Saturday, April 17, 2010
It seems as the Mariners regress up to the mean in the early going, more things end up happening that remind us the 2-6 start was the result of an inopportune planetary alignment. After 10 games without scoring more than three runs in an inning, the Mariners put up a six-run fifth inning along with a three-run third and a two-run fourth. The big inning had finally come up in the Mariners' wheel of fortune. More importantly, their best players were their best players on this night as both teams wore the number 42 on their jerseys in observance of Jackie Robinson Day even though it was the 16th, but the Mariners had the 15th off. Former Sonic and journeyman basketball coach Lenny Wilkens threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Ken Griffey Jr. "The Kid" Bobblehead Night.
-- the first through fifth hitters in the lineup (starters) combined for some gaudy numbers. They went 9-for-19 with a triple and seven RBIs, scored six of the Mariners' 11 runs, walked three times, struck out once, and stole two bases. Four of the first five hitters had multi-hit games, and the lone hitless Mariner out of the five (Chone Figgins) drew three walks, two of which came off Tiger starter Jeremy Bonderman. Casey Kotchman and Rob Johnson also walked once apiece off Bonderman, helping to send his pitch count climbing. The Mariners accomplished their mission and drove Bonderman from the game in the fifth. The Mariners had sent five hitters to the plate, and on the final hitter he faced, Bonderman walked Johnson (how hard is that to do?) with the bases loaded and nobody out to expand the Mariners' lead to 7-2.
-- after Bonderman left the game, the Mariners still had the bases loaded with nobody out, and Brad Thomas came to the mound. Thomas proceeded to set Bonderman's ERA ablaze. Jack Wilson proved he isn't completely worthless and hit a sufficiently deep fly ball to score Milton Bradley from third to make it 8-2, and Kotchman even tagged and moved to third. Ichiro got his hitting shoes on and singled to make it 9-2, then Figgins walked to reload the bases with one out. Franklin Gutierrez singled over the left side of the infield to move everyone up 90 feet and make it 10-2. Finally, Jose Lopez hit a fly ball to right which made for a very close play at the plate. It looked like the throw home beat Ichiro, but somehow he got the left hand in there right before being tagged by the catcher. That made it 11-2, and this bullet point and the last are the anatomy of the Mariners' six-run fifth inning.
-- but the Mariners had already put runs on the board in the two previous innings. In the third, Ichiro singled with two out, took second with a Bonderman pickoff attempt bounced under his slide into first base, then stole third when he took off on a 3-1 pitch to Figgins that ended up being ball four. With runners on the corners and two out, Gutierrez drove a ball that bounced and reached the wall in the rightcenter gap, score both runners to draw first blood for the Mariners and make it 2-0. Since the double was hit far enough and in the right place, Gutierrez legged out the Mariners' first triple of the season. That's right. The Mariners' first triple of the season wasn't hit by Ichiro or Figgins or Griffey (ha!), it was hit by Franklin Gutierrez. I'm liking that contract extension more and more every day. As for the Mariner fourth, Kotchman led off with a walk, then Johnson proved he wasn't worthless (even after whiffing on a fastball with his catcher's mitt and having it go off his shin guard) and bunted a ball that stayed fair down the third-base line and hit the bag. Wilson then put down a nice bunt in front of the plate that would have moved the runners over 90 feet for Ichiro with one out, and in theory it would have worked if catcher Gerald Laird had not overthrown Miguel Cabrera at first base. Kotchman scored to make the Mariners lead 4-2. After an Ichiro flyout, Figgins hit a sacrifice fly to score Johnson and make it 5-2.
-- it was a Felix day, so Felix shall get some paragraphage. He couldn't quite finish seven innings. He was hitting 97mph late in the game with the fastball, and while he walked two hitters, he went to full counts on seven hitters. While full counts don't always lead to walks, they always (and mathematically) mean that the pitcher has thrown at least five pitches. Felix threw a 1-2-3 second inning, but went to full counts on all three hitters. In the seventh, he started to lose the radar and went to full counts on the first two hitters to lead off the inning. Cabrera ended up striking out, but Carlos Guillen drew a walk. Felix got Brandon Inge to fly out before Laird's double chased him and Don Wakamatsu summoned Sean White from the bullpen. Similarly with all the full counts, Felix also struck out nine Tigers, which also can lead to a rising of the pitch count, especially considering many pitchers including Felix tend to waste an 0-2 pitch to try to get the hitter to chase something out of the zone. Anyway, it was two runs on four hits for Felix Hernandez, who walked two and struck out nine over 6 2/3 innings. He threw 105 pitches (63 strikes) and got seven groundouts to two flyouts.
