-87 in 2004, 52-67 in 2005, 52-53 in 2006, 52-38 in 2007, and 52-83 last year. Interestingly, in both of the previous two seasons, the Mariners were involved in seven-game losing streaks at the 100-game mark.
Seattle hitting went a combined 9-for-33 on the night, walking three times and striking out ten times. They were 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. Ichiro and Jack Hannahan collected three hits apiece. Chris Shelton's double accounted for the Mariners' only extra-base hit, their first since Mike Sweeney's double off Cliff Lee on Sunday afternoon. Chris Woodward went 1-for-3 with a walk, so he got aboard twice, so that deserves some mention. Since I didn't choose him in the goat paragraph, I'll note that Ronny Cedeno has proven to be completely worthless and has extended his slump to a torrid 0-for-26. Cedeno's last hit was a sixth-inning single in Detroit on July 21st (the Magglio Ordonez grand slam game). Thanks to this slump, Cedeno has turned a horrid .193 batting average into an even more horrid .167 average. If this guy is starting for any Major League team after the trade deadline, something's wrong. This guy doesn't deserve a Major League job, and he's not part of the future, so cut bait already. Did I mention that Yuniesky Betancourt, for all his faults, was hitting .250 on the season before being traded? Cedeno's hitting .167. Awful.
Mariner arms did what they could despite getting squeezed by the home plate umpire all night, and they did fairly well considering the small strike zone. Since two of the three pitchers are in the entries below, that leaves David Aardsma, who tried to keep the game tied at 3-3 in the ninth. The Kazuhiro Sasaki days have me preconditioned to expect closers to suck horribly when placed in non-save situations. After allowing a leadoff single and having the runner bunted over to second, Aardsma buckled down and got air outs from both Adam lind and Marco Scutaro. He gave up one hit in one shutout inning, throwing 11 strikes out of 19 pitches. He faced four hitters to get three outs.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 3-for-4 with a walk and the game-winning RBI. He beat out an infield grounder to lead off the first, struck out on a 1-2 pitch to start the third, led off the sixth with a walk, led off the eighth with a single, and in the ninth fished for an 0-2 breaking ball before it touched the ground, serving it into shallow centerfield to push Rob Johnson across the plate for the win. With the game tied 3-3 in the ninth, the Mariners very nearly failed to score despite having the bases loaded and nobody out. Jose Lopez pinch-hit for Michael Saunders and grounded to third to force out Hannahan at the plate, then Ronny Cedeno swung at all three pitches he saw, fouling off one and missing the other two for a strikeout before Ichiro came to the plate to save the day. Ichiro's three hits pushed him to 148 on the season, putting him on pace for a 248-hit season. Ichiro missed eight games to start the season. If he had those extra 32 at-bats (estimate) and still carried the same .366 batting average, Ichiro would have 11 or 12 hits, which would put him on pace for 259 or 260 hits. Both of those numbers would again surpass George Sisler's 257-hit season and would fall short of Ichiro's 262-hit monster 2004 season.
2) Jack Hannahan
The Mariners' stopgap third baseman tried to make up for some recent not-so-good offense by going 3-for-4, his first three-hit game as a Mariner. Hannahan is now 10-for-40 as a Mariner with two doubles, two home runs, and four RBIs. He's also walked four times and struck out 11 times. Hannahan singled to lead off the second, struck out swinging for the second out in the fourth, singled on a 1-2 pitch with two runners in scoring position to score Sweeney and make it 3-0 in the sixth and chase Mark Rzepczynski, and singled to lead off the ninth. Defensively, Hannahan's been sufficient. There were a couple of balls that ate him up in the first game of the series, and there are some balls that he can't get to and you can't help but think, "crap, Beltre can field that ball in his sleep," but chances are that Chris Woodward or Russell Branyan or Jose Lopez wouldn't be getting to those balls either, so the Mariners could be doing a lot worth than having Hannahan manning the hot corner. As long as Hannahan isn't Cedeno-awful at the plate, he's passable.
