Thursday, April 22, 2010
It appears that Felix Hernandez is sort of good or something. Though we know the Baltimore Orioles are awful and it seems they frequently have pretty bad starts to their seasons, Kevin Millwood isn't yet a chop-liver pitcher. Millwood just hasn't been able to catch onto any solid teams since coming to the American League. Though Felix more than did his job, baseball rules dictate that a team has to score a run or runs to win a ballgame, and the Mariners needed to scratch together some runs to get Felix his second win of the season, though he's pitched well enough to win all four of his starts.
This is a heck of a time to have every Thursday off for the rest of the month, but the Mariners have exactly that.
-- the Mariner defense was tagged with two errors, one of which may have cost Felix the shutout. With two out and the bases empty, Nick Markakis stung a ball hard down the leftfield line, and Matt Tuiasosopo didn't backhand it cleanly. This allowed Markakis to scoot into scoring position at second base. Matt Wieters singled to score Markakis on the next pitch to make it 1-0 for Baltimore. In the fourth, the bases were empty with one out when Matt Wieters rolled what looked to be a routine grounder into the hole on the right side. Chone Figgins just plum had it go under his glove.
-- despite the errors, the lack of run support for his first four innings, and the play where he and Rob Johnson sort of had a slow-speed and sorta-collision on a bunt play in the fifth, Felix weathered all of this and still threw the first and last pitches of the ballgame. Obviously the Orioles scored in the first inning, so that was definitely a threat. Felix set down five straight between the Wieters RBI single in the first and the one-out Lou Montanez single in the third. However, this wasn't a night where Felix set down a ton of hitters in a row. That's impossible to do when you're giving up one run while scattering nine hits. The Orioles had runners on first and second with one out in the fifth inning, but a fielder's choice and a flyout got Felix out of it. That's it. The Orioles' only scoring threats were in the first and fifth. Felix gave up a run (unearned) on nine hits, walked nobody and struck out six, needing 113 pitches to get through the game. That was a thing of beauty.
-- the average Felix line through four starts: 7 1/3 innings, 2.3 runs (1.8 earned), 5.8 hits, 2.3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 107 pitches (69 strikes), 12 groundouts, 3 flyouts.
-- Ichiro went hitless, going 0-for-3 with a walk. This makes him a mere 20-for-63 (.317) on the season. Twenty hits in 16 games puts him on pace for a 203-hit season, which would make for his 10th straight 200-hit season in the Majors.
-- the Ichiro/Figgins stat: both Ichiro and Figgins were hitless, and neither scored runs. The team is 6-0 when both players score a run, and they're 2-2 when they both get hits.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: the whole bullpen got a rest in this game. Going into Friday night's game in Chicago, Mark Lowe and David Aardsma will have two days of rest, Brandon League and Shawn Kelley will have three days of rest, and Kanekoa Texeira, Sean White, and Jesus Colome will have four days of rest.
-- interestingly, the first through fourth hitters in the Mariner lineup combined to go 0-for-13 in the game with three walks and two strikeouts. Jose Lopez out of that group scored the tying run on the Rob Johnson infield single in the fourth. Similarly, the bottom third of the Mariner lineup combined for a 4-for-9 night with four RBIs, and they also scored two of the Mariners' four runs.
1) Felix Hernandez
The man's incredible. We're watching this guy mature before our eyes, and he's already this good. It looks and feels even better on the heels of two great starts by Doug Fister and Jason Vargas that ended up in wins. He did it this time wearing the knee-high socks, which is the way to go, as far as I'm concerned. Not quite as awesome as the Jamie Moyer stirrups, but still awesome.
2) Jack Wilson
The Mariners' shortstop, of whom I haven't been a big fan on offense this season, went 1-for-3 with the three-run double that cleared the bases in the fourth and gave Felix all the runs he needed. He's gotten hits in each of his last five games and gone 7-for-15 in that stretch. He drove in four runs over the final two games of this Baltimore series. Or maybe he's only doing so well because this is Baltimore pitching he was facing.
3) Rob Johnson
He went 2-for-3, driving in the tying run of the game and even stealing a base (whaaaaaa?!). Also, there were no passed balls in the game, which is also good. Johnson is now a .208 hitter on the season. It's still not the .240 I want, but this night definitely wasn't a bad one. What a night for the bottom third of the lineup. I think I heard Dave Sims mentioned on the television broadcast that the Mariner fourth inning in this game was the third time in the homestand in which the Mariners had batted around. Of course, when you bat around, the bottom third has to hold up their end of the bargain. If Felix went just 7 1/3 innings or something, I probably would have put Johnson as the number-one gameball because I don't know when Johnson's going to get two hits in a game again. It could be a while.
He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. He's hitting .192 on the season with an on-base percentage of .338 and a slugging percentage of .250. He's gone hitless in his last 16 at-bats, going back to a strikeout in his final at-bat in the last game of the Oakland series. The reason it's only 0-for-16 over five games is because he's drawn seven walks in that stretch and he ended up scoring seven runs. I suppose this could all be way worse if he wasn't getting on base at all, but eventually I'd like for him to actually get aboard with hits and pull off the first-and-third game with Ichiro that we want so badly to mess with other teams. So far this year, that prototypical first-to-third game with Ichiro and Figgins hasn't really materialized this year. I'm still waiting for him to warm up a bit with the bat. Hopefully it happens on the road trip.
Rowland-Smith. Floyd. Tomorrow.