Friday, July 16, 2010
[partial post for now]
Truthfully, once the Angels put three runs on the board, it didn't feel like a game, and I just felt resigned to the fact that the Mariners wouldn't be scoring many runs, if any, on this night. The one thing that gave them a glimmer of hope was Justin Smoak's first home run as a Mariner. That nice-looking swing cut the Angels' lead to 3-2, and the Mariners got no closer. Thus, Felix Hernandez threw an eight-inning complete game and lost despite giving up only three runs. There's only so much Felix can do. He can't just go three months of giving up a run or less per game. That's superhuman. Anyway, the starting pitching was very good and the offense was crap. Not like that's ever happened this season.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the gameballs
-- the bullpen got the night off, so going into Saturday's game, Brian Sweeney, Jamey Wright, and Garrett Olson will have a day of rest, while Brandon League, David Pauley, and Chris Seddon will be rested due to the All-Star break
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Chone Figgins had the only hit or run between the two players. The Mariners remain 12-6 when both players score and 17-27 when both collect hits.
1) Justin Smoak
Needless to say, this was Smoak's best game as a Mariner, though he hasn't even played a handful yet. He ripped a nice base hit before putting good wood on a Jered Weaver changeup in the seventh to finally make a game of it for the Mariners, cutting the Angels' lead to 3-2. Unfortunately for the Mariners, that capped their scoring as well as the scoring for the entire game. Still, after three innings of offensive doldrums where it totally looked like ho-hum, no-chance Mariners, Smoak gave the team a little jolt, if only temporarily. Smoak's 2-for-3 night only pushed him to .208 on the season, but he did drive in both Mariner runs on the night. After nearly hitting a homer the night before, Smoak made good this time around, and hopefully it's the first of many that Smoak will have while wearing a Mariner uniform. If he's even half of a Mark Teixeira clone, I think I'll be happy with over five years of that.
2) Felix Hernandez
Maybe if his hit total were a little lower, I might have put him in the number-one gameball spot. Felix gave up 10 hits in a game for the second straight start. He won the first of those starts, however. All in all, it still demonstrates the real travesty of this team -- the offense (surprise). Felix's hit totals aside, there is no way the Mariners should be losing games where Felix goes eight innings and gives up three runs. That should absolutely not happen. Still, Felix has given up three earned runs or less in all but three of his starts, yet his record is only 7-6 thanks to the putrid offense. I hope Felix isn't regretting signing that extension in the offseason. Hopefully he has faith that the team will field an offense that's actually worth a damn in the Majors. Looking at his game log, you could make the argument that Felix should have lost maybe four starts this season at the most (out of 20) and won nearly all the rest. Of course, if you factor in no-decisions, that means at least one of the possible losses has to go away... if this team fielded an average hitting team, I think Felix would have a record of about 13-3, and that's throwing in six no-decisions just for the hell of it.
3) Michael Saunders
He and Smoak are tall, but one's Canadian and not a switch hitter. Saunders went 2-for-3 in the game, singling twice to raise his batting average to .228. One of the rumor-mill churnouts during the whole Cliff Lee thing included the possibility of Angel Pagan coming back in a trade and playing leftfield immediately. If anything, the fact that they didn't immediately trade for a Major-League ready leftfielder means that Jack Zduriencik and his staff have a fair bit of confidence in Saunders. Ultimately, hitting .228 won't keep you in the Majors, but if the Mariners have truly decided there's no chance in hell of them making the playoffs, you might as well give Saunders and Smoak all the time and at-bats they need unless they end up dipping below .200. Then it'd just be embarrassing both for the fans and the team playing. For now, though, I just like to see Saunders stinging the ball all over the diamond. Like Ichiro, I want Saunders to hit .400 for the rest of the season. Actually, that's pretty much impossible for him to do.
Away goes the hitting streak for the Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder. His 0-for-4 day left him at 119-for-370 (.322) on the season, putting him on pace to finish with 214 hits. It's getting a bit serious now, folks. Ichiro can't get less than 220 hits in my mind, and he sure as hell better at least get to 200. I keep waiting and waiting for the Ichiro tear to happen, but it never seems to happen. This season's going to seem even longer than it already does if Ichiro doesn't get on another tear. We don't have many things left to hold onto when it comes to this team. We get Ichiro every night, Felix every five days, and I guess now we get to see how Justin Smoak develops. Baby steps, sure, but Mariner fans are still left wondering when, if ever, are they going to get to the top of the steps. Anyway, Ichiro needs to get hot or at least incrementally better to set the table for the rest of the team behind him. Someone needs to be on base when Milton Bradley and Jose Lopez are busy striking out.
Rowland-Smith. Saunders. Saturday night.