Saturday, May 01, 2010
Well, this game saw the Mariner debut of Cliff Lee. The way it ended was more like a light version of the inaugural game at Safeco Field. It kinda felt like it. There definitely was buzzkill, that's for sure. The Mariner offense has been horribly inconsistent this year, sure, but the complete lack of clutch in this game was absolutely frustrating. After Lee left the game, the Mariner offense basically begged to lose this game. I guess the requisite hockey analogy here would be when one team outshoots the other team 40-23 but loses 3-2. In hockey, you would lack finish or quality shots. In this game, the Mariners loaded the bases in both the 10th and 11th innings and failed to score. That's when karma intervened in the top of the 12th and the bounces went the other way almost instantly. Before I go on, I must mention what to me was a surprise roster move as Jesus Colome somehow stayed on the roster when Cliff Lee was added. The man bumped off the active roster was Shawn Kelley, who had options remaining and was sent down. They might as well bring back Ryan Langerhans now because Don Wakamatsu hasn't used Colome in nearly two weeks.
-- maybe I'll start with the good. For his first start of the season, Cliff Lee had a great outing. I thought early on that his pitch count was a little high, but I'll take seven innings every time out from him. Of course, my expectations of him are pretty high, and it's no secret that this start isn't his ceiling. He can do better. Mike Blowers brought up during the broadcast that Lee's pitch count was high at times because of all the foul balls. Lee threw 98 pitches, 73 for strikes. The ESPN.com boxscore shows a total of 31 of those strikes came on foul balls and 15 of the strikes were on balls in play. I just hope this outing doesn't turn him into Ryan Franklin and he ends up spouting off about the lack of run support or something. It has to be at least a slight bit disappointing to throw like that and have zero runs of support. Hell, the Mariners only had three hits through nine innings. Lee had that breaking ball working. I just wish he wouldn't have picked the alternate jerseys for the game.
-- I didn't mind Lee striking out eight hitters. That was wonderful, but I swear, the next time FSNNW goes to the behind-the-plate camera on a two-strike count, I'm going to break something. With that view, you can only approximately see where the ball ends up since the umpire and the catcher are both obstructing it. This combined with missing game action after replays and the brutal fonts and graphics are what really piss me off about FSNNW's coverage of the Mariners. Also, the cut-aways to the Bellevue studio are way uncomfortable.
-- now for the bullpen. Mark Lowe and David Aardsma handled the eighth and ninth. Lowe gave up only a two-out walk and wild-pitched the runner to second. Aardsma is one of the gameballs below. Once the game got to extra innings, I thought Jesus Colome should have been on the mound. He was well rested, and Don Wakamatsu probably wouldn't use him for another two weeks anyway. Instead, Brandon League was summoned from the bullpen and threw consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the 10th and 11th. After the Mariner bats failed miserably in the bottom halves of both innings, I thought Wakamatsu was tempting fate by sending League out there again for the 12th. The top of the 12th required some celestian alignment. Elvis Andrus and Michael Young both hit extremely high-chopping infield singles. Matt Tuiasosopo tried to gun down Young on his single, but threw wide of first, moving both runners into scoring position. One wild pitch to Josh Hamilton got to the backstop (I don't think I can put that one on Adam Moore) scored the first run of the game, and it was all the Rangers would need. Hamilton was intentionally put aboard once he had a 2-0 count on him. A groundout to third by Julio Borbon scored the Rangers' second run (part of me wanted Lopez to charge that ball really hard and throw home). Sean White came in and retired the final two hitters in the 12th.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Lowe, Aardsma, League, and White all worked in this game, with League probably out until at least Sunday's game. Going into Saturday's game, Ian Snell will have three days of rest (after throwing 5 1/3 innings and 104 pitches), Kanekoa Texeira will have seven days of rest, Jesus Colome will have 12 days of rest.
-- the Mariner offense made Colby Lewis look like the greatest pitcher ever, failing to put any runners past second base in the first nine innings. It doesn't help with the 9-1-2 hitters (Moore/Jack Wilson/Ichiro) see exactly five pitches in the bottom of the fifth. The same three hitters saw 10 pitches to account for the eighth inning.
-- there wasn't a lot of clutch in the first nine innings for the Mariner offense because there weren't a lot of runners aboard. Ichiro led off the game with a base hit and Andrus airmailed the throw to first, putting Ichiro on second. Chone Figgins then either blew the hit-and-run or swung at the first pitch and flew out, both of which are infuriating. I guess I don't mind the element of surprise, but Figgins is sort of adept at grinding out at-bats. A little more of that and Lewis doesn't last nine innings. There's no reason Ichiro should end up on second to lead off, then still be standing there five pitches later because the inning's done. For good measure, Ichiro led off the third with a single and Figgins blew a hit-and-run by popping out to right on the third pitch. Figgins did grind out his final at-bat in the ninth, pushing the edge of Lewis' pitch count, but it was too late. Lewis retired the final 21 Mariner hitters he faced. Awful showing by the Mariner bats, but unfortunately it didn't end there.
-- now, the Mariners' 10th inning. Ken Griffey Jr. led it off with a well-placed slow roller toward short that never really got there, and even Griffey was able to leg out a single. Eric Byrnes instantly replaced Griffey for running duties. A floating double down the leftfield line by Milton Bradley pushed Byrnes to third, though I thought Mike Brumley might have been crazy enough to send him. I only rued the decision in hindsight. What happened next? Maybe this inning was the start of the celestial alignment that definitely existed in the top of the 12th. Casey Kotchman check-swung on a 2-0 pitch and popped out weakly to the shortstop -- this was completely unclutch. Adam Moore was put aboard to load the bases and get a double-play possibility, then Mike Sweeney was brought off the bench to pinch hit. Darren O'Day came in from the bullpen (replacing Darren Oliver) and Sweeney swung at the first pitch, hitting into a broken-bat, tailor-made 6-4-3 double play. Two runners in scoring position, nobody out? SO WHAT!!
