Thursday, September 10, 2009
The Mariners' fifth straight loss dropped their record to 72-69 after 141 games. This record at this point in the schedule is three games worse than that of the 2007 team, but four better than 2006, 11 better than 2005, 17 better than last year, and 20 better than 2004. Seventy-two wins is also four worse than 2000, 10 worse than 2003, 11 worse than 2002, and 29 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when losing their 69th game: 86-69 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 93-69 in 2002, 90-69 in 2003, 40-69 in 2004, 52-69 in 2005, 57-69 in 2006, 78-69 in 2007, and 41-69 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 5-for-29 on the night, walking once and striking out seven times. They also went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded four runners in all. The Mariners went 0-for-19 in the three-game series with runners in scoring position. The only multi-hit Mariner on the night was Bill Hall, who went 3-for-3. Three of the Mariners' five hits were doubles hit by Hall, Ken Griffey Jr., and Kenji Johjima. The top third of the Mariners' lineup (Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez) went a combined, 0-for-10 with a walk and three strikeouts. Lopez and Mike Carp grounded into double plays.
The Mariner arms had a much better night, but once again were on the wrong side of the margin of error. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Shawn Kelley threw the eighth inning with the Angels leading 3-0, which held up as the final score. Kelley got flyouts from Vladimir guerrero and Torii Hunter, then got Juan Rivera to whiff and end the inning. Kelley threw 10 strikes out of 17 pitches in his 1-2-3 eighth.
1) Bill Hall
At least someone in the Mariner lineup had a pretty good night. Hall had gone 1-for-16 with 11 strikeouts in the last four games and had a five-game strikeout streak going into this game (3-for-20 with a double). It's time to start dancing in the streets, because the strikeout streak is now over. Hall started hsi night with a double to centerfield with two out in the second inning. Of course, since the double came with two out, there was no chance in hell of him coming around to score. Hall then led off the fifth with a single, which seemed promising. Unfortunately, Carp grounded into a double play two pitches later. As karma would have it, Johjima doubled right after that. In the seventh, Hall singled once again with two out. Again, he didn't come around to score, but this time it was of his own doing as he was caught stealing second, though Dave Sims and Mike Blowers didn't necessarily agree with the call at second base. Hall is now hitting 17-for-66 (.258) as a Mariner with six doubles and a home run (slugging .394).
2) Ryan Rowland-Smith
It's a shame that the Aussie has to pitch for a team where he can get the loss for the night just by throwing one bad pitch. On the other hand, Rowland-Smith was far from unhittable, giving up 10 hits over his seven innings of work. Still, something has to be said for being able to scatter those 10 hits and only give up three runs. Rowland-Smith only gave up two infield singles through the first three innings. Through the first 3 2/3 innings, Rowland-Smith had only given up the two infield singles and a walk. Guerrero's two-out single to left in the fourth was the Angels' first hit of the game that reached the outfield. Four pitches later, Hunter blasted off into the rockery beyond the centerfield wall and the Angels, as some of us were probably thinking at the time, had all the runs they would need. The Aussie allowed a single and an infield single in the fifth and had to pitch his way out of a two-on, two-out situation. In teh seventh, Howie Kendrick doubled with one out and eventually scored from third on an Erick Aybar double to cap the scoring. Rowland-Smith gave up three runs on 10 hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out five. He got 12 groundouts to four flyouts (very nice), threw 70 strikes out of 106 pitches, and faced 30 hitters to get 21 outs.
