Saturday, April 10, 2010
This was one of those games where you wonder why you're even watching, but in the end, you got rewarded. I know after Nelson Cruz homered off of Felix Hernandez in the sixth to make it 3-1, I wasn't feeling too good about the game. Worse yet, the Mariners had two on and one out in the seventh, only to have Chone Figgins strike out on three pitches and Franklin Gutierrez fly out (on his otherwise massively awesome day). Thankfully, the baseball gods threw some mana the Mariners' way, paving the way for a 4-3 Mariner win and a free ticket for all Ranger fans to ride The Frank Francisco Experience. Now they'll long for the days when he threw folding chairs into the crowd.
-- The blown chances started early for the Mariner offense. The Mariners had runners on the corners in the first with one out and Jose Lopez at the plate. A wild pitch scored Chone Figgins and moved Gutierrez to second. Lopez singled to left, Mike Brumley didn't throw up the stop sign at third, and it had all the makings of a bad play once you saw Josh Hamilton come up with the ball in left. Gutierrez was gunned down at the plate, though the play turned out a lot closer than I thought it would. Instead of first and third with one out, it was a runner on second with two out. In a way, it was probably all a wash since Milton Bradley was on deck. In the second inning, a Rob Johnson double pushed Mike Sweeney to third with one out. As great as it is to have those two guys get aboard, it isn't exactly opportune to have Jack Wilson be the guy on deck. Unfortunately, he was that guy, and he flew out. Ichiro tapped back to the pitcher to end the inning. Wilson singled with two out in the fourth, and eight straight Mariners were retired until Wilson's turn came up and he again singled. Ichiro singled as well before Figgins and Gutierrez did their thing (opening paragraph).
-- For as high as we hold the Mariners' defensive play, there have been some weird plays here and there that end up hurting them. There was the fly ball at the wall in Oakland that Milton Bradley couldn't corral, though I'll cut some slack because there are fielders that probably don't manage to get all the way to the wall, and that wasn't the easiest play. In that same series, shortstop defensive whiz Jack Wilson booted a key double-play ball. Also, there was the play where Casey Kotchman blocked the ball and couldn't find it. Today, Chone Figgins threw wide of the plate with runners at second and third, plating both runners to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. While I'm not sure a clean throw would have had the lead runner, it would have kept the other runner on third and preserved a tie. I'll have to admit the Mariners did catch a break when the first-base umpire called the neighborhood play when Kotchman's foot was definitely not tagging the bag on a play at first.
-- Felix threw a ball in the dirt in the first inning, and Josh Hamilton moved from first to second. While ultimately the play was inconsequential, I can't help but think that having Rob Johnson back there failing to block balls is going to hurt the Mariners more times than it should this year. If Johnson could block balls have a good as Dan Wilson did, I'd feel better with him out there. For now, the only reason I can see for Johnson to be playing is to be calling games for Felix and that's it. Frankly, I wish he could throw Adam Moore the signs from the dugout and Moore could catch Felix, but then that would make Johnson a waste of a roster spot.
-- The Mariners exploded for 12 hits on the day, one of them for extra bases (double by Johnson). This pushes the team to 44 hits in six games, and average of 7.3 hits a game. Four more runs brings the team total to 19, an average of 3.2 runs per game. This was only the second game this season where Ichiro and Figgins scored in the same game. The other game was on Opening Night, and both were wins. I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say the Mariners will win a lot of games this year if both Ichiro and Figgins are scoring runs. Also from the offense: 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position? Preposterous! Three of those hits were strung together in the ninth inning to vault the Mariners into the lead. One very helpful contributor: Ken Griffey Jr. and his pinch-hit single to tie the game in the ninth. I thought Don Wakamatsu's decision to pull Chone Figgins and send Griffey to the plate was a curious one, just like I thought it was curious when Griffey apparently was in the on-deck circle for Wilson until Johnson got aboard with the walk.
-- Mark Lowe walked two hitters in the eighth, but didn't give up any hits. David Aardsma got the whiff from David Murphy, got the very long fly ball to centerfield off the bat of Elvis Andrus (big hand to Gutierrez), and grinded out a nine-pitch strikeout from Julio Borbon.