3) Jarrod Washburn
It might have been his final start in a Mariner uniform, but he did quite well. He especially did well considering he was getting absolutely squeezed by the home plate umpire, thus making the three walks in his line a bit misleading. Washburn had a shutout going into the seventh, when home plate and the strike zone magically shrunk. Scott Rolen and Alex Rios started the inning off with singles, but then Kevin Millar turned a 1-2 count into a walk. Jose Bautista then hit a fly ball long enough to score Rolen from third, and then Raul Chavez worked a 1-2 count full before flying out on a running-in catch by Michael Saunders. Millar and Chavez probably would have struck out looking with a decent umpire behind the plate. Washburn gave up one run on five hits (zero extra-base hits), walking three and striking out one. He threw 59 strikes out of 102 pitches (again, the umpire) and got six groundouts to 13 flyouts (vintage Washburn). He faced 27 hitters to get 21 outs. It's just really too bad he couldn't get the win, but that's more an indictment on Mark Lowe on this night than anything. On quite a few other nights, it's been the offense that's screwed Washburn out of wins, but it's Lowe this time.
The hard-throwing late-inning man came out of the bullpen for the eighth trying to protect a 3-1 lead. Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill started the inning with doubles, with Scutaro scoring on the Hill double to make it 3-2 for the Mariners. Lowe then got Vernon Wells and Scott Rolen to fly out, but then Alex(is) Rios took an up-and-in pitch and nearly hit the third-base umpire with it, doubling down the leftfield line to score Hill and tie the game. Luckily Lowe got Lyle Overbay swinging to end the inning. The two runs have put Lowe's earned-run total up to five in the month of July, giving him a July ERA of 3.86. His season ERA is at 3.42 and its badassery is largely due to a 14-outing span from May 26th to July 2nd where he gave up zero earned runs. Lowe gave up two runs on three hits (all doubles, Toronto's only extra-base hits of the game), walking none and striking out one. Lowe threw 11 strikes on 19 pitches and faced six hitters to get three outs. In short, Lowe's here because he screwed Jarrod Washburn out of a win.
Looks like it'll be Ryan Rowland-Smith pitching under the blazing sun today. It won't look good for the Mariners unless Roy Halladay is traded before game time.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The Mariners' fourth straight loss dropped their record to 51-48 after 99 games. This pace is three wins worse than 2007, but three better than 2006, eight worse than 2005, and 13 worse than 2004 and last year. Fifty-one wins is also seven wins worse than the 2000 pace, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Other post-millennium Mariner teams' records after their 48th loss: 69-48 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001 (they were good), 74-48 in 2002, 73-48 in 2003, 32-48 in 2004, 35-48 in 2005, 44-48 in 2006, 60-48 in 2007, and 26-48 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 12-for-37 on the night (12 singles), walking twice and striking out seven times. They also were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners as a team. Chris Shelton and Rob Johnson had two hits apiece while Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez had three hits apiece. Gutierrez has extended his crazy 34-game tear to 48-for-130 (.369) with six doubles and nine homers (slugging .623), driving in 26 runs. Since coming back from the neck injury, Gutierrez has gone 6-for-15 with six RBIs and no extra-base hits. The truly amazing thing, though, is that Gutierrez finished the night as a .300 hitter on the season. It was one thing when he was a .300 hitter on May 6th, but it's quite another thing on July 27th. As for the badness in the lineup, Ronny Cedeno went 0-for-4 to put himself into an 0-for-22 slump. Adrian Beltre can't come back soon enough for the Mariners as Jack Hannahan appears to be hitting like the man playing to his immediate left on the diamond. Hannahan was a .193 hitter on the season before he became a Mariner, and he's been a .194 hitter since.
