Saturday, May 15, 2010
Well, this win was definitely out of the ordinary for the Mariners. Sure, there isn't that large of a sample size for Mariner wins this season, but bear with me. The starting pitching wasn't top notch, but the hitting picked up the starting pitching. Yes, the hitting! The Mariner offense has somehow managed to homer three times in each of the last two games. Incredible. Even more amazing is the names of the Mariners that are hitting these homers (apart from Franklin Gutierrez, who thankfully returned to the lineup from upper back spasms...with a bang). Still dismaying, of course, is that the names that should be hitting these homers still aren't showing up on the ledger as hitting home runs. Even more amazing about this game -- no Mariner wild pitches or passed balls. I might just hope for a ball to go to the backstop in Saturday's day game just to remember what it feels like and how much it sucks. All in all, the Mariners scored in the first inning and held on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, they of the 24-11 record. Meanwhile, the Mariners are losing 60% of the time.
-- I don't want to look through every boxscore just to clarify this, but Dave Sims during the Mariner broadcast said the Mariners had a 5-11 road record and had lost nine of those games in the final opposing at-bat. In other words, they've lost in a combination of bottom of eighths, bottom of ninths, and bottom of extras. Of course, now that stat would be 6-11 with the nine losses still applying. Shawn Kelley nearly made it 5-12 and ten losses in the final at-bat of this game, but luckily a home run to bring the game within one run also clears the bases.
-- first, the starting pitching. Doug Fister wasn't awful by any means, but he didn't have the radar he usually does. On the other hand, he's the kind of pitcher that needs the corners of the plate to be successful. That may or may not have to do with what I'm about to say. I thought Fister was getting squeezed a bit. I saw the Jason Bartlett at-bat in the third inning, and Fister got behind 2-0 before throwing a strike. Fister pretty much piped the first two pitches, and both were called balls, but the next pitch was visibly off the plate outside and was called a strike. To rub this in, the Emerald Queen Casino tracer was put on the screen and confirmed what I had thought. Later in that at-bat, Fister caught a spike into the mound with a runner on third, resulting in a balk and Tampa Bay's first run of the game to cut the Mariner lead to 2-1. In the first, Fister allowed only a two-out single. In the fourth, he allowed a leadoff single and a walk right after it before getting a flyout and a double-play ball. He nearly fell off the tracks in the fifth, all with two out. He walked Reid Brignac, allowed a Bartlett single, and walked Carl Crawford on four pitches to load the bases before getting an inning-ending flyout. His 10:3 groundout-to-flyout ratio was still vintage Fister, but the three walks in this game were not.
-- now, the bullpen. Kanekoa Texeira will be discussed below. Shawn Kelley came into the eighth trying to hold a 4-1 lead. Crawford hit a hard grounder to Kotchman, who had to go to the ground to get it, but he never cleanly fielded it, so he couldn't really get a throw off to beat the speedy Crawford. Kelley got a flyout from Zobrist, but then Evan Longoria knocked a ball over the leftfield wall to make it 4-3. Kelley then barred the door and got the final two hitters of the inning to go down swinging. David Aardsma then had a rare (for him) 1-2-3 ninth inning, getting a Pat Burrell flyout before getting whiffs for the final two outs to lock up the save.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Texeira, Kelley, and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Saturday's game, Brandon League will have a day of rest while Ian Snell, Sean White, and Jesus Colome will have two days of rest.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro scored a run while Chone Figgins did not. Ichiro had three hits, and Figgins had one. As such, the Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score runs, but are now 6-8 when both players collect hits.
-- Mike Sweeney homered for the Mariners' fourth run, and they ended up needing that run thanks to Kelley's misfortunes in the eighth.
I heard it on SportsCenter and can more quickly confirm through boxscores that the Mariners' leadoff hitter does indeed have six straight multi-hit games. An 0-for-4 day on May 7th against the Angels left him hitting .308 on the season. Six games and fifteen hits later (15-for-26, a torrid .577), Ichiro is a .356 hitter on the season. Ichiro cranked a double in the first inning and scored as the first Mariner run on the Gutierrez homer, but his other two hits were well-placed infield singles on which the infielders had no play (one went off the pitcher's ankle). His 3-for-5 night has him at 52-for-146 (the aforementioned .356) on the season, and he's on pace to finish with 241 hits, which is more like it. Unfortunately we've learned over the years that the offense doesn't necessarily go where Ichiro goes, or else the Mariners would have been awesome in 2004. Similarly, the Mariners haven't exactly been tearing things up over the last six games. Over the last two games, sure, but not the last six.
2) Adam Moore
He doubled and homered. I thought it'd be a little while longer before we saw a game like this out of him, but hey, the sooner the better. The sooner Moore's hitting makes Rob Johnson sit the bench more often, the better. The homer was an opposite-field homer (evem more amazing) in the fifth inning which put the Mariners up 3-1. Adam Moore, now a .185 hitter with an on-base percentage of .214 and a slugging percentage of .296. The slugging percentage was at .200 going into the game. As long as the Mariners' offensive production out of the catchers' spot is something better than suck, I'm all for it. Like I said, I'd rather it be Moore pushing Johnson aside, but I'll take either one stepping up and hitting every once in a while. First one to hit .210 wins the race! In other words, the best of the worst will win. Of course, a good feather in the cap for this game was the lack of wild pitches and passed balls for Moore, which gives him a big leg up, as far as I'm concerned.