-- I'll mention Jack Wilson here because I don't have him in the gameballs. He was 2-for-3, proving himself to not be completely worthless at the plate. Though we always hype up how Ichiro and Figgins set the table for everyone else, the fact that Wilson hits right before Ichiro every time the lineup turns over is something that flies under the radar. We already know how well Ichiro hits, but if anyone's on when Ichiro's up, that's pure gravy. Wilson didn't score, but he did bunt the two runners over in the ninth before the mini-hit parade started.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
He was 3-for-5 with an RBI in this game. Probably the only negative thing I remember him doing was getting tagged out trying to score on a single to left, but I'll put that on third-base coach Mike Brumley for sending him. In addition to the three hits, Gutierrez ran a very long way to rob Andrus of at least a double in the ninth inning. Gutierrez is 10-for-23 on the season with two doubles and two RBIs on the season. After Friday's game, he had seven of the Mariners' 32 hits on the season, and now he has 10 of the Mariners' 44 hits of the season. I'm just enthused that pinballing back and forth from third to seventh in the lineup doesn't seem to be bothering Gutierrez at all at the plate.
2) Felix Hernandez
This guy should be 2-0 right now. How many times are we going to have to watch an inept offense cost Felix a win this year? If there's any solace, it can be taken in the fact that he didn't end up having to take a loss in this game. Solace can also be taken in the fact that he didn't come out of the game injured in the first inning. Who out there wasn't freaked out when they saw Felix landing funny and saw Rick Griffin coming out to the mound to see if he was fine? Felix threw 110 pitches (74 strikes) in his seven innings of work. He walked one and struck out five, which is a lot nicer in terms of walk-to-strikeout ratio than his first outing. More importantly, Felix gave most of the bullpen some rest. Going into Sunday's game, Shawn Kelley and Sean White will have had a day of rest, Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira will have had two days of rest, and Brandon League will have had three days of rest. Lowe and Aardsma threw 20 pitches each, which probably doesn't preclude them from throwing in Sunday's game if need be. I'll again suggest that Felix was partially undone by Figgins' error.
It may have happened semi-quietly, but Ichiro has put together back-to-back multi-hit games. He is now 7-for-24 (.292) on the season with a double and an RBI. This amount of hits still only puts him on pace for 189 hits. Again, we're still only six games into the season. Still, Ichiro started the string of three straight clutch hits in the ninth that enabled the Mariners to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Going back to what I said yesterday, I guess you could say some of the Mariners' best players were their best players. Ichiro and Felix did their part, and depending on your expectations of him, you can put Gutierrez in that group as well. I'm still expecting more from Figgins, Bradley, and Kotchman.
I actually had a bit of hope after the first game of the season. Bradley went 0-for-2 but drew two walks and saw 30 pitches. That's a key to getting into the opposing bullpen. Surely there was something there with which to work. Through six games, he's 1-for-21 (.048) with four walks and nine strikeouts. The one hit was a home run, but .048 is what it is, and it's bad. After Bradley got into it with the fans in leftfield on Friday night, Wakamatsu put him right back out there. Frankly, I think the guy needs to ride pine for at least a game. Hitting .048 does not help a team win, and though I admire how much he wants to win, he's got a funny way of showing it so far in terms of results. All in all, he led the early parade of Mariners making Matt Harrison look like Walter Johnson out there. At least the Mariners ramped up Harrison's pitch count and eventually pushed him out of the game.
Snell. Feldman. Tomorrow.
Friday, April 09, 2010
The only way that one turn through the Mariners' rotation could turn out worse would be if Felix Hernandez lost and the rest of the rotation lost as well. A losing streak of five games would be worse. That said, Felix could lose on a Saturday afternoon, and there you go, that'd be a five-game losing streak. What shouldn't be a mystery to anyone is that if your team doesn't hit and doesn't get good pitching, you're just about guaranteed to lose, and so the Mariners did in a 6-1 loss in Arlington at the hands of the Rangers. It's just amazing. Other than Felix, no aspect of this club is picking up the slack for any other aspect of the club. Everything is pretty much sucking all at once.
-- I seem to have to do it every year, but once again I will rail against the distant, waaay-overhead dead-center cam that they've apparently decided to use in Texas this season. It's awful. Nothing's changed. Why the hell would you change something that wasn't broken? What the hell was wrong with the old camera angle? When ESPN did the Dead Center camera thing to prelude the K-Zone thing, I hated it then, and I hate it even more now. If the Mariners decided to go with that camera angle at Safeco Field, I would just listen to the radio for the home games. I seriously would. I hate the camera angle that much.
