Thursday, May 13, 2010
In a way, this loss comes off as more refreshing than most of the Mariners' losses. They put some runs on the board and got good starting pitching. It all went to crap with Brandon League on the mound, however, but I'll get to that later.
-- first off, three cheers for Mike Sweeney, who got the start at DH against a righthanded pitcher and, lo and behold, went 1-for-3 with a walk, and the one hit was a solo homer that put the Mariners up 4-1. He's now a .189 hitter (better than Chone Figgins) with an on-base percentage of .286 (better than Casey Kotchman and Jose Lopez) and a slugging percentage of .297 (better than Lopez). I'd really like to see this guy play four times a week. I think it's pretty easy to tell who between Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. has something left in the bat.
-- since I can't really avoid who I chose for the goat, this is where I have to put the underachieving hitters of the game. Chone Figgins is still awful, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He's now a .185 hitter. For all the talk about how Ichiro and Figgins were going to set the table for the rest of the lineup, Figgins dropped a (successful) bunt after Ichiro led off the fourth with an infield single. I guess it's more a sign of how far Figgins has fallen that he was bunting in a scoreless game with Ichiro on first and nobody out. I wonder how many more wins this team would have right now if Figgins was just hitting .250. What if all the terrible hitters right now were merely below average instead of black holes? Casey Kotchman went 0-for-4 with the only positive thing being that he saw 23 pitches. He's now a .191 hitter. Rob Johnson went 0-for-3 and saw only eight pitches. He is now a .158 hitter, which would be a lot more tolerable if he could catch, which he can't.
-- there are going to be a lot of boxscores for the Mariners where pitchers are tagged with wild pitches, but these wild pitches only seem to be wild pitches if a runner advances, and passed balls are apparently only passed balls if the catcher has the ball go off his glove and away or he completely whiffs. What I'm saying is that if the ball doesn't end up inside Rob Johnson's glove, it usually ends up far enough away from him for a runner to advance. If he were a goaltender in hockey, he'd be giving up juicy rebounds. For me, if there's a ball in the dirt within one home-plate width in either direction, he should keep it in front of him. Those balls should be blocked and no runners should be advancing. Again, it won't show up in the boxscore unless it's a straight passed ball, but sometimes these pitches are only "wild" because the catcher can't make a nice stop. If Johnson can't make these stops because of his hip surgeries, then he's back too soon. Bring up Josh Bard if that's the case. Did I mention Johnson can't hit with any regularity? He can't. I mean, hell, Miguel Olivo hit a freakin' walk-off homer on Wednesday night, so it makes me feel just great about Johnson's offensive output, which has been offensive, all right.
-- the Mariners had some more futility before they scored runs. In the fourth, Ichiro led off with an infield single and Figgins bunted him over (what was he going to do? Hit him over?) to second. With one out, Kotchman fell behind 0-2 and ended up flying out to left. Sweeney walked to keep the inning on life support, but Jose Lopez grounded out to third to end the threat.
-- the Mariners had some more futility after they scored the runs as well. Josh Wilson was hit with a pitch with one out in the ninth and the Mariners down 6-5. Griffey (awake) came in to pinch hit for Johnson and drew a walk. Michael Saunders had cashed the mojo quotient on his bat for the day and struck out for the second out in the ninth. Ichiro then shot a single through the left side, and as usual, Mike Brumley waved Josh Wilson around third base. Corey Patterson in leftfield had the ball just as Josh Wilson touched third base. Patterson's throw was a bit toward the first-base side of the plate, but catcher Matt Wieters reached for it, then reached back across to tag Josh Wilson across the left shin just before he crossed the plate with his slide. The throw had him beat, but the location wasn't quite perfect. That's where Wieters came into the picture. Usually I'd look for a reason to lay the blame at the feet of Brumley, who I'm convinced has run the Mariners out of some innings and scoring opportunities this season, but Figgins was in the on-deck circle, and it's not like Figgins was going to drive in any runs.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had three hits in the game and scored a run. Figgins went hitless and never crossed the plate. Surprise. The Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score and are 5-8 when they both collect hits.
