Saturday, June 19, 2010
Where's the fire? The Mariners have won back-to-back games, giving the Mariners their first set of consecutive wins in just over two weeks, when they fashioned a three-game winning streak. They started the current winning streak improbably by merely winning a game on the road, something with which they've had immense trouble tihs season. After an off day, the Mariners had their chances to win on Friday multiplied exponentially by (1) just merely being at home, and (2) trotting Cliff Lee out to the mound. Let's just say that even though I saw his worst start of the year against San Diego, I'm glad I was able to see him in person throwing in a Mariner uniform. He's just been unbelievable. The last time anyone that wore a Mariner uniform had a stretch of pitching this dominant, it was probably Randy Johnson in a Houston Astro uniform, fresh off being traded away at the deadline by the Mariners. All told, the Mariners now find themselves two games better than the 2008 pace and three games behind the 2004 pace. Also, the roster move of the day had Luke French going back down to Tacoma and Mike Sweeney returning from the disabled list. The off day probably precluded French's slot from appearing in the rotation this time around.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the gameball entries, of course.
-- the bullpen got the night off. Going into Saturday's game, Brandon League and David Aardsma will have two days of rest, Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have three days of rest, Chad Cordero and Sean White will have four days of rest, and Brian Sweeney will still be available.
-- as for offense, the Mariner bats mustered all of five hits and one run. Luckily, Cliff Lee was on the mound to take a 1-0 lead to the bank. Josh Wilson's RBI single (and Jose Lopez sliding to evade a tag and sneaking a hand across the plate) gave the Mariners the only run of the game in the sixth. Conveniently, all that nonsense about the Mariners actually scoring occurred with two outs. Lopez started it off by getting hit by a pitch, then Franklin Gutierrez hit a single to move Lopez to second. This is usually where the Mariners fold up the tent and get back into the field, but this time Josh Wilson declared that he still indeed has something left in that bat.
-- there were blown chances for the Mariner offense, but it was still only a 1-0 game. Lopez led off the second inning with a double, then Wilson drew a one-out walk. Rob Johnson drew a two-out walk that loaded the bases, but Michael Saunders struck out to make the inning fruitless.
-- Ichiro went 0-for-4 in the game, leaving him at 93-for-275 (.338) for the season. He is on pace to finish the season with 225 hits. All four of his plate appearances in this game ended with groundouts.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro and Chone Figgins both put up lines of 0-for-4 with no runs scored. The Mariners remain 10-4 when both players score runs, and they're 12-20 when both players collect hits.
1) Cliff Lee
What a piece of mastery this was. Lee has had some great starts this year, sure, but this one was the first complete-game shutout, after narrowly missing one two starts ago. My favorite stat right now regarding Lee is that he's walked four hitters and struck out 67. There's nothing like having a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16.75:1. As for this game, Lee was teetering a bit early. In the first inning, he had trouble getting the final out as Joey Votto singled and Scott Rolen doubled before Jonny Gomes mercifully grounded out to end the inning. He then set down the next six Cincinnati hitters before Brandon Phillips doubled with two out in the third in an otherwise nothing inning offensively for the Reds. Lee followed that up with another inning of an isolated two-out hit, this time being a Chris Heisey single. Lee had retired 12 straight Red hitters before giving up an Orlando Cabrera single in the eighth, again with two out. Lee then spiked the second pitch to Phillips (I can't put this on Johnson, it really was the pitcher's fault this time) to move Cabrera to second and make it interesting, but Phillips grounded out to end the inning. Lee gave up a leadoff single to Votto on the second pitch of the ninth, but then recorded outs with the final three hitters he faced, culminating with a whiff by Heisey.
2) Josh Wilson
The Mariners' shortstop had gone 0-for-14 over the last four games, dropping his batting average from .307 all the way down to .277 at the end of the road trip. Just as I thought he might be mediocre again on offense, Wilson went 2-for-2 with a walk, a double, and an RBI in this game. Unfortunately for Wilson, his double was a meaningless one with two out and the bases empty in the fourth inning. His single, however, accounted for what held up as the winning run. Just like that, Wilson added ten points to his batting average as well as 13 points to his on-base percentage (now .342) and 16 points to his slugging percentage (now .385). His slugging percentage is now higher than that of Jose Lopez and Milton Bradley, even after Lopez doubled twice in this game. Before the season started, did anyone have Josh Wilson penciled in as a meaningful offensive contributor for the 2010 Mariners? Sure, penciling in Jack Wilson for an injury and some offensive suck would have been predictable, but not what Josh Wilson has done.
3) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' third baseman goes into the boxscore with a 2-for-3 day, doubling twice. Of course, one of these doubles was a pure gift. With two out in the eighth and the Mariners looking for an insurance run, Lopez popped a ball high into leftfield. Gomes looked up, but he lost it in the twilight sky that only one of the longest days of Seattle's calendar year can provide. The ball fell about 10-20 feet in front of him, and Lopez coasted into second base with what went for a double. He keyed what should have been a rally resulting in a Mariner run or runs, doubling to lead off the second inning, but the Mariners were held scoreless. His inning of good luck, however, was the sixth. He was hit by a pitch with two out. From there, the rally materialized as he went to second on a Gutierrez single, then came home on the Wilson single. There was a play at the plate, but Lopez avoided the tag, sliding nicely off to the outside and reaching back for the plate to make it 1-0, capping the scoring.
This is only because it has to be somebody. With the bases loaded and two out in the second inning, the Mariners' leftfielder popped out foul along the third-base line to end an inning in which the Mariners really should have scored. One can only expect so much out of Saunders -- he's the number-nine hitter in the lineup for a reason. In his first five games after being called up from Tacoma this season, Saunders went 7-for-18 (.389) with two doubles, two homers, and five RBIs. Since, he's gone 10-for-59 (.169) with one double, one homer, and five RBIs. As badly as he's sucked, the Mariners are getting more out of his roster spot by giving him a bunch of playing time in leftfield instead of having, say, Ken Griffey Jr. still on the roster hardly playing, and hitting nothing whenever he did appear on the field. That's a pretty sad state of affairs, sure, but it's also true. As we know, the truth hurts.
LeCure. Hernandez. Tonight.