Thursday, June 03, 2010
On the day number 24 retired, the Mariners got win number 21 of the 2010 season. Ken Griffey Jr. donned a uniform on June 1st for the final time and didn't show up for work on Wednesday, calling it a career. The tears have flown and the highlight packages and career retrospectives have been put together, with many more on the way. With Griffey gone, the last vestige of 1995 who's a part of the Mariners' everyday experience is Mike Blowers doing color on the FSNNW broadcasts. This was the end of a great career, sure, but it's also time for this team to finally give itself an identity for which it's been searching since probably 2003. On the night Junior walked away, the Mariners accomplished rare things -- they won a one-run game, and they won an extra-inning game. The extra-inning win was their first of the season in seven tries. Also slipping by my last post was the bullpen overhaul, with Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira being designated for assignment. Sean White and Garrett Olson got the call-ups. We'll see who gets Griffey's roster spot.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the entries below
-- David Aardsma threw the ninth inning trying to keep the game tied at 1-1. He walked Joe Mauer to lead off. Rob Johnson then had one of his passed ball episodes to move Mauer to second, and a Justin Morneau groundout moved him to third. Aardsma then put the Twins on lockdown, getting a lineout to short from Mike Cuddyer and a flyout to left from Jason Kubel. Brandon League then threw a 1-2-3 tenth, getting two groundouts, followed by a flyout from pinch-hitter Jim Thome.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Aardsma and League threw in this game. Going into Thursday's game, Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have a day of rest, and Ryan Rowland-Smith will have two days of rest.
-- the Mariner offense in this game didn't blow a lot of chances because they didn't have many chances at all. In the sixth, Chone Figgins singled and Franklin Gutierrez walked with two out, but two-out stuff is a bonus. In the seventh, Milton Bradley bunted himself aboard to lead off, and Jose Lopez singled. Casey Kotchman then killed the rally by grounding into a double play. Rob Johnson popped foul on the first pitch with Bradley on third to end the inning.
-- now, the innings where good stuff happened. Okay, since the fifth inning is basically the first gameball, I'll save that for later. In the tenth, Kotchman got aboard with an infield single. Eliezer Alfonzo came off the bench to hit for Johnson and flew out, so that was a wash (no leftover mojo from the previous night's bat). Josh Wilson then singled to move Kotchman to second. Kotchman was then lifted from the basepaths for Ryan Langerhans. Ichiro then fouled off six 2-2 pitches before grounding a ball up the middle, where Matt Tolbert dove for the ball and underhand-flipped to JJ Hardy at the second-base bag, and honestly, Wilson looked like he was out at second. He was called safe, and the Twins' middle infielders couldn't believe it. Hardy threw home, but Langerhans scored, and the game was done. Probably a bad call, but the Mariners won, and the Twins didn't get screwed out of a perfect game.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-5 with his only hit generating the game-winning RBI. He struck out three times. His final two at-bats were epic -- in the eighth, he fouled off six 1-2 pitches en route to an 11-pitch strikeout. In the game-ending at-bat, Ichiro had another 11-pitch at-bat, but this time it ended with the infield single that probably should have been a fielder's choice, but I'll take the result. Ichiro is now 74-for-216 (.343) on the season with an on-base percentage of .391 and a slugging mark of .417. He is on pace to finish the season with 231 hits.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Neither player scored a run in the game, but both had a hit apiece. The Mariners remain 10-3 when both players score and are now 10-16 when both players get hits.
1) Milton Bradley
The Mariners' leftfielder generated the first run of the ballgame almost singlehandedly. He led off the fifth inning with a single, then stole second on a 2-0 pitch to Jose Lopez. Lopez then flew out, but Bradley then stole third base on an 0-2 pitch to Kotchman. Kotchman then hit a sufficiently deep fly ball to centerfield, scoring Bradley from third to make it 1-0 for Seattle. Johnson flew out for good measure to end the inning. Bradley bunted himself aboard to lead off the seventh in an inning that ultimately went nowhere thanks to Kotchman's double-play ball. Bradley's hitting .222 with an on-base percentage of .298 and a slugging mark of .342. In other words, he's definitely got a long way to go before he does anywhere near his capabilities, but two hits is a start, that's for sure. Also for sure, Griffey won't be stealing any of his at-bats anymore, that's for sure. But now who will keep Bradley in check in the clubouse? Does Mike Sweeney bang the gavel for the kangaroo court?
2) Cliff Lee
Only some exemplary duty by Bradley could bump Lee from the number-one gameball. This guy held the Twins at bay for the first six innings of the game before Cuddyer homered to tie the score at 1-1. In the second, Cuddyer got aboard with an infield single with one out, but didn't score. In the fourth, Mauer and Morneau (single and double, by the way) got aboard with one out. Lee then sent Cuddyer and Kubel away with a strikeout and groundout, ending the inning. Lee's average per-start line: 7 2/3 innings, 2.9 runs (2.4 earned), 6.6 hits, 0.6 walks, 7.1 strikeouts, 111 pitches (78 strikes), 6.7 groundouts, 7.1 flyouts. In this start, he averaged 14 pitches thrown per inning, which is slightly worse than his season average of 14.7. This ranks second in the Mariners' starting rotation to Doug Fister's 14.4 pitches per inning. Lee has gotten into the seventh inning in all seven of his starts this season. He has gone seven or more innings in all but one start this season. He has recorded outs in the eighth inning in five of his seven starts.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder didn't have a huge day by any means, but he got a hit and walked, so he got aboard twice. In a game where only three combined runs were scored, getting aboard twice with a walk and a hit was quite important. The Gutierrez single was of the infield variety with two out in the first inning. Gutierrez flew out in the fourth with one out and the bases empty. In the sixth, Gutierrez walked with a man on first and two out. Gutierrez also led off the ninth with a groundout. He is now a .294 hitter with an on-base percentage of .384 and a slugging mark of .433. I highly doubt there's a way for Gutierrez to flirt with 20 homers this season (like last season) but one can always hope. I still don't think he's going to hold onto that third spot in the lineup for the rest of the season, but every time I think that, he tends to come up with something to make you think he deserves a little more time hitting third before getting bumped down in the order. Gutierrez is good. The scoreboard graphic reading "Gutius maximus" at Safeco Field is not good.
He has had passed ball and wild pitch episodes that have cost the Mariners a couple of wins this season, and it nearly happened again in this game. In the ninth, with the score tied 1-1, Mauer drew a four-pitch walk off Aardsma. Mauer took second base on a Johnson passed ball from a 1-2 pitch. Morneau grounded out, but Mauer went to third. Cuddyer, who belted a homer for the Twins' only run of the game, lined out to Wilson at short. Kubel then flew out to left to end the inning. If Cuddyer hits a fairly deep fly ball, Mauer scores and the Mariners have to face all 6'11" of Jon Rauch in the ninth inning trying to score a run to tie and two runs to win. Through a bit of luck, I'm typing this after a Mariner win rather than a Mariner loss, which would just make me spit hot fire when it comes to Johnson. One good thing for him in the game was that he threw out Tolbert trying to steal second base. Other than that, he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout at the plate. How about a catching tandem of Josh Bard and Eliezer Alfonzo? Yes, please.
Pavano. Hernandez. Tonight.