Thursday, April 08, 2010



And so it goes, as the Mariners lose the getaway day game by a score of 6-2 in Oakland, leaving them with a 1-3 record going into the weekend at Arlington. I'm not sure how much about this series is really surprising. We knew they'd have trouble scoring runs, and we knew they'd be screwed if they didn't get good starting pitching. Felix Hernandez did his job, Ian Snell did okay, but Ryan Rowland-Smith and Doug Fister didn't hold up their end of the bargain, the bullpen got overworked, and Ryan Langerhans got designated for assignment to get help in the form of Jesus Colome. I guess the way to come out of this series is basically to know that the hitting's not this bad, and the pitching isn't this bad, even without Cliff Lee. The hitting as the Mariners have it constructed might not be awesome over the course of this season, but it can't be as bad as it was in this opening series. Even in the next month, at some point it'll stop being Felix and pray for rain.

Some of this is boxscore, some of this is from the replay, since it was a day game...

-- the first lesson of the day is that you can't scoop up a baseball using your catcher's mask, lest it be called a ground-rule double. The sad thing is, the play was pretty much over and done when Moore tried scooping up the ball with his mask.

-- The Mariner offense is in enough of a hitting funk that Chone Figgins hit himself aboard twice and scored zero times. In fact, the Mariners had seven hits in the game, and three of them came in the ninth inning. In other words, they trailed 6-0 and had amassed four hits going into the top of the ninth.

-- Considering the Mariners' offensive woes in the game, it's almost hard to pick any hitting stars for the day. Franklin Gutierrez had the only extra-base hit of the game, which is fine and dandy, but that came in the ninth inning. If nothing else, he can be credited with starting the ruckus in the ninth. Matt Tuiasosopo went 2-for-4 and drove in a run, but that run scored in the ninth. His other hit obviously came earlier in the game, as did his two strikeouts.

-- As a team, the Mariners collected six, five, eight, and seven hits in the four games of the series for a total of 26 hits. How many teams in the Majors can win games when their offense generates 6.5 hits per night? Unless every one of those hits is a home run, it's not really a recipe for success. If we're going to place any emphasis on Ichiro and Chone Figgins at the top of the lineup to set the table, Figgins got two hits and did his job today (aside from getting gunned down going to second on a fly ball to right), but Ichiro was an 0-for-4. Speaking of tablesetting, is putting a lefthander on the mound all the opposition will have to do to stop Ichiro and Figgins from running wild on the basepaths? I know it'd curtail it a little bit, but surely they could still bait the pitchers into doing stupid stuff.

-- Now for the real crux of the matter: starting pitching. Doug Fister wasn't exactly the strike-throwing machine to whom we were introduced last year. He went to full counts on each of the first three Oakland hitters on the day, and that set the tone for the rest of the start. I don't want to see any more Mariners this season needing 96 pitches to get through four innings. That's patently absurd. Luckily for the Mariners, and unfortunately for Ryan Langerhans, this is right where Jesus Colome fit into the game and threw three innings after Fister left the game. Colome ate up three innings and wasn't total garbage, giving everyone in the bullpen not named Kanekoa Texeira a day of much-needed rest.

-- Felix ate up 6 2/3 innings in his start on Opening Night and could have gone further if not for six walks. Ian Snell threw six innings the next night in his start, which to me is more toward the ceiling of what he can do in an average start, but worse yet, that game went to extra innings. Ryan Rowland-Smith struggled through five innings in his start. Finally, Fister threw four innings in today's start. Put it all together, and the bullpen threw a total of 13 1/3 innings in the series, or an average of about 3 1/3 innings per game. That's murder on a bullpen, and that of course means the rotation is averaging 5 1/3 innings per start. Substandard, to say the least.

-- Though Adam Moore scooping up the baseball in the eighth inning surely wouldn't have happened if he knew it'd cost a ground-rule double, that set the stage for Kanekoa Texeira to be in a less-than-desirable inning. With Scoopgate, Texeira is tagged in the boxscore as having given up a double, which will more than likely be the only 45-foot double he'll ever yield. Though this is the second time I'm referring to this incident, I must point out that I knew about the rule in the rulebook that says you can't throw your glove at a live ball, but I didn't know using a catcher's mask was covered by a rule as well, and I'm guessing it's part of the same rule.