-- Since this game signified the day before Felix Hernandez throws, it's the day the Mariners can afford the most suckiness by the starting pitcher. Still, the Mariners wouldn't have complained with a starting pitcher going deep into the game after what they'd seen the two prior days (three if you want to bust Ian Snell for not getting into the seventh). By simply going through five innings with respectable results, Jason Vargas had succeeded in his start where Ryan Rowland-Smith and Doug Fister had not. Turns out, however, that both Vargas and Don Wakamatsu were operating on borrowed time because the wheels started to fall off the wagon, though not necessarily with Vargas himself. Before the sixth, the only real blemish on Vargas' outing was the Nelson Cruz solo shot, but since that's what Cruz does against the Mariners, no one batted an eyelash. Vargas allowed a one-out walk to Josh Hamilton before Vlad Guerrero doubled to drive in Hamilton and Cruz singled to plate Vlad and make it 3-1. I can't fault Vargas for what happened with his last hitter. Chris Davis hit a hard ground ball that Casey Kotchman very successfully stopped, but he didn't know where it was, and Davis reached safely, spelling the end of Vargas' outing. The Mariners were only down 3-1 when Vargas was pulled.
-- Then Shawn Kelley came in and lit Vargas' ERA ablaze, allowing dual two-out singles to score both of Vargas' runners. If Kelley holds the game to a 3-1 score at that point, the Mariners still have a fighting chance. Once it was 5-1, though, the Mariners were done like dinner.
-- Seriously, do you realize the Mariners just went into one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the Majors, and they only eked out two runs? At least it was on a home run, I guess. Congrats to Casey Kotchman for that. Big congrats to him as well for bouncing into a double play for the second straight game. Thank goodness for the home run, or else he'd just have the double-play groundout and the mishandled ground ball on his ledger for this game. Oh, and I'm pretty sure he blew a hit-and-run on a 2-0 count when Ichiro was gunned down trying to steal second. Kotchman looked like he half-offered at the ball but couldn't get himself to swing at it. It was a 1-1 tie at that point.
-- When one of the announcing crew's go-to stats this season for the Mariners is the innings-without-consecutive-hits stat, you know the offense has been bad. Similarly, Ichiro and Chone Figgins have only recorded hits in the same game once in these first five games (the Snell start). Tonight, Ichiro went 2-for-4 while Figgins went hitless (but with two walks). This team is not in sync, they're not clicking on all cylinders, they're (insert lack-of-synergy cliche here). They're also 6-for-30 with runners in scoring position.
-- The Mariner offense tallied six more hits, giving them a grand total of 32 on the season. They are averaging 6.4 hits per game. The two runs in this game bump the total to 15 runs, good for three runs per game. Yes, that's three runs and 6.4 hits every game for the offense. Sounds like conditions only in which Felix could possibly win. Hey, guess what's happened after one turn through the rotation?
-- The average line of a Mariner starting pitcher thus far: 5 1/3 innings, 3 runs (2.8 earned), 5.6 hits, 2.6 walks, 3.2 strikeouts. The problem, of course, is that the average Mariner starting pitcher is throwing 96.4 pitches in those 5 1/3 innings. The starting pitcher also gets an average of 7.4 groundouts and 4.6 flyouts, though the groundball number is heavily skewed by Felix and his 16:0 ratio for groundballs on Opening Night.
He is 5-for-19 through five games with a double and three walks. As we know, five hits through five games means 162 hits through 162 games. Unfortunately, this would mean something less than 200 hits for Ichiro, which would break the streak. Of course, it's still only been five games. Another sign of awful anemic offense: Ichiro has crossed the plate only twice in five games, and likewise with Chone Figgins.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
He was 1-for-4, made a diving catch, and made a running catch. Not that a running catch for Gutierrez is news or anything. Gutierrez is 7-for-18 with two doubles and an RBI on the season. The .389 batting average leads all Mariner regulars. Actually, put it this way -- Gutierrez has seven of the Mariners' 32 hits this season.
