Saturday, June 26, 2010
If you were a Mariner fan, you felt pretty good through the first three and a half innings of this game. After the bottom of the fourth was through, it felt as if that six-game winning streak had never happened. It felt like same ol' 2010 Mariners again. Really, though, the Mariners probably had long odds to win this game anyway. Why? It was an unfortunate mix of Ryan Rowland-Smith's penchant for flyball outs (and fly balls in general) with the fact that the Brewers are a homer-happy team in a homer-happy Miller Park. Fitting that the guy that had the big blow to tie the game did so with his first big-league homer, but isn't that the way for the Mariners this year? As for the small group of fans convinced after the six-game winning streak that the Mariners should keep Cliff Lee -- just stop it already. Anyone who thinks the Mariners will throw $100 million at Lee is on some sort of mind-altering substance. I'd really like him to stay, sure, but he's got no attachment here, and I think the Mariners are basically pulling the same thing the Oakland A's tried to do with Matt Holliday last year, except Holliday sucked for Oakland. Lee is laying waste to the American League as a Mariner, so Jack Zduriencik should be able to shoot the moon.
Oh, and the roster move of the day was Doug Fister coming off the disabled list for a Saturday start, but Shawn Kelley was put onto the disabled list.
-- the starting pitching will be addressed in the gameball/goat section
-- Chad Cordero entered the game with two on and one out in the sixth and the Mariners down 4-3. This was Cordero's first appearance since June 14th. He had an 0-2 count on Carlos Gomez, but eventually walked him to load the bases. Alcides Escobar then hit a fly ball to rightfield and Ichiro squared up for the throw home. He threw to the plate, but it was cut off and the relay to third base got Jonathan Lucroy (barely) for the third out, but the Brewers now led 5-3. In the seventh, Cordero sandwiched a hit batter with a couple of outs before being lifted. Garrett Olson came in with the runner on first and two out. On Olson's second pitch, Fielder destroyed it, doubling to the rightfield wall to score Rickie Weeks (the hit batter) and make it 6-3 before Olson got a groundout to end the inning. Olson had a nightmare eighth and didn't finish the inning. He allowed a walk, double, single (made it 7-3) and a sacrifice fly (made it 8-3). He got another flyout before giving way to David Aardsma, who got the final out and some work.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Cordero, Olson, and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Saturday's game, Brandon League and Sean White will have a day of rest, and Brian Sweeney will be waiting patiently to show up in a big-league boxscore for the first time since 2006, which is all but a certainty now that there's one less arm in the bullpen. As mentioned earlier, Kelley was put onto the disabled list and will be eligible to return on July 1st.
-- how many times will your team win a game at Miller Park if you get three runs on seven hits? The Mariners tried and failed this time. In fact, the Figgins single with one out in the fifth was the Mariners' final hit of the game. It's like once the Brewers got ahead, the Mariners ran away and hid.
-- there was a portion of offensive goodness in the early innings, though. In the second, Jose Lopez led off with a double, went to third on a Mike Sweeney single, and came home on a Milton Bradley fly ball to give the Mariners an early 1-0 lead. In the third, Ichiro singled with one out and went to third on a Figgins single. Figgins then stole second, and Ichiro scored on a Franklin Gutierrez fly ball that made it 2-0. Figgins took third when Lopez grounded to short, but Escobar had the ball go off his forearm or something when he charged it. Sweeney then singled through the middle to score Figgins and cap the Mariners' scoring at 3-0.
-- as for blown chances, Jack Wilson led off the fourth with a single, then tried to take second base against the arm of leftfielder Corey Hart. Jack was not successful. In the fifth, Figgins singled with one out, stole second and third, then broke for home on a grounder to third base and was out by a mile. As I mentioned, the Figgins single was the Mariners' final hit of the game, so that was the end of their threats.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had a hit in the game, and Figgins had two. Ichiro scored a run, and so did Figgins. As a result, the Mariners are now 10-5 when both players score and 13-22 when both collect at least a hit.
1) Chone Figgins
Tne Mariners' second baseman was the team's final offensive gasp. Not only did he have the final Mariner hit of the game, he stole second and third right afterward. With the team having just gotten down 4-3, it certainly appeared Figgins was trying to manufacture the tying run by himself. On a better team, he would have scored after that display. All in all, Figgins goes into the books as having gone 2-for-4 with three stolen bases and a run scored. He is a .235 hitter with an on-base percentage of .337 and a slugging mark of .281. That's a far cry from where he was after the only Mariner game I've attended this season. That was the night of Cliff Lee's worst start of the season, the 15-8 thrashing of the Padres on May 21st. Figgins went 1-for-4 in that game and finished at .192 (with a .308 on-base percentage). A month and a half later, he's at .235. I was saying back around that time that all I wanted Figgins to do was get to about .245 or .250 and just stay there and I'd be fine with it. He's now given himself at least a fighting chance.