3) Kenji Johjima
It's time to stop the presses -- Johjima has extra-base hits in consecutive games, something he hasn't done since May 12th and May 13th. The Mariners' backup catcher has gone 6-for-18 (.333) this month with a double, two home runs (slugging .722), and four RBIs. Johjima has appeared in eight of the Mariners' nine games this month and has started in six. He's not really grabbing the reins of the newfound playing time like Josh Wilson did when Jack Wilson hit the shelf, but he hasn't been awful in his last 10 games, over which he has gone 9-for-25 with a double, two home runs (slugging .640), and five RBIs. Morrow, Doug Fister, and Felix Hernandez throw the next three games, and I'm guessing Johjima will only be out there for one of them, unless Rob Johnson's got nagging injuries or something. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to think that Johnson will be catching Felix's next start, because the earth would fall off its axis if Johjima caught Felix again. Then again, I'm not really going to complain if Johnson catching means Felix does awesome.
The middle game of this series saw the Mariners' leadoff hitter get one hit to stave off hitless consecutive games, which would be a heathen happening for sure. The bad thing is that Ichiro is now hitless in two of his last three games thanks to his 0-for-4 night. In case you're wondering, I've gone through Ichiro's game-by-game logs for this season looking to see if he's sandwiched a one-hit game with two hitless games. The answer is no. Thus, you could draw the conclusion that Ichiro is in the middle of his worst slump of the season. The worst part isn't necessarily just the bare bones (i.e., he isn't hitting), and it's not that he's struck out in six straight games -- his longest such streak of the season -- or that he's struck out seven times in the last six games. The worst part is that Ichiro's looking really awful on some of these strikeouts lately. He swung at a third strike in the dirt tonight that was blocked by Jeff Mathis, and Dave Niehaus wondered aloud why Ichiro wouldn't at least try to leg out to first base and at least make Mathis make that throw. Of course, maybe that's the wisdom of Ichiro. Maybe he already knew the Mariners weren't winning that game.
Tonight is for the Morrow.
The Mariners have successfully followed up a four-game winning streak with a four-game losing streak, leaving them at 72-68 after 140 games. That record at this point is two games worse than 2007, but five better than 2006, 11 better than 2005, 17 better than last year, and 20 better than 2004. Seventy-two wins is also four worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, 10 worse than 2002, and 28 worse than 2001. Other Mariner teams' records when getting their 68th loss: 86-68 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 93-68 in 2002, 90-68 in 2003, 39-68 in 2004, 52-68 in 2005, 56-68 in 2006, 73-68 in 2007, and 41-68 last year.
Seattle hitting went 9-for-36 in the game, walking once and striking out a hefty 11 times. They also went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. The Mariners have gone 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of this series. Two Mariners had multi-hit nights, and their names are Kenji Johjima (two hits) and Jose Lopez (three). Five of the Mariners' nine hits went for extra bases. The three doubles belonged to Josh Wilson, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Carp. The two home runs went to Johjima and Lopez. Ichiro only went 1-for-5, but that once again kept his streak alive -- the streak where he never goes hitless in consecutive games. I tossed in the Bill Hall nugget in the opening paragraph, and Hall went for the hat trick tonight with three strikeouts. Hall has a five-game strikeout streak going, and he's piled up 12 strikeouts in that span. He's 3-for-20 over those give games. He's struck out 27 times in 17 games as a Mariner. I'd have an easier time brushing this off if he had more than five doubles and a homer as a Mariner.
As for the pitching, although the game was never completely out of reach, it wasn't a good night. The starting pitcher will be covered below. With two on and one out with the Angels up 4-2 in the sixth, Jason Vargas was brought in for only his second appearance since being recalled from Tacoma. He got Jeff Mathis to line right to Beltre at third, and they easily had Juan Rivera doubled off of second base to end the inning. Vargas threw a 1-2-3 seventh before running into trouble in the eighth. Vladimir Guerrero led off by doubling on a too-inside pitch. Vargas got the next two out, but threw a meaty pitch to Rivera, who hit the camera well in centerfield to make it 6-2 and all but end the game. Vargas gave up two runs on two hits in 2 2/3 innings, walking none and striking out two. He got no groundouts and five flyouts, threw 23 strikes out of 38 pitches, and faced nine hitters to get eight outs.
