Saturday, April 24, 2010



If there's a recipe on how to beat the Chicago White Sox on the road, I'm thinking "give up four home runs" is not one of the ingredients. It's been said for a while now that this version of Comiskey Park has been homer-friendly ever since some of the outfield fences were drawn closer to the plate. Taking that into consideration, Ryan Rowland-Smith is a pitcher hasn't struck out that many hitters in any outing this season, but gets a lot of outs via the flyout. Needless to say, some fly balls that are outs in Seattle aren't outs on the south side of Chicago.

-- first, a blurb on Ryan Rowland-Smith. Through four starts, he gives up an average of 5.3 hits, 2.5 walks (while striking out 1.3), and 7.3 flyouts (6.8 groundouts) per start. After what transpired in this start for Rowland-Smith, I couldn't help but think he's probably not a pitcher who's well-suited for pitching in that park. Of course, you're not just going to pull him for one start because the park is gnarly. The first two homers were solo shots that came on first-pitch fastballs in the first and second innings to Andruw Jones and Carlos Quentin, respectively. Rowland-Smith gave up a two-out RBI single to Paul Konerko in the third that put the White Sox out to a 3-2 lead. Konerko got a 2-0 pitch from Rowland-Smith to lead off the sixth and demolished it to make it 4-2 for Chicago. An error by fill-in shortstop Matt Tuiasosopo (Jack Wilson took a hard grounder off his right hand to lead off the third) followed by an Alexei Ramirez double put two runners in scoring position with one out in the sixth, chasing Rowland-Smith.

-- the only starting pitcher who is averaging less innings per start than Rowland-Smith is Ian Snell (5 2/3 to 4 2/3). Hopefully that fixes itself in the next couple turns through the rotation.

-- Kanekoa Texeira was the first Mariner out of the bullpen, coming in for Rowland-Smith. He got a grounder from his first hitter, Donny Lucy, but that grounder scored Quentin from third to make it 5-2. Texeira caught Jayson Nix looking to end the inning and that was it for Texeira. Sean White blew the 6-5 lead in the seventh. He allowed two singles to lead off the inning before getting Jones to hit into a double play to third base, where Lopez got the out at third before throwing to first, putting the remaining runner on second base. Konerko was intentionally walked since he's good and Alex Rios sucks. That didn't hold up this time as Rios doubled (or, Eric Byrnes sold the ranch in left and lost) to score Gordon Beckham and tie the game at 6-6. Brandon League pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and can't be blamed for any of the bullpen's shortcomings on this night. Mark Lowe got the first two hitters out in the ninth and started out 0-2 on Jones. He threw three straight balls and Jones fouled off three pitches before getting a thigh-high slider over the inside corner and killing it to end the game. Jones drank from the fountain of youth on his birthday.

-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Texeira, White, League, and Lowe worked in this game. Going into Saturday afternoon's game, David Aardsma will have had three days of rest, Shawn Kelley will have had four days of rest, and Jesus Colome will have had five days of rest.

-- Chone Figgins, in his best offensive game in quite a while, doubled with one out and runners on the corners in the third to draw the Mariners within a run at 2-1. One walk and one out later, Ken Griffey Jr. hit a grounder up the middle that scored Ichiro to tie the game at 2-2. In the seventh, the Mariners loaded the bases with one out, but Franklin Gutierrez lined out to the second baseman. Luckily, Jose Lopez reached into the bag of clutch and golfed one over the leftfield wall for a grand slam to give the Mariners a 6-5 lead, their only lead of the game.

-- Ichiro went 2-for-5, making him 22-for-68 (.324) on the season. Twenty-two hits in 17 games puts him on pace for a 210-hit season.

-- the Ichiro/Figgins stat: Ichiro got two hits while Figgins got one. Ichiro scored twice while Figgins scored once. So, it would seem the Mariners might have a decent chance of winning when both these guys get hits and score runs. Instead, they lost this game, making the Mariners 6-1 when both players score and 2-3 when they both get hits.

1) Jose Lopez
It took 17 games, but the Mariners' second baseman made his first home run of the season a big one. His grand slam catapulted the Mariners from being down 5-2 to being ahead 6-5. The grand slam doubled his season RBI total, going from four to eight. Lopez is a .235 hitter and now slugs .294. For this team to be afloat offensively, Lopez will need to pick up some of the slack when Franklin Gutierrez stops hitting at a near-.400 clip, and the Mariners will need him to warm up his power hitting and his RBI production. Though I really want Gutierrez to succeed, I also don't think Gutierrez will stick as the number-three hitter in the lineup for the whole season. I think that's more than likely where Lopez will and probably should go. Before this game, the Mariners had won seven of eight games, and one of the things missing despite all the good happenings was the lack of hitting and power hitting from Lopez. This game was a loss, but if Lopez gets rolling with the bat, we're going to look back on this game as the turning point for Lopez.

2) Ichiro
During the homestand, Ichiro had a six-game hitting streak where he went 12-for-24. He went hitless in the Felix game to snap that streak. Hopefully he's starting another one with his 2-for-5 night in this game. While the Mariners' home tear didn't come with Lopez tearing the cover off the ball, it obviously did coincide with Ichiro hitting .500 over a span of six games. I guess the good thing is that despite Ichiro's chronicled slow starts over the years, the slow start this season seems to have lasted the first two weeks of the season. Ichiro can hit. Ichiro is good. Ichiro can also design t-shirts, though not a rainbow one, dashing the hopes of Dave Sims.

3) Eric Byrnes
Milton Bradley has a balky calf muscle and this game was played on a rainy night in Chicago. The beneficiary of this is Eric Byrnes, who gets playing time while the Mariners pay him league minimum (sweet deal). In this game, Byrnes went 1-for-3 with a walk. The one hit was a double, and he also stole a base. A Byrnes that was a couple years younger might have caught the ball that went for a double to tie the game at 6-6, but Byrnes did manage to get the tip of his glove on the ball. I hope Byrnes makes the most of this playing time, doing his hustly things and learning to hit the ball somewhere other than straight up into the air for a harmless infield popup. On the other hand, I also hope Milton Bradley comes back soon and puts at least the threat of decent hitting into the lineup.

Ryan Rowland-Smith
I could have picked Matt Tuiasosopo here. Tuiasosopo went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and an error after coming in for Jack Wilson. Ultimately, though, only a small amount of this team's success hinges on the fortunes of Tuiasosopo. A much greater amount hinges on the fortunes of Ryan Rowland-Smith. His average per-start line: 5 2/3 innings, 3.8 runs (3 earned), 5.3 hits, 2.5 walks, 1.3 groundouts, 96 pitches (61 strikes), 6.8 groundouts, 7.3 flyouts. His longest start this year was a seven-inning start in an April 12th home start against Oakland where he walked five hitters. In his previous start, Rowland-Smith threw six innings, but pitched into the seventh before being pulled (six-plus). The Mariners just need this guy to work deeper into games like we've seen him do before. I can only get so wrapped up in this since it's still April, but if Rowland-Smith's putting out starts like this one while Doug Fister and Jason Vargas are putting out the starts they're putting out...I know the chance is miniscule, but how bad would Rowland-Smith have to pitch to be pushed aside when Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard come back to the rotation?

Fister. Garcia. Today.

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