Saturday, August 22, 2009
The Mariners have alternated wins and losses for the last seven games and have lost six of nine, leaving their record at 63-60 after 123 games. That record is eight games worse than the 2007 pace, but seven better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, and 17 better than 2004 and last year. Sixty-three wins is also six wins worse than the 2000 pace, 11 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting loss number 60: 71-60 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 84-60 in 2002, 82-60 in 2003, 38-60 in 2004, 46-60 in 2005, 56-60 in 2006, 73-60 in 2007, and 38-60 last year.
Seattle hitting went 11-for-42 in the game, walking three times and striking out seven times. They also were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. Hitless starters included Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, and Kenji Johjima (ouch to all). Multi-hit Mariners were Bill Hall (two hits), Mike Sweeney (three), and Josh Wilson (three). Jose Lopez doubled and Sweeney doubled twice, while Russell Branyan homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. Hall struck out twice, and Branyan outdid him by striking out three times for the hat trick.
Mariner pitching did pretty well tonight. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Mark Lowe came into the game with one out in the seventh and two runners in scoring position. Andy Marte hit a fly ball to leftcenter, and Luis Valbuena tagged up at third. Franklin Gutierrez was able to get to the ball and made the catch, but had to throw on the brakes a bit while trying to make his throw because Michael Saunders cut in front of him as he made the catch. That may have been the difference between an out and a tie game. What resulted was a 3-3 tie. Lowe got Grady Sizemore to fly out and end the inning, and Lowe threw a 1-2-3 eighth inning as well. Lowe, tagged with the blown save due to the sacrifice fly, gave up no runs or hits in 1 2/3 innings, walking and striking out none. He threw 15 strikes out of 23 pitches, got one groundout to four flyouts, and faced five hitters to get five outs. Shawn Kelley allowed only a hit batter with two out in the ninth and a two-out walk in the 10th. Kelley gave up no runs or hits in two innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 19 strikes out of 30 pitches, got one groundout to two flyouts, and faced eight hitters to get six outs. New call-up Randy Messenger got two quick outs before throwing a 2-0 pitch in the wrong spot to former Mariner Valbuena, who tagged it inside the rightfield foul pole to end the game. Messenger gave up one run on one hit in 2/3 inning, walking and striking out none. He threw six strikes out of nine pitches and got a groundout and a flyout. He faced three hitters and got two outs, but really could have used that third out.
1) Josh Wilson
The guy's not Jack Wilson. My, what a week and change this has been for Josh Wilson. He continued it again in this game, going 3-for-4 with a walk. Since his return to the Mariners, Josh Wilson has gone 13-for-33 (.394) with two doubles, three home runs (slugging .727), and five RBIs. Without taking the time to pour through the game logs of Yuniesky Betancourt and Ronny Cedeno, I'll go out on a limb and say this is the best nine-game span that any Mariner shortstop has had at the plate this season. It's definitely better than what what Cedeno was putting out there on a nightly basis. I guess maybe it's fun because I expected absolutely nothing out of this guy. I seem to remember calling him the Luis Ugueto of this roster when he was up with the Mariners the first time. Now, he's turning dividends, and with Jack Zduriencik showing he can get value out of just about anything on this team, maybe when Josh Wilson gets shuffled off this roster, the Mariners can get something of value for him. This team might be treading water right now, but it's still a fun time to be a Mariner fan.
2) Mike Sweeney
In the last three games, the Mariners' righthanded designated hitter has gone 6-for-11 with two doubles, a home run, and three RBIs. After hitting a brutal .125 in a July that was infested with back injuries (only 24 at-bats), Sweeney is 9-for-31 (.290) so far in August. Oddly, it seems Sweeney's awesomeness is an every-other-month thing -- he hit .308 in April, .182 in May, .323 in June, .125 in July, and is now at .290 in August. Luckily the rosters expand in September, because if Sweeney sucked with a 25-man roster next month, I'd seriously think about cutting him. Instead, he'll be around to mentor any and all call-ups that come into the dugout. I really wish I could have watched more of this guy while he was in his prime, though. I wish I could remember what it looked like when he could tattoo a ball and it wouldn't look uncomfortable. He had six 20-homer seasons, for goodness' sake, and he had five .300 seasons. He also drove in 100 runs twice. In his prime, he walked just about as much as he struck out. Does someone have a Sweeney highlight reel on YouTube? It might be worth watching.
3) Doug Fister
I know he just made his first appearance on August 8th, and I know this start was only his third start in the Majors, but the guy hasn't had an awful start yet. I guess what's odd with this start compared to his last start was that against the Yankees last Sunday, his outs were heavily flyout-heavy. In this start and his first start, he's gotten a ton of groundouts. In his first start against the White Sox, Fister got nine groundouts to five flyouts. In this game against the Indians, Fister got 13 groundouts to two flyouts. Fister stood to get the win when he left the game, though the events leading up to his getting pulled were unfortunate. The seventh inning started with Valbuena hitting a fly ball that should have been caught by Saunders in left, but he lost the ball in the lights. Thus, a hustling Valbuena ended up on second base. Kelly Shoppach then squared up to bunt and was hit with a pitch by Fister. At least it got the double play in order, I guess. Then Matt LaPorta twice failed on bunt attempts, but ended up with a swinging bunt that Fister fielded. Then Lowe came in and gave up a fly ball and that weird stuff took place in the outfield. Fister gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits in 6 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out four. He threw 59 strikes out of 86 pitches and faced 26 hitters to get 19 outs.
