Friday, September 04, 2009
The Mariners' fourth straight win(!) and ninth in 12 games raised their record to 72-64 after 136 games and it takes them to their new high-water mark of the season at eight games over .500. Playing .500 ball for the rest of the way would make for an 85-win season for the Mariners. Their record at 136 games is two games worse than in 2007, but eight better than 2006, 14 better than 2005, 19 better than last year, and 21 better than 2004. Seventy-two wins is also two worse than 2000, seven worse than 2002 and 2003, and 25 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting their 72nd win: 72-60 in 2000, 72-27 in 2001, 72-45 in 2002, 72-47 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 72-79 in 2006, 72-53 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went 9-for-36 on the night, walking three times and striking out twice. They went 3-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners in all. The Mariners' two extra-base hits were Bill Hall's double and a home run by Jose Lopez. Multi-hit Mariners included Ichiro and Hall, both with two hits. Other Mariners getting aboard more than once included Mike Carp, who had a hit and a walk, and Kenji Johjima, who walked twice and hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth that drove in Hall to give the Mariners some breathing room and a 5-3 lead. This is when I realize that Johjima's actually played back-to-back nights. Johjima and Adrian Beltre were the only hitless Mariner starters on the night. Jack Wilson shook his offensive doldrums with a two-run single that opened the scoring in the second inning. Probably the most disturbing thing about the offense was that they had Clay Mortensen on the ropes in the second inning, but then the Mariner bats hit the skids for the next five innings. The only hits Mortensen allowed in those innings were a two-out Mike Sweeney single in the fifth and a leadoff single by Ichiro in the seventh. The other baserunners were a one-out Beltre hit-by-pitch and a two-out Johjima walk in the sixth. Luckily the bats finally woke up in the eighth, though it seemingly took Nomar Garciaparra's home run to do it. There's no way Mortensen should have been able to last past four innings, let alone get through seven.
As for the pitching, it was very good. The starting pitcher will be covered below. That leaves the man who threw the ninth, Mark Lowe. Lowe threw because David Aardsma had thrown in each of the last three games and the Mariners wanted to give him at least a day of rest. A good way to look at it might be that Aardsma could go the final two games of the series if need be, and Monday's an off day. Anyway, the Mariners set up Lowe very nicely, not just with Rowland-Smith's magnificentness, but also by putting up another insurance run in the ninth (Lopez home run). Lowe got the first two hitters out fairly quickly before Garciaparra chimed in with a single. Lowe got ahead 0-2 on Mark Ellis but the count went full. Luckily, Ellis flew out harmlessly to center to end the game. Lowe threw 12 of 17 pitches for strikes, got a groundout to two flyouts, and faced four hitters to get three outs. This was Lowe's second save of the season.
1) Ryan Rowland-Smith
I know this is September, and I know Oakland is a terrible team, but I continue to be impressed by the Aussie. This was his ninth start since coming back to the big club in late July. Out of the nine starts, I'd say one of them was awful (at Kansas City), one of them was bad (at Detroit), three were good, and four were great. This start was one of the great ones. Mike Blowers said on the television broadcast that he could see this guy really eating innings soon, and even mentioned the number 200. I don't know if I'd go that far, but then again, he's the closest thing this team has to an innings-eater not named Felix Hernandez right now. Right now I can't see him as better than a number-three starter, and I'm hoping necessity doesn't make him the number-two starter...unless he just turns into something that good. Otherwise, the Mariners could use a number-two starter for next year. That is, unless they want Chris Jakubauskas, Jason Vargas, Garrett Olson, Doug Fister, Ian Snell, Luke French, and Rowland-Smith to fight for the final four spots in the rotation. At least there definitely won't be a shortage of arms. Rowland-Smith cruised through most of the first three innings until Ryan Sweeney doubled and was doubled in an out later by Adam Kennedy to make it 4-1. He retired the next 11 hitters before Scott Hairston singled to lead off the seventh, but that was immediately followed by the Garciaparra homer that Gutierrez nearly robbed. Rowland-Smith then set down the final five hitters he faced. He got nine groundouts to 11 flyouts, threw 63 strikes out of 106 pitches, and faced 29 hitters to get 24 outs.
2) Bill Hall
The calendar flipped over a page to September, and now Hall's catching a bit of fire. His second straight 2-for-4 night makes him 5-for-12 in three games this month with two doubles, a home run, and three RBIs. In this game, he played leftfield, though I wonder if someday the Mariners might just get tired of having substandard offense behind the plate and just throw Hall back there for the hell of it. It'd be fun. In this game, he didn't drive in any runs, but crossed the plate twice himself. He started the two-out rally in the second inning with a double and ended up scoring the first of four Mariner runs in the inning. He also singled with one out in the eighth and was driven home by Johjima's sufficiently deep fly ball, making Hall the fifth Mariner run, an important insurance run that made it 5-3 in the eighth. It's nice to see Hall be able to play different positions and play them pretty well, but it's also nice to see the Mariners have a versatile guy that can put a charge into the ball. He seems to jump on pitches.
Ho hum, it's just another two hits for the Mariners' leadoff hitter. The hit in the second inning was actually kind of hilarious. Clayton Mortensen had walked two hitters in the inning, and Ichiro saw 2-0 and 3-1 counts in the at-bat. He fouled off the 2-0 pitch, and took the 3-1 pitch for a strike. The full-count pitch was way high and outside of the zone, but Ichiro spanked it into leftfield anyway to drive in Johjima. There's the old adage about the Caribbean players that "you can't walk off the island," but I'm beginning to think it applies with Ichiro, and with Honshu as the island. I sat there watching the at-bat, and I ended up saying, "that's the one he ends up hitting?" Ichiro works in mysterious ways, but who can argue with the results? Anyway, Ichiro is now at 191 hits on the year, four away from 2000 Major League hits and nine away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. I guess the question remains -- is this season the beginning of Ichiro not being able to play 155-plus games per season? Keep in mind Ichiro never played less than 157 games in a season on American shores until this season. The ridiculous thing is that he's still on pace to outhit all but three of his prior seasons with the Mariners despite missing over a dozen games this season.
