Saturday, August 08, 2009
The Mariners' sixth win in 10 games ran their record to 57-52 after 109 games. This pace is three games worse than the 2007 pace, but four better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 16 better than last year, and 17 better than 2004. Fifty-seven wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, 10 worse than 2002, and 22 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when netting win number 57: 57-39 in 2000, 57-21 in 2001, 57-33 in 2002, 57-34 in 2003, 57-94 in 2004, 57-76 in 2005, 57-68 in 2006, 57-46 in 2007, and 57-87 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 9-for-41 on the night, walking twice and striking out nine times. They also went 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. After hitting only two home runs in the last four games, the Mariners erupted for three long balls, their only extra-base hits of the night. Those were turned in by Russell Branyan, Ken Griffey Jr., and Ryan Langerhans. Ichiro went 2-for-5 as the only multi-hit Mariner. Bonus points for Griffey for also drawing a walk along with his home run. Nearly every Mariner starter had a hit in the game. If they'd pulled it off, it would have been the second time in three games that would have happened. The only hitless Mariner starter was Franklin Gutierrez, who managed to walk once, but otherwise turned in an awful night with four strikeouts.
As for Mariner pitching, the bullpen was great. The starter will be mentioned below. Sean White came into the seventh inning after Felix Hernandez walked the first two hitters. A deep fly ball and a ground ball managed to push another run across to put Tampa Bay up 5-1 at that point. White got a Willy Aybar lineout to end that threat. White threw five strikes on 10 pitches but got outs from all three hitters he faced. After the game had gone extra innings tied 5-5, David Aardsma, seemingly rehabbed from the boil on his rump, allowed only a two-out walk in the 10th, but struck out the side, showing no ill effects. Aardsma threw 15 strikes on 23 pitches. Finally, Shawn Kelley came out for the 11th and got the leadoff hitter out before Jason Bartlett demolished a 3-1 pitch and homered to left, making it 6-5 for the Rays. That definitely wasn't the first time in the game where it looked bleak for Seattle. Carl Crawford then singled before Kelley got it together and set down the final two hitters. Kelley threw 11 strikes on 16 pitches. He gave up one run on two hits in his inning of work, walking none and striking out one, and facing five hitters to get three outs.
1) Ryan Langerhans
He's in the number-one spot based solely on his awesomeness-per-time ratio for the night. Mike Sweeney was hit with a pitch in the seventh, and Langerhans ran for him. Since Sweeney had hit for Michael Saunders, Langerhans stayed in and took Saunders' spot in left. Langerhans came up in the bottom of the ninth with two out. He battled in the at-bat to a full count and finally whiffed on the eighth pitch to end the inning. Then came the 11th. Langerhans came up to bat with Gutierrez on second and two out. He got a 2-2 hanging curveball from JP Howell and put a good lickin' on it, sending it into the night. More accurately, that's just into the rightfield seats, but it ended the game with a 7-6 win for the Mariners. I've been thinking most of the past two weeks that Langerhans is basically screwed in terms of playing time due to the youth movement in Seattle. In Langerhans' case, the leftfield at-bats are going mostly to Saunders, and it doesn't help Langerhans that he, like Saunders, hits lefthanded.
2) Mark Lowe
The Mariners' go-to setup man didn't have a lead to hold on to, but after the Mariners tied the game at 5-5, Lowe came in and threw the eighth and ninth innings. More accurately, Lowe threw a perfect eighth and followed it up with a perfect ninth. Mark Lowe threw 12 strikes out of 18 pitches, getting three groundouts to two flyouts. It'd be good for Lowe to get on a hot streak again since he was scored upon in four of his 13 appearances in the month of July. Curiously, even with getting scored upon four times in July, Lowe's season ERA never got higher than 3.49. He's currently at a 3.16 ERA for the season. Though I just pointed out how Lowe got scored upon in July, it was his best month in terms of walk-to-strikeout ratio, as he struck out 12 and walked four. He's following that up so far this month with five more strikeouts and zero walks in three appearances. It's going to be too bad when the Mariners have to let this guy go because his pay day is going to be too big, but I've liked this guy ever since the Mariners brought him up and he had that insane scoreless streak.
The beat goes on and on. For the Mariners' leadoff hitter, it was another night and another two-hit game. Ichiro has gathered exactly two hits per game in every game so far in August (six games). In his current seven-game hitting streak, Ichiro has gone 13-for-34 (.382) with one home run (.471) and four RBIs. Ichiro is now hitting .365 on the season and has now accumulated 163 hits on the season, putting him on pace to finish with 249 hits. Ichiro is now 32 hits away from his 2000th Major League hit and 37 away from his ninth straight 200-hit season, something which has never been achieved in Major League Baseball. Every time I type out the 2000 hits thing, I wonder what it'll take to get Ichiro into the Hall of Fame. Two-thousand hits in itself probably won't be enough, right? I think 2500 plus the stuff he did in Japan definitely will get him into the Hall of Fame. If he manages to stick around in the Major Leagues long enough to get 3000 hits, he's an automatic lead-pipe cinch to get into the Hall of Fame.
