Saturday, May 08, 2010
I didn't watch this game, and once I had found out Felix Hernandez had his second straight bad outing, I didn't exactly do everything I could to watch the replay. I watched the Vancouver Canucks try to tie a second-round playoff series at 2-2, but I was disappointed there as well. It was another all-lose night of sports, replicating the one from two nights earlier which also involved both teams. Yes, it's 18 scoreless innings and counting for the Mariners' offense. At least when this team's bad, they really go for the gusto and shoot for the record books. They might as well be historically bad if they're bad. The Mariners were being no-hit by Jered Weaver through 6 2/3 innings until Ken Griffey Jr. hit a single to right that captivated Mariner fans across the Northwest. Or not. By that point, I'm usually thinking evil and hoping the no-hitter comes to fruition because rock bottom for this offense can't come soon enough. The Mariners also got a double in the eighth off the bat of Michael Saunders, doubling and ending the Mariners' hit output for the night. In the department of roster moves of which I was unclear a couple days ago, Mark Lowe was put on the disabled list and Shawn Kelley came up in his place. Also, Milton Bradley's placement on the disabled list resulted in the recall of Michael Saunders from Tacoma.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below. It's a bit disheartening knowing that the game was basically over with two out in the top of the first inning. This team won't score five runs. I hope 37602 fans were happy with their Griffey '95 Slide bobbleheads, because the fate of this game was sealed less than 20 minutes into the game.
-- most of the bullpen will be discussed below. Brandon League threw a scoreless seventh inning, walking one. He issued a one-out walk to Kendry Morales, but fielded a groundout from Torii Hunter, got Hideki Matsui swinging, and got a groundout to third from Juan Rivera. In other words, no balls got to the outfield off of League. That's good, and I have to reach to get good things out of the boxscore and play-by-play for this game.
-- As mentioned, Ken Griffey Jr. broke up Jered Weaver's no hitter with two out in the seventh inning. A 1-for-4 night raised Griffey's batting average to .216, his on-base average to .266, and his slugging percentage to .243. I'm really starting to wonder how on earth he nearly hit 20 homers last year.
-- Since I didn't goat any of the hitters on offense, I still have to address how bad they were. The first four hitters in the Mariner lineup combined to go 0-for-14 with two walks and four strikeouts. Of course, the positive to all of this is that the Mariners didn't stink with runners in scoring position in part because there were rarely runners in scoring position. It's just a wonderful thing when your problems with runners in scoring position can be precluded by the fact that you can't get baserunners aboard at all. It's just grand. For the record, Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez, Josh Wilson, and Saunders drew walks. Figgins even stole a base. Runners were aboard on second and third with one out in the eighth, but Ichiro whiffed and Figgins popped to short to make sure the Mariners stayed off the scoreboard in the run column. Zero's a nice round number, after all.
-- Ichiro was 0-for-4, making him 37-for-120 (.308) on the season. This puts him on pace for a 207-hit season. This team needs many things to be a winning team and a contending team for the division title, and having Ichiro hit significantly higher than .308 is one of them.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. No Mariners scored runs, and Ichiro and Figgins had neither of the two Mariner hits in the game. Thus, the Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score and 4-7 when they both get hits.
1) Michael Saunders
I was displeased when hearing Saunders came up when Bradley was put on the restricted list. I understand the need for needing another outfielder, but Saunders wasn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma, but worse yet, he's left-handed...and so is Ryan Langerhans. If nothing else, I guess this means more pinch-hitting opportunities for Mike Sweeney, so I guess it's not all bad. In this game, however, Saunders doubled (an extra-base hit? For the Mariners?!!?!) and walked, making him the only Mariner that reached base (without making an out) twice. Being from Victoria, he probably played through the game and hoped the Canucks had pulled off Game 4 at home, then got into the clubhouse after the game and was thoroughly disappointed.
2) Kanekoa Texeira
It may show in the boxscore as two completely meaningless shutout innings in a runaway game for the opposition, but for Texeira it was one of his best outings of the season. Texeira went six up and six down, having only Brandon Wood reaching the outfield with a flyout to center for the second out of the eighth inning. The flyout was sandwiched between a groundout and a strikeout. Texeira got three groundouts in the ninth. The Luis Ugueto Experience soured me for a while on Rule 5 draft picks, but I don't mind this Texeira so far, and I think I'll be able to withstand having this guy in the bullpen for the full season.
3) Jesus Colome
The bar's not too high for gameballs in this game, so Colome gets the third one despite walking two hitters in 2 2/3 innings. Of course, I wouldn't be complaining too much if he gave up two hits instead and walked none. That's kind of how I have to look at this, however, because he threw 2 2/3 innings of no-hit, shutout baseball, striking out three along the way. I still do think it's hilarious that Don Wakamatsu tends to only throw Colome and Texeira when they're losing or down by a lot, whereas your David Aardsmas and Mark Lowes of the world only pitch when the Mariners are winning or tied. I'm not sure it's bad enough to where you could just show me a list of pitchers who pitched in the game and I'd be able to guess who won, but it's getting there.