This is just one of those nights where it has to be somebody. Beltre's the only guy in the boxscore who went hitless and didn't draw a walk. He did get aboard once on the night, but that's because he was hit with a pitch. By comparison, Johjima went 0-for-1 with two walks, drove in a run, and scored once. That said, Beltre did have a nice defensive play on a hard grounder in the second inning. Beltre's not hitting so hot since coming back from Testiclegate, though this was only the fourth game. He is now 1-for-15 with a double and an RBI since coming back from the painful grounder. What will I miss about Beltre? I'll miss the anchoring of the right foot prior to every throw to first base. I'll miss the all-arm hard slinging throws to first base. Lastly, I'll miss the patented Beltre play -- the charging barehanded play on a bunt that ends with an off-balance throw. It's no secret that Beltre hasn't lived up to the contract he signed after the career year as a Dodger, but was there really any way he would? It was a career year, and Safeco Field is a much bigger field with heavier air. I still maintain that signing Beltre and Richie Sexson that winter were moves the Mariners had to make. The Mariners had just come off a 99-loss season but also were just two years departed from a 93-win season.
The Aussie threw in this game, but Saturday night will feature French. Somehow, this makes me hungry for the Arby's Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich. There's no number on that combo, by the way...you totally have to ask for it by name.
The Mariners' third straight win and eight in 11 games pushed their season record to 71-64 after 135 games. This pace is two games worse than the 2007 pace, but seven better than 2006, 13 better than 2005, 19 better than last year, and 20 better than 2004. Seventy-one wins is also two worse than 2000, seven worse than 2003, eight worse than 2002, and 25 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting their 71st win: 71-58 in 2000, 71-27 in 2001, 71-44 in 2002, 71-46 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 71-78 in 2006, 71-52 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went a stellar 10-for-35 on the night, walking twice and striking out four times. The team went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position (2-for-21 in the last five games) and stranded five runners in all. The multi-hit Mariners were Bill Hall, Mike Carp, and Kenji Johjima, all with two hits. Adrian Beltre and Carp doubled, while Franklin Gutierrez, Hall, and Johjima homered to account for the Mariners' extra-base hit output. Gutierrez got two of his three RBIs on the home run, but the third was on a bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt in the ninth. Ichiro walked and got a single for his 189th hit of the season, putting him six away from 2000 Major League hits and 11 away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. The third and fourth hitters in the Mariner lineup, Jose Lopez and Ken Griffey Jr., combined to go 0-for-9 on the night with two strikeouts. Also, Don Wakamatsu has concluded that Jack Wilson's bad enough with the bat that now he's batting ninth.
For the pitching as a whole, I guess it wasn't too bad for the Mariners. Ian Snell did about as bad as a pitcher could do without completely imploding. He threw a boatload of pitches in the first inning, but the Athletics somehow only scored two runs, and those runs never eclipsed the Mariners' four-spot from the first inning. Well, maybe Oakland would have scored an extra run in the first if Adam Kennedy didn't make a boneheaded baserunning move and take off for the plate on a bouncer to third base. Snell gave up three hits and a walk en route to two runs in the first. In the second, Snell gave up a leadoff single but got a double-play ball from the next hitter. Snell then gave up two singles and looked to have a grounder to end the inning, but Jack Wilson somehow airmailed Jose Lopez on what should have been an underhand toss to second base for the final out. Amazingly, Snell rebounded with a 1-2-3 third inning. Amazingly, three of Snell's four walks came in his final two innings, and he was done giving up runs by then. Snell gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings, walking four and striking out four. He got six groundouts to five flyouts, threw 59 strikes out of 107 pitches, and faced 26 hitters to get 15 outs. Chris Jakubauskas threw the next two innings and did well, giving up one hit but striking out three. His other three outs were via the flyout. The Lithuanian Laser threw 18 strikes out of 32 pitches and faced seven hitters to get six outs. Mark Lowe was taken yard by Daric Barton in the eighth, but he struck out two other hitters and got a flyout. He threw ten of 11 pitches for strikes, facing four hitters to get three outs. Finally, David Aardsma nearly had a 1-2-3 save, but Jack Cust's grounder to second went off the glove of Lopez and into rightfield. Aardsma took care of the final out himself, striking out Kurt Suzuki to end it. Aardsma threw eight of 10 pitches for strikes.
1) Kenji Johjima
The Mariners' black-sheep catcher turned in his best boxscore line since August 16th, when he doubled and homered against the Yankees. He led off the second with a groundout, but then Johjima started swinging the bat. With one out and the Mariners leading 4-3 in the fourth, Johjima got hold of a pitch and drove it out of the yard to leftcenter, expanding the Mariners' lead to 6-3. He also walked with a man on second and two out in the sixth and singled with one on and nobody out in the ninth. The home run for Johjima, his seventh of the season, was his fourth in a span of less than a month. Rob Johnson's hit two home runs the entire season despite getting the bulk of the playing time behind the plate. At least Johnson has hit .261 since July 1st, though he's a .221 hitter for the season. I wonder just how conclusive we can be about this season when it comes to Johjima. When the Mariners' rotation was healthy and clicking (as short a time as it was), Don Wakamatsu thre Rob Johnson behind the plate for all the good pitchers' starts (Hernandez, Washburn, Bedard) and put Johjima behind the plate for the scraps (Jakubauskas, Olson, Vargas), so of COURSE Johnson was going to have a crazy catchers' ERA compared to that of Johjima. That catchers' ERA stat may have been the most overblown stat of the season.