2) Mike Sweeney
There hasn't been a lot of Sweeney lately, due in part to back issues. Don Wakamatsu has therefore given us large doses of Milton Bradley, which hasn't gotten the team any production of which to speak. Sweeney went 2-for-4 in the game, pretty much rolling the ball through the infield both times. Despite all the injuries he's had and all the time he's missed, Sweeney is still a .263 hitter, which is still better than Figgins, Lopez, Bradley, and of course Johnson. With the Mariners in the National League park, Wakamatsu started Sweeney at first base to get him into the lineup, and in fact, he did make a diving stab to end the fifth inning.
The Mariner rightfielder and leadoff hitter went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the game, leaving him at 101-for-298 (.339) on the season. He also has an on-base percentage of .396 on the season, no doubt helped by the numerous times he's been intentionally walked. His only hit of the game was the one-out single that started the two-run inning that put the Mariners ahead 3-0. His walk came when the game was long meaningless, a two-out walk with the bases empty in the seventh. All told, he is on pace to finish the season with 224 hits, though I'd like to see him get about 240. He's got time to ramp up the pace, sure, but I guess I'm surprised at how well he'd have to hit to maintain that 240-hit pace. I've forgotten his 2004 already.
He reverted back to his new old self. His old old self would have gone seven innings and given up no more than three runs. This of course means his old old self appeared a mere 10 months or so ago. His new old self, however, is the one that was floundering earlier this season to the point where bringing Ian Snell back into the rotation was a good idea. This of course means the Aussie was extremely bad. While he wasn't extremely bad in this game, once he gave up the three-run homer to Lucroy, he was done. Two pitches later, the Aussie was taken yard again, and that was the solo shot by Carlos Gomez that gave the Brewers the lead at 4-3, and Milwaukee never looked back. In other words, Rowland-Smith was eaten alive by the big inning again. It's like all of his outings are a slippery slope. He may start out really well, but once there's adversity, it's all over and it's nearly a certainty that he'll get lit up if Wakamatsu leaves him out there to face that adversity. That's certainly not a trait you want to see in your starting pitcher.
Fister. Wolf. Today.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Well, you certainly can't complain about the starting pitching in this game, that's for sure. However, one of the things that has been masked by how well the starting pitching has been lately -- the lack of quality bullpen depth. What I'm trying to say is that the Mariners still have Sean White on the roster. It wasn't all his fault, though. The Mariners went 3-for-16 in this game with runners in scoring position. I guess the surprising thing for me about this game was that the Mariners got 41329 people for a paid attendance total for a 12:40pm game on a Thursday afternoon. That surprised me. Anyway, the Mariners had their six-game winning streak snapped, and they should still totally deal Cliff Lee. Strike while the iron's hot.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed below
-- David Aardsma came into the game to start the tenth inning. In true Aardsma fashion, something had to be interesting, and walking Chad Tracy on four pitches to lead off the inning certainly qualified. Koyie Hill then bunted Tracy to second. Aardsma got a groundout from Kosuke Fukudome, but Starlin Castro (pinch running) got to third. Fortunately, Aardsma got Ryan Theriot to fly out to Ichiro (in some tough sun) to end the inning. Brandon League's outing will be discussed in the gameball/goat section. Garrett Olson came in to start the 13th. He walked pinch hitter Alfonso Soriano on a 3-1 pitch. Fukudome bunted him over to second, which is when Don Wakamatsu pulled Olson in favor of Sean White, whose outing will be discussed in the gameball/goat section.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Aardsma, League, Olson, and White threw in this game. Going into Friday's game, Shawn Kelley will have nine days of rest, Chad Cordero will have ten days of rest, and Brian Sweeney is wondering whether or not the Mariners actually have a secret player on the 25-man roster that is actually taking what he thinks is his roster spot. Sweeney still hasn't appeared in a game for the Mariners this year. Why does this team have to have two people named Sweeney and two people named Wilson, and both with the same first initial, at that?