Okay, I know the offense didn't do anything in this game, and I know they've been held scoreless in 18 innings. As we know, however, if the starting pitching is bad, there's nothing the offense can do even on their best day. Much like the Canucks just minutes earlier had given up a goal 18 seconds into what was basically a must-win home playoff game, Felix Hernandez got torched in the first inning. Three runs were on the board before he recorded an out. A walk, single, walk, and a double made it a 3-0 game after four hitters. He got the next three hitters out, but the second out was a sacrifice fly that made it 4-0. Hernandez looked to have barred the door, retiring the next six Angels. He then had an 0-2 count on Hidekl Matsui to start the fourth, but walked him. Juan Rivera did his usual Mariner killing, homering to make it 6-0. Howie Kendrick homered two pitches later to make it 7-0. Felix then got a strikeout from Brandon Wood, but then gave up a homer to Ryan Budde to cap the scoring for the entire game. Realistically, though, the game was over in the top of the first inning since the probability of this team scoring five runs is incredibly low. The offense is crap, but it'd be completely naive right now to expect the offense to ever bail out a starting pitcher having a substandard outing.
Saunders. Fister. Tonight.
Friday, May 07, 2010
We're to the point now where it's more fun to keep track of the Milton Bradley situation than it is to watch the product that's actually on the field. Bradley is now on the "restricted list" while he gets professional help, keeping him away from the team for five days. You have to figure it'll be less than 15 days or they might as well have put him on the disabled list. Anyway, Michael Saunders, who apparently has been struggling in Tacoma, was brought up to the big club even though he's a lefty hitter like Ryan Langerhans. I'm glad my day job right now isn't a Mariner beat writer because I don't know how many times I could say "same sh#%, different day." The scary thing is that Jeff Niemann probably threw the least dominant outing of the seriers for the Rays, yet his game was the one that ended in a shutout. Anyway, maybe it isn't the same sh%* on a different day in this game because as bad as the Mariner offense was, Ryan Rowland-Smith more than likely would have buried it. FSNNW showed us the hyphen shirts are now on sale, but now it's a big minus sign as Rowland-Smith is the new Ian Snell, and that's really not good for this rotation.
I'd almost rather talk about Mark Lowe getting an epidural on his back than talk about this game.
-- in the second inning, Gabe Kapler blooped a two-out 'tweener in shallow center that fell between Josh Wilson and Franklin Gutierrez. I guess Gutierrez could have called off the shortstop, but he was running full speed, and Gutierrez probably didn't want to get Endy'd. The Rays got their 2-0 run on that play. At that point, there were probably quite a few Mariner fans thinking that run, scored in the second inning of the game, was an insurance run and it'd be all the Rays needed to sew up the win.
-- keeping with the defensive yuckiness, Carl Crawford hit a hard grounder to first with a man on second. The ball ate up Casey Kotchman, who had no play, resulting in runners at first and third with nobody out. The score was 3-0 at that point, and both of those runners scored on the next two plays to make it 5-0. The 4-0 run scored on a squeeze bunt, and the 5-0 run scored on a Longoria double. In the following at-bat, Carlos Pena hit a high fly ball into foul ground by the leftfield line, but Jose Lopez couldn't channel his inner Beltre and make an over-the-shoulder catch. Ultimately the at-bat ended in a strikeout and was the last hitter Rowland-Smith faced. With two out, Ian Snell threw wild to the plate, but I still think Rob Johnson has to block the ball and nicely control it afterward rather than have it roll away and cause a runner to advance?
-- the make-or-break moment in this game obviously came in the second inning, though there were two out. Jose Lopez got aboard with a single before Niemann completely lost the radar, throwing 11 straight balls. Basically, eight of the balls walked Ryan Langerhans and Josh Wilson, loading the bases, but unfortunately doing so with two out. Unfortunately, this put Rob Johnson in the batter's box for the pivotal at-bat. It looked great when he was up 3-0 (that accounted for the remainder of the 11 straight balls). Since he's Johnson, he took the 3-0 pitch for a strike. At this point, Dave Niehaus said Johnson had to be taking the next pitch to make him throw another strike, but Mike Blowers disagreed and said Johnson should absolutely rip the next pitch if it's a fastball down the middle. Sure enough, the 3-1 pitch was a fastball that was right down the pipe. Johnson took the full-count pitch a little up and in, but it was called a strike. Obviously, he wasn't up there to hit.
-- Chone Figgins blooped a single to shallow left with one out in the third. It was nearly caught on a dive by Crawford. The Mariners didn't do much with that break, obviously. Kotchman cranked a deep fly ball to center which was deep enough for Figgins to tag and advance to second. Gutierrez drove a ball to leftcenter, but Bossman Junior Upton caught it on the track. End of sorta-threat, end of inning.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below.
-- Ian Snell came in for Ryan Rowland-Smith with one out in the fifth and runners on second and third. Snell got a grounder, but then gave up a single to score one of Rowland-Smith's run and blast his ERA a little bit more before the threat was extinguished. Snell gave up only a two-out double in the sixth and a one-out walk in the seventh. He gave up a leadoff walk in the eighth and was burned when Crawford homered to rightcenter to make it 8-0 before being pulled. This game was so bad, I almost put Snell into the gameballs.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Snell and Kelley worked in this game. Going into Friday's game, Sean White and Kanekoa Texeira will have a day of rest, Brandon League and Jesus Colome will have two days of rest, and David Aardsma and Mark Lowe (shelf) will have four days of rest. Let's hope Mark Lowe is back soon.
