Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The odds were long for the Mariners to pick up a win in this game. After all, they were sending Ian Snell to the mound and the Kansas City Royals were sending the reigning Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to the mound. While the Mariners didn't beat Greinke, they did rush up his pitch count and get into some of the meaty soft reaches of the Royal bullpen. The Mariner bats didn't awaken much at all until the fateful eighth inning, and it's a good thing they did, or else the Mariners would be going into Wednesday's afternoon trying to salvage a single win on the six-game road trip. Instead, they'll be looking to get their first road series win of the season. How quickly things can turn in the game of baseball...
-- the anatomy of the Mariners' eighth: Jack Wilson led off and struck out. Ichiro put a well-placed bunt just past the edge of the grass in front of home plate, and he legged it out for a single. Chone Figgins walked on four pitches to move Ichiro to second. Franklin Gutierrez put a hard ground ball through the left side to score Ichiro from second and move Figgins to second, making it 2-1 for the Royals. Jose Lopez hit a low chopper to the mound that went off pitcher Robinson Tejeda's glove. Royal second baseman Alberto Callaspo had gone to the second-base bag, expecting Tejeda to field the ball and throw to second for a force out. Instead, the ball went off Tejeda's glove and through the area Callaspo had just vacated. Lopez ended up with a double on a bouncer up the middle. Figgins scored to tie the game at 2-2 and Gutierrez went to third. Ken Griffey Jr. worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. Milton Bradley got ahead 2-0, fouled off a couple pitches, then took the next pitch way too close, but the count went full. The next pitch was ball four and forced Gutierrez across to give the Mariners the 3-2 lead, capping the scoring. Casey Kotchman and Adam Moore both were caught looking to end the inning. Good thing the Mariners didn't need any more runs.
-- it's a good thing the Mariners were able to ratchet up Greinke's pitch count, or else they would have been screwed. The six hits Greinke gave up were quite scattered. Bradley's two-out single was the only hit in the Mariners' second inning. Adam Moore's double (whaaaaa?!!?!!) was the only hit in the Mariners' third. Gutierrez led off the fourth with a double, but the next three hitters flew out. Ichiro led off the sixth with a single, but that was the only hit in the top of the sixth. Finally, in the seventh, the Mariners got a single from Griffey followed immediately by a Bradley infield single. Those occurred with one out, but were followed by a Kotchman fielder's choice and a Moore flyout. They almost got to Greinke.
-- now, a blurb on tonight's starting pitcher. Ian Snell threw in a game for the first time since April 18th. In what most likely is his last start for a while, he dodged some massive bullets. The way he started out made all Mariner fans cringe as he loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning thanks to two singles and a walk. Snell then pulled a rabbit out of the hat by striking out Jose Guillen, getting Callaspo to pop out in foul ground on the left side, and getting Jason Kendall to tap back to the mound. Snell gave up a leadoff double to Alex Gordon in the second, but Snell recorded outs with the next three hitters. Billy Butler hit a one-out single in a scoreless third for Kansas City. Snell was finally burned in the fourth and fifth, giving up RBI triples that gave the Royals 1-0 and 2-0 leads. In the fourth, Snell's leadoff walk (Kendall) scored on the Mitch Maier triple. In the fifth, Butler singled with one out and scored on the Callaspo triple. Snell got the first out in the sixth, but then he walked Maier and was chased by a Yuniesky Betancourt single. For Snell to pitch into the sixth and be tagged with only two runs after getting through the first inning -- it's a minor miracle.
-- now for the bullpen. I'll address Shawn Kelley in the gameballs. Mark Lowe came out for the bottom of the eighth to protect the Mariners' newfound lead. He needed a mere 11 pitches to get three flyouts, all to Bradley in left. David Aardsma came in to close it out, and he did. He allowed the requisite single (David DeJesus with one out), but along the way he threw a few splitters, and I was quite happy. Aardsma needs that second pitch. The hitters have to be thinking they could get something other than the fastball up there. DeJesus was down 0-2 when Aardsma threw splitters on the next two pitches, but he didn't get either of them into the zone. DeJesus sat fastball at that point and got a single since he probably knew there was no way Aardsma was going to triple up on the splitter. Anyway, Aardsma got a grounder from Scott Podsednik to the right side for a groundout and a resulting rundown that ended the game (a double play, though unorthodox).