Mariner pitching proved to be another night of ugh. The starting pitcher's paragraph is the goat entry. Of course, since Felix is awesome, he still manages to get into the sixth inning in an awful outing, and he really should have gotten out of the sixth if not for some horrible luck. Sean White came into the sixth with two out and runners on the corners, and ended the inning with an Aaron Hill 5-4 fielder's choice. White had to work around an ungodly error by Gutierrez in centerfield, who had a sure catch in front of the 405-foot marker in centerfield, but just plum had the ball go off the glove, which was pretty much a microcosm of the entire night. Adam Lind hit the error fly ball and ended up on third base. Lind scored two pitches later on a Scott Rolen sufficiently deep fly ball. White gave up a crushed double by Vernon Wells, but got out of the rest of the inning unscathed. White got roughed up in the eighth, giving up singles to Rod Barajas and Joe Inglett to start the inning. One out later, Hill walked to load the bases. With Lind at the plate, Rob Johnson whiffed with his glove on a pitch, and it went to the backstop to move everyone up 90 feet and make it 9-4. Lind hit a deep fly ball to score Inglett and make it 10-4. Rolen followed that up with an RBI double before the inning ended. White gave up four runs (three earned) in 2 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out none. He threw 28 strikes out of 46 pitches, getting two groundouts and five flyouts. He faced 13 hitters to get seven outs. David Aardsma got his first work of the homestand, allowing only a leadoff walk in the ninth.
1) Chris Shelton
With regular first baseman Russell Branyan taking the night off to rest a sore back, Shelton seized the opportunity when tossed into the field at first base and slotted into fourth in the lineup. Trying to make up for lost time when he should have already been called up anyway, Shelton went 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs. With two runners in scoring position and one out in the first, Shelton hit a grounder to short that scored Ichiro from third to tie the game at 1-1. In the fourth, Shelton followed up Ken Griffey Jr.'s leadoff single with a single of his own. The Mariners tied the score at 2-2 by the end of that inning. With runners on first and second with two out in the fifth, Shelton tagged a single to left to score Ichiro and put the Mariners into a 4-3 lead. That marked the end of happy times for the Mariners in this game. In the seventh, Shelton had Ichiro on first with two out and drew a walk. If there were no sentimental value involved, I'd gladly toss away the Griffey/Mike Sweeney designated hitter platoon for a Shelton/Jeff Clement platoon.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder just keeps going and going. A 3-for-5 night puts Ichiro at 145 hits for the season and puts him on pace to end the season with 245 hits. Again, it makes him a virtual lock to get to 200 hits for the ninth straight season and a lock to collect his 2000th Major League hit. Ichir led off the first with a single, flew out with one out in the third, singled with Michael Saunders on first with one out in the fifth, singled to lead off the seventh, and flew out to left for the second out of the ninth. Ichiro wasn't doing so hot earlier in July, but his current angry five-game hitting streak has seen him go 10-for-22 with a double, raising his batting average from .357 to its current .363 mark. It's too bad the team hasn't followed suit after Ichiro's hitting in the last five games. Ichiro is now hitting .330 for July, still a shade off from his .377 May and his unreal .407 June. Time goes on, and this is Ichiro's ninth year as a Mariner, but it's still a joy to get to watch this guy play every night.
3) Rob Johnson
I weighed the fact that Johnson doesn't have a lot of offensive games like this despite his one passed ball versus Gutierrez's three-hit game despite his awful error in the seventh. I figured I had to pick one of those guys, and I went with Johnson, who went 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Johnson singled to lead off the second, singled to score Griffey in the fourth to tie the game at 2-2, walked to lead off the sixth, and grounded out to lead off the eighth. That's a lot of times for Johnson to be leading off innings at the plate. For the record, it was Jack Hannahan and his 0-for-4 with seven in the LOB column that hit in the fifth spot ahead of Johnson in this game. After while, I get a bit tired of having the fact that Johnson can call a good game getting shoved down my throat. I get it already. It didn't help in this game, but that's beside the point. I can only care so much about a good game being called when your lineup spot is being completely punted away. For much of the year, that has been Rob Johnson. On this night, it wasn't.