-- Not that a power outage by the Mariners is surprising, but they have a mere two homers through four games. Those homers were hit by Rob Johnson (inexplicably) and Milton Bradley (he killed that ball). The Mariners also hit four doubles in the series. The Mariners racked up 130 at-bats in the series. They racked up 26 hits for a team batting average of .200, and they hit those two homers and four doubles for a slugging mark of .277 (36 total bases), and all of this sucks.

Maybe now I'll bring back some of the standbys...

Ichiro has three hits (3-for-15, all singles) and three walks through four games. This leaves him on pace for an awful 122 hits (I'll round up from 121.5), and if that happens, say hello to a 100-loss season. Needless to say, it's only been four games. He'll warm up.

1) Matt Tuiasosopo
Though he struck out twice, he went 2-for-4 and drove in the second Mariner run in the ninth inning. Sure, the RBI came in garbage time, but I'll put him here because it's anyone's guess when Tuiasosopo will get another multi-hit game. It could be a while.

2) Jesus Colome
He took jersey number 37, worn by such Mariner greats as Norm Charlton, Russ Swan, and Clint Nageotte. Nageotte, if you remember, was a guy from Cajun country who was quite the profuse sweater. I remember an appearance he had where he had sweat through the bill of his cap and the brim of his cap was dripping in front of his face as he looked in for the sign. Dude had to changed undershirts between innings. Anyway, Colome wasn't stellar in this game, giving up two runs on three hits in three innings, striking out four. That said, the bullpen was in dire need of reinforcements, and Fister struggled, so it was quick duty for Colome. It's a shame one bad turn through the rotation cost Ryan Langerhans a roster spot, and surely the non-Felix guys in the rotation can't help but feel they might have had a part in it. I guess the thought of an 11-man staff was nice for a while, but that seems like something you could get away with when you have a healthy Cliff Lee and possibly a healthy Erik Bedard. If you have at least three of these guys getting into the seventh in any turn through the rotation, then you could get away with a six-man bullpen. With Felix and young'uns, though, it was a bit of a hare-brained idea.

3) Franklin Gutierrez
His boxscore line says he's hitting .429 through four games. He went 1-for-4 in the first game, 2-for-3 in the second, 2-for-4 in the third, and 1-for-3 in this game. Put it all together, and you get a 6-for-14 (with two doubles for a .571 slugging mark) start to the season for the Mariners' centerfielder. I thought the lineup shuffling might hurt his production and I thought hitting him third might put a ton of pressure on him, but after four games, he seems to be taking to it fairly well. He hit seventh in the first and third games of the series, and he hit third in the second and fourth games. The cruel surprise is that he has the highest batting average out of all the Mariner regular starters. I'm all for Gutierrez doing awesome and everything, but if he's consistently their best offensive player, that's probably not a good thing. Here's a term I usually hear used in hockey, but there's an adage that says your best players have to be your best players. If the starting pitching and the top of your lineup are supposed to be strengths and neither of them really get much done, there may be a couple times over a 162-game season where you can get away with it, but you can't butter your bread that way.

Doug Fister
I wonder when Don Wakamatsu got to the tipping point when it came to getting another reliever on this roster. Maybe it was 70 pitches into Rowland-Smith's outing on Wednesday night, or maybe it was when he realized he couldn't put much faith in Doug Fister or Jason Vargas eating up a decent amount of innings. Unless he dumped Langerhans for Colome, he was going to have some tired arms over a two-day span before Felix would have to ride in on a white horse and save the day with a complete game or something (a lot to ask in the second start of the season). Still, Felix won't go 37-0 and he's not perfect, so what happens if you keep that 11-man staff, stay afloat through two days, and Felix has an off night? I'm writing myself into a corner here only to say that there will be better turns through the rotation this season. On the other hand, I'm sure glad they won on Opening Night, because I remember how 2004 started.

Vargas. Lewis. Tomorrow.

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