Sunday, July 25, 2010
For the third straight day, the Mariner offense appeared to like not doing much, and after 7 1/2 innings of play, they found themselves behind 2-1 and having pounded out all of five hits. Doug Fister was decent, though definitely not the most efficient we've seen him this season, and the bullpen up to that point had held it close. Then the bottom of the eighth inning came, craziness ensued, and the only Mariner hitters that managed to torpedo the inning were Ichiro and Chone Figgins. Go figure. Anyway, the Mariners somehow came out of this four-game series with a split against the Red Sox. Granted, the Red Sox are far from healthy, but the Mariners will take it. These series were a lot more meaningful when, say, Rafael Soriano was mowing down Nomar Garciaparra in the ninth inning, but that was then, and this unfortunately is now.
-- Doug Fister started the game and while he wasn't awful, he's definitely not the Doug Fister of earlier this year who was efficient went deep into games, and was a groundball machine. In this game, he gave up seven hits and two runs in five innings, walking one and striking out three. A start of four groundouts and eight flyouts isn't very Fisterian. In the second, he got a double-play ball from Adrian Beltre even though Kevin Youkilis had taken off from first with the pitch. In the fourth, Fister surrendered the Mariners' 1-0 lead. JD Drew led off with a single, then went to second when David Ortiz walked. Youkilis then rang a double to score Drew and move Ortiz to third, tying the game at 1-1. Beltre then singled on the first pitch, scoring Ortiz and moving Youkilis to third as the Red Sox led 2-1. Fister, in deep trouble, managed to get the next three hitters out to avert further damage (including a leaping snare of a line drive by Jack Wilson to end the inning). In the fifth, he got out of a mini-jam caused by two infield singles (one a broken-bat dribbler away from the Ortiz shift), both with two out. Before Fister went on the disabled list, his average start was 7 innings, 2 runs (1.9 earned), 5.7 hits, 1 walk, 3.2 strikeouts, 100 pitches (65 strikes), 10.5 groundouts, 7 flyouts, and 14.4 pitches per inning. After injury, he averages 5 1/3 innings, 3.5 runs (all earned), 7.2 hits, 1.5 walks, 3 strikeouts, 94 pitches (61 strikes), 6.2 groundouts, 6 flyouts, and 17.9 pitches per inning.
-- the first guy out of the bullpen was Chris Seddon, who is in the gameballs. Brandon League came into the game with two out in the eighth inning of a game with the Mariners down 2-1. It took him 12 pitches, but Youkilis finally whiffed, ending the inning as well as League's outing since crazy stuff happened in the eighth. David Aardsma came on to protect a newfound 4-2 lead in the ninth. He got a popout, groundout, and strikeout from Beltre, Jeremy Hermida, and Mike Cameron to end the game. It was a rare 1-2-3 inning for Aardsma, and one without adventure, no less.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Seddon, League, and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Monday night's game, Jamey Wright and Garrett Olson will have a day of rest, and Brian Sweeney will have three days of rest.
-- as for the offense...how about the bad stuff first. In the first inning, Figgins walked with one out. He then moved to second on a wild pitch and stole third during the course of the Franklin Gutierrez at-bat. Yes, the Mariners had a runner on third with one out. Gutierrez then whiffed and Lopez predictably swung at the first pitch and popped out to Youkilis in foul ground, mere minutes after he muffed a foul pop earlier in the inning. In the second, Casey Kotchman singled with one out and went to second on a Michael Saunders walk. Rob Johnson then grounded to Beltre, who stepped on the bag at third. Jack Wilson then whiffed to end the inning. In the fifth, Figgins led off with a walk before being erased on a fielder's choice. In the sixth, Kotchman led off with a single down the leftfield line that wasn't touched by a fan this time. Karma went the other way this time as Hermida gunned a throw to second base and Kotchman was out by about eight feet.
