Sunday, May 09, 2010



Well, it's another loss. The Mariners got a couple more bounces than they usually do, and they even managed to fight back from a 3-0 deficit to tie it at 3-3, but ultimately their luck fizzled. While I'm not glad to see the Mariners lose their eighth straight, if there's any positive to come from this game, it's that the game presentation crew will be less inclined to try again in their pursuit of making "Seven Nation Army" into this year's Zombie Nation. Well, I guess the other positive is that Doug Fister had a good outing and didn't end up with a loss after giving up three runs. Additionally, three of the Mariners' seven hits went for extra bases. On Sunday afternoon, the Mariners will try to salvage one win from the series, which would also be one win from the entire nine-game homestand. How the frick do you whiff on an entire nine-game homestand? Unfortunately, you know the answer to that question if you've been watching the Mariners for the last eight games. They looked closer to winning tonight, though, and didn't look completely hopeless.

-- here's a bounce that didn't go the Mariners way. In the fourth, Franklin Gutierrez had singled to left with one out. Jose Lopez was next to the plate. He tagged a pitch, and it may have had home-run distance, but went foul. He ended up grounding into a double play.

-- the game seemed over when Torii Hunter dropped a line drive barely in front of Ichiro with two out and the bases loaded in the fifth. The hit scored two to make it 3-0 for the Angels.

-- with runners on the corners and two out in the fifth, usually it would have been a moment destined for unclutchitude, but Ichiro instead put a ball down the leftfield line that got past Juan Rivera and into the corner. Ryan Langerhans scored, and Rob Johnson scored from first base, pulling the Mariners within one run at 3-2 and ending the Mariners' offensive futility streak at 22 2/3 scoreless innings.

-- the clutch didn't stop there. In the sixth, Franklin Gutierrez was on first with two out, again not exactly a tailor-made situation for the Mariners to score runs. Mike Sweeney then hit a well-placed double into the gap. It wasn't an authoritative double that one-hopped the wall or anything. In fact, it didn't even reach the wall, it merely was just far enough away from both the leftfielder and the centerfielder. Anyway, Gutierrez scored and the game was tied at 3-3.

-- offensively, though, the Sweeney hit was the end of the Mariners' clutchness, at least in terms of scoring runs. Normally I wouldn't call rumblings with two outs a legitimate scoring opportunity, but in the eighth, the Mariners literally got a good bounce when Josh Wilson hit a seemingly routine grounder to second with a runner on first. The ball was hit off the bat handle or something, however, and the crazy spin on the ball made it juke away from second baseman Howie Kendrick and into rightfield. Langerhans got to third on the play, and Josh Wilson later stole second base. Too bad Rob Johnson was in the batter's box, though. Johnson already had a hit in the game, so his bat was cashed, and he ended up whiffing to end the inning. Johnson did make a nice catch on a pop bunt attempt by Mike Napoli. Johnson made a prone dive, and of course he was going to make this play since he was leading off the next inning. He then singled to lead off the seventh. Two groundouts moved him to third, then Casey Kotchman got hit by a pitch, but then Gutierrez went down swinging.

-- again with the lack of clutch, the Mariners still had a ninth inning with a tie game in which to be futile. Ichiro led off with a walk off Fernando Rodney. Chone Figgins then nearly pulled off a bunt down the first-base line for a base hit, but later settled for a run-of-the-mill sacrifice bunt. The clutch chance rested on the shoulders of Kotchman, who then grounded out to put Ichiro on third. I'm tired of Kotchman not hitting. The Mariners' only hope at this point was either for a wild pitch to go to the backstop or for someone to get a base hit. It was at that point that both Gutierrez and Lopez walked. This loaded the bases for Sweeney, who ripped the ball down the leftfield line on his second pitch, but it was foul. He then meekly grounded out to second to end the inning as well as the Mariners' run of good luck in the game.

-- Mike Blowers mentioned that Angels' closer Brian Fuentes "can make it interesting." It's true there are points where this has happened, one of them being against the Mariners in recent memory. Unfortunately, the Mariners had exactly the wrong part of their lineup due in the bottom of the 10th to try to make it interesting. A groundout and two strikeouts are what emerged from Langerhands, Wilson, and Johnson.