-- Ichiro went 1-for-4, making him 37-for-116 (.319) on the season. He is on pace for a 214-hit season.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. No Mariners scored in this game, and Ichiro and Figgins had a hit apiece. The Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score but are now 4-7 when both collect hits.
1) Ken Griffey Jr.
Holy hell, he got a hit! He hit the ball with more authority than he did in a while, not just on this single through the shift, but also on a fly ball elsewhere in the game. The single led off the fourth inning. The euphoria quickly died down as Lopez needed all of two pitches to ground into a double play to clean the bases.
2) Shawn Kelley
Fresh off being recalled from Tacoma, Kelley got the final four Tampa Bay outs of the game, giving up two hits along the way. He didn't even give up any runs, and that makes it one of the fortunate things to happen in this game. Thus, it's a gameball. The bar isn't very high for the Mariners right now.
3) Chone Figgins
He singled with one out in the third. The Mariners' second baseman is now a .204 hitter with an on-base percentage of .336 with a slugging percentage of .265. Figgins also had a nice jump-and-throw play on a ground ball up the middle. For a game like this, it's enough for a gameball.
The Aussie just hasn't been himself on the mound this season. He's had maybe one start, if that, where he looked like he might be on the way to turning it around. Not so. It's like he's the new Snell or something. You have to be a certain amount of bad to be replaced in a game by Snell, who appears to have the very long relief role in an effort to reclaim him as a starting pitcher. Rowland-Smith gave up his three walks in the first 3 1/3 innings. One of the walks scored as Tampa Bay's first run while the other was the Rays' third run of the game. I know the Mariners' offense sucks, but even if they were performing up to snuff, they wouldn't have been able to overcome Rowland-Smith's performance. With Snell now in the bullpen, Rowland-Smith remains as the only weak link in the starting rotation. Four out of five ain't bad, but this guy gave you a dependable seven innings every time out last year.
Weaver. Hernandez. Tonight.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Due to my watching a much more important game (i.e., watching the Canucks fritter away their home-ice advantage in the playoffs), this will pretty much be a boxscore analysis. It hurts to miss watching a Cliff Lee start, and though I likes me some hockey too, I was still hoping the replay of the Mariner game on FSNNW would start right after the postgame show. Instead, it was WHL playoffs. Though noble, it wasn't what I wanted to see after I'd already watched Canuck futility. In Marinerland, however, today came the news that Milton Bradley's going to be away from the team for a few days, keeping a roster spot while getting professional help. Other notable times when a Mariner manager has played with a 24-man roster: Lou Piniella in 2002 with Luis Ugueto as the 25th player, if you could call him that.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below. Cliff Lee eats innings for breakfast.
-- the bullpen got a good share of rest thanks to Lee's eight-inning outing (and thanks to the Rays swinging at Lee's first pitch something like 14 times, a stat passed along by Bill Krueger on the Mariner postgame show). Sean White came in for the ninth to bury the game for good. He got only one out, but he couldn't do so until facing his fifth hitter. His five hitters did, in order: walk, double (the 5-2 run), walk, walk (passed ball advances runners into scoring position on one of the balls), sacrifice fly (6-2 run). At this point, Don Wakamatsu pulled White and put in Kanekoa Texeira. A grounder for a fielder's choice got the second out and scored the 8-2 run before Texeira mercifully struck out Carlos Pena to end the inning.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: White and Texeira worked in this game. Going into Thursday's game, Brandon League and Jesus Colome will have one day of rest, David Aardsma and Mark Lowe will have three days of rest, and Ian Snell will have eight days of rest.
-- let's see what pops out from the boxscore on the offensive side. Franklin Gutierrez hit the homer that put the Mariners in a 2-0 lead, and the homer was the Mariners' first in about a week and a half. With Bradley out, Casey Kotchman was moved back into the third slot for the first time in a few weeks, and Gutierrez hit fourth. Jose Lopez was bumped down to sixth. The Mariners' third baseman was 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, as was Josh Wilson. Josh Wilson came in for Jack Wilson to start the fourth inning. Jack Wilson experienced hamstring tightness at some point between bunting for a base hit, running to second on a groundout, and running out an Ichiro ground ball in the bottom of the third. Ken Griffey Jr. is listed as hitting a double, which the ESPN.com play-by-play says was a "ground-rule double to deep right," more than likely meaning he hit the ball hard, which is encouraging if true.
-- the Mariners got six hits in the game, and usually they wouldn't get three runs from that many hits. Big thanks to the Gutierrez home run to enable that.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat: Ichiro had a hit, though Figgins did not. Neither player scored a run. The Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score and 4-6 when both collect hits.
1) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder was slotted fourth and went 2-for-4 on the night, driving in the only Mariner runs. His two-run homer to rightfield came in the fourth inning, and the 2-0 lead last just a few minutes as the Rays tied the game in the next half-inning. He also singled to lead off the futile semi-rally in the ninth which got the Mariners their third and final run. His other two at-bats ended in outs which didn't occur with anyone on base and therefore cannot be described as unclutch. Gutierrez is a .343 hitter with a .397 on-base percentage and a .505 slugging percentage (up .030 from one night earlier, greatly helped by the home run). I can't help but think how good the Mariners' record might be if they just had one bat going about 80% as hot as Gutierrez.