This is the third straight game I've had the starting pitcher as the goat. Coming in with a 10-2 record when starting after a Mariner loss, the Blue Jays found Hernandez to be very hittable. This of course means Felix was off. He struck out only two Toronto hitters on the night, his lowest total of any start this season, with his previous low being three strikeouts in that fateful game against the Angels were Don Wakamatsu had a sit-down with him after the game. Felix just wasn't missing any bats with his pitches. He hadn't given up two homers in a game since two bad starts that began the month of May, starts in which he gave up two homers apiece. Based purely on runs given up, this was Felix's worst start of the season. The worst thing about it is that the bullpen is completely screwed for the next four days unless Jarrod Washburn throws seven or eight innings tonight. If Washburn's not with the team, the bullpen's screwed for the next four days. Felix gave up seven runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings of work, walking one and striking out two. He threw 65 strikes out of 103 pitches and got eight groundouts with five flyouts. He faced 28 hitters to get 17 outs.
So it's still Washburn throwing tonight, right? Riiiiight?
Monday, July 27, 2009
The Mariners' third straight loss dropped their season record to 51-47 after 98 games. This pace is three games worse than 2007, but four better than 2006, eight better than 2005, and 13 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-one wins is also seven worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 20 worse than 2001. Other post-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting their 47th loss: 67-47 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001 (they never lost a 47th game), 73-47 in 2002, 71-47 in 2003, 32-47 in 2004, 35-47 in 2005, 44-47 in 2006, 58-47 in 2007, and 25-47 last year. I should note that the 2007 Mariners at this point had lost their fifth straight en route to a seven-game losing streak. It put a damper on their season, but the true death knell was when they lost 15 of 17 to close out August and start September.
Seattle hitting went a combined 9-for-35 on the day, walking once and striking out seven times. Mike Sweeney hit a double for the Mariners' only extra-base hit. Ichiro and Michael Saunders had two hits apiece. Sweeney's 1-for-3 day bumped him to .254 on the year, which isn't bad considering he plays once every three or four days. Russell Branyan went 0-for-4, further accentuating his tumble into the abyss in the form of a .153 month of July. Furthermore, Ronny Cedeno officially sucks again. Cedeno stranded four runners on the day, going 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-4 overall. The Mariners' starting shortstop is in the middle of an 0-for-18 slump and is on a five-game hitless streak. Yuniesky Betancourt never had a hitless streak of over four games as a Mariner this season. For all his hacktastic ways, he also managed to hit .250, which is better than Cedeno's .174. Cedeno's given the Mariners .000 in the last five games. Something has to be done about this. Ichiro may be a shade off this month, and Branyan may be terrible too, but they'll be given the chance to hit their way out of their slumps. Cedeno's not going to give you much better than this anyway, so what's your move, Jack Zduriencik?
It was not a banner day for the Mariner arms, and it wasn't a banner series unless the banner was tattered and littered with graffiti. I picked the starter as the goat, so here comes the bullpen. Shawn Kelley came into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out and with the Indians leading 3-2. Three pitches later, Jhonny Peralta blasted off for a grand slam, virtually ending the game in the fifth inning. Travis Hafner and Ben Francisco followed up with consecutive singles before Kelley got a double-play ball from Jamey Carroll. Kelley still needed a third out, but walked Kelly Shoppach and allowed a Grady Sizemore single before he could get the third out. It was 3-2 when Kelley came into the game, and it was 8-2 when Kelley got the third out of the inning. Kelley gave up two runs on four hits, walking one and striking out one. He threw 16 strikes out of 29 pitches and faced seven hitters to get three outs. Miguel Batista then came in to lay his second egg in three games. This time Batista managed to stretch it out to two innings. A Shin-Soo Choo leadoff double started the sixth, and Choo scored on a two-out homer by Hafner that made it 10-2. Ben Francisco homered two pitches later, making it 11-2 and bringing the cascade of boos raining from the crowd. Amazingly, Batista threw a shutout seventh, allowing an Asdrubal Cabrera single and a Choo walk with two out, but they were harmless. Batista gave up three runs on four hits in two innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 24 strikes out of 42 pitches and faced 11 hitters to get six outs. Sean White threw the eighth and gave up a leadoff Luis Valbuena triple, and he scored on a Hafner fly ball. White gave up the one run on one hit, getting two flyouts and a strikeout, and throwing 10 strikes out of 15 pitches, facing four hitters to get three outs. Mark Lowe threw the ninth, weathering a leadoff walk and a bad double-play throw to second by Branyan. Lowe threw a no-hit shutout ninth, walking one hitter. He threw 12 strikes out of 21 pitches and faced five hitters to get three outs.