-- the bullpen had a huge lead with which to work, so it was a low-pressure night for them. Sean White last worked on April 12th, giving him three days of rest coming into the game. Mark Lowe had not worked since April 10th, giving him five days of rest coming into the game, but apparently he had some kind of back ailment, which would explain the lack of Lowe we've seen in the games lately. Sean White faced six hitters and got four outs, giving up two hits. Mark Lowe threw the ninth inning, giving up a run on two hits, the first of which was Guillen's leadoff double. He faced five hitters to get three outs.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: White and Lowe threw in this game. Brandon League and David Aardsma will come into Saturday's game with two days of rest, Shawn Kelley will have four days of rest, and Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira will have five days of rest. All this rest definitely wasn't the story during the first couple trips through the rotation.
-- on the Ichiro/Figgins stat, Ichiro and Figgins both scored runs in this game, marking the fourth time this season that's happened. They've both collected hits in the same game three times in the first 11 games.
-- Ichiro had his second straight 2-for-5 night, bumping him up to 12-for-46 (.261) on the season. Twelve hits through 11 games puts Ichiro on pace for a 177-hit season. This situation should eventually right itself and Ichiro should get on pace for well over 200 hits.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder was 3-for-5 with a triple and three RBIs. He's hitting .409 and slugging at a .532 clip right now and he's having a hell of a first two weeks of the season. Since's he's not going to maintain a .409 mark for the remaining 151 games, it's everyone's hope that other hitters in the lineup can pick up the slack once Gutierrez tails off a bit. Also, I think Gutierrez is due for another crazy defensive play, so that's a possibility for tonight's game. Anyway, the first Gutierrez hit was the two-run triple, the second was a one-run bases-loaded single in the fifth that made it 10-2, and the third hit was a one-out single in the seventh. Anyway, he staked Felix out to his original lead in the game, and the rest of the lineup piled onto the run total.
2) Ken Griffey Jr.
On his bobblehead night, Junior went 2-for-4. He singled with two out and Lopez on first in the third inning, and singled with Lopez on first with nobody out in the fifth inning to set up the big inning. Griffey only saw nine pitches in the game, but I won't really argue when these are the results. Sadly, his on-base percentage currently is higher than his slugging percentage (.320 to .304). Hopefully he starts driving the ball soon. His .261 batting average now looks a whole lot better than it did in the early going. Part of me hopes he can beat his home run total from last season, but the other part of me knows that it probably wouldn't be a good thing if Griffey got the playing time necessary to get to 20 homers. Still, hopefully the odd double or odd homer starts jumping off Griffey's bat soon.
3) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' third baseman went 2-for-4, driving in two runs. He singled with two out in the third to push the Mariners' lead to 3-0 and led off the Mariners' big inning (the fifth) with a single. Like with Griffey, I'm hoping Lopez finds the power stroke soon. Lopez has his on-base percentage at .319, higher than his slugging mark at .318. In fact, the Mariners have five regulars in their lineup with on-base percentages higher than their slugging percentages. Along with Griffey and Lopez, the other such Mariners are Ichiro (.306 to .283), Figgins (.396 to .351), and Wilson (.216 to .206). It's not just a lack of home-run power, it's a lack of extra-base hitting as well. In the Mariners' six-run fifth inning, they hit six singles, drew two walks, and hit two sacrifice flies (Griffey's fielder's choice ended the inning).
This was a hard night to have to pick a goat. I can't bash Mark Lowe for giving up a run in a no-pressure ninth inning. Jack Wilson was hitless, but turned a nice double play and laid down a nice bunt that ended up in a throwing error that scored the 4-2 run. So, I'll take this opportunity to rail against Rob Johnson's catching ability, or lack thereof. How often do you see a catcher, even when crossed up, whiff with his mitt on a pitch? This is just a capper on all of those times when he fails to block a ball, or he blocks a ball partially and it goes behind him or way off to the side to where he can't reach it and the runners advance. I think Johnson's going to cost this team a ballgame or two behind the plate on his shortcomings behind the plate this season, and if so, that negates his ability to call a good game. I can't help but think there's going to be a game where Felix is pitching, and one of his sinking pitches will fail to get blocked and the Mariners will drop the game because Johnson isn't one-fourth of the catcher Dan Wilson was. If he gets his batting average up to around .245 or .250, I'll cut him some slack. Until then, I'd rather see Adam Moore hitting .150 but catching everything that comes to him.