1) Jose Lopez
He's not on a crazy RBI tear where he hits a bunch of homers and extra-base hits, but the Mariners' second baseman is nonetheless on a five-game hitting streak. Usually he has bunches of three-game or four-game hit streaks, but that's usually when he hangs up a goose egg just to keep everyone honest. His longest hitting streak of the season was a seven-gamer from July 29th to August 5th which saw him go 16-for-31 (.516) with three doubles, three homers (slugged .903), and 13 RBIs. What's his current five-game streak look like? He's gone 10-for-22 (.455) with three home runs (slugging .864) and five RBIs. The one RBI from his solo homer in this game puts him at 85 RBIs on the year, 15 short of the century mark. He's driven in six runs in the eight games he's played so far in September. The Mariners have 22 games left in the season. He should be a lead-pipe cinch to finish with at least 90 RBIs, he should get to 95 RBIs, and I really hope he gets to 100 RBIs. Once Ichiro finally gets off his duff and gets his 200th hit, the Lopez RBI chase will be the last cool individual Mariner milestone remaining this season.
2) Kenji Johjima
I guess I'll start this off by saying I hope Adam Moore goes north with the big club next spring and shows us next year that he can become the best catcher this franchise has ever had. I'm mainly talking about offense, of course. I say this because this gameball makes it so I have to hype up a catcher that's hitting .249 and only has hit seven homers on the year, but that's better in comparison to the other guy, who's supposedly sound defensively and supposedly can call a better game, but has hit only two home runs despite oodles of playing time. Johjima put the Mariners on the board with a homer off Jered Weaver in the third inning that cut the Angels' lead to 4-1. He also singled with one out in the seventh inning to chase Weaver from the ballgame. Johjima is 8-for-21 with two home runs in his last nine games. He has a line of .249 with eight homers and 21 RBIs on the season, an injury-riddled season. Again, I really want Adam Moore to impress us because I don't think Rob Johnson needs to be in a Mariner uniform next year. It's no slight on Rob Johnson, it's just more of a "thanks, but no thanks" deal.
3) Adrian Beltre
The two multi-hit guys were already taken, and the other two guys who hit doubles in the game both struck out twice, so that left Beltre to get the third gameball. I read on the Mariners Insider blog at the News Tribune that Beltre is apparently wearing a cup nowadays (per Larry Larue), though he'd much rather go without it. I think there's a Beltre quote in there where he says he went nine years without getting hit in the nards (we need to bring back the word "nards," people), and I find that incredible with all the grounders they take. Part of me is going to dread next year if only for those moments where an opposing player bunts to the third-base side and Beltre isn't there doing the charge-and-throw move. I'm not going to miss Beltre's no-power bat from this year, but I've always liked the glove. Would I rather take that than have Bill Hall playing every day and striking out a gobton of times? Is he what you get if you cross Mark McLemore with Mike Cameron? Do you get a utility guy with power that strikes out a bunch and plays good defense?
I really wanted to goat one of the hitters. Three Mariners had hitless nights (Franklin Gutierrez, Ken Griffey Jr., Hall), and they combined for six strikeouts. There were tons of chances where the Mariners had runners on base and a chance to raise hell, but they never could come through. That's not on Ian Snell. However, when I see the number five in the walk column of Snell's line, I just can't get over that. Snell had his nightmare in the first, all starting with a Maicer Izturis walk. A bases-loaded walk pushed the Angels' first run across before Kendry Morales put the big blow on the game with a bases-clearing double that made it 4-0. In other words, the game-winning RBI in this one came in the bottom of the first. Snell settled down until the sixth, but the Angels are good and the margin of error against such a team is small, so the damage had been done. Snell gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking five and striking out two. He got eight groundouts and six flyouts, threw 54 strikes out of 100 pitches, and faced 26 hitters to get 16 outs.