3) Casey Kotchman
Though I spent a couple sentences bashing him above, Kotchman nonetheless hit the Mariners' third home run of the season to cap the Mariners' scoring in this game. He drove in the only other Mariner run as well, doing so via groundout.
I guess what makes this kinda hurt is I saw Carlos Silva had a not-too-bad outing for the Cubs tonight while Bradley has one hit through five games. Bradley's not the only Mariner popping fly balls straight into the air that have no chance of falling for hits, but it can sorta stop anytime now. It's gotten past old.
Hernandez. Harrison. Tomorrow.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
And so it goes, as the Mariners lose the getaway day game by a score of 6-2 in Oakland, leaving them with a 1-3 record going into the weekend at Arlington. I'm not sure how much about this series is really surprising. We knew they'd have trouble scoring runs, and we knew they'd be screwed if they didn't get good starting pitching. Felix Hernandez did his job, Ian Snell did okay, but Ryan Rowland-Smith and Doug Fister didn't hold up their end of the bargain, the bullpen got overworked, and Ryan Langerhans got designated for assignment to get help in the form of Jesus Colome. I guess the way to come out of this series is basically to know that the hitting's not this bad, and the pitching isn't this bad, even without Cliff Lee. The hitting as the Mariners have it constructed might not be awesome over the course of this season, but it can't be as bad as it was in this opening series. Even in the next month, at some point it'll stop being Felix and pray for rain.
Some of this is boxscore, some of this is from the replay, since it was a day game...
-- the first lesson of the day is that you can't scoop up a baseball using your catcher's mask, lest it be called a ground-rule double. The sad thing is, the play was pretty much over and done when Moore tried scooping up the ball with his mask.
-- The Mariner offense is in enough of a hitting funk that Chone Figgins hit himself aboard twice and scored zero times. In fact, the Mariners had seven hits in the game, and three of them came in the ninth inning. In other words, they trailed 6-0 and had amassed four hits going into the top of the ninth.
-- Considering the Mariners' offensive woes in the game, it's almost hard to pick any hitting stars for the day. Franklin Gutierrez had the only extra-base hit of the game, which is fine and dandy, but that came in the ninth inning. If nothing else, he can be credited with starting the ruckus in the ninth. Matt Tuiasosopo went 2-for-4 and drove in a run, but that run scored in the ninth. His other hit obviously came earlier in the game, as did his two strikeouts.
-- As a team, the Mariners collected six, five, eight, and seven hits in the four games of the series for a total of 26 hits. How many teams in the Majors can win games when their offense generates 6.5 hits per night? Unless every one of those hits is a home run, it's not really a recipe for success. If we're going to place any emphasis on Ichiro and Chone Figgins at the top of the lineup to set the table, Figgins got two hits and did his job today (aside from getting gunned down going to second on a fly ball to right), but Ichiro was an 0-for-4. Speaking of tablesetting, is putting a lefthander on the mound all the opposition will have to do to stop Ichiro and Figgins from running wild on the basepaths? I know it'd curtail it a little bit, but surely they could still bait the pitchers into doing stupid stuff.
-- Now for the real crux of the matter: starting pitching. Doug Fister wasn't exactly the strike-throwing machine to whom we were introduced last year. He went to full counts on each of the first three Oakland hitters on the day, and that set the tone for the rest of the start. I don't want to see any more Mariners this season needing 96 pitches to get through four innings. That's patently absurd. Luckily for the Mariners, and unfortunately for Ryan Langerhans, this is right where Jesus Colome fit into the game and threw three innings after Fister left the game. Colome ate up three innings and wasn't total garbage, giving everyone in the bullpen not named Kanekoa Texeira a day of much-needed rest.
-- Felix ate up 6 2/3 innings in his start on Opening Night and could have gone further if not for six walks. Ian Snell threw six innings the next night in his start, which to me is more toward the ceiling of what he can do in an average start, but worse yet, that game went to extra innings. Ryan Rowland-Smith struggled through five innings in his start. Finally, Fister threw four innings in today's start. Put it all together, and the bullpen threw a total of 13 1/3 innings in the series, or an average of about 3 1/3 innings per game. That's murder on a bullpen, and that of course means the rotation is averaging 5 1/3 innings per start. Substandard, to say the least.