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Kelley, Lowe, and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Wednesday afternoon's game, Brandon League will have two days of rest, Kanekoa Texeira will have four days of rest, and Jesus Colome will have nine days of rest. Unless Ryan Rowland-Smith really stinks up the joint tomorrow, Colome won't see the field. When Cliff Lee takes a roster spot on Friday, the rumblings (Geoff Baker blog) are that Ian Snell will get bumped to the bullpen. If that's so, it's bye bye Colome.
-- Ichiro went 2-for-5, making him 27-for-86 (.314) on the season, and putting him on pace for a 208-hit season. He singled to left to lead off the seventh, and his second hit was off the bunt with one out in the eighth, starting the rally.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro got two hits, and Figgins got one. In addition, they scored a run apiece. Thus, the Mariners are now 7-1 when both players score and 3-4 when they both record hits. I just noticed I flip-flopped this stat in the post for the first game of this series.
-- as mentioned, Figgins got a hit, so his slump is less icky. If I'm counting right, he's still in a 3-for-36 slump (with 10 walks) going back to his final at-bat in the game on April 14th.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 17-4 .810 --
2002 17-4 .810 --
2003 13-8 .619 4
2009 13-8 .619 4
2000 12-9 .571 5
2007 11-10 .524 6
2008 11-10 .524 6
2010 10-11 .476 7
2005 10-11 .476 7
2006 8-13 .381 9
2004 7-14 .333 10
1) Milton Bradley
There are some big-bat players where I get ticked off if they walk since they're getting paid to hit. I remember hearing a Canuck telecast earlier this year, and I think the Islanders' coach was saying John Tavares wasn't scoring, but he was becoming a good two-way player. Canuck radio color commentator Tom Larscheid saw through the bullcrap, saying that was just coachspeak and that everyone knew Tavares was being paid to score and was expected to score. With Bradley, I'm not sure if we're expecting the guy to just hit, hit, and hit. Obviously, we're expecting him to be better than the .204 hitter he is right now, but are we okay with him taking a walk every once in a while, too? I'm sure not a lot of people will argue with the results of the bases-loaded walk he took in this game. Of course, at some point later in the season, you'll expect Bradley to put a hurtin' on the ball when he comes to the plate in a similar situation. Bradley hit sixth in this game, and I wonder how long it'll take him to return to the middle of the lineup.
2) Shawn Kelley
I was hoping this guy would appear soon. Kelley had seven days of rest coming into this game, but he definitely didn't have to get his sea legs or anything. He came into the game in the sixth, replacing Snell with runners on first and second with one out. He got a flyout to fairly deep center (it moved Maier to third) and caught Podsednik looking to end the inning. Kelley then threw a 1-2-3 seventh, sandwiching a Guillen flyout between groundouts by Butler and Callaspo. Five hitters, five outs for Kelley. He diffused the situation in the sixth and sliced through the meat of the order in the seventh. Now I'm starting to wonder if I should have put him as the number-one gameball. For his efforts, Kelley picked up the winning decision.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder went 2-for-5 and singled home the first Seattle run of the game, giving him 13 RBIs on the season. The Mariners have two games left in April, so I don't know how much Gutierrez can add to that RBI total. Multiply that number by six months and you have Gutierrez finishing with 78 RBIs. While I'm sure that'd be great for Gutierrez, I'm guessing they'll need a good deal more from whoever's hitting third in the lineup. Gutierrez is now a .367 hitter so far with a .420 on-base percentage and a slugging clip of .544. I hope he gets the power stroke going soon. The homers on consecutive days in Chicago hopefully were just a taste of what's to come. Also, it's been a while since I've marveled at some crazy Gutierrez play in center. It's more than likely because he's making everything look incredibly easy now. He gets to gappers that other mere mortal centerfielders don't, and he probably does it by such a wide margin that for him that it's just a running catch and not a Jim Edmonds-style diving catch.
My lasting memory of the Mariner first baseman from this game is the image of him watching a 2-2 pitch right over the outer half of the plate for strike three with the bases loaded and one out. After seeing him get a few clutch hits this season, it was too bad to see him fail to at least put the ball in play. Kotchman is a .246 hitter with a .312 on-base mark and a .493 slugging percentage, and he hit seventh in this game. It's hard to believe he was hitting third earlier in the season. Let's hope he gets warm soon. Hell, let's hope this entire offense gets warm soon. Maybe that's a lot to ask, so how about picking your five Mariners you want to do well and then having them warm up in the lineup, then see what happens?
Rowland-Smith. Meche. Tomorrow.