Lately in this space I've had to talk about Jason Vargas and Garrett Olson and how it seems like a switch was flipped at the All-Star break. Vargas and Olson have been pretty bad after the All-Star break, and now Vargas has been sent down. While he hasn't completely sucked, Felix Hernandez has lost the radar a bit in his last three starts. On July 27th, Toronto made him look completely hittable, amassing 11 hits and homering twice and chasing Felix in the sixth inning. In his next start, Felix got through seven innings and got the win, but walked four hitters. This time around, Felix got into the seventh, but walked an ungodly six hitters. Granted, his defense wasn't helping him early in the game. The first ball in play of the game was misplayed by Jack Wilson, but Felix escaped the first inning unscathed. Adrian Beltre was eaten up by a grounder in the second inning, and a run scored on the play to tie the game at 1-1. Also in the same inning -- two passed balls by Rob Johnson. When Felix pitches, it seems Johnson always has tons of trouble with the pitches in the dirt, but one of these just went clear off his glove on a normal pitch. Anyway, Pat Burrell clubbed a homer in the fifth that made it 4-1, and White let one of his runners across after he left the game. Felix gave up five runs (three earned) on five hits in six-plus innings, walking six (ugh again) and striking out seven. He threw 70 strikes out of 113 pitches, got seven groundouts to four flyouts, and faced 31 hitters to get 18 outs.
Now we'll see Ian Snell make his Seattle home debut. Hopefully we'll see him lay down the Law, with the result being refracted Rays. Lame? Yes.
Friday, August 07, 2009
This loss dropped the Mariners' record to 56-52 after 108 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but three better than 2006, nine better than 2005, 15 better than last year, and 16 better than 2004. Fifty-six wins is also six worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 22 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting their 52nd loss: 69-52 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 77-52 in 2002, 76-52 in 2003, 32-52 in 2004, 41-52 in 2005, 48-52 in 2006, 66-52 in 2007, and 33-52 last year.
Seattle hitting went 12-for-36 on the night, walking once and striking out four times. The team also went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners. Rob Johnson doubled and Mike Sweeney homered to account for the Mariners' only extra-base hits. Sweeney's homer was his 100th in Kansas City in probably his last game in the city where he spent all or parts of 13 seasons, and he got a nice smattering of applause as a result from the home crowd. Ichiro, Rob Johnson, and Michael Saunders had two hits apiece while Adrian Beltre somehow managed four hits. The Mariners with two hits make for a nice clumpy stat -- the 8-9-1 hitters went 6-for-13 on the night with a double. What do those three hitters and Beltre have in common? Well, they accounted for 10 of the Mariners' 12 hits, but they managed to drive in exactly zero runs. Anyway, Ichiro went 2-for-5 for yet another multi-hit game. The Mariners' leadoff hitter, now hitting .365, is at 161 hits on the year and is now on pace to finish with 248 hits. He is 34 hits away from 2000 Major League hits and 39 away from his ninth straight 200-hit season.
It was a night of isolated badness for Mariner arms. Unfortunately, since I picked the starting pitcher for the goat, all I'm left with to talk about in this paragraph is Chris Jakubauskas' eighth inning. He got Mitch Maier with a leadoff whiff, got a pop to second from Yuniesky Betancourt, and Josh Anderson grounded back to Jakubauskas. Well done, former starter. Jakubauskas threw eight strikes out of 13 pitches in his 1-2-3 inning.
1) Adrian Beltre
In his third game back from the disabled list, the Mariners' third baseman went 4-for-4. As mentioned, with the way things went in this game, Beltre got four hits but drove in zero runs. Also, none of the hits went for extra bases. His last extra-base hit was a double on June 25th in Seattle against the Padres. His last home run came on June 16th in San Diego. Anyway, the beauty of a four-hit night is that Beltre's season batting average jumped from .254 to .264. Hopefully the man gets a nice ovation from the Seattle crowd tonight when they return to El Safe. I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is how low the price would have to go to want Beltre back at third base next season. I don't think there's any way I give him a multi-year deal. What kind of long-term deal could he really get, anyway, since he missed one entire month of the season and wasn't exactly scorching the earth? How about he takes a one-year deal and tries to light the American League on fire before taking another hack at a big free-agent contract?
2) Rob Johnson
I still maintain that if this guy gets two hits in a game, he's pretty much guaranteed his spot in the gameballs. The calendar has flipped over to August and Johnson has gone 7-for-15 with two doubles in four games. Johnson is now a not-completely-horrible .230 on the season. This is a guy who finished June hitting .183 and was hitting .195 on July 7th. Another reason Johnson is in this entry is for throwing out Josh Anderson trying to steal second base in the fourth inning. That helped keep the Mariners sort of within reach at 5-2 before the Royals went on their final pouring-on of Jason Vargas. If you combine his July numbers with his August numbers, he's 21-for-67 (.313) with seven doubles and a home run (slugging .463) and eight RBIs. So with Johnson hitting pretty well for the last month-plus, I'd have to say Kenji Johjima is almost rendered obsolete. The only thing now that Johjima can do that Johnson can't do? Seems to me it's grabbing hold of the odd pitch and driving it over the fence. Johnson's only home run of the year came on July 11th.