2) Bill Hall
The Brewer castoff is now 11-for-43 (.256) as a Mariner, thanks in part to this 2-for-4 night. With a man on second and the Mariners ahead 2-0 in the first, Hall put a jolt into a pitch and rode it over the wall in left, doubling the Mariners' lead to 4-0. He also led off the fourth with a single. While Hall is 11-for-43 as a Mariner, he's slugging .419 after roughly two weeks as a Mariner. Additionally, leftfield was where he played tonight, one night after having played second base. If you ask me, it was nice having Hall kill the baseball instead of Michael Saunders swinging and missing repeatedly. If Hall really pans out with the Mariners, he could end up being a Mark McLemore, except with pop in his bat. Best of all, the Mariners got him for a song. Any awesomeness he might generate could offset any of the letdown caused by Jack Wilson's complete lack of impressiveness (on offense) so far. This shapes up interestingly for next year's team. I think we can presume that centerfield, rightfield, shortstop, and second base (or wherever Lopez plays) are pretty much locked up. That leaves leftfield and the corners as places to rotate Hall or any other kind of supersub Jack Zduriencik can unearth. I guess.
3) Mike Carp
This was Carp's first multi-hit game at the big-league level since a two-hit game against the Diamondbacks on June 21st. He popped out foul to end the first inning, so no celebration for that. Then he flew out with a man on and nobody out in the fourth. Again, no celebration. In the sixth, Carp rang a two-out double into the gap in rightcenter. Celebration. Finally, he singled to lead off the ninth inning. The hits were Carp's fourth and fifth at the Major League level. So where does Carp fit into next year's plans? Presuming Russell Branyan doesn't come back (I don't think they'll pony up too far for what he'll command), can you really have Carp at first? Will this team have any power hitting at all? The way it's going, Lopez (and maybe Hall) could be the only hitter on the team with any pop next year, which is worrisome. Needless to say, the Mariners will have some money to spend next winter when it comes to bringing more power to the team. Otherwise, I guess you're hoping Lopez develops 30-homer power, Gutierrez develops 20-homer power, and Ichiro reaches double digits in homers. I know it's way early, but I can't help but think about how lucky this team's been this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if they had a slightly worse record next year just because all the elements will still be settling.
The reasons for this are pretty simple. One is that the Mariners' leading RBI man went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in the game. Two is that David Aardsma's save-clinching ground ball go off the glove of Lopez. He's due for a big game with the bat soon, as he hasn't had a multi-hit game since August 26th, eight games ago. In the last eight games, Lopez has gone 3-for-27 (.111) with a double, a home run, and two RBIs. Come on, Jose, that's no way to mount a run for a 100-RBI season. Come on. Another way to look at this -- how on earth does Lopez only go 2-for-13 in a four-game series against Kansas City pitching? That's a wee bit awful. The next series was against the Angels, and Lopez went 1-for-9. Lopez has to get to 90 RBIs, he should get 95 RBIs, and if he got hot, he could get 100 RBIs. Lopez has had a couple five-homer months this season, and a five-homer month of September will give Lopez a 25-homer season. Can you imagine if Lopez pulls off a 25-homer, 100-RBI season? Best of all, he was raised in the Mariners' system! I'm really not used to this whole thing about position players coming through the Mariners' system and actually turning out to be something.
The Aussie will go on Friday night in beautiful Oakland.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
The Mariners' seventh win in 10 games raised their record to 70-64 after 134 games. This pace is three games worse than the 2007 pace, but is seven better than the 2006 pace, 13 better than the 2005 pace, and 19 better than the paces of 2004 and last year. Seventy wins is also two wins worse than 2000, seven worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 26 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at win number 70: 70-55 in 2000, 70-27 in 2001, 70-44 in 2002, 70-46 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 70-77 in 2006, 70-52 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went 5-for-28 on the day, walking four times and striking out 11 times. The team was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. They are now 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position over the past four games. The multi-hit Mariners on the day were Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez, who turned in two hits apiece. Two of the five Mariner hits were doubles, hit by Bill Hall and Gutierrez. Scott Kazmir exacted the bulk of the strikeout barrage upon the Mariners, and the multi-strikeout Mariners were Mike Sweeney, Adrian Beltre, Hall, and Michael Saunders. The Mariners' futility in the first inning (i.e., bases loaded with nobody out followed by three strikeouts) led to the high left-on-base numbers for Sweeney (six), Beltre (four), and Hall (six).
Usually right here I do a little writeup on the pitchers that don't land themselves into the gameball entries. In this game, two Mariner pitchers threw, and I put both of them in the gameball entries. Beltre and Hall had the two Mariner RBIs, but that first inning really stuck out in my mind, so I didn't feel like throwing them in with the gameballs. Props to Hall for that throw from the seat of his pants, though, as well as stealing third base and scoring on the play. Damn, maybe he does deserve a gameball?
1) Felix Hernandez
I'd have to say his best start of the year was the two-hit complete-game shutout in San Diego on June 16th. My only problem with his line in this game was the three walks. Harping on walks -- it's what I do. Still, Felix threw eight innings of shutout ball, and that's many kinds of awesome. Believe it or not, Felix hadn't recorded an out in the eighth inning of a start since he went eight innings on July 17th in Cleveland. To his credit, he didn't suck crap from then to now, going seven innings in six of nine starts. I first heard this stat on Softy Mahler's KJR show, and I'll update it -- in his nine no-decisions, Felix has given up three earned runs or less all but once, and he gave up two or less earned runs in six of the nine starts. His season record is 14-5 right now and he could easily be pushing 20 wins on a team with even a slightly below-average offense. Unlike the May 19th start against the Angels that turned Felix's season on its ear, this time the running game was snuffed out immediately as Chone Figgisn legged out a ground ball and broke for second base two pitches later, only to be gunned down by a pretty good margin by Rob Johnson. Felix had issues in the third, starting with a Mike Napoli one-out single. One out later, he walked Figgins, then walked Bobby Abreu to load the bases before stepping it up to get Torii Hunter to go down swinging to end the threat. That was pretty much his diciest jam of the afternoon. He retired the next seven hitters before Figgins led off the sixth with a single, and that inning ended with Vladimir Guerrero flying out with Abreu on second. In the seventh, Kendry Morales singled to lead off and was pushed to third by two groundouts before Napoli grounded out to Beltre at third. In the eighth, Felix allowed only a two-out walk to Abreu before finishing off the inning. He gave up four hits in eight shutout innings, walking three and striking out six. He got 12 groundouts to five flyouts (vintage Felix), faced 30 hitters to get 24 outs, and threw 67 strikes out of 114 pitches.
