Wednesday, July 28, 2010
What a weird game. Surely anyone who saw that Jason Vargas and Mark Buehrle were the starting pitchers in this game figured it'd all be over in around 2.5 hours, maybe less. As Mariner fans, we all saw the brilliant game where Jarrod Washburn and Buehrle had it all done in under two hours. That was awesome stuff. In this game, however, Vargas wasn't vintage Vargas and Buehrle wasn't vintage Buehrle, that's for sure. Neither pitcher lasted past the fifth inning, and Vargas didn't make it through the fifth. Both pitchers threw too many pitches and got too few outs. I'd like to see this matchup again some other time and hope it all works out better. Would I be saying this if the Mariners managed to win this game? Probably not.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed at the end of the post
-- as for the bullpen, Jamey Wright was the first guy summoned. He entered the fifth inning with the bases empty and a 5-5 tie. He got a lineout from Carlos Quentin and a groundout from AJ Pierzynski. In the sixth, he allowed only a Gordon Beckham walk. In the seventh, he walked Juan Pierre to lead off. Pierre then stole second and went to third on an Alexei Ramirez bunt. Brandon League was brought in from the bullpen and allowed a second-pitch single to Rios, driving in Pierre easily and capping the game's scoring with the White Sox ahead 6-5. League then got lucky and got a two-fer as Rios was caught stealing, and League got a groundout from Paul Konerko to end the inning. In the eighth, League threw a 1-2-3 inning.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Wright and League threw in this game. Going into Thursday's game, Brian Sweeney will have a day of rest (but probably won't get game action), Chris Seddon and David Aardsma will have three days of rest, and Garrett Olson will have four days of rest.
-- now, the scoring. In the first, Ichiro led off with a single, then went to second on a Figgins bunt single. Franklin Gutierrez singled to score Ichiro to make it 1-0 and move Figgins to second. A fielder's choice from Russell Branyan erased Gutierrez and put Figgins on third. On a double steal, Figgins stole home to make it 2-0 and Branyan stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Justin Smoak, watching all this unfold from the batters box, finally hit a deep-enough fly ball to score Branyan and make it 3-0. In the second, Ichiro singled with two out, then came home on a Figgins homer that traveled over the bullpen past the leftfield wall to make it 5-1 and cap the Mariners' scoring.
-- now, the blown chances. In the fourth, Jack Wilson walked with one out, then went to second on an error on an Ichiro grounder. Figgins and Gutierrez then flew out to end the inning. In the fifth, Branyan led off with a single and went to third two outs later on a Josh Wilson single. Michael Saunders flew out to end the inning. In the seventh, Smoak singled off Matt Thornton with two out, went to second on a Josh Bard single, then went to third when Josh Wilson took a fastball off his arm, loading the bases. Saunders again flew out to end the inning.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. The duo had two hits and two runs apiece, just about the most ideal thing for the Mariners, who nonetheless lost. The Mariners are now 12-7 when both players score and 17-30 when both collect hits.
1) Chone Figgins
He's the first gameball if for no other reason than that he homered and stole home plate in the same game. He also got two hits. He got aboard on a bunt in the first to push Ichiro to second, got to second himself on the Franklin Gutierrez RBI single, then stole home on a double steal with Russell Branyan (huh?) to put the Mariners ahead 2-0. In the second, Ichiro was on first and Figgins cranked a ball just over the bullpen beyond the leftfield wall to make it 5-1. Is Figgins' slugging percentage now greater than his on-base percetnage as a result? Well, absolutely not. He's got an on-base percentage of .333 and a slugging percentage of .284. Dude draws walks more often than he gets extra-base hits -- what are ya gonna do? Maybe he should incite more scuffles in the dugout or something. Some more nice team-bonding moments arising from confrontations and tension. If there's no drama in terms of on-field action (since you're going to lose every night), how about at least having some drama off the field?
2) Josh Bard
How often is a Mariner catcher going to rack up three hits in a ballgame? Not often. Thus, here lands Bard in the number-two gameball spot. He doubled with two out in the first after the bases had already emptied and the Mariners had scored three times for an early 3-0 lead. In the third, Bard singled once again with the bases empty and two out. In the seventh, Bard singled with two out to push Justin Smoak to second. I bet you it'll take five or six more games for the Mariner catchers to rack up another three hits at the plate. I was the guy bitching about having a light-hitting catcher when Dan Wilson was in town, so you can imagine how much this current catching tandem is just killing me. At least Dan Wilson could block the ball like nobody's business. Johnson can't block to save his own life, though part of that may be because of his hip surgeries, but if he needs to work himself back into form after these surgeries, isn't there a better place to get that done in a starting role with the Major League club?
The Mariners' leadoff hitter, rightfielder, and money man went 2-for-5 in the game, scoring twice. This pushes him to 129-for-419 (.308) on the season and puts him on pace to finish the season with 205 hits, which isn't bad unless you were expecting way more, like I was. Maybe this will end the slump. I have the feeling it won't end the slump immediately, but any time Ichiro gets multiple hits in a game, it's a good thing. It also means whoever's hitting behind him has some opportunities to move or score runners, and tonight that was Figgins, and Figgins did well. It's almost more of a prototypical example of how this team thought it was going to win this season. Ichiro singled to lead off the game, then singled with two out and the bases empty in the second. He ended up scoring on the Figgins home run that made it 5-1 and unfortunately capped the Mariners' scoring in the second inning. How do you like that -- the one time the Mariners are able to score early and often, they end up blowing a four-run lead. Awesome.
Well, Mister Vargas just wasn't himself in this game, and it's pretty bad he had a 5-1 lead and let it slip away. He's due for a bad start every now and again, especially since we didn't expect him to be this solid of a starting pitcher this quickly (I knocked on wood while typing this, hoping he doesn't pull a Ryan Rowland-Smith next year). Normally I'd say I wanted more innings out of Vargas in this game because the bullpen needed some rest after Rowland-Smith threw last night. However, Rowland-Smith was left out there to rot (and eat innings) and Brian Sweeney ate the remainder of the innings, preserving the rest of the bullpen. Jamey Wright and Brandon League threw in this game and probably won't appear on Thursday. Thus, unless Doug Fister throws a complete game, it's almost a sure thing that we'll see some combination of Garrett Olson and David Aardsma. Out of his 20 starts this season, Vargas has had three starts in which he averaged more than 20 pitches per inning, this start being one of them. He lost one of those starts, and the team split his no-decisions in the other two starts.
Pauley. Garcia. Thursday night.