Sunday, June 27, 2010
I might be starting to come around a bit on the Mariners not being completely suck and instead just being average suck. Why? I thought the Friday night game showed a breaking of their will, at least within the game. On Saturday afternoon, they showed a bit of fight, and it was enough to get them the win. It wasn't just normal adversity the Mariners faced in the game, either. The Mariners folded on Friday after Ryan Rowland-Smith had the game unravel over the course of three pitches. On Saturday, the Mariners on defense went through a Keystone Kops play where three runs scored, erasing their 2-0 lead and putting them behind. Four pitches later, Prince Fielder homered. Somehow, this didn't bury the Mariners on Saturday, and they jumped back into the lead in the very next frame. Incredible, really. As for roster moves, Saturday night the Mariners for some reason traded for Russell Branyan. It doesn't bode well for Mike Carp, I guess, but welcome back to Branyan if he can stay healthy.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the goat entry, but only because none of the hitters were completely hitless and awful to warrant the goat. Even the hitless Chone Figgins walked twice and scored once.
-- the first man out of the bullpen will be discussed in the gameball entries. Brandon League came into the ninth inning trying to take a 5-4 Mariner lead to the bank. It helped that Jim Edmonds, Alcides Escobar, and George Kottaras were due to hit, they being the 6-7-8 hitters in the Brewer lineup. Edmonds whiffed, and the other two lined out to Franklin Gutierrez. David Aardsma had thrown in back-to-back games heading into this game, so Don Wakamatsu gave him a rest despite this being a save situation.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Brian Sweeney and League threw in this game. Going into Sunday afternoon's game, Chad Cordero, Garrett Olson, and Aardsma will have a day of rest. Sean White will have two days of rest.
-- all the Mariners' scoring was compressed into the second, third, and fourth innings. In the second, the Mariners sent seven hitters to the plate and scored only one run. Milton Bradley got aboard on a fielding error, Josh Wilson walked, then Jack Wilson hit a single to left that was too shallow. The Mariners had loaded the bases with nobody out, and Rob Johnson grounded softly to short, driving in the run to make it 1-0. In the third, the first two hitters went nowhere, but Bradley put a huge jolt into a grooved pitch, landing it into the Goodwill-sponsored section, well over the leftcenter wall at Miller Park. In the fourth, Figgins walked with one out, then Gutierrez rocked a double into the gap in rightcenter to score Figgins and cut the Brewers' lead to 4-3. Jose Lopez then put a jolt into the ball, homering to left to vault the Mariners back into the lead at 5-4, capping the scoring.
-- as for blown chances, the Mariners' first two scoring innings qualified. In the second, the Mariners had loaded the bases with nobody out and pushed one run across with a groundout. From there, Fister was caught looking, Ichiro was hit square in the buttocks with a pitch, and Figgins did the fielder's choice thing to end the inning. In the third, Josh singled and Jack doubled, then Johnson walked to load the bases. Fister whiffed to end that inning.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-4 in the game, pushing him to 102-for-302 (.338) on the season, leaving him on pace for a 223-hit season. I hope he goes on another tear pretty soon, though the Mariners don't seem to do a good job of correlating their winning with when Ichiro is on fire.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro got the only hit out of the two, and Figgins scored the only run of the two. The Mariners remain 10-5 when both players score and 13-22 when both collect hits.