Verlander. Rowland-Smith. Tonight.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
It took ten games, but the Seattle Mariners finally have their first winning streak of the season. The theatre was a little bit different this time. In the second inning, Jason Vargas left the first pitch a bit too high to Jake Fox, and Fox absolutely demolished the pitch, sending it past the wall in front of the batter's eye in centerfield. For four innings, the Mariner offense didn't score any runs, and they were frustrating in some completely harmless innings and also frustrating when baserunning mistakes occurred. Nonetheless, this was a great team win.
-- the Mariners' hits in Tuesday's game were mostly clumped around three or four of the Mariners' hitters. In this game, everyone in the starting lineup with the exception of Eric Byrnes and Matt Tuiasosopo recorded a hit. Ichiro and Figgins both got hits and both scored in the same game, making this the third time this season where the pair recorded hits and also the third time they both scored runs in the same game. Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, and Adam Moore (with his first two hits of the year) recorded two hits apiece. Milton Bradley was the designated hitter of the night, going 1-for-4 with a couple of strikeouts, but the one hit was the bat-shattering game-tying single in the fifth that game the Mariners some life.
-- Ichiro's 2-for-5 night bumped him up to 10-for-41 (.244) on the season. While it makes him warmer than he was before the game, it still only puts him on pace for a 162-hit season. Now if we only knew when he'd hit his stride and become Vintage Ichiro... Still, we did see the type of infield single in this game that only Ichiro can get, just a ball on which he barely laid the bat and it was placed in just the right spot where none of the catcher, pitcher, or third basemen could get to it and put enough on the throw to throw out Ichiro.
-- the offense went 11-for-33 as a team, which is pretty good. They drew six walks but struck out 11 times. The strikeouts were distributed around the lineup much like the hits were. Only Moore didn't strike out. I'll add that Chone Figgins and Eric Byrnes both walked twice. All those walks take the sting out of a combined 1-for-7 between them. Figgins scored two of the Mariners' four runs.
-- the great thing about the Mariners coming back to win is that it almost enables us to erase awful baserunning mistakes by Lopez and Bradley, both of whom had two hits. Lopez led off the second with a double, then took off for third on a ground ball to the mound. He was easily hung up between second and third and eventually tagged. Later that inning with runners on first and second and two out, Moore singled into centerfield. Bradley rounded third and appeared to freeze. The ball came back into second base, and the Oakland infielders easily were able to chase down Bradley. It was an inning of hairpulling/facepalm, that's for sure.
-- the bullpen rest situation: everyone will get Thursday off. On Friday, Brandon League and David Aardsma will have had a day of rest, Shawn Kelley and Sean White will have had three days of rest, Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira will have had four days of rest, and Mark Lowe will have had five days of rest.
1) Jason Vargas
The great thing about the last two wins is that the Mariners got wins out of their fourth and fifth starters. Other than the Jake Fox smashball, the only other threat Vargas had to weather involved a Kurt Suzuki leadoff single in the fourth. Suzuki didn't reach second until the second out was recorded. I was hoping we'd see Vargas come out for the seventh and get a nice warm ovation after getting pulled (he'd thrown 89 pitches through six). However, Don Wakamatsu wanted to get some bullpen guys some work, and the Mariners had the day off tomorrow. Actually, the way the boxscore tells the story, it looks like Don Wakamatsu wanted to see if Brandon League could throw two innings more than he wanted to work the most rested guy in the bullpen, which was Mark Lowe.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
The guy keeps hitting. He went 2-for-4 with a walk and sits at .385 with three RBIs after 10 games. He still doesn't seem too pressured for being the number-three hitter in this lineup, but Wakamatsu has probably moved beyond the scope of using traditional number-three hitters in his lineup. The third slot is probably not where Wakamatsu would put his most powerful hitter, in part because the Mariners barely have any power at all. I really wonder, though, if Gutierrez would get bumped down in the against-lefties lineup if he hit .250 for a month or something.
3) Adam Moore
The Mariners' catcher-of-the-future-once-they-realize-Rob-Johnson-isn't-that-great finally got his first two hits of the season, and now he's hitting at a torrid .125 clip. Moore also gunned down Daric Barton at second base on a strike-'em-out/throw-'em-out double play. Hopefully Moore can start raking and racking up the extra-base hits. Haha. As it stands, the Mariners merely have one of the more uninspiring catching tandems in baseball.