3) Kanekoa Texeira
Once Fister's inefficiency became apparent, it was obvious that the middle relief was going to be real important for the Mariners to preserve this win. The solution for me was a bit unseen as I didn't think Don Wakamatsu would summon the man from Maui as the first guy out of the bullpen. He's usually a guy that only pitches when the Mariners are losing or need some garbage-time relief. He threw two innings of shutout ball. He struck out the side in the sixth, and these weren't chop-liver hitters in the Rays' lineup either. Texeira struck out Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena (okay, he's been a bit off this year), and Bossman Junior Upton. In the seventh, Texeira allowed only a two-out walk to Brignac, but set down the other three hitters he faced. His ERA is sitting at a modest 3.07, which divided by nine would be 0.34. That number would be his earned runs per inning, which I feel is somewhat of an important number for relievers. Basically it tells me he gives up runs every three or four outings if he's throwing an inning every outing. Obviously, though, an ERA like Arthur Rhodes and Jeff Nelson in the nutso bullpen year would be really good regardless of how you twist the number.
It never fails that even if the Mariner offense steps up and they do fairly well, one of the yet-to-get-hot guns is one of the players who does nothing offensively. Kotchman went 0-for-3 with a walk in the sixth spot in the lineup. In other words, it's a good thing Gutierrez came back to his third slot after the upper back spasms. With two aboard in the first, he grounded into an inning-ending double play. In the fourth, he grounded out with the bases empty and one out. In the sixth, he was up with Gutierrez on third and two out and was intentionally walked, which I thought was stupid because it's not like Kotchman is hitting well. In the eigth, Kotchman was up with a runner on first and nobody out and flew out to left.
Vargas. Shields. Today.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
In a way, this loss comes off as more refreshing than most of the Mariners' losses. They put some runs on the board and got good starting pitching. It all went to crap with Brandon League on the mound, however, but I'll get to that later.
-- first off, three cheers for Mike Sweeney, who got the start at DH against a righthanded pitcher and, lo and behold, went 1-for-3 with a walk, and the one hit was a solo homer that put the Mariners up 4-1. He's now a .189 hitter (better than Chone Figgins) with an on-base percentage of .286 (better than Casey Kotchman and Jose Lopez) and a slugging percentage of .297 (better than Lopez). I'd really like to see this guy play four times a week. I think it's pretty easy to tell who between Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. has something left in the bat.
-- since I can't really avoid who I chose for the goat, this is where I have to put the underachieving hitters of the game. Chone Figgins is still awful, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He's now a .185 hitter. For all the talk about how Ichiro and Figgins were going to set the table for the rest of the lineup, Figgins dropped a (successful) bunt after Ichiro led off the fourth with an infield single. I guess it's more a sign of how far Figgins has fallen that he was bunting in a scoreless game with Ichiro on first and nobody out. I wonder how many more wins this team would have right now if Figgins was just hitting .250. What if all the terrible hitters right now were merely below average instead of black holes? Casey Kotchman went 0-for-4 with the only positive thing being that he saw 23 pitches. He's now a .191 hitter. Rob Johnson went 0-for-3 and saw only eight pitches. He is now a .158 hitter, which would be a lot more tolerable if he could catch, which he can't.
-- there are going to be a lot of boxscores for the Mariners where pitchers are tagged with wild pitches, but these wild pitches only seem to be wild pitches if a runner advances, and passed balls are apparently only passed balls if the catcher has the ball go off his glove and away or he completely whiffs. What I'm saying is that if the ball doesn't end up inside Rob Johnson's glove, it usually ends up far enough away from him for a runner to advance. If he were a goaltender in hockey, he'd be giving up juicy rebounds. For me, if there's a ball in the dirt within one home-plate width in either direction, he should keep it in front of him. Those balls should be blocked and no runners should be advancing. Again, it won't show up in the boxscore unless it's a straight passed ball, but sometimes these pitches are only "wild" because the catcher can't make a nice stop. If Johnson can't make these stops because of his hip surgeries, then he's back too soon. Bring up Josh Bard if that's the case. Did I mention Johnson can't hit with any regularity? He can't. I mean, hell, Miguel Olivo hit a freakin' walk-off homer on Wednesday night, so it makes me feel just great about Johnson's offensive output, which has been offensive, all right.
-- the Mariners had some more futility before they scored runs. In the fourth, Ichiro led off with an infield single and Figgins bunted him over (what was he going to do? Hit him over?) to second. With one out, Kotchman fell behind 0-2 and ended up flying out to left. Sweeney walked to keep the inning on life support, but Jose Lopez grounded out to third to end the threat.
-- the Mariners had some more futility after they scored the runs as well. Josh Wilson was hit with a pitch with one out in the ninth and the Mariners down 6-5. Griffey (awake) came in to pinch hit for Johnson and drew a walk. Michael Saunders had cashed the mojo quotient on his bat for the day and struck out for the second out in the ninth. Ichiro then shot a single through the left side, and as usual, Mike Brumley waved Josh Wilson around third base. Corey Patterson in leftfield had the ball just as Josh Wilson touched third base. Patterson's throw was a bit toward the first-base side of the plate, but catcher Matt Wieters reached for it, then reached back across to tag Josh Wilson across the left shin just before he crossed the plate with his slide. The throw had him beat, but the location wasn't quite perfect. That's where Wieters came into the picture. Usually I'd look for a reason to lay the blame at the feet of Brumley, who I'm convinced has run the Mariners out of some innings and scoring opportunities this season, but Figgins was in the on-deck circle, and it's not like Figgins was going to drive in any runs.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had three hits in the game and scored a run. Figgins went hitless and never crossed the plate. Surprise. The Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score and are 5-8 when they both collect hits.
The Mariners' rightfielder and leadoff hitter might finally be hitting his stride at the plate. He went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, a home run, and a walk. He is now 49-for-141 (.348), putting him on pace for a 233-hit season. After flying out to lead off the game, he had a great day at the plate. He led off the fourth with an infield single, hit the two-run homer over the wall in rightcenter with two out in the fifth to put the Mariners up 3-1, walked right after the Saunders homer in the seventh made it 5-1, then hit what was almost the game-tying base hit with two out in the ninth inning. Ichiro has an on-base percentage of .395 and a slugging percentage of .440, easily better than any full-time player on the roster who's been with the team since Opening Day (that criteria cuts out your Ryan Langerhanses, Josh Wilsons, and Michael Saunderses). It's weird to see the Mariners put up five runs on eight hits, but it's still lamentable because five of the hits were by Ichiro or Saunders, and the second through eighth hitters in the lineup only combined to go 3-for-23.