3) Michael Saunders
He's been up from the minors for not even two weeks. We've learned that Saunders can make homer-grabbing catches at the wall. After he seemed to be largely worthless at the plate at first, we discovered that Saunders could beat out bunts and infield grounders. Then in the middle game of the series, he discovered the extra-base hit, which in this case was a triple. Okay, so there wasn't really anything new in this game. Saunders went 2-for-4 at the plate with two singles. He's now 10-for-40 on his young Major League career, good for .250. The one triple put the negligible bump in his on-base percentage (.286) and his slugging percentage (.300). Meanwhile, in 20 games as a Mariner, Ryan Langerhans has managed to hit six doubles, a triple, and a home run (slugging .419) while going 15-for-62 (.242). I guess the only problem is that both Langerhans and Saunders are lefthanded bats, so Langerhans seems to be pretty much screwed since they seem to want Saunders the young'un to get the bulk of the playing time. Maybe Chris Woodward would still be on this team if he could hit and if he could hit lefthanded.
While it's pretty admirable that he weathered the awful first inning and still managed to throw seven innings, there aren't many games your team is going to win if you spot the opposition a five-run lead in the first inning. That's just the way it is. It wouldn't have been half bad if five runs was all the Royals were going to score, but then they roughed Vargas up for three more in the fifth inning, and that pretty much put the game out of doubt. The Royals sent all nine of their hitters to the plate in the first inning. After the spaghetti was fed through the machine, the Royals had piled up five runs on five hits. There were two doubles and Billy Butler's massive home run that shorthopped the Royals Hall of Fame well beyond the leftfield wall. How well can a game possibly go if you walk the leadoff hitter on four pitches? Though he got aboard with an out, it wasn't the first time this series that Bloomquist got aboard and Butler clobbered a pitch. Bloomquist was 2-for-12 with a walk and an RBI in the series, further reinforcing my feeling that I'm glad he's gone. Vargas gave up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out none. He threw 65 strikes out of 109 pitches (awful) and got 14 groundouts to six strikeouts. He faced 33 hitters to get 21 outs.
Nothing like opening the homestand with a Felix night. Too bad it's against Tampa Bay.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
While a fifth win in eight games isn't too flattering, it ran the Mariners' record to 56-51 after 107 games. This pace is four games behind the 2007 team, but three better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 16 better than last year, and 17 better than 2004. Fifty-six wins is also six worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting their 56th win: 56-39 in 2000, 56-19 in 2001, 56-33 in 2002, 56-32 in 2003, 56-91 in 2004, 56-75 in 2005, 56-57 in 2006, 56-46 in 2007, and 56-86 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 16-for-42 on the game, walking three times and striking out five times. They also went 9-for-17 (wow) with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. While the Mariners hit zero home runs, doubles were hit by Rob Johnson, Russell Branyan, and Jack Wilson, and a triple was legged out by Michael Saunders (his first extra-base hit at the Major League level). Every Mariner starter got at least one hit. Ichiro, Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, Wilson, and Johnson all had two hits apiece. Jose Lopez singled three times. Ichiro's two hits give him 159 on the season, and he's on pace for 247. He's 36 hits away from 2000 Major League hits and 41 away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. Gutierrez got Sunday's game off and has gone 4-for-10 in this series with a double and an RBI. The first of Jack Wilson's hit was a surprise bunt that got past Kyle Davies and scored Adrian Beltre from third to break a 2-2 tie in the fourth.
One of the Mariner arms is mentioned below. Luke French had a lot of cushion to work with in his later innings, and he pitched just well enough to win. I couldn't ask for much more in a Mariner debut. If anything, French was burned by the long ball as three of the four runs he gave up came via the home run. After Willie Bloomquist singled in the third, Billy Butler clobbered the next pitch out of the yard, tying the game at 2-2. In the fourth, Miguel Olivo led off by hitting a line drive deep into right-center, then lucking a triple out of it because of miscommunication between Gutierrez and Ichiro on the play. Two pitches later, Alex Gordon crushed a home run to pull the Royals to within 8-4. French gave up four runs on nine hits in five innings, walking one and striking out two. He got seven groundouts to six flyouts, and he threw 61 strikes out of 89 pitches. He faced 24 hitters to get 15 outs. Sean White came into the game with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth. He then got a grounder from Mark Teahen to end the inning. White then threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning. White struck out one en route to a perfect 1 1/3 innings of pitching. He threw 10 strikes out of 19 pitches and got one groundout to two flyouts. Garrett Olson continued his flip-the-switch-after-the-breakness, giving up another run and walking two hitters while mopping up the eighth and ninth innings.