It's too easy. He never got on base. One could argue the best way for him to get aboard right now is to bunt himself aboard, and he tried that in this game. The result? The ball bounced back up and hit him, and that's an automatic out. I hope the Mariners can get .240 out of this guy in the number nine slot of the lineup, but I'm not so sure. It used to be bad when Dan Wilson would torpedo the bottom of the lineup, and now it seems we just have another guy named Wilson who torpedoes the bottom of the lineup, and we have that in addition to whoever's catching. Sigh...
Bonderman. Hernandez. Tomorrow.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Okay, that felt great. The Mariners didn't have an offensive explosion by any means. They didn't even get to 10 hits. They did manage to get some great starting pitching, some timely hitting, and some breaks. Thank goodness for that. For the last time the Mariners won, I borrowed something usually reserved for watching football -- a record of 2-4 looked a hell of a lot better than 1-5. After this game, it still holds some water because 3-6 looks a whole lot better than 2-7. I was afraid both teams were going to go scoreless into extra innings, which would have totally spoiled how quickly the game was moving, and it was definitely zipping along. The total time ended up being 2:21.
-- the Mariners scratched out nine hits, but they weren't exactly scattered throughout the lineup. While the hitting wasn't necessarily contagious, the Mariners who were hitting were going to the well multiple times. Casey Kotchman had an infield single as his only hit, but three other Mariners had multiple hits on the night. Milton Bradley had a mother of a 2-for-4 night, and Chone Figgins and Jose Lopez both went 3-for-4.
-- as nice as the final result was, there were still seven other innings of angst thanks to the Mariner offense. The first inning was the only inning in which the Mariners went 1-2-3. In the fourth, Lopez led off with a single, then one out later, Bradley lashed a double down the leftfield line. Kotchman then suffered a totally nonclutch strikeout, and Rob Johnson whiffed to end the inning, but Johnson wasn't the guy I was expecting to do something worthwhile in that situation. With one out in the seventh, Figgins rang a double into left. Craig Breslow then really wasted an 0-2 pitch to Franklin Gutierrez, throwing it way off the plate and outside, to the point where catcher Kurt Suzuki had to move toward the lefthanded batters box to field the ball. Suzuki had to reset his feet, and Figgins decided this was enough of a gap to steal third, and he went. Suzuki threw a perfect strike to Kevin Kouzmanoff at third, and Figgins was tagged out. It was frustrating to see the Mariners lose another runner on the basepaths, but maybe someday the aggressive baserunning will pay off.
-- big thanks to Doug Fister for throwing strikes, working fast, and making this game zoom along. He gave up a mere three hits, all singles, and walked zero hitters. Fister, on his second turn through the rotation, threw the best outing of any Mariner starting pitcher this season. With 100 pitches, he got through eight innings, striking out four and walking none. I still can't believe he got through without walking anyone. The great thing now is that with Fister throwing this outing, I feel a lot better when it comes to the Mariners' non-Felix starters. The average starting line for a Mariner pitcher: 5 2/3 innings, 3 runs (2.7 earned), 5.4 hits, 2.3 walks, 2.9 strikeouts, 96.2 pitches (61 strikes), and 8 groundouts:5.6 flyouts. As much as Ian Snell's first start this season was his ceiling, this start was Doug Fister's ceiling or pretty close to it. I suppose it's possible he could throw a complete game.
-- Jack Wilson made a crazy play on a grounder in the hole on the left side, one of the off-balance variety. This is good, since he went 0-for-4 and once again saw not that many pitches (11 this time). It's easier to let Bradley slide on a night like this because he homered and doubled despite seeing just nine pitches.
-- unfortunately, Ichiro is having another cold April. After an 0-for-4 night with two strikeouts, he now sits at 8-for-36, a pedestrian .222 clip. His grounders right now don't seem to have any eyes, and it's almost like the opposite of what Endy Chavez had going at this time last season. Maybe the Ichiro-Designed T-Shirt is still in design phase, and maybe he's having trouble coming up with a design. A friend and I had a discussion about what a tee-shirt designed by Ichiro might look like, and my friend suggested that maybe the shirt will make the wearer reconsider everything he or she knew about a tee-shirt.