2) Felix Hernandez
Two starts ago, he didn't get out of the fifth inning. In his last start, he didn't get out of the fourth inning, and I didn't bother to go back and watch the replay since I was watching the Canucks get the crap beaten out of them on home ice and I didn't feel like watching taped action of Felix getting the stuffing beaten out of him. This game, however, saw him turn things around for the better. He gave up only one run, and that came in the fourth after he walked Nick Markakis with one out. One of those special wild pitches that Johnson should have had ended up moving Markakis into scoring position. A tapper back to the mound moved Markakis to third with two out,a nd he came home on Ty Wigginton's single to make it 1-0 for Baltimore before Felix got a flyout to end the inning. If you take out the wild pitch from that inning and leave everything else the same, the tapper back to the mound turns into an inning-ending double play and Felix comes away unscathed. In the sixth, Patterson led off with a double and went to third on an Adam Jones groundout, but Felix got a tapper back to the mound and got Miguel Tejada to whiff to end the inning. In the seventh, Luke Scott nubbed to the mound and Felix stopped it, but had no play and nearly threw it away past first. A single moved him over to second, but then Felix struck out pinch-hitting Wieters and got a grounder from pinch-hitting Garrett Atkins. The average per-start line for Felix: 6 1/3 innings, 3.3 runs (2.8 earned), 6 hits, 2.8 walks, 5.8 strikeouts, 104 pitches (65 strikes), 9 groundouts, 3.5 flyouts.
3) Michael Saunders
If he keeps doing what he's doing, it's going to really be decision time when Milton Bradley comes back from his mental respite. The Victoria native went 2-for-4 with a homer, driving in two runs and scoring twice. Too bad he struck out twice, but hey, the other at-bats were great. His single in the fifth inning tied the game at 1-1 and came at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat that started with him falling behind 0-2 on Kevin Millwood. In the seventh, he line-drove a solo shot over the big scoreboard in rightfield to make it 5-1. Once again, that swing reminded me a little bit of Chase Utley. It's a pretty short stroke, but it's proving to give the ball some jump. The team needs all of the power hitting they can get right now. Hopefully the power is contagious and seeps over to the Kotchmans and Lopezes of the world. I wonder how many Mariner fans would crap their pants right now if they dug up and watched a highlight tape of the 1997 Mariners playing long ball for an entire season.
There's really no direction to go with this. He came into the eighth inning with a 5-1 lead and the Mariners ended up with a 6-5 deficit on his watch. If there's anything in his defense, it's that he'd thrown in five of the Mariners previous six games, spread across seven days. Mark Lowe is on the disabled list, so Don Wakamatsu has been using him in a lot of the Lowe spots, but Lowe never got any five-out saves. It's like Wakamatsu wants League to be his clutch everything right now. Well, except for this game since he probably thought it'd be cake to put League in with a four-run lead. Patterson, who went through Peoria with the Mariners' camp last spring, homered over the rightfield scoreboard to lead off and cut the Mariners' lead to 5-2. Jones whiffed, but he got to first on a wild pitch (Johnson). Markakis singled to move Jones to second, then Tejada hit a grounder that ended up with runners at the corners and one out. Wigginton had the 2-0 and 3-1 counts before walking to load the bases. Scott took a pitch off the plate outside and put it just over the wall in leftcenter (Saunders nearly had it, but it went off fans' hands) for a grand slam and a 6-5 Baltimore lead. For the record, League's ERA went from 1.86 to 3.98 with this outing.
Fister. Davis. Tomorrow.
I went with this tagline after Ryan Rowland-Smith's last start, and I'll go with it again: Ryan Rowland-Smith is the new Ian Snell. This is too bad since the Aussie was good for seven innings every five days once he got back onto the roster. As a matter of fact, I was at the game where Rowland-Smith came back against Cleveland, and he pitched great, but the Mariners ended up getting drubbed. Miguel Batista couldn't even complete his garbage-time relief assignment. That was the home series sweep against Cleveland that ended the Mariners' playoff hopes, by the way. Anyway, there were also a couple of lineup tweaks, which...ugh. Franklin Gutierrez got the night off, so it's almost like Rowland-Smith was set up to fail by having the knees cut from under the offense. Matt Tuiasosopo got back onto the roster after Jack Wilson was DL'd, but then Tuiasosopo found himself hitting fifth in this lineup and playing third because Jose Lopez was the designated hitter. Casey Kotchman hit third, which I'd rather not see. Gutierrez didn't play centerfield, so Ryan Langerhans was the guy doing it.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below. Way below.
-- Ian Snell came into the game with the bases clean and nobody out in the fourth. He went 1-2-3 to finish off the fourth. Adam Jones singled off Snell to lead off the fifth, and he got to second with two out after Tuiasosopo had a grounder play him at third. Snell got the next hitter out to avoid any jam. Luck ran out for Snell, however, in the sixth. Consecutive doubles greeted Snell to start the sixth. A Cesar Izturis fly ball scored Luke Scott from third to make it 4-0, and one out later, Jones singled to scored Garrett Atkins from second to make it 5-0 and basically put the game away with three innings to spare. Sean White threw the seventh, giving up only a leadoff infield single to Miguel Tejada. Jesus Colome came in to start the eighth. He struck out Atkins to lead off, and after the strikeout pitch, it seemed he bent over at the waist in a bit of discomfort. Nothing seemed to come of it, then Izturis grounded to second. It was a play where Colome had to come off the mound in case he had to cover first base, and afterward he was clutching his right hip. Colome left the game at that point, and Kanekoa Texeira got the final hitter out to end the eighth.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Snell, White, Colome, and Texeira all worked in this game. Going into Thursday's midday game, Brandon League will have a day of rest, Shawn Kelley will have two days of rest, and David Aardsma will have three days of rest.
