Monday, April 12, 2010



Okay, so it was the home opener. Death Cab for Cutie, Randy Johnson throwing out the first pitch...great. What followed? Rubbish. Having an awful offense when the pitching is crap is one thing, but when the pitching starts getting a little better and the offense still isn't picking up the slack, it's something else entirely. I have to tell myself we're only eight games into the Mariners' season, but when do we go from saying "gee, this Mariner offense is really underperforming" to "even though we didn't think this offense would do too much to begin with, maybe they're a good deal worse than we thought?" If this is rock bottom for this offense, then surely this signifies the mean and ceiling for this offense are lower than we thought, right? When do we go from wondering when they'll snap out of it to wondering if they'll ever snap out of it? If zero runs is rock bottom for this offense, is the ceiling six runs? Is the average two or three runs? When do we have permission to start freaking out?

-- Casey Kotchman made a nice stab at a Gabe Gross grounder in the first and he sprinted to step on the first-base bag to beat Gross, who slid in headfirst. Dave Niehaus and Mike Blowers didn't do any questioning of the call on replay, but to me it looked like Gross might have gotten the left hand onto the bag in time.

-- in the Oakland fourth, there was a ball-in-dirt play where Rajai Davis stole third, but Rob Johnson tried throwing back to first to get Daric Barton. I never saw a good angle for a replay of that play at first base. Anyway, Ryan Rowland-Smith ended up walking the bases loaded in the fourth...but the sick thing was that Rowland-Smith still had a no-hitter intact.

-- after one game into the 81-date Mariners' home schedule, the fans haven't yet turned on Milton Bradley. He still has a mere one hit for the season, though he did walk twice in this game, which is actually pretty vital considering the Mariners only mustered two hits. Bradley also nearly threw out Davis at the plate in the fourth inning, but Johnson never tagged Davis, rendering the play moot as Oakland drew first blood at 1-0. Of course, you take the good with the bad when it comes to Bradley, and he overran a Gross single to left. Two runs scored on the play, though the runners started on second and third and there were two out anyway, so those runs would have scored even if Bradley fielded the ball cleanly. Still, any detractors were provided with a visual. Anyway, dude can start hitting anytime now. We're waiting.

-- just a few pitches before that Bradley play, Rowland-Smith got Gross to foul a 1-2 pitch into Johnson's mitt, but Johnson failed to hold on to the ball, and it came out. Two runs scored in the inning after that play, but none of it really mattered since the Mariner bats were going to score zero runs. Odd note about Bradley: he's hitting .045, but his on-base percentage of .250 is better than the Lopez on-base mark of .212.

-- two hitters before Gross, Adam Rosales came to the plate with runners on first and second with nobody out. Rosales bunted toward the mound, where Rowland-Smith fielded it cleanly and looked to third, only to discover no one was covering third base. He probably would have had a play at third, but Jose Lopez had broken in on the ball, so the only play was to first. There is only one Adrian Beltre, sure, but there are also more experienced third-basemen out there, and even on the team (Figgins). I don't know how many instances there will be this year where Lopez will cost the Mariners defensively. Hopefully he gets the hang of it. He got a hit in this game, but .188 is way worse than we're used to seeing Lopez hit. If they stuck him at second for a day and he hit two homers, I'd leave him at second. The defensive position and the hitting should be independent, sure, but maybe there's some mental link. In that case, Chone Figgins is hitting .207 as a second baseman.

-- speaking of futility on offense...Franklin Gutierrez led off the fourth with a double. Lopez grounded out to the right side, moving Gutierrez to third with one out. The Mariners at that point could have used a deep fly ball to tie the game at 1-1. Ken Griffey Jr. fell behind 0-2 and struck out on four pitches. Bradley ended the inning with a requisite groundout. This was the Mariners' best chance to score in the game.

-- the Mariners next-best chance to score was the eighth, where Lopez scratched out the other Mariner hit, a leadoff single. Griffey did the fielder's choice thing, then Bradley walked. Kotchman grounded to the right side to move the runners to second and third, but now there were two out, so the threat was basically extinguished already. Johnson ended the inning with a groundout.

