Thursday, June 03, 2010



The calendar has turned over to June, and wouldn't you know it, Felix Hernandez dominated. You could argue that he started feeling the calendar turning in his final start of may, but now it feels right. Good to have you officially back, Felix. Though we can't really say anyone's warming up with the weather since the weather still sucks, Hernandez and Jose Lopez are getting warm. Hernandez is contributing like he hasn't done since April, whereas Lopez is contributing with some consistency and power for the first time all season. The Mariners did it with pitching and defense (sans the wild pitch which was probably on Rob Johnson anyway), and they just took three out of four from a pretty good team. The Mariners have won three straight, and their previous two streaks were a three-game winning streak followed by a three-game losing streak. Hopefully this win isn't followed immediately by a three-game losing streak. The Mariners are now nine games under .500, crawling above the double-digit-games-under-.500 mark, and it took them five games to get back to this point. They haven't had consecutive games above that double-digit mark since games 36 and 37, the beginning of a five-game losing streak that made them 14-26.

Also, it appears Chad Cordero got the roster spot after Griffey retired. It's been a long road back for Cordero, so congratulations to him. Kanekoa Texeira became the umpteenth Mariner to be picked up by the Kansas City Royals, who claimed him off waivers.

-- needless to say, the starting pitching will be discussed in the gameball entries

-- David Aardsma faced three hitters in the ninth and got three outs. It wasn't a 1-2-3 inning, though, as Aardsma put his own spin on the situation by giving up a one-out single, then going 3-0 on Delmon Young before getting a double-play ball to end the game.

-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Friday's game, Brandon League will have a day of rest, Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have two days of rest, and Ryan Rowland-Smith will have three days of rest. Sean White has not yet thrown at the big-league level since coming back from injury.

-- there were some moments of offensive squanderage for the Mariners in the game. In the first, Ichiro led off with a walk and was bunted over to second by Chone Figgins. Franklin Gutierrez whiffed, though Ichiro stole third on the strikeout pitch. Lopez hadn't gotten his hitting shoes on yet and grounded out to short to end the inning. With one out in the fourth, Rob Johnson somehow bunted himself aboard and that was followed by a single by Michael Saunders. Ichiro hit a fly ball on the next pitch, and the fly was caught by Denard Span. Johnson tagged on the play and made it safely to third base, but Saunders had gone past second (nearly passing Johnson) and raced back to first base. With Figgins at the plate, the Twins appealed to second base and Saunders was called out for failing to touch second base on the way back to first base, ending the inning. Luckily the Mariners at that point had all the runs they needed. In the sixth, Josh Wilson singled with one out but was erased by Johnson's double-play ball.

-- this leaves the anatomy of the winning inning. Saunders led off by one-hopping a ball over the wall in rightfield. He stole third base with Ichiro at the plate, who then singled to drive in Saunders to tie the game at 1-1. One out later, Gutierrez walked, then Lopez got a hanging curveball and remembered what to do with it, homering to make it 4-1 and cap the scoring.

-- Ichiro went 1-for-3 in the game, driving in the first Mariner run of the game in the third inning. He is now 75-for-219 (.342) on the season and is on pace to finish the season with 229 hits, a pace which I think has to pick up a tiny bit. It's bad that Ichiro's hitting .342 and I want more out of him, but that's how it is.

-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro scored once and got a hit, while Figgins got neither. The Mariners remain 10-3 when both players score runs and 10-16 when both players get hits.

1) Felix Hernandez
The only thing Felix didn't shake in this start was his early-inning hiccups. This time, however, the early-inning hiccup was only worth one run in the first inning on a two-out flurry by the Twins. Joe Mauer hit a long double, then on the next pitch, Justin Morneau nearly took Felix's head off with a ball up the middle for a single that scored Mauer. From there, Felix barred the door, giving up only three hits the rest of the way. One hit was Danny Valencia's first in the big leagues, and infield single with two out in the second. Another hit was a Delmon Young first-pitch single, again with two out, this time in the fourth. The final hit Felix yielded was a two-out single to Jim Thome in the sixth. Felix set down the final eight hitters he faced, though Joe Mauer got aboard on his strikeout that went as a wild pitch, but Rob Johnson was catching, so that's probably debatable. Felix didn't have the crazy groundball split in this game, but arguing over that is just a spilled milk kind of thing. The guy struck out nine and walked one in eight innings, for goodness' sake. His average per-start line: 6 2/3 innings, 2.8 runs (2.4 earned), 6.4 hits, 2.4 walks, 6.2 strikeouts, 107 pitches (68 strikes), 8.5 groundouts, 4.3 flyouts. He averages 16.1 pitches per inning and averaged 14.5 pitches per inning in this start.

2) Jose Lopez
There's a lot going right in the world of the Mariners' third baseman right now. He went 2-for-4 in the game, basically winning the game in the fourth inning with a home run over the manual scoreboard in leftfield. In the last seven games, Lopez homered twice, doubling his home run total for the year. That just underscores how bad the first two months were for Lopez at the plate. On the morning of May 25th, Lopez was hitting .211 with an on-base percentage of .240 and a slugging mark of .263. An eight-game hitting streak later, Lopez is hitting .244 with an on-base percentage of .273 and a slugging percentage of .335. He now has four homers and 23 RBIs. He's a far cry from flirting with a 100-RBI season like he did last year, but hopefully this is the beginning of Lopez raking for the final four months of the season. Hopefully he hits .500 the rest of the way and hits 30 more home runs. He won't, but we need to dream. Though it took way too long, Don Wakamatsu's belief system theory might be working with Chone Figgins (hitless in this game) and Lopez.

3) Josh Wilson
He might be flying under the radar a bit, but I'll repeat something I said a couple days ago -- Josh Wilson right now is hitting better than Jack Wilson would ever hit at his best. Just look at the guy's game log. He went hitless in four straight games on the east-coast road trip, but hasn't gone hitless in consecutive games since. From May 16th to the present (17 games), Josh Wilson has gone 22-for-60 (.367) with four doubles and seven RBIs. Does anyone out there think Jack Wilson would ever hit .367 over two and a half weeks? I don't. Even counting his rough first couple weeks, Josh Wilson is a .308 hitter on the season. Though I'm being Captain Obvious by saying this, Josh Wilson has by far been the most consistent hitter the Mariners have had in the bottom third of the lineup this season. I don't see this lasting longer than one more week for Josh, at which point someone else in the lineup will have to pick up the slack. Still, it's just a revelation to me that Josh Wilson could hit this well for any long span of time.

Casey Kotchman
Okay, so I'm putting him here despite the fact that he broke Kevin Youkilis' Major League record for consecutive errorless chances. Unsurprisingly, they didn't stop the game and have Kotchman give a speech and take a victory lap around the field. The ball probably went around the horn and right back to the pitcher and was used again in regular gameplay. While Chone Figgins has gotten himself far enough above .200 where this game's 0-for-3 put him at .215, Kotchman hasn't warmed up again since his decent couple games in April. In the second, Kotchman grounded out to short. He ended the third inning with a groundout to third with the bases empty. He led off the sixth with a groundout and capped his night at the plate but whiffing with a runner on first to end the eighth inning. Kotchman is nearly an everyday player despite hitting .191, getting on base at a .273 clip, and slugging .309. At this pace, we're going to see a lot more of Michael Saunders in left, Milton Bradley at designated hitter, and Mike Sweeney playing first.

Saunders. Snell. Tonight.

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