1) Russell Branyan
Okay, so he's only been warm for the last couple games. From July 21st to August 2nd (nine games for him), Branyan went 3-for-35 (.086) with one home run (slugging .200) and four RBIs. His batting average went from .278 to .258, his on-base percentage went from .377 to .359, and his slugging percentage went from .570 to .531. Over the last two games, Branyan's gone 4-for-9 with two doubles and five RBIs. The only thing missing now appears to be Branyan showing he can drive the ball, as it appears that hasn't quite returned yet, or at least not in game play. He's probably still blasting off in batting practice. If nothing else, the RBIs in the first two games of this Kansas City series have been pretty important ones. On an interesting note, coming into this game, Branyan had been hit by a pitch in three consecutive games. Thankfully, that's a streak that was broken. What's a bit weird for me with seeing both Branyan and Adrian Beltre back is that Gutierrez has gotten moved back down to sixth in the batting order. I'd gotten so used to seeing him at fifth and seeing him deal with the pressure pretty well and carry some of the mail.
2) Jose Lopez
I very much thought he'd have hung up a hitless game by now. He's on a seven-game hitting streak, matching his longest hitting streak of the season. In the last seven games, Lopez has 16-for-31 (.516) with three doubles and three home runs (slugging .903), driving in 13 RBIs. The streak has bumped his batting average from .261 to .281, his on-base clip from .290 to .309, and his slugging percentage from .426 to .464. Truth be told, Lopez's season average hung around .255 to .265 for most of July. Still, while Branyan's bat was falling off the face of the earth in July, Lopez hit .302 with an on-base mark of .327 and slugged .519. He doubled 11 times and homered four times, ergo, 15 of his 32 hits for the month went for extra bases. In case we forgot, Lopez hit .253 in April and .214 in May, so that's the reason Lopez's season numbers don't look a little better despite a .329 June, a .302 July, and getting 16 hits in a seven-game hitting streak. Also, at 19 homers, Lopez is pretty much a lock for a 20-homer season and thus has an outside shot at a 25-homer season, which wouldn't leave me complaining.
Don't look now, but the Mariner catcher with the best catcher's ERA in the Majors -- that's because he caught Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, and Erik Bedard for most of the year while Kenji Johjima caught the back end of the rotation -- has gone 5-for-11 with a double and a couple of walks in his last three games. He's now a .224 hitter on the season. His rise at the plate almost reminds me of that pseudo-bump that Ronny Cedeno had at the plate for a couple weeks before he started being himself again. Anyway, Johnson finished June hitting .183 on the season. He followed that up with a very respectable .269 mark in July, which managed to surprise the crap out of me. He even tossed in five doubles and a home run in there, and he drove in eight runs. Add his three games in August to the end of July, and he's gone 19-for-63 (.302) with six doubles and a home run (.444). I was sitting here the whole time saying I'd be content with Johnson being anything above worthless at the plate, and .224 on the season is above that point, especially after what we saw Cedeno put up in his time in Seattle.
Even in a game where the Mariners score 11 runs, leave it to good ol' Miguel Batista to chime in and give us something that sucks. Let's go through the anatomy of this Batista outing. He came into the sixth protecting a 10-4 lead. Alex Gordon singled on a 2-1 pitch. Batista got a groundout from Yuniesky Betancourt to move Gordon into scoring position. Batista got ahead 0-2 on Mitch Maier, but needed nine pitches to strike him out. David DeJesus drew a walk on five pitches. You know it's bad when you're giving up singles to Willie Bloomquist, and that's what Batista did, and Gordon scored to make it 10-5. Then, Batista handed out another five-pitch walk, this one to Billy Butler (actually makes sense in this case since Butler's been tagging the ball in this series) to load the bases. That spelled the end of Batista's outing, and Sean White came in to finish the inning. In his last seven outings, Batista has gone 7 2/3 innings, giving up 10 runs on 15 hits, with five home runs in there. He's also walked seven hitters in that span and struck out nine.
It'll be Vargas on the mound, hopefully with a broom in hand.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The Mariners have alternated wins and losses for the last four games, running their record to 55-51 after 106 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but three wins better than the 2006 pace, nine better than 2005, 15 better than last year, and 16 better than 2004. Fifty-five wins is also seven wins worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting win number 55: 55-38 in 2000, 55-19 in 2001, 55-33 in 2002, 55-31 in 2003, 55-90 in 2004, 55-74 in 2005, 55-57 in 2006, 55-46 in 2007, and 55-85 last year.
Seattle hitting went 14-for-41 in the game, walking four times and striking out a whopping 14 times. The Mariners also were 6-for-19 with runners in scoring position and they stranded 12 runners in all. Two hits apiece were turned in by Ichiro, Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, and Jack Wilson. Michael Saunders turned in a three-hit night. Gutierrez, Lopez, Wilson, and Branyan all doubled while Ichiro homered (leadoff). Branyan and Lopez drove in two runs apiece.
