Sunday, May 09, 2010
On the eighth day, the Mariner bats still rested, but on the ninth day, they came alive. The Mariners staved off the possibility of a nine-game losing streak, though hitting coach Alan Cockrell wasn't so lucky, getting his walking papers on Sunday morning. It's bunk to fire a guy on Mother's Day, but the Mariners made Cockrell the fall guy and promoting AAA hitting coach and ex-Mariner player Alonzo Powell to the big-league post. As for the game, the starting pitching was great as it usually has been, but the Mariners pulled out this win with the help of a rarely apparent facet of their game: power hitting. It wasn't just rare because home runs were hit, it was rare because of who was hitting the home runs. With this, maybe the Mariners can climb out of the abyss and lose a little less often.
-- third-base coach Mike Brumley has been way too aggressive this season, and this game was no exception. Two Mariner runners were thrown out at home. Jose Lopez, not exactly a speedster, was sent home from second on a two-out single by Josh Wilson and was beaten by a throw up the line from Reggie Willits, though it was a nicely placed throw and tag. In the fifth, Franklin Gutierrez was sent home from second on a one-out single by Lopez. The ball got to Juan Rivera in leftfield before Gutierrez had even touched the third-base bag. Gutierrez is fast, but he was also out by about ten feet. The play wasn't close. I can't remember this much of a loose-cannon third-base coach for the Mariners since Larry Bowa was doing it for Lou Piniella before he got the managerial job in Philadelphia.
-- Jason Vargas (discussed at length below) had gotten through six innings, but started the seventh by walking Kendry Morales. A bounce went the Angels' way as Rivera hit a grounder to the right side that ate up Figgins, going off the heel of his glove and into shallow right for what was ruled a single. It moved Morales to third with nobody out. Vargas managed to pitch out of this dire jam, getting a popout, strikeout, and flyout in succession to end the inning. That was huge.
-- now for the bullpen. Brandon League took over for Vargas with a runner on first and one out in the eighth. League struck out Erick Aybar for the second out of the inning, but then Bobby Abreu grounded to short for what should have been an inning-ending groundout. It went off Josh Wilson's glove for an error and kept the inning alive. League then struck out Morales, but Adam Moore behind the plate couldn't block the outside dirtball pitch, which went to the backstop. Somehow that play ended with Willits scoring all the way from second, which was a travesty. League, who really had the sinking stuff going, got Rivera swinging to end the inning. Shawn Kelley threw the ninth and gave up only a one-out Mike Napoli double.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League (he threw three straight games) and Kelley threw in this game and will have a day of rest heading into Tuesday's game. David Aardsma will have two days of rest, Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira will have three days of rest, Ian Snell will have four days of rest, and Sean White will have five days of rest.
-- I wrote the gameballs before the rest of the piece, but I should have put Ichiro on there somewhere. It's just that the probability of me having Josh Wilson and Michael Saunders on the same gameball list are so small. Ichiro went 3-for-5 and stole three bases, which is nuts. The Mariners are 31 games into the season and Ichiro has nine stolen bases. The 3-for-5 day made Ichiro 42-for-129 (.326) on the season, putting him on pace to finish with 219 hits. He's not quite to the Ichiro-like pace yet, but give him time.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat: Ichiro had three hits in the game and scored once while Figgins went hitless and never scored. As such, the Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score runs and 4-7 when they both get hits.
-- I feel I have to mention hitters other than Ichiro, Josh Wilson, and Michael Saunders in the lineup since so much went well. Even Adam Moore got a broken-bat single that went past Abreu in rightfield to make it 7-1 in the eighth. Franklin Gutierrez was 1-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs. Jose Lopez went 2-for-5 with a double. Ken Griffey Jr. was 0-for-3, but walked and scored (it's something). Ryan Langerhans was 0-for-2, but walked twice and scored twice.