A Felix night opened the series, and an Aussie night closes it out on Thursday night.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
The Mariners' third straight loss (after four straight wins) dropped their record to 72-67 after 139 games. That record is two wins worse than the 2007 team's record at this point, but six better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 18 better than last year, and 20 better than 2004. Seventy-two wins is also three worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 27 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when losing the 67th game: 86-67 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 92-67 in 2002, 89-67 in 2003, 39-67 in 2004, 49-67 in 2005, 56-67 in 2006, 75-67 in 2007, and 40-67 last year.
Seattle hitting went 6-for-37 in the game, walking four times and striking out six times. They also went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners in all. Multi-hit games went to Jose Lopez and Mike Sweeney, who had two hits apiece. Two of the Mariners' six hits went for extra bases, and they were both home runs, coming from Franklin Gutierrez and Sweeney. Rob Johnson, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Carp each left two runners in scoring position with two out. All Mariners who combined to hit in the bottom third of the lineup went 0-for-10 with two walks and three strikeouts. If you add Ichiro's hitless night to that train, it's 0-for-15 with two walks and four strikeouts from the 7-8-9-1 hitters in the Mariner lineup.
As for the pitching, it was a bit mixed, run totals aside. The runs allowed were minimal, but all the Mariner arms struggled in some way. The starting pitcher will be covered below. With the Angels leading 2-1, Mark Lowe came out of the bullpen to throw the eighth inning. He got a flyout from Bobby Abreu, but allowed a single to Vladimir Guerrero. Luckily, Lowe got a nice grounder from Torii Hunter that made for a double play to end the inning. In the ninth, Lowe was trying to preserve what had turned into a 2-2 tie. He struck out Kendry Morales to lead off, but strike three got by Kenji Johjima and went to the backstop, and they didn't have a play on Morales going to first. Erick Aybar then came up and bunted to the third-base side, where Beltre pounced on the ball and threw to get the force at second, blowing up the bunt. One out later, Lowe decided to walk the next two hitters to load the bases with two out, but Maicer Izturis flew out to end the inning. That was eventful. Lowe threw two shutout innings of one-hit ball, walking two and striking out one. He got three groundouts and three flyouts, threw 16 strikes out of 29 pitches, and faced nine hitters to get six outs. Miguel Batista threw the final fuel on the fire. He allowed a leadoff single to Abreu, who was bunted over to second. A Hunter groundout moved Abreu to third, then Morales was intentionally walked. Aybar then atoned for his awful bunt in the ninth by singling to center to end the game. Batista gave up a run on two hits in 2/3 inning, walking one and striking out none. He threw seven strikes out of 18 pitches, got two groundouts, and faced five hitters to get two outs.
1) Mike Sweeney
This is really getting ridiculous. The tear is now at 23-for-55 (.418) with five doubles and three home runs (slugging .673) over his last 15 games. It gets to the point where I'm not even sure what to say about the guy. Just trot the guy out there every day. In the sixth, Sweeney walked with a man on second and two out. In the ninth, Sweeney came up against Angel closer Brian Fuentes and took him yard on the second pitch, hitting it well out of Hunter's reach and into the rockery beyond the wall. That blast tied the game, blew up Fuentes' save, and gave the Mariners and their fans some good feeling that hadn't existed since the Angels tied the game at 1-1 back in the third inning of this game. It should also be noted that Sweeney singled with Lopez on first and two out in the 10th inning. It's become apparent over the past few weeks that this is indeed Mike Sweeney's world and that we are merely his puppets under his control, though right now we are more than amused by his performances at the plate.
2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman was playing first base in this game, and Josh Wilson was playing second base. Given that, I can't really refer to Lopez as the Mariners' second baseman if it's only partially true. All told, Lopez wasn't really able to continue forth on his path to a 100-RBI season. Despite going 2-for-5 in this game, Lopez didn't push any runs across. After a Gutierrez double-play ball had killed the promise of the sixth, Lopez singled on a 3-1 pitch. He also singled with two out in the 10th to give the Mariners a tiny bit of hope that they might get themselves in the lead. Lopez has a four-game hitting streak going, which unfortunately means he's due for a hitless game, given his game-to-game tendencies this year (i.e., game log). During the four-game streak, Lopez is 7-for-18 with two home runs and four RBIs. Lopez has 84 RBIs on the year, which obviously means he needs 16 RBIs to get to 100, and he has 23 games left to get to the century mark. He's hit 22 home runs so far, and if he got to 100 RBIs, I think it's safe to say he'd have hit 25 homers. Imagine that -- 25 homers and 100 RBIs for Lopez.