It didn't start out as a good night for Mariner pitching. Ryan Rowland-Smith had his first crappy big-league start of the year, blowing two leads before being pulled after four innings of work. He went to the mound in the first with a 1-0 lead and left down 2-1 with runs driven in by a Billy Butler double and a deep flyout by Alberto Callaspo. Rowland-Smith was burned once more in the second when Adrian Beltre threw wide of first base on a bunt by Alex Gordon, and it seemed Jose Lopez took forever to run it down, allowing Miguel Olivo to score from first on the play. Butler touched up Rowland-Smith again to lead off the third, but it was just for a single in an otherwise good inning. With a 4-3 lead in the fourth, Rowland-Smith gave it back and more when Gordon was driven in on Yuniesky Betancourt's triple. Betancourt was subsequently driven in with a sacrifice fly by David DeJesus, and the Royals led 5-4. Rowland-Smith gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits in four innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 47 strikes out of 77 pitches, got six groundouts to three flyouts, and faced 20 hitters to get 12 outs.
Now for the bullpen since that last paragraph was just too long. Shawn Kelley threw the fifth and sixth innings and only blew one lead, that being a 6-5 lead in the sixth, which turned into a 6-6 tie. A leadoff walk was the only blight in the fifth for Kelley. In the sixth, Olivo led off with a single, but one out later the Betancourt monster struck again, this time with a double to tie the score. Kelley gave up a run on two hits in two innings, walking one and striking out one. He threw 20 strikes out of 32 pitches, got one groundout to four flyouts, and faced nine hitters to get six outs. With a 7-6 Mariner lead, Miguel Batista inexplicably threw a 1-2-3 seventh, getting three air outs on 11 pitches. Mark Lowe threw the eighth and allowed a leadoff single before getting outs (two groundouts and a strikeout) from the next three hitters. David Aardsma proved to be a bit aadventurous in the ninth. Mike Jacobs hit a grounder up the middle that Aardsma probably shouldn't have put a glove on, but he did, and the ball slowed too much for Lopez to make a play. One out later, Mark teahen singled to move Jacobs' pinch runner (Mitch Maier) to third as the tying run. Aardsma then fell behind 3-0 and eventually walked Callaspo to load the bases. John Buck then swung at the first pitch and Ichiro ran and slid behind the tarp along the rightfield line to make the final out. Aardsma threw 14 strikes out of 25 pitches, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out one in the ninth. He faced six hitters to get three outs.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter just keeps going and going, and such. He went 2-for-5 with a walk and with the sliding catch for the Royals' 27th and final out of the game. First off, he homered to lead off the game. He then singled in the third inning to put two runners on with nobody out. The Mariners were down 3-1 at that point and had a 4-3 lead by the end of that inning. He got aboard in the fourth on an error. He then walked in the sixth to put two on and nobody out once again. The Mariners were down 5-4 at that point and had a 6-5 lead by the end of that inning. Unfortunately, Ichiro whiffed in his final two at-bats. All in all, Ichiro scored three of the Mariners' seven runs in a game where they needed every run they could get. Ichiro's current four-game hitting streak has him going 9-for-19 with a homer, but I'll bracket it differently. Ichiro's reached base in 11 of the last 12 games and has gone 22-for-38 (.579) with a double and a home run (slugging .684). He's also scored 13 runs, so that's about a run per game. Ichiro's at 157 hits on the season, putting him on a 247-hit pace. He's 38 hits away from 2000 Major League hits and 43 hits away from his ninth 200-hit season.
2) Michael Saunders
Definitely his best game at the plate as a Mariner. He singled to lead off the third and later scored on a Jose Lopez double. At that point, Saunders was done getting normal hits. He bunted for a base hit (he seems to know how to get it past the pitcher) to lead off the sixth and he ended up scoring the tying run in that inning. In the seventh, Jack Wilson got to second on an error to lead off, and Saunders was to bunt him over to third. Saunders bunted toward the third-base side and outran the throw to first by Jamey Wright. Saunders may not have an extra-base hit yet after nine games at the Major League level, but the dude's got some wheels for a 6'4" guy. With the way this guy bunts, it's like the Mariners haven't lost the only good thing that Ronny Cedeno brought to the table. Now if we could just get Saunders to get that pitchers' number off his back, then maybe everything would be kind of right with the world. Anyway, Saunders is 7-for-32 as a Mariner and is still trying to find his sea legs at the plate.
3) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' slugger went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs. He doubled to score Saunders in the sixth to make it 5-5, and he singled in the seventh to score Wilson to account for the final 7-6 margin. They're not home runs yet, but they'll have to do. Branyan has gone eight games without hitting a home run, his longest such drought of the season. Branyan's now hitting .261 on the season, but I'll once again remind people that he was a .323 hitter on June 2nd, a .322 hitter on June 7th, and a .303 hitter on June 30th. The Mariners went 14-13 in the month of July, but how much better could they have been if Branyan would have hit just .220 instead of .159 in July? I know Branyan's been awesome for this team this season, but I'm surprised there hasn't been too much guff going Branyan's way for basically falling off the face of the earth in the month of July. Sure, the Mariners might have won a couple more games in July if Branyan wwas just kinda bad instead of horrible, but that wouldn't have made a difference with the Angels tearing ass out of the All-Star break and going 14-3.
