Thursday, May 20, 2010
I'm not sure we'll know the significance of this win until much later in the season. Regardless, this was a much-needed win for the Mariners. Sure, it snapped a five-game losing streak, but they needed something -- anything -- positive out of Ken Griffey Jr., and they finally got it. That might have been Griffey's hardest-hit ball of the season. It was definitely the hardest-hit fair ball for Griffey this season. While Jason Vargas pitched well and got into the seventh again only to not win, at least this time he didn't get the loss as the Mariners scored three runs in the ninth to get him off the hook. Of course, it's unavoidable that Don Wakamatsu's first managerial ejection will be looked at as a possible turning point in the game, but hey, if it sparked the team, all the better. You can't argue with the results. If Wakamatsu got run in each of the next three games and the Mariners won all three, that'd be hilarious. FSNNW usually had a habit lately of re-airing the weekday day games at 7pm, but tonight they aired a Portland Beaver home game, so I only caught the tail end of the replay, which was an earlier replay than I thought it'd be. Fiddlesticks.
-- Mike Sweeney was the first Mariner hitter to reach base, doing so with a leadoff walk in the second. Josh Wilson was the first Mariner to get a hit, singling with a runner on and nobody out in the third inning. Following the Mariners' first hit, Ichiro bunted both runners over, then another bunt by Chone Figgins (not sure I get the strategy here) scored Josh Bard from third to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
-- time for some Mariner offensive futility. In the fourth, Jose Lopez walked with one out, but was erased on an inning-ending double-play ball from Milton Bradley. In the fifth, Casey Kotchman and Bard started the inning with singles. Josh Wilson then bunted foul with two strikes on him, Ichiro hit into a fielder's choice, then Figgins grounded out to end the inning. Ichiro proved to be very unclutch in that situation. That's a shame considering the bottom of the lineup did all that work. From there, the Mariners went 1-2-3 in the sixth, got a two-out Bard double in the seventh, and squandered an Ichiro infield single (pitcher Scott Downs and catcher Jose Molina nearly collided between the mound and plate) that led off the eighth.
-- the ninth inning for the Mariners was total station-to-station baseball. Mike Sweeney singled to lead off, then Jose Lopez singled to move Sweeney exactly 90 feet (he was then replaced by Michael Saunders). Bradley and Kotchman then walked, the latter of which forced in the run that cut Toronto's lead to 3-2. Bard then hit the sacrifice fly to score Lopez from third to tie the game at 3-3. Griffey then came up and singled to end the game. Bradley as the winning run was the only runner to move more than 90 feet at a time in that entire inning.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below. Kanekoa Texeira came into the game with the score 3-1, two runners in scoring position, and two out in the seventh inning. He got a line drive right back to him to end the seventh. He walked the leadoff man in the eighth, but then got a flyout and a double-play ball to end the inning. Shawn Kelley then threw a 1-2-3 ninth.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Texeira and Kelley threw in this game. Going into Friday's game, David Aardsma will have a day of rest, Brandon League will have two days of rest, and Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jesus Colome will have three days of rest.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-3 in the game, making him 59-for-169 (.349) on the season. His season pace has dipped a bit now to 233. The pace was bound to drop a bit, since he's not always going to be on a seven-game streak of multi-hit games.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had a hit but didn't score, and Figgins didn't score or get a hit. The Mariners remain 7-2 when both players score and 6-12 when both players collect hits.
1) Jason Vargas
It's too bad he couldn't have gotten the win in this game (and it's too bad he was in line for the loss), but he nonetheless gave the Mariner offense a chance to get back into the game and pull out a win. For once, the Mariner offense actually took the chance given to them by the starting pitching thanks to their ninth inning. Vargas retired the first ten hitters he faced. The first Toronto hit was a single to rightfield by Aaron Hill. He then was struck by some lightning in the fifth as Alex Gonzalez singled and was driven home by a Jose Bautista homer that bounced off the top of the wall (horizontal surface, a case of Vargas' flyball tendencies getting the best of him), barely clearing it. The homer put the Blue Jays ahead 2-1. Vargas walked the next hitter before getting a double-play ball to end the inning. It got dicey again in the seventh for Vargas as he alloewd a one-out Lyle Overbay single followed by a Gonzalez ground-rule double. Bautista was walked intentionally to load the bases, but Edwin Encarnacion hit a deep-enough fly ball to score Overbay and make it 3-1, chasing Vargas. The average per-start line for Vargas: 6 2/3 innings, 2.4 runs (2.3 earned), 4.7 hits, 1.9 walks, 4.4 strikeouts, 97 pitches (61 strikes), 5.6 groundouts, 8 flyouts.
2) Ken Griffey Jr.
We can thank him for not falling asleep in the clubhouse this time. With the score tied 3-3 in the ninth with runners on first and second and one out, Griffey was brought in to hit for Josh Wilson. On a 2-1 pitch, Griffey hit a fairly hard line drive that would have gone to the rightfield wall near the corner, but Griffey didn't need to leg out a double because the winning run had already scored. Michael Saunders (pinch-running for Milton Bradley) scored the winning run and some long-awaited postgame jubilation was had by the Mariners. The hit raised Griffey's batting average to .191, on-base percentage to .252, and slugging percentage to .213. If nothing else, this maybe makes the "does he have anything left?" chat ease up a tiny bit, maybe for about a week. He's done something significant this season. It's a shame it took a quarter of the season for it to happen, but better late than never. If he gets on a tear, it's only a positive.
3) Josh Bard
Since being called up from Tacoma, Bard is 4-for-12 in four games and has doubled in consecutive games. He went 2-for-2 in this game, scored a run, and drew a walk. Outside of that, his sacrifice fly in the ninth inning tied the game at 3-3. So far, Bard appears to be the only Mariner catcher this season that can actually catch. In his four games behind the plate, catching everyone in the Mariners' rotation not named Felix Hernandez, there have been zero wild pitches and zero passed balls. Small sample size, I know. While passed balls suck, I like to also argue that wild pitches, though credited in the boxscore to the pitcher, depends a lot of the time on how the catcher blocks the ball (if at all) and whether it gets too far away, even after blocking it. Rob Johnson sometimes has runners advance on balls he manages to block. Other balls he just doesn't scoot to the side to block and refuses to get his body in front of it. Seriously, he tries to backhand scoop some of those balls like a first baseman instead of using the body. Anyway, Bard is going to get a good deal of playing time if he keeps hitting and if Johnson gets banged up.
The Mariners' centerfielder was 0-for-4 on the day. He grounded out to third to end the first inning, grounded out to second to end the third inning, whiffed to lead off the sixth, then flew out with one out and Ichiro on first in the eighth. Gutierrez was due to tail off at some point. It's not like he went into suck mode with the snap of a finger or anything. He's hardly in a slump, really, just that he hasn't been crazy on fire at the plate lately. Gutierrez is now down to a .286 batting average with an on-base percentage of .376 and a slugging percentage of .429. He is 2-for-15 over the last four games, sinking his batting average from .303. When he was hot earlier in the year, I kept bringing up how I thought there was no way in hell Gutierrez would stick at the number-three slot in the lineup for the rest of the season. I thought there was no way he'd stay that hot, and I thought one of the other hitters in the lineup would step up, start raking, and get moved into the spot. Gutierrez has cooled off, but there's no other hitter yet to bat third.
LeBlanc. Lee. Tomorrow (Friday).