-- the offense mustered 11 hits, but they were scattered and only produced two runs. The Mariners struck quick in the fourth when Chone Figgins legged out an infield single to lead off, then Mike Sweeney doubled to the wall in left to score Figgins and tie the game at 1-1. Later in that inning...well, I'll talk about that later. The seventh also started with an infield single, this time by Josh Wilson. He was bunted over to second by Rob Johnson, then Jack Wilson one-hopped the wall in leftfield to score Josh Wilson and tie the game at 2-2. Multi-hit Mariners on the day included Ichiro and Jose Lopez with two apiece and Jack Wilson with three. Figgins, Sweeney, and Franklin Gutierrez drew a walk apiece to go with their 1-for-5 days.
-- now, the blown chances, of which there were many. Gutierrez singled with one out in the second, then stole second base with Josh Wilson at the plate. Josh flew out to right, then Johnson was caught looking to end the inning. In the fourth, Sweeney was on second with nobody out after he'd doubled home the tying run. Lopez singled Sweeney over to third. Then it fell apart as Gutierrez was caught looking, Josh whiffed, and Johnson grounded to Ted Lilly. In the seventh, Jack had bounced a double over the wall to tie the game and was standing on second with one out. Saunders was caught looking, Ichiro was given the open bag at first base, and Figgins whiffed. In the eighth, Lopez singled with one out only to be erased on a Gutierrez double-play ball. In the ninth, Milton Bradley drew a pinch-hit walk with one out, then he was moved to second by a Jack single. Then Saunders whiffed and Ichiro grounded to first to end the threat. In the tenth, Figgins and Sweeney drew consecutive walks to lead off the inning. Lopez then whiffed. The runners pulled off a double steal, then Gutierrez was given the open bag at first to load the bases. Josh and Eliezer Alfonzo then whiffed in succession. It's fitting that the tenth-inning threat was the last real chance the Mariners had in the game.
-- Ichiro was 2-for-5 on the day with a walk. The two hits pushes him to 100-for-295 (.339) on the season, putting him on pace to finish the season with 225 hits. Ichiro also has an on-base percentage of .394 and a slugging mark of .441.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had two hits and Figgins had one. Only Figgins scored a run. The Mariners remain 10-4 when both players scpre runs, but they are now 13-21 when both players collect hits.
1) Felix Hernandez
If Felix and Cliff Lee are getting into some kind of arms race or a start-by-start version of a pitching-adapted version of a game of H-O-R-S-E, then it's going quite well in the last two starts for both guys. For Felix, it was a second straight game throwing nine innings. He threw one more pitch than in his last start and gave up one more run than in his last start. The last two starts have been Felix's most efficient starts in terms of pitches per inning. Felix threw 12.9 pitches per inning in his last start, and averaged 13 pitches per inning in this game. The oddity is that Felix didn't throw a 1-2-3 inning until the sixth, and the eighth inning was his only other 1-2-3 inning. It was the 16th start of the season for Felix, and the seventh in which he recorded double-digit groundouts. Amazingly, he hasn't notched double-digit strikeouts in a game yet this season. He's struck out nine hitters four times. In his last three starts, he's gone 26 2/3 innings. If it wasn't clear to you before, let it be known now and forever -- Felix Hernandez is good.
2) Jack Wilson
The Mariners' most defensively adept shortstop had probably his best offensive game as a Mariner, and also ended the eighth with a rangey play into the hole on the left side and a spin-and-throw move that nailed the runner at first. Jack finished the day 3-for-6 with a double and an RBI in the game. He started his day at the plate by being caught looking to lead off the third. He then led off the fifth with a groundout to the third baseman. His fortunes started turning in the seventh, though, as he bounced a ball over the leftfield wall to score Josh and tie the game at 2-2. In the ninth, he was up with a runner on first and one out, and he singled the runner over to second. In the 11th, he popped to the first baseman in foul ground. In the 13th, he singled with two out and was the final Mariner baserunner, and he had a seat on the basepaths to watch Saunders whiff for the final out of the game. Jack is hitting a small sample size-friendly .262 with an on-base percentage of .281 and a slugging percentage of .357. May he hit like this for the rest of the season.
3) Brandon League
He had an outing much like his mega-clutch outing in the final game at Cincinnati which started the Mariners' winning streak. This time, however, he didn't have to bail out the starting pitcher when he took the mound. Right after the Mariners' offense all but had the win giftwrapped for them but blew it, League came in for the 11th and had to keep the Mariners in it momentumwise. It started ominously as League walked Marlon Byrd on four pitches to lead off the inning, but then Derrek Lee flew out and Tyler Colvin grounded into a double play. All three outs were recorded on back-to-back pitches. In the 12th, League bounced back by striking out the side, all via the whiff. Xavier Nady did so on an 0-