Just another day and another two hits for Ichiro. It's almost like he was never hurt. Well, you think that until you see him run and discover that he isn't quite all the way there with his legs, but his legs were still a factor on one of the hits. In the eighth, with the Mariners ahead 2-0, Ichiro came to the plate with one out. He took the first pitch for a ball before taking two pitches that looked to be a bit off the plate outside, but both of those pitches were called for strikes. The next pitch was even further outside the zone, but Ichiro cut some bat on it and nubbed it toward the third-base side, where neither Brian Fuentes nor Chone Figgins could get to it quickly enough to make a play. Ichiro scored later that inning on Beltre's bases-loaded walk. Oddly, the ESPN.com play-by-play log doesn't jive with the MLB.com boxscore or the AP wire article. The article mentions an infield hit by Ichiro in the first, and the boxscore credits him with two hits, but ESPN's log says Morales was charged with an error that got Ichiro aboard. Whatever. That makes two hits that Ichiro legged out even though his calf isn't 100% yet. Impressive. Again, he's seven hits away from 2000 Major League hits and 12 hits away from his ninth straight 200-hit season.
3) David Aardsma
I was a little more anxious to give gameballs to the offensive stars of the middle game of this series, though much praise was due for Aardsma, who had to go through Abreu, Hunter, Guerrero, and Morales to get that save. The task wasn't quite as daunting this time as Aardsma had a three-run lead to work with and Guerrero and Morales were followed up by the mighty Maicer Izturis. All told, this was his first save opportunity since July 23rd where Aardsma didn't give up a hit or a walk. In other words, he had 11 straight save opportunities where someone either got a hit or got walked. He still nailed down the save in all but two of those appearances. Though a closer's awesomeness doesn't necessarily mean he throws a 1-2-3 inning every time out, you'd much rather have him do that instead of letting the leadoff hitter aboard every time and raising everyone's blood pressure. Aardsma has struck out 72 hitters this season and walked 32 hitters, which makes for a nice strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.25:1. This is after walking 35 and striking out 49 last year with the Red Sox. I hope someone's making a highlight DVD of Aardsma's season and gives him a copy because he'll be very hard pressed to replicate a season this magical for himself. He's converted on 33 of 37 save chances, and the guy wasn't even officially the closer for the first month and a half of the season. Just ridiculous.
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.
For me, it's almost a given that one of the guys that failed with the bases loaded in the first inning was going to end up here. It's kind of tough since all three of the guys figured into the win somehow -- Sweeney scored from first on Hall's double, Hall hit the aforementioned double and made a nice fielding play while sitting down on the ground while playing second for the first time since 2007, and even Beltre drew a bases-loaded walk which gave the Mariners their third and final run. The Mariners loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning. Sweeney worked a 10-pitch at-bat, but took strike three on the final pitch. Beltre then came up with one out, looked at strike one, missed on strike two, took a ball, and swung at strike three. The carnage ended with the coup de grace of Hall striking out to end the inning, leaving the Mariner offense wallowing in a pool of futility from which they wouldn't escape until the seventh inning. The same hitters who failed with the bases loaded in the first also were the only three hitters in the fourth inning, going away 1-2-3. Beltre was the second out of that inning, fouling off one pitch before missing on the next two. In the seventh, he flew out to center right after Sweeney led off with a four-pitch walk. Hall was the next hitter, and he doubled to open the scoring. Beltre took the bases-loaded walk the following inning. I had to take one of the guys from the first inning because I can only say the same stuff about Michael Saunders striking out a bunch and having no power so many times before I get tired of it.
Don't anyone out there hold your breath, but Snell is gunning for his fourth straight win, and he'll have to do it in Oakland.
The Mariners snapped a two-game losing streak to run their record to 69-64 after 133 games. This pace is four games worse than the 2007 pace, but six better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 18 better than 2004, and 19 better than last year. Sixty-nine wins is also three worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 26 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records at win number 69: 69-47 in 2000, 69-27 in 2001, 69-42 in 2002, 69-43 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-91 in 2005, 69-75 in 2006, 69-52 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went 7-for-31 on the night, walking once and striking out four times. They went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position (1-for-11 the past three games) and stranded seven runners in all. The top four hitters in the Mariner lineup did all the hitting in this one, combining to go 7-for-15 with a double and two RBIs. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-16 with a walk and two strikeouts. Multi-hit games were turned in by Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, and Mike Sweeney. Gutierrez snapped a two-game hitless streak and hopes to rebound from a .252 August. Jose Lopez drove in the game-winning RBI, which was his 80th RBI on the year. His lowest RBI month of the year was his 11-RBI July, but he's coming off his high-RBI month as he drove in 22 in August. Needless to say, he needs 20 more RBIs to get to 100 for the season, and he has a decent shot, especially if other teams are calling up their minor-leaguers and throwing them on the mound. Adrian Beltre went 0-for-4 in his first game back after Testiclegate, though two of his flyouts drove Bobby Abreu to the warning track in rightfield.
After such a horrid night on Monday, Mariner pitchers had a very good night, allowing only one run to the potent Angel offense. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Mark Lowe came in for Doug Fister, inheriting a runner on second base with one out. Lowe then got key fly balls from pinch-hitter Mike Napoli and Chone Figgins to end the inning. Lowe threw five strikes out of seven pitches. David Aardsma came in to nail down the ninth. He promptly allowed a single to Abreu, but got the next three hitters in order, striking out Kendry Morales to end the game. Aardsma threw 12 strikes out of 17 pitches, getting two flyouts and facing four hitters to get three outs.