-- but hey, how about that nifty double play the Mariners turned in the fifth? Jake Fox grounded up the middle, where Figgins ranged to his right, underhanded the ball to lead Jack Wilson to the bag, then Wilson bounced a throw on the run to Kotchman, who picked the short hop. It was a nice play, definitely. It also doesn't score any runs.

-- the average starting line for a Mariner pitcher this season: 5 1/3 innings, 3.4 runs (3 earned), 5.8 hits, 2.6 walks, 2.8 strikeouts, 96 pitches (60 strikes), and a ratio of 7.5 groundouts to 5.1 flyouts. The average non-Felix starting line: 5 innings, 3.5 runs (3.2 earned), 6 hits, 2.3 walks, 2.2 strikeouts, 93 pitches (58 strikes), and a ratio of 5.7 groundouts to 6 flyouts.

-- Shawn Kelley and Sean White threw the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. They didn't give up any runs, and that's good. They walked a hitter apiece and gave up a hit apiece. Kelley struck out two. The eighth and ninth were largely inconsequential as the Mariners were already down 4-0.

-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Kelley and White threw this game. Jesus Colome, Kanekoa Texeira, and Brandon League will have one day of rest heading into the second game of the series. Mark Lowe and David Aardsma will have two days of rest heading into Tuesday's game.

-- Ichiro went 0-for-4, lowering his batting average to .250 (8-for-32). Sadly, eight hits in eight games puts him on a pace for a 162-hit season, which is substandard for Ichiro and all Mariner fans. It's not lost on me that Ichiro's had some slow-starting seasons.

1) Franklin Gutierrez
He got a hit, and it was a double. He didn't turn in any crazy defensive plays in this game, so no repeat of the running catch in rightcenter on Saturday in Arlington. He's hitting .419 in the early going with three doubles. I'll once again use the adage that "your best players have to be your best players," and therefore the Mariners are screwed right now. I'm not against Gutierrez in the near future taking a role as a key offensive cog for the Mariners, but if he's the Mariners' best hitter right now, that means there's at least three or four other people in the lineup who aren't doing their jobs.

2) Ryan Rowland-Smith
Just by throwing seven innings, Rowland-Smith had the best non-Felix start of the season. Ian Snell's first start may have been a bit cleaner, sure (three less walks), but I think the difference between the burden on the bullpen when a starter throws six versus seven innings is a big one. Three of Rowland-Smith's walks came when he completely lost the radar in the fourth inning and walked the first three hitters to load the bases with nobody out. To his credit, the next hitter flew out (sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 for Oakland), and the following play was an inning-ending double play. Rowland-Smith also issued a leadoff walk in the fifth and a walk in the seventh that ended up scoring the fourth Oakland run. I track my share of Canuck hockey, and when Roberto Luongo is on his game, sometimes he'll have a shutout going into the third period, but the announcers will never use the word "shutout" until the shutout is broken or the final buzzer sounds and the shutout is complete. Similarly, neither of Dave Sims and Mike Blowers mentioned that Rowland-Smith had a no-hitter going through five innings. Nonetheless, that all went away when Cliff Pennington -- on a meatball of an 0-2 pitch -- hit a line drive into the visitors' bullpen to lead off the sixth and make it 2-0. Anyway, Rowland-Smith gave up four runs in his seven innings, but only surrendered three hits. The five walks are a bugger, though, and there was a lone strikeout in there. Rowland-Smith threw 96 pitches, 55 of which were strikes, and he got 11 groundouts to seven flyouts.

3) Milton Bradley
I cranked out most of my Bradley-related subject matter in the bullet points above, but I'll just say that by drawing two walks, Bradley accounted for two of the Mariners' four total baserunners on the night. I must say there is a sick and weird hilarity about his average being .045 and his on-base percentage being .250.

Ken Griffey Jr.
This is really because it has to be someone that appeared in the boxscore. I can't pull him out of here just because he was in the pre-game photo-op with Randy Johnson, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner. Griffey went 0-for-4 and struck out twice. His key strikeout was with one out and Gutierrez on third in the fourth inning. He fielder's choiced in the seventh to knock out the lead runner Lopez. In the ninth, he hit a fly ball that looked nice off the bat, but was just a deep fly ball out.

Anderson. Fister. Tomorrow.

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