-- Langerhans helped postpone the Orioles' third run by gunning down Tejada at home plate to end the third inning. Really, Langerhans airmailed the throw all the way to Adam Moore behind the plate, and Tejada probably doesn't run like he did as a young'un.
-- Lopez had only one hit in the game, but it was a poke through the right side with a runner on first, so it was of a bit of note. The fact he had a hit at all is of note, sadly. Lopez is now hitting .215, which is better than Casey Kotchman (.198) and Chone Figgins (.190). His on-base percentage (.241) is still worse than all other Mariner regulars. That inning ended with Josh Wilson grounding to third into a step-on-third/throw-to-first double play started by Tejada. Tejada threw wide of first, but Atkins pulled it down and was able to tag Josh Wilson as he ran past.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Only Ichiro scored a run while Figgins did not. Ichiro had two hits, and Figgins collected one and drove in a run. Thus, the Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score, but are now 5-8 when both players get hits. The latter number is baffling to me, while the former is baffling only because it's so infrequent.
-- I didn't goat him because the starting pitching was going to sink this game anyway, but Josh Wilson cooled off, going 0-for-4, striking out once, and grounding into two double plays.
1) Ryan Langerhans
He started in centerfield and batted sixth, going 2-for-3 with a walk. Pretty much any time when a Langerhans, a Josh Wilson, or a Michael Saunders gets multiple hits in a game, they're going to get high consideration for one of these gameball slots. What should be happening is people like Jose Lopez, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, Ryan Rowland-Smith should be challenging for this spot every time they take the field, but not a lot of things about this season have gone quite as planned. In other news, Langerhans has reached base in each of the last four games and has hit more home runs at the big-league level this season than Jose Lopez.
The Mariners' rightfielder and leadoff hitter went 2-for-4 with a double (barely missing a homer). He is now 46-for-137 (.336), putting him on pace for 226 hits. He also scored one of the two Mariner runs and stole a base with the Mariners down 5-0 (Dave Niehaus wondered aloud on the radio side why Ichiro was stealing the bag down five runs, but at least it made the broadcast eventful). I hope this isn't another year like 2004 where the team sucks and all that's worth watching is Ichiro amassing hits. Granted, the components of Mariner suckness would be way different than 2004, but it would still be suck.
3) Casey Kotchman
The bar wasn't very high for a third gameball. Kotchman went 1-for-3 and also walked, so that's enough for the third gameball. This was enough to boost Kotchman's batting average to .198, his on-base percentage to .283 (still better than Lopez), and his slugging percentage to .377 (worse than Ichiro). Along with Figgins and Rowland-Smith, and the offense collectively, I'd have to say Kotchman has been a huge disappointment at the plate this season. He can defend, sure, and the team can defend, but the rules of baseball require you to be able to score at least one run to win, and this team has demonstrated on quite a few occasions that they have trouble even scoring once, let alone three or four times.
If the Mariners are still in it, I'm not sure if they can afford to have Ryan Rowland-Smith work out his kinks at the Major League level. He's not keeping the ball down and he's gotten hit hard in nearly every start. His average per-start line has him giving up 4.1 runs (3.7 earned) on 5.9 hits, walking 2.4, striking out 1.9, throwing 89 pitches (56 strikes), and getting 6.6 groundouts and 5.6 flyouts. The problem is that he amasses all those numbers in 5 1/3 innings. I expected these numbers maybe to come out of Doug Fister or Jason Vargas, but I guess I was tricking myself when I thought Rowland-Smith could be the number-two starter in this rotation. His performance so far this year has been really disappointing, and I was pretty surprised Don Wakamatsu had that quick of a hook on him after the solo homer that started the bottom of the fourth. Apparently, Wakamatsu saw 55 pitches and he didn't need to see any more. Maybe the hole Hyphen thing went to his head. The Hyphen shirts aren't going to sell very well until he picks up his performance.
Hernandez. Millwood. Today.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Well, the Mariners start a road trip, but the off day was eventful, what with all the talk about Ken Griffey Jr. possibly being asked to retire or being released by the end of the month and possibly having been asleep when Don Wakamatsu could have summoned him to pinch hit for Rob Johnson. Ian Furness of KJR seemed to think that since Larry LaRue absolutely hates the concept of blogging, he wouldn't up and post a blog on the Tribune's website if he didn't think he could run with it. Anyway, Don Wakamatsu completely denied that Griffey was asleep in the clubhouse on the night in question. Still, that doesn't quell the thought of this being near the end for Griffey. I think I could count the number of times he's hit the ball hard this season on one hand.
As for the game, the Mariners couldn't have set it up any better, salvaging the final game of the homestand, taking a travel day, then having Cliff Lee on the mound for the first game of the road trip against a team that was 9-23 coming into the game. After the game, the Orioles found themselves 4.5 games worse than the Mariners. I guess it's something off which to build. Unlike the series in Arlington, in which the Mariners had great conditions for the long ball, they managed to get one out in Baltimore tonight, and it was off the bat of one Ryan Langerhans, of all people. The game was scoreless through four innings before David Hernandez started unraveling. Meanwhile, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the next two months or so of Cliff Lee before he gets traded.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the entries
-- Brandon League came into the game with two runners aboard and one out in a 5-1 game. Since the tying run was on deck, he was eligible for the save. He got a double-play grounder to the right side to end the eighth inning. League stayed in the game for the ninth inning and got three straight groundouts to end the game and notch the somewhat cheap save. While Brandon Morrow's struggling as all get-out in Toronto, League has fallen into a groove in Seattle. He has appeared in each of the last four games, which is a bit much, though he obviously didn't throw in a game on the travel day. If nothing else, the absence of Mark Lowe is enabling Wakamatsu to find out how many different roles League can fill. The role in this game ends up in the boxscore as a five-out save. The hard sinking stuff is dancing.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League threw in this game. Going into Wednesday's game, Shawn Kelley will have two days of rest, David Aardsma will have three days of rest, Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira will have four days of rest, Ian Snell will have five days of rest, and Sean White will have six days of rest.