1) Brian Sweeney
Everyone knew going in that Fister was on a pitch count, so the bullpen would get some work. What we didn't know was that Brian Sweeney would throw four shutout innings while finally making his first appearance in four years. Sweeney needed to face only 13 hitters to get his 12 outs, giving up only a two-out single to Ryan Braun in the fifth (the third hitter Sweeney faced). Though Brandon League ended up notching the save, it was Sweeney who faced Fielder, Braun, and Casey McGehee (the Brewers' 3-4-5) hitters and retired them in order. That was quite the way to finish an outing. While Fister threw 92 pitches in his four innings, Sweeney threw a mere 44. I'd need to see way more of this out of Sweeney, but if he had one or two more good long relief outings and Ryan Rowland-Smith doesn't bounce back from his last outing, I would seriously think about giving Sweeney that fifth spot in the rotation. Still, the Aussie has the chance to bounce back, but he'd better be doing it soon or else Erik Bedard or maybe even Sweeney could take his rotation spot.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder was a .326 hitter for the month of April. I knew that wouldn't last. He was also hitting in the third spot in the lineup for much of the season. I knew that wouldn't last for a variety of reasons. Gutierrez hit .264 in May, which is a perceivable yet still acceptable dropoff, but he's hit .233 so far for June. One look at the game log shows the frequency of his hitting. There were many more multi-hit games for Gutierrez in April, with a bunch of two- and three-hit games. In June, he hasn't been held hitless that many times, but there are a lot more one-hit games, less two-hit games (this game was one), and no three-hit games. This could be Gutierrez failing to make proper adjustments to the pitching, but it could just as likely be the result of the team-wide fail, possibly something that might be helped by the Branyan re-acquisition. Gutierrez nearly hit 20 homers last season and has six so far, and we're a week away from the halfway point of the season. The sad thing is, he's only one off the team lead...until Branyan brings his double-digit homer power to town.
3) Jose Lopez
Normally I don't usually put hitters that go 1-for-4 or 1-for-5 into the gameballs, but I'll make the exception for the Lopez 1-for-5 because his home run put the Mariners into the lead. The Lopez homer capped a three-run Mariner rally in the top of the fourth, answering the disastrous bottom of the third that led to all four runs Milwaukee scored. The Mariners could have folded like a cheap tent after the Brewers' big inning, but with the help of Lopez, and thanks to a lot of help from Brian Sweeney, they didn't. Much like with Gutierrez, Lopez has also been on a poewr drought this season, with this home run only being his fifth of the season. Before anyone forgets, this guy has hit double-digit homers for four straight seasons and hit 25 homers last year. He also nearly drove in 100 runs last year, falling short at 96. He's driven in 29 runs so far this year, and we're almost to the halfway point of the season. His stat line this year most resembles that of his second full season in the Majors, which was 2007. He hit .252 and slugged .355 that year with 17 doubles, two triples, and 11 homers, driving in 62 runs. So far, he's doubled 12 times and homered five times. That's compared to 42 doubles and 25 homers last season.
Fresh off the disabled list, this was Doug Fister's first start since May 31st. As such, he was on a bit of a soft pitch count for this start. However, he needed to stretch that count just to get through four innings. He faced 19 hitters to get 12 outs. Fister gave up only a two-out Prince Fielder double in the first, then he threw a 1-2-3 second inning. In fact, Fister set down seven of the first eight hitters he faced. So who got the second Milwaukee hit? Randy Wolf. The pitcher. Wolf doubled with one out to start the inning from hell. Fister then walked Rickie Weeks on four pitches, but at least that set up a possible double play with a ground ball. Unfortunately, that's when Corey Hart lined a ball into the gap in leftcenter. Wolf scored easily to make it 2-1 at that moment in the play. The relay came to the plate, and the throw was into the runner a bit and Rob Johnson couldn't come up with it, allowing Weeks to score, tying the game at 2-2...again, at that moment. Fister was backing up the play (so at least you can't blame him for not doing it) and got the loose ball, then bounced a throw to third that Lopez couldn't come up with, so Hart broke for the plate. Lopez threw wide of the plate, and Johnson had no chance to get a tag on Hart. The Brewers led 3-2, scoring three runs, including the batter, on a play that didn't involve a home run. HART SCORES!!! EVERYBODY SCORES!!! It didn't end after the Keystone Kops play, though. Fielder golfed a home run four pitches later to make it 4-2 before Fister set down the next two hitters to end the inning. Fister came out for the fourth and was victimized by a Jack Wilson throwing error, and if I remember right, the umpire thought Josh Wilson had his foot pulled off the bag by the high throw. Wolf then singled again (I thought this was an error on Jack as he tried to sidesaddle the hop) to move Escobar to third, but Fister battled through a nine-pitch at-bat to get a grounder from Weeks for a force at second to end the inning. Rough day for Fister, yes, but not one that buried the Mariners.
Vargas. Narveson. Today.