Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Coming off a dreadful sweep at home at the hands of the hated Angels, things didn't look good for the Mariners. In order to keep baseball meaningful past mid-June, the Mariners have to put some pedal to the metal in the very near future. Going to Arlington isn't exactly something that would seem to help the Mariners much other than helping tiny middle infielders hit home runs that wouldn't get out of 30 other Major League ballparks. On this night, however, it was a good night for Cliff Lee's turn to come up in the rotation. It might have been a night of stifling heat in the Metroplex, but the Ranger bats weren't stifled by the heat, unless the heat's name was Cliff Lee. As for the offense, well...in the early 2000s, the Mariners a lot of times had a recipe of winning where they would score early and hang on for the win. This game pretty much followed that recipe, except now the Mariners have Cliff Lee to put in some main ingredients. The latest roster move involved Mike Sweeney having his back act up and land him on the disabled list. Mike Carp was called up in his place.
-- needless to say, the starting pitching will be discussed in the gameball entries.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: thanks to Lee, the entire bullpen got the night off. Going into Tuesday's game, Shawn Kelley, Garrett Olson, Brandon League, David Aardsma, and Luke French will have a day of rest. Chad Cordero and Sean White will have two days of rest.
-- I guess this leaves the offense. They scored their four runs in the second and third innings and were held off the board the rest of the way. Still, it was enough, and it was more than enough for Cliff Lee, who had a shutout going through 8 1/3 innings. In the second inning, Mike Carp led off with a single and was serased from the basepaths on a Josh Wilson fielder's choice. Rob Johnson then singled to move Wilson to second. Michael Saunders then homered to rightfield to put the Mariners up 3-0. With the things Mariner fans have put up with this season, it would have been naive to think the Mariners could get a 3-0 lead in the second inning and take it to the bank. As it turns out, that's exactly what the Mariners did. The three runs turned out to be al they needed. Still, the Mariners had one more to put onto the board. In the third, Mike Carp reached on an error by the first baseman. A Wilson single moved him to third, and Johnson singled next, to score Carp and cap the Mariners' end of the scoring at 4-0. Since Cliff Lee was awesome and didn't have to turn this one over to the bullpen, the four runs were more than enough.
-- were there blown chances for the offense? Of course, but that's inevitable. Milton Bradley, hitting second in the game, singled with one out in the first, but was stranded. In the fourth, Ichiro drew a one-out walk, went to second on a Bradley bunt, then went to third on a Scott Feldman wild pitch with Franklin Gutierrez at the plate. Unfortunately, Gutierrez whiffed to end the at-bat. In the ninth, Chone Figgins singled with one out and was erased on an Ichiro fielder's choice. In fact, after the Johnson RBI single, Texas pitching retired 17 of the next 19 Mariners that came to the plate until the Figgins single in the ninth. Talk about pulling off the throttle -- holy crap.
-- Ichiro went hitless in the game (0-for-3), but walked twice and stole a base. He has stolen 18 bases this season through 57 games. He's on pace to finish the season with 51 steals, which would be the most since his crazy 2001 season. He stole 56 times out of 70 chances in 2001. This season, he's stolen 18 bags in 24 chances. His most prolific stealing season since 2001 was his 2006 season, when he was successful on an incredible 45 of 47 attempts. As for the hitting, Ichiro had his ten-game hitting streak snapped, leaving him 82-for-232 (.353) on the season, putting him on pace for a 232-hit season. Ichiro has an on-base percentage of .412 and a slugging percentage of .431.
