Thursday, July 22, 2010
It was another banner night for the Mariner offense. Felix Hernandez pitched his heart out, yet the Mariner bats couldn't score a single run for him. At least the offsetting factor was that the White Sox didn't score any runs for a very stellar Gavin Floyd, who threw seven scoreless innings. Where did this game end? It ended in extra innings, where the Mariners have had their struggles all season long. The Mariners were looked to be undone by former Mariner Omar Vizquel and Brandon League happened to be on the mound again for what seemed to be the latest installment of Mariner misfortune. Luckily, the Mariners were able to answer back in the bottom of the 11th and end a 28-inning scoreless streak. It took long enough.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the gameballs
-- as for the bullpen, David Aardsma had an eventful ninth inning and Brandon League gave up the first run of the game in the 11th. Aardsma got a whiff from Gordon Beckham before hitting Juan Pierre square on the right tricep. He ambled off to first and ended up breaking for second base on the third pitch to Omar Vizquel. As he slid, he nicely pulled his arm away from the tag, but it appeared Figgins tagged Pierre on the upper arm or shoulder right before he got to the bag. He was called safe, making the inning very dicey.
Don Wakamatsu was ejected arguing the call. Aardsma walked Vizquel, but got a first-pitch flyout from Alex Rios and a whiff from Paul Konerko. League faced three hitters in the tenth. He walked Mark Kotsay to lead off, but got a double-play ball from Andruw Jones and a groundout from AJ Pierzynski to end the inning. In the 11th, League gave up a laced double to Beckham, then got Pierre to fly out, sending Beckham to third. The ancient Vizquel then singled to score Beckham for the 1-0 lead before Rios whiffed to end the inning. Little did League know he would get the winning decision out of this
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Aardsma and League threw in this game. Going into Thursday's game, Chris Seddon will have a day of rest, Jamey Wright and Garrett Olson will have two days of rest, and Brian Sweeney will have four days of rest.
-- was there some Mariner offense? There definitely was some in the 11th, but how about before that? Their first baserunner with less than two out was Chone Figgins, who walked to lead off the fourth inning. He was caught stealing three pitches later. In the fifth, Ryan Langerhans singled with one out and made a big turn at first, then realized he couldn't make it to second and was hung up and tagged out. In the seventh, Franklin Gutierrez led off with an infield single, only to be doubled off on a Lopez grounder. In the eighth, Langerhans got aboard on an infield single, but was thrown out at second on a too-hard bunt by Josh Bard. Figgins led off the ninth with an infield single and got to second an a Gutierrez bunt. With the winning run on second and one out, Jose Lopez was intentionally walked, leaving it up to Milton Bradley to face new pitcher Erick Threets. Bradley looped a ball to shallow right, near the foul line, but Andruw Jones channeled himself from 10 years ago and made the catch, then tumbled on the ground and threw to first in one motion, doubling off Lopez (some would argue he dogged it, but he definitely had no business being that far off of first base)
-- the big inning? Jack Wilson laid down a perfect push bunt along the first-base line. Ichiro bunted him over to second. Figgins then singled nicely into center to move Jack to third. Figgins then stole second to take away the double-play possibility and put the winning run in scoring position. Gutierrez then drilled a single into center, scoring both runners and ending the game.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Figgins scored the winning run of the game and had two hits. Ichiro didn't get a hit or score. The Mariners remain 12-6 when both players score and 17-28 when both collect hits.
1) Felix Hernandez
If this were someone else, I'd probably say that the guy can't do much more than this. We're dealing with Felix Hernandez, though, and we know he's capable of being even better. Dwelling on this fact too much, however, diverts from the attention this outing should get. Eight innings of two-hit shutout ball is insanely good, and doubly so against a great hitting offense like that of the Chicago White Sox. I was a bit upset with Don Wakamatsu for pulling Felix after the eighth inning since he only had thrown 93 pitches. Maybe Wakamatsu wants to do this every once in a while to cut back on the Felix workload for an inning here or an inning there. Is there much to gain by pushing the pedal to the metal with Felix when the team has no chance of a playoff berth? Probably not. I don't think I can consider quite close to a Cy Young drive either, which I think would be the only reason to work Felix pretty hard, but he's got multiple years left on his deal, and this year is only so important. To give you an idea of just how good he was in this game, this was his most efficient start in terms of pitches per inning, and his only other two-hit start was a nine-inning complete game on June 30th where he racked up 10 strikeouts.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
I actually was typing up this piece before the game ended, and I had Gutierrez in the second slot of gameballs before he got the game-winning hit. Now it's impossible to put him any lower, and you could make an argument of him as the number-one gameball, but Felix was just electric through eight innings. This was the first three-hit game for Gutierrez since May 4th. He was a .337 hitter at the end of that game. Now he's a .257 hitter. Gutierrez warming back up could go a long way toward making the rest of the Mariners' season watchable. The Mariners won six straight and eight of 12 in late June, and they haven't been watchable since. Sure, I watch them anyway, but to give it my undivided attention wouldn't be a good use of time. So, I pull it up in the MLB.tv browser and do some other stuff, and I check back every once in a while or every time Dave Niehaus or Dave Sims raises their tone of voice in some sort of excitement. It works pretty well. Anyway, Gutierrez had a great night and drove in the Mariners' only two runs of the game on the final play of the game.
3) Chone Figgins
His steal in the 11th inning was huge, and the game probably would have gone another 20 minutes had he not stolen second base and the inning ended in a tie. He was also caught stealing earlier in the game, but he has now stolen 25 bases in 31 chances. He had two hits in the game and walked. He's only a .230 hitter, but maybe there's some more potential for him to look more like himself before the end of the season. Maybe Ichiro will see better pitches in front of Figgins if Figgins is hitting well? Well, it wouldn't really matter because Ichiro will swing and make contact with a lot of locations. Anyway, Figgins is running when he gets aboard. Could you imagine if he was a .250 or .260 hitter right now? He might have a handful or so more stolen bases on the season. Anyway, for as good as he's been on the basepaths this year, I wish he was a bit more defensively sound, but I'm not sure how much anyone can ask for on a team this bad. I'd have to think that all of the suck is pretty contagious.
The Mariners' money man, All-Star, leadoff hitter, and rightfielder went 0-for-4 on the game. This leaves him at 123-for-391 (.314) on the season. He is on pace to finish the season with 210 hits. This was his second hitless game in his last four games. He opened the Yankee series with dual two-hit games, but since then has gone 6-for-35 (.171) over a span of nine games, bookending the All-Star break. His only extra-base hit was the three-run double in Anaheim in the first game after the break. Those nine games have sunk Ichiro's batting average from .328 to .314. I keep on hoping he'll warm up, but it just doesn't seem to be happening. I don't know what it's going to take to get Ichiro's bat going again. I just know when it does, it'll be fun for at least one hitter out of every nine hitters the Mariners send to the plate. Hopefully we don't have to wait until 2011 to see something like this. Maybe that free Ichiro shirt I got at the KOMO News 4 booth at FanFest is actually bad luck. Mary Nam, however, can bring nothing but good luck.
Lackey. Rowland-Smith. [going on as I type this].