2) Cliff Lee
He really only had two innings where things got away from him. In the fifth, he caught Pat Burrell looking to lead off, but that was followed by three straight hits. Dioner Navarro doubled, then scored on Gabe Kapler's single, pulling the Rays to within one run at 2-1. Jason Bartlett then doubled to score Kapler to tie the game at 2-2 before Lee buckled down and got the final two outs of the inning. Lee set down the next nine hitters including the first out of the eighth. Carl Crawford started the dagger rally with a single, then reached second on a Ben Zobrist bunt single (I'll guess it was a well-placed sacrifice that had no play). What followed were three run-scoring plays. Longoria singled to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead. Pena lined out to short, but then Josh Wilson's throwing error (I'll guess he threw wide trying to double off one of the runners) scored Zobrist to make it 4-2. Bossman Junior Upton then singled to make it 5-2 before Burrell flew out to finally end the inning. So, Lee allowed three of his 10 hits in the fifth and four of hits in the eighth. I don't think it's too early to wonder if Lee will be on this team past mid-July, let alone next season, and it's no fault of his.
3) Ryan Langerhans
In his first start since being called up from Tacoma a few days ago, Langerhans played left and walked twice on his 0-for-2 day. It must have been a bit devastating for him after the first week of the season, getting sent down since the Mariners' starting pitching was so awful they needed an extra arm in the bullpen. I was surprised he cleared waivers and surprised he took the assignment to Tacoma. He's got a starting job for the next week or so, it seems. We know he has extra-inning walk-off power. He's not going to drive in 100 runs or anything, but it is what it is.
Let's see if there are unclutch moments on the Lopez ledger for this game. In the fourth, Griffey somehow managed to get himself onto second base with one out, and Lopez could only muster a grounder that got Griffey to third. In the ninth, with Griffey on first and one out, Lopez flew out to center. Of course, with the Mariners down 8-2, it didn't really matter at that point. Anyway, Lopez needs to warm up, but it seems like I've been saying this for weeks. Is it going to happen or what? Everyone's waiting. Lopez is currently hitting .216 with an on-base percentage of .241, the worst out of all the regulars in the Mariner lineup. He's slugging .279, which is lower than even Jack Wilson and Rob Johnson.
Niemann. Rowland-Smith. Tonight.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
If you didn't look at the standings, you would swear this team we're seeing right now is as bad as the 2008 team. They're almost unwatchable. If the Mariners fall behind 2-0 in a game, I don't have a lot of hope for them to pull out the win. I've made the observation that a number of Mariner losses are the result of not just one player, but an entire phase of the team's game that betrayed them. Usually, the offense completely sucks. The first road trip of the season, the starting pitching sucked, which superseded how crappy the offense was. In the Chicago series, the bullpen let all three games get away. To kick off this series against Tampa Bay, the Mariners had their defense turn against them. The Mariner defense handed out errors on the first two plays of the game, which I'm sure let the crowd know it was going to be a great night at the ballpark. The game waited until the fifth inning when it felt like the Mariners' fate had been sealed. The Rays had taken a 3-0 lead, a commanding lead against a team that scores as much as the Mariners.
-- now even the bounces don't seem to be going the Mariners' way, whether it's Jose Lopez drilling a line drive in the fifth inning but right into Evan Longoria's glove at third or Vargas walking Carl Crawford with two out (after striking out the previous two hitters) and having him score on the next pitch. Also add the ball that dropped between Jack Wilson and Franklin Gutierrez in center.
-- of course, the defense betrayed the Mariners in this game. On the first play of the game, Chone Figgins ranged to his left and tried to scoop the ball and shovel the ball to first base. He didn't quite get the scoop part down and was charged with the error. Jack Wilson had the other three errors, which will be discussed toward the end of this post.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below as well. Nice job, Jason Vargas.
-- it's bullpen time. Brandon League came on with two out and the bases empty in the seventh. He faced four hitters to get just one out, but part of that was due to a Wilson throwing error. The Aybar 'tweener occurred on the next play, scoring Longoria and pouring a little more fuel onto Vargas' ERA fire. Longoria got aboard on an infield single to start the whole thing; Casey Kotchman had a diving stab to get to that ball and threw a bit behind League running to cover the bag at first, but the ball did hit him in the glove. Anyway, another bounce failed to go the Mariners' way. Jesus Colome came on for the eighth, making it easily the latest he's been brought into any game this year. He walked the catcher on five pitches, watched a passed ball get by Adam Moore behind the plate and advance the runner to second (can none of these catchers actually catch?!), threw a wild pitch to move the runner to third, then got a fly ball deep enough to score the runner from third and Tampa Bay had just scored their 5-1 run without the benefit of a hit. After the Crawford double that really should not have been, Kanekoa Texeira came on and got a groundout, then struck out the side in the ninth while allowing a leadoff single and a two-out walk.
-- League has a long white string on his mitt that resulted in a small delay in play, though the umpiring crew didn't make him cut it or get another mitt.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League, Colome, and Texeira worked in this game. Going into Wednesday's game, David Aardsma and Mark Lowe will have two days of rest, Sean White will have four days of rest, and Ian Snell will have seven days of rest. Surely everyone's noticed by now how Texeira and Colome only pitch when the Mariners are losing and/or hopeless, and Aardsma and Lowe only pitch when they're tied or winning.