1) Cliff Lee
The stat I heard from SportsCenter was that Lee came into this game having posted a 9.19 career ERA when pitching in Arlington. This was a good game to put that little stat to bed. He scattered seven hits on the way to a complete game, and he was two outs away from a shutout. He walked zero hitters, again signifying his awesomeness. He was perfect through three innings before Craig Gentry singled to lead off the fourth. In the fifth, he had a runner on first with one out, but got a fielder's choice, then gave up another single, but got a groundout to end the inning. After the Andres Blanco single in the fifth, Lee retired the next ten Ranger hitters he faced. In the ninth, he fell off the rails a bit, allowing back-to-back singles to start the inning. One out later, Josh Hamilton singled to make it 4-1, then Ian Kinsler scored on a fielder's choice to make it 4-2. A grounder to the right side resulting in Lee failing to catch the ball while covering first, but no one scored on the play. David Aardsma had been warming up in the bullpen, and Don Wakamatsu came out to the mound, but it was more to five Lee a rest than anything. Two pitches later, Lee got the flyout that ended the game. His average per-start line: 7 2/3 innings, 2.8 runs (2.4 earned), 6.6 hits, 0.5 walks, 7.1 strikeouts, 110 pitches (79 strikes), 7 groundouts, 7.5 flyouts. He averages 14.3 pitches per inning, tops on the club, just ahead of Doug Fister, who is currently off the active roster due to shoulder fatigue.
2) Chone Figgins
Being bumped all the way down into the ninth slot in the order didn't seem to faze the Mariners' second baseman. He went 3-for-4 in the game and went 1-for-2 on steal attempts. After Saunders homered in the first, Figgins singled with two out and stole second, but then got caught stealing third on the very next pitch. He led off the fourth with a flyout, the only out he made at the plate in the game. He singled with two out and the bases empty in the sixth. Finally, he singled with one out and the bases empty in the ninth. After all this time waiting for Figgins to get his batting average above .200 to stay, I think we're finally beyond that point. He'd have to be incredibly bad to sink back below .200 again, and that just really can't happen unless he really hits the skids, in which case I think Don Wakamatsu might actually pull him a time or two before he sank back below .200 again. Figgins has a .337 on-base percentage and a .289 slugging percentage. You'd also have to think that having Ichiro hitting behind you can only get you a better selection of pitches to hit.
3) Rob Johnson
How often does Rob Johnson go 2-for-4 with an RBI and not get charged for a single passed ball (or the pitcher for a probably-blockable wild pitch)? This may never happen again for the rest of the season. He singled with a runner on first in the second inning and ended up scoring the second Mariner run on the Saunders homer. In the third, he singled with two on and two out to score one and give the Mariners a 4-0 lead. He led off the sixth with a groundout. He ended the eighth with a groundout to third. All of this aside, Johnson is hitting .180 (still crappy) with an on-base percentage of .292 and a slugging percentage that's roughly the same. Also a weird dynamic here is that Lee was being caught by Rob Johnson instead of being caught by the usual backup catcher or something. Not that any of this affected Cliff Lee at all. Lee throws, you catch. Seems pretty simple. As for Johnson, he'll get his plaque or bust somewhere in western Montana for being one of the best Major Leaguers to ever come out of Montana.
Really, this is only because it had to be somebody. Ichiro and the Mariners' centerfielder were the only hitless Mariners on this night, so the goat had to be between one of the two of them. Ichiro walked twice and stole a base, but Gutierrez didn't really manage to reach base safely, so he wears the goat horns. Unsurpringly, his batting average has been falling off a bit in the last couple weeks after flirting with being a .300 average for a few weeks earlier in the season. Gutierrez is now hitting .284 with an on-base percentage of .372 and a slugging percentage of .418. But hey, he made the incredible diving catch over the weekend, so that's good. In short, some other hitters were going to have to pick up the slack when Gutierrez started to falter. Jose Lopez might be that guy, I'm not sure. This would all be a lot better if Gutierrez would just wake up and hit .500 for a month or something. Unfortunately, it's never that easy, and Don Wakamatsu responded to it in this game by messing with the lineup, benching Casey Kotchman, bumping Figgins to ninth, and having Bradley hit second. This was a trip of a lineup card.
Hernandez. Lewis. Tonight.