Sunday, April 18, 2010



When the Mariners dropped the home opener and found themselves with a 2-6 record and no semblance of an offense or consistent starting pitching, I figured a realistic goal for the Mariners would be to get within sniffing distance of .500 by the end of April. What I didn't see happening was an immediate four-game winning streak. Pretty much everything the Mariners didn't have during the first eight games of the season (except maybe power hitting) has gotten into the team. The Mariners just couldn't get any breaks in the early going. It seemed all the hard grounders they hit didn't have eyes for the outfield, and all the line drives they hit were right at somebody. They managed to run themselves out of some scoring threats. The starting pitching wasn't the strength we thought it was. Even the Mariner defense was having some odd plays fail to work into their favor. In winning four straight, the Mariners have tried to bury the first eight games of the season and burn the tapes. I know which part of the season I'd rather remember.

-- odd thing that the ESPN.com play-by-play shows a run scoring on the Ken Griffey Jr. fielder's choice in the first where Verlander fell on the back of the mound and threw from the seat of his pants to get the out at second. The play-by-play shows the score going from 2-0 to 1-0 on the next play. I thought I'd waited long enough after the game to look at that play-by-play listing for all the errors to be corrected. I miss the days with the ESPN play-by-play would list by pitch 1, pitch 2, pitch 3, etc.

-- odd that Ichiro might not have been a homer away from the cycle if the fan along the first-base side hadn't reached out and grabbed the ball heading into the corner that went for Ichiro's double. Still, that doesn't mean fans should be reaching out into fair territory to grab a live ball. That's bull. Also interesting, Ichiro was up with two out in the second when Jack Wilson was gunned down by about a mile trying to steal second base. Ichiro got a fresh count for the third inning and ended up tripling. Also, Ichiro haters are trifling. Wordplay.

-- what a weird play in the first on the Chone Figgins foul pop to Carlos Guillen on the leftfield side. There was a play in the Giants/Dodgers game earlier in the day that occurred in the same spot on the field and ended up with everyone being confused. I think there were runners on first and second with nobody out when a fly ball went down the leftfield line. Garret Anderson made a sliding catch, touching the ball in fair territory, but then the ball fell out in foul territory. I think one of the umpires signaled out, but then safe. Anderson threw the ball in and the Dodger infield tagged every base and tried to make it a triple play. The inning did not end with that play.

-- Ichiro's 3-for-3 day with a single, double, triple, and a walk puts him at 15-for-49 (.306) on the season. With 15 hits in 12 games, he is finally on pace for about 203 hits for the season, finally exceeding a 200-hit pace.

-- time for the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro and Figgins both scored in this game, marking the fifth time this season it's happened. Figgins went hitless, however, and he and Ichiro have only collected hits in the same game three times in 12 games.

-- Ryan Rowland-Smith got into the seventh, gave up a leadoff double to Scott Sizemore, then was promptly pulled. Rowland-Smith isn't totally up to speed yet, but those starts of seven innings or longer are going to come eventually. He hasn't been that sharp, averaging three walks a start. However, he only yields an average of five hits per start, so he's not getting tattered. Still, sometimes he gets a little too flyball friendly, and that Magglio Ordonez homer was just a smash, going off the stairwell near the out-of-town scoreboard.

-- the average line for a Mariner starting pitcher: 6 innings, 2.8 runs (2.5 earned), 5.2 hits, 2.2 walks, 3.7 strikeouts, 96 pitches (61 strikes), and a ratio of 7.1 groundouts to 5.5 flyouts. The average non-Felix start: 5 2/3 innings, 2.8 runs (2.6 earned), 5.6 hits, 1.9 walks, 2.9 strikeouts, 93 pitches (59 strikes), and a ratio of 5.8 groundouts to 6.6 flyouts.

-- Brandon League finished off the seventh inning after Rowland-Smith was pulled. Gerald Laird bunted Sizemore over to third, then pinch-hitting Johnny Damon hit a solid single to center to score Sizemore, tie the game at 2-2, and take a winning decision away from Rowland-Smith. League gave up a single to Austin Jackson on the next pitch before getting outs with the next two hitters. After five days of rest (partially attributable to a back tweak), Mark Lowe worked for the second straight night. He allowed a one-out Guillen single followed by a Brandon Inge walk, but then got a double-play ball to end the inning. Finally, David Aardsma worked a 1-2-3 ninth, which actually seems kind of rare.

-- now for the bullpen rest bulletin: Mark Lowe, Brandon League, and David Aardsma worked in this game. Going into Sunday's game, Sean White will have had one day of rest, Shawn Kelley will have had five days of rest, and Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira will have had six days of rest. With Ian Snell starting the final game of this series, it's pretty much a lead-pipe cinch that Colome will appear on Sunday afternoon and make his debut before the home fans, possibly along with Texeira.

1) Ichiro
I've already typed a fair amount about him with the above material. I guess all that's left to say is that he also made a sliding basket catch on his knees. I wonder if we're going to start seeing a torrid Ichiro over the next couple weeks. He's 7-for-13 in the last three games, with the only two extra-base hits in that stretch coming in this game. As a result of the double and triple, Ichiro's slugging percentage is now higher than his on-base percentage (.388 to .358).

2) Franklin Gutierrez
About the only thing missing for Gutierrez so far is a home run. Gutierrez went 2-for-4 and drove in two of the Mariners' four runs. His first-inning single drove Ichiro home from third to stake the Mariners out to a 1-0 lead. He then singled with one out off Joel Zumaya to drive home Figgins for an important insurance run (Mike Brumley was nuts to wave Figgins around, but the throw home didn’t have enough oomph on it) to make it 4-2 for the Mariners. Like Ichiro, Gutierrez is also 7-for-13 over the last three games, but with a triple as his only extra-base hit. Gutierrez has 20 hits so far, and we've just crossed the halfway point in the month of April. If he ends up with a 35-hit month, it will have been a hell of a month.

3) Casey Kotchman
The Mariner first-baseman had only one hit, but that hit was the go-ahead double in the seventh that put the Mariners on their way. Kotchman only saw nine pitches in the game, but somehow I care less about that when the results are what they were. Kotchman's 1-for-3 night bumped his batting average up to .229. His coldness at the plate combined with the awesomeness of Gutierrez has resulted in Kotchman not hitting third in the lineup since April 11th, the final game of the season-opening road trip. Part of me hopes Kotchman never hits third for this team again. Actually, I just wish Milton Bradley would catch fire and the Mariners could hit him third. In any event, Kotchman picked the ball to finish the nicely turned double play that ended the eighth inning.

Chone Figgins
The Mariner second baseman is hitless in the last two games. In this game, he hit a sacrifice fly to drive in a run, but went hitless and failed to draw a walk. He scored a run after getting aboard via a fielder's choice that wiped Ichiro off the basepaths. I just hope we see some stretches this season where Ichiro and Figgins start the hit parade and the rest of the lineup falls in line. Let the table be set! The other thing people usually don't bring up is that when the lineup turns over, Jack Wilson is hitting before Ichiro. If Ichiro gets to the plate with Jack Wilson aboard, surely that would just make it easier for Ichiro to collect hits.

Scherzer. Snell. Today.

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