-- the Mariners loaded the bases with one out in the sixth. Wilson's double was the only solid hit of the inning as Ichiro and Chone Figgins got aboard on infield hits. Gutierrez dinked a ball in front of the centerfielder to load the bases. Then Milton Bradley took a 2-2 offspeed pitch for strike three (it was the first fastball he saw in the at-bat, though he probably though it was high too). Then Ken Griffey Jr. came up and hopelessly struck out to end the inning. Griffey did hit one hard foul ball in this game, so maybe that's a baby step. Bases loaded, one out...SO WHAT!!!
-- Wakamatsu reacted immediately to the Bradley strikeout by putting Ryan Langerhans into leftfield in the very next half-inning. Langerhans then singled in the bottom of the ninth to give the Mariners some life.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat: both players didn't score in the game, though Ichiro got two hits and Figgins got one. The Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score, but are now 4-6 when both collect hits.
1) Jason Vargas
Oddly, he gave up four hits in 6 2/3 innings in his last start as well. Early on, it seemed like Vargas was somewhat unhittable. That was good because he was striking out his share of hitters (eight), but it was also bad because he walked three. If not for the errors, it's no stretch to say Vargas may have pitched into the eighth inning. Don Wakamatsu left Vargas on the mound to start the seventh despite his pitch count being over 100. Vargas got two quick outs and was pulled to an ovation, or at least a big one that you can get from 15589 people in the stands (the ESPN.com boxscore tells me this represents 32.6% capacity). While neither the offense and defense helped him out, a part that has to enter the argument is that James Shields is pretty good. One instance where Vargas really got burned was when he led off the third inning with two strikeouts, then walked Crawford on four pitches. Ben Zobrist then doubled on his first pitch, scoring Crawford all the way from first for the game's first run. Vargas' average per-start line through five starts: 6 1/3 innings, 2.6 runs, 4.8 hits, 1.8 walks, 5.4 strikeouts, 97 pitches (62 strikes), 5.2 groundouts, 6.2 flyouts.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
It just occurred to me that I've put Gutierrez here even though I'm going to say bad stuff about his defense. On offense, he went 3-for-4 (all singles), pushing his batting average to .337 and his on-base mark to .393. He scored the Mariners' 5-2 run after leading off the ninth with a single. He also singled with the bases empty and two out in the fourth and he singled to load the bases with one out in the sixth only for you-know-what to happen. On the play after Wilson's third error, Willy Aybar dropped a 'tweener into shallow center, and Gutierrez pulled up (probably because he couldn't get it and he didn't want to collide with Wilson, Endy Chavez-style) and had to watch Wilson not quite get to the ball. The play scored Tampa Bay's 4-1 run. I'm not sure if that put off Gutierrez defensively for a while or what. On what went as a sac fly in the 8th, Gutierrez didn't even try gunning a throw home even though the man on third was the only runner on base. The next play had Crawford singling into leftcenter on a pretty normal ball. I don't know if Gutierrez sat back on his laurels or what, but Crawford stretched that into a double, and it shouldn't have been a double.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 2-for-4 with a strikeout. He looked pretty bad on the strikeout. The two hits were singles, though that comes as no surprise. He singled to lead off the first inning and was picked off of first base, and it wasn't on the first try by Shields, who has quite a quick pickoff move for a rightie. Ichiro rolled a ball up the middle in the sixth, and Reid Brignac couldn't get enough on the throw. This helped set up the fateful situation that ended the sixth. Ichiro is now 35-for-108 (.324) on the season, putting him on a pace for a 218-hit season.
A cornerstone upon which this team was built was defense. As such, it was a good night for the Mariners' shortstop to get tagged for three errors. His first error came on the second play of the game. With Sean Rodriguez having led off the inning getting aboard on Figgins' error, Carl Crawford hit a ball to short that maybe could have been a double-play ball (Crawford's fast, so they had to at least get the guy at second). Instead, he tried backhanding the ball and the ball didn't stay in the glove. Vargas should have had the bases empty and two out at this point, but instead had two on and nobody out (he somehow pitched his way out of that jam). Wilson's second error was a bit more inconsequential. Gabe Kapler hit him a grounder in the fifth, and the ball bounced up into Wilson's bare hand and stayed in the glove a bit too long before falling back onto the dirt. With two out in the seventh and a man on first, the shift was on for Carlos Pena. Pena groudned a ball to the right side and Wilson shaded over for it, and crossed and lost his footing as he had just corraled the ball, his throw being errant as he fell to the ground from losing balance. That moved Longoria into scoring position, and a single on the next play drove home Tampa Bay's 4-1 run.
Garza. Lee. Tonight.
Monday, May 03, 2010
I'm not sure if the three straight bullpen meltdowns in Chicago were more demoralizing than this Texas series to open the homestand. Two great starting pitching outings were wasted and the ace wasn't totally on his game, though the supposedly dependable defense let him down. This game was a lot like the Cliff Lee game from Friday night except the Mariners actually scored one run and somehow had the lead. The starting pitching is pretty much the only phase of this game for the Mariners that can't be blamed. You can't really blame it on one thing. The bullpen and the passed balls could be blamed, but is any of that even a factor if the offense is worth anything? Something else that's bothersome is that the Mariners are starting not to get the bounces again, and that's something I hoped I wouldn't have to say after the 2-6 start to the season.
-- I'll talk about the starting pitching in the gameballs. Nice job, Doug Fister.
