Thursday, May 27, 2010
[actual post 29 May 2010 at ~12:08p]
Late, due to logistical reasons. Less than 24 hours after a fun and resounding eighth-inning win, this day game looked like a nine-inning dud. Instead, the Mariners pulled another rabbit from the hat, this time coming back from three runs down in the eighth inning (the first time they'd surmounted a lead of more than two runs all season to win) to come out on top of a one-run game. Yes, the Mariners actually won a one-run game. Unbelievable. On a scheduling note, I was surprised to see 12:40p starts on the schedule this season, which I thought had gone away. I thought they were sticking with the 3:35p starts, but the earlier time of course brings back the nine-inning lunch. For about two hours of this game, though, the lunch didn't taste quite as good as it should have. Luckily, that's where the Mariners' eighth inning magic came into play. It was refreshing to have the Mariners win back-to-back games in their final at-bat after losing so many games in the opposition's final at-bat.
-- Jason Vargas wasn't the most efficient he's been this season. He needed 109 pitches to get through five innings, which wasn't so good. Despite this, his boxscore line reads more like Erik Bedard without the strikeouts. He gave up seven hits and walked two in five innings, but still only gave up two runs before turning it over to the bullpen. Vargas' average starting line through nine starts: 6 1/3 innings, 2.3 runs (2.2 earned), 4.9 hits, 1.9 walks, 4.2 strikeouts, 98 pitches (62 strikes), 5.4 groundouts, 7.9 flyouts. Vargas' flyball tendency led him to give up the requisite home run, this time to Magglio Ordonez.
-- Ryan Rowland-Smith started the sixth inning after Vargas left. He got his first two hitters out before bad stuff happened. Jose Lopez made an error that put Danny Worth on first base. Rowland-Smith then gave up a double to Adam Everett that scored worth and gave Detroit a 3-1 lead. Brandon League came into the game at that point and gave up a single to his first hitter, Austin Jackson, to make it 4-1 before getting a lineout from Johnny Damon to end the inning. If not for that, I would have given League a gameball because he then retired six of the final seven hitters he faced, allowing only an Ordonez one-out single in the seventh. He got the winning decision, however. David Aardsma cashed in on his second straight save opportunity. Amazingly, it was another 1-2-3 ninth inning for Aardsma, making it two straight. Usually he at least walks somebody or allows a hit. Something tells me I shouldn't get too accustomed to Aardsma throwing 1-2-3 innings. That something is all those times he hasn't thrown 1-2-3 innings.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Rowland-Smith, League, and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Friday's game, Shawn Kelley had two days of rest, and Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira both had four days of rest.
-- with the Mariners only getting on the board in the second and eighth innings, there were quite a few blown chances for the offense. In the first, they had two aboard and one out, but Milton Bradley and Mike Sweeney both did the fielder's choice thing. In the third, the Mariners had two aboard with two out before Jose Lopez tapped in front of the plate. They also had two on and two out in the fifth, but Sweeney grounded to short. Bonderman retired the final seven Mariner hitters he faced before giving way to the bullpen with a pitch count of 93.
-- Josh Bard got aboard on an error and reached second base on the play with one out in the second. He was injured on the play, and Rob Johnson ran for him. Johnson reached third on a Josh Wilson single, and Johnson scored on Michael Saunders' single that made it 1-0 for the Mariners before Ichiro grounded into a double play for only the second time this season.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Neither player had a hit or run in the game. Somehow, the Mariners won despite their first and second hitters going a combined 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. Figgins managed to draw a walk. Anyway, the Mariners remain 8-2 when both players score and 7-13 when both players collect hits.
1) Josh Wilson
The Mariners' current shortstop went 2-for-4 and hit the leftfield single that vaulted the Mariners into the lead in the eighth inning. His other hit was a one-out single that moved Rob Johnson over to third base in the second inning. That inning resulted in the Mariners scoring the first run of the game. Unfortunately, that lead didn't last past the next half-inning, but the only healthy Mariner named Wilson did his part.
2) Mike Sweeney
Don Wakamatsu benched Casey Kotchman and started Sweeney at first base. The related lineup move, of course, was putting Milton Bradley into the designated hitter spot. Really, the lineup card as written actually looked like a passable Major League lineup. Since there aren't really any immediate alternatives to Figgins and Lopez, this lineup was probably the best one they could trot out there. Kotchman can pick the ball all he wants on defense, but if he's hitting .190, it gets more difficult trying to justify having him out there every day. As for Sweeney, he went 2-for-4 in the game and drove in two runs. His big contribution was the two-run homer (a 407-foot blast according to ESPN.com's play-by-play) with one out in the eighth that cut a 4-1 deficit to 4-3. Sweeney's other hit was a fairly inconsequential two-out single with a runner aboard in the third. Look, all Mariner fans love Ken Griffey Jr., but at some point this franchise has to establish a new era and identity, and they need to stop hanging so much onto 1995, a year where they lost in the second round of the playoffs. At least when Canuck fans get crap for hanging onto 1994, the team at least won the Western Conference that year.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariner centerfielder went 2-for-3 with a walk in the game. He finished the two-game series going 4-for-6 with a walk, an RBI, and he scored four of the Mariners' ten runs in the series. The series also pushed his .277 batting average up to .291. He now has a .382 on-base percentage and a .442 slugging percentage, improvements from .366 and .415, respectively, before the series started. Gutierrez started the day with a four-pitch walk in the first inning, moving Chone Figgins to second with one out. Unfortunately, the Mariner offense hadn't woken up yet, and they failed to score in the inning. After a third-inning strikeout, Gutierrez got his hitting shoes on, legging out an infield single with two out in the fifth. Most importantly, he singled with a full count to lead off the eighth inning and set the table for what ended up being a four-run inning that put the Mariners into the lead.
For the second straight night, the Mariners celebrated a great win, yet Ichiro contributed little to nothing at the plate in the win. What he did contribute at the plate wasn't actually anything on offense -- he had an outfield assist where he gunned down Ryan Raburn at the plate. Ichiro struck out twice on the way to an 0-for-5 day, sinking his batting average to a pedestrian .335. Granted, I think Ichiro's probably the last guy we should be worrying about when it comes to this team's offense. He was hitting .352 coming into this series and is now at the aforementioned .335, and his season hit pace has fallen to 225. His slump actually goes back a couple of at-bats into the San Diego series. Two strikeouts in the final game of that series make for an 0-for-11 slump for Ichiro, which he'll be taking into the series in Anaheim. Wouldn't it just be a gas if the New Jersey Devils instead called themselves the New York Devils of New Jersey? How about the New York Devils of Newark? Remember, the place once known as the carjacking capital of the world is not to be confused with the swamp.
Lee. Kazmir. Friday (if this would have been posted in time).