3) Felix Hernandez
This was a pretty weird game for Felix. He definitely did not have his best stuff, that's for sure. He has Mike Sweeney to thank for bailing him out of what would have been a loss and a sure dent in his chances for the Cy Young Award, which I'm sure there's no chance in hell he'd win anyway since CC Sabathia is not only good, he also pitches in New York for a winning team. I thought Felix had chased the walk monsters away with his final three starts in August, but it appears the ugly walks have returned. He was very good in his last start, but he did walk three hitters. In this game, he walked four hitters, three of them coming in the third inning. That third inning was almost like a Garrett Olson-style hiccup inning, except somehow Felix only gave up one run to tie the game at 1-1. Felix walked the first two hitters of the inning, got a bunt from the next hitter, walked Izturis to load the bases, got a fly ball that scored a run, then got Guerrero to end the inning with a grounder. Of Felix's seven innings, the Angels had runners in scoring position in every inning except the second, sixth, and seventh, all of which were 1-2-3 innings. Hernandez gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits in seven innings, walking four and striking out three. He got 11 groundouts and seven flyouts (good), threw 69 strikes out of 113 pitches, and faced 29 hitters to get 21 outs.
He climbed high up the ladder to catch a line drive, and he also walked twice, so I'll give him that. He went 0-for-2, which is meh, but those two errors he committed couldn't have been timed worse if he tried. With two runners on and one out in the fifth, Abreu grounded what should have been a double-play ball to Jack Wilson to end the inning, but the ball was misfielded and it went into leftfield, scoring Chone Figgins and giving the Angels a 2-1 lead. Kangaroo Jack wasn't done there. With one on and nobody out in the ninth, Aybar made the ill-advised bunt right to a charging Beltre, who threw to second for the out on lead runner Morales. Jack Wilson, after tagging the bag for the force, then badly threw the ball toward first, and it bounced into the crowd, putting Aybar on second. Fortunately for Jack Wilson, the Angels didn't push Aybar across to make him completely feel like crap. That's not to say Aybar didn't come 90 feet away from scoring after Lowe loaded the bases with two out. It's not the first time I've said this, but Jack Wilson hasn't really impressed me at all at the plate so far with the Mariners, and the defense shows promise, but has been kinda hit-and-miss.
The middle game of the series in Anaheim will feature Ian Snell going after his fifth straight win. This means that he's won his last four starts, which is true, because I just checked.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
The Mariners' second straight loss after winning four straight dropped their season record to 72-66 after 138 games. This record is two wins worse than the 2007 team's record at this point, but seven better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 18 better than last year, and 21 better than 2004. Seventy-two wins is also three worse than 2000, nine worse than 2002 and 2003, and 27 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting loss number 66: 78-66 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 88-66 in 2002, 87-66 in 2003, 39-66 in 2004, 49-66 in 2005, 56-66 in 2006, 74-66 in 2007, and 40-66 last year.
Seattle hitting went 7-for-31 on the afternoon, walking twice and striking out five times. They also went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners in all. The only extra-base hit of the game for the Mariners was Ichiro's 2000th Major League hit, a double down the rightfield line that led off the game. The only multi-hit Mariner on the day was Jose Lopez. The only multi-strikeout Mariner on the day was Bill Hall, who has struck out seven times over the last two games. Hall and Saunders both went hitless and didn't drawn any walks. Mike Sweeney, however, drew a walk to make his 0-for-3 look a little less worse. Adrian Beltre drove in a tie-breaking in the sixth with a single that put the Mariners in the lead 2-1. However, Beltre also grounded into a double play during the game, as did Sweeney. This game is really difficult to write about when it comes to Mariner hitters that aren't getting gameballs. It was pretty unremarkable for the hitters that weren't gameballers.