Temptation would be to go with Ryan-Rowland Smith since the falloff of the pitching basically killed the Mariners' playoff hopes, but the Aussie never put the game out of reach, so I can't really give him the goat. Adrian Beltre came off the disabled list to play in his first game since June 28th in Los Angeles. He had the surgery to remove the bone chips from his left shoulder. At the plate, he went 0-for-5 with the hat trick (three strikeouts). In the field, he didn't convert the charging bunt throw that he's made a million times in the past, and he instead threw wide of first base. That play gave the Royals another run and a 3-1 lead in the second inning. Beltre has 56 games left this season to play for whatever free-agent contract he's going to get next year. Part of me wouldn't mind if he returned to the Mariners, but the price has to be right. Since Scott Boras is his agent, and Jack Zduriencik probably doesn't have the same kind of chumminess toward Boras like Bill Bavasi did, I'm guessing the price won't be right. I'll be trying to cherish the awesome third-base defense for the rest of the season.
So it's really going to be French tonight, but I already used the "sacre bleu" line after Sunday's post. Nuts.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
The Mariners' seventh loss in their last 10 games dropped their season record to 54-51 after 105 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 team's pace, but two wins better than 2006, eight better than 2005, 14 better than last year, and 15 better than 2004. Fifty-four wins is also seven worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 22 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting their 51st loss: 69-51 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 75-51 in 2002, 76-51 in 2003, 32-51 in 2004, 41-51 in 2005, 45-51 in 2006, 66-51 in 2007, and 31-51 last year.
Seattle hitting went 6-for-30 on the night, walking twice and striking out eight times. They also went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners in all. In an effort to make Scott Feldman look like Warren Spahn, the Mariners tallied zero extra-base hits in the game. Ichiro and Jose Lopez notched two hits apiece as the only multi-hit Mariner hitters. Every Mariner in the starting lineup struck out exactly once except for Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey made up for it, however, by going 0-for-4 and leaving five runners aboard. Jack Hannahan went 1-for-3 and also walked once, so that reinforces his whole count-working proclivity, at least until Adrian Beltre comes back on Tuesday and banishes him to utilitydom.
Mariner pitching didn't get completely clobbered at all on this night. As a matter of fact, the two teams managed six hits apiece. The problem was that the Mariner offense had zero extra-base hits while Mariner arms allowed four in the form of one double and three home runs. Unsurprisingly, that kind of stuff can break a game, and it definitely did here. Still, if the Mariners aren't going to score more than two runs, they only have a real chance to win 20% of the time (i.e., when Felix Hernandez starts). In this game, Sean White (hilariously listed as Jack White in the initial AP wire article) came in after the seventh inning stretch, spelling Ian Snell. Nelson Cruz singled on White's second pitch. White got a deep fly ball from Josh Hamilton that sent Cruz to second. White's next pitch was rung off the rightfield foul pole by Jarrod Saltalamacchia to break the tie and make it 4-2, which held up as the final margin. With the way the Mariners were hitting, the game was basically over, not to say they didn't put up a bit of a fight in the ninth. White gave up two runs on two hits in his inning, throwing seven strikes out of 13 pitches. He got two groundouts and a flyout and faced five hitters to get three outs. Shawn Kelley faced the second through fifth hitters in the Texas lineup in the eighth, allowing only a two-out single by Marlon Byrd. Kelley threw eight strikes on ten pitches, got one groundout to two flyouts, and faced four hitters to get three outs.
1) Jose Lopez
Make it a five-game hitting streak for the Mariners' second baseman. Lopez singled with two out in the sixth to drive in Michael Saunders and pull the Mariners to within a run at 2-1. He also singled with one on and nobody out in the ninth, moving Russell Branyan to second base. Yes, the Mariners had two on and nobody out in the ninth and failed to score. Lopez's outs include a whiffing strikeout to end the first and a 4-6 fielder's choice for the second out in the fourth. Lopez has gone 12-for-21 (.571) over the last five games with two doubles and three home runs (slugging 1.095), and he's driven in eight runs as well. He's currently a .278 hitter on the season, though he finished at .282 in 2006 and .297 last season (all for naught, sheesh). This is Lopez's fourth year as a regular, and last year had his career highs in pretty much every offensive category. He currently has 15 homers, so he should top the 17 homers he hit last year. He drove in his 60th run tonight, and his top RBI month this year was 20 in June, but he's had double-digit RBIs in every month this season, so topping his 89 RBIs from last year is definitely within the realm of possibility. He has 103 hits at this point, but he has to get 88 hits in two months to equal his 191-hit season last year. It's really too bad the Mariners' abhorrent 2008 completely obscured Lopez's best season as a big-leaguer.