To sum the bullpen paragraph, only Mark Lowe did his job out of all the Mariner arms that threw in the game.
1) Michael Saunders
The newest Mariner got his first two Major League hits in this game as well as his first Major League run batted in. His first hit came on an 0-2 pitch with two out in the seventh inning. His next hit was a two-out single in the ninth that scored Sweeney from third base to cut the Cleveland lead to 12-3. Okay, so his two hits came well after the game was out of doubt. The fifth inning rendered anything after it virtually meaningless...unless you grabbed your first Major League hit and first Major League RBI, which Saunders did. People in Victoria, BC, cheered the news, then probably went back and pondered whether the BC Lions should make a quarterback change. All told, Saunders bumped Wladimir Balentien off the team, and given that I thought if the Mariners traded Yuniesky Betancourt because he was maligned, then Balentien couldn't have been far behind. That said, I think Saunders is going to get more playing time than Balentien had gotten since the addition of Ryan Langerhans to the team. If Langerhans continues hitting .228 as a Mariner, I'd say the split of leftfield playing time could be 55/45 for Langerhans, but only due to experience. That should go out the window after the deadline, if you ask me.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 5-for-13 in the series with a double. He crossed the plate exactly once, and that was in the completely meaningless ninth inning on Saturday. You know, the one where the Mariners snapped a 20-inning scoreless drought and trailed 10-0 going into the ninth? Yeah, that one. The Mariners managed to hang in there earlier in the month when Ichiro was a couple shades lower than torrid, but now that Ichiro might be finding the stroke again, the rest of the team's hitting doesn't seem to be following suit. Sure, the hitting can only do so much when the pitchers give up 31 runs in a three-game series, but the last time the Mariners scored four or more runs (let's say that gives you a decent chance to win every night) was in the first game of the Detroit series, where they scored seven runs and lost (thanks, Garrett Olson). The offense has scored ten runs over the last five games. I know the pitching staff has made a mockery of their miniscule margin for error these last three games, but the offense really isn't helping out. Oh, this is an Ichiro paragraph? He's at 142 hits on the season and is on pace for a 243-hit season.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
He only had one hit in this game, so his batting average did take a small drop, but the one hit was a two-run single in the first that put the Mariners ahead 2-1. That lead lasted all the way to the fourth inning, so that's something to build on for the Mariners. The two runs were the only Mariner runs until the RBI single by Saunders in the ninth. Let's calculate the crazy stretch again for Gutierrez. In his last 33 games, he's gone 45-for-125 (.360) with six doubles and nine homers (slugging .624), and he's driven in 25 runs. As for July itself, he's had a 16-RBI month and is hitting .365 and slugging .608 with three doubles and five homers. I don't think there's any way this guy can hit over .300 for August. If he tails off, then someone else in the lineup will have to pick up the slack. Goodness knows who that'll be. I'd like to say Branyan, but I'm not even sure the guy will still be on the team in August. Maybe it's just the pessimist in me, but I keep waiting for the league to learn how to pitch to Gutierrez. At some point, he's going to have a dropoff. If he somehow finished the season as a .300 hitter, I don't think there's any way we can expect him to follow it up with another .300 season. I'd gladly take .270, though.