-- now, the Mariners' 11th inning. Ichiro led off with a first-pitch single off Frank Francisco. With Wakamatsu apparently eschewing the hit-and-run, Figgins bunted on the first pitch, placing in perfectly on the infield grass so that everyone was safe. Perfect scenario, right? Franklin Gutierrez just barely bunted foul along the first-base line, took the next pitch looking for a strike, then whiffed on the 1-2 pitch. I think the broadcast crew mentioned Gutierrez could have push-bunted. Jose Lopez walked to load the bases, but then stuff got weird. Byrnes appeared to have blown a suicide squeeze attempt as he appeared to pull back a bunt attempt then kinda 25%-offered at it again, all the while with Ichiro streaking in from third base. Matt Treanor behind the plate actually had dropped the ball and barely recovered in time to have Ichiro run into his tag. Texas manager Ron Washington at this point was tossed for arguing that Byrnes whiffed on the bunt (he didn't) and that the count should have been 1-1 instead of 0-2 as a result (later moot). At least the other two runners moved up on the play, but Byrnes looked at the next three pitches for strikes to end the inning. At least a lazy flyout would have put the ball in play. Two on, nobody out? SO WHAT!!
-- now, I won't write anytihng about the Mariners' 12th inning since they went away with a whimper.
-- other isolated offensive happenings... Griffey put a pop foul in front of the Mariner dugout in the fourth that landed between Treanor and first baseman Justin Smoak when one of them clearly should have had it. Griffey later whiffed to end the at-bat. In the seventh, Kotchman's swinging bunt went a few feet up the third-base line. Treanor went over to field it, threw well into the runner and wide of first (it was almost like Treanor was trying to get Smoak killed), and the ball flew past. After a few moments of confusion, the umpires had ruled Kotchman was out for failing to stay within the 45-foot restraining line. I didn't think this rule applied when the throw to first was a crap throw. Anyway, there were two outs before the play happened anyway, and the chances of Moore and Wilson driving in Kotchman were pretty slim.
-- isolated defensive happenings... Wilson made an over-the-shoulder catch with one out off Ryan Garko in the fifth on a ball that Gutierrez may not have seen. With a runner on first, this proved to be a key play because Smoak ended up lining right to Figgins to start an inning-ending double play. Also, Ichiro made a wonderful running catch in rightcenter to rob Vladimir Guerrero of a double.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 19-4 .826 --
2002 17-6 .739 2
2003 15-8 .652 4
2009 14-9 .609 5
2000 13-10 .565 6
2007 12-11 .522 7
2005 12-11 .522 7
2010 11-12 .478 8
2008 11-12 .478 8
2006 9-14 .391 10
2004 8-15 .348 11
1) Cliff Lee
He did everything he could and pitched wonderfully in his first Mariner start. Hopefully the lack of offense doesn't sour him on the Mariner experience, since it'd be really cool if he signed with the Mariners beyond this year. This game might be the worst example of offensive ineptitude, but one can't help but think it won't be the last time Lee is burned by a nonexistent offense this year. Even Felix Hernandez got burned by a crap offense in his last start. I wonder how much longer Jack Zduriencik will stand back and watch brilliant starting pitching going to waste before he starts making some moves to at least shake up the offense. Sure, what the Mariners are going through right now isn't as bad as the 2-6 start, but how much better does an average day out of the offense now compare to what it was during the first week and change of the season? Is the ceiling for the Mariner offense anywhere near as high as we thought it would be? Right now, I'm not convinced the offense is better than last year's offense, and last year's offense was pretty bad.
It was another day at the offense for the Mariners' leadoff hitter. In addition to a nice running catch, Ichiro went 3-for-5, making him 33-for-96 (.344) on the season. Hitting directly behind Ichiro, Figgins failed two out of three times to advance Ichiro further on the basepaths. Ichiro was also the unfortunate victim of an apparent botched suicide squeeze with Byrnes at the plate in the 11th. That would have been a hell of a play to end the game, that's for sure. Ichiro's doing his job, but I wonder if he's going to start putting some of this on his shoulders soon and start trying to turn on the inside pitch every once in a while. He doesn't have to, obviously, and it's probably better if he doesn't, but an odd homer out of Ichiro might be the tonic this offense needs. It's all fun and games until Ichiro's swing gets messed up for two weeks because he's trying to hit homers.
3) David Aardsma
I remember when Kazuhiro Sasaki would seemingly only pitch well in save situations. He would come into tie games and end up the losing pitcher. When Aardsma came into the ninth to keep the game tied, I watched with a little bit of apprehension. Aardsma got a groundout from Andrus and set Young and Hamilton down swinging. The strikeouts were handed out with a bit of authority. This was a great game for the Mariner pitching staff after nine innings. One could argue it was still a very good game for Mariner pitching since there's no way League can pitch away from high choppers. League just ran into a patch of bad luck in the 12th, and the margin of error with the offense is so thin that the Rangers didn't need much of a window of opportunity to score runs. It seems with this team that in their losses, it's always one complete phase of the game that lets them down rather than just one hitter or just one guy out of the bullpen. It can never be one guy out of the offense sucking in the clutch, for instance, it has to be the whole damned team.
The Mariners' centerfielder and number-three hitter is officially in his first mini-slump of the season. Gutierrez struck out in his final at-bat in Kansas City on the 27th. This makes it an 0-for-11 slump with seven strikeouts, and he's left a combined 10 runners aboard (not stranded) in just a little over two games. Since I never came into the season envisioning Gutierrez as a number-three hitter, I'm less attached to him hitting in that slot. There's no way he's going to last the rest of the season batting third, and with the other hitters in the lineup, he really shouldn't. That said, I wonder how long the leash will be when it comes to leaving him there. I think he'll probably have to be ice cold for about a week before Wakamatsu thinks of moving him around in the lineup. My one problem with the Mariners picking up Figgins is that I really liked Gutierrez hitting right behind Ichiro, and I hate having Gutierrez in the bottom third of the lineup.
Harrison. Hernandez. Today.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Mariners' six-game road trip started awfully as they dropped the first four games, but they took the final two games to win a three-game series in Kansas City. A couple of good things included the Mariners putting up six runs (and hitting four doubles) and the bullpen giving up only one hit through 3 1/3 innings. The bad things include the Mariners blowing a 5-1 lead and Ryan Rowland-Smith going off the tracks in the sixth inning. Right now, though, I don't really care how they get the wins, I just want the wins. Once Cliff Lee was injured in spring training, I thought the Mariners had to just be a .500 team until he got back into the rotation. Lo and behold, Friday night will see Cliff Lee on the mound for his first Mariner start, and the Mariners will going into the game a .500 team at 11-11.