-- now, the Milton Bradley paragraph. The double he hit in the fourth inning was really ripped. There was a bit of karmic regression in the sixth when he grounded into a double play to clean the bases. For the rest of FSNNW's broadcast season, this game will always be remembered as the game where Jay Buhner called Bradley's shot. Buhner was asked what he thought would happen, and he mentioned a three-run homer. On the very next pitch, Bradley sat on a low fastball and got it, sending a rainmaker into the Seattle night. A lot of people in and around Seattle needed that home run, and the fact that Bradley hit it was just a bonus. On the FSNNW postgame show, Jen Mueller fired off the requisite questions, and Bradley got through unscathed. At the end of the interview, Mueller was tossing back and Bradley flashed an exaggerated smile for a second, then walked away.
-- David Aardsma had an adventurous night. He handed out two walks, the only walks issued by the Mariner staff on the night. It wasn't Jose Mesa-like, but it was still a bit nail-biting. In terms of bullpen rest, Aardsma threw in this game, Kelley and White will be on one day's rest, Jesus Colome, Kanekoa Texeira, and Brandon League will be on two days' rest, and Mark Lowe will be on three days' rest.
Gonzalez. Vargas. Tonight.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Okay, so it was the home opener. Death Cab for Cutie, Randy Johnson throwing out the first pitch...great. What followed? Rubbish. Having an awful offense when the pitching is crap is one thing, but when the pitching starts getting a little better and the offense still isn't picking up the slack, it's something else entirely. I have to tell myself we're only eight games into the Mariners' season, but when do we go from saying "gee, this Mariner offense is really underperforming" to "even though we didn't think this offense would do too much to begin with, maybe they're a good deal worse than we thought?" If this is rock bottom for this offense, then surely this signifies the mean and ceiling for this offense are lower than we thought, right? When do we go from wondering when they'll snap out of it to wondering if they'll ever snap out of it? If zero runs is rock bottom for this offense, is the ceiling six runs? Is the average two or three runs? When do we have permission to start freaking out?
-- Casey Kotchman made a nice stab at a Gabe Gross grounder in the first and he sprinted to step on the first-base bag to beat Gross, who slid in headfirst. Dave Niehaus and Mike Blowers didn't do any questioning of the call on replay, but to me it looked like Gross might have gotten the left hand onto the bag in time.
-- in the Oakland fourth, there was a ball-in-dirt play where Rajai Davis stole third, but Rob Johnson tried throwing back to first to get Daric Barton. I never saw a good angle for a replay of that play at first base. Anyway, Ryan Rowland-Smith ended up walking the bases loaded in the fourth...but the sick thing was that Rowland-Smith still had a no-hitter intact.
-- after one game into the 81-date Mariners' home schedule, the fans haven't yet turned on Milton Bradley. He still has a mere one hit for the season, though he did walk twice in this game, which is actually pretty vital considering the Mariners only mustered two hits. Bradley also nearly threw out Davis at the plate in the fourth inning, but Johnson never tagged Davis, rendering the play moot as Oakland drew first blood at 1-0. Of course, you take the good with the bad when it comes to Bradley, and he overran a Gross single to left. Two runs scored on the play, though the runners started on second and third and there were two out anyway, so those runs would have scored even if Bradley fielded the ball cleanly. Still, any detractors were provided with a visual. Anyway, dude can start hitting anytime now. We're waiting.
-- just a few pitches before that Bradley play, Rowland-Smith got Gross to foul a 1-2 pitch into Johnson's mitt, but Johnson failed to hold on to the ball, and it came out. Two runs scored in the inning after that play, but none of it really mattered since the Mariner bats were going to score zero runs. Odd note about Bradley: he's hitting .045, but his on-base percentage of .250 is better than the Lopez on-base mark of .212.
-- two hitters before Gross, Adam Rosales came to the plate with runners on first and second with nobody out. Rosales bunted toward the mound, where Rowland-Smith fielded it cleanly and looked to third, only to discover no one was covering third base. He probably would have had a play at third, but Jose Lopez had broken in on the ball, so the only play was to first. There is only one Adrian Beltre, sure, but there are also more experienced third-basemen out there, and even on the team (Figgins). I don't know how many instances there will be this year where Lopez will cost the Mariners defensively. Hopefully he gets the hang of it. He got a hit in this game, but .188 is way worse than we're used to seeing Lopez hit. If they stuck him at second for a day and he hit two homers, I'd leave him at second. The defensive position and the hitting should be independent, sure, but maybe there's some mental link. In that case, Chone Figgins is hitting .207 as a second baseman.
-- speaking of futility on offense...Franklin Gutierrez led off the fourth with a double. Lopez grounded out to the right side, moving Gutierrez to third with one out. The Mariners at that point could have used a deep fly ball to tie the game at 1-1. Ken Griffey Jr. fell behind 0-2 and struck out on four pitches. Bradley ended the inning with a requisite groundout. This was the Mariners' best chance to score in the game.