-- the Mariners sent eight hitters to the plate in the fifth. Ryan Langerhans led off with a homer to rightcenter for the first run of the game and a Mariner 1-0 lead. Josh Wilson hit a line drive into shallow left that was misplayed a bit by Nolan Reimold, Griffey popped out foul, then Rob Johnson hit a grounder to the left side that was snagged by a Miguel Tejada dive, but he lost his footing and never got off a throw. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, but Michael Saunders popped out to short for the second out. Ichiro was intentionally put aboard to load the bases. Unfortunately, Figgins was up next, so that meant no hitting (but also a wishy-washy half-bunt attempt), but he walked to force in a run and make it 2-0.
-- the Mariners had a more productive inning in the sixth and sent seven hitters to the plate, and the entire rally occurred with two out. Josh Wilson turned an 0-2 count into a walk, then Griffey walked as well. The runners advanced on a dirtball that went five-hole on Matt Wieters behind the plate and toward the backstop. Johnson then drilled a single into left, and Reimold bobbled the ball. Two runs scored on the play to make it 4-0 and Johnson was credited with a single and ended up on second. That hit chased Hernandez and brought on Jason Berken. Saunders then ripped a single through the right side to score Johnson and cap the Mariners' scoring at 5-0. Saunders was then hopelessly out trying to steal second base, and it appeared he was tagged across the face on the play.
-- in addition to hitting the homer, Langerhans made a rangy play to his right and still got the out at first thanks to a covering Lee on a play that ended the sixth inning (Nick Markakis grounder). It looked like a perfectly-executed PFP drill.
-- Ichiro led off the seventh with a double to start what should have been a scoring threat. A Figgins groundout moved Ichiro to third, then Franklin Gutierrez walked. This is where Jose Lopez grounded into a double play to end the inning. Clutch.
-- Ichiro went 2-for-4 with a walk, making him 44-for-133 (.331) on the season. Ichiro is on pace to finish the season with 223 hits, which is still about ten or so short of what I'd consider a solid season for Ichiro, at least by Ichiro standards.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Neither player scored a run, but they both got hits. Ichiro went 2-for-4 with a walk, as mentioned above, while Figgins went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. As such, the Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score. When both players both collect hits, the Mariners are now 5-7.
1) Cliff Lee
Through three starts as a Mariner, Lee has gone seven innings or longer in every start. He has given up a total of five earned runs this season. The only thing that might be concerning is that he's given up 18 hits over his last two starts. The thing that makes that stat was less concerning is the fact that he has issued zero walks this season while striking out 15. In this game, he really didn't face adversity (non-weather) until the fourth, when Markakis and Miguel Tejada singled and doubled, respectively. He got a strikeout from Ty Wigginton and a Wieters groundout to end the inning. A double-play ball (nicely turned by Figgins) ended a fifth inning that saw Lee give up a leadoff single. Wigginton and Wieters doubled and singled to put themselves onto the corners with one out in the seventh. Lee got Reimold for a key strikeout, and it appeared he might get out of it, but Garrett Atkins blooped a single down the rightfield line to make it 5-1 and ruin the shutout. Lee's average per-start line: 7 1/3 innings, 2 runs (1.7 earned), 7 hits, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts, 108 pitches (78 strikes), 8.7 groundouts, 7.7 flyouts.
2) Josh Wilson
The Mariners' fill-in shortstop was probably needed only a home run to be the number one gameball. He went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored two of the Mariners' five runs. He hit in the sixth spot in the lineup now that Wakamatsu had the guts to slot Griffey seventh. Defensively, he wasn't charged with any errors this time, and even made a spin-throw from the hole on the left side that nailed Adam Jones in the first inning and got him the top Web Gem on Baseball Tonight for May 11th. In the fifth, he singled right after the Langerhans homer and helped set up what should have been way more than a two-run inning. In the seventh, he walked with two out and the bases empty to set up a three-run inning. He also singled with one out in the eighth, but that inning didn't really get interesting (other than the Cesar Izturis crazy dive and flip that ended the inning). Since he hasn't been up with the big club very long this season, it allows for small sample size mania. This of course means his .353 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, and .647 slugging percentage are all completely sustainable. Totally.
3) Rob Johnson
The first pitch to Markakis totally went off his glove in the fourth, but at least the requisite ball off Johnson's glove came with the bases empty and no consequence at all. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Johnson was probably the beneficiary of Tejada being past his prime as the latter was able to dive and stop the former's hard grounder to the right side, but Tejada lost his footing and Johnson got an infield single out of it. He eventually got to third base on Figgins' bases-loaded walk, but got no further. Johnson singled to left with runners on second and third, then Reimold bobbled the ball in leftfield. Both runners scored on the play and make it 4-0 for the Mariners, and that play basically broke the game. Johnson has three hits in his last two games, which is notihng short of a revelation. This spike in offense has raised Johnson's average to .167. He has an on-base mark of .313 (still better than Jose Lopez and Griffey) and a slugging percentage of .259 (ugh).