-- I guess I'll type up the starting pitching stuff first. Other than Ian Snell, Ryan Rowland-Smith has been the most inconsistent starter in the Mariners' rotation. Four of his five starts this season have been of six(-plus) innings or less. Last year, he got to the point where he was nearly a lock for seven innings every time he took the mound. Rowland-Smith either has to work out his kinks by the end of May, or else his hopes of staying in the rotation hinge on Erik Bedard suffering a setback or having Doug Fister or Jason Vargas falter. Anyway, here's the anatomy of the Aussie's sixth inning from hell. Scott Podsednik singled with one out, then Rowland-Smith hit Billy Butler with an 0-2 pitch. Jose Guillen flew out for the second out, but a wild pitch to Alberto Callaspo sent the runners to second and third. Jason Kendall looped an 0-2 pitch in front of Ichiro to score Podsednik and Butler and move Callaspo to third (Mariners 5-3), then Mitch Maier tripled to score Callaspo and Kendall and tie the score at 5-5. That's when Don Wakamatsu pulled Rowland-Smith, apparently not trusting him to get Willie Bloomquist to hit into an out.
-- the average per-start line for Rowland-Smith: 5 2/3 innings, 4 runs (3.4 earned), 5.4 hits, 2.6 walks, 1.8 strikeouts, 95 pitches (59 strikes), 7 groundouts, 6.6 flyouts. Snell barely averages five innings a start, Doug Fister averages 6 2/3 innings, Jason Vargas averages 6 1/3 innings, and Felix Hernandez averages 7 1/3 innings.
-- the average per-start line of Mariner starters not named Felix: 6 innings, 2.7 runs (2.5 earned), 5.4 hits, 2.1 walks, 3.1 strikeouts, 95 pitches (60 strikes), 7.1 groundouts, 6.1 flyouts.
-- now for the bullpen. Brandon League needed all of two pitches to strand Maier at third and end the sixth inning. League then threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning, setting down Yuniesky Betancourt (groundout), David DeJesus (groundout), and Podsednik (whiff). For the second straight game, Mark Lowe came out for the eighth to protect a newfound one-run Mariner lead. Lowe allowed only a two-out Callaspo single. David Aardsma got a rare 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save, getting Maier, Bloomquist, and Betancourt to end it. It must kill Bloomquist to know Betancourt's been biting into his playing time since the Mariners traded Betancourt to Kansas City.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League, Lowe, and Aardsma threw in this game, and all will have a day of rest going into Friday's game due to the Thursday off day. Shawn Kelley will have two days of rest, Sean White will have three days of rest, and Kanekoa Texeira will have six days of rest. Jesus Colome would have 11 days of rest, but I don't think he'll even be on the roster on Friday, so I hope he enjoyed his few weeks with the Mariners.
-- the wind wreaked havoc on many fly balls. Bloomquist fell backward on a fly ball that he caught in shallow right and Podsednik made a sudden dive to his left on a fly to him in left. Jack Wilson lost a popup in shallow center in the second inning. Nice plays, however, included a Wilson play in the hole that ended the eighth and a Lopez charge-and-throw to get Billy Butler in the fourth, though the reason an out was recorded probably had to do with Butler being the runner.
-- an honorable mention for Wilson's double, which he really had to leg out. He put it just inside the leftfield line and got to second base because the ball was just deep enough that Podsednik couldn't throw him out at second. You can call it a hustle double or a stretch double, whatever. It was good. He ended up scoring the Mariners' third run on Figgins' triple.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had three hits and Figgins had two. Ichiro scored, but Figgins did not. Thus, the Mariners are still 7-1 when both players score, but are now 4-4 when both get a hit.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 18-4 .818 --
2002 17-5 .773 1
2003 14-8 .636 4
2000 13-9 .591 5
2009 13-9 .591 5
2007 12-10 .545 6
2010 11-11 .500 7
2005 11-11 .500 7
2008 11-11 .500 7
2006 8-14 .364 10
2004 7-15 .318 11
1) Chone Figgins
Maybe he finally snapped out of his slump. He took off on what the broadcast crew said was a take-off-on-contact play and was easily thrown out at home. I swear Figgins probably has the most baserunning outs on this team. If someone's getting thrown out at a base other than first, it seems like Figgins is the one who's being thrown out. Anyway, the Mariners' second baseman missed a home run by about three feet in the fifth inning, and his two-run triple got the Mariners a 4-1 lead. His other hit was a single to right with one out and the bases empty in the third. He also drew a walk with to push Ichiro to second base in the ultimately frustrating first inning.
2) Mark Lowe
Sooner or later, I'd be giving some gameballs to the relievers, and here's one. For the second straight game, Lowe protected a fresh Mariner lead and bridged the gap from the middle relief to Aardsma. He gave up a two-out single, but that's fiddlesticks. Peter Griffin might say the single was "ants at a picnic." All in all, it seems Lowe has recovered nicely from the walk-offness he suffered in the first game of the road trip in Chicago. I'm hoping his back has been a little less stiff as well, though the results of his last two outings have signaled that maybe his back is okay. Since so far it appears Brandon League can't quite yet be used in a role similar to Lowe, that means Lowe's role is still very vital to this bullpen.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter and t-shirt designer is pretty much a lock on this list if he gets three hits. One of his hits was a swinging bunt down the third-base line in the fifth that scored Rob Johnson from third, giving the Mariners a 2-1 lead. He also led off the game with a double, and with Figgins' walk immediately afterward, the first two hitters in the lineup had done their exact job in setting the stage for a nice offensive inning. Instead, the next three hitters were retired in order. Ichiro also singled to lead off the ninth. He went 3-for-5, making him 30-for-91 (.330), putting him on pace for a 221-hit season. What if he went totally crazy and had a 300-hit season?
