Saturday, May 15, 2010
Well, this win was definitely out of the ordinary for the Mariners. Sure, there isn't that large of a sample size for Mariner wins this season, but bear with me. The starting pitching wasn't top notch, but the hitting picked up the starting pitching. Yes, the hitting! The Mariner offense has somehow managed to homer three times in each of the last two games. Incredible. Even more amazing is the names of the Mariners that are hitting these homers (apart from Franklin Gutierrez, who thankfully returned to the lineup from upper back spasms...with a bang). Still dismaying, of course, is that the names that should be hitting these homers still aren't showing up on the ledger as hitting home runs. Even more amazing about this game -- no Mariner wild pitches or passed balls. I might just hope for a ball to go to the backstop in Saturday's day game just to remember what it feels like and how much it sucks. All in all, the Mariners scored in the first inning and held on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, they of the 24-11 record. Meanwhile, the Mariners are losing 60% of the time.
-- I don't want to look through every boxscore just to clarify this, but Dave Sims during the Mariner broadcast said the Mariners had a 5-11 road record and had lost nine of those games in the final opposing at-bat. In other words, they've lost in a combination of bottom of eighths, bottom of ninths, and bottom of extras. Of course, now that stat would be 6-11 with the nine losses still applying. Shawn Kelley nearly made it 5-12 and ten losses in the final at-bat of this game, but luckily a home run to bring the game within one run also clears the bases.
-- first, the starting pitching. Doug Fister wasn't awful by any means, but he didn't have the radar he usually does. On the other hand, he's the kind of pitcher that needs the corners of the plate to be successful. That may or may not have to do with what I'm about to say. I thought Fister was getting squeezed a bit. I saw the Jason Bartlett at-bat in the third inning, and Fister got behind 2-0 before throwing a strike. Fister pretty much piped the first two pitches, and both were called balls, but the next pitch was visibly off the plate outside and was called a strike. To rub this in, the Emerald Queen Casino tracer was put on the screen and confirmed what I had thought. Later in that at-bat, Fister caught a spike into the mound with a runner on third, resulting in a balk and Tampa Bay's first run of the game to cut the Mariner lead to 2-1. In the first, Fister allowed only a two-out single. In the fourth, he allowed a leadoff single and a walk right after it before getting a flyout and a double-play ball. He nearly fell off the tracks in the fifth, all with two out. He walked Reid Brignac, allowed a Bartlett single, and walked Carl Crawford on four pitches to load the bases before getting an inning-ending flyout. His 10:3 groundout-to-flyout ratio was still vintage Fister, but the three walks in this game were not.
-- now, the bullpen. Kanekoa Texeira will be discussed below. Shawn Kelley came into the eighth trying to hold a 4-1 lead. Crawford hit a hard grounder to Kotchman, who had to go to the ground to get it, but he never cleanly fielded it, so he couldn't really get a throw off to beat the speedy Crawford. Kelley got a flyout from Zobrist, but then Evan Longoria knocked a ball over the leftfield wall to make it 4-3. Kelley then barred the door and got the final two hitters of the inning to go down swinging. David Aardsma then had a rare (for him) 1-2-3 ninth inning, getting a Pat Burrell flyout before getting whiffs for the final two outs to lock up the save.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Texeira, Kelley, and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Saturday's game, Brandon League will have a day of rest while Ian Snell, Sean White, and Jesus Colome will have two days of rest.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro scored a run while Chone Figgins did not. Ichiro had three hits, and Figgins had one. As such, the Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score runs, but are now 6-8 when both players collect hits.
-- Mike Sweeney homered for the Mariners' fourth run, and they ended up needing that run thanks to Kelley's misfortunes in the eighth.
I heard it on SportsCenter and can more quickly confirm through boxscores that the Mariners' leadoff hitter does indeed have six straight multi-hit games. An 0-for-4 day on May 7th against the Angels left him hitting .308 on the season. Six games and fifteen hits later (15-for-26, a torrid .577), Ichiro is a .356 hitter on the season. Ichiro cranked a double in the first inning and scored as the first Mariner run on the Gutierrez homer, but his other two hits were well-placed infield singles on which the infielders had no play (one went off the pitcher's ankle). His 3-for-5 night has him at 52-for-146 (the aforementioned .356) on the season, and he's on pace to finish with 241 hits, which is more like it. Unfortunately we've learned over the years that the offense doesn't necessarily go where Ichiro goes, or else the Mariners would have been awesome in 2004. Similarly, the Mariners haven't exactly been tearing things up over the last six games. Over the last two games, sure, but not the last six.
2) Adam Moore
He doubled and homered. I thought it'd be a little while longer before we saw a game like this out of him, but hey, the sooner the better. The sooner Moore's hitting makes Rob Johnson sit the bench more often, the better. The homer was an opposite-field homer (evem more amazing) in the fifth inning which put the Mariners up 3-1. Adam Moore, now a .185 hitter with an on-base percentage of .214 and a slugging percentage of .296. The slugging percentage was at .200 going into the game. As long as the Mariners' offensive production out of the catchers' spot is something better than suck, I'm all for it. Like I said, I'd rather it be Moore pushing Johnson aside, but I'll take either one stepping up and hitting every once in a while. First one to hit .210 wins the race! In other words, the best of the worst will win. Of course, a good feather in the cap for this game was the lack of wild pitches and passed balls for Moore, which gives him a big leg up, as far as I'm concerned.
3) Kanekoa Texeira
Once Fister's inefficiency became apparent, it was obvious that the middle relief was going to be real important for the Mariners to preserve this win. The solution for me was a bit unseen as I didn't think Don Wakamatsu would summon the man from Maui as the first guy out of the bullpen. He's usually a guy that only pitches when the Mariners are losing or need some garbage-time relief. He threw two innings of shutout ball. He struck out the side in the sixth, and these weren't chop-liver hitters in the Rays' lineup either. Texeira struck out Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena (okay, he's been a bit off this year), and Bossman Junior Upton. In the seventh, Texeira allowed only a two-out walk to Brignac, but set down the other three hitters he faced. His ERA is sitting at a modest 3.07, which divided by nine would be 0.34. That number would be his earned runs per inning, which I feel is somewhat of an important number for relievers. Basically it tells me he gives up runs every three or four outings if he's throwing an inning every outing. Obviously, though, an ERA like Arthur Rhodes and Jeff Nelson in the nutso bullpen year would be really good regardless of how you twist the number.
It never fails that even if the Mariner offense steps up and they do fairly well, one of the yet-to-get-hot guns is one of the players who does nothing offensively. Kotchman went 0-for-3 with a walk in the sixth spot in the lineup. In other words, it's a good thing Gutierrez came back to his third slot after the upper back spasms. With two aboard in the first, he grounded into an inning-ending double play. In the fourth, he grounded out with the bases empty and one out. In the sixth, he was up with Gutierrez on third and two out and was intentionally walked, which I thought was stupid because it's not like Kotchman is hitting well. In the eigth, Kotchman was up with a runner on first and nobody out and flew out to left.
Vargas. Shields. Today.