The serviceable lefthander was brought up from Tacoma to make the start, and the corresponding move had Erik Bedard being thrown back onto the disabled list. Little did we know Bedard's tattered shell of an arm would haunt the Mariners from beyond the shelf. If you just read off Vargas' line for the game, it reads like a bad Bedard start, except Vargas only walked one guy and only struck out two hitters. Other than that, 51 strikes out of 86 pitches in four innings looks pretty Bedardy to me. A look at the ESPN.com play-by-play says that Vargas threw 33 pitches in the first inning, but really was unscathed apart from the Sizemore leadoff homer. He hit Kelly Shoppach with a pitch with two out in the second, but then threw a 1-2-3 third. He allowed a two-out double by Carroll and a single by Ben Francisco that tied the game at 2-2. That set up the carnage of the fifth. Sizemore led off with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Cabrera bunted back to the mound, but Vargas thought he had a play at third on the fleet-footed Sizemore, which he didn't. His throw to third was well late, and instead of a runner at third with one out, there were runners on the corners with nobody out. Choo singled to score Sizemore and move Cabrera to second and make it 3-2. Garko took a ball to the body to load the bases with nobody out, spelling the end of Vargas' day. Kelley added the fuel to the fire by giving up a grand slam to the next hitter, Peralta, to set Vargas' ERA ablaze. Vargas gave up six runs on seven hits in four-plus innings, walking one and striking out two. He faced 22 hitters to get 12 outs and got five groundouts and five flyouts.
Too bad the pressure on Felix to stop this losing streak will be unreal.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The Mariners lost their second straight to drop their record to 51-46 after 97 games. This pace is three games behind the 2007 pace, but five better than 2006, nine better than 2005, and 13 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-one wins is also six worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 19 worse than 2001. Records of new-millennium Mariner teams at 46 losses -- 62-46 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 72-46 in 2002, 69-46 in 2003, 32-46 in 2004, 33-46 in 2005, 42-46 in 2006, 54-46 in 2007, and 24-46 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 7-for-35 on the day, walking three times and striking out four times. Rob Johnson, Ichiro, and Russell Branyan all doubled to account for the Mariners' extra-base output. Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez had two hits apiece as the only multi-hit Mariners. It looks like the okayness is over for Ronny Cedeno, who is hitless in the last four games. A 19-game semi-tear for Cedeno saw him go 20-for-67 (.299) with three doubles, a triple, and three home runs (slugging .507), but it looks like the Mariners now can designate him for assignment too, as far as I'm concerned. Seems like .193 is as high as Cedeno wanted to go with his batting average.
Now for the Mariner arms, for whom it was really not a good day. The starter and the pitcher who finished the game are addressed below. That leaves Chris Jakubauskas, who had to get the final Cleveland out the night before thanks to Miguel Batista's ineptitude. Turns out Batista had rubbed off on the Lithuanian Laser. Jakubauskas came in to start the fourth. Ryan Garko greeted him with a leadoff single on an 0-2 pitch. Chris Gimenez then homered on his first pitch to stretch a 2-0 lead to 4-0 for Cleveland. Asdrubal Cabrera ran an 0-2 count full before bouncing a double over the wall in centerfield. One out later, a Shin-Soo Choo grounder to short was for naught thanks to Cedeno's high throw to first (he's worthless again!). Singles by Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta followed to make it 6-0 before the inning mercifully ended. Too bad Jakubauskas had to come out for the fifth as well. With one out, Gimenez singled, and one out later, Cabrera went yard to make it 8-0. Jakubauskas nailed Ben Francisco with his next and final pitch, making for a wee bit of spark for a game that needed it. Jakubauskas gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out none. He threw 32 strikes out of 53 pitches, got one groundout to four flyouts, and faced 14 hitters to get five outs (yuck).
