Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The result was great, but you could argue this would have been an interesting game if all you saw was the lineup card. Jack Wilson made his return, playing shortstop and hitting eighth. Josh Wilson stayed in the lineup, however, shifting over to second and batting second. In other words, Chone Figgins was given the night off (upset stomach, it turns out). This five-game winning streak started the last time Jason Vargas took the mound, and it continued four games later with the same guy on the mound and a win. It's not like the Mariners are good again -- they still only managed to score two runs -- but they're back to 12 games under .500 after spending about two weeks below that mark. Too bad they've been so bad, even if they ran the table to get to .500, they'd be past the halfway point of the season at 41-41 (82 games). Anyway, three cheers for the starting rotation, as they've made this five-game winning streak possible. Even Ryan Rowland-Smith threw scoreless ball into the seventh inning, so it's been more than a good turn through the rotation.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the entries below the bullet points
-- fresh off his best appearance of the season, Brandon League came in to start the eighth inning, trying to preserve a 2-0 lead. He got a first-pitch strike on Starlin Castro before throwing the next four pitches for balls. Ryan Theriot then singled to push Castro to second. League needed two pitches to induce Marlon Byrd into a 4-6-3 double play, moving Castro to third. Chad Tracy also only needed two pitches, and he ended up flying out. David Aardsma, with the same score, didn't quite have a 1-2-3 inning this time, but no runs came across, so the end result was great. Aardsma got the first two hitters out, but then walked Geovany Soto and gave up a single to Alfonso Soriano. Aardsma then got Tyler Colvin swinging to end the game.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Wednesday's game, Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have seven days of rest, Chad Cordero and Sean White will have eight days of rest, and Brian Sweeney will again be patiently waiting to throw at the big-league level for the first time since 2006.
-- as for the offense, it was good enough to win, but only because the starting pitching was insanely good again. The Mariners pulled out the win on Sunday despite getting only three hits, all in the same hits. They were slightly better this time, getting five hits and getting two runs out of the deal. The two runs all came on one hit, that being the Franklin Gutierrez home run in the second inning that accounted for all the scoring. Jose Lopez led off the inning ahead of Gutierrez with a single, accounting for the other run in the game that wasn't scored by Gutierrez. As for scoring threats that went nowhere, Ichiro led off the game with a walk and was erased five pitches later on a double-play ball off the bat of Josh Wilson. A kinda-threat with two outs occurrred when Josh Wilson singled and Milton Bradley walked in the third, but Lopez flew out on the first pitch. After Ryan Dempster set down 10 of 11 Mariners, Mike Carp hit a ball to short that was bobbled by Castro, allowing Carp to reach. Eliezer Alfonzo singled nicely through the right side to move Carp to second. Jack Wilson then had three pitches to bunt and blew them all. Michael Saunders was caught looking, then Ichiro punched a ball right to the third baseman, who went to the bag for the force. It was quite fortunate the Mariners didn't have that inning haunt them.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had a hit in the game, but didn't score a run. Figgins didn't play at all. The Mariners remain 10-4 when both players score and 13-20 when both collect hits.
1) Jason Vargas
For a while there, it looked like he was on the way to his deepest outing of the season. One bounce here and one bounce there (and getting squeezed on a couple pitches, leading to his first walk) in the seventh quashed his chances to come back out for the eighth in the eyes of Don Wakamatsu. Ultimately, what Wakamatsu probably saw was that in Vargas' five starts previous to the start than kicked off this winning streak, Vargas broke 100 pitches in each start. What's fortunate for Wakamatsu and the Mariners, however, is that in the last two starts, Wakamatsu has had a short leash on the pitch count, but Vargas has gotten very deep with the 94 pitches he's thrown. How awesome is four hits over seven innings? Vargas has been easily one of the three best starting pitchers for the Mariners this season, and the fact that he somehow has a 6-2 record is just amazing, and it makes him a bit more lucky than some of his rotationmates because the six wins are dependent on whether or not the team scores enough runs for him. The Mariners are 2-4 in his no-decisions, and he had good statistical lines in three of those four Mariner losses.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder went 1-for-3 in the game, driving in the only runs of the game on his two-run homer in the second inning. The homer was his sixth of the year, and while I won't completely rule it out, I don't think there's any way he's going to push 20 home runs like he did last year. He definitely won't do it if Wakamatsu's going to leave him at fifth in the lineup instead of at second or third. Last year, Gutierrez hit his stride hitting right behind Ichiro, and to me, pushing Gutierrez out of the second spot in the lineup was my biggest irk with having Chone Figgins joining the team. Anyway, there still exists a chance where Gutierrez could get hot at the plate for a solid month and a half or two months and hover around .300. Maybe he'll end the season doing that, who knows? If he does, it'll be a good thing they did the long-term extension when they did (last winter). It's too bad he hasn't hit more homers, sure, but it's not like anyone else in the lineup is really shouldering the power load.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder went 1-for-3 in the game, leaving him at 96-for-286 (.336) on the season. This puts him on pace to finish the season with 222 hits. Again, I hate to say it, but that pace has to pick up soon, though lately it seems the Mariners can win without his offense, or offense from barely anyone. In this five-game winning streak, Ichiro has gone 5-for-19, which is hardly what we expect from Ichiro. He has a double, homer, and an RBI in that stretch as well. He was a .341 hitter before the winning streak. Who doesn't love a good statistical anomaly? The sad thing is just that out of Ichiro's really good seasons, the team's only been really good once, and that was in 2001. The team was awful in 2004 when Ichiro got all those hits, probably in part because it didn't matter whether or not they pitched around him because whoever hit behind Ichiro probably wasn't going to drive him in, and even if that happened, the pitching would implode. I just wish it could all come together for Ichiro and this team. One of these years, maybe.
What hurts here is that I already know and I'm sure most Mariner fans know he's not going to hit, and he's not going to hit anywhere near as well as we've seen Josh Wilson hit this season (he should be a good deal better defensively than Josh Wilson, though). That's what makes the blown bunt in the seventh inning hurt even more. That's probably the one thing I thought we could depend upon when it came to Jack Wilson at the plate, but he couldn't do it. Chalk some of it up to first-game jitters, maybe? I don't know. Could it be possible to make a spliced Wilson? Maybe we could take Josh's hitting and Jack's fielding and make an uber-Wilson? We could call it Jash Wilson, since Jock Wilson would sound a little too hokey. That'd be the best way to take care of things, and it'd free up a roster spot, and it'd make it so I didn't have to specify which Wilson did what out there, and I could just refer to a Wilson again. All in all, I'll be curious to see whether this really cuts into Figgins' playing time any further (okay, I later learned about the upset stomach of Figgins). Jack will probably get good playing time regardless because his playing time was never predicated upon his offensive prowess anyway.
Wells. Lee. Tonight.