It's been a long while since the Mariner centerfielder has had a boxscore line this bad. Gutierrez was 0-for-5 and struck out four times for a golden sombrero nobody wants. He struck out to help torpedo the first inning, popped out foul with a runner on and one out in the third, struck out with Figgins on third and nobody out in the fifth, struck out with the bases empty and one out in the seventh, and was caught looking with Ichiro on first and one out in the ninth. I think Gutierrez would have to be awful at the plate for a solid week and change before Don Wakamatsu would remove him from the number-three slot in the lineup. I don't think Gutierrez will last the rest of the year hitting third, but that's just as much because I think someone else in the lineup will catch fire as much as I think Gutierrez will cool off.
Lewis. Lee. Tomorrow.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The odds were long for the Mariners to pick up a win in this game. After all, they were sending Ian Snell to the mound and the Kansas City Royals were sending the reigning Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to the mound. While the Mariners didn't beat Greinke, they did rush up his pitch count and get into some of the meaty soft reaches of the Royal bullpen. The Mariner bats didn't awaken much at all until the fateful eighth inning, and it's a good thing they did, or else the Mariners would be going into Wednesday's afternoon trying to salvage a single win on the six-game road trip. Instead, they'll be looking to get their first road series win of the season. How quickly things can turn in the game of baseball...
-- the anatomy of the Mariners' eighth: Jack Wilson led off and struck out. Ichiro put a well-placed bunt just past the edge of the grass in front of home plate, and he legged it out for a single. Chone Figgins walked on four pitches to move Ichiro to second. Franklin Gutierrez put a hard ground ball through the left side to score Ichiro from second and move Figgins to second, making it 2-1 for the Royals. Jose Lopez hit a low chopper to the mound that went off pitcher Robinson Tejeda's glove. Royal second baseman Alberto Callaspo had gone to the second-base bag, expecting Tejeda to field the ball and throw to second for a force out. Instead, the ball went off Tejeda's glove and through the area Callaspo had just vacated. Lopez ended up with a double on a bouncer up the middle. Figgins scored to tie the game at 2-2 and Gutierrez went to third. Ken Griffey Jr. worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. Milton Bradley got ahead 2-0, fouled off a couple pitches, then took the next pitch way too close, but the count went full. The next pitch was ball four and forced Gutierrez across to give the Mariners the 3-2 lead, capping the scoring. Casey Kotchman and Adam Moore both were caught looking to end the inning. Good thing the Mariners didn't need any more runs.
-- it's a good thing the Mariners were able to ratchet up Greinke's pitch count, or else they would have been screwed. The six hits Greinke gave up were quite scattered. Bradley's two-out single was the only hit in the Mariners' second inning. Adam Moore's double (whaaaaa?!!?!!) was the only hit in the Mariners' third. Gutierrez led off the fourth with a double, but the next three hitters flew out. Ichiro led off the sixth with a single, but that was the only hit in the top of the sixth. Finally, in the seventh, the Mariners got a single from Griffey followed immediately by a Bradley infield single. Those occurred with one out, but were followed by a Kotchman fielder's choice and a Moore flyout. They almost got to Greinke.
-- now, a blurb on tonight's starting pitcher. Ian Snell threw in a game for the first time since April 18th. In what most likely is his last start for a while, he dodged some massive bullets. The way he started out made all Mariner fans cringe as he loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning thanks to two singles and a walk. Snell then pulled a rabbit out of the hat by striking out Jose Guillen, getting Callaspo to pop out in foul ground on the left side, and getting Jason Kendall to tap back to the mound. Snell gave up a leadoff double to Alex Gordon in the second, but Snell recorded outs with the next three hitters. Billy Butler hit a one-out single in a scoreless third for Kansas City. Snell was finally burned in the fourth and fifth, giving up RBI triples that gave the Royals 1-0 and 2-0 leads. In the fourth, Snell's leadoff walk (Kendall) scored on the Mitch Maier triple. In the fifth, Butler singled with one out and scored on the Callaspo triple. Snell got the first out in the sixth, but then he walked Maier and was chased by a Yuniesky Betancourt single. For Snell to pitch into the sixth and be tagged with only two runs after getting through the first inning -- it's a minor miracle.
-- now for the bullpen. I'll address Shawn Kelley in the gameballs. Mark Lowe came out for the bottom of the eighth to protect the Mariners' newfound lead. He needed a mere 11 pitches to get three flyouts, all to Bradley in left. David Aardsma came in to close it out, and he did. He allowed the requisite single (David DeJesus with one out), but along the way he threw a few splitters, and I was quite happy. Aardsma needs that second pitch. The hitters have to be thinking they could get something other than the fastball up there. DeJesus was down 0-2 when Aardsma threw splitters on the next two pitches, but he didn't get either of them into the zone. DeJesus sat fastball at that point and got a single since he probably knew there was no way Aardsma was going to triple up on the splitter. Anyway, Aardsma got a grounder from Scott Podsednik to the right side for a groundout and a resulting rundown that ended the game (a double play, though unorthodox).
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Kelley, Lowe, and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Wednesday afternoon's game, Brandon League will have two days of rest, Kanekoa Texeira will have four days of rest, and Jesus Colome will have nine days of rest. Unless Ryan Rowland-Smith really stinks up the joint tomorrow, Colome won't see the field. When Cliff Lee takes a roster spot on Friday, the rumblings (Geoff Baker blog) are that Ian Snell will get bumped to the bullpen. If that's so, it's bye bye Colome.
-- Ichiro went 2-for-5, making him 27-for-86 (.314) on the season, and putting him on pace for a 208-hit season. He singled to left to lead off the seventh, and his second hit was off the bunt with one out in the eighth, starting the rally.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro got two hits, and Figgins got one. In addition, they scored a run apiece. Thus, the Mariners are now 7-1 when both players score and 3-4 when they both record hits. I just noticed I flip-flopped this stat in the post for the first game of this series.
