Wednesday, May 05, 2010
If you didn't look at the standings, you would swear this team we're seeing right now is as bad as the 2008 team. They're almost unwatchable. If the Mariners fall behind 2-0 in a game, I don't have a lot of hope for them to pull out the win. I've made the observation that a number of Mariner losses are the result of not just one player, but an entire phase of the team's game that betrayed them. Usually, the offense completely sucks. The first road trip of the season, the starting pitching sucked, which superseded how crappy the offense was. In the Chicago series, the bullpen let all three games get away. To kick off this series against Tampa Bay, the Mariners had their defense turn against them. The Mariner defense handed out errors on the first two plays of the game, which I'm sure let the crowd know it was going to be a great night at the ballpark. The game waited until the fifth inning when it felt like the Mariners' fate had been sealed. The Rays had taken a 3-0 lead, a commanding lead against a team that scores as much as the Mariners.
-- now even the bounces don't seem to be going the Mariners' way, whether it's Jose Lopez drilling a line drive in the fifth inning but right into Evan Longoria's glove at third or Vargas walking Carl Crawford with two out (after striking out the previous two hitters) and having him score on the next pitch. Also add the ball that dropped between Jack Wilson and Franklin Gutierrez in center.
-- of course, the defense betrayed the Mariners in this game. On the first play of the game, Chone Figgins ranged to his left and tried to scoop the ball and shovel the ball to first base. He didn't quite get the scoop part down and was charged with the error. Jack Wilson had the other three errors, which will be discussed toward the end of this post.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below as well. Nice job, Jason Vargas.
-- it's bullpen time. Brandon League came on with two out and the bases empty in the seventh. He faced four hitters to get just one out, but part of that was due to a Wilson throwing error. The Aybar 'tweener occurred on the next play, scoring Longoria and pouring a little more fuel onto Vargas' ERA fire. Longoria got aboard on an infield single to start the whole thing; Casey Kotchman had a diving stab to get to that ball and threw a bit behind League running to cover the bag at first, but the ball did hit him in the glove. Anyway, another bounce failed to go the Mariners' way. Jesus Colome came on for the eighth, making it easily the latest he's been brought into any game this year. He walked the catcher on five pitches, watched a passed ball get by Adam Moore behind the plate and advance the runner to second (can none of these catchers actually catch?!), threw a wild pitch to move the runner to third, then got a fly ball deep enough to score the runner from third and Tampa Bay had just scored their 5-1 run without the benefit of a hit. After the Crawford double that really should not have been, Kanekoa Texeira came on and got a groundout, then struck out the side in the ninth while allowing a leadoff single and a two-out walk.
-- League has a long white string on his mitt that resulted in a small delay in play, though the umpiring crew didn't make him cut it or get another mitt.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League, Colome, and Texeira worked in this game. Going into Wednesday's game, David Aardsma and Mark Lowe will have two days of rest, Sean White will have four days of rest, and Ian Snell will have seven days of rest. Surely everyone's noticed by now how Texeira and Colome only pitch when the Mariners are losing and/or hopeless, and Aardsma and Lowe only pitch when they're tied or winning.
-- the Mariners loaded the bases with one out in the sixth. Wilson's double was the only solid hit of the inning as Ichiro and Chone Figgins got aboard on infield hits. Gutierrez dinked a ball in front of the centerfielder to load the bases. Then Milton Bradley took a 2-2 offspeed pitch for strike three (it was the first fastball he saw in the at-bat, though he probably though it was high too). Then Ken Griffey Jr. came up and hopelessly struck out to end the inning. Griffey did hit one hard foul ball in this game, so maybe that's a baby step. Bases loaded, one out...SO WHAT!!!
-- Wakamatsu reacted immediately to the Bradley strikeout by putting Ryan Langerhans into leftfield in the very next half-inning. Langerhans then singled in the bottom of the ninth to give the Mariners some life.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat: both players didn't score in the game, though Ichiro got two hits and Figgins got one. The Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score, but are now 4-6 when both collect hits.