I guess if there's one good thing going into Sunday's game, it's that if Ichiro went hitless in this game, he'll definitely get a hit on Sunday. He hasn't gone hitless in consecutive games this season. Even with an 0-for-5 in this game, he's still hitting .344 for the month. He led off the seventh with a groundout, which I guess is a situation where you'd like him to ignite the offense. In the ninth, with Josh Wilson having led off the inning with a walk, Ichiro struck out swinging for the second out. In the 11th, he was the Mariners' final out with Saunders on first. Maybe it's a bit odd that Ichiro didn't come up in some more clutch situations, but you still like to see him get aboard. Maybe if he gets on, Gutierrez gets more hittable pitches, I don't know. All I know is that if Ichiro gets a couple of hits and not just a walk, maybe he's on a couple more times, and two more baserunners could have meant anything in this game. They only lost by one. Hey, notice how the Mariners have been losing one-run games lately instead of winning them?
Iron Fister in this game means Felix the next day.
Friday, August 21, 2009
The Mariners have alternated wins and losses for the last six games, and this win bumped their record up to 63-59 after 122 games. This pace is seven games worse than the 2007 pace, but seven better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, and 17 better than 2004 and last year. Sixty-three wins is also six wins worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 24 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting win number 63: 63-46 in 2000, 63-24 in 2001, 63-41 in 2002, 63-40 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 63-81 in 2005, 63-69 in 2006, 63-49 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went an awesome 14-for-38 on the night, walking four times and striking out three times. They went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. They had six extra-base hits in the game, but unlike last night, they had other supplementary hits and were able to win this game. Doubles went to Ichiro, Josh Wilson, and Bill Hall. Home runs were hit by Josh wilson, Jose Lopez, and Russell Branyan. Jack Hannahan and Rob Johnson were the only hitless Mariners. Ichiro oddly was the only one-hit Mariner. Lopez, Mike Sweeney, Branyan, Hall, and Josh Wilson all had two hits apiece. Franklin Gutierrez went 3-for-5. He singled with one out in the third and later scored the Mariners' second run to make it 2-1. That single was the first of three straight that went right past shortstop. He also singled to plate Ichiro with one out in the fourth to make it 5-1. The final hit for Gutierrez was a leadoff single in the ninth, and he ended up scoring the final Mariners' run of the game to make it 9-4. Lopez singled in the third inning to follow Gutierrez, but then turned on a pitch in the fourth and drove it inside the foul pole in leftfield for a homer to break the game open and make it 7-1. Mike Sweeney drew a leadoff walk in the second and scored after some baserunning hijinks. He singled to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead in the third, and he also singled in the ninth to push Gutierrez to third with one out.
As for the pitching, it wasn't bad. Luke French didn't knock anyone's socks off, but he threw six serviceable innings. He struck out Grady Sizemore with runners on the corners and two out (one run in) in the second, though admittedly striking out Sizemore is easier this year. French got a key strikeout to end a fourth inning that had runners on first and second with two out. The true disaster aversion came when the Indians had runners on first and second with one out and had already scored in the fifth to make it 7-2. Peralta grounded to Hannahan past the bag at third to start a 5-3 double play to end the inning. French got touched up for another run in the sixth, but he never had the floodgate-exploding inning. French gave up three runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out six. He threw 66 strikes out of 100 pitches, got three groundouts to nine flyouts, and faced 28 hitters to get 18 outs. The Mariners went into the seventh-inning stretch leading 8-3, which meant it was the perfect time to put in Miguel Batista. He gave up a one-out single to Asdrubal Cabrera followed by a Shin-Soo Choo double that scored Cabrera to make it 8-4. Those were the two hits he gave up, and his one-out walk in the eighth was erased on a double-play ball. Batista gave up one run on two hits, walking one and striking out none. He threw 13 strikes out of 26 pitches, getting four groundouts to two flyouts, and facing eight hitters to get six outs. Lastly, Sean White allowed only a two-out single in the ninth, throwing eight strikes out of 12 pitches.
1) Russell Branyan
I really hope this game is a turning point for him. He went 2-for-3 with two walks (and a strikeout), driving in two runs. Boxscore-wise, this was easily the best game Branyan has had since May 18th. You'd have to look back to that game against the Angels to find a similar combination of walks, extra-base hits, and a multi-hit game for Branyan. One interesting note before I go further -- Branyan hasn't had a multi-homer game this season. Thus, he's homered 29 times in 29 different games. First off, Branyan followed up Sweeney's leadoff walk with one of his own in the second. He walked again to load the bases in the third with one out, but struck out to end the fourth. Then Branyan would get some hits. Branyan obliterated a Tomo Ohka pitch and sent it high into the night, depositing it well into the seats in rightfield to make it 8-3 in the seventh. Branyan also legged out an infield single in the ninth to drive in Gutierrez with the final Mariner run to make it 9-4. It wasn't a two-homer, two-double night for Branyan, but it was nice to see he could pound the ball and still take a couple walks just two nights after he struck out four times in a game.
2) Bill Hall
It was a good Mariner debut for the newest Mariner. Playing leftfield, Hall made an immediate impact in his first at-bat as a Mariner, driving in Sweeney (albeit hesitantly on Sweeney's part) for the first run of the game. He drove in another run in his second at-bat, flying out with the bases loaded to score Lopez and make it 3-1. His final hit of the night was a gapper in the seventh that came right after Branyan's home run. Defensively, Hall had a bobble or two in the outfield, but maybe it's jitters or maybe he'll just be playing more infield in the future. Still, the contact he made at the plate tonight left me pretty impressed. As brought up on the broadcast, he has a bit of a hitch in his swing, but if he can lay the lumber on the ball, I can sort of ignore the hitch. This is a guy that has had a 30-homer season at the big-league level before, so we know the potential is there. We also know he's dropped off the face of the earth since, but the price to see if they can turn him around again was basically nothing, so why the hell not?