-- as mentioned, Figgins got a hit, so his slump is less icky. If I'm counting right, he's still in a 3-for-36 slump (with 10 walks) going back to his final at-bat in the game on April 14th.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 17-4 .810 --
2002 17-4 .810 --
2003 13-8 .619 4
2009 13-8 .619 4
2000 12-9 .571 5
2007 11-10 .524 6
2008 11-10 .524 6
2010 10-11 .476 7
2005 10-11 .476 7
2006 8-13 .381 9
2004 7-14 .333 10
1) Milton Bradley
There are some big-bat players where I get ticked off if they walk since they're getting paid to hit. I remember hearing a Canuck telecast earlier this year, and I think the Islanders' coach was saying John Tavares wasn't scoring, but he was becoming a good two-way player. Canuck radio color commentator Tom Larscheid saw through the bullcrap, saying that was just coachspeak and that everyone knew Tavares was being paid to score and was expected to score. With Bradley, I'm not sure if we're expecting the guy to just hit, hit, and hit. Obviously, we're expecting him to be better than the .204 hitter he is right now, but are we okay with him taking a walk every once in a while, too? I'm sure not a lot of people will argue with the results of the bases-loaded walk he took in this game. Of course, at some point later in the season, you'll expect Bradley to put a hurtin' on the ball when he comes to the plate in a similar situation. Bradley hit sixth in this game, and I wonder how long it'll take him to return to the middle of the lineup.
2) Shawn Kelley
I was hoping this guy would appear soon. Kelley had seven days of rest coming into this game, but he definitely didn't have to get his sea legs or anything. He came into the game in the sixth, replacing Snell with runners on first and second with one out. He got a flyout to fairly deep center (it moved Maier to third) and caught Podsednik looking to end the inning. Kelley then threw a 1-2-3 seventh, sandwiching a Guillen flyout between groundouts by Butler and Callaspo. Five hitters, five outs for Kelley. He diffused the situation in the sixth and sliced through the meat of the order in the seventh. Now I'm starting to wonder if I should have put him as the number-one gameball. For his efforts, Kelley picked up the winning decision.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder went 2-for-5 and singled home the first Seattle run of the game, giving him 13 RBIs on the season. The Mariners have two games left in April, so I don't know how much Gutierrez can add to that RBI total. Multiply that number by six months and you have Gutierrez finishing with 78 RBIs. While I'm sure that'd be great for Gutierrez, I'm guessing they'll need a good deal more from whoever's hitting third in the lineup. Gutierrez is now a .367 hitter so far with a .420 on-base percentage and a slugging clip of .544. I hope he gets the power stroke going soon. The homers on consecutive days in Chicago hopefully were just a taste of what's to come. Also, it's been a while since I've marveled at some crazy Gutierrez play in center. It's more than likely because he's making everything look incredibly easy now. He gets to gappers that other mere mortal centerfielders don't, and he probably does it by such a wide margin that for him that it's just a running catch and not a Jim Edmonds-style diving catch.
My lasting memory of the Mariner first baseman from this game is the image of him watching a 2-2 pitch right over the outer half of the plate for strike three with the bases loaded and one out. After seeing him get a few clutch hits this season, it was too bad to see him fail to at least put the ball in play. Kotchman is a .246 hitter with a .312 on-base mark and a .493 slugging percentage, and he hit seventh in this game. It's hard to believe he was hitting third earlier in the season. Let's hope he gets warm soon. Hell, let's hope this entire offense gets warm soon. Maybe that's a lot to ask, so how about picking your five Mariners you want to do well and then having them warm up in the lineup, then see what happens?
Rowland-Smith. Meche. Tomorrow.
Congratulations, Mariners. By throwing away a Felix start, you've pinned your hopes of salvaging a win on this road trip onto the shoulders of Ian Snell (to beat Zack Greinke) and Ryan Rowland-Smith, the two most inconsistent starting pitchers thus far in your rotation. That's right -- the Mariners, thanks to the offense not showing up in Kansas City, blew a chance to halt a three-game losing streak and instead have a chance to go winless on a six-game road trip. Instead of a different hero every night, it's more like a different goat every night. Well, with the Mariners, it's more like it's an entire phase of their game that doesn't show up on a certain night. In Chicago, it was the bullpen three straight nights. In this game, it was the offense's turn to do nothing. I'm not sure a team could try to be as bad collectively on the road as the Mariners. This team has a 2-9 record on the road and is 7-2 on the road. I know this team is well-suited to win at Safeco Field, but I think people sometimes forget that Major League Baseball teams play half their games away from home. I wanted there to be more balance (power) in this lineup so it would have been suited better to scratch out runs in any ballpark, not just Safeco Field.
-- the Mariners were held hitless for 5 1/3 innings by Kyle freaking Davies. The no-hitter was broken up by a well-placed Ichiro bouncer to the right side of the infield, which started what should have been a good Mariner inning. Ichiro's hit moved Rob Johnson to second. Chone Figgins did his part to kill the rally by flying out to left. Franklin Gutierrez fouled off three 2-2 pitches before walking. Jose Lopez, just a few days departed from a grand slam, rode the first pitch to the warning track in left to end the inning.
-- Ken Griffey Jr. hit a ball just a few feet further from the second baseman than usual to lead off the seventh. Two hitters later, Casey Kotchman stood on first base with two out. Johnson tagged a double to left, but it wasn't enough to move Kotchman past third. Jack Wilson ended the inning by tapping weakly back to the pitcher.
-- the Mariners actually did score in the ninth. Milton Bradley doubled with one out, and it was a hustle double. One out later, Johnson walked. Then Mike Sweeney came in to hit for Johnson, and his single scored Bradley to make the score 3-1. Ichiro finished off the game by popping to second.
-- the Ichiro/Figgins stat: only Ichiro collected hits. Figgins was hitless. Thus, the Mariners are still 6-1 when both Ichiro and Figgins score, and they are still 2-4 when both get hits.
-- Johnson would have earned a spot in the gameballs below for his 1-for-2 night with a double and a couple of walks, but he still fails to do things a catcher should be able to do behind the plate. I know it's been a serious defensive drop-off ever since Dan Wilson retired. That said, I thought Miguel Olivo was bad, and now we've had to watch Rob Johnson. Yuniesky Betancourt whiffed on a ball in the dirt, and Johnson let it through the five hole. That ball should not get through his legs and roll to the backstop. To aggravate this matter, his throw to first base pulled Casey Kotchman off the bag, or else they would have had Betancourt.
