Sunday, April 25, 2010



I think the only way this sweep in Chicago could have been more demoralizing would be if the Sunday afternoon game also ended via the walk-off blast. It was almost similar, though the go-ahead home run came in the eighth inning, so it was a bit different. Still, all three games were well within reach. Pretty much. Two losses on the final pitch of the game, and this loss on a game-winning homer in the eighth. The Mariners needed a grand slam by Jose Lopez to vault themselves back into Friday's game, but the last two games of the series were losses that wasted good to solid starts by Doug Fister and Jason Vargas.

-- of the starters in the Mariner lineup, only Eric Byrnes and Matt Tuiasosopo went hitless. Byrnes at least drew a walk to get aboard. Tuiasosopo is an injury replacement hitting ninth, so I won't bust him too much. Still, though the hits were scattered, eight hits for a team that doesn't hit a lot of homers probably isn't enough to win in a park like Chicago's. Three of the eight hits went for extra bases as Kotchman both doubled (a good throw from leftfield would have had Kotchman dead to rights) and tripled, and Franklin Gutierrez homered for the second straight day. Too bad there weren't runners aboard when Gutierrez went yard. No one else in that inning did anything. All in all, though, the Mariners merely had the unenviable task of going up against John Danks, so the bar could only have been set so high.

-- there were blown scoring chances, however. In the second, Lopez and Mike Sweeney started the inning with singles. Kotchman was the opposite of clutch this time, grounding into a double play and moving Lopez to third. Byrnes whiffed to end the inning. With two out in the eighth, Ichiro and Chone Figgins both singled, but Gutierrez had met his clutch quota for the day and flew out to end the inning. With two out in the ninth, Kotchman doubled (again, he should have been thrown out) and Byrnes walked. Ken Griffey Jr. came on to pinch hit for Adam Moore, and after he looked at a first-pitch strike and fouled off the second pitch, the game was pretty much over and done. Just as a formality, Griffey whiffed at the final pitch to end the game.

-- the Gutierrez homer one-hopped the original wall in leftfield. Surely you remember the time before they drew the fences closer in Chicago? The walls were also painted blue many moons ago. The Gutierrez homer came in an otherwise nothing inning for the Mariners. In the fifth, Kotchman led off with a triple, and one out later, Moore singled to drive in Kotchman to get the Mariners a 2-1 lead. The single atoned a bit for Moore's awful passed ball that put Chicago on the board in the first. Is Moore taking catching lessons from Rob Johnson or something? He shouldn't be. I want a catcher who can actually catch, and now I'm not sure the Mariners have one on their 25-man roster.

-- I guess this leaves me to talk about Jason Vargas. After he labored through the first inning and threw a whole bunch of pitches, I was just hoping he'd last through five innings. He settled down and ended up throwing 6 2/3 innings. It started badly for Vargas as he hit the leadoff batter (Juan Pierre) with a pitch, then gave up a single to Gordon Beckham. Pierre stole third and scored when Moore had the awful passed ball just went off his glove and to the backstop. Vargas then got two groundouts to avert a complete disaster. Vargas allowed a leadoff walk to Alex(is) Rios in the second but also stranded him at first. He was on the ropes in the sixth as Andruw Jones singled to lead off, then Paul Konerko tagged a ball down the leftfield line that bounced fair and went into the stands for a double. With two runners in scoring position and nobody out, Vargas looked doomed. He got a harmless infield pop to AJ Pierzynski followed by a Carlos Quentin groundout to short (which unfortunately scored a run to tie the game at 2-2). Rios popped up to end the sixth, and Vargas came out for the seventh. In the seventh, Vargas allowed a double to Mark Teahen to lead off, then got the next two hitters out before Don Wakamatsu pulled him so Sean White could face Gordon Beckham.