Make it another day and another couple of hits for Ichiro. The Mariners' leadoff hitter got aboard on an infield hit in the fourth and singled in the sixth to load the bases with nobody out. The Mariners were down 1-0 at that point but they led 2-1 before the inning was over. On a team with any semblance of offense, the score's 4-1 or 5-1 after that inning's over with, but these are the Mariners we're dealing with here, lest we forget. As for his outs, he led off the game with a flyout and whiffed at three pitches to end the eighth. Ichiro is now at 155 hits for the season, putting him on pace for a 246-hit season. He is only 40 hits away from 2000 Major League hits, which is phenomenally outstanding as well as a complete lock. His 2000th hit could come by the end of this month with the way he hits. It'll either be late August or early September, barring an injury or other unspecified Act of God. Five hits after his 2000th Major League hit will be his 200th of the season itself, which will give him nine straight 200-hit seasons, unequaled by any mere mortal who has played the game. To illustrate just how much of a lock this is, I'll give you this: the Mariners have 57 games remaining on their schedule. Let's say Ichiro has four at-bats in each of those games, giving him 228 at-bats. He would need to hit .175 the rest of the way to get his 2000th Major League hit, and hit .197 to get 200 hits for the season. In other words, he'd achieve both milestones if he hit like Ronny Cedeno for the rest of the season. It's a lock, people.
3) Ian Snell
For his first start in the American League and his first start as a Mariner, I can't really complain at all. He hasn't even been a Mariner for a week yet, but he was thrust into the rotation after not having pitched in a Major League ballgame since facing Cleveland in Pittsburgh on June 23rd. I must say if there's one thing that sticks out to me in his game log, it's that he was allowed to throw 131 pitches in a seven-inning start (loss) at Milwaukee on April 29th. For what it's worth, he did walk four hitters in that start. Now that I look at his log some more, though, the walks are looking to be par for the course this year. Including this three-walk, four-strikeout start, Snell's walk-to-strikeout ratio is 47-to-56, which is actually pretty atrocious. Of course, it's known that weird circumstances have surrounded Snell's year in Pittsburgh, from being asked to be sent down to Snell's 17-strikeout game at the AAA level. If Rick Adair and Don Wakamatsu can straighten this guy out and work magic with Luke French, next year could be fun. I'm looking forward to seeing Snell's next start after a few more days working with Rob Johnson. Or that other guy.
Ken Griffey Jr.
I could go after Snell or White for giving up three homers since Mariner pitching gave up so many damn homers in the series, but in a game where the offense scores two runs, I have to pick someone with a baseball bat, and one night after he was golden, I'm going to have to pick the elder statesman. Griffey went 0-for-4 and left five runners aboard. He popped foul to third to lead off the second, so no real RBI opportunity there, and he'd be a lead weight on the basepaths, so no harm there. Lopez was on first (after Omar Vizquel let the fly ball drop to force out Ichiro at second) with two out in the fourth and Griffey grounded to the mound to end the inning, but no runner in scoring position and it wasn't Ichiro on first, so I can only dish so much crap his way for that. In the sixth, with the Mariners having put two runs across, Griffey had runners on the corners with one out and bounced into a 6-4-3 double play in definitely his most damning at-bat of the night. His final at-bat was with two on and nobody out in the ninth, when he grounded to second to move two runners into scoring position. That wasn't a completely worthless out since a flyout wouldn't have moved both runners. Still, just one hit in either of his final two at-bats would have made a world of difference in this game.
A day off followed by the beginning of the Luke French era in Seattle. Hopefully the dividends are more like tasty chicken cordon bleu rather than something that would make us say "sacre bleu!"
The Mariners ran their record to 54-50 after 104 games. That record is four games worse than the 2007 team at this point, but three better than 2006, nine better than 2005, and 15 better than 2004 and last year. Fifty-four wins is also seven worse than 2001, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 21 worse than 2001. Records of new-millennium Mariner teams when getting their 54th win: 54-38 in 2000, 54-17 in 2001, 54-31 in 2002, 54-29 in 2003, 54-90 in 2004, 54-72 in 2005, 54-57 in 2006, 54-39 in 2007, and 54-83 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 16-for-43 on the night, walking four times and walking eight times. The team went a putrid 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 runners in all (also putrid). Russell Branyan and Franklin Gutierrez turned in 0-for-5s as the only hitless Mariners, while the other seven hitters in the Mariner lineup collected two or more hits each. Jose Lopez and Ken Griffey Jr. had three hits apiece. Griffey, Jack Wilson (twice), and Lopez doubled. Ryan Langerhans legged out a triple, while Griffey and Lopez also homered. Ichiro stole a base and threw Omar Vizquel out at home (I thought he was safe) along with his 2-for-6 night. It was almost a 3-for-6 night until an in-game scoring change adjusted his infield single in the first inning to an error by the pitcher Tommy Hunter. Ichiro is now at 153 hits on the season and is on pace for 245 hits. Also, additional props shall be passed along to Ryan Langerhans, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI triple and a leaping catch where he banged against the wall to prevent an extra-base hit. One of Jack Wilson's two doubles came when David Murphy casually played a normal single in leftfield and Wilson took full advantage of it, making Murphy look like a lazy ballplayer.