The Mariners' rightfielder and leadoff hitter might finally be hitting his stride at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, a home run, and a walk. He is now 49-for-141 (.348), putting him on pace for a 233-hit season. After flying out to lead off the game, he had a great day at the plate. He led off the fourth with an infield single, hit the two-run homer over the wall in rightcenter with two out in the fifth to put the Mariners up 3-1, walked right after the Saunders homer in the seventh made it 5-1, then hit what was almost the game-tying base hit with two out in the ninth inning. Ichiro has an on-base percentage of .395 and a slugging percentage of .440, easily better than any full-time player on the roster who's been with the team since Opening Day (that criteria cuts out your Ryan Langerhanses, Josh Wilsons, and Michael Saunderses). It's weird to see the Mariners put up five runs on eight hits, but it's still lamentable because five of the hits were by Ichiro or Saunders, and the second through eighth hitters in the lineup only combined to go 3-for-23.
2) Felix Hernandez
Two starts ago, he didn't get out of the fifth inning. In his last start, he didn't get out of the fourth inning, and I didn't bother to go back and watch the replay since I was watching the Canucks get the crap beaten out of them on home ice and I didn't feel like watching taped action of Felix getting the stuffing beaten out of him. This game, however, saw him turn things around for the better. He gave up only one run, and that came in the fourth after he walked Nick Markakis with one out. One of those special wild pitches that Johnson should have had ended up moving Markakis into scoring position. A tapper back to the mound moved Markakis to third with two out,a nd he came home on Ty Wigginton's single to make it 1-0 for Baltimore before Felix got a flyout to end the inning. If you take out the wild pitch from that inning and leave everything else the same, the tapper back to the mound turns into an inning-ending double play and Felix comes away unscathed. In the sixth, Patterson led off with a double and went to third on an Adam Jones groundout, but Felix got a tapper back to the mound and got Miguel Tejada to whiff to end the inning. In the seventh, Luke Scott nubbed to the mound and Felix stopped it, but had no play and nearly threw it away past first. A single moved him over to second, but then Felix struck out pinch-hitting Wieters and got a grounder from pinch-hitting Garrett Atkins. The average per-start line for Felix: 6 1/3 innings, 3.3 runs (2.8 earned), 6 hits, 2.8 walks, 5.8 strikeouts, 104 pitches (65 strikes), 9 groundouts, 3.5 flyouts.
3) Michael Saunders
If he keeps doing what he's doing, it's going to really be decision time when Milton Bradley comes back from his mental respite. The Victoria native went 2-for-4 with a homer, driving in two runs and scoring twice. Too bad he struck out twice, but hey, the other at-bats were great. His single in the fifth inning tied the game at 1-1 and came at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat that started with him falling behind 0-2 on Kevin Millwood. In the seventh, he line-drove a solo shot over the big scoreboard in rightfield to make it 5-1. Once again, that swing reminded me a little bit of Chase Utley. It's a pretty short stroke, but it's proving to give the ball some jump. The team needs all of the power hitting they can get right now. Hopefully the power is contagious and seeps over to the Kotchmans and Lopezes of the world. I wonder how many Mariner fans would crap their pants right now if they dug up and watched a highlight tape of the 1997 Mariners playing long ball for an entire season.
There's really no direction to go with this. He came into the eighth inning with a 5-1 lead and the Mariners ended up with a 6-5 deficit on his watch. If there's anything in his defense, it's that he'd thrown in five of the Mariners previous six games, spread across seven days. Mark Lowe is on the disabled list, so Don Wakamatsu has been using him in a lot of the Lowe spots, but Lowe never got any five-out saves. It's like Wakamatsu wants League to be his clutch everything right now. Well, except for this game since he probably thought it'd be cake to put League in with a four-run lead. Patterson, who went through Peoria with the Mariners' camp last spring, homered over the rightfield scoreboard to lead off and cut the Mariners' lead to 5-2. Jones whiffed, but he got to first on a wild pitch (Johnson). Markakis singled to move Jones to second, then Tejada hit a grounder that ended up with runners at the corners and one out. Wigginton had the 2-0 and 3-1 counts before walking to load the bases. Scott took a pitch off the plate outside and put it just over the wall in leftcenter (Saunders nearly had it, but it went off fans' hands) for a grand slam and a 6-5 Baltimore lead. For the record, League's ERA went from 1.86 to 3.98 with this outing.
Fister. Davis. Tomorrow.