-- the Mariners next-best chance to score was the eighth, where Lopez scratched out the other Mariner hit, a leadoff single. Griffey did the fielder's choice thing, then Bradley walked. Kotchman grounded to the right side to move the runners to second and third, but now there were two out, so the threat was basically extinguished already. Johnson ended the inning with a groundout.
-- but hey, how about that nifty double play the Mariners turned in the fifth? Jake Fox grounded up the middle, where Figgins ranged to his right, underhanded the ball to lead Jack Wilson to the bag, then Wilson bounced a throw on the run to Kotchman, who picked the short hop. It was a nice play, definitely. It also doesn't score any runs.
-- the average starting line for a Mariner pitcher this season: 5 1/3 innings, 3.4 runs (3 earned), 5.8 hits, 2.6 walks, 2.8 strikeouts, 96 pitches (60 strikes), and a ratio of 7.5 groundouts to 5.1 flyouts. The average non-Felix starting line: 5 innings, 3.5 runs (3.2 earned), 6 hits, 2.3 walks, 2.2 strikeouts, 93 pitches (58 strikes), and a ratio of 5.7 groundouts to 6 flyouts.
-- Shawn Kelley and Sean White threw the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. They didn't give up any runs, and that's good. They walked a hitter apiece and gave up a hit apiece. Kelley struck out two. The eighth and ninth were largely inconsequential as the Mariners were already down 4-0.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Kelley and White threw this game. Jesus Colome, Kanekoa Texeira, and Brandon League will have one day of rest heading into the second game of the series. Mark Lowe and David Aardsma will have two days of rest heading into Tuesday's game.
-- Ichiro went 0-for-4, lowering his batting average to .250 (8-for-32). Sadly, eight hits in eight games puts him on a pace for a 162-hit season, which is substandard for Ichiro and all Mariner fans. It's not lost on me that Ichiro's had some slow-starting seasons.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
He got a hit, and it was a double. He didn't turn in any crazy defensive plays in this game, so no repeat of the running catch in rightcenter on Saturday in Arlington. He's hitting .419 in the early going with three doubles. I'll once again use the adage that "your best players have to be your best players," and therefore the Mariners are screwed right now. I'm not against Gutierrez in the near future taking a role as a key offensive cog for the Mariners, but if he's the Mariners' best hitter right now, that means there's at least three or four other people in the lineup who aren't doing their jobs.
2) Ryan Rowland-Smith
Just by throwing seven innings, Rowland-Smith had the best non-Felix start of the season. Ian Snell's first start may have been a bit cleaner, sure (three less walks), but I think the difference between the burden on the bullpen when a starter throws six versus seven innings is a big one. Three of Rowland-Smith's walks came when he completely lost the radar in the fourth inning and walked the first three hitters to load the bases with nobody out. To his credit, the next hitter flew out (sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 for Oakland), and the following play was an inning-ending double play. Rowland-Smith also issued a leadoff walk in the fifth and a walk in the seventh that ended up scoring the fourth Oakland run. I track my share of Canuck hockey, and when Roberto Luongo is on his game, sometimes he'll have a shutout going into the third period, but the announcers will never use the word "shutout" until the shutout is broken or the final buzzer sounds and the shutout is complete. Similarly, neither of Dave Sims and Mike Blowers mentioned that Rowland-Smith had a no-hitter going through five innings. Nonetheless, that all went away when Cliff Pennington -- on a meatball of an 0-2 pitch -- hit a line drive into the visitors' bullpen to lead off the sixth and make it 2-0. Anyway, Rowland-Smith gave up four runs in his seven innings, but only surrendered three hits. The five walks are a bugger, though, and there was a lone strikeout in there. Rowland-Smith threw 96 pitches, 55 of which were strikes, and he got 11 groundouts to seven flyouts.
3) Milton Bradley
I cranked out most of my Bradley-related subject matter in the bullet points above, but I'll just say that by drawing two walks, Bradley accounted for two of the Mariners' four total baserunners on the night. I must say there is a sick and weird hilarity about his average being .045 and his on-base percentage being .250.
Ken Griffey Jr.
This is really because it has to be someone that appeared in the boxscore. I can't pull him out of here just because he was in the pre-game photo-op with Randy Johnson, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner. Griffey went 0-for-4 and struck out twice. His key strikeout was with one out and Gutierrez on third in the fourth inning. He fielder's choiced in the seventh to knock out the lead runner Lopez. In the ninth, he hit a fly ball that looked nice off the bat, but was just a deep fly ball out.