-- the starting pitching will be discussed below, as well as the first guy out of the bullpen. David Aardsma had some ninth inning adventures. Juan Rivera, predestined to get a hit due to the team he was facing, led off the ninth with a single. He was replaced by Reggie Willits on the basepaths, who went to second on a bunt. Pinch-hitter Michael Ryan singled to move Willits to third. Kevin Frandsen then grounded to third, but Willits had taken off on contact and was run down between third and home plate. Erick Aybar grounded out to end the inning. Aardsma wouldn't be so lucky in the 10th. Bobby Abreu led off with a double, so Aardsma was pretty screwed at that point. Hunter grounded out to third, which was nice. Kendry Morales was then intentionally walked to set up an inning-ending double play possibility. Aardsma then fell behind 3-1 on Hideki Matsui (the 2-1 pitch was right down the pipe and called a ball) before Matsui poked a single the other way into leftfield, scoring Abreu. Shawn Kelley came in and retired the next two hitters to end the inning, but the damage was done, as was the game. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I was too keen on sending Aardsma out for the 10th. The last time he threw was when he blew a 1-0 lead in Fister's previous start. He routinely isn't expected to get more than three outs, so why start now?

-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Brandon League, Aardsma, and Kelley worked in this game. Going into Sunday's game, Jesus Colome (2 2/3 innings on Friday) and Kanekoa Texeira (two innings) will have a day of rest, Ian Snell (3 1/3 innings) will have two days of rest, and Sean White will have three days of rest.

-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had two hits while Figgins had none. Neither player scored a run. As such, the Mariners are 7-1 when both players score and 4-7 when both get hits.

1) Doug Fister
The man who's supposedly the Mariners' number-four start (who is pitching better than the current number-three starter) turned in another great start. This comes despite the fact that he gave up three runs, the most he's yielded in a start all year. Fister has given up just eight runs over his six starts. He lost his only bad start of the year, which was his first start where he went only four innings. He won his next two starts. In his last three starts, Fister has thrown a total of 23 innings. He took three straight no-decisions, and the Mariners went on to lose all three of those games. The average per-start line from Fister: 7 innings, 1.3 runs, 5.2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 100 pitches (64 strikes), 10.8 groundouts, 5.8 flyouts. Felix Hernandez threw five great starts before fizzling over the last two. Fister threw a bad first start and has thrown great in all of his last five starts. One of the other pitchers in the rotation is going to have to step up the consistency if Felix takes a couple weeks to get back onto the horse. FSNNW ran a stat last night saying Felix has had a few straight crappy months of May.

2) Ichiro
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 2-for-4 with a walk and a triple, making him 39-for-124 (.315) on the season, putting him on pace to finish with 211 hits. The hits and walk boosted his on-base percentage to .361, and the triple boosted his slugging percentage to .379. I regret to inform all readers that Ichiro's .379 slugging mark is way better than the .281 slugging percentage of Jose Lopez. In the game context, Ichiro grounded out to lead off the first, then grounded a ball to the right side that Kendrick had to charge, and I think he ended up charging, rushing, and throwing wide of first. Ichiro was later doubled off on a Figgins grounder. Ichiro hit the clutch two-out, two-run triple in the fifth that brought the Mariners to within a run at 3-2. He grounded out with a runner on first and nobody out in the seventh, then led off the ninth with a walk. Ichiro hasn't hit his stride yet, for sure, but he did his job in this game.

3) Brandon League
For the second straight day, League threw an easy scoreless inning, though this one was a situation of much higher pressure, and in a tie game. League had to hold a 3-3 tie while facing Hunter, Morales, and Matsui, the heart of the Angels' lineup. He got a groundout from Hunter, a strikeout from Morales, and a flyout from Matsui. He effectively bridged the gap from Fister to Aardsma, and he might have to do more of this until Mark Lowe gets healthy. Even after Lowe gets healthy (which needs to happen), it'd be nice to know if the Mariners have two guys that can be used interchangeably in this role of late-inning shutdown relief. There were times last year where Don Wakamatsu needed Lowe in three straight games but couldn't go to him. If you have someone just as dependable, that would really help. Of course, we're hoping the team is in that many situations later this year where they have chances to win three straight games, but whatever...

Chone Figgins
The Mariners' second baseman and supposed ignitor went 0-for-3 with a walk. Let's see what he did in context of the game. He walked with one out in the first, then was picked off of first base. In the third, with Ichiro on first and one out, Figgins grounded into a double play to end the inning. In the fifth, with Ichiro on third and two out and the Mariners down 3-2, Figgins grounded out to third. In the seventh, with a runner on second and one out, Figgins grounded out, moving the runner to third. In the ninth, with Ichiro on first and nobody out, Figgins bunted to move Ichiro to second. The last bunt can't be put on Figgins, as I'm sure that decision came from the dugout. I just find it maddening that after 30 games, we've only seen both Ichiro and Figgins score in the same game eight times and get hits in the same game 11 times. It's just like they're doomed to never have synergy together. This team's going to win a lot more games when those two are doing back-to-back madness. So far, so bad.

Santana. Vargas. Today.

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