-- the starting pitching will be addressed in the gameball entries. This leaves the bullpen. Sean White held the game to 3-0 in the eighth, allowing only a double to Betancourt. For the record, I never hated Betancourt, who is now hitting .347, on-base at a .365 clip, and slugging .472. Stuff went wrong in Seattle, but in this game, he perfectly executed a hit-and-run.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: White threw in this game (on consecutive days). Going into tonight's game, Brandon League will have a day of rest, David Aardsma will have two days of rest, Kanekoa Texeira and Mark Lowe (back stiffness) will have three days of rest, Shawn Kelley will have seven days of rest, and Jesus Colome will have eight days of rest.
The Mariners' lead off hitter went 2-for-5, hitting the infield single and nearly taking off the head of Dusty Hughes with a scorched single through the mound and into centerfield to lead off the eighth. He is now 25-for-81 (.309) on the season and has 25 hits, which puts him on pace for a 203-hit season. He hit himself aboard in this game and therefore did his job while the next three hitters in the lineup went 0-for-10 combined (though Franklin Gutierrez walked twice, so he escapes some of this). When Ichiro gets aboard and the next three hitters do that, the fifth hitter in the lineup is Ken Griffey Jr., which is not a good thing.
2) Mike Sweeney
The Mariners' righthanded pinch-hitting specialist got a pinch-hit single off Kyle Farnsworth, which isn't the easiest thing to do. Sweeney's swing still makes me uncomfortable when I watch it, but it's slightly less so when the results are like this. Ultimately, the single capped the scoring to only make it a 3-1 game, but Sweeney can't control when he gets up to the plate. He was promptly pulled from first base for Matt Tuiasosopo. AH the efficiency of the Mariners' bench.
3) Felix Hernandez
The Mariners' ace actually didn't have that good of a start by Felix standards. He walked three and struck out seven, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits in seven innings. Hilariously, his own error made one of the runs unearned. The error occurred in the first inning and led to the Royals 1-0 lead. Hernandez then stranded a leadoff walk in the second. In the third, the first two hitters got aboard before Felix got the next three hitters out. In the fourth, two straight one-out singles followed by a ground ball made it 2-0 for the Royals. In the sixth, Felix threw seven more pitches than necessary since Johnson can't block a ball behind the plate. Felix couldn't sneak a meaty fastball past Billy Butler to lead off the seventh, and Butler absolutely wrecked it for a 3-0 lead. The point is, Felix struggled but he still went seven innings, and he still only gave up three runs. This team needs to win these games.
A stat that I hope to not have to show soon has to do with Figgins being awful at the plate. This game saw him going 0-for-4 and striking out three times (hat trick) and failing to draw a walk. Thus, he is in a 2-for-32 slump (with nine walks) going back to his final at-bat in the game on April 14th. You'd figure he should be getting all the pitches he wants since Franklin Gutierrez is tearing the cover off the ball right behind him. Figgins is now a .179 hitter with an on-base mark of .318 and a slugging percentage of .239. His on-base percentage is still better than that of such lineup cogs as Jose Lopez (.262) and Milton Bradley (.283).
Snell. Greinke. Tonight.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I think the only way this sweep in Chicago could have been more demoralizing would be if the Sunday afternoon game also ended via the walk-off blast. It was almost similar, though the go-ahead home run came in the eighth inning, so it was a bit different. Still, all three games were well within reach. Pretty much. Two losses on the final pitch of the game, and this loss on a game-winning homer in the eighth. The Mariners needed a grand slam by Jose Lopez to vault themselves back into Friday's game, but the last two games of the series were losses that wasted good to solid starts by Doug Fister and Jason Vargas.
-- of the starters in the Mariner lineup, only Eric Byrnes and Matt Tuiasosopo went hitless. Byrnes at least drew a walk to get aboard. Tuiasosopo is an injury replacement hitting ninth, so I won't bust him too much. Still, though the hits were scattered, eight hits for a team that doesn't hit a lot of homers probably isn't enough to win in a park like Chicago's. Three of the eight hits went for extra bases as Kotchman both doubled (a good throw from leftfield would have had Kotchman dead to rights) and tripled, and Franklin Gutierrez homered for the second straight day. Too bad there weren't runners aboard when Gutierrez went yard. No one else in that inning did anything. All in all, though, the Mariners merely had the unenviable task of going up against John Danks, so the bar could only have been set so high.
-- there were blown scoring chances, however. In the second, Lopez and Mike Sweeney started the inning with singles. Kotchman was the opposite of clutch this time, grounding into a double play and moving Lopez to third. Byrnes whiffed to end the inning. With two out in the eighth, Ichiro and Chone Figgins both singled, but Gutierrez had met his clutch quota for the day and flew out to end the inning. With two out in the ninth, Kotchman doubled (again, he should have been thrown out) and Byrnes walked. Ken Griffey Jr. came on to pinch hit for Adam Moore, and after he looked at a first-pitch strike and fouled off the second pitch, the game was pretty much over and done. Just as a formality, Griffey whiffed at the final pitch to end the game.
-- the Gutierrez homer one-hopped the original wall in leftfield. Surely you remember the time before they drew the fences closer in Chicago? The walls were also painted blue many moons ago. The Gutierrez homer came in an otherwise nothing inning for the Mariners. In the fifth, Kotchman led off with a triple, and one out later, Moore singled to drive in Kotchman to get the Mariners a 2-1 lead. The single atoned a bit for Moore's awful passed ball that put Chicago on the board in the first. Is Moore taking catching lessons from Rob Johnson or something? He shouldn't be. I want a catcher who can actually catch, and now I'm not sure the Mariners have one on their 25-man roster.