1) Jason Vargas
Oddly, he gave up four hits in 6 2/3 innings in his last start as well. Early on, it seemed like Vargas was somewhat unhittable. That was good because he was striking out his share of hitters (eight), but it was also bad because he walked three. If not for the errors, it's no stretch to say Vargas may have pitched into the eighth inning. Don Wakamatsu left Vargas on the mound to start the seventh despite his pitch count being over 100. Vargas got two quick outs and was pulled to an ovation, or at least a big one that you can get from 15589 people in the stands (the ESPN.com boxscore tells me this represents 32.6% capacity). While neither the offense and defense helped him out, a part that has to enter the argument is that James Shields is pretty good. One instance where Vargas really got burned was when he led off the third inning with two strikeouts, then walked Crawford on four pitches. Ben Zobrist then doubled on his first pitch, scoring Crawford all the way from first for the game's first run. Vargas' average per-start line through five starts: 6 1/3 innings, 2.6 runs, 4.8 hits, 1.8 walks, 5.4 strikeouts, 97 pitches (62 strikes), 5.2 groundouts, 6.2 flyouts.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
It just occurred to me that I've put Gutierrez here even though I'm going to say bad stuff about his defense. On offense, he went 3-for-4 (all singles), pushing his batting average to .337 and his on-base mark to .393. He scored the Mariners' 5-2 run after leading off the ninth with a single. He also singled with the bases empty and two out in the fourth and he singled to load the bases with one out in the sixth only for you-know-what to happen. On the play after Wilson's third error, Willy Aybar dropped a 'tweener into shallow center, and Gutierrez pulled up (probably because he couldn't get it and he didn't want to collide with Wilson, Endy Chavez-style) and had to watch Wilson not quite get to the ball. The play scored Tampa Bay's 4-1 run. I'm not sure if that put off Gutierrez defensively for a while or what. On what went as a sac fly in the 8th, Gutierrez didn't even try gunning a throw home even though the man on third was the only runner on base. The next play had Crawford singling into leftcenter on a pretty normal ball. I don't know if Gutierrez sat back on his laurels or what, but Crawford stretched that into a double, and it shouldn't have been a double.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 2-for-4 with a strikeout. He looked pretty bad on the strikeout. The two hits were singles, though that comes as no surprise. He singled to lead off the first inning and was picked off of first base, and it wasn't on the first try by Shields, who has quite a quick pickoff move for a rightie. Ichiro rolled a ball up the middle in the sixth, and Reid Brignac couldn't get enough on the throw. This helped set up the fateful situation that ended the sixth. Ichiro is now 35-for-108 (.324) on the season, putting him on a pace for a 218-hit season.
A cornerstone upon which this team was built was defense. As such, it was a good night for the Mariners' shortstop to get tagged for three errors. His first error came on the second play of the game. With Sean Rodriguez having led off the inning getting aboard on Figgins' error, Carl Crawford hit a ball to short that maybe could have been a double-play ball (Crawford's fast, so they had to at least get the guy at second). Instead, he tried backhanding the ball and the ball didn't stay in the glove. Vargas should have had the bases empty and two out at this point, but instead had two on and nobody out (he somehow pitched his way out of that jam). Wilson's second error was a bit more inconsequential. Gabe Kapler hit him a grounder in the fifth, and the ball bounced up into Wilson's bare hand and stayed in the glove a bit too long before falling back onto the dirt. With two out in the seventh and a man on first, the shift was on for Carlos Pena. Pena groudned a ball to the right side and Wilson shaded over for it, and crossed and lost his footing as he had just corraled the ball, his throw being errant as he fell to the ground from losing balance. That moved Longoria into scoring position, and a single on the next play drove home Tampa Bay's 4-1 run.
Garza. Lee. Tonight.