1) Doug Fister
How seriously odd. Just five days earlier, I was lamenting aloud about how ironic it was that after shutting down the White Sox and Yankees, Fister's undoing came at the hands of the pathetic Royals. Fast-forward five days, and lo and behold, Fister's doing his thing again, shutting down a juggernaut of an offensive team. His only rough-up was that he gave up a run right after the Mariners got him a 1-0 lead in the first. Fister was also the proud benefactor of double-play balls in the third and fourth innings. The only hitter in the Angel lineup with multiple hits was Maicer Izturis, who drove in their only run. When Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero go hitless, it's probably a good night. Fister gave up one run on five hits in 7 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out two. He threw 70 strikes out of 107 pitches, got nine groundouts to 10 flyouts (decent ratio), and faced 26 hitters to get 22 outs. I guess I'm pretty intrigued when it comes to this guy. Still, I wonder how he'd have done if he was brought up early in the year like Jason Vargas and Garrett Olson. Would the same thing have happened to Fister? Would he have done good to pretty good in the first half and fallen off the cliff in the second half? I don't know how much of a read we can really get on Fister with only a month left in the season.
2) Mike Sweeney
If he keeps hitting, he'll keep getting gameballs. The Mariners' righthanded designated hitter has taken full advantage of the extra playing time resulting from Ken Griffey Jr.'s balky knee. Sweeney has collected hits in nine of his last 10 games, going 16-for-35 (.457) with five doubles, a home run (slugging .686), and eight RBIs. Yes, it's Mike Sweeney, who hadn't been playing most of the time this season with Griffey getting the bulk of the at-bats at designated hitter. Sweeney is a .269 hitter on the season and has been tearing it up for nearly two weeks. He hit .333 in August. I saw some of his postgame chat with Angie Three Names on FSN and the weird thing about Sweeney is that he doesn't look as aged as his birthdate reads until he's at the plate swinging a bat or running the basepaths. It still makes me uncomfortable watching Sweeney swinging a bat, but if he's hitting as well as he is right now, I can't really argue with the results. Maybe there's some unwritten karmic rule that only one out of Russell Branyan and Sweeney can have a mostly healthy back at any one time.
I wasn't sure how much longer I could really keep watching this team this year and how much longer I could keep caring without Ichiro in the lineup. He collected hits number 185 and 186 on the year in his first game since August 23rd at Cleveland. This of course leaves him nine hits short of 2000 Major League hits and 14 hits short of his ninth straight 200-hit season. Still, the hits might not yet come at the breakneck speed like they were earlier in the year since it appeared Ichiro's calf was still nagging at him just a tiny bit. One of his hits seemed sufficient enough to at least get an aggressive turn around first base from Ichiro, but he instead merely coasted to the bag. I can't help but think he's not quite 100 percent yet, and Dave Sims and Mike Blowers thought the same thing on the FSNW broadcast. I've dusted off the little Ichiro portion of the Excel table, and it seems he might still be on pace for a 234-hit season. I've wondered a few times this season whether Ichiro could stay in the Majors long enough to get to 3000 Major League hits, then last week I read a Yahoo Sports piece that went one further and thought Ichiro maybe could reach 4000 career hits. I think I'll wait for 3000 and just go from there. Four thousand is so so lofty. He's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer stateside if he gets 3000 hits, that's for sure.
Since coming back from the hamstring thing, Jack Wilson has looked better with the bat for the most part. This was not a good night for Jack Wilson at the plate, however. He was the final out in the second inning, though flying out with the bases empty isn't really demoralizing. He was also the final out in the fourth inning with the game tied 1-1, though this time the Mariners had runners at the corners and he flew out to rightfield. He then flew out with Kenji Johjima on first base to end the sixth inning. He was in the hole in the eighth inning when Mike Carp struck out as the final Mariner hitter of the night. What are the odds of that? Jack Wilson got to the plate three times and ended an inning all three times. In an evil way, that's really kind of impressive. At least there's no real complaining about Jack Wilson's defense. You know, now I'm really hoping another team picks up Josh Wilson next year because I'm really tired of typing out both of these guys' first and last names every time I refer to them. I know I can't be the only one who thinks this. Surely the guys in the print media are thinking the same thing.
Time to wrap up the series in the late afternoon with Felix throwing. Let's hope for Dominant Felix.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
The walkover loss dropped the Mariners' season record to 68-64 after 132 games. This pace is five games off the 2007 pace, but five better than the 2006 pace, 12 better than the 2005 pace, 17 better than the 2004 pace, and 18 better than last year's pace. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams at loss number 64: 75-64 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 72-46 in 2002, 69-46 in 2003, 32-46 in 2004, 33-46 in 2005, 42-46 in 2006, 54-46 in 2007, and 24-46 last year.
Seattle hitting went 3-for-29 on the night, walking four times and striking out seven times. The team has gone 4-for-57 in the past two games. They went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. Josh Wilson hit a meaningless double in the sixth, which was the only extra-base hit for the Mariners on the night. The three Mariner hits belonged to Josh Wilson, Mike Sweeney, and Jack Wilson. The four walks were drawn by Jose Lopez, sweeney, Bill Hall, and Ryan Langerhans. Multi-strikeout Mariners were Franklin Gutierrez and Hall.
As for the pitching, it was not a good night. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Chris Jakubauskas, in his first start since being recalled from Tacoma, threw the sixth and seventh innings. He came in with the Angels already having a 7-0 lead. He threw a 1-2-3 sixth before succumbing to the reality of facing the Angels in the seventh. He walked Torii Hunter on four pitches to lead off the seventh, then Vladimir Guerrero reached down and destroyed a pitch, sending it a few rows above the Jackie Robinson marker in the leftfield bleachers. One out later, Kendry Morales doubled and was driven in by a Howie Kendrick single to account for the final margin. Jakubauskas gave up three runs on three hits in two innings, walking one and striking out one. He got three groundouts and one flyout, faced nine hitters to get six outs, and threw 24 strikes out of 40 pitches. From there, Randy Messenger threw a 1-2-3 eighth (seven of 12 pitches for strikes), and Mark Lowe threw a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two (seven of nine pitches for strikes).