-- now for the bullpen. David Aardsma came in to take a 1-0 lead to the bank in the ninth. Elvis Andrus eked out a nine-pitch walk, then stole second base on the second pitch to Michael Young. Aardsma got Young to whiff on a fastball that was half a foot outside for strike three, a huge strikeout. The euphoria was short-lived as David Murphy promptly drove a single to center to score Andrus and tie the game at 1-1. The second pitch to Josh Hamilton was in the dirt, and Rob Johnson somehow blocked it. The ball rolled in front of the plate and Johnson gunned down Murphy trying to advance to second. This play shows up in the ESPN.com play-by-play as a "runner's fielder's choice" and I guess it's not exactly a caught stealing. Hamilton flew out to end the inning and Aardsma's outing. Ian Kinsler welcomed Brandon League into the game with an infield single. A bunt and a groundout moved Kinsler to third, but League got a key lineout from pinch-hitting Andres Blanco to end the inning. Mark Lowe gave up a leadoff single to Julio Borbon, who moved to second on a passed ball (this will be discussed below) and was bunted over to third. Young was up again in a key situation and went down swinging. Murphy again came up in a key situation and came up roses again, flying out deep enough to left to score Borbon and give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Josh Hamilton singled to move Andrus to third, and Andrus scored on another passed ball to cap the scoring at 3-1. Kinsler was intentionally walked before a Garko flyout ended the inning.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Aardsma, League, and Lowe threw in this game and will have a day of rest going into Tuesday's game against Tampa Bay. Kanekoa Texeira and Jesus Colome will have two days of rest, Sean White will have three days of rest, and Ian Snell will have six days of rest and presumably be sufficiently rested for bullpen work.
-- let's talk about offensive futility. Again. A broken-bat single put Milton Bradley on first with one out in the second inning. Casey Kotchman had a nine-pitch at-bat but struck out, then Eric Byrnes watched as Bradley was gunned down at second base on a fastball of a throw from catcher Max Ramirez, ending the inning. In the third, Johnson walked with one out (since he can't hit himself aboard), moved to second on a groundout, and was ultimately stranded there by Ichiro. After the Mariners had scored their only run of the game, they continued the fourth inning with Franklin Gutierrez on first base and nobody out. A Jose Lopez double pushed Gutierrez to third. Bradley reached for a pitch and flew out to left, but not deep enough to plate Gutierrez. Kotchman took a ball to the right ribcage to load the bases before Byrnes was caught looking on an outside-ish pitch and Johnson hit a fairly deep fly ball to center that was nicely run down by Borbon. In the fifth, Jack Wilson led off with a single before Ichiro grounded into a double play, his first of the season, and apparently from the FSNNW broadcast we found out that Ichiro GIDP'd only once all of last season. Gutierrez walked on four pitches to start the sixth, but two fielder's choices made it so no runner got to second, and another groundout ended the inning. In the eighth, Figgins walked and stole second before Gutierrez walked behind him. In an example of bounces not going the Mariners' way, Lopez stung a ball to the right side that would have been a nice single if not for Justin Smoak being right where the ball was hit. Figgins was doubled off at second.
-- the Mariner offense had a runner aboard with less than two outs in every inning from the second to the sixth, and they did again in the eighth. The disturbing thing is that once the Rangers tied the game in the ninth inning, the offense folded like a cheap tent. The Mariners sent 10 hitters to the plate in the final three innings and nine of them made outs. Thanks to Figgins for drawing that two-out walk in the 10th.
-- the Mariners had some moments of defensive prowess in the game. Gutierrez had a nice play on a Murphy fly to end the fourth that required him to run quite a ways toward the wall to make the play (Borbon pretty much duplicated this play later in the game for Texas). The defensive play of the game, however, was by far the Ichiro homer-robbing catch off Justin Smoak. Ichiro didn't Spider-Man it, but he did inch up to the wall before leaping with the glove above the yellow line and pulling the ball down with him. Though I didn't like seeing the Mariners like they did, Ichiro made me glad I watched the game and saw that play. Unfortunately, Fister's perfect game ended three pitches later, but Ichiro did his part to keep it going.
-- Ichiro went 0-for-5, leaving him at 33-for-104 (.317) on the season and putting him on pace for a 214-hit season. He went 0-for-8 in the final two games of the series. I would have easily given him the goat entry since the ignition of the offense has a great deal to do with him, but he took a Texas run off the board by himself with that catch.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro again went hitless, which of course means Figgins scored a run and got a hit along with two walks. They just can't get it going together. The Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score and are 4-5 when both collect hits.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 20-5 .800 --
2002 18-7 .720 2
2003 16-9 .640 4
2009 15-10 .600 5
2000 14-11 .560 6
2007 13-12 .520 7
2005 12-13 .480 8
2008 12-13 .480 8
2010 11-14 .440 9
2006 10-15 .400 10
2004 9-16 .360 11
1) Doug Fister
The Mariners' fourth starter was masterful in this game. He retired the first 16 Ranger hitters he faced, with the 16th out being the Smoak fly that Ichiro brought back into the field of play. Mathematically, one could argue he should have been sent to the mound for the ninth inning to finish what he started, but by that point he was starting to fall behind the hitters, so I can agree with the decision to have Aardsma come out for the ninth. One good thing for the Mariners' rotation is that Fister dodged the Vladimir Guerrero line drive up the middle that could have done some physical damage to Fister had it hit him. That single moved pinch-runner Craig Gentry to third, marking the first time in the game the Rangers had advanced a runner safely past first base. Fourteen groundouts and six flyouts reads like any great boxscore for Fister. You can't really argue with 27 up and 24 down. At least Fister had a 1-0 lead when he left the game. Cliff Lee wasn't lucky enough to have such a wide margin for error. I can't imagine any of the starting pitchers having any confidence at all in this offense. They're awful, and I think what will turn out to be a normal day for the offense will be closer to this vat of suck than it will be to what we saw in the first Mariner homestand.
