Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Know what I miss? I miss when ballplayers either showed sock or wore stirrups as part of the uniform. One of the best things about the uniform of the Oakland Athletics was the sock/stirrup combination (or the paintlined sock) with the green stirrup/line and the yellow sock. That was a really distinctive look, and I wish the players hadn't gotten away from that. Really, the socks nowadays are a really underutilized part of uniform design, and the players are surely partly to blame.
-- Felix Hernandez wasn't himself in this game. In fact, he threw 55 pitches in the first two innings. He was having a great bit of trouble trying to get the low strikes that plate umpire Jim Reynolds wasn't calling. It got to the point where Reynolds took time to walk toward the Mariner dugout and jaw at Don Wakamatsu, returning chirping fire. Felix fell behind many hitters early on and finished by throwing first strikes to 15 of the 29 hitters he faced. The three runs in six innings on his ledger for the game looks pretty good. He gave up 11 hits, however, and that doesn't look so good. All told, this was a game where he actually was in line for the win before the bullpen came into the game. Needless to say, that was squandered. Felix has a record of 2-3 with four no decisions. The Mariners are 2-2 in his no decisions. In other words, the Mariners are 4-5 when Felix starts. If you juts look at a chart with all of his starts on it, Felix has pitched well enough to win in six and maybe seven of his starts. He could easily be 6-2 (7-2 if you argue Felix absolutely should have won this game) instead of 2-3. Add that to the team record, and the Mariners could be 17-22 right now, which would still suck, but suck much less.
-- the first man out of the bullpen will be covered below. Sean White came in with two runners on and nobody out and wasn't able to finish the inning. He gave up a game-tying RBI single on his second pitch, then got a big strikeout from Jack Cust. Then Eric Chavez hit a deep-enough fly ball to score Kurt Suzuki and put Oakland into a 5-4 lead. Two straight infield singles loaded the bases and brought Shawn Kelley from the bullpen. Kelley plugged the hole in the dam by striking out Chad Pennington to end the inning.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Texeira, White, Kelley, and League threw in this game. Going into Wednesday's game, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jesus Colome will have a day of rest, and David Aardsma will have four days of rest.
-- Mike Sweeney had a pinch-hit sacrifice fly that tied the game in the eighth! Clutch! Wow!
-- probably one of the most entertaining things about the game was when Josh Blevins got a talking-to from the plate umpire for white embroidery on his black mitt. As you may know, a rule exists in the rulebook against two-timed mitts, and I'm thinking there would definitely be emphasis against something white on a baseball mitt (i.e., color of a baseball).
-- the Mariners tied the game in the eighth, but the whole rally started when Ken Griffey Jr. singled with one out. Yes, he really got a hit. Ryan Langerhans pinch-ran for him and ended up scoring the tying run.
-- three cheers for Michael Saunders and the shoestring catch double play in the eighth inning that delayed the inevitable for the Mariners. Also three cheers for the Figgins running catch along the rightfield line on a looper that ended the inning.
-- Levine's Law in the ninth: Saunders led off with a walk and didn't come around to score. Ichiro did the fielder's choice thing, then Figgins and Gutierrez flew out.
-- I put Johnson in the gameballs, but I have to give him guff for taking a dirtball off the chest protector and having it get away. These blocked balls should be staying close. It's like rebound control in hockey or blocking a ball straight down in volleyball. That blocked ball moved the winning run from second to third in the 10th. Ultimately, the runner could have score from second, but he also could have scored on a wilder pitch as well. Johnson has lost games with his play behind the plate this year, and there will be a couple more.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-3 with two walks. He is now 57-for-161 (.354) on the season and is on pace to finish the season with 237 hits.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had one hit while Figgins somehow had two. Only Figgins scored a run. The Mariners remain 7-2 when both players score a run and are now 6-11 when both players collect a hit.