As for the pitching, two out of three ain't bad. Doug Fister had a bit of struggle early on, but settled down. It got dicey, though, since he apparently grew a blister on his pitching hand around the third inning and left after five innings as a result, though it's doubtful he could have gone more than about six innings, I'd say. In the first inning, Fister let the first two hitters aboard, but retired the next three hitters. A leadoff single in the second by Mark Ellis only got dicey when a pickoff throw went awry and into foul ground, landing Ellis on third. Undaunted, Fister finished out that at-bat by striking out Cliff Pennington. He threw a 1-2-3 third before allowing a one-out Landon Powell home run in the fourth. The fifth inning saw him pull a rabbit out of the hat, though, as he loaded the bases with one out and got a foul pop and a strikeout to escape the jam. Fister gave up one run on six hits in five innings, walking two and striking out five. He got two groundouts to eight flyouts (he'd like that ratio the other way around), threw 56 of 94 pitches for strikes, and faced 23 hitters to get 15 outs. Shawn Kelley will be covered below. Randy Messenger threw the eighth inning with Oakland leading 5-2. He got a groundout and two flyouts in a 1-2-3 inning, and threw 13 of 18 pitches doing so.
1) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' second baseman seems to be in the middle of one of those four- or five-game stretches where he's pretty good before going hitless, then continuing the cycle. After enduring a nine-game stretch where he went 4-for-32 (.125), Lopez finished the final three games of this Oakland series by going 5-for-13 (.385) with two home runs and five RBIs. As for the Lopez RBI quest, Lopez collected one more RBI in this game, giving him five RBIs over six games this month as well as 84 for the season. Obviously if he approaches anything close to an RBI-per-game pace, he'll be a lead-pipe cinch to break the century mark for RBIs this season. The team has 24 games left in the season, and even an RBI every other game will net him a 96-RBI season. Like I keep saying, I'll be more than glad with 95 RBIs. Sure, all of his home runs go out to leftfield, but dammit, look at all the runs this guy's driven in this season. Who is The Boone? Who cares?
If you were late getting to a television to watch the game, you weren't feeling too good about yourself because Ichiro ripped a double down the rightfield line on the second pitch of the game for his 2000th Major League hit. There was a smattering of applause from the Oakland crowd and tips of the helmet by Ichiro to the crowd. That was his only hit of the game, but it was definitely an Ichiro-looking hit. At least it wasn't some weak flare into shallow centerfield or something. I like the choice of a ringing double for a milestone hit. Two thousand hits is a lot of damn hits. If Ichiro can keep the 200-hit thing going for a while longer, he could get to 3000 Major League hits in four or five years. If he gets to 3000 hits, I think he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. By that point, he would have the single-season hits record, at least nine straight 200-hit seasons (possibly 10-plus), the 3000 hits, and he'd have a reputation as the greatest leadoff hitter of this generation, and one of the best (singles) hitters this game has ever seen.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
He went 1-for-3 in the game, which isn't such a big deal. The one hit was a leadoff single in the sixth. After Ichiro doubled in the first, Gutierrez bunted him over to third base, and apparently that was 12th sacrifice bunt of the year, which leads the American League. The pure fun came after the single in the sixth, however. He went to second base when Lopez singled on the next pitch. On the first pitch to Sweeney, Gutierrez took off and stole third base without a throw. Sweeney grounded back to the mound and Gio Gonzalez forced out Lopez going to second. Then Beltre singled into centerfield, enabling Gutierrez to score, and it wasn't that hard of a single, so it's conceivable Gutierrez may not have scored if he didn't steal third base. That made for a 2-1 Mariner lead, and the way the bullpen has thrown this season, I wouldn't have blamed the common Mariner fan for thinking the Mariners had a pretty good chance to win this game. Unfortunately for the Mariners, Gutierrez can only catch fly balls and hit balls at the plate. He doesn't stand on the mound.
