Tuesday, July 06, 2010



Well, now the season seems to be repeating itself in more of a microcosmic fashion. Other than the Cliff Lee game on Sunday, the other two games in Detroit echoed the Mariners from earlier in the season. You know, the team with either anomalously bad starting pitching or anomalously bad hitting or both, then sometimes the bullpen would chip in and implode. Though there was some unclutch hitting for the Mariners, there was also an implosion for Brandon League, though he was probably due for one. That doesn't make it any less frustrating, especially since it screwed Felix Hernandez out of a win. The team continued its extra-inning futility, now running their record in such games to 1-8. Also, I never hated Yuniesky Betancourt when he was a Mariner. I didn't like how the new management benched him instead of just realizing what he does and keeping him in the lineup because I still don't think there was a better alternative on offense at the time. Anyway, Betancourt drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning.

-- the starting pitching will be discussed toward the end of the post, as will the first man out of the bullpen

-- Garrett Olson was the second man out of the bullpen. He came in with the game tied at 4-4 and with two runners on and one out and the game tied at 4-4. He got a flyout from Mike Aviles, then walked Mitch Maier to load the bases. Brian Sweeney then was summoned, and he got Yuniesky Betancourt to bounce into a fielder's choice to end the inning. David Aardsma came in for the ninth, trying to hold a 4-4 tie. Scott Podsednik bunted into no-man's-land between the mound and the first-base line, good for a single. Jason Kendall then bunted Podsednik over to second. Aardsma got a big whiff from David DeJesus. Billy Butler was intentionally walked, then Aardsma got Jose Guillen to line out to Ichiro to end the inning. Chad Cordero came in for the tenth. He walked Alberto Callaspo to lead off, but he was caught stealing second. Aviles then grounded out to short. It was all downhill from there. Maier then mashed a ball that got over Ichiro in rightcenter for a triple. Betancourt then singled Maier home on an 0-2 pitch to break the tie and put the Royals into a 5-4 lead. A wild pitch (Josh Bard...Rob Johnson was lifted for a pinch hitter) sent Betancourt to second, and Podsednik singled Betancourt home for the insurance run to make it 6-4. Podsednik was caught stealing second to end the inning.

-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League, Olson, Sweeney, Aardsma, and Cordero threw in this game. Going into Tuesday night's game, David Pauley will have two days of rest and Sean White will have three days of rest.

-- as for the offense, you'd like to hope four runs for this pitching-centric team is enough to win a game, and it should have been. In the first, Ichiro got aboard with an infield single and went to second when Brian Bannister made a bad throw trying to pick him off at first. One out later, Jose Lopez doubled Ichiro home to put the Mariners up 1-0. In the fifth, Michael Saunders led off with a double and went to third on an Ichiro groundout. Chone Figgins then singled the other way into left to score Saunders and give the Mariners a 2-1 lead. Figgins then came home on a Russell Branyan homer into the first couple rows in right to put the Mariners into a 4-1 lead. This should have been enough.

-- oh, was there a big blown chance. With the game tied at 4-4, Branyan walked to lead off the eighth. Lopez then bounced a ball over the wall in right for a double to move Branyan to third. Then the floodgates of futility opened. Franklin Gutierrez whiffed on a 1-2 pitch. Casey Kotchman was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the double play. Milton Bradley came in to hit for Rob Johnson, but whiffed on a 2-2 pitch. Jack Wilson ended the inning by popping out weakly to Betancourt at short. In the tenth with the Mariners down 6-4, Lopez walked with one out and went to second on a two-out single by Kotchman. Bard whiffed to end the game.

-- Ichiro went 1-for-5 in the game, pushing him to 110-for-337 (.326) on the season. He is on pace to finish the season with 217 hits. He extended his hitting streak to seven games, but only Ichiro can have a hitting streak like this and lose points on his batting average. He's gone 8-for-31 during the streak to drop his average from .333 to .326.

-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Incredibly, they scored a run apiece and got one hit apiece. The Mariners are now 11-6 when both players score and 16-25 when both collect hits.

1) Felix Hernandez
He got royally screwed out of a win. He threw his least efficient game (in terms of pitches per inning) since in about a month, and that was in his last bad start where he gave up seven runs. Still, we've known for quite a while that Felix doesn't have to have his A-game to give this team a chance to win. He threw a first-pitch strike to only 11 of the 28 batters he faced, which probably didn't help in his pursuit to get into the ninth inning for his fifth straight game. In the fourth, a leadoff single by DeJesus and a one-out single by Guillen set the stage for Callaspo's sacrifice fly that tied the game at 1-1. In the sixth, Felix walked DeJesus with one out, then Butler doubled him home to cut the Mariners' lead to 4-2. That was all the Royals put on the board against Felix. He's thrown 42 2/3 innings over his last five starts. He and Cliff Lee have been saving this bullpen every time through the rotation over this last month, but it's a shame that the one time Felix needs the bullpen to pick him up, they let him down.

2) Jose Lopez
He doubled twice and drove in a run. The RBI came in the first inning, when Ichiro scored to give the Mariners the early 1-0 lead. He also hit the double in the eighth that put two runners in scoring position and set up what should have been the Mariners' go-ahead rally on the way to a victory. In his last three games, Lopez has gone 5-for-13 with three doubles, a walk, and two RBIs. This has bumped his batting average from .240 to .245, his on-base percentage from .271 to .277, and his slugging percentage from .329 to .340. Obviously, none of his numbers are good enough yet, and they probably never will be this year. Still, the Phillies are desperate to plug some of the holes left by injury, and I have to say I'm all for Lopez getting traded away, provided Jack Zduriencik seriously goes after some power hitting in the offseason. I don't think Lopez has completely lost his power as I think he'll get hot for a couple of weeks, but I just don't know when. Too bad it couldn't be in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, so as to increase his value.

3) Russell Branyan
Another home run. I'll be damned. He's only been a Mariner for seven games, but the three homers have been fun. He's gone 7-for-24 and driven in nine runs, meaning he's averaging just over an RBI per game. The offense has badly needed something like that for a long time. Granted, he won't keep up that pace or he'd driven in 90 runs between now and the end of the season, and there are a billion factors or so which would work against such a feat taking place. It's weird since I like having him on the team, but I know that playing time could be going toward some young'uns in what really is a lost season. Still, I just think it's nice to be able to sit back and watch a game and know someone on the Mariners actually has a legitimate chance of hitting a homer every time he steps to the plate. The Mariners have needed the mere possibility of a sudden offensive jolt for most of the season, and now they have it, but it's too late, and that's too bad. We've believed big, but we've seen little out of this team.

Brandon League
I'm definitely not going to make excuses for this guy, but I think he was probably due for an outing like this. He came into the eighth with a 4-2 lead. Kendall and DeJesus started the inning with consecutive singles. Butler hit a deep fly ball to right, far enough to score Kendall and make it 4-3. Guillen then singled to move DeJesus to third. Callaspo then singled to score DeJesus and put Guillen on second, tying the score at 4-4. That's a big relief outing fail. His line looks like two runs on four hits in a third of an inning. League had gone eight outings without giving up an earned run. That run lasted about three weeks. He had some bad moments early in the season, and he definitely had one here, but I've grown to trust League a lot more as the season has worn on. Would I rather have Brandon Morrow walking a bunch of guys and throwing over 100 pitches in less than six innings? Well, I'd need the trade assets to have looked better for both sides, but League is one of the higher-echelon arms in the bullpen, especially with Mark Lowe gone.

Greinke. Rowland-Smith. Tonight.

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