3) Josh Wilson
Looks like this Wilson will have to enjoy the hell out of these next couple days before Jack Wilson comes back from the hamstring injury. Still, the reports a few days ago were that Jack Wilson was going to come back in the Cleveland series, but it seems like his return date just keeps getting pushed further and further away. If we still get to see inexplicably worthwhile hitting out of Josh Wilson, however, I'm fine with it. This guy may eventually get pushed off the roster, but he's had a very good week and change, which I'd have to think has impressed someone around the Majors looking for a spare part to piece out their roster. The Mariners' other shortstop named Wilson went 2-for-4 on the night with a double (he nearly got the triple but was gunned down) and a home run. Since coming back to the big club, he has gone 10-for-29 (.345) with two doubles, three home runs (slugging .700), and five RBIs. I can't believe this is the same guy I thought was a waste of a roster spot not too long ago. It's like having the good version of Ronny Cedeno, except without the unfulfilled hype about him possibly being your Opening Day starter back in April.
He turned a key double play that totally bailed out Luke French in the fifth inning, but apart from his count-working ability at the plate, that was about it for his worthy contributions for the night. He had by far the worst boxscore line of the night, going 0-for-5 and striking out twice. Also, there's a number seven in the left-on-base column next to his name. He left four runners in scoring position with two out. His night at the plate started in the second inning when he lined out to first base and Hall was doubled off of first. Hannahan then flew out with runners on first and second to end the third inning. He grounded out to second with the bases empty and one out in the fifth. He whiffed with Hall on third and two out to end the seventh. Finally, he whiffed with two runners in scoring position to end the ninth. Hall's playing third tomorrow, and at the very least that means a platoon situation for Hannahan, if not a bigger cut in playing time. Hannahan's lefthandedness guarantees he'll get at least some playing time, but the Mariners want to see what they have in Hall.
Saturday night's all right for fighting with the Iron Fister.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Mariners' fifth loss in their last seven games dropped their season record to 62-59 after 121 games. This pace is seven games worse than the 2007 pace, but six better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 16 better than last year, and 17 better than 2004. Sixty-two wins is also seven worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2003, 12 worse than 2002, and 25 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting loss number 59: 71-59 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 84-59 in 2002, 81-59 in 2003, 37-59 in 2004, 45-59 in 2005, 56-59 in 2006, 73-59 in 2007, and 38-59 last year.
Seattle hitting went 5-for-30 on the day, walking once and striking out six times. They stranded only one runner. Interestingly, they never had an at-bat with runners in scoring position. Ichiro doubled to lead off the game, was bunted over to third, watched as Jose Lopez was hit with a pitch, then scored on a sacrifice fly. Franklin Gutierrez drew the Mariners' only walk, but came all the way home on the Lopez home run. No Mariner got multiple hits. Interestingly (again), all five of the Mariners' hits went for extra bases, one of them being a double, and the other four being home runs. Ichiro had the double, and the home runs went to Jose Lopez, Kenji Johjima (off a high hanging breaking ball), Mike Sweeney, and Russell Branyan (absolute moon shot that nearly landed under the covered area at the back of the seats in rightfield). While you'd think the cavernous outfield of Comerica Park would really suit itself to Jarrod Washburn's fly ball tendencies, Washburn more than tested the boundaries of such a train of thought and lost. Washburn gave up all five of the Mariners' hits in this game.
The final two of the four Mariner pitchers will be covered below. Ryan Rowland-Smith started the game and looked absolutely stellar through three innings of work. Then he gave up a couple of solo home runs in the fourth that got the Tigers within two runs at 4-2. In the fifth, he pretty much hit the wall. He led off the inning by giving catcher Gerald Laird a four-pitch walk. He balked Laird over to second with two out during his four-pitch walk to Marcus Thames. Somehow, Rowland-Smith didn't allow any runs in that inning. In the sixth, Miguel Cabrera doubled to lead off, then the Aussie walked Brandon Inge (he of two crazy in-the-stands catches on the day) on four pitches. One out later, Rowland-Smith walked Clete Thomas on four pitches as well to load the bases with one out, spelling the end of his outing. The sad part was that he was leading 6-2 when he was yanked. Then the rains came. Jakubauskas came out and got a groundout to second from pinch-hitting Aubrey Huff that scored a run to make it 6-3. Then pinch-hitting Alex Avila stroked a single into centerfield to score the two remaining runs and set fire to Rowland-Smith's earned-run average. A Placido Polanco groundout mercifully ended the inning. Rowland-Smith gave up five runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking four and striking out four. He threw 51 strikes out of 86 pitches, got four groundouts to eight flyouts, and faced 25 hitters to get 16 outs. Jakubauskas allowed no runs on one hit in 2/3 inning, walking none and striking out none, but he came in with the bases loaded and all three of those runners scored. He threw 10 strikes out of 17 pitches, got one flyout and one groundout, and faced three hitters to get two outs.
1) Mike Sweeney
This game went a long way in Sweeney's campaign to prove himself not totally worthless. His solo home run with one out in the sixth inning put the Mariners up 5-2. On his follow-through, the bat broke over his back, which was visible in live action right before the view switched to pick up the leftfielder trying to track the ball. Thus, the legend will be of Sweeney hitting a homer so hard he broke his bat, though in reality (and as Mike Blowers pointed out), he probably and inadvertently had some sort of pre-existing crack in the bat before he'd even stepped to the plate. Looking at his game logs, I'd stop short of saying Sweeney's been Russell Branyan awful over the last two months since Branyan gets probably 80% more playing time than Sweeney. Still, Sweeney ended the month of June hitting .263 on the season. Since then, he's gone 7-for-47 (.149) with two home runs (slugging .319) and six RBIs. He's also walked five times and struck out seven times. I know the Mariners are under a new general manager and everything, but in past years, the Mariners haven't seemed to take anywhere close to 40 players in the dugout when the rosters expand in September. If they took something closer to 30, would they cut Sweeney loose to get a young'un or a AAAA player some at-bats?