1) Josh Wilson
Obviously, I'm not docking him for the error or getting picked off of third after hitting the triple. I don't have the tally of every game he's ever played within reach at the moment, but I'll take a wild stab and say this was the best offensive game of Josh Wilson's career. His boxscore reads as 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. He was a double away from hitting for the cycle when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, and he said after the game that he was trying to rip a double in the final at-bat, but he ultimately walked. Now, tha anatomy of a huge day for Josh Wilson: he singled with Lopez on second and two out in the second, but Lopez was gunned down at the plate by Reggie Willits from centerfield with a throw way up the line, but the throw kind of met Lopez right where it was thrown, so it seemed Napoli didn't have to go far to make the tag. That play ended the inning. In the fourth, he was up with runners on first and second and two out. After being down 0-2 in the count, he tagged a 2-2 pitch and sent it aabout ten rows behind the manual scoreboard in leftfield to put the Mariners up 3-0. He then tripled with one out in the sixth, shooting a ball into the rightcenter gap and getting it past Willits. Finally, he fouled off three pitches in the eighth with a runner on first and one out en route to a walk in the eighth.
2) Jason Vargas
The man who started the season as the Mariners' fifth starter (though, let's be honest, Ian Snell was slotted second in writing only, Vargas was more like the fourth starter) threw arguably his best game of the season to date. This one was easily one of his two best starts. With where Vargas is in the rotation and what is expected of him, it's absolute gravy if he's able to throw into the eighth inning. I'd settle for a good six innings out of him, maybe pitch into the seventh. vargas was tagged with only an unearned run on the day, and that run crossed the plate three hitters after he was pulled from the game. This was the sixth start for Vargas this season, and he's thrown 5 1/3, 6, 7, 6 2/3, 6 2/3, and finally 7 1/3 innings in those outings. The average per-start line for Vargas: 6 1/3 innings, 2.3 runs (2.2 earned), 4.7 hits, 1.8 walks, 5.2 strikeouts, 97 pitches (62 strikes), 4.8 groundouts, 7.5 flyouts. He got three groundouts and a whopping 14 flyouts in this game, which probably is a nice Safeco Field-friendly split. I'm sure the run totals would be way different if he took that groundball-flyball ratio to Arlington.
3) Michael Saunders
After all the time he spent on the big-league roster last year, Saunders didn't make the big-league roster out of spring training this season, then had to wait his turn to be recalled from Tacoma. Appearing in his second big-league game of the season, Saunders finally hit his first Major League home run. It came three pitches after Josh Wilson hit the big three-run homer. Saunders' homer was a long line drive that just got over the wall, in front of the stands just to the right of the hitters' backdrop/batters' eye. The thing that surprised me about Saunders' swing on the homer was how short it was. The swing reminded me a bit of Chase Utley's swing, believe it or not. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Saunders is going to be a massive power threat like Utley, but he might have the swing mechanics off which to build himself into a viable hitter at this level. Saunders went 2-for-4 in this game, driving in two runs and scoring twice. His other hit was an RBI single in the eighth inning that expanded the Mariners' lead to 6-1.
Even in a game like this one, the Mariners' second baseman managed to go 0-for-4, walking once. It's just unbelievable. I'm dying to know how well this team will do when Ichiro and Figgins are getting this offense ignited, but they never seem to get aboard consecutively. Ichiro had three hits in the game, for goodness' sake. In the third, Figgins followed a two-out Ichiro single (and steal) by lining out to center, ending the inning. In the fifth, Ichiro led off with a single and stole second (again), but this time Figgins flew out to left. In the seventh, Ichiro singled with one out, and Figgins followed it by popping out to short. At some point, Figgins has to not be content with his .326 on-base percentage (still better than Jose Lopez) and has to pick himself up off the mat and stop hitting .185. Come on. The Mariners just signed this guy to a multi-year deal. There are slow starts, and then there's hitting .185. That's awful.
Lee. Hernandez. Tuesday.