-- now the good stuff. In the third, Figgins doubled with one out. Gutierrez walked. Jose Lopez then hit a rare clutch single, giving the Mariners an early 1-0 lead. With runners on first and third and one out, Justin Smoak was green-lit 3-0 and popped out. Kotchman walked to load the bases, but then Saunders flew out to end the inning. Maybe that actually belongs with the last bullet point. Then the crazy stuff happened in the eighth. Lopez led off with a single, chasing Danny Bard for Hideki Okajima. Smoak then singled. Kotchman bunted along the left side, where Okajima picked it up, looked to make sure he had no pay at second and third, then hesitated before throwing late to first. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Saunders had the game-breaking hit, scoring Lopez and Smoak to give the Mariners the 3-2 lead. Milton Bradley came in to hit for Johnson, usually a wise decision. Bradley then pulled some sort of safety squeeze, and Kotchman scored to make it 4-2. Jack then pulled the bunt back and swung (Dave Sims and Mike Blowers prefer the phrase "butcher boy"), re-loading the bases with nobody out. Then the inning was killed by the two players intended to be the best on-base guys on the team. Ichiro grounded hard to Youkilis at first, who stepped on the bag and threw home, where Saunders was tagged out. Figgins was then caught looking to end the inning.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro went hitless and scoreless, whereas Figgins scored once and had two hits. The Mariners remain 12-6 when both players score and 17-29 when both collect hits.
1) Chris Seddon
His call-up to the Majors seemed unremarkable enough, but four appearances later, it's been so far, so good for Seddon. On Saturday night, he threw a single inning against the Red Sox. His three other outings were all longer. He threw 1 2/3 innings in Anaheim on the 17th and threw three innings on the 20th, giving up one run against the White Sox in Seattle. The one run in that appearance is the only run he's given up as a Mariner. His ERA is therefore a small sample size-friendly 1.08 in 8 1/3 innings. It's a bit weird not having a semi-situational lefthander in the bullpen. They have Seddon and Olson right now, but it seems both of the guys throw an inning or so at a time. This reminds me of how the Mariner bullpen evolved last year, with all righthanders and guys just trying to get hitters out. Guys just getting hitters out has ha[[ened a lot less this season, but it is what it is. I'm liking what I've seen from Seddon so far, and I wonder if he'll be on this team next season.
2) Chone Figgins
Okay, so he didn't maximize his clutch potential in the eighth inning, when he could have put the game comfortably away. However, this was one of Figgins' better games of the year as he went 2-for-3 and walked twice, scoring a run along the way. He walked with one out in the first, took second on the wild pitch and stole third in the first inning before staying there. He doubled with one out in the third and scored the Mariners' first run of the game. He walked to lead off the fifth inning, then singled with two out in the seventh inning. Finally, he was caught looking with the bases loaded in the eighth to end the inning. Figgins is still only hitting .235 in July after a .271 June, .220 May, and .200 April. If nothing else, maybe it's fortunate that Figgins hasn't yet choked Don Wakamatsu. Talk about something that would liven up the season. Actually, I'm surprised Milton Bradley hasn't done something to liven up the season. Is a boring Bradley good for his statistics?
3) Casey Kotchman
Maybe he shouldn't have tried stretching that single into a double, but he otherwise had a good day. I hadn't looked at his game log in a while, but he's hitting .360 in July, having gone 18-for-50 with three doubles, four homers, and eight RBIs. He entered the month with a .188 batting average and has taken it all the way up to .225. It's just a reminder of how awful he was for the first three months of the season. I don't think he'll ultimately get enough at-bats to manage to push his batting average above .250. I wonder the season would have transpired if Kotchman hit .220 in July and instead had a .220 month of May instead of the .135 May he ended up having. One hit here, one hit there, and how much better would the Mariners' season have shaped itself? If he did it in that order, though, I don't think there's any way the Mariners would have traded for Russell Branyan. Then who would have gotten injured to open up this playing time for Kotchman?
The Mariners' money man, rightfielder, and leadoff hitter went 0-for-5, leaving him at 125-for-406 (.308) on the season. He is on pace to finish the season with 205 hits. He's in a pretty big drought right now. He has gone 7-for-44 (.159) since the All-Star break, dropping his batting average from .326 all the way down to .308. Like I said, he's at a 205-hit pace, and he's got to get it in gear pretty soon if he wants to keep that 200-hit pace. I don't have past seasons' game logs immediately at my disposal, but I wonder if this is an unprecedented drought for Ichiro. I mean, .240 for two weeks is a reasonable drought for Ichiro, but .159 over two weeks? That's dry as a bone. It was one thing to watch the Mariners fritter their season away despite Ichiro doing what he normally does, but when the team is bad and Ichiro's awful, well, that takes away a lot of the everyday reason to watch the Mariners. Felix Hernandez unfortunately can only throw every five days.
Hernandez. Danks. Monday night.