Now for the Mariner arms. For the second straight start, Felix Hernandez wasn't himself. Luckily the Rangers didn't find Felix anywhere near as hittable as the Blue Jays did five nights earlier, but the Rangers took more walks. Still, it was some defensive plays that bailed him out of some innings. For instance, what the Rangers wanted to be a Marlon Byrd sacrifice fly to make it 3-1 instead became a 9-2 double play to end the first inning on Ichiro's gunning down of Vizquel at the plate. Again, I'll mention Langerhans making the leaping catch against the wall. A leadoff walk in the fifth was erased when Vizquel lined out to Branyan, who stepped on the bag to double off Andrus. For his 21st and final out of the game, Felix snared a line drive right at him off the bat of Michael Young (though that inning featured the baserunning heroics of Saltalamacchia, who was nearly picked off of second and had Andrus run up his back on a dropped third strike). All this said, he still wasn't sharp, though Dave Niehaus noted of the plate umpire's "postage stamp" strike zone size. With two out and one out in the second, Hernandez walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia on four pitches, went from an 0-2 count to walking Elvis Andrus, then went from an 0-2 count to a full count before getting Vizquel to fly out and end the inning. Hernandez gave up two runs on six hits in seven innings, walking four and striking out two. He threw 58 strikes out of 104 pitches and got five groundouts with 11 flyouts. He faced 29 hitters to get 21 outs. Mark Lowe threw a pretty impressive eighth and ninth, getting out all six hitters he faced. Lowe struck out three hitters and got three fly balls, throwing 21 strikes out of 32 pitches.
1) Ken Griffey Jr.
The designated hitter and Mariner emeritus set the tone for the entire game in the first inning. Runners were on first and second with nobody out, but Griffey whiffed at the first two pitches he saw. Ichiro and Jose Lopez went to third and second when Hunter threw a wild pitch that made the count full. Then Griffey drove a pitch onto the grassy hitters' backdrop in centerfield, something I didn't know he could still do. Just like that, Hernandez had a 3-0 lead to work with as son as he stepped onto the mound. Griffey also doubled down the rightfield line to lead off the third and scored on Jack Hannahan's RBI single. Griffey drove in the first three runs of the game and was driven in for the fourth run. He flew out for the second out in the fourth with two on to curtail some of the awesomeness. He moved Lopez to third with a grounder to first for the second out of the sixth. Finally, singled to follow up a Lopez leadoff homer in the eighth. Any time you have Griffey drive in three runs and score twice, you gladly take those days. He's 7-for-18 (.389) with three doubles, a homer, and six RBIs during his current four-game hitting streak with a slugging percentage of .722.
2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners second baseman went 3-for-5 with a walk, a double, a home run, and two RBIs in this game. Lopez drew a walk in the first before scoring on the Griffey home run. He whiffed to end the second. He singled with one out in the fourth to move Branyan to second. With Ichiro on first and one out in the sixth, he hit a double into the rightfield corner to score Ichiro from first to make it 6-1. He homered over the leftfield wall to lead off the eighth and make it 7-2. In his final at-bat, the mojo had been spent as he grounded into an inning-ending double play with Ichiro on first. In his current four-game hitting streak, Lopez has gone 10-for-17 (.588) with two doubles and three home runs (slugging 1.235). He's also driven in seven runs in those four games. That stretch has been enough to bump his batting average from .266 to .275, his on-base percentage from .290 to .305, and his slugging percentage from .426 to .463. Griffey in this game hit his first home run in a calendar month. Lopez hit his third in four games, but before that, he had a 15-game homerless drought.
3) Jack Hannahan
I'm guessing I better back up the truck of gameballs to Hannahan before Adrian Beltre comes back on Tuesday and makes Hannahan all but irrelevant. Actually, when Beltre comes back, and with the fact that Hannahan is lefthanded, it's probably Chris Woodward with the writing on the wall, but that's a discussion for Tuesday. Hannahan had quite the day. He drove in Griffey for the fourth run of the game en route to a 2-for-3 day with two walks, sending his on-base percentage through the frigging roof. Interestingly, despite getting on base four times, he didn't end up scoring at all, which is more a testament to the Mariners' 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and 14 stranded runners, which are both still awful stats even when the Mariners do manage to score seven runs in a game. In 17 games as a Mariner, Hannahan has gone 14-for-53 (.264) with two doubles, two homers, five RBIs, six walks, and 13 strikeouts. He's on base at a .344 clip and is slugging .415. Again, it's all praise until the Hannahan era effectively ends (at least this year) due to Beltre's return.
It's no doubt the Mariner first baseman had an awful July. A man who hit .323 on June 2nd was hitting .264 at the end of July due to a .159 month of July. As anxious as I am to see him snap out of it, a simple turn of the calendar didn't appear to immediately do the trick for Branyan, who went 0-for-5 with two strikes. He also left a whopping eight runners aboard, though he did get hit by a pitch. He managed to get on base after all. Branyan had seven homers in the month of May and eight in the month of June. He had five in all of July, and I can't help but think if that's two or three more wins for the Mariners if Branyan hits two or three more homers last month. Who am I kidding? The Mariners would still be a half-dozen games back right now, at best. Not even Branyan at his awesomest could have negated the cosmic ineptitude that was Mariner pitching in the weekend series with Cleveland in Seattle. If there was one thing that put the death knell on this season, it was the pitching finally being unable to carry the entire team on its back, and that's why this team's playoff hopes were declared dead late in the afternoon on July 26th.
It's the Mariner debut of Ian Snell coming tonight. Will Snell lay down his Law?