1) Mike Sweeney
You know, it didn't hit me until now that the Zack Greinke one-hitter snapped Sweeney's seven-game hitting streak. That said, it appears Sweeney's not done yet, as he's started the hit parade once again. In the first inning with two out and Jose Lopez on first, Sweeney singled to push Lopez to second. Hall walked behind him to load the bases, and the inning ended with Jack Hannahan grounding out to end the only Mariners' scoring threat of the game, which was scoreless at that point. Over the last nine games, Sweeney is now 17-for-51 (.333) with five doubles, one home run (slugging .431), seven RBIs, three walks, and four strikeouts. I like how Sweeney is doing and everything, but this is really too bad. Why? Can you imagine how much fun we'd be having right now if Sweeney was the one who was getting banged up and Ken Griffey Jr. instead was the designated hitter who was tearing things up? Okay, I wouldn't be jazzed about Sweeney having to sit out due to injury, but this would be quite the time for Griffey to hit well for a week or two and go out on a pretty good note. All that said, Sweeney is now a .265 hitter on the year, which has been pretty good given his limited action. He also helped Dustin Ackley get acclimated to big-league batting practice, so Sweeney is all kinds of awesome.
2) Josh Wilson
Let's set the scene. It's the bottom of the sixth. There is one out. Josh Wilson is stepping up to the plate. Joe Saunders is on the mound. The Angels are ahead 7-0. On the second pitch, Josh Wilson hits a double that is completely meaningless. End of scene. You know, this is the second straight game post that's been real trouble to write since the hitters are doing basically nothing, so bear with me here. Since landing back on the big club on August 13th, Josh Wilson has gone 16-for-54 (.296) with three doubles and three home runs (slugging .519) with eight RBIs. Part of me almost misses the days when the Mariners first acquired him even though he was a completely awful hitter and I thought he was a hack and I called him the 2009 model of Luis Ugueto. That also coincides with the team also being pretty good. Anyway, how dare I doubt the talent evaluation skills of Jack Zduriencik and crew. Since he seems like the epitome of a spare part, I seriously doubt he's on this team next year, but he could get quite a bit of time somewhere else.
3) Jack Wilson
...and he made a diving stop too! In addition to the completely meaningless diving stop, Jack Wilson hit a single. I'll set the scene. Safeco Field was filled with a sparse crowd of 18959 and sounded cavernous what with all the bored fans. The bottom of the fifth inning was about to begin, and Jack Wilson stepped into the batters' box against Joe Saunders. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Jack Wilson singled into leftfield, and a smattering of cheers and handclapping echoed throughout Safeco Field. Seconds later, the ballpark echoed again with near silence since for some reason the acoustics in there really do not do a good job of amplifying crowd noise at all, and it's even worse when there's a sparse crowd. The crowd noise at Safeco Field is like the anti-Qwest Field. Anyway, since coming back from his hamstring injury, Jack Wilson has gone 5-for-26 (.192) with one double and one home run (slugging .346). Yeah, he's not really hitting, but I guess it could be worse. We could be watching Ronny Cedeno out there every single night. Yeah, I don't miss Cedeno in the least. Enjoy Pittsburgh, Ronny.
Well, we're witness to growing pains, only this isn't anywhere near as enjoyable as the '80s sitcom. No, these growing pains star Luke French, who definitely had his worst start as a Mariner. It's really too bad since he seemed to have settled into a groove where his starts would go about five or six innings, and he'd give up three or four runs. What happened this time? He escaped a two on, one out jam in the second, but it all started coming apart at the seams in the third. Chone Figgins led off with a single, then French put a baseball to Bobby Abreu's rear end. French got ahead 0-2 on Torii Hunter, but wild-pitched the runners to second. Hunter then sac-flew Figgins home (beating the Hall throw to the plate) and moving Abreu to third. Then Vladimir Guerrero clobbered a pitch, sending it to the right of the Mariner bullpen fence and into the mass of inebriation beyond the centerfield wall. A Juan Rivera single, Kendry Morales double, and a Howie Kendrick groundout made it 4-0. French threw a 1-2-3 fourth inning before he was roughed up again in the fifth. Hunter led off with a double, Guerrero had mercy and only chose a single this time, but then Rivera was the hitman this time, homering to put the game out of reach at 7-0. Someday French could be a semi-dependable fourth starter, but sometimes he's going to have games like this. He gave up seven runs on 10 hits, walking none and striking out three in his five innings of work. He got four groundouts to eight flyouts, faced 26 hitters to get 15 outs, and threw 66 strikes out of 96 pitches.
Can the Iron Fister give a hearty jab to the Angels? Yeah, probably not. An evil part of me hopes for a sweep just so I never have to hear the broadcast crew try to convince people that the Mariners are still in the playoff race.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The loss dropped the Mariners' record to 68-63 after 131 games. This pace is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but is six better than the 2006 pace, 12 better than the 2005 pace, 17 better than the 2004 pace, and 19 better than last year's pace. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting loss number 63: 74-63 in 2000 and 2007, 116-46 in 2001, 84-63 in 2002, 86-63 in 2003, 39-63 in 2004, 47-63 in 2005, 56-63 in 2006, and 38-63 last year.
Seattle hitting took a day off against Zack Greinke, going 1-for-28 and walking once while striking out five times. They were 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position and stranded two runners in all. Kenji Johjima had the only hit of the day for the Mariners, and it was merely a parachute job. The Mariners' only other baserunner was Bill Hall, who walked.
As for the pitching, it was very good, but Greinke was leaps and bounds better. Since not a lot of Mariners were hitting in this game, the two Mariner pitchers are in the gameball entries, so read all about them below.