The Mariners' power-hitter-in-waiting went 0-for-5 in the game, contributing only defensively. He flew out to lead off the second, grounded out with the bases empty to end the fourth, grounded out to lead off the sixth, grounded into a double play to end the seventh, and flew out with runners on the corners to end the ninth. If you read that right (and if I read the play-by-play correctly), Lopez ended three innings and led off two others, with nothing really positive happening (other than seeing 22 pitches to lead the team in that category). The team's thrown a ton of money at Figgins, who has woefully underachieved at the plate thus far, but we know what Lopez can do, and we've seen him do it. Right now, he's a .214 hitter with a .241 on-base percentage and a truly abhorrent .282 slugging percentage. The Orioles' ninth hitter, Cesar Izturis, has a higher slugging percentage (.261) than Lopez. Did someone forget to pay their power bill or something? This is nuts. Dude should have at least five homers by now.
Rowland-Smith. Bergesen. Tonight.
Sunday, May 09, 2010
On the eighth day, the Mariner bats still rested, but on the ninth day, they came alive. The Mariners staved off the possibility of a nine-game losing streak, though hitting coach Alan Cockrell wasn't so lucky, getting his walking papers on Sunday morning. It's bunk to fire a guy on Mother's Day, but the Mariners made Cockrell the fall guy and promoting AAA hitting coach and ex-Mariner player Alonzo Powell to the big-league post. As for the game, the starting pitching was great as it usually has been, but the Mariners pulled out this win with the help of a rarely apparent facet of their game: power hitting. It wasn't just rare because home runs were hit, it was rare because of who was hitting the home runs. With this, maybe the Mariners can climb out of the abyss and lose a little less often.
-- third-base coach Mike Brumley has been way too aggressive this season, and this game was no exception. Two Mariner runners were thrown out at home. Jose Lopez, not exactly a speedster, was sent home from second on a two-out single by Josh Wilson and was beaten by a throw up the line from Reggie Willits, though it was a nicely placed throw and tag. In the fifth, Franklin Gutierrez was sent home from second on a one-out single by Lopez. The ball got to Juan Rivera in leftfield before Gutierrez had even touched the third-base bag. Gutierrez is fast, but he was also out by about ten feet. The play wasn't close. I can't remember this much of a loose-cannon third-base coach for the Mariners since Larry Bowa was doing it for Lou Piniella before he got the managerial job in Philadelphia.
-- Jason Vargas (discussed at length below) had gotten through six innings, but started the seventh by walking Kendry Morales. A bounce went the Angels' way as Rivera hit a grounder to the right side that ate up Figgins, going off the heel of his glove and into shallow right for what was ruled a single. It moved Morales to third with nobody out. Vargas managed to pitch out of this dire jam, getting a popout, strikeout, and flyout in succession to end the inning. That was huge.
-- now for the bullpen. Brandon League took over for Vargas with a runner on first and one out in the eighth. League struck out Erick Aybar for the second out of the inning, but then Bobby Abreu grounded to short for what should have been an inning-ending groundout. It went off Josh Wilson's glove for an error and kept the inning alive. League then struck out Morales, but Adam Moore behind the plate couldn't block the outside dirtball pitch, which went to the backstop. Somehow that play ended with Willits scoring all the way from second, which was a travesty. League, who really had the sinking stuff going, got Rivera swinging to end the inning. Shawn Kelley threw the ninth and gave up only a one-out Mike Napoli double.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League (he threw three straight games) and Kelley threw in this game and will have a day of rest heading into Tuesday's game. David Aardsma will have two days of rest, Jesus Colome and Kanekoa Texeira will have three days of rest, Ian Snell will have four days of rest, and Sean White will have five days of rest.
-- I wrote the gameballs before the rest of the piece, but I should have put Ichiro on there somewhere. It's just that the probability of me having Josh Wilson and Michael Saunders on the same gameball list are so small. Ichiro went 3-for-5 and stole three bases, which is nuts. The Mariners are 31 games into the season and Ichiro has nine stolen bases. The 3-for-5 day made Ichiro 42-for-129 (.326) on the season, putting him on pace to finish with 219 hits. He's not quite to the Ichiro-like pace yet, but give him time.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat: Ichiro had three hits in the game and scored once while Figgins went hitless and never scored. As such, the Mariners remain 7-1 when both players score runs and 4-7 when they both get hits.
-- I feel I have to mention hitters other than Ichiro, Josh Wilson, and Michael Saunders in the lineup since so much went well. Even Adam Moore got a broken-bat single that went past Abreu in rightfield to make it 7-1 in the eighth. Franklin Gutierrez was 1-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs. Jose Lopez went 2-for-5 with a double. Ken Griffey Jr. was 0-for-3, but walked and scored (it's something). Ryan Langerhans was 0-for-2, but walked twice and scored twice.
1) Josh Wilson
Obviously, I'm not docking him for the error or getting picked off of third after hitting the triple. I don't have the tally of every game he's ever played within reach at the moment, but I'll take a wild stab and say this was the best offensive game of Josh Wilson's career. His boxscore reads as 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. He was a double away from hitting for the cycle when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, and he said after the game that he was trying to rip a double in the final at-bat, but he ultimately walked. Now, tha anatomy of a huge day for Josh Wilson: he singled with Lopez on second and two out in the second, but Lopez was gunned down at the plate by Reggie Willits from centerfield with a throw way up the line, but the throw kind of met Lopez right where it was thrown, so it seemed Napoli didn't have to go far to make the tag. That play ended the inning. In the fourth, he was up with runners on first and second and two out. After being down 0-2 in the count, he tagged a 2-2 pitch and sent it aabout ten rows behind the manual scoreboard in leftfield to put the Mariners up 3-0. He then tripled with one out in the sixth, shooting a ball into the rightcenter gap and getting it past Willits. Finally, he fouled off three pitches in the eighth with a runner on first and one out en route to a walk in the eighth.