-- Though Adam Moore scooping up the baseball in the eighth inning surely wouldn't have happened if he knew it'd cost a ground-rule double, that set the stage for Kanekoa Texeira to be in a less-than-desirable inning. With Scoopgate, Texeira is tagged in the boxscore as having given up a double, which will more than likely be the only 45-foot double he'll ever yield. Though this is the second time I'm referring to this incident, I must point out that I knew about the rule in the rulebook that says you can't throw your glove at a live ball, but I didn't know using a catcher's mask was covered by a rule as well, and I'm guessing it's part of the same rule.
-- Not that a power outage by the Mariners is surprising, but they have a mere two homers through four games. Those homers were hit by Rob Johnson (inexplicably) and Milton Bradley (he killed that ball). The Mariners also hit four doubles in the series. The Mariners racked up 130 at-bats in the series. They racked up 26 hits for a team batting average of .200, and they hit those two homers and four doubles for a slugging mark of .277 (36 total bases), and all of this sucks.
Maybe now I'll bring back some of the standbys...
Ichiro has three hits (3-for-15, all singles) and three walks through four games. This leaves him on pace for an awful 122 hits (I'll round up from 121.5), and if that happens, say hello to a 100-loss season. Needless to say, it's only been four games. He'll warm up.
1) Matt Tuiasosopo
Though he struck out twice, he went 2-for-4 and drove in the second Mariner run in the ninth inning. Sure, the RBI came in garbage time, but I'll put him here because it's anyone's guess when Tuiasosopo will get another multi-hit game. It could be a while.
2) Jesus Colome
He took jersey number 37, worn by such Mariner greats as Norm Charlton, Russ Swan, and Clint Nageotte. Nageotte, if you remember, was a guy from Cajun country who was quite the profuse sweater. I remember an appearance he had where he had sweat through the bill of his cap and the brim of his cap was dripping in front of his face as he looked in for the sign. Dude had to changed undershirts between innings. Anyway, Colome wasn't stellar in this game, giving up two runs on three hits in three innings, striking out four. That said, the bullpen was in dire need of reinforcements, and Fister struggled, so it was quick duty for Colome. It's a shame one bad turn through the rotation cost Ryan Langerhans a roster spot, and surely the non-Felix guys in the rotation can't help but feel they might have had a part in it. I guess the thought of an 11-man staff was nice for a while, but that seems like something you could get away with when you have a healthy Cliff Lee and possibly a healthy Erik Bedard. If you have at least three of these guys getting into the seventh in any turn through the rotation, then you could get away with a six-man bullpen. With Felix and young'uns, though, it was a bit of a hare-brained idea.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
His boxscore line says he's hitting .429 through four games. He went 1-for-4 in the first game, 2-for-3 in the second, 2-for-4 in the third, and 1-for-3 in this game. Put it all together, and you get a 6-for-14 (with two doubles for a .571 slugging mark) start to the season for the Mariners' centerfielder. I thought the lineup shuffling might hurt his production and I thought hitting him third might put a ton of pressure on him, but after four games, he seems to be taking to it fairly well. He hit seventh in the first and third games of the series, and he hit third in the second and fourth games. The cruel surprise is that he has the highest batting average out of all the Mariner regular starters. I'm all for Gutierrez doing awesome and everything, but if he's consistently their best offensive player, that's probably not a good thing. Here's a term I usually hear used in hockey, but there's an adage that says your best players have to be your best players. If the starting pitching and the top of your lineup are supposed to be strengths and neither of them really get much done, there may be a couple times over a 162-game season where you can get away with it, but you can't butter your bread that way.
I wonder when Don Wakamatsu got to the tipping point when it came to getting another reliever on this roster. Maybe it was 70 pitches into Rowland-Smith's outing on Wednesday night, or maybe it was when he realized he couldn't put much faith in Doug Fister or Jason Vargas eating up a decent amount of innings. Unless he dumped Langerhans for Colome, he was going to have some tired arms over a two-day span before Felix would have to ride in on a white horse and save the day with a complete game or something (a lot to ask in the second start of the season). Still, Felix won't go 37-0 and he's not perfect, so what happens if you keep that 11-man staff, stay afloat through two days, and Felix has an off night? I'm writing myself into a corner here only to say that there will be better turns through the rotation this season. On the other hand, I'm sure glad they won on Opening Night, because I remember how 2004 started.