Anderson. Fister. Tomorrow.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
If there's one thing on which we can all agree, it's that the Mariners look a hell of a lot better right now with a record of 2-5 than with a record of 1-6. In a way, I consider this almost a karmic regression to the mean after the Mariners pulled off the ninth-inning win on Saturday. After exploding for 12 hits on Saturday, the Mariners were back to their ways, pushing out only two runs on nine hits in this one, a 9-2 loss to the Rangers in Arlington.
-- before I go any further, I made note of more weird defensive plays. Early in the game, a ball snuck through the left side for what amounted to a single with runners moving everywhere (I wish I'd recorded the exact hitter and inning). The ball went to the left side, and it looked like Jose Lopez would have had it within reach and he let up on the ball, which seemed to surprise Jack Wilson, who was backing up the play. The ball got past Wilson and through for the single. The next two weird plays were both of Adam Moore's catcher's interference plays, both on consecutive David Murphy at-bats. Moore must have been reaching pretty far out or something. It was much more obvious on the first one than the second. The other weird play was a popup in foul ground on the right side that got Casey Kotchman turned around, and he probably should have had it. Again, for as much as we like this defense -- the one thing the Mariners can be counted on to deliver night in and night out -- not even that facet of the Mariners' game has quite arrived yet. Really, that's fitting, because no facet of the Mariners' identity has shown itself yet, unless all the facets are bad.
-- Ian Snell had a second start that was much more like what I expected for his first start, and it really could have been even worse. It was a minor miracle he got out of the first inning having only given up one run. Michael Young took Snell yard to the opposite field on Snell's ninth pitch of the game. The next three hitters reached base to load the bases with one out before Chris Davis bounced to third for a 5-2 force at the plate, then Matt Treanor (or is it Matt Treanor-May?) flew out to center to end the inning. Snell could not evade his own suckness in the second inning, however, as the Rangers put four runs across to effectively end the game. The final three balls in play to end the inning all scored runs, with the inning ending with Davis being gunned down at second right after Josh Hamilton scored the fifth Ranger run. Don Wakamatsu left Snell in the game for the third inning, letting him basically pitch out the string. He gave up only a one-out single in the third, with the other runner being Murphy (catcher's interference). Snell threw 78 pitches in three innings of work, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits, walking two.
-- With Snell doing awfully, it was the perfect time to summon Jesus Colome from the bullpen, making his second appearance as a Mariner, and in virtually the same situation as his first appearance -- innings-eating mopup duty. On two days' rest, he threw two innings and have up two runs on two hits, walking and striking out one on 39 pitches. He loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth, and instead of the Rangers laying the Mariners to waste, they went light on Colome, deciding instead to hit consecutive sacrifice flies to make it 7-2, followed by a flyout to end the inning. Kanekoa Texeira, also working on two days' rest, gave up a run on three hits, walking and striking out one in his two innings of work, throwing 33 pitches. He got a double-play ball to make the sixth inning less grisly, giving up only one run to make it 8-2, then he threw a decent seventh. On three days' rest, Brandon League threw the ninth inning and, like Texeira, gave up a run on three hits. Texeira threw 12 strikes out of 19 pitches and gave up three straight one-out singles to cap the scoring for the game at 9-2.
-- Where does this leave bullpen rest going into the home opener? Obviously, Colome, Texeira, and League all would have thrown the day before. Mark Lowe and David Aardsma will have a day's rest. Shawn Kelley and Sean White will have two days' rest. Hopefully, Ryan Rowland-Smith will just throw seven innings so we really don't have to worry about a lot of this. The Mariners' non-Felix starting pitching has been so ineffective so far, Wakamatsu really hasn't been able to go situational at all with the bullpen arms (yes, I know they're all righties). Somewhat related: only twice this season has a Mariner reliever made an appearance shorter than one inning in length. One was on Opening Night when Sean White blew Felix's two-run lead, got the final out of the seventh, then didn't come out for the eighth. The other was when Mark Lowe couldn't preserve a 5-5 tie in the ninth in the third game of the Oakland series (Kurt Suzuki's double).
-- Wakamatsu decided to give everyone a day off from The Milton Bradley Experience and instead let Eric Byrnes take a start in leftfield. Byrnes went 1-for-4 and struck out twice. He hit the single to leftfield in the second that Murphy had go off his glove, pushing himself to second and Ken Griffey Jr. to third with one out. Griffey scored later on a groundout as the tying run at 1-1.