1) Franklin Gutierrez
Unfortunately, even for a game like this where the Mariners are way out of it, I still have to pick these gameballs. Luckily a couple of the Mariners actually were hitting. In just his second game since coming back from the stiff neck, Gutierrez went 2-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. Just when I thought he might get his rhythm thrown off for having those couple of days off, the guy's sitting at .296 again for the season. In his last 32 games, he's gone hitless in consecutive games only once, and that's probably just because he was injured after one at-bat in Detroit when he crashed into the scorewall. In his last 32 games, Gutierrez has gone 44-for-121 (.364) with six doubles and nine homers (slugging .636) with 23 RBIs. He's also walked eight times and struck out 24 times. This crazy stretch has raised his season batting average from .251 to .296, his on-base percentage from .324 to .358, and his slugging percentage from .339 to .457. All this in just short of a month and a half. A stiff neck that puts Gutierrez out for a couple days is nothing that will stop him from being awesome and doing awesome things at the plate and in centerfield.
The Mariner leadoff hitter's 2-for-5 day puts him at 140 hits on the season, and he's on pace for a 242-hit season. With the Mariners now 12-8 in the month of July and having an ungodly scoreless streak over the last three games that ended in the ninth inning of this game, I'd have to say that even though the pitching's been very substandard the last couple games, this team could probably be at least two wins better for the month if Ichiro was hitting better than .308 in July and if Branyan was hitting something closer to even .240 in July instead of his current .160. Batting Branyan right behind Ichiro might be Don Wakamatsu's master stroke of the season, but I think the magic might have worn off, and it's probably time to tweak the lineup again. Back to Ichiro, though, it's well known that the offense can go somewhere only if he's getting somewhere, and sometimes Ichiro has awesome nights but the offense wastes his efforts. When Ichiro's just a shade below awesomeness like he has been this month, that sort of has a cascade effect on the rest of the offense.
3) Garrett Olson
Sometimes I have a soft spot in my heart for bullpen guys thath have to come into a game and eat a ton of innings. This is one of those times. It was Olson's first game since being banished back to the bullpen, and he nearly ended up throwing starter-type innings. He came in to finish the fifth after Jakubauskas hit Francisco on the way out. Olson got a groundout to end that threat. Olson got two quick outs to start the sixth, but then Travis Hafner doubled and Garko homered to make it 10-0. Olson held Cleveland scoreless for the rest of the game, a premise that proved to be unattainable up to that point in the game for the Mariners. Olson then faced the next ten hitters and got ten outs thanks to double-play balls in the seventh and ninth. Olson gave up two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 38 strikes out of 61 pitches, getting seven groundouts and three flyouts. Olson faced 15 hitters to get 13 outs. After a night where Ryan Rowland-Smith was the brightest spot in an otherwise horrid game, Olson might have been the brightest spot in this game. It was either him or Michael Saunders nearly hitting one out.
Screw it, I'm done with this. Cut the cord, cut bait, cash it in, whatever. I listened to this game in the car while driving/waiting for a ferry/riding a ferry, and it was just maddening listening to this guy pitch. After Bedard had been yanked, Niehaus said Bedard had, "pretty much pitched himself out of this game." I'm not sure which one of Steve Sandmeyer or Jason Puckett said it on KJR, but they're right when they say that even when Bedard's on top of his game, he's merely the best five-inning pitcher in baseball. With what he consistently puts out on the mound with every start, I think he's good enough definitely to be a fifth starter and probably to be a fourth starter. This team pretty much has him as a third starter, but they need someone who can soak up just a couple more innings so the bullpen's not cashed for when the fourth and fifth starters throw. Even if Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn do their jobs, that still only covers two-fifths of the rotation every time through. Of course, maybe I shouldn't be all miffed about this since the trade deadline is just days away and hopefully this guy is gone and I won't have to worry about how he screws up the rotation. Bedard gave up two runs on two hits in three innings, walking four and striking out six. He threw 47 strikes out of 81 pitches and got two groundouts to one flyout. He faced 15 hitters to get nine outs.
Probably Vargas today to try and prevent the sweep.