Sunday, April 25, 2010
Ah, there's nothing like two gut-punching losses in a row to knock you back to .500. Sad thing is that this game was a lot more within the Mariners' style of play and their recipe of winning (low-scoring and close) than Friday's game, which was a slugfest that really didn't suit the Mariners at all. This time, however, instead of blowing the lead in the seventh and losing the game in the ninth, David Aardsma decided he'd take the process all on himself in the ninth. It was definitely the quick and painful method.
-- The Mariners (maybe I should just say Aardsma) wasted a great outing from Doug Fister. Fister was a groundball machine, which is a good trait to have when you're pitching in a park such as the one on the south side of Chicago. The first hit Fister gave up was a one-out single by Mark Teahen in the third, and he was erased on a double play ball two pitches later (Alexei Ramirez) that ended the inning. In the fourth, Juan Pierre got aboard with a leadoff infield single and Andruw Jones walked with two out, only to be erased on another inning-ending double play (Paul Konerko). The White Sox finally had a legitimate scoring threat in the fifth, though it all occurred with two out. Alex(is) Rios singled, then stole second. Teahen singled Rios over to third. Ramirez cranked a high fly to deep left, and Eric Byrnes nearly Spider-Man'd the ball for an out. Byrnes climbed up the wall and got a piece of the glove on the ball, which then went off the top of the wall (yellow line) and back into the field of play. While a flyout would have kept the Mariners ahead 1-0, the fact that Byrnes got a glove on it made it 2-1 for Chicago instead of 3-1, which proved to be pretty big in the scope of the game. In the sixth, Konerko doubled with one out but was stranded there. In the seventh, Rios singled with one out and was the end of a strikeout/throwout double play to end the inning. In the eighth, Pierre singled with one out, but Fister caught him leaning the wrong way and picked him off of first base.
-- Fister has been incredible since his first start (which was not a good start). In his last three starts, Fister has given up a total of two runs and 14 hits. Eight of those hits were in this game. The average per-start line for Fister: 6 2/3 innings, 1.3 runs (1.3 earned), 5 hits, 1.3 walks, 3.3 strikeouts, 98 pitches (64 strikes), 11 groundouts, 5 flyouts. The Mariners' fifth starter is averaging 6 2/3 innings, for goodness' sake. What's happening here is that Fister is picking up some of the slack for Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith, and I'm more than glad he's able to do it. Too bad he just couldn't get the closer to hold up his end of the bargain this time.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Aardsma threw in this game. Those coming into today's game with one day of rest include Kanekoa Texeira, Sean White, Brandon League, and Mark Lowe. Shawn Kelley comes in with five days of rest, and Jesus Colome comes in with six days of rest.
-- Franklin Gutierrez has gone four games without a multi-hit game. Of course, he only went hitless in one of those four games. In this game, he hit a solo homer in the fourth off Freddy Garcia (who the Mariners made look a little too good) that gave the Mariners their original 1-0 lead. The bad news is that he also struck out three times for the hat trick. He whiffed with the bases empty to end the first inning (no scoring threat there anyway), he was caught looking with Chone Figgins on second and nobody out in the seventh, and he whiffed with one out and nobody aboard in the ninth in a 2-2 tie game. Gutierrez is hitting .382 with an on-base percentage of .427 and a slugging mark of .544.
-- Ken Griffey Jr. is a .222 hitter and hit in the fifth slot in this game. He was 0-for-3 with a walk. Though 0-for-3 is bad, that walk came in the ninth. Lopez was on first when Griffey started the at-bat, though he ended up stealing second. Griffey walked, and since running presumably doesn't involve a lot of the right hand, Jack Wilson came in for pinch-running duties and ended up scoring the run that gave the Mariners a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth. We'd all still like Griffey to hit and pop the odd homer, but this day wasn't completely fruitless for Junior.
-- how did this team only get two hits off Freddy Garcia over seven innings? Ouch.