2) Shawn Kelley
I'll have to admit I was kinda shaky putting him here at number two only because three hits in two innings looks a bit odd. Given the situation, though, he was great. Kelley came in for Jakubauskas and warmed up to the seventh-inning stretch. He allowed only a one-out single to Ryan Raburn in the seventh. In the eighth, he was burned when Thomas bunted himself aboard. Thomas bunted along the third-base side and Jack Hannahan charged and completely whiffed on the barehand attempt. It's just another reminder of how awesome Adrian Beltre is defensively at third base and also a reminder that Beltre would have absolutely totally gotten the out on that play. Then Ramon Santiago, of all people, singled to put two aboard with one out. Luckily Kelley got a lineout from Avila and a pop fly from Polanco to end the threat. Kelley gave up three hits in two shutout innings, walking none and striking out two. He threw 18 strikes out of 24 pitches, got four flyouts, and faced nine hitters to get six outs. Kelley has a five-outing scoreless streak over six innings.
3) Jose Lopez
I'd put him higher if not for the error, though if you actually see video of it, an error on that play is a wee bit harsh. Lopez really had to range over to get to the ball hit by Thomas. Anyway, Lopez delivered the hit that set the Mariners on the fast track to what looked to be a win. His two-run home run in the third inning with Franklin Gutierrez aboard turned a 1-0 Mariner lead into a 3-0 Mariner lead. Better yet, it gave Rowland-Smith a bit of breathing room on the mound, and he responded in the bottom half of the inning by retiring the Tigers in order. When Rowland-Smith got more than three runs to work with, though, that's when it got interesting. Concerning Lopez, he has 16 RBIs in August and we've still got 11 days to go in the month. He seems like a cinch to get 20 RBIs for the month. If he does, he'll finish the month with 77 RBIs on the season. The worst RBI month for Lopez this season was 11 in July. His best was his 20-RBI June. He's also had a couple of 13s in there. The point here is that Lopez should easily get to 90 RBIs for the season. I've said it once already, but 95 RBIs would be a very solid season for Lopez. He does have an outside shot at a 100-RBI season, which would be a very bright spot for this team.
Like I said, he's been a big part of why the Mariners have been able to get so many one-run wins this season. Unfortunately, if he blows a save, there's a good chance the Mariners are losing by one run, and that's exactly what happened in this game. He gave up a leadoff walk to Carlos Guillen to start the downward spiral. Raburn relented from his endless battering of the Mariners by popping out to Johjima. Cabrera was not so kind, drilling a double into the rightfield corner and pushing Guillen to third. Magglio Ordonez was intentionally walked to load the bases and put the double play in order. Inge got under a ball and flew out to center. Gutierrez made the catch in center and appeared to take an extra crow hop on his throw to the plate. That may have been the difference as the ball two-hopped Johjima and got to the plate a wee bit too late, and Guillen scored to make it 6-6. Then Thomas ripped a bal past a diving Branyan at first to end the game. The blown save was Aardsma's second in his last four outings and second in his last three save chances. I blame Major League Baseball's decision to remove the Spartan helmets from the bullpen.
Get ready to warm up some croissants and get all French tomorrow. Maybe some mustard as well.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The win bumped the Mariners' record to 62-58 after 120 games. The record is six wins worse than the 2007 pace, but six worse than 2006, 10 worse than 2005, 16 worse than last year, and 17 worse than 2004. Sixty-two wins is also seven worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2002 and 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Other records of new-millennium Mariner teams at win number 62: 62-44 in 2000, 62-23 in 2001, 62-40 in 2002, 62-40 in 2003, 62-96 in 2004, 62-81 in 2005, 62-69 in 2006, 62-49 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went 8-for-35 on the night, drawing one walk and striking out a whopping 12 times. They also went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. Ichiro's home run was the only Mariner extra-base hit. Multi-hit Mariners included Ichiro, Michael Saunders (his return), and Josh Wilson (whaaa???). Multi-strikeout Mariners included Jack Hannahan and Josh Wilson (two strikeouts), Franklin Gutierrez (three strikeouts, hat trick), and Russell Branyan (four, golden sombrero).
Mariner pitching was pretty good. After giving up a combined 11 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last two starts, Snell somehow gave up only one run in this game. He still walked three hitters, so the ship isn't completely righted, but this start was definitely a step in the right direction. I thought Don Wakamatsu should have left him out there until the tying run got aboard in the sixth, but that's when Wakamatsu came out with the hook. Snell gave up three singles and Carlos Guillen's home run, which was the only Tiger extra-base hit of the game. Snell gave up one run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking three hitters and striking out two. He threw 54 strikes out of 98 pitches, getting seven groundouts to eight flyouts, and facing 23 hitters to get 17 outs. Sean White then came in, getting the final out of the sixth and giving up only one hit in his 1 1/3 innings of work. He threw nine strikes out of 13 pitches, getting three groundouts and striking out one. He faced five hitters to get four outs. Mark Lowe struck out two hitters in the eighth inning and got a groundout as well, snapping his two-outing crappy streak and three-outing sketchy streak. He threw 10 strikes out of 12 pitches. David Aardsma struck out two hitters and got a groundout in the ninth, giving up a hit along the way. Aardsma threw 15 strikes out of 22 pitches.