Vargas. Lewis. Tomorrow.
I guess no one can complain about the Mariners not being in any close games. This is three straight games where a team's final at-bat plated the game-winning run. Needless to say, that was just fine on Opening Night, but not so cool getting the wrong end of it for the next two games.
-- The whole 1-2 top-of-the-lineup thing wasn't overly impressive in this game. Ichiro went 1-for-4 and walked, but Chone Figgins' only offensive contribution on the night was a sufficiently deep fly ball that gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead in the fourth. Okay, so I shouldn't just pooh-pooh Figgins driving in a go-ahead run, but that still doesn't erase the fact that Ichiro got aboard twice, and Figgins went hitless. I guess my point is this -- if we're trusting Ichiro and Figgins to be the ones setting the table, they weren't doing much of it in this game.
-- Jose Lopez and Franklin Gutierrez hit sixth and seventh in the lineup and combined to go 5-for-8, scoring twice and driving in a run. Too bad Ken Griffey Jr. went 0-for-4 (two strikeouts) in front of Lopez.
-- Other than Griffey, the most fruitless night for a Mariner hitter goes to Rob Johnson, who went 0-for-3 and struck out thrice (hat trick). He wasn't only bad there, he also allowed a passed ball to move runners to second and third with two out in a 5-5 game in the eighth. I've said I'm fine with Johnson if he hits .245 and blocks a ball every once in a while. If he's batting .100 and doing the passed-ball thing, give me Adam Moore.
-- Speaking of Moore, he came into the game defensively after Ryan Langerhans pinch-hit for the 0-for-3 Johnson and took a pretty good jolt back there, which I think was with Kurt Suzuki's bat on a follow-through or something. Maybe it's better if that bat hits a healthy Moore than a Johnson who is coming off two hip surgeries.
-- Ryan Rowland-Smith was far from efficient with his pitches on this night, which is too bad because he and Felix Hernandez are currently the only two pitchers in this rotation that can be trusted to eat innings. Hernandez at this time of the year I think could steadily get you into the seventh inning or finish it off and maybe get into the eighth. Rowland-Smith, especially with Cliff Lee gone, is someone who I think the Mariners need to get into the seventh at least half the time and possibly finish it off. Ian Snell and Jason Vargas to me are guys that can get you into the sixth when they're solid, and Doug Fister has shown signs of being friendly toward the seventh inning and beyond. Anyway, it lies upon the shoulders of Rowland-Smith and Hernandez to eat their share of innings because the other three-fifths of the starting rotation just can't be trusted anywhere near as much to be eating a bunch of innings.
-- ...and just why do the starters like Rowland-Smith to eat those innings? It's not just for the following couple days' following Rowland-Smith's starts. It's also so the bullpen doesn't get overworked. In the past two games, the bullpen has gone a combined seven innings while giving up three runs on 12 hits, walking two and striking out four. Again, that's 12 hits over seven innings. Obviously, that's more than a hit per inning. It's nice to strand the one guy per inning who's getting the hit, but throw in another walk and you've got yourself some kind of situation a-brewin'. To boil down the last couple nights even further, Kanekoa Texeira gave up five hits in the second game of the series, Mark Lowe gave up two hits last night, and Brandon League was roughed up for four hits in his 1 2/3 innings last night. League hasn't dazzled me so far, and I'm still waiting to see that number-one most-swung-at-and-missed pitch in the Majors last year to appear this year, because I don't think I've seen it work yet.
-- Jack Wilson got an actual hit! And it was a relevant hit!!! Wilson drove in Gutierrez from second base to tie the game up at 3-3 in the fifth, and also made a near-Web Gem play on a ball up the middle.
-- I wonder if Milton Bradley keeps a tally going of sports on-air personalities who say "connect four" over his highlights in the hopes of one day punching everyone on said list in the face.
Gameballs (retroactive, 4.8.2010)
1) Jose Lopez
2) Franklin Gutierrez
3) Milton Bradley
I just realized I've gone three games into the season without picking three gameballs and a goat. Tonight I might go back and do that. Fister and Anderson throw today.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
I won't try and pretend I wasn't half-watching this game and half-watching the Canuck telecast on the other channel, but I'll still crank something out here relating to the Mariners' 2-1 loss in 10 innings at Oakland. It's a bit of taking what I saw off the telecast and mixing it with some boxscore surprise.