-- the average per-start line for Vargas: 6 1/3 innings, 2.5 runs (2.5 earned), 5 hits, 1.5 walks, 4.8 strikeouts, 95 pitches (60 strikes), 5.8 groundouts, 6.3 flyouts. The average starting line for a non-Felix Mariner starter: 6 innings, 2.6 runs (2.3 earned), 5.1 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, 94 pitches (60 strikes), 7 groundouts, 6.3 flyouts. That's after what I'll call four turns through the rotation, though the Mariners used the off day to skip Ian Snell's turn.

-- this leaves the bullpen. Sean White threw two pitches and got Beckham to line out to end the seventh inning, so he did his job. Brandon League came in to throw the eighth inning and hold a 2-2 tie. He got Jones to fly out on the first pitch. Moore held the catcher's mitt over the outside corner for the 2-1 pitch to Konerko. The pitch ended up knee high over the inner half of the plate and was subsequently blasted over the wall in leftcenter to give the White Sox a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. League got the next two hitters out, but the damage was done.

-- the bullpen rest bulletin: White and League threw in this game. Going into Monday's game at Kansas City, David Aardsma will have one day of rest, Kanekoa Texeira and Mark Lowe will have two days of rest, Shawn Kelley will have six days of rest, and Jesus Colome will have seven days of rest.

-- Ichiro went 1-for-4, making him 23-for-76 (.303) on the season. Twenty-three hits in 19 games puts him on pace for a 196-hit season. Hopefully this pace picks up soon.

-- the Ichiro/Figgins stat: neither Ichiro nor Figgins scored runs, but they got a hit apiece. Thus, the Mariners are still 6-1 when both players score and are a mere 2-4 when they both get hits.

-- though he got a hit, Figgins is still in a 2-for-28 (.072) hitting slump with nine walks, dating back to his final at-bat on April 14th. He is a .190 hitter with an on-base percentage of .333 and a slugging percentage of .254, though they're not paying him to slug. Figgins' on-base percentage is much better than the .275 of Lopez.

1) Casey Kotchman
In the final two games of the series, the Mariners' first baseman went 3-for-7 with two RBIs, a double, and a triple. Too bad he had to throw a double-play groundout in there too. There was also that off-balance defensive play where both he and League did some awkward choreography on the way to a groundout for Pierzynski. Kotchman is a .279 hitter with a .348 on-base mark and a .557 slugging percentage. His slugging mark is behind only Gutierrez (.569) on the Mariners.

2) Jason Vargas
Probably the only bad thing about his start was the three walks. Other than that, I'm putting him here because he proved to be a bit slippery and adept at escaping disaster, yet still being able to pitch into the seventh. He finished having thrown 95 pitches, with his season high being 105.

3) Franklin Gutierrez
It's too bad it took 17 games for Gutierrez to hit his first homer of 2010, but he's making up for lost time, homering in consecutive games. This is good, seeing as to how the home runs seemed to have been the last phase of his game to come around this season. Gutierrez is still holding the fort for when the other big cogs of the offense get warm. Gutierrez is hitting .375 with an on-base percentage of .418 and a slugging percentage of .569, leading the team in all categories.

Brandon League
Brandon Morrow isn't walking a ton of hitters for this team, so I guess that's a good thing. Still, Brandon League hasn't really impressed me so far. Each time I think I have confidence in the guy that had the most whiffed-at pitch last season, he gets hit. He blew the 6-5 lead in the seventh inning of the first game of this series, and today he couldn't preserve a tie game and took the loss. He plain didn't hit his spot on the home-run pitch to Konerko. I've been hoping he could step in as a second Mark Lowe, but I don't have that confidence in him yet. So, to encompass the season in a nutshell: at first, no one was hitting, but the starting pitching really wasn't there either. Then the starting pitching came around and the hitters did just enough. Now the starting pitching is there and the hitting is about 3/4 of the way there, but the bullpen isn't consistent. Hopefully it ends up clicking for this team in the next couple weeks.

Hernandez. Davies. Tomorrow.

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