Monday, September 14, 2009
I came home after watching the Seahawk game at a friend's house and was very surprised to see that this game was being played live on FSN. I had to originally convince myself that it wasn't a replay of the first game of the doubleheader or something, but once I saw the sky was dark and Felix Hernandez was throwing, then it was given away. Thus, I can actually comment on this game without completely BS'ing the whole thing. Hooray! Other than the pitching awesomeness, the obvious other story in this thing was Ichiro's 200th hit of the season, leapfrogging him past Wee Willie Keller and making him the only hitter in Major League history to attain 200 hits in nine consecutive seasons. It's beyond incredible. Major League Baseball would argue that it's Beyond Baseball. It should come as no surprise that the hit was as a completely nondescript infield single that was a slow roller to short on which Elvis Andrus had no play. It was good that it happened, and maybe now Ichiro can snap out of his slump since he only went 1-for-5 in this game. He only went 4-for-14 (.286) in this Texas series, for goodness' sake.
The Mariners' second win in three games vaulted their record to 74-70 after 144 games. This pace is two wins worse than the 2007 pace, but five better than 2006, 11 better than 2005, 17 better than last year, and 20 wins better than 2004. Seventy-four wins is also four worse than 2000, eight worse than 2003, 10 worse than 2002, and 30 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when getting their 74th win: 74-62 in 2000, 74-29 in 2001, 74-47 in 2002, 74-48 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 74-79 in 2006, 74-62 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 8-for-35 in the game, walking four and striking out five. They were also 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners in all. The only multi-hit Mariner was Franklin Gutierrez, who went 2-for-4 with a walk. The two hitless Mariners were Mike Sweeney and Rob Johnson (surprise). Five of the Mariners' eight hits went for extra bases. Doubles were hit by Jose Lopez, Josh Wilson, and Gutierrez. Bill Hall hit a long drive to the wall and got a friendly carom away from rightfielder Nelson Cruz that enabled him to get a triple out of it. Also, Adrian Beltre homered and there was subsequent dancing in the streets.
Mariner pitching did just fine. The starting pitching will be addressed below. Mark Lowe came into the game and threw the eighth inning. He gave up only a two-out single to Julio Borbon. Lowe gave up one hit in one inning, walking none and striking out one. He got two groundouts and a strikeout, faced four hitters to get three outs, and threw six strikes out of eight pitches. David Aardsma then threw the ninth in his first appearance since September 3rd since the Mariners had sucked so badly in the meantime. Aardsma shook off the rust, getting two flyouts to start the inning and allowing only a David Murphy two-out single before ending it with an exclamation point by striking out Cruz. Aardsma gave up one hit in one inning, walking none and striking out one. he got two flyouts and a strikeout, faced four hitters to get three outs, and threw 10 strikes out of 15 pitches.