-- by looking at boxscores, I've counted six stolen bases for the Mariners through seven games. I've also counted the Mariners as getting caught stealing four times, getting picked off twice, and being on the wrong end of three outfield assists (two at the plate, one at second). That's nine of those kinds of plays in seven games, which is an average of a little over one per game. As much as I like the Mariners trying to take their speed game to the opponents, I'm not sure they can afford to play so fast and loose with their baserunners when they're having so much trouble driving those runners to the plate.
-- the average line for a Mariner starting pitcher so far: 5 1/3 innings, 3.3 runs (2.9 earned), 6.1 hits, 2.3 walks, 3 strikeouts, 96 pitches (60 strikes), 7 groundouts:4.9 flyouts. The average line for a Mariner non-Felix starter so far: 4 2/3 innings, 3.4 runs (3 earned), 6.6 hits, 1.8 walks, 2.4 strikeouts, 92 pitches (58 strikes), 4.6 groundouts:5.8 flyouts. The numbers could be a lot worse, but for as inefficient as the Mariner starters have been, no one in the rotation has given up more than five runs in a start, and their pitch counts usually get high enough that they're pulled before they can give up any more runs.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-4, making him 8-for-28 (.286) on the season with a double and an RBI. He's only on pace for a 185-hit season, which would be a massive disappointment. I mean, the Mariners are having an Ichiro-Designed T-Shirt Day, for goodness' sake, so Ichiro has to get at least 230 hits. That would make it 10 straight 200-hit season for Ichiro, and I hope it happens. What else I hope happens is Ichiro getting to 3000 Major League hits. If he does that, I have to think he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Keep in mind that the Hall of Fame's full name is Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, as opposed to Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Thus, you'd have to think Ichiro's Japanese stats would be taken a little into account when they're holding the voting.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
He's the only one who's hitting, and he keeps on doing it. A 2-for-4 day puts makes him a .444 hitter in the early going. What made this day different? One of the aftereffects to Bradley being benched for Byrnes was that Byrnes was slotted seventh, and Gutierrez got bumped into the fourth slot in the lineup. Again, though it's only seven games into the season, it hasn't mattered whether Gutierrez has hit third, seventh, or even fourth now, he just gets hits. Getting shifted around in the lineup doesn't seem to affect his hitting, and it definitely doesn't affect his defensive prowess.
2) Chone Figgins
The Mariners' second baseman went 2-for-4 with a double for a modest two-game hitting streak. He has reached base in six of the seven games this season, making his .333 on-base percentage look markedly better than his .240 batting average. Interestingly, Ichiro and Figgins have only collected hits in the same game twice, and those games were the last two games of this Texas series. As luck would have it, neither of them crossed the plate in this game, though they scored once apiece on Saturday afternoon. Of course, Saturday afternoon and Opening Night are the only two times this season where Ichiro and Figgins scored runs on the same night.
3) Ken Griffey Jr.
He was 1-for-3 with a walk. Getting aboard more than once is good. He saw 20 pitches over his four plate appearances, so that's not too bad considering Jack Wilson saw nine pitches total in the game. Griffey also gave a good ride to a fly ball that Nelson Cruz caught on the warning track in rightfield. Maybe Griffey's almost there. Maybe once he gets in a groove, he'll pop the occasional home run. This team damn sure needs a home run every once in a while, that's for sure. They also need decent starting pitching outside of Felix, though, and we're seeing how that's going. Still, Griffey nearly hit 20 homers last year, and he wasn't the healthiest dude. I'm hoping he's able to catch a bit of fire and pass Willie Mays this season. If Griffey did that, then I would have seen all I need to see out of him.
Other than Milton Bradley, I think this guy's the next-biggest disappointment at the plate when it comes to the Mariner regulars. Lopez is hitting .179 through seven games. If there's an off chance that Wakamatsu puts Lopez at second base for a day and he pops one, I say put Figgins at third and Lopez at second for the rest of the season. Maybe I haven't been the closest observer of these games so far, but I haven't immediately noticed Figgins taking a bunch of balls at second that I don't think Lopez would have had. Lopez went 3-for-4 on April 7th and has gone 1-for-16 since. To recap, the Mariners just finished a three-game series in frigging Arlington, a home-run hitters' haven, and they only hit one home run (Kotchman). Lopez is one huge reason for the power outage that has seen the Mariners hit just three home runs in their first seven games.
Duchscherer. Rowland-Smith. Tomorrow.