2) Chone Figgins
The Mariners' second baseman went 1-for-3 in the game, scoring the Mariners' only run and walking twice. The FSNNW crew brought up during the game that Figgins has amassed more walks than hits so far this season. To that effect, Figgins is a .209 hitter on the season, but he has an on-base percentage of .349, behind only Gutierrez out of the Mariner regulars other than Rob Johnson. Once again, Ichiro and Figgins lack the synergy this team so desperately needs right now, and in this game Figgins was hitting without Ichiro to move over to third base or home. Once the Mariners got Figgins, I had all these dancing images in my head of first-to-third play involving Ichiro and Figgins. One would hope those images will soon become reality, or else this offense will sink this team.
3) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder walked twice and went 1-for-2, driving in the only Seattle run of the game. He also made a nice running catch on a fly ball by Murphy. I haven't seen enough yet to say he's officially out of his mini-slump, but this game went a long way toward busting the slump. This guy nearly hit 20 homers last year, so I'm still hoping the power stroke comes around. I don't expect him to hit 20 homers again, but the pace has to be better than it currently is. Of course, he wouldn't be able to hit 20 homers anyway with nobody hitting behind him in the lineup. If just one more hitter behind Gutierrez was hitting well, it would make a world of difference for this team. Still, it's frustrating for me to watch this offense knowing that the odd home run just doesn't happen. You can't just sit there watching a nothing inning and be pleasantly surprised by a Russell Branyan home run because Russell Branyan ain't walkin' through that door. The problem with this team, though, is that they need a lot of oars moving in the right direction just to score one run, let alone many runs, and this offense just can't string things together unless those things are outs.
The word "catcher" has the word "catch" in it. Johnson had two balls go cleanly off his glove in the 11th inning. No foul tip, no bounce off the ground, just cleanly off his glove. I'd be willing to look the other way a little bit if he was hitting .250 or something, but he's not. He's hitting .171 with a wonky on-base percentage of .375 (must be walks). He can't hit, and as we saw in the 11th inning, he apparently can't catch either. His ony redeeming quality as a player is that Felix Hernandez seems to throw well with him back there, and I'm not too sure anymore how much that has to do with Johnson being back there since Felix is awesome regardless. Also, Felix spikes some stuff in the dirt back there, and since Johnson can't catch or block balls very well at all, I'm not sure it's that great a mix to have back there. Manager Don Wakamatsu was a catcher in his playing days, and the catching situation on this ballclub has to make him nauseous. Dan Wilson, even though he cuoldn't hit that great except for a year or two, is the gold standard for this franchise behind the plate. If there's a spectrum for catching in this franchise, Johnson right now is at the end opposite of Wilson, further away than even Miguel Olivo, Wiki Gonzalez, Ben Davis, et al. Awful.
Shields. Vargas. Tomorrow.
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Felix Hernandez is a dependable pitcher. This much we know. Unfortunately, he is human and not a machine. Thus, the presence of the human element opens the possibility for human error. In other words, Hernandez cannot be perfect. This loss would have been a lot less painful if the Mariners could have scored a run for Cliff Lee on Friday night. Instead, the Mariners failed miserably in the first game of the series and Felix became human on Saturday night. The three-run second inning wasn't all the fault of Felix, of course, but he couldn't find himself after that. Once the Rangers put up three runs in the second inning, the game felt over, and it basically was. After the game was all over, I seriously felt like I had wasted three hours of my life. There was no drama in this game. It was like watching a pre-scripted baseball game where my team was going to lose and put up very little resistance.
-- I'll get the fateful inning out of the way. Ian Kinsler singled to lead off the top of the second. David Murphy put a short flare into leftcenter, then Felix walked Justin Smoak to load the bases with nobody out. Felix then got Matt Treanor whiffing. With one out, Julio Borbon hit a hard grounder right to Casey Kotchman at first base. Kotchman stopped the ball, but bobbled it a bit on what should have been an inning-ending double play. Instead, Kotchman could only tag the bag once he got control of the ball and one run crossed the plate. Elvis Andrus then popped a ball into leftcenter, where it appeared Milton Bradley could have caught it, but pulled up while Franklin Gutierrez was nowhere in the picture. The miscommunication and defensive gaffe resulted in a two-run double instead of what should have been the final out of the inning. Felix should have been out of the inning unscathed and instead was down 3-0. Absolute crap.
-- From there, Felix continued not to get the bounces. In the third, he allowed a one-out single to Vladimir Guerrero (it kinda dropped in front of Ichiro, who decided he wasn't going to slide for it) and allowed a two-out Kinsler walk. In the fourth, we were reminded that Adrian Beltre no longer plays third base as Jose Lopez failed to gun down Treanor on a bunt attempt, then Lopez couldn't quite get to a foul pop by Borbon that went to the warning track in foul ground on the left side. Andrus then hit a ball into the left-side hole that Jack Wilson got to, but botched the transfer to the throwing hand. In the fifth, Felix finally went off the tracks. Josh Hamilton led off by golfing a home run into the visitors' bullpen to make it 4-2 for Texas. Felix got a groundout from Guerrero, then threw a first-pitch strike to Kinsler. The Rangers' second baseman then took the next four pitches for balls. Murphy then walked on four pitches. After having thrown eight straight balls, Felix was mercifully pulled. A short time later, he was shown in the dugout putting a giant wad of chaw under his lip as he coped with the end of his 18-game streak of quality starts.