The beat just continues with the Mariners' leadoff hitter. Usually it's just Ichiro getting a hit or two and being driven in once or twice. This time, Ichiro put in a little flair of clutch, getting the biggest hit of the game by homering in the fifth inning off Justin Verlander (after really looking like crap on a strikeout in the first inning) to get the Mariners a 3-0 lead. Little did we know at that point that it'd be enough for Ian Snell to get his first win as a Mariner. The home run was Ichiro's first since August 4th at Kansas City. With the 2-for-4 night, Ichiro is hitting .380 so far in the month of August, which follows up a .336 July, a .407 June, a .377 May, and a .306 small-sample-size April. Ichiro is currently a .366 hitter for the season, and has accumulated 181 hits. He is now 14 hits shy of his 2000th Major League hit and 19 short of his ninth straight 200-hit season. He is on pace to finish with 249 hits despite missing the first eight games of the season. If he had eight extra games and four at-bats per game with the same batting average, Ichiro could have 11 or 12 more hits, which would give him 260 or 261 hits, dangerously close to matching his own single-season record of 262 hits.
2) Josh Wilson
You know, when Jack Wilson comes back from the gimpy hamstring, I'm not so sure you don't bump Jack Hannahan back to the bench and see if Josh Wilson's cool with playing a little third base. The Mariners' stopgap shortstop played for the Mariners on July 18th, was shuffled off the roster, and returned on August 13th against the Yankees when Jack Wilson went off with a hamstring injury that's at least partially on Felix Hernandez. Since returning, Josh Wilson has inexplicably been hitting -- yes, hitting -- and he had his third straight two-hit game. He has gone 6-for-11 in his last three games, doubling once and homering once, and he's driven in four runs along the way. Since returning after nearly a month away from the big club, Josh Wilson has gone 8-for-22 (.364) with a double, two home runs, and four RBIs. In the same time frame, Hannahan has gone 5-for-21 with an RBI and three walks. I say the Mariners milk Josh Wilson's hot streak until it cools. This may be the best value the guy may ever have. Maybe you can sneak him through waivers and deal him for something...?
3) Michael Saunders
The Canadian-born leftfielder last played on August 14th against the Yankees. He returned in this game by going 2-for-4, with both hits being singles. Also, he stole the second base of his young Major League career, going all Usain Bolt on Verlander and Gerald Laird. Saunders is one tall guy, but he's got quite the stride and quite the speed. I'm impressed. I don't know how top-notch Saunders is defensively, but what I do know is that he's fast and has shown the ability to reach over the wall to rob a home run. He has gone 17-for-64 (.266) over 19 games in his Major League career. I guess the fun thing about his hitting is that I'd be looking at his offensive output a lot differently if this entire thing was in September and he was creaming AAA pitching (not that this is a Willie Bloomquist reference or anything). Saunders is pulling all of this off against legitimate Major League pitching. Sadly, Saunders is still looking for his first Major League home run. Hopefully it comes before the end of the season.
I won't say it's the elephant in the room, but let's just call it what it is -- Russell Branyan has sucked for over a month and a half. I know he apparently has a balky back, but if that's so, they've got to move him down in the lineup. On August 9th, Wakamatsu slotted Branyan in the sixth spot in the lineup, and Branyan hit a grand slam in that game. There's nothing to lose right now by moving Branyan down in the order. Having him hit second was a master stroke by Wakamatsu earlier in the season, but now the horse has been beaten to death and new strategies have to be implemented. My lineup would be something like Ichiro/Wilson/Lopez/Griffey (begrudingly)/Gutierrez/Johjima/Branyan/Hannahan/Saunders. The pressure has to be taken off of Branyan a little bit. Let's tally it all up -- from July 1st to now, Branyan has gone 28-for-157 (.178) with seven doubles, eight home runs (slugging .376), and 30 RBIs. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is also awful, as he's walked 18 times and struck out 61 times. It's Branyan's nature to strike out due to the type of hitter he is, but he's really poured it on lately. By the way, in the series against Cleveland that ended Seattle's playoff hopes, Branyan went 1-for-12 with a double, an RBI, a walk, and three strikeouts.
Aaaaaand the Aussie will throw in the day game against a familiar lefthander with the last name of Washburn.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Mariners' fifth loss in seven games dropped their record to 61-58 after 119 games. Their record is six wins worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than 2006, nine better than 2005, and 16 better than 2004 and last year. Sixty-one wins is also eight wins worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2003, 12 worse than 2002, and 25 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records at loss number 58: 70-58 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 81-58 in 2002 and 2003, 37-58 in 2004, 44-58 in 2005, 56-58 in 2006, 73-58 in 2007, and 36-58 last year.
Seattle hitting went 8-for-33 on the night, walking four times and striking out a whopping 13 times. They also went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners in all. The only extra-base hits belonged to Ichiro (double) and Josh Wilson (inexplicable home run). Similarly, Ichiro had four hits and Josh Wilson had two hits as the only multi-hit Mariners of the night. Every hitter in the Mariner lineup struck out. The two-strikeout Mariner hitters were Russell Branyan, Franklin Gutierrez, Rob Johnson, and Ryan Langerhans. The 3-4-5-6-7 hitters in the Mariners' lineup went a combined 0-for-16 with one RBI, four walks, and seven strikeouts.
As for the Mariner arms, the starter was brilliant and will be discussed below. The first reliever was awful and will be discussed below. Sean White got the final two outs of the eighth inning. White came into the game with the Tigers already having gotten the lead at 4-3.