-- I know that ultimately almosts are not quite good enough, but that's two days in a row where Byrnes almost made great plays, but they ended up in runs being scored.
-- Ichiro went 0-for-4, making him 22-for-72 (.306) on the season. Twenty-two hits in 18 games puts him on pace for a 198-hit season. Come on, Ichiro. We need at least a .330 clip out of you for the team to be consistenly good.
-- the Ichiro/Figgins stat: Ichiro was hitless and scoreless while Figgins scored once and was hitless. The Mariners are 6-1 when both score and are 2-3 when both get hits.
-- Figgins is in a hitting slump, though not in a walking slump. Dating back to his final at-bat on April 14th, he has gone 1-for-24. However, he's walked nine times in that span. As a result, his abysmal-looking .186 batting average is a bit offset by his .338 on-base percentage, which ties (percentage points) with Casey Kotchman and is better than Lopez.
1) Doug Fister
I pretty much said everything I really need to say about Fister in the above section. He was great. I think the fact that he's righthanded will keep him in the rotation once both Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard come back to the rotation. That's too bad for Jason Vargas, but Fister's throwing well and getting some great results in his last three starts.
2) Casey Kotchman
The Mariner first baseman doesn't hit like Russell Branyan by any means, but he's got a little bit of clutch in his bat. His double down the rightfield line in the ninth scored Lopez and Wilson to break the tie and give the Mariners a 4-2 lead. In actuality, it should have just been a 3-2 game since Jack Wilson hadn't gotten to third base when the idiot fan dow the rightfield line played the live ball. Still, the umpiring crew gave the Mariners their fourth run, and this call resulted in Ozzie Guillen being run from the game, though it was for a noble cause. Kotchman is hitting .263 with an on-base mark of .338 and a slugging percentage of .509. The slugging percentage is second on the team only to Gutierrez.
3) Jose Lopez
Hey, it's two straight days with extra-base hits for the Mariners' third baseman. Lopez's seventh-inning double tied the game at 2-2 and was only the Mariners' second hit of the game, and their final hit off Garcia. He also singled in the ninth with two out to start the rally that got the Mariners the lead. He crossed the plate as the 3-2 run on Kotchman's ground-rule double and would have scored even if Wilson had been called back to third base. Out of all the Mariner starters in this game, only Rob Johnson saw less pitches (eight) than Lopez (nine). Maybe it's just one of those things where Lopez is hacktastic and that's just who he is. Maybe he just can't work deep into counts, and if he does, it's because he's fouled off a bunch of pitches that were out of the zone. It's almost like they still have a lingering element of Yuniesky Betancourt on the club. Lopez hasn't hit his stride yet at the plate and is a .250 hitter with an on-base mark of .276 and a slugging percentage of .319.
Sure, this team usually goes where Ichiro goes, and I know Ichiro went 0-for-4 in this game. This team also should usually be trusted to take a 4-2 lead to the bank in the ninth inning. They couldn't this time, and that rests with the Mariners' closer. I'm actually surprised he doesn't have more games like this. I can't believe he almost always got away with pumping fastballs past everybody last year. The White Sox have a more homer-friendly ballpark than Safeco Field for sure, and that doesn't help Aardsma when he's trying to throw straight-line gas. Anyway, with one out and nobody on, Konerko got a pitch to destroy and 418 feet later, it was 4-3. Aardsma then got AJ Pierzynski to fly out for the second out. Aardsma got ahead 1-2 on Carlos Quentin before throwing three straight balls to walk him, putting the tying run on first. Rios then got a pitch to drive, ending the game 421 feet later. I wish Aardsma could just show a changeup every once in a while so the hitters weren't so geared up to hit the fastball. They can already ratchet up for the speed, they just have to get around on it. We're probably three blown saves in the next two weeks before Don Wakamatsu would even consider bumping Aardsma from the closer's role, but I wonder which of Mark Lowe or Brandon League he would choose. Both have breaking pitches, and people seem to swing and miss at League's sinker.
Vargas. Danks. Today.