Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Mariners' six-game road trip started awfully as they dropped the first four games, but they took the final two games to win a three-game series in Kansas City. A couple of good things included the Mariners putting up six runs (and hitting four doubles) and the bullpen giving up only one hit through 3 1/3 innings. The bad things include the Mariners blowing a 5-1 lead and Ryan Rowland-Smith going off the tracks in the sixth inning. Right now, though, I don't really care how they get the wins, I just want the wins. Once Cliff Lee was injured in spring training, I thought the Mariners had to just be a .500 team until he got back into the rotation. Lo and behold, Friday night will see Cliff Lee on the mound for his first Mariner start, and the Mariners will going into the game a .500 team at 11-11.
-- I guess I'll type up the starting pitching stuff first. Other than Ian Snell, Ryan Rowland-Smith has been the most inconsistent starter in the Mariners' rotation. Four of his five starts this season have been of six(-plus) innings or less. Last year, he got to the point where he was nearly a lock for seven innings every time he took the mound. Rowland-Smith either has to work out his kinks by the end of May, or else his hopes of staying in the rotation hinge on Erik Bedard suffering a setback or having Doug Fister or Jason Vargas falter. Anyway, here's the anatomy of the Aussie's sixth inning from hell. Scott Podsednik singled with one out, then Rowland-Smith hit Billy Butler with an 0-2 pitch. Jose Guillen flew out for the second out, but a wild pitch to Alberto Callaspo sent the runners to second and third. Jason Kendall looped an 0-2 pitch in front of Ichiro to score Podsednik and Butler and move Callaspo to third (Mariners 5-3), then Mitch Maier tripled to score Callaspo and Kendall and tie the score at 5-5. That's when Don Wakamatsu pulled Rowland-Smith, apparently not trusting him to get Willie Bloomquist to hit into an out.
-- the average per-start line for Rowland-Smith: 5 2/3 innings, 4 runs (3.4 earned), 5.4 hits, 2.6 walks, 1.8 strikeouts, 95 pitches (59 strikes), 7 groundouts, 6.6 flyouts. Snell barely averages five innings a start, Doug Fister averages 6 2/3 innings, Jason Vargas averages 6 1/3 innings, and Felix Hernandez averages 7 1/3 innings.
-- the average per-start line of Mariner starters not named Felix: 6 innings, 2.7 runs (2.5 earned), 5.4 hits, 2.1 walks, 3.1 strikeouts, 95 pitches (60 strikes), 7.1 groundouts, 6.1 flyouts.
-- now for the bullpen. Brandon League needed all of two pitches to strand Maier at third and end the sixth inning. League then threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning, setting down Yuniesky Betancourt (groundout), David DeJesus (groundout), and Podsednik (whiff). For the second straight game, Mark Lowe came out for the eighth to protect a newfound one-run Mariner lead. Lowe allowed only a two-out Callaspo single. David Aardsma got a rare 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save, getting Maier, Bloomquist, and Betancourt to end it. It must kill Bloomquist to know Betancourt's been biting into his playing time since the Mariners traded Betancourt to Kansas City.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League, Lowe, and Aardsma threw in this game, and all will have a day of rest going into Friday's game due to the Thursday off day. Shawn Kelley will have two days of rest, Sean White will have three days of rest, and Kanekoa Texeira will have six days of rest. Jesus Colome would have 11 days of rest, but I don't think he'll even be on the roster on Friday, so I hope he enjoyed his few weeks with the Mariners.
-- the wind wreaked havoc on many fly balls. Bloomquist fell backward on a fly ball that he caught in shallow right and Podsednik made a sudden dive to his left on a fly to him in left. Jack Wilson lost a popup in shallow center in the second inning. Nice plays, however, included a Wilson play in the hole that ended the eighth and a Lopez charge-and-throw to get Billy Butler in the fourth, though the reason an out was recorded probably had to do with Butler being the runner.
-- an honorable mention for Wilson's double, which he really had to leg out. He put it just inside the leftfield line and got to second base because the ball was just deep enough that Podsednik couldn't throw him out at second. You can call it a hustle double or a stretch double, whatever. It was good. He ended up scoring the Mariners' third run on Figgins' triple.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had three hits and Figgins had two. Ichiro scored, but Figgins did not. Thus, the Mariners are still 7-1 when both players score, but are now 4-4 when both get a hit.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 18-4 .818 --
2002 17-5 .773 1
2003 14-8 .636 4
2000 13-9 .591 5
2009 13-9 .591 5
2007 12-10 .545 6
2010 11-11 .500 7
2005 11-11 .500 7
2008 11-11 .500 7
2006 8-14 .364 10
2004 7-15 .318 11
1) Chone Figgins
Maybe he finally snapped out of his slump. He took off on what the broadcast crew said was a take-off-on-contact play and was easily thrown out at home. I swear Figgins probably has the most baserunning outs on this team. If someone's getting thrown out at a base other than first, it seems like Figgins is the one who's being thrown out. Anyway, the Mariners' second baseman missed a home run by about three feet in the fifth inning, and his two-run triple got the Mariners a 4-1 lead. His other hit was a single to right with one out and the bases empty in the third. He also drew a walk with to push Ichiro to second base in the ultimately frustrating first inning.
2) Mark Lowe
Sooner or later, I'd be giving some gameballs to the relievers, and here's one. For the second straight game, Lowe protected a fresh Mariner lead and bridged the gap from the middle relief to Aardsma. He gave up a two-out single, but that's fiddlesticks. Peter Griffin might say the single was "ants at a picnic." All in all, it seems Lowe has recovered nicely from the walk-offness he suffered in the first game of the road trip in Chicago. I'm hoping his back has been a little less stiff as well, though the results of his last two outings have signaled that maybe his back is okay. Since so far it appears Brandon League can't quite yet be used in a role similar to Lowe, that means Lowe's role is still very vital to this bullpen.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter and t-shirt designer is pretty much a lock on this list if he gets three hits. One of his hits was a swinging bunt down the third-base line in the fifth that scored Rob Johnson from third, giving the Mariners a 2-1 lead. He also led off the game with a double, and with Figgins' walk immediately afterward, the first two hitters in the lineup had done their exact job in setting the stage for a nice offensive inning. Instead, the next three hitters were retired in order. Ichiro also singled to lead off the ninth. He went 3-for-5, making him 30-for-91 (.330), putting him on pace for a 221-hit season. What if he went totally crazy and had a 300-hit season?
It's been a long while since the Mariner centerfielder has had a boxscore line this bad. Gutierrez was 0-for-5 and struck out four times for a golden sombrero nobody wants. He struck out to help torpedo the first inning, popped out foul with a runner on and one out in the third, struck out with Figgins on third and nobody out in the fifth, struck out with the bases empty and one out in the seventh, and was caught looking with Ichiro on first and one out in the ninth. I think Gutierrez would have to be awful at the plate for a solid week and change before Don Wakamatsu would remove him from the number-three slot in the lineup. I don't think Gutierrez will last the rest of the year hitting third, but that's just as much because I think someone else in the lineup will catch fire as much as I think Gutierrez will cool off.
Lewis. Lee. Tomorrow.