(josh wilson misses ground ball, interference play leads to first detroit run in second inning, blown first-to-third move and putout at home in eighth with Branyan throw a bit high and late)
1) Felix Hernandez
In his last start, I think Felix easily had his best start since the All-Star break. I think he may have outdone himself this time. People would probably disagree and say the duel with Buehrle was a better start since he threw seven shutout innings and struck out 10 hitters, but walks are a big thing for me when it comes to Felix. In that start, he walked four hitters, which made for a total of 14 in his first three starts in August. With this start, however, it was nice to see him get back to the guy we'd see with an insane strikeout-to-walk ratio. He only walked one tonight, and he struck out nine. He just seemed to really have it tonight. I was never really worried about him getting too wild, though I was worried about Rob Johnson behind the plate. Johnson's lucky he turned a passed ball into a 2-5 putout at third (it went into the play-by-play as "runner's fielder's choice"). Anyway, Felix could have been 13-4 with a win in this game, but alas, it was not to be. I hope one day we get to see a 20-win season out of Felix before he leaves Seattle. What, you think the Mariners would outbid the Yankees if Felix hits free agency? Felix gave up a run on five hits in seven innigns, walking one and striking out nine. He threw 69 strikes out of 106 pitches, getting seven groundouts to four flyouts (nice), and facing 25 hitters to get 21 outs.
I guess I was just really happy that I think Felix might have the swagger back, and that's the only reason Felix could out-gameball a 4-for-5 night by Ichiro. He led off the game with a single, fell behind 0-2 and struck out to end a 10-pitch at-bat in the fourth, singled with the bases empty and the game tied at 1-1 in the sixth, hit a parachute double down the rightfield line with a man on first and nobody out in the eighth (the Mariners jumped ahead 3-1 in the inning), and singled with one on and one out in the ninth. The Mariners' leadoff hitter raised his batting average from .360 to .365 in one night. Ichiro is now 28-for-75 (.373) in August with two doubles, a home run (slugging .453), and eight RBIs. He now has 179 hits on the season, leaving him 16 hits away from his 2000th Major League hit and 21 hits away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. He is on pace for a 248-hit season despite missing the first eight games of the season. Hypothetically, if he played those eight games, had four at-bats in each of those games, and maintained the .365 average he currently has, that would add 11 or 12 hits (closer to 12), which would put his pace at around 259 or 260 hits, which would break George Sisler's mark again and inch dangerously close to his own 262-hit mark. If only...
3) Josh Wilson
This is clearly not for the do-or-die grounder that he absolutely "died" on in the eighth inning -- no one else was really hitting in the game. On the grounder, Ramon Santiago was on first and Placido Polanco hit the grounder that went off Wilson's left wrist and through, putting runners on the corners with one out with the Mariners up 3-2. The play should have resulted in one out, and there may have been a shot at a double play. In any event, Carlos Guillen then drew a walk, then Miguel Cabrera singled to virtually end the game. As for Wilson's travails at the plate, he whiffed with the bases empty to end the third, drove an 0-2 Rick Porcellp pitch over the fence in leftcenter to tie the game at 1-1, singled to lead off the eighth, and grounded into a fielder's choice with nobody on and a man on first with nobody out in the ninth. I'll be the first to say I'm not very jazzed about Josh Wilson, and that having Jack Hannahan and him as the left side of the infield is close to an offensive black hole, but Wilson's played each of the last five games and gone 6-for-18 with a double and two home runs.
The Mariners' most important bullpen arm last threw (game action) on Friday. In that game against the Yankees, Lowe gave up two runs on three hits with a home run thrown in there. In the outing previous to that, Lowe gave up two hits and walked a hitter in one inning. Now we get to add this abomination to the list. Both of Lowe's last two outings have been crappy, and his last three have been sketchy to crappy. Some Mariners' key performers have been falling off a bit, namely Russell Branyan, but when you get guys like Lowe having a rough little stretch and David Aardsma blowing a save, and having to start Josh Wilson and Jack Hannahan at the same time, it's little wonder the Mariners haven't been as consistent for the last month. I guess maybe what hurt the most that inning is that Lowe was getting hit pretty hard. It started with the home run by Alex "I swear to God I'm not here because of nepotism" Avila, and it ended with Miguel Cabrera's absolute smoking of a down-the-freakin'-pipe fastball right through the middle and into centerfield to get the Tigers a 4-3 lead. I can't put the Josh Wilson horrific error on him, but there are times where you have to work through stuff. He gave up four runs (two earned) on three hits in one-third of an inning, walking one and striking out none. He threw 13 strikes out of 21 pitches and faced six hitters to get the one out.
Snell tomorrow? Over-under for when the Tigers put the game out of reach: three innings.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The Mariners snapped a three-game losing streak, running their record to 61-57 after 118 games. This record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, and 16 better than 2004 and last year. Sixty-one wins is also eight worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2001, 11 worse than 2002, and 24 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at their 61st win: 61-43 in 2000, 61-21 in 2001, 61-39 in 2002 and 2003, 61-96 in 2004, 61-79 in 2005, 61-69 in 2006, 61-49 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting had their hitting shoes on in this game, going 15-for-39, walking three times and striking out five times. They also went 7-for-18 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. Ryan Langerhans went 0-for-4 as the only hitless Mariner, though even he managed to draw a walk. Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Jack Hannahan, Kenji Johjima, and Josh Wilson all had two hits apiece while Jose Lopez got himself three hits. Johjima, Josh Wilson, and Gutierrez all doubled once while Lopez doubled twice. Johjima tallied the only Mariner home run of the day. Russell Branyan went 1-for-3 and also walked. Ichiro drove in two runs and Lopez drove in three.
What a day for Seattle pitching. The starting pitcher has the number-one gameball, so that will be addressed below. After the Mariners' five-run seventh, Chris Jakubauskas mopped up the final two innings, though I'd argue for Miguel Batista for that role. Okay, maybe not, since it was the Yankees they were dealing with. Anyway, the Lithuanian Laser faced six hitters and got all of them out in order. He threw 17 strikes out of 26 pitches, got one groundout to two flyouts, and faced six hitters to get six outs. Odd thing is that Jakubauskas is only two outings removed from giving up three runs and two homers in 4 2/3 innings, but since that was in relief of Ian Snell, it actually looked great by comparison.