2) Jason Vargas
The man who started the season as the Mariners' fifth starter (though, let's be honest, Ian Snell was slotted second in writing only, Vargas was more like the fourth starter) threw arguably his best game of the season to date. This one was easily one of his two best starts. With where Vargas is in the rotation and what is expected of him, it's absolute gravy if he's able to throw into the eighth inning. I'd settle for a good six innings out of him, maybe pitch into the seventh. vargas was tagged with only an unearned run on the day, and that run crossed the plate three hitters after he was pulled from the game. This was the sixth start for Vargas this season, and he's thrown 5 1/3, 6, 7, 6 2/3, 6 2/3, and finally 7 1/3 innings in those outings. The average per-start line for Vargas: 6 1/3 innings, 2.3 runs (2.2 earned), 4.7 hits, 1.8 walks, 5.2 strikeouts, 97 pitches (62 strikes), 4.8 groundouts, 7.5 flyouts. He got three groundouts and a whopping 14 flyouts in this game, which probably is a nice Safeco Field-friendly split. I'm sure the run totals would be way different if he took that groundball-flyball ratio to Arlington.
3) Michael Saunders
After all the time he spent on the big-league roster last year, Saunders didn't make the big-league roster out of spring training this season, then had to wait his turn to be recalled from Tacoma. Appearing in his second big-league game of the season, Saunders finally hit his first Major League home run. It came three pitches after Josh Wilson hit the big three-run homer. Saunders' homer was a long line drive that just got over the wall, in front of the stands just to the right of the hitters' backdrop/batters' eye. The thing that surprised me about Saunders' swing on the homer was how short it was. The swing reminded me a bit of Chase Utley's swing, believe it or not. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Saunders is going to be a massive power threat like Utley, but he might have the swing mechanics off which to build himself into a viable hitter at this level. Saunders went 2-for-4 in this game, driving in two runs and scoring twice. His other hit was an RBI single in the eighth inning that expanded the Mariners' lead to 6-1.
Even in a game like this one, the Mariners' second baseman managed to go 0-for-4, walking once. It's just unbelievable. I'm dying to know how well this team will do when Ichiro and Figgins are getting this offense ignited, but they never seem to get aboard consecutively. Ichiro had three hits in the game, for goodness' sake. In the third, Figgins followed a two-out Ichiro single (and steal) by lining out to center, ending the inning. In the fifth, Ichiro led off with a single and stole second (again), but this time Figgins flew out to left. In the seventh, Ichiro singled with one out, and Figgins followed it by popping out to short. At some point, Figgins has to not be content with his .326 on-base percentage (still better than Jose Lopez) and has to pick himself up off the mat and stop hitting .185. Come on. The Mariners just signed this guy to a multi-year deal. There are slow starts, and then there's hitting .185. That's awful.
Lee. Hernandez. Tuesday.
Well, it's another loss. The Mariners got a couple more bounces than they usually do, and they even managed to fight back from a 3-0 deficit to tie it at 3-3, but ultimately their luck fizzled. While I'm not glad to see the Mariners lose their eighth straight, if there's any positive to come from this game, it's that the game presentation crew will be less inclined to try again in their pursuit of making "Seven Nation Army" into this year's Zombie Nation. Well, I guess the other positive is that Doug Fister had a good outing and didn't end up with a loss after giving up three runs. Additionally, three of the Mariners' seven hits went for extra bases. On Sunday afternoon, the Mariners will try to salvage one win from the series, which would also be one win from the entire nine-game homestand. How the frick do you whiff on an entire nine-game homestand? Unfortunately, you know the answer to that question if you've been watching the Mariners for the last eight games. They looked closer to winning tonight, though, and didn't look completely hopeless.
-- here's a bounce that didn't go the Mariners way. In the fourth, Franklin Gutierrez had singled to left with one out. Jose Lopez was next to the plate. He tagged a pitch, and it may have had home-run distance, but went foul. He ended up grounding into a double play.
-- the game seemed over when Torii Hunter dropped a line drive barely in front of Ichiro with two out and the bases loaded in the fifth. The hit scored two to make it 3-0 for the Angels.
-- with runners on the corners and two out in the fifth, usually it would have been a moment destined for unclutchitude, but Ichiro instead put a ball down the leftfield line that got past Juan Rivera and into the corner. Ryan Langerhans scored, and Rob Johnson scored from first base, pulling the Mariners within one run at 3-2 and ending the Mariners' offensive futility streak at 22 2/3 scoreless innings.
-- the clutch didn't stop there. In the sixth, Franklin Gutierrez was on first with two out, again not exactly a tailor-made situation for the Mariners to score runs. Mike Sweeney then hit a well-placed double into the gap. It wasn't an authoritative double that one-hopped the wall or anything. In fact, it didn't even reach the wall, it merely was just far enough away from both the leftfielder and the centerfielder. Anyway, Gutierrez scored and the game was tied at 3-3.
-- offensively, though, the Sweeney hit was the end of the Mariners' clutchness, at least in terms of scoring runs. Normally I wouldn't call rumblings with two outs a legitimate scoring opportunity, but in the eighth, the Mariners literally got a good bounce when Josh Wilson hit a seemingly routine grounder to second with a runner on first. The ball was hit off the bat handle or something, however, and the crazy spin on the ball made it juke away from second baseman Howie Kendrick and into rightfield. Langerhans got to third on the play, and Josh Wilson later stole second base. Too bad Rob Johnson was in the batter's box, though. Johnson already had a hit in the game, so his bat was cashed, and he ended up whiffing to end the inning. Johnson did make a nice catch on a pop bunt attempt by Mike Napoli. Johnson made a prone dive, and of course he was going to make this play since he was leading off the next inning. He then singled to lead off the seventh. Two groundouts moved him to third, then Casey Kotchman got hit by a pitch, but then Gutierrez went down swinging.
