Sunday, May 02, 2010
Felix Hernandez is a dependable pitcher. This much we know. Unfortunately, he is human and not a machine. Thus, the presence of the human element opens the possibility for human error. In other words, Hernandez cannot be perfect. This loss would have been a lot less painful if the Mariners could have scored a run for Cliff Lee on Friday night. Instead, the Mariners failed miserably in the first game of the series and Felix became human on Saturday night. The three-run second inning wasn't all the fault of Felix, of course, but he couldn't find himself after that. Once the Rangers put up three runs in the second inning, the game felt over, and it basically was. After the game was all over, I seriously felt like I had wasted three hours of my life. There was no drama in this game. It was like watching a pre-scripted baseball game where my team was going to lose and put up very little resistance.
-- I'll get the fateful inning out of the way. Ian Kinsler singled to lead off the top of the second. David Murphy put a short flare into leftcenter, then Felix walked Justin Smoak to load the bases with nobody out. Felix then got Matt Treanor whiffing. With one out, Julio Borbon hit a hard grounder right to Casey Kotchman at first base. Kotchman stopped the ball, but bobbled it a bit on what should have been an inning-ending double play. Instead, Kotchman could only tag the bag once he got control of the ball and one run crossed the plate. Elvis Andrus then popped a ball into leftcenter, where it appeared Milton Bradley could have caught it, but pulled up while Franklin Gutierrez was nowhere in the picture. The miscommunication and defensive gaffe resulted in a two-run double instead of what should have been the final out of the inning. Felix should have been out of the inning unscathed and instead was down 3-0. Absolute crap.
-- From there, Felix continued not to get the bounces. In the third, he allowed a one-out single to Vladimir Guerrero (it kinda dropped in front of Ichiro, who decided he wasn't going to slide for it) and allowed a two-out Kinsler walk. In the fourth, we were reminded that Adrian Beltre no longer plays third base as Jose Lopez failed to gun down Treanor on a bunt attempt, then Lopez couldn't quite get to a foul pop by Borbon that went to the warning track in foul ground on the left side. Andrus then hit a ball into the left-side hole that Jack Wilson got to, but botched the transfer to the throwing hand. In the fifth, Felix finally went off the tracks. Josh Hamilton led off by golfing a home run into the visitors' bullpen to make it 4-2 for Texas. Felix got a groundout from Guerrero, then threw a first-pitch strike to Kinsler. The Rangers' second baseman then took the next four pitches for balls. Murphy then walked on four pitches. After having thrown eight straight balls, Felix was mercifully pulled. A short time later, he was shown in the dugout putting a giant wad of chaw under his lip as he coped with the end of his 18-game streak of quality starts.
-- now for the bullpen. Jesus Colome, fresh off not being dropped off the roster, came in for Felix. On his first pitch, he gave up an RBI single to Smoak for the Rangers' fifth run. He then walked Treanor on five pitches to load the bases before getting a tapper back to the mound. He threw home for the forceout and the second out of the inning, then got Andrus swinging to end the inning. Colome then threw a 1-2-3 sixth followed by a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Kanekoa Texeira gave up a one-out bunt single to Borbon, who moved to second on a bunt to the mound. Michael Young singled to score Borbon and cap the Rangers' scoring for the game at 6-3. Texeira gave up another single before getting a ground ball to end the inning. Texeira gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but struck out the next hitter and got a double-play ball to end the inning.
-- Rob Johnson sure made a lot of snap throws to first base in this game.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Colome and Texeira threw in this game. Going into Sunday's game, Mark Lowe, David Aardsma, Brandon League, and Sean White all will have a day of rest, and Ian Snell will four days of rest after having thrown 104 pitches on Tuesday.
-- the offense had a couple of innings with actual runs being scored. Wilson led off with a grounder up the middle that went off the pitcher and toward the second baseman, but that was enough for Wilson to reach first. Ichiro then tried to bunt for a base hit, but Young made the play from third. Chone Figgins drew a walk, but then Franklin Gutierrez continued his slide with a strikeout (on an unappealed checkswing, which drew a bit of ire from Gutierrez to Derryl Cousins for the lack of appeal). Lopez then singled into the gap to make it 3-1, then Milton Bradley hot a slow roller toward third on which Young died on a do-or-die play and Figgins scored to make it 3-2. The fifth saw Figgins get aboard on a throwing error to lead off, then Gutierrez push-bunted for a single (hopefully snapping him out of a slump), moving Figgins to third. A groundout by Lopez brought home the Mariners' third and final run of the game to make it 5-3. With Gutierrez on second and one out, Bradley struck out looking to all but kill the remaining scoring threat.
-- let's see if there were any other nullified scoring threats by the Mariners. In the first inning, Figgins singled with one out only to be erased on an inning-ending double play. The second inning saw Lopez single to lead off, and he was moved to second on a one-out single by Sweeney. Kotchman walked to load the bases, but Johnson hit into a double play. The sixth inning saw Johnson draw a one-out walk and stay stranded at first base. Bradley singled to lead off the eighth and went to second on a wild pitch, still with nobody out. Johnson walked with two out, but Bradley never moved further than second. Ichiro and Figgins drew consecutive walks to lead off the ninth, but they stayed at first and second. Hooray futility!!
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro went hitless and never scored, while Figgins got one hit, scored twice, and walked twice. Thus, the Mariners are still 7-1 when both players score and are 4-5 when both get hits.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 20-4 .833 --
2002 18-6 .750 2
2003 15-9 .625 5
2000 14-10 .583 6
2009 14-10 .583 6
2007 13-11 .542 7
2005 12-12 .500 8
2010 11-13 .458 9
2008 11-13 .458 9
2006 9-15 .375 11
2004 8-16 .333 12
1) Chone Figgins
The Mariners' second baseman walked twice, got a hit, and scored twice. That's a good day for Figgins, though as per usual, there was no synergy with Figgins and Ichiro in the same game at the top of the lineup. Figgins still hits an awful .205, but all the walks put him at an on-base percentage of .343, which was worse than only Ichiro, Gutierrez, and (somehow) Johnson in the starting lineup. I'm hoping he's out of his hitting slump.
2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' third baseman went 2-for-5 and drove in two of the Mariners' three runs on the day. Lopez is still doing it without power, slugging a grand .296 with a batting average of .235. This team had nine home runs in the month of April, and for the good of us all, that pace better increase dramatically. I'm not expecting a record amount of home runs, but I do at least want the team to pop the odd homer. All I want is below-average power out of this offense, which is a huge gain over the current complete lack of power.
3) Jesus Colome
The man who somehow dodged getting bumped off the roster on Friday came back to game action after nearly two weeks away. Other than struggling in the final Felix inning and letting one of the inherited runners come around to score, Colome settled down to end that inning, then set down six straight hitters over the sixth and seventh innings. For one day, he justified having the seventh spot (though now it might be the sixth) spot in the Mariner bullpen.
It would have been easy for me to put the goat horns on Felix for falling off the cliff in the fifth inning, but if defense was a huge reason the Mariners got Kotchman, he didn't get the job done on what should have been a double-play ball in the second inning, and the game turned on that play. If he makes that play, Felix might go on to throw his usual seven innings. Instead, the inning didn't end when it should have, then the joke play in leftcenter happened, and the game was basically done. Also, Kotchman was 0-for-3 with a walk.
Wilson. Fister. Today.