The good news is that Kelley threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning. The bad news is that once Kelley loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh inning, the game was basically over. How did Kelley load the bases with nobody out? Very carefully. In more detail, Pennington singled to lead off, Adam Kennedy singled two pitches later, and then Kelley hit Rajai Davis with a pitch. Kelley was in deep, but got ahead 0-2 on Ryan Sweeney and got him to strike out. At that point, maybe there was a little hope since Kelley really only needed a well-placed ground ball to get a double play and escape the jam unscathed. Two pitches later, however, Scott Hairston clobbered the ball, and the slam was indeed grand. The Mariners went from a 2-1 lead to being behind 5-2, and that margin held up as the final score. Kelley had a one-run lead, and obviously the margin of error was pretty small to begin with, and there are times in baseball when even the worst team in the league won't let you get away with loading the bases with nobody out. The moral of the story? Don't load the bases with nobody out.
As we know, Felix followed SuperFister. I think Fister would totally get sued if those shirts said SUperFIster on them and had some variation of the SUperFInger.
The end to the Mariners' four-game winning streak dropped their record to 72-65 after 137 games. This pace is two games worse than the 2007 mark at this point, but eight better than 2006, 13 better than 2005, 18 better than last year, and 21 better than 2004. Seventy-two wins is also two worse than 2000, eight worse than 2002 and 2003, and 26 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting loss number 65: 76-65 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 88-65 in 2002, 86-65 in 2003, 39-65 in 2004, 49-65 in 2005, 56-65 in 2006, 74-65 in 2007, and 38-65 last year.
Seattle hitting went 12-for-38 in the game, walking four times and striking out a whopping 11 times. The team went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in all. The multi-hit Mariners were Jose Lopez (two hits), Ichiro (three), and Mike Sweeney (four hits...wow). The only two Mariner extra-base hits were home runs by Sweeney and Lopez. Since it's pretty obvious French is the goat, I have to address the bad parts of Mariner hitting here. The 0-for-4s in the lineup came from Franklin Gutierrez and Adrian Beltre (both of whom drew a walk). The lone 0-for-5 came from Bill Hall, who struck out all five times. Four strikeouts is the golden sombrero, but I'm not sure what five gets you. That's insane.
It was not a good night for Mariner pitching. The starting pitcher will be covered below. In his first big-league appearance in nearly a month, Jason Vargas came into the fourth inning with runners on the corners, two out, and Oakland leading 5-3. He got the next hitter out to end the inning, then threw a 1-2-3 fifth and a 1-2-3 sixth. Vargas got two groundouts and three flyouts, struck out two, threw 13 strikes out of 19 pitches, and set down all seven hitters he faced over 2 1/3 innings. Miguel Batista came in for the seventh. While he's written novels about murder and sometimes watching him pitch is basically murder, he pretty much threw dirt on the grave in this one. He was greeted with a leadoff double, but got a double-play ball to end that inning. It was in the eighth where he fell apart, though he now had Kenji Johjima catching instead of Rob Johnson. Kurt Suzuki singled to lead off, and one out later, Nomar Garciaparra singled as well. That was followed by three straight doubles and a walk. Oakland put four runs on the board and led 9-3 at this point, and Batista was pulled. He gave up four runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out none. He got three groundouts and a flyout, threw 21 strikes out of 35 pitches, and faced 10 hitters to get four outs. Randy Messenger came in for Batista and got his only two hitters out to round out the night for Mariner pitching. Messenger threw five strikes on eight pitches and got a flyout and a strikeout.