1) Ryan Rowland-Smith
This was such a well-pitched game that it was really too bad someone had to lose it. Unfortunately for the Aussie, he was that man. What's also really too bad is that he was undone by one fly ball in the sun that didn't get caught. Let's go through the anatomy of Rowland-Smith's start. He allowed a Billy Butler single with two out in the first, He retired the next five hitters before Yuniesky Betancourt singled with one out in the third, but then David DeJesus grounded into a double play to end the inning. He threw a 1-2-3 fourth before the fateful fifth. Alberto Callaspo hit a high fly ball to leftfield on which Michael Saunders broke inward, lost the ball in the sun, then couldn't get back in time, and the ball went over his head. Callaspo got a "double," and the Royals were in business. Mark Teahen's groundout moved Callaspo to third, then Miguel Olivo (of all people) singled to score Callaspo as the first run of the game, and it turns out that's all Greinke would need. Rowland-Smith then walked Mitch Maier, got a Betancourt flyout, then allowed a DeJesus single that scored Olivo to make it 2-0. A wild pitch with Bloomquist at the plate scored Maier to make it 3-0 before Bloomquist grounded out to end the inning. Rowland-Smith then retired the his final nine hitters in order, striking out the side in the seventh. Just like Chris Jakubauskas had his best start of the year in a Mariner loss, it appears Rowland-Smith has had his best start of the year in a Mariner loss. He gave up three runs on five hits in eight innings, walking one and striking out seven. He got 10 groundouts to seven flyouts, threw 80 strikes out of 113 pitches, and faced 29 hitters to get 24 outs.
2) Shawn Kelley
Since I can't really rate too many Mariner hitters' performances over a nondescript outing by a Mariner relief pitcher, it's a nondescript outing by a Mariner relief pitcher that gets gameball number two. Kelley came in and threw a 1-2-3 ninth inning with the Mariners down 3-0. He got Butler to go down swinging, got Brayan Pena to ground out, and got a flyout to left by Callaspo that Saunders didn't lose in the sun. Kelley threw 12 strikes out of 16 pitches. Though I'd completely forgotten about it, this was Kelley's rebound appearance after he and Randy Messenger got roughed up in the latter portion of the game on Friday night where the Royals hit a bunch of home runs. Prior to that outing, Kelley had thrown seven straight scoreless appearances. For a guy that a lot of people didn't even think would make the team out of spring training, Kelley has done mighty good for himself. Probably the worst thing he did all year was try to throw one more pitch after he felt a twinge in his oblique muscle. That turned out to be a mistake that cost him nearly two months.
3) Kenji Johjima
The black sheep of the Mariners' catching tandem got the only Seattle hit of the day. Yes, Johjima holds the key to unlocking the genius that is Zack Greinke. Unfortunately for Johjima, as much as I try to defend him and would rather have him at the plate than Rob Johnson, the guy's only gone 9-for-48 (.188) for the month of August. The odd thing is that four of his nine hits in August have gone for extra bases (one double, three home runs), so his slugging percentage is still .396. Since missing a month due to injury, Johjima has gone 23-for-100 (.230) with three doubles, three home runs (slugging .350), and seven RBIs. Rob Johnson hit .269 in July and is hitting .281 so far in August, so big kudos to him, though he hit like Ronny Cedeno for two whole months. I still can't believe for the life of me how Don Wakamatsu could look in the mirror at himself in the morning and still put Ronny Cedeno and Rob Johnson on the same lineup card. That still irks me. Don't get me wrong, I've had little problem with Wakamatsu this year, but that still eats at me a bit.
This was not exactly a golden moment in the month-long career of the kid from Victoria. Everyone but Kenji Johjima in the Mariner lineup had a hitless day, so Saunders simply matching that wouldn't put him here. Ryan Rowland-Smith was cruising through the first four innings. Alberto Callaspo led off the fifth with a fly ball to leftfield. Saunders appeared to take his first step inward (generally a big no-no), lost the ball in the sun, then broke backward but couldn't get back far enough. He missed what should have been a catch, and it gave the Royals just enough of a window of opportunity to score three runs, and with Zack Greinke on the mound, the game was over once Michael Saunders didn't catch that ball. I guess it's really too bad for Saunders since he's generally been pretty good defensively, showing he has pretty good range and even robbed someone of a home run by reaching above the wall. Losing the ball in the sun...well, I had it happen to me back in junior high ball with the bases loaded in an extra-inning game on the road, so I know what it's like, except with way less people watching. It still feels like crap, though. Overall, I like Saunders, but when the hell is he going to hit a home run? Damn, he's played in 28 Major League games and hasn't popped one yet.
Here's hoping French can fry some Rally Monkey. If somehow there's a Yankees/Angels series or a Red Sox/Angels series in the postseason, nobody wins. Nobody wins.
The Mariners fifth win in six games raised their record to 68-62 after 130 games. This record is five games worse than the 2007 pace, but seven better than 2006, 13 better than 2005, 18 better than 2004, and 20 better than last year. Sixty-eight wins is also three worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, nine worse than 2002, and 26 worse than 2001. Records of other new-millennium Mariner teams when getting win number 68: 68-47 in 2000, 68-26 in 2001, 68-42 in 2002, 68-43 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 68-91 in 2005, 68-73 in 2006, 68-52 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went 10-for-34 on the night, drawing zero walks and striking out six times. The team went 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded only two runners. The only hitless Mariner was Bill Hall, who went hitless on four at-bats and struck out once. Mike Sweeney and Jack Hannahan had two hits apiece. Doubles were hit by Sweeney, Hannahan, and Jack Wilson. Home runs were hit by Hannahan, Rob Johnson (whaaaa?!), and Jose Lopez. Sweeney, Hannahan, and Johnson drove in two runs apiece. Only Josh Wilson struck out more than once, doing so twice. Only Hall and Jack Wilson didn't cross the plate.