-- I guess this leaves me to talk about Jason Vargas. After he labored through the first inning and threw a whole bunch of pitches, I was just hoping he'd last through five innings. He settled down and ended up throwing 6 2/3 innings. It started badly for Vargas as he hit the leadoff batter (Juan Pierre) with a pitch, then gave up a single to Gordon Beckham. Pierre stole third and scored when Moore had the awful passed ball just went off his glove and to the backstop. Vargas then got two groundouts to avert a complete disaster. Vargas allowed a leadoff walk to Alex(is) Rios in the second but also stranded him at first. He was on the ropes in the sixth as Andruw Jones singled to lead off, then Paul Konerko tagged a ball down the leftfield line that bounced fair and went into the stands for a double. With two runners in scoring position and nobody out, Vargas looked doomed. He got a harmless infield pop to AJ Pierzynski followed by a Carlos Quentin groundout to short (which unfortunately scored a run to tie the game at 2-2). Rios popped up to end the sixth, and Vargas came out for the seventh. In the seventh, Vargas allowed a double to Mark Teahen to lead off, then got the next two hitters out before Don Wakamatsu pulled him so Sean White could face Gordon Beckham.
-- the average per-start line for Vargas: 6 1/3 innings, 2.5 runs (2.5 earned), 5 hits, 1.5 walks, 4.8 strikeouts, 95 pitches (60 strikes), 5.8 groundouts, 6.3 flyouts. The average starting line for a non-Felix Mariner starter: 6 innings, 2.6 runs (2.3 earned), 5.1 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, 94 pitches (60 strikes), 7 groundouts, 6.3 flyouts. That's after what I'll call four turns through the rotation, though the Mariners used the off day to skip Ian Snell's turn.
-- this leaves the bullpen. Sean White threw two pitches and got Beckham to line out to end the seventh inning, so he did his job. Brandon League came in to throw the eighth inning and hold a 2-2 tie. He got Jones to fly out on the first pitch. Moore held the catcher's mitt over the outside corner for the 2-1 pitch to Konerko. The pitch ended up knee high over the inner half of the plate and was subsequently blasted over the wall in leftcenter to give the White Sox a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. League got the next two hitters out, but the damage was done.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: White and League threw in this game. Going into Monday's game at Kansas City, David Aardsma will have one day of rest, Kanekoa Texeira and Mark Lowe will have two days of rest, Shawn Kelley will have six days of rest, and Jesus Colome will have seven days of rest.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-4, making him 23-for-76 (.303) on the season. Twenty-three hits in 19 games puts him on pace for a 196-hit season. Hopefully this pace picks up soon.
-- the Ichiro/Figgins stat: neither Ichiro nor Figgins scored runs, but they got a hit apiece. Thus, the Mariners are still 6-1 when both players score and are a mere 2-4 when they both get hits.
-- though he got a hit, Figgins is still in a 2-for-28 (.072) hitting slump with nine walks, dating back to his final at-bat on April 14th. He is a .190 hitter with an on-base percentage of .333 and a slugging percentage of .254, though they're not paying him to slug. Figgins' on-base percentage is much better than the .275 of Lopez.
1) Casey Kotchman
In the final two games of the series, the Mariners' first baseman went 3-for-7 with two RBIs, a double, and a triple. Too bad he had to throw a double-play groundout in there too. There was also that off-balance defensive play where both he and League did some awkward choreography on the way to a groundout for Pierzynski. Kotchman is a .279 hitter with a .348 on-base mark and a .557 slugging percentage. His slugging mark is behind only Gutierrez (.569) on the Mariners.
2) Jason Vargas
Probably the only bad thing about his start was the three walks. Other than that, I'm putting him here because he proved to be a bit slippery and adept at escaping disaster, yet still being able to pitch into the seventh. He finished having thrown 95 pitches, with his season high being 105.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
It's too bad it took 17 games for Gutierrez to hit his first homer of 2010, but he's making up for lost time, homering in consecutive games. This is good, seeing as to how the home runs seemed to have been the last phase of his game to come around this season. Gutierrez is still holding the fort for when the other big cogs of the offense get warm. Gutierrez is hitting .375 with an on-base percentage of .418 and a slugging percentage of .569, leading the team in all categories.
Brandon Morrow isn't walking a ton of hitters for this team, so I guess that's a good thing. Still, Brandon League hasn't really impressed me so far. Each time I think I have confidence in the guy that had the most whiffed-at pitch last season, he gets hit. He blew the 6-5 lead in the seventh inning of the first game of this series, and today he couldn't preserve a tie game and took the loss. He plain didn't hit his spot on the home-run pitch to Konerko. I've been hoping he could step in as a second Mark Lowe, but I don't have that confidence in him yet. So, to encompass the season in a nutshell: at first, no one was hitting, but the starting pitching really wasn't there either. Then the starting pitching came around and the hitters did just enough. Now the starting pitching is there and the hitting is about 3/4 of the way there, but the bullpen isn't consistent. Hopefully it ends up clicking for this team in the next couple weeks.
Hernandez. Davies. Tomorrow.
Ah, there's nothing like two gut-punching losses in a row to knock you back to .500. Sad thing is that this game was a lot more within the Mariners' style of play and their recipe of winning (low-scoring and close) than Friday's game, which was a slugfest that really didn't suit the Mariners at all. This time, however, instead of blowing the lead in the seventh and losing the game in the ninth, David Aardsma decided he'd take the process all on himself in the ninth. It was definitely the quick and painful method.
-- The Mariners (maybe I should just say Aardsma) wasted a great outing from Doug Fister. Fister was a groundball machine, which is a good trait to have when you're pitching in a park such as the one on the south side of Chicago. The first hit Fister gave up was a one-out single by Mark Teahen in the third, and he was erased on a double play ball two pitches later (Alexei Ramirez) that ended the inning. In the fourth, Juan Pierre got aboard with a leadoff infield single and Andruw Jones walked with two out, only to be erased on another inning-ending double play (Paul Konerko). The White Sox finally had a legitimate scoring threat in the fifth, though it all occurred with two out. Alex(is) Rios singled, then stole second. Teahen singled Rios over to third. Ramirez cranked a high fly to deep left, and Eric Byrnes nearly Spider-Man'd the ball for an out. Byrnes climbed up the wall and got a piece of the glove on the ball, which then went off the top of the wall (yellow line) and back into the field of play. While a flyout would have kept the Mariners ahead 1-0, the fact that Byrnes got a glove on it made it 2-1 for Chicago instead of 3-1, which proved to be pretty big in the scope of the game. In the sixth, Konerko doubled with one out but was stranded there. In the seventh, Rios singled with one out and was the end of a strikeout/throwout double play to end the inning. In the eighth, Pierre singled with one out, but Fister caught him leaning the wrong way and picked him off of first base.