-- now for the bullpen. Jesus Colome, fresh off not being dropped off the roster, came in for Felix. On his first pitch, he gave up an RBI single to Smoak for the Rangers' fifth run. He then walked Treanor on five pitches to load the bases before getting a tapper back to the mound. He threw home for the forceout and the second out of the inning, then got Andrus swinging to end the inning. Colome then threw a 1-2-3 sixth followed by a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Kanekoa Texeira gave up a one-out bunt single to Borbon, who moved to second on a bunt to the mound. Michael Young singled to score Borbon and cap the Rangers' scoring for the game at 6-3. Texeira gave up another single before getting a ground ball to end the inning. Texeira gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but struck out the next hitter and got a double-play ball to end the inning.
-- Rob Johnson sure made a lot of snap throws to first base in this game.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Colome and Texeira threw in this game. Going into Sunday's game, Mark Lowe, David Aardsma, Brandon League, and Sean White all will have a day of rest, and Ian Snell will four days of rest after having thrown 104 pitches on Tuesday.
-- the offense had a couple of innings with actual runs being scored. Wilson led off with a grounder up the middle that went off the pitcher and toward the second baseman, but that was enough for Wilson to reach first. Ichiro then tried to bunt for a base hit, but Young made the play from third. Chone Figgins drew a walk, but then Franklin Gutierrez continued his slide with a strikeout (on an unappealed checkswing, which drew a bit of ire from Gutierrez to Derryl Cousins for the lack of appeal). Lopez then singled into the gap to make it 3-1, then Milton Bradley hot a slow roller toward third on which Young died on a do-or-die play and Figgins scored to make it 3-2. The fifth saw Figgins get aboard on a throwing error to lead off, then Gutierrez push-bunted for a single (hopefully snapping him out of a slump), moving Figgins to third. A groundout by Lopez brought home the Mariners' third and final run of the game to make it 5-3. With Gutierrez on second and one out, Bradley struck out looking to all but kill the remaining scoring threat.
-- let's see if there were any other nullified scoring threats by the Mariners. In the first inning, Figgins singled with one out only to be erased on an inning-ending double play. The second inning saw Lopez single to lead off, and he was moved to second on a one-out single by Sweeney. Kotchman walked to load the bases, but Johnson hit into a double play. The sixth inning saw Johnson draw a one-out walk and stay stranded at first base. Bradley singled to lead off the eighth and went to second on a wild pitch, still with nobody out. Johnson walked with two out, but Bradley never moved further than second. Ichiro and Figgins drew consecutive walks to lead off the ninth, but they stayed at first and second. Hooray futility!!
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro went hitless and never scored, while Figgins got one hit, scored twice, and walked twice. Thus, the Mariners are still 7-1 when both players score and are 4-5 when both get hits.
Yr W-L Pct GB
2001 20-4 .833 --
2002 18-6 .750 2
2003 15-9 .625 5
2000 14-10 .583 6
2009 14-10 .583 6
2007 13-11 .542 7
2005 12-12 .500 8
2010 11-13 .458 9
2008 11-13 .458 9
2006 9-15 .375 11
2004 8-16 .333 12
1) Chone Figgins
The Mariners' second baseman walked twice, got a hit, and scored twice. That's a good day for Figgins, though as per usual, there was no synergy with Figgins and Ichiro in the same game at the top of the lineup. Figgins still hits an awful .205, but all the walks put him at an on-base percentage of .343, which was worse than only Ichiro, Gutierrez, and (somehow) Johnson in the starting lineup. I'm hoping he's out of his hitting slump.
2) Jose Lopez
The Mariners' third baseman went 2-for-5 and drove in two of the Mariners' three runs on the day. Lopez is still doing it without power, slugging a grand .296 with a batting average of .235. This team had nine home runs in the month of April, and for the good of us all, that pace better increase dramatically. I'm not expecting a record amount of home runs, but I do at least want the team to pop the odd homer. All I want is below-average power out of this offense, which is a huge gain over the current complete lack of power.
3) Jesus Colome
The man who somehow dodged getting bumped off the roster on Friday came back to game action after nearly two weeks away. Other than struggling in the final Felix inning and letting one of the inherited runners come around to score, Colome settled down to end that inning, then set down six straight hitters over the sixth and seventh innings. For one day, he justified having the seventh spot (though now it might be the sixth) spot in the Mariner bullpen.
It would have been easy for me to put the goat horns on Felix for falling off the cliff in the fifth inning, but if defense was a huge reason the Mariners got Kotchman, he didn't get the job done on what should have been a double-play ball in the second inning, and the game turned on that play. If he makes that play, Felix might go on to throw his usual seven innings. Instead, the inning didn't end when it should have, then the joke play in leftcenter happened, and the game was basically done. Also, Kotchman was 0-for-3 with a walk.
Wilson. Fister. Today.