As for Mariner pitching, the arms were sufficient on this night. I almost put Ian Snell in as the number-three gameball, but I bumped him at the last second for Rob Johnson, since Johnson hit a home run, and that happens about as often as a solar eclipse. Snell retired the first six hitters he faced before Mitch Maier singled to lead off the third. Then our giddiness with Snell's outing was quickly tempered when John Buck homered on an 0-2 pitch right after Maier reached, cutting the Mariners' lead in half to 4-2. Right after that, Snell somehow walked Yuniesky Betancourt before getting the next three hitters out. Snell allowed a four-pitch walk with one out in the fourth, but the next hitter lined out to Hannahan at first, who then easily doubled off the runner at first. Maier led off the fifth and lined the ball somewhere off Snell's arm. Hannahan got the ball and ran it to first for the out, but Snell eventually went to the ground in pain. After much deliberation, Snell got up, threw a few warmup pitches, and stayed in the game, allowing a Buck double before getting the final two outs and leaving the game. Snell gave up two runs on three hits, walking two and striking out two over five innings. He got one groundout to 11 flyouts (testing the fence depth of Safeco Field) and faced 19 hitters to get 15 outs. Snell threw 44 strikes out of 68 pitches. Really, it's too bad Snell got hit by the line drive because he probably could have thrown seven innings. Miguel Batista came into the perfect situation, starting the sixth inning with a 7-2 lead. He threw a 1-2-3 sixth. In the seventh, he allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Buck then flew out to shallow center, Betancourt fell victim to his own aggressiveness (strikeout), and David DeJesus hit a slow bouncer to Jack Wilson to end the inning. Batista gave up two hits, walked one, and struck out one over two shutout innings. He got three groundouts to two flyouts and threw 23 strikes out of 35 pitches, facing nine hitters to get six outs. Randy Messenger came in to mop up the eighth and ninth. He allowed two singles to lead off the eighth before getting a double play ball and cruising throug the rest of the inning. He allowed two solo homers to lead off the ninth, but got the final three hitters out to end it. Messenger gave up two runs on four hits in two innings, walking none and striking out none. He threw 17 strikes out of 25 pitches, getting three groundouts and three flyouts, and facing nine hitters to get six outs.
1) Jack Hannahan
Now that Branyan's on the disabled list, I'm not sure if they're going to have Hannahan playing first base every day, but the one thing that's for sure is that he's going to get a good deal of playing time. I think the only thing that could bump him out of the lineup would be if Don Wakamatsu decided to put Bill Hall or Mike Sweeney at first base when Ichiro returns to the lineup. Even then, Wakamatsu would probably move Hannahan back over to third base and bump Josh Wilson (who was playing third in this game) out of the lineup. Anyway, this was a night where Hannahan went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. His first hit was a ringing double with two out off Gil Meche in the first inning, which scored Sweeney to give the Mariners a 3-0 lead. Hannahan then homered to lead off the fourth inning, giving the Mariners a 5-2 lead. The game was blown open later that inning, so the outs he made in his two following at-bats are almost immaterial. The 2-for-4 night leaves Hannahan hitting .250 for the month of August. Thanks to Hannahan's mad count-working skizzillz, his August on-base percentage coming into the game was .352 while his August slugging mark was .283. Thanks to this game, Hannahan's August slugging percentage now sits at .359, so it was a good night.
2) Mike Sweeney
Someone should probably call the fire department or something since Sweeney is a house ablaze. He got yet another start against a righthanded pitcher, though this appears to be due to Ken Griffey Jr. having swelling in his knee. All the same, Sweeney's probably doing more with his at-bats than Griffey would have done. Sweeney went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in the game. Sweeney's double in the first inning started the merry-go-round against Gil Meche, and it scored the Mariners' first two runs to make it 2-0. His other hit was a single that was fairly inconsequential in the scope of the game, but it came right after the Jose Lopez home run made it 8-2 in the eighth. What does this mean for Sweeney? He's now on a seven-game hitting streak, over which he's gone 13-for-26 (.500) with five doubles, a home run, and seven RBIs. He's slugging .808 over the seven-game hitting streak, which is completely ridiculous and completely a small sample size. All in all, in limited playing time, Sweeney is a .266 hitter on the season. I won't lie, I'd much rather have had Chris Shelton on the big club for the bulk of the season, but Sweeney's been way better than worthless.
3) Rob Johnson
At some point while typing all these game pieces, I made an unofficial promise to myself that if Rob Johnson managed to somehow hit a home run in a game or get multiple hits, I'd try to throw him into the gameball entries. Lo and behold, the two multi-hit guys already got the first two entries and I already found a way to talk about Ian Snell, so here's Johnson. The home run was his only hit of the game, as he just squared up a hanging breaking ball and sent it above the manual scoreboard in leftfield. The home run broke the game open and gave the Mariners a 7-2 lead, which eventually afforded the Mariners the opportunity to yank Snell from the ballgame after five innings and set up the perfect situation in which to put Miguel Batista on the mound. Seriously, this almost reminds me of that short span of time when Kevin Jarvis was a Mariner -- he was just so bad that it had to be a six-run or seven-run margin to even think of putting him on the mound. Still, Batista at least had the 2007 season he had with the Mariners, and I don't ever remember Jarvis loading the bases with nobody out and managing to wriggle his way out of it, so there's that.
The scrap-heap acquisition will be getting everyday playing time until Ichiro gets back, and I'm hoping that sometime is soon. Not that I don't want Hall getting playing time, I'm just getting a little uneasy watching this team without Ichiro. I have this sick feeling that Ichiro's going to land on the disabled list again or something. I mean, there were points this season where Ichiro's pace would have had him nearly matching his 262-hit record if not for his missed time. With the way this calf injury is going, a thought enters my mind about the Mariners bringing him back long enough to get his 200th hit and then shutting him down for the rest of the season. Obviously I'm hoping it doesn't come down to that. Also obvious is that I feel I've spent the creative fountain the last few nights writing about Hall, and that I only have so much material when it comes to the guy. When Ichiro comes back, it'll be a logjam in leftfield and the infield positions that aren't second base. If Branyan comes back to finish out the season, it'll be a logjam between left side of the defense.
It'll be the Aussie against Greinke. I hope they can pull it off. Actually, they should have just found a way to win the first game of the series. In short, they better win this series. You can't split against the sorry Royals.