1) Doug Fister
This was quite the outing the Iron Fister threw for his first Major League win. Against a team that racked up 20 runs against the Mariners in the first three games of the series, Fister was only touched up for three runs, and nothing past the fourth inning. For me, the biggest thing was that Fister didn't walk anyone, making him the first Mariner starting pitcher since Ryan Rowland-Smith on July 29th to not walk anyone. In this 16-game span of starting pitchers walking people, they walked a total of 53 hitters for an average of 3.3 walks per start. I know I certainly was getting tired of watching Mariner starting pitchers hand out free passes left and right. Along came Fister, whose only run-scoring hits given up were a Derek Jeter double in the third and a Nick Swisher home run in the fourth. As for any other jams -- Jeter singled to lead off the game, but he was stranded on first. Lastly, Fister escaped what could have been a game-breaking situation when Johnny Damon grounded out with runners on the corners and two outs to end the inning. Fister gave up three runs on eight hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out four. He threw 66 strikes out of 101 pitches, got five groundouts to 12 flyouts, and faced 29 hitters to get 21 outs.
2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman went 3-for-5 in the game, driving in three runs. He grounded out with the bases empty to end the first inning. He doubled with the bases loaded and two out in the third to get the Mariners in the lead at 2-1. He singled with one on and one out in the fifth, moving Branyan to second and later scored on a single by Gutierrez. With runners on the corners and two out in the sixth, he ended the inning by grounding into a 6-4 fielder's choice. In the seventh, with runners at first and second with two out, Lopez doubled to score Ichiro from second and send Branyan to third. That made the score 9-3 for the Mariners, rounding out their insane seventh inning as well as the day for Lopez at the plate. Lopez was hitting .230 at the end of May. He followed that up with a .329 June, a .302 July, and so far a .309 month of August. He has driven in 14 runs so far this month, but his high for any month this season was his 20-RBI June. He should break that easily, the way he's going. With how hot he is right now, Lopez should be a cinch for a 90-RBI season. Finishing with 95 RBIs would be solid as well, but he has an outside chance at a 100-RBI season. Again, that's if he keeps this up.
3) Kenji Johjima
While I'm not holding my breath expecting him to get more playing time, I hope Don Wakamatsu throws him behind the plate in five days when Fister comes back up in the rotation. If how a catcher handles the pitchers is that important, we better see Johjima behind the plate in Fister's next start. If you ask me, Johjima should be catching two out of every five days, and possibly more based on the power he can give you at the plate. After a couple of hitless games, Johjima went 2-for-4 in this game with a double and a home run, marking the first time this year he's had two extra-base hits in the same game. Johjima struck out swingign to lead off the third, doubled with a man on first and one out in the fourth, grounded out with runners on first and second and two out to end the fifth (Mariners led 4-3), was hit with a pitch to load the bases in the seventh (he ended up scoring the 7-3 run), and blasted off against Chad Gaudin in the eighth to account for the final 10-3 margin. I can't rip on Rob Johnson much at the plate this month if only because he's hitting .333 while Johjima's hitting .190. Still, I think being able to handle pitchers is one thing, but being a passed-ball factory when Felix Hernandez is throwing is quite another.
He might have still been smarting from the bases-loaded strikeout the night before that should have been a walk. While being used sparingly as a reserve while Michael Saunders is being groomed as the leftfielder of the future, Langerhans has hit .190 this month. He hit .228 last month when he was getting more playing time and when Michael Saunders either hadn't been brought up yet or wasn't getting everyday playing time. If nothing else at all, the Mariners have gotten two home runs out of him, one of them a game-ender against Tampa Bay on the 7th that mercifully ended an 11-inning game. If you ask me, that's more than the Mariners ever got out of Mike Morse, with the best part being that Ryan Langerhans never tested positive for steroids and wasn't suspended for using steroids. Ain't that just grand? Langerhans drew a walk with one out in the third (and scored the Mariners' first run), but that was his only time aboard. He grounded out with two on and one out in the fourth (Mariners were down 3-2), He flew out to lead off the sixth, he whiffed with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh (Mariners were up 4-3), and he grounded out with the bases empty to end the eighth as the Mariners' final out.
Now that the Yankees took three out of four, it's time to start the road trip with Felix tomorrow.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Mariners' fourth loss in five games dropped their record to 60-57 after 117 games. This record is six wins worse than the 2007 pace, but four better than 2006, 10 better than 2005, 15 better than last year, and 16 better than 2004. Sixty wins is also nine worse than 2000, 11 worse than 2003, 12 worse than 2002, and 24 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at loss number 57: 70-57 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 79-57 in 2002, 77-57 in 2003, 35-57 in 2004, 44-57 in 2005, 53-57 in 2006, 73-57 in 2007, and 36-57 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 10-for-35 on the evening, walking three times and striking out 11 times. They also went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. None of the Mariners' hits went for extra bases. Ichiro, Russell Branyan, and Rob Johnson had two hits apiece. Jack Hannahan and Ryan Langerhans both had a hit and a walk. Ken Griffey Jr. struck out three times and walked once in an 0-for-3 day. Maybe I should mention that the Mariners' offense has scored a total of seven runs in the past five games?