1) Felix Hernandez
The Mariners' ace was the only starting pitcher this weekend to really throw on schedule, if you don't count the few hours this game was pushed before finally being played. I'm not necessarily saying that played a part in him throwing seven shutout innings, but it couldn't have hurt. This turned out to be a pretty vintage Felix start. Unfortunately, Julio Borbon led off all Ranger hitting with a single, breaking up the perfect game right away. Borbon ended up on third with one out in the first inning, but Felix struck out the next two hitters to end the inning. The third inning came about nearly the same way -- Taylro Teagarden doubled to lead off, was moved to third on a groundout, and stayed there as Borbon grounded out to first and Elvis Andrus was caught looking to end the inning. Hernandez set down the next nine hitters before Borbon singled with one out in the sixth. A timely double-play ball bailed Felix out of having two on with one out. In the seventh, Felix walked Nelson Cruz with two out, which was his only walk of the game. Felix gave up four hits in seven shutout innings, walking one and striking out five. He got 11 groundouts and five flyouts, threw 65 strikes out of 109 pitches, and faced 25 hitters to get 21 outs.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
In mid-August, the Mariners' centerfielder was hitting so well that going hitless in consecutive games (where he didn't suffer injury in one of them) was a pretty big deal because it hadn't happened since mid-June. Unfortunately, that was the beginning of five groups of consecutive-game hitting stretches. He went hitless on August 12th-13th, August 18th-20th, August 22nd-23rd, August 30th-31st, and September 9th-10th. It's a good way to drop .020 off a batting average in a month span this time of year. He went from .300 on August 11th to .280 on September 10th by going 24-for-111 (.216) at the plate. He was the only Mariner with multiple hits in this game, however, singling with one out in the first inning and scoring the first Mariner run on a Jose Lopez double, and bouncing a double over the wall in centerfield to lead off the fifth. He scored the Mariners' fourth run of the game later that inning went Adrian Beltre homered. Gutierrez right now is a .278 hitter and if he got four at-bats in each of the remaining 18 games, he'd need to finish with 169 hits, i.e., go 32-for-72 (.444) the rest of the way. It could happen, but I highly doubt it. Nonetheless, it's been a very successful season for Gutierrez.
3) Adrian Beltre
The Mariners' third baseman didn't stop the presses in the first game of the doubleheader by going for multiple hits, but he did do it in the second game of the doubleheader. How? He hit a home run. I couldn't believe my eyes, really. The sail sailed over the wall and I couldn't even remember the last time he'd hit a home run, just that it had been a long time. What adds to such memory failure is that Beltre has had an injury-riddled and horrible season as well, so when I learned that the home run was only Beltre's sixth of the season, well, that's even bad for a substandard version of Beltre. Anyway, the home run was Beltre's first since June 16th in San Diego, which is a long time on the calendar as well as just his log. He went 30 games without hitting a home run. This was a guy that coming off three straight 25-homer seasons and drove in 99 runs two years ago. Of course, knowing Beltre, he could have untold injuries aside from the testicle, so there could be reasons why he's hitting .264 when he manages to get on the field at all. He should have been a hockey player.
He caught the second half of the doubleheader, so his playing time was pretty much a given. This was also a Felix Hernandez start, so again, his playing time was pretty much a given. He went 0-for-4 with the number five in the LOB column in the boxscore. He tried to bunt for a base hit with Josh Wilson on second and one out in the second inning, but ended up hitting a fly ball that pushed the runner to third. In the fourth, he grounded out to third with a runner on second and one out (bonus points if you saw the botched double play right before that). In the sixth, Johnson grounded into a double play to end the inning. In the eighth, the Mariners had runners on first and second with two out, but Johnson grounded back to the mound to end the inning. I guess the day could have been worse for Johnson. He's a .217 hitter. He's gotten 249 at-bats this season, and I don't know about you, but I've seen all I need to see out of Rob Johnson to know I don't want the guy catching for the Mariners this year. That's why I welcomed the news of Adam Moore being called up to the big club. Even when I complained about Dan Wilson's hitting back in the day, he would still hit .230 or .240 as opposed to .217...sheesh.
Can Ian Snell win for the fifth time in six starts tomorrow? He'll have to beat the Chief.
The Mariners' sixth loss in seven games dropped their record to 73-70 after 143 games. That pace is two wins worse than the 2007 team, but five better than 2006, 11 better than 2005, 17 better than last year, and 20 better than 2004. Seventy-three wins is also five worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, 11 worse than 2002, and 30 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when losing their 70th: 89-70 in 2000, 116-46 in 2001, 93-69 in 2002 and 2003, 41-70 in 2004, 53-70 in 2005, 63-70 in 2006, 78-70 in 2007, and 44-70 last year.
Seattle hitting went a combined 6-for-33 (bad) in the game, walking once and striking out three times. They were also 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners in all. Adrian Beltre had two of the Mariners' six hits as the only Mariner with multiple hits in the game. Ichiro doubled for the Mariners' only extra-base hit of the night. Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, and Kenji Johjima each went 0-for-4.
It was a bit of a sketchy game for Mariner pitching. The starting pitcher will be covered below. Jason Vargas entered the game in the fifth inning with two out, a man on first, and one run across the plate in the inning (David Murphy solo shot that made it 5-1). He caught Chris Davis looking to end the fifth. In the sixth, a leadoff double eventually came around to score and make it 6-1. In the seventh, Nelson Cruz homered with two out to give the Rangers a 7-1 lead. Vargas threw a 1-2-3 eighth inning to end his outing. He gave up two runs on two hits in 3 1/3 innings, walking none and striking out two. He got three groundouts and five flyouts, threw 28 of 42 pitches for strikes, and faced 12 hitters to get 10 outs.
In a game that really wasn't eventful for Mariner hitting as a whole, Ichiro had the most eventful hit. His two-out double in the third inning scored Ryan Langerhans from first to cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1 at that point. The hit was also his 199th of the season, placing him just one short of 200 hits and nine straight 200-hit seasons. Really the only thing you could complain about is that Ichiro's hit pace has slowed tremendously compared to his pace for most of this season. That's a bit nit-picky, though. Ichiro is Ichiro, but when he's hitting under .300 for a long stretch of time, it sinks his season average a bit (obviously), but it makes you wonder if there's something wrong with him. I just hope this isn't the beginning of a span where Ichiro is prone to muscle pulls and intestinal things and misses a dozen or so games every year. Unfortunately for him, the legend he's built for himself is so incredibly ridiculous that now we hold him to a pretty lofty and probably unfair standard. Then again, he does have that contract to justify the standard. By the way, 199 hits leaves him on pace ti finish with about 229 hits.
2) Adrian Beltre
The Mariners' third baseman went 2-for-4 with an RBI, good for his second straight multi-hit game. His game log for this month ramps up -- he goes from a hit every three games to a hit every other game to a couple of multi-hit games. He's still hitting all of .167 (7-for-42) for September, so it's not really stop-the-presses time yet for Beltre. What's really nuts is that when Beltre came back from injury in August and played nine games before Testiclegate, he went 16-for-41 (.390). Granted, his only power hitting during that entire stretch consisted of two doubles, but it really helped at least having those hits. Five of those nine games were multi-hit games for Beltre, and he had a three-hit game and a four-hit game in there. I feel pretty bad about the way Beltre's final season in Seattle went. I don't think I feel badly enough about it to re-sign him again, but I just wish he'd had way better luck with injuries and thus had a fair shake on his way out the door. Then again, if somehow he wants to sign for one year and $5 million to build his stock back up, I'm not sure I'd be against it. Yeah, it's not happening.
3) Jack Hannahan
Playing time for the Man With the Blatantly Irish Name was far from plentiful in the first half of September, but this game marked his second straight start at first base, so now the playing time is raining like mana from heaven. Sure, there were two other one-hit guys that weren't Ichiro that I could have written about here, but I chose Hannahan because I'm not truly sure how many more times I'll get to write a Hannahan paragraph for the rest of the year. What is a number-three gameball day for Hannahan? He hit a leadoff single in the fifth and was forced out on a ground ball by Kenji Johjima. As for the outs he made, he lined out to centerfield to end the second inning, flew out to center with the bases empty and one out in the seventh, and whiffed with a runner on first and one out in the ninth and a 7-2 deficit. Somehow I don't think Hannahan's outs figured too much into the final outcome of this game. But hey, he's 3-for-8 in his last two games, which is beyond insane. It's his first hitting streak since August 28th-29th.
Without seeing the game, this looks in the boxscore like it's the Iron Fister's worst start out of his seven big-league starts with the Mariners. He only walked one hitter, but the one thing that convinced me to throw him into the goat slot here had to be the 10 hits he allowed in only 4 2/3 innings. The Rangers had him solved. Also, a ratio of six groundouts to seven flyouts might be pretty good for some other pitchers, but I want to see that ratio break the other way, especially when you're facing the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Two of the 10 hits he gave up were home runs, though they were both solo shots. In other words, it's a good thing Fister only walked one hitter in those 4 2/3 innings. Unsurprisingly, Fister gave up at least a hit in every inning, though I guess some credit has to be given to him in that his hitter friendliness in the game never got out of control and snowballed into the big inning. It's pretty surprising to see 10 hits in his line and not have the big inning. Fister gave up five runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings of work, walking one and striking out one. He threw 65 strikes out of 101 pitches and faced 25 hitters to get 14 outs.
It was a Felix nightcap to end the rain-drenched series in Arlington.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The win snapped the Mariners' five-game losing streak, raising their record to 73-69 after 142 games. This record is two games off the 2007 pace, but five better than 2006, 12 better than 2005, 17 better than last year, and 20 better than 2004. Seventy-three wins is also four wins worse than 2000, nine worse than 2003, 11 worse than 2002, and 29 worse than 2001. Other new-millennium Mariner teams' records when netting win number 73: 73-62 in 2000, 73-29 in 2001, 73-46 in 2002, 73-47 in 2003, 63-99 in 2004, 69-93 in 2005, 73-79 in 2006, 73-53 in 2007, and 61-101 last year.
Seattle hitting went a splendid 15-for-41 on the night, walking six times and striking out six times as well. They were 5-for-22 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners in all. No Mariner hitter went hitless in this game. The only Mariners that didn't get at least two hits were Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, Bill Hall, and Rob Johnson. Lopez drew two walks to help his cause, and Johnson walked once. Six of the Mariners' 15 hits went for extra bases. Ichiro, Gutierrez, Jack Hannahan, and Griffey (twice) hit doubles while Ichiro also chipped in with the only Mariner home run of the game. Griffey, Gutierrez, and Hannahan each drove in two runs. Despite his game-breaking two-run double, Gutierrez still stranded three runners in scoring position with two out and has a number seven under his name in the left-on-base column.
When Mariner pitching only gives up six hits and one home run in Arlington, it's a good night. Brandon Morrow came away from the game with decent results. He threw a 1-2-3 first inning before Marlon Byrd singled to lead off the second. Morrow then set down the next three hitters. Morrow had some trouble in the third. He walked Chris Davis to lead off, then Julio Borbon homered one out later to cut the Mariners' lead to 3-2. Ian Kinsler doubled with two out, but was stranded. Morrow allowed another leadoff walk in the fourth, but he got a double-play ball to quell the threat. Davis nearly homered to lead off the fifth, but the original home run call was overturned by video review. Davis scored two outs later on a groundout to cut the Mariners' lead to 5-3. Elvis Andrus legged out an infield single, and that was the final hit that Morrow allowed. Morrow gave up three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out one. He got seven groundouts and seven flyouts, threw 45 strikes out of 80 pitches, and faced 21 hitters to get 15 outs.
As for the bullpen, they were asked to handle leads of 5-3, 7-3, and 8-3 as the Mariners played add-on, which is a rarity. Shawn Kelley threw a 1-2-3 sixth inning, getting a lineout, flyout, and foul pop. His line shows up only as one inning thrown, then zeroes across the board in every category. He threw nine strikes out of 15 pitches. Mark Lowe threw the seventh and eighth innings and dominated. He struck out the first two hitters in each inning. An Esteban German groundout ended the seventh, and an Ian Kinsler foul pop ended the eighth. Lowe got one groundout and one flyout, threw 16 strikes out of 24 pitches, and retired all six hitters he faced. Randy Messenger threw what was played of the ninth inning, allowing a Byrd single and a Nelson Cruz grounder that Jack Wilson couldn't field. Jack Wilson was tagged with an error as a result, though the wire article tells me the ground conditions where deteriorating at that point. The game was then rain-delayed once again before mercifully being called.
1) Ken Griffey Jr.
I've been saying this year that Griffey has had some terrible stretches, but then he slips in that one game every once in a while that lets you know he's still capable of not being a black hole in the lineup. This was one of those games. It was his first multi-hit game since August 23rd, and his first three-hit game since August 1st. His hit in Thursday's game in Anaheim snapped a six-game hitless streak, going 0-for-15, though he only started three times in that stretch. What was the anatomy of the awesome (3-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs) night for Griffey? With Ichiro on second base and two out, Griffey singled to plate Ichiro and open the scoring. With Jose Lopez on first, Griffey doubled to the wall in centerfield, bringing Lopez all the way around to score and make it 3-0 for the Mariners. He drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the seventh and scored on a Jack Hannahan double that expanded the Mariners' lead to 7-3. In the eighth, Lopez once again was on first, though with nobody out this time, and Griffey doubled again, but not well enough to score Lopez, who scored when Beltre singled four pitches later.
He got two hits to snap out of his 1-for-17 slump that went back to his final three at-bats in Oakland on September 6th. In other words, he has slumped ever since collecting his 2000th Major League hit. According to the AP wire article, Ichiro isn't speaking to the media until after he gets his 200th hit of the season. I think he's having trouble filtering out the distractions, though it doesn't help that the media contingent has expanded a bit lately. He ended up with a 2-for-5 game with an RBI and an intentional walk. Anyway, Ichiro doubled to lead off the game and homered to lead off the third inning. He then went hitless the rest of way, which included three at-bats and an intentional walk. He's still on pace to finish with around 230 hits. The Mariners have 20 games remaining in their season. I still have to say that Ichiro's intestinal thing and the calf thing have me worried a bit about whether Ichiro can keep playing over 155 games a season like he had in every Major League season prior to this one. Maybe he doesn't get 200 hits next year, though that would obviously be due to injury and not because he barely hit .300.
3) Jack Hannahan
The only guy on this team getting less playing time than Ryan Langerhans right now is Jack Hannahan. He had made three appearances this month, all as a pinch runner. He hadn't gotten a plate appearance since August 31st. As a result, he brushed off the cobwebs and went 2-for-4 in this game with a double and two RBIs. He singled with the bases empty and one out in the first. He led off the fourth with a walk and scored on the Gutierrez double that expanded the Mariners' lead to 5-2. He grounded out to end the fifth, then doubled with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh, driving in Griffey and Beltre to give the Mariners a 7-3 lead. He balanced out the karma by grounding into an inning-ending double play in the eighth. It's safe to say the only reason Hannahan and Langerhans are still on this team is because it's September and the rosters are expanded. Chris Woodward and Chris Shelton might as well be in the dugout right now because they'd be getting as much playing time as Langerhans and Hannahan.
This is incredibly rare -- usually I get the game where the whole team sucks and I have a lot of trouble picking the three gameballs. Instead, the whole team was pretty good in this game and it was really hard picking the goat. The only thing I get as much as the bad game where I have to scrape to get three gameballs is the game where the goat is just incredibly obvious. Usually a game like this one would have eight guys in the lineup tearing things up, then Hall would be the guy that struck out four times and go hitless or something. Not so in this game. Hall singled with two runners on and loaded the bases in the seventh inning, setting it up for the Hannahan double. Thus, Hall was far from worthless in this game. He's hitting .278 this month, which is pretty good considering he's had some trouble at the plate since coming to the Mariners. Maybe it's league adjustment or whatever. Sometimes it seems to me that the Mariners are the only team where guys come over from the National League and have a significant league adjustment time, whether it's Adrian Beltre, Jeff Cirillo, Hall, Jack Wilson, whatever. Maybe you can throw Kevin Mitchell and Eric Anthony in there.
Iron Fister and Felix in the doubleheader today.