1) Mike Sweeney
What a tear fot this guy. He's only gotten fairly steady playing time for about a month, but I didn't think he'd be able to keep this up. Though the magnitudes of tear won't quite be parallel in the comparison I'm about to make, this somewhat reminds me of when Gutierrez started hitting and hitting. I just kept wondering when Gutierrez would stop hitting and start hitting the skids, but it never really happened (he did eventually cool off a bit). The Mariners' righthanded designated hitter went 4-for-5 with a home run and an RBI in this game. Since August 20th, Sweeney has gone 21-for-48 (.438) with five doubles, two home runs (slugging .667), and nine RBIs. Sweeeney's day of awesome started when he homered to lead off the second inning and give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. He then singled with one out and the bases empty in the third. With two out and one on in the fifth, he singled. He also singled immediately after the Lopez homer in the ninth. His lone out came when he struck out with runners on the corners and one out with the Mariners down 5-3 in the seventh. Still, that one strikeout can only detract so much from a four-hit night.
The march simply continues for the Mariners' leadoff hitter. This game saw him go 3-for-5. Since coming back from his calf injury, Ichiro has gone 10-for-22 to make for a .455-hitting September. The balky calf might be part of the reason, but all 10 of Ichiro's hits since coming back have been singles. His last extra-base hit was a double that came on August 23rd at Cleveland, right before he hit the shelf. Ichiro legged out an infield single to load the bases with one out in the first inning, singled to lead off the seventh, and singled to lead off the ninth. The hit barrage leaves him one hit away from his 2000th Major League hit and six away from his ninth straight 200-hit season. If my little Excel equation thingie is still correct, Ichiro's still on pace for a 234-hit season despite missing over a dozen games. If he got 234 hits, that total would be larger than five of his eight prior Major League seasons (2001, 2004, and 2007 were better). Again, this is all despite missing the amount of games he's missed. I just hope Ichiro isn't quite as creaky next year, though I hope that's a realistic expectation.
3) Jose Lopez
Well, it's nice to have the Mariners' second baseman come back at the plate. Lopez hadn't undergone the wholw week-long slump phenomenon since mid-May. Over the last nine games (not including this game), Lopez had gone 4-for-32 (.125) with a double and a home run (slugging .344). The good news is that it seems the home run in Friday's game may have gotten him on the right track. He went 2-for-5 in this game with a home run. Sure, the home run came in the ninth inning and therefore was completely meaningless in the scope of the game, but a home run is a home run nonetheless. As for the Lopez RBI quest, he now has 83 on the season. He has four RBIs in September despite going 4-for-21. The Mariners have about four weeks remaining on the schedule, so if you simply multiply four by four, he'll end up with 99 RBIs on the season. After Ichiro is done getting his 2000th Major League hit and 200th hit of the season, I think the final great individual accomplishment left for any of the Mariners is for Lopez to get to 100 RBIs. Was Alex Rodriguez the last Mariner to come through the minor-league system and collect a 100-RBI season? Well, I guess you could say Bret Boone did, but he spent quite a few years away before he did.
Simply put, his last two starts have been his worst two starts as a Mariner. I have a feeling that if the next start is this bad, it'll be his last for the season and he'll get demoted to the bullpen. In his seven starts as a Mariner, French has averaged 5 1/3 innings, 4.29 runs (3.71 earned), 7.1 hits, 2.4 walks, and 3.1 strikeouts. His pitch count has averaged 91 pitches (58 strikes). If you took that line every time out, that's a number-five line. He also averages four groundouts and eight flyouts a start. Can you guess what also augments the flyout numbers? If you guessed home runs, you're very much correct. French has given up eight homers over his seven Mariner starts (1.14 per start, though you don't really need much more than the discrete math to make the point). If this guy can basically be another Jarrod Washburn, I suggest Rick Adair shows him how to throw a cutter immediately. Okay, I'm sure the real approach is more along the lines of having French gain more confidence in spotting the stuff he has before they show him how to throw any more pitches.
It'll be a Sunday afternoon with the Iron Fister.