-- again with the lack of clutch, the Mariners still had a ninth inning with a tie game in which to be futile. Ichiro led off with a walk off Fernando Rodney. Chone Figgins then nearly pulled off a bunt down the first-base line for a base hit, but later settled for a run-of-the-mill sacrifice bunt. The clutch chance rested on the shoulders of Kotchman, who then grounded out to put Ichiro on third. I'm tired of Kotchman not hitting. The Mariners' only hope at this point was either for a wild pitch to go to the backstop or for someone to get a base hit. It was at that point that both Gutierrez and Lopez walked. This loaded the bases for Sweeney, who ripped the ball down the leftfield line on his second pitch, but it was foul. He then meekly grounded out to second to end the inning as well as the Mariners' run of good luck in the game.
-- Mike Blowers mentioned that Angels' closer Brian Fuentes "can make it interesting." It's true there are points where this has happened, one of them being against the Mariners in recent memory. Unfortunately, the Mariners had exactly the wrong part of their lineup due in the bottom of the 10th to try to make it interesting. A groundout and two strikeouts are what emerged from Langerhands, Wilson, and Johnson.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below, as well as the first guy out of the bullpen. David Aardsma had some ninth inning adventures. Juan Rivera, predestined to get a hit due to the team he was facing, led off the ninth with a single. He was replaced by Reggie Willits on the basepaths, who went to second on a bunt. Pinch-hitter Michael Ryan singled to move Willits to third. Kevin Frandsen then grounded to third, but Willits had taken off on contact and was run down between third and home plate. Erick Aybar grounded out to end the inning. Aardsma wouldn't be so lucky in the 10th. Bobby Abreu led off with a double, so Aardsma was pretty screwed at that point. Hunter grounded out to third, which was nice. Kendry Morales was then intentionally walked to set up an inning-ending double play possibility. Aardsma then fell behind 3-1 on Hideki Matsui (the 2-1 pitch was right down the pipe and called a ball) before Matsui poked a single the other way into leftfield, scoring Abreu. Shawn Kelley came in and retired the next two hitters to end the inning, but the damage was done, as was the game. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I was too keen on sending Aardsma out for the 10th. The last time he threw was when he blew a 1-0 lead in Fister's previous start. He routinely isn't expected to get more than three outs, so why start now?
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Brandon League, Aardsma, and Kelley worked in this game. Going into Sunday's game, Jesus Colome (2 2/3 innings on Friday) and Kanekoa Texeira (two innings) will have a day of rest, Ian Snell (3 1/3 innings) will have two days of rest, and Sean White will have three days of rest.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had two hits while Figgins had none. Neither player scored a run. As such, the Mariners are 7-1 when both players score and 4-7 when both get hits.
1) Doug Fister
The man who's supposedly the Mariners' number-four start (who is pitching better than the current number-three starter) turned in another great start. This comes despite the fact that he gave up three runs, the most he's yielded in a start all year. Fister has given up just eight runs over his six starts. He lost his only bad start of the year, which was his first start where he went only four innings. He won his next two starts. In his last three starts, Fister has thrown a total of 23 innings. He took three straight no-decisions, and the Mariners went on to lose all three of those games. The average per-start line from Fister: 7 innings, 1.3 runs, 5.2 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 100 pitches (64 strikes), 10.8 groundouts, 5.8 flyouts. Felix Hernandez threw five great starts before fizzling over the last two. Fister threw a bad first start and has thrown great in all of his last five starts. One of the other pitchers in the rotation is going to have to step up the consistency if Felix takes a couple weeks to get back onto the horse. FSNNW ran a stat last night saying Felix has had a few straight crappy months of May.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter went 2-for-4 with a walk and a triple, making him 39-for-124 (.315) on the season, putting him on pace to finish with 211 hits. The hits and walk boosted his on-base percentage to .361, and the triple boosted his slugging percentage to .379. I regret to inform all readers that Ichiro's .379 slugging mark is way better than the .281 slugging percentage of Jose Lopez. In the game context, Ichiro grounded out to lead off the first, then grounded a ball to the right side that Kendrick had to charge, and I think he ended up charging, rushing, and throwing wide of first. Ichiro was later doubled off on a Figgins grounder. Ichiro hit the clutch two-out, two-run triple in the fifth that brought the Mariners to within a run at 3-2. He grounded out with a runner on first and nobody out in the seventh, then led off the ninth with a walk. Ichiro hasn't hit his stride yet, for sure, but he did his job in this game.
3) Brandon League
For the second straight day, League threw an easy scoreless inning, though this one was a situation of much higher pressure, and in a tie game. League had to hold a 3-3 tie while facing Hunter, Morales, and Matsui, the heart of the Angels' lineup. He got a groundout from Hunter, a strikeout from Morales, and a flyout from Matsui. He effectively bridged the gap from Fister to Aardsma, and he might have to do more of this until Mark Lowe gets healthy. Even after Lowe gets healthy (which needs to happen), it'd be nice to know if the Mariners have two guys that can be used interchangeably in this role of late-inning shutdown relief. There were times last year where Don Wakamatsu needed Lowe in three straight games but couldn't go to him. If you have someone just as dependable, that would really help. Of course, we're hoping the team is in that many situations later this year where they have chances to win three straight games, but whatever...
The Mariners' second baseman and supposed ignitor went 0-for-3 with a walk. Let's see what he did in context of the game. He walked with one out in the first, then was picked off of first base. In the third, with Ichiro on first and one out, Figgins grounded into a double play to end the inning. In the fifth, with Ichiro on third and two out and the Mariners down 3-2, Figgins grounded out to third. In the seventh, with a runner on second and one out, Figgins grounded out, moving the runner to third. In the ninth, with Ichiro on first and nobody out, Figgins bunted to move Ichiro to second. The last bunt can't be put on Figgins, as I'm sure that decision came from the dugout. I just find it maddening that after 30 games, we've only seen both Ichiro and Figgins score in the same game eight times and get hits in the same game 11 times. It's just like they're doomed to never have synergy together. This team's going to win a lot more games when those two are doing back-to-back madness. So far, so bad.
Santana. Vargas. Today.