Mariner pitching wasn't a complete abomination. Starting pitching first. Luke French continued the Mariners' walk party, dishing out three free passes. He managed to make it through six innings. The one thing that sticks out in his line is that all four of the runs with which he was charged were unearned thanks to the miscommunication play between Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro in rightcenter, which I didn't see on video, but which read badly off the page, I can tell you that much. In the first, French got two quick outs but walked Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez before getting the third out. In the second, French gave up a leadoff single, then one out later the thing happened in the outfield. That was followed up by Jose Molina (number-nine hitter) singling to tie the game at 1-1, Derek Jeter hitting a sufficiently deep fly ball to score Melky Cabrera from third to make it 2-1, then Nick Swisher homering to make it 4-1 before French got out of it. French started off the third by walking Alex Rodriguez on four pitches, but he was erased on a double play. Then Cano and Jerry Hairston Jr. singled and doubled, respectively, with two out, though nobody ended up scoring. French allowed only one-out single in the fourth and a two-out single to Molina in the sixth the rest of the way. Basically, he settled down after the third. Other than the Bedardy pitch count, he was okay. French gave up four unearned runs on seven hits in six innings, walking three and striking out two. He threw 62 strikes out of 107 pitches, got three groundouts to 12 flyouts (a little steep), and faced 28 hitters to get 18 outs.
The bullpen finished out the final three innings for the Mariners. Sean White had his second straight two-inning appearance. In the seventh, he gave up one-out singles to Teixeira and Rodriguez, but got a double-play ball from Jorge Posada to end the threat. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 eighth inning. White gave up two hits in two shutout innings, walking none and striking out two. He threw 17 strikes out of 27 pitches, got three groundouts to one flyout, and faced seven hitters to get six outs. David Aardsma got work in the ninth with the Mariners down 4-2, and as does every closer in a non-save situation, got roughed up a bit. Okay, maybe just roughed up on one pitch, which was a home run by Derek Jeter with one out that made it 5-2. Whatever. The game had been over since the seventh anyway. Aardsma gave up the home run, walking none and striking out one. He threw nine strikes on 12 pitches, got two flyouts, and faced four hitters to get three outs.
1) Rob Johnson
Let's see if I can get sufficient length out of these paragraphs without having watched the bulk of the game. Johnson went 2-for-4, catapulting his batting average to .231. He grounded into a double play to end the second inning, had an infield single with two out in the fourth that scored Griffey and cut the Yankees' lead to 4-2, hit another ifnield single in the sixth that loaded the bases with one out, and flew out to right with the bases empty to end the eighth. The Mariner catcher has gone 12-for-36 so far in August with two doubles and two RBIs. I guess it was an injury that kept him out of those couple of games where Johjima started, as opposed to Johjima's hitting knocking Johnson off the pedestal. I don't mind all this talk of Johnson being such a great receiver and being able to handle a game, but every time I see a ball go to the backstop with Felix Hernandez on the mound and I think it's a ball that should have been blocked, I get a bit mad. You could easily have Johjima back there having balls going through him, but still getting power hitting out of it.
2) Russell Branyan
The Mariners' first baseman went 2-for-4. He grounded out to first to lead off the second, singled with one out and Griffey on first in the fourth, singled with the bases empty and one out in the sixth, was at the plate when Ichiro was caught stealing to end the seventh (two aboard), and struck out swinging to lead off the eighth. Branyan is following up his awful .159-hitting July with a simply bad .207-hitting August. In July and August combined, Branyan has gone 26-for-146 (.178) with seven doubles and eight home runs (slugging .390), and he's driven in 28 runs. Maybe that's the weird part -- his RBI pace hasn't really fallen off at all. The home runs have fallen off a bit. In May and June, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was around two-to-one. In July, it was 2.75-to-one, and so far in August, it's 5.25-to-one. If I thought the Mariners had any chance of the playoffs (that Cleveland series did them in), I'd be a lot more concerned about this. Branyan ended the month of June with a .303 batting average for the season. We all thought he'd tail off a bit, but did anyone expect him to hit .178 over the next month and a half?
I guess maybe I put him here because I knew I'd have more to say about him than Hannahan or Langerhans, who I think are the only other two people I could have put here. I'm not glossing over the weird play that helped seal the game in the second inning. It definitely happened. At the plate, however, Ichiro reached on an error to lead off the first, lined out to right with a runner on first in the third, grounded to second with the bases empty and one out in the fifth, legged out an infield single to lead off the seventh, and singled with a runner on first and one out in the ninth. Of course, the other miscue that's associated with Ichiro is his unsuccessful attempt to steal third in the seventh, unless Branyan missed a sign or something. Then it's on Branyan. All told, Ichiro is now at 173 hits on the season, putting him on pace for a 244-hit season. He is 22 hits away from his 2000th Major League hit and is 27 hits away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. I'm still miffed over that fan the other night taking the fly ball away from Ichiro at the rightfield wall.
I guess maybe I'm tagging him with the whole thing that happened in the second inning. Well, that combined with his 1-for-5 day. While his year defensively started out very well, there have been the odd couple of missed catches (though not many) and the odd bad throw back to the infield. The guy is extremely good defensively, but he's not completely refined. He doesn't have very far to go, but he's not quite there yet. As for the play in the second inning (again, I haven't seen video of it), the centerfielder, as we're taught at a very young age, can and should call anyone off if he feels he has a chance at a fly ball. The description of the play that's in the AP wire article is a bit disconcerting, but maybe Gutierrez had the Endy Chavez/Yuniesky Betancourt collision replaying in his mind as the play happened. Sure, one possible outcome is obviously a fly ball being caught, but if the other possibility is Gutierrez and Ichiro colliding, get injured, and missing significant time, I'll take what really happened and take the loss, because without these two guys in the outfield, the Mariners are completely screwed.
Looks like it'll be a Sunday afternoon with the Iron Fister going up against the Yankee lineup.