1) Casey Kotchman
His most unfortunate moment of the game came on what should have been an Ichiro RBI single in the fifth inning. Instead, Rob Johnson was gunned down at third right before Kotchman touched the plate. I'm sure either the on-deck hitter said he could come in standing up, or Kotchman saw no catcher trying to make a play at the plate and just coasted to the plate. A run would have cut the Mariners' deficit to 3-2, but them's the breaks, and the Mariners haven't been getting many of them lately. Oh wait, he also groudned into a double play that ended the second inning. As for Kotchman's hits, the first came with two out in the sixth as he cranked a ball off the wall to plate Figgins and Gutierrez and tie the game at 3-3. In the eighth, he singled to move Ryan Langerhans to third with one out. That set up Langerhans to score on a sacrifice fly on the next pitch to tie the game at 5-5 and delay the inevitable. Kotchman's unbelievable night bumped his batting average from .183 to .194 in one night. His on-base mark went from .272 to .284, and his slugging percentage went from .342 to .347, but that's not going to change much with just singles anyway. Anyway, it was Kotchman's best night in a very long time.
2) Chone Figgins
Also having his best night in a long while was the Mariners' awfully struggling big-money second baseman. Figgins went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. In the seventh, his other-way single with runners on first and second and two out put the Mariners into a 4-3 lead, which was far from comfortable. Figgins' other hit came in the sixth, when he led off with a double and ended up scoring on the Kotchman single that was almost a double but wasn't. Yes, one great night at the plate raised Figgins' batting average from .185 to .193. His on-base average went from .311 to .314. His slugging percentage went from .244 to .257. Obviously I'd need at least another week of Figgins hitting like this before I could declare him as fully back from the offensive abyss. The best part of the night? /Figgins somehow evaded grounding into a double play. I'm glad that Ichiro and Figgins have gotten a little bit of synergy going the last game or two. I think that's a huge part of jumpstarting this putrid offense. If Franklin Gutierrez is up with two on and nobody out in the first inning, I like his chances.
3) Rob Johnson
The Mariner catcher managed to go 2-for-4 and somehow hit a line drive homer just inside the leftfield foul pole. The homer tied the game at 1-1 in the third. In the fifth, Johnson singled with one out (Cust closed his glove too soon in left) to move Kotchman to second. The Mariners ultimately did not score in the inning. Behind the plate, Johnson also took a foul tip that bounced off the ground and into his nethers (I think that's the only place it could have hit judging by his reaction), which still can totally hurt even with a cup properly affixed. Johnson also picked Adam Rosales off of third base, which was a huge play, and also threw out Rajai Davis at second on a pitchout. In one night, Johnson bumped his batting average from .158 to .180, his on-base percentage from .300 to .311, and his slugging percentage from .246 to .311. It's pretty frustrating to know that the Mariners got six of their ten hits from Figgins, Kotchman, and Johnson, yet the Mariners still found a way to lose this game. Not that this is a mystery or anything, but this is an awful baseball team as it is presently constructed. I think the turnaround has to be augmented by personnel changes as well as everyone htiting closer to normal.
This loss wasn't like most of the Mariners' losses this year. This time, the offense put five runs on the board. When this team puts five runs on the board, they simply have to win. Felix Hernandez had a night that was far from great, but he gutted his way through six innings and still gave up only three runs and left with the game tied at 3-3. The Mariners got the lead in the seventh and put Felix in line for the win. Kanekoa Texeira has had quite a few good outings and has been a pleasant surprise. He started the seventh inning in this game and gave up a leadoff single, then hit Kurt Suzuki with a pitch. The only way he could have been worse would have been if he gave up solo shots on the first pitches to those two hitters. He only faced those two hitters, setting the stage for a wonderful inning of bullpen fail. Oakland sent eight hitters to the plate in that inning and scored twice. The Mariners ended up scoring in the eighth to bail Texeira out of the losing decision, but it doesn't make Texeira's start to the seventh inning any less demoralizing. Seriously, the Mariners probably had the lead for all of five minutes when Texeira was pulled from the game.
Fister. Cecil. Tonight.