Wednesday, June 30, 2010
In case anyone forgot, Felix Hernandez is still pretty good. I think we're going to lookback at the 2010 season and point to Cliff Lee's spring training injury as one of the big things that helped deflate the season. Lee probably missed four starts in April, and in the grand scheme of things, even with four wins, the Mariners would still only be 37-40. Actually, now that I look at that, three games under .500 looks a hell of a lot better than 11 games under .500 like they are now. The reason I bring up Lee on a night where Felix pitches is because Felix followed up Lee with an even more stellar outing of his own. Thinking back over what I just wrote, if the Mariners had four more April wins, they could have finished the month at 15-8, and goodness knows how the season may have transpired then. Still, that's crying over spilled milk, and what's done is done. This game marked another dominant pitching performance in the Bronx as well as another seven runs posted by the Mariner bats, as they lit up Philip Hughes on Tuesday and Javier Vazquez in this game. Luckily for the Yankees, they get the favorable matchup in the final game of the series. Here's a hint -- the Mariners will be throwing an Australian guy against CC Sabathia. At least most Mariner fans will be at work and won't have to witness that carnage.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the gameballs
-- yet again, the bullpen was completely rested and had a night off. Going into Thursday's game, David Pauley and Sean White will have three days of rest. Brian Sweeney and Brandon League will have four days of rest, and Chad cordero, Garrett Olson, and David Aardsma will have five days of rest.
-- the Mariners got the go-ahead run when Milton Bradley walloped an 0-2 pitch over the wall to deep centerfield (not quite dead center, but a little to the right). That gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead and they never looked back. Ryan Langerhans singled with one out in an otherwise nothing inning. Langerhans actually came in to hit for Franklin Gutierrez, who left the game with an upset stomach. Langerhans then played leftfield while Michael Saunders scooted to center. In the third, Saunders homered to rightcenter, making it 2-0. Two outs later, Russell Branyan was hit with a pitch, Bradley did the infield single thing, and Jose Lopez singled Branyan across to make it 3-0. In the seventh, Chone Figgins singled with one out and bore witness to Branyan's first homer as a 2010 Mariner, a shot over the wall in rightcenter that made it 5-0. In the eighth, everything occurred with two out. Rob Johnson walked, then watched as Saunders put a ball into the second deck in rightfield to make it 7-0. I'm not sure if I prefer the Seahawks-over-Giants parallel or the Seahawks-over-Jets parallel.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-5, pushing him to 105-for-315 (.333) on the season, putting him on pace to finish the season with 221 hits. Other than this latest good stretch the Mariners have experienced, I think the next thing that could be big fun is if Ichiro goes on a crazy-long hitting streak. I could sure use a crazy hitting streak out of him right now.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro and Figgins had a single apiece in the game, and while Ichiro never scored a run, Figgins scored one. The Mariners remain 10-5 when both players score, but are now 15-22 when both players get collect hits.
1) Felix Hernandez
This start marks the third straight nine-inning start for Felix. He's gotten at least 26 outs in each of his last four starts. He's gone at least eight innings in six of his last seven starts. Over that span, he's given up 13 runs over 49 2/3 innings, which is good for an ERA of 2.36. Keep in mind, that 2.36 ERA is despite one outlier of a start where he went six innings and gave up seven runs. If you just take his last four starts, he's gone 35 2/3 innings and given up a mere five runs, good for a crazy ERA of 1.26. Felix struck out 11 hitters in this game for his first double-digit strikeout game of the season. I guess the whole thing about Felix being awful in May must really be true. The Mariners didn't win at all in six games in May when Felix made the start, though he pitched well enough to win in three of those starts. Anyway, here's the average per-start line for Felix this season: 7 innings, 2.7 runs (2.4 earned), 5.9 hits, 2.2 walks, 6.8 strikeouts, 110 pitches (71 strikes), 9.1 groundouts, 4.9 flyouts. He's good. He won't match his win total from last year, but I'd like to see him try.
2) Michael Saunders
The only thing that kept him from the number-one gameball was Felix throwing a two-hit complete-game shutout. If Felix would have given up just one run, Saunders would have been the number-one gameball. Though Saunders has shown us stretches this season where he struggles a bit at the plate, he's shown he can pop a home run every once in a while, and this game was one of Saunders' best as a Major Leaguer. Saunders homered twice and drove in three of the Mariners' seven runs in the game. He now has seven homers on the season despite not being up with the big club for the full season. This puts him only one behind Bradley for what would be the team lead had Branyan not been reacquired. Branyan hit his 11th homer of the season in the game. Still, Saunders is helped by his tall frame and pretty short swing. Physically, he reminds me of a lefthanded Richie Sexson, but lefthanded, Canadian, and with less strikeouts and no shoulder surgery. Actually, Saunders' swing is a bit more fluid than that of Sexson.
3) Milton Bradley
The Mariners' resident enigma sank all the way down to a .203 batting average after the first game of the series in Milwaukee (June 25th). After the middle game of that series, he was still hitting .203, but at least had hit a home run. With the month of June having come to a close, Bradley is currently on a four-game hitting streak. During said streak, he has gone 5-for-16 with a double, two home runs, and two RBIs (the homers were solo shots, unfortunately). In four games, he's taken the batting average from .203 to .212, the on-base percentage from .293 to .298, and the slugging percentage from .341 to .374.
He hit .212 for the month of June, and this four-game hitting streak is his rebound from a disastrous stretch where he went 0-for-19 over the span of six games where he started. As sad as this sounds, Bradley's been consistent from month to month -- he hit .211 in April, .214 in May, and .212 in June. What's drastically inconsistent, however, is his power (slugging) output from month to month, though that has a lot to do with his sitting out two weeks in May. He hit one homer for his only extra-base hit in May. In April, he doubled five times and homered twice. In June, he doubled three times and homered five times. Hey, if he homers five times in each of the remaining months, he'll finish with 23 homers. If we assume he'll get even better and find a groove, if he somehow gets to 30 homers, it'll be awesome. I wonder how the Cubs survived last year with Bradley and Carlos Zambrano in the same clubhouse.
He spent all the bat mojo on the first game of the series. It was much easier picking a goat tonight as opposed to 24 hours earlier. Jack Wilson and Johnson both went hitless. Jack went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, whereas Johnson went 0-for-3 and whiffed three times (hat trick), but walked once and scored. To me, that's almost a wash or a nod toward Jack as the goat, except Johnson ended up with his eighth passed ball of the season in the boxscore. This won't be the first time I've said this, but I'd be willing to put up with Johnson's defensive shortcomings if he just hit about .240 or .245. I remember when Dan Wilson was a Mariner and I'd get angry and argue he was an offensive black hole when he was hitting .240 and was a sure out on a grounder on the infield, and he seemed to ground into his share of double plays. Still, Dan Wilson was a defensive stalwart and blocked tons of balls in the dirt. Granted, Johnson has a better arm than Dan Wilson did. Anyway, the passed balls make me angry, and the wild pitches that don't have Johnson's name on them end up being the result of Johnson's blocking inability most of the time, in my opinion.
Rowland-Smith. Sabathia. Today.