-- Fister has been incredible since his first start (which was not a good start). In his last three starts, Fister has given up a total of two runs and 14 hits. Eight of those hits were in this game. The average per-start line for Fister: 6 2/3 innings, 1.3 runs (1.3 earned), 5 hits, 1.3 walks, 3.3 strikeouts, 98 pitches (64 strikes), 11 groundouts, 5 flyouts. The Mariners' fifth starter is averaging 6 2/3 innings, for goodness' sake. What's happening here is that Fister is picking up some of the slack for Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith, and I'm more than glad he's able to do it. Too bad he just couldn't get the closer to hold up his end of the bargain this time.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Aardsma threw in this game. Those coming into today's game with one day of rest include Kanekoa Texeira, Sean White, Brandon League, and Mark Lowe. Shawn Kelley comes in with five days of rest, and Jesus Colome comes in with six days of rest.
-- Franklin Gutierrez has gone four games without a multi-hit game. Of course, he only went hitless in one of those four games. In this game, he hit a solo homer in the fourth off Freddy Garcia (who the Mariners made look a little too good) that gave the Mariners their original 1-0 lead. The bad news is that he also struck out three times for the hat trick. He whiffed with the bases empty to end the first inning (no scoring threat there anyway), he was caught looking with Chone Figgins on second and nobody out in the seventh, and he whiffed with one out and nobody aboard in the ninth in a 2-2 tie game. Gutierrez is hitting .382 with an on-base percentage of .427 and a slugging mark of .544.
-- Ken Griffey Jr. is a .222 hitter and hit in the fifth slot in this game. He was 0-for-3 with a walk. Though 0-for-3 is bad, that walk came in the ninth. Lopez was on first when Griffey started the at-bat, though he ended up stealing second. Griffey walked, and since running presumably doesn't involve a lot of the right hand, Jack Wilson came in for pinch-running duties and ended up scoring the run that gave the Mariners a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth. We'd all still like Griffey to hit and pop the odd homer, but this day wasn't completely fruitless for Junior.
-- how did this team only get two hits off Freddy Garcia over seven innings? Ouch.
-- I know that ultimately almosts are not quite good enough, but that's two days in a row where Byrnes almost made great plays, but they ended up in runs being scored.
-- Ichiro went 0-for-4, making him 22-for-72 (.306) on the season. Twenty-two hits in 18 games puts him on pace for a 198-hit season. Come on, Ichiro. We need at least a .330 clip out of you for the team to be consistenly good.
-- the Ichiro/Figgins stat: Ichiro was hitless and scoreless while Figgins scored once and was hitless. The Mariners are 6-1 when both score and are 2-3 when both get hits.
-- Figgins is in a hitting slump, though not in a walking slump. Dating back to his final at-bat on April 14th, he has gone 1-for-24. However, he's walked nine times in that span. As a result, his abysmal-looking .186 batting average is a bit offset by his .338 on-base percentage, which ties (percentage points) with Casey Kotchman and is better than Lopez.
1) Doug Fister
I pretty much said everything I really need to say about Fister in the above section. He was great. I think the fact that he's righthanded will keep him in the rotation once both Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard come back to the rotation. That's too bad for Jason Vargas, but Fister's throwing well and getting some great results in his last three starts.
2) Casey Kotchman
The Mariner first baseman doesn't hit like Russell Branyan by any means, but he's got a little bit of clutch in his bat. His double down the rightfield line in the ninth scored Lopez and Wilson to break the tie and give the Mariners a 4-2 lead. In actuality, it should have just been a 3-2 game since Jack Wilson hadn't gotten to third base when the idiot fan dow the rightfield line played the live ball. Still, the umpiring crew gave the Mariners their fourth run, and this call resulted in Ozzie Guillen being run from the game, though it was for a noble cause. Kotchman is hitting .263 with an on-base mark of .338 and a slugging percentage of .509. The slugging percentage is second on the team only to Gutierrez.
3) Jose Lopez
Hey, it's two straight days with extra-base hits for the Mariners' third baseman. Lopez's seventh-inning double tied the game at 2-2 and was only the Mariners' second hit of the game, and their final hit off Garcia. He also singled in the ninth with two out to start the rally that got the Mariners the lead. He crossed the plate as the 3-2 run on Kotchman's ground-rule double and would have scored even if Wilson had been called back to third base. Out of all the Mariner starters in this game, only Rob Johnson saw less pitches (eight) than Lopez (nine). Maybe it's just one of those things where Lopez is hacktastic and that's just who he is. Maybe he just can't work deep into counts, and if he does, it's because he's fouled off a bunch of pitches that were out of the zone. It's almost like they still have a lingering element of Yuniesky Betancourt on the club. Lopez hasn't hit his stride yet at the plate and is a .250 hitter with an on-base mark of .276 and a slugging percentage of .319.
Sure, this team usually goes where Ichiro goes, and I know Ichiro went 0-for-4 in this game. This team also should usually be trusted to take a 4-2 lead to the bank in the ninth inning. They couldn't this time, and that rests with the Mariners' closer. I'm actually surprised he doesn't have more games like this. I can't believe he almost always got away with pumping fastballs past everybody last year. The White Sox have a more homer-friendly ballpark than Safeco Field for sure, and that doesn't help Aardsma when he's trying to throw straight-line gas. Anyway, with one out and nobody on, Konerko got a pitch to destroy and 418 feet later, it was 4-3. Aardsma then got AJ Pierzynski to fly out for the second out. Aardsma got ahead 1-2 on Carlos Quentin before throwing three straight balls to walk him, putting the tying run on first. Rios then got a pitch to drive, ending the game 421 feet later. I wish Aardsma could just show a changeup every once in a while so the hitters weren't so geared up to hit the fastball. They can already ratchet up for the speed, they just have to get around on it. We're probably three blown saves in the next two weeks before Don Wakamatsu would even consider bumping Aardsma from the closer's role, but I wonder which of Mark Lowe or Brandon League he would choose. Both have breaking pitches, and people seem to swing and miss at League's sinker.
Vargas. Danks. Today.