-- It took until the second game of the season for a "Beltre has that" moment. Jose Lopez charged and cleanly fielded a ball to the left side in the bottom of the fourth, but the throw to first didn't beat Mark Ellis. I'd have to think hard to decide whether going from Mike Cameron to Randy Winn in centerfield was a bigger dropoff than going from Adrian Beltre to Lopez at third.
-- For all those years we watched Jamie Moyer befuddle hitters with slow stuff and changeups, the Mariners and their fans got it right back in their faces in the form of Dallas Braden, who had the changeup going all night. He struck out 10 Mariners in seven innings on 91 pitches, and he only walked one. Mariner hitting as a whole only saw 126 pitches, 41 less than the night before. Braden threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 25 hitters he faced, and I'm guessing the Mariners started swinging early in counts once it became apparent that he'd be throwing a bunch of strikes.
-- I've got a bit of a problem with how Don Wakamatsu put together this starting rotation. Felix Hernandez throws first, obviously. It just seems to me that the next guy should be the next best innings-eater. Thus, until Cliff Lee gets himself healthy, I think Ryan Rowland-Smith should be throwing the day after Felix. Why? To me, when Felix comes around in the rotation, that's the day the bullpen gets a bunch of rest. You need the bullpen the most for the fourth and fifth starters. In other words, I'd rather have Ian Snell throwing the day before Felix because he may not have a start this good for another month. My rotation right now would be Felix, Rowland-Smith, Fister, Vargas, and Snell. Hey, it has no back-to-back lefties, so it can't be all that hare-brained, right?
-- Coming out of spring training, Snell was the starting pitcher about whom I felt the least secure. I didn't know he could throw a 94mph fastball, so I learned that in this game. The only truly sketchy innings he had in his six-inning start were the first and the fourth. He hit Kevin Kouzmanoff with a runner on and two out in the first, then created a bases-loaded jam shortly after giving up the solo homer to Kurt Suzuki. He threw 100 pitches in his six innings. I'd take this start every time out from Snell, but I know this is pretty above average compared to what I think he's going to do for the rest of the season, which drifts more around five-plus innings with about three walks and four or five runs per start. Again, I think this is the guy you throw fifth to cash the bullpen so they can rest the next day when Felix throws.
-- Seriously, the Mariners might as well have been hitting a knuckleballer tonight. They had five hits for the game, four of them off Braden. The Mariners have combined for a mere 11 hits in their first two games. Of course, they walked eight times on Opening Night and only twice in this game, so that's a big difference.
-- Franklin Gutierrez went 2-for-3 with a walk and a double in his first appearance as the Mariners' number-three hitter in the lineup. I really liked his play last year and can't help but think he'll regress just a tiny bit, but I'm rooting for him to hit .300 and slug 20 homers. I was hoping he'd reach 20 last year, but he couldn't get past 18.
-- The sixth through ninth hitters in the Mariner lineup (Casey Kotchman/Eric Byrnes/Adam Moore/Jack Wilson) combined for a night of 0-for-16 madness with five strikeouts. Oddly, Byrnes saw 21 pitches in his plate appearances to go 0-for-4, whereas Moore saw only eight pitches to get his 0-for-4.
-- Am I really going to have to deal with a whole season of in-game cut-ins back to the FSN studio to Angie Mentink and/or Bill Krueger? It seems a little too intrusive and a little too contrived.
-- Also noticed that on HD feed (at least on Opening Night), FSN had a permanent tracer in the extreme lower right-hand corner of the screen. I'll not that I have multiple friends that think the tracer is full of crap and should be retired effective immediately.
-- In his Major League debut, Kanekoa Texeira gave us the cardiac testing we didn't necessarily need. He got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth, then allowed three singles in the ninth to end the game. He got five outs and gave up five hits.
Gameballs (retroactive, 4.8.2010)
1) Franklin Gutierrez
2) Ian Snell
3) Mark Lowe
Yeah, I don't really have any structure for these yet. Tonight, the epic battle between Rowland-Smith and Duchscherer.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to crank out game posts this year. Obviously after just one night, there's only so far I can go with, say, an Ichiro hit pace calculation. I think I'll first throw out some bullet-point immediate thoughts on the Mariners’ 1-0 win on Opening Night 2010 in Oakland...
-- Milton Bradley broke a bat in frustration after a strikeout, so he's in midseason form.
-- Since there isn't a lot of power on this team at all, I don't think there are going to be a lot of days when the Mariners will be able to outscore any problems they have on the mound. The pitching staff has little room for error, and that's something to ponder considering they probably need to be about .500 when Cliff Lee is healthy and pitching again.
-- The Rajai Davis trap? That wasn't even really close. I don't know how the second-base umpire missed that.
-- If you watch every Mariner game for the rest of the season, you might only see it one more, but it happened in this game: in the first inning, Ben Sheets faked to third base and threw to first, and it actually worked as Milton Bradley was caught stealing second on the first move. The third-to-first move hardly ever works, and it usually brings the boo birds (obviously if a visiting pitcher does it), but it works just often enough that pitchers keep it in their arsenal.
-- Jack Wilson may be the best defensive shortstop in baseball according to The Fielding Bible, but that didn't help him when he had a double-play ball go off his glove. Odd thing is that the next play was a double-play ball, and Jose Lopez (with whom I'm a lot less comfortable when it comes to defense) started it from third base. Shortly after, Wilson cleanly fielded the grounder that ended the eighth.
-- In the both the first and third innings, Chone Figgins walked and stole second, which drew throws from Kurt Suzuki that went into centerfield, enabling Figgins to take third each time. Figgins scored in the first for the Mariners' 1-0 run, and again in the third for the 3-0 run.
-- If Felix Hernandez walks two hitters in a start, I will immediately say he wasn't sharp. He issued his second walk of the game to the leadoff hitter in the fourth (Daric Barton). He got a double-play ball in that inning and still had faced only one hitter over the minimum through four innings. A two-out walk to Mark Ellis was the third of the night for Felix, but after five innings, he had still only faced two hitters over the minimum. Oakland's first ball out of the infield was Cliff Pennington's laced single to rightfield. Then Felix walked another hitter later in the inning and ended up giving up a run. In the seventh, Felix walked the final two hitters he faced. A pitch count of 101 over 6 2/3 innings isn't bad at all, but I'm used to seeing Felix throw a lot more than 58 strikes with 101 pitches. Six walks to four strikeouts is an ugly ratio for him. Usually it takes him three or four starts to walk six hitters.
-- Should I put the blame on Sean White or should I blame Don Wakamatsu for putting in Sean White? With two on and two out in the seventh, I would have preferred anyone who wasn't David Aardsma or Sean White. I would have liked Kanekoa Texeira or Shawn Kelley in this situation rather than Sean White coming off the injury from last year. End result is a tie game and Felix getting screwed out of a win (as much as a pitcher who walked six guys can get screwed out of a win). Proponents of the "relief ace" surely would have deployed said ace in White's exact situation.
-- Did Casey Kotchman have some kind of night or what? He drove in four of the Mariners' five runs and was hitting the ball pretty hard.
-- The linescore looks disappointing since the Mariners only tallied six hits. A deeper look into the boxscore reveals they walked eight times (one intentional). More walks than hits. This might be a lot for one night, but I think we know this team will take a walk. Milton Bradley was 0-for-3, but walked twice and saw a total of 30 pitches in his night at the plate.
-- Rob Johnson smoked a home run, but that's gravy to me. If he hits .250, can block a ball once in a while, and is behind the plate for every Felix start, I'm fine with it. Johnson scored twice (one obviously being the homer) and walked twice on the night.
...and Ichiro's only on pace for 162 hits. A pity, really, that he isn't on pace for a tenth straight season of 200 or more hits.
I'll be flipping between the Canucks broadcast tonight in concurrence with the second game of this Mariner series, though when the Stanley Cup playoffs come around, I'll be watching the Canucks live and the Mariners on replay if there's a conflict. If Ian Snell gets lit up in the game (the chance is definitely greater than zero), I'll probably just watch the hockey game even though it has no bearing on Vancouver's seeding.
Gameballs (retroactive, 4.8.2010)
1) Rob Johnson
2) Casey Kotchman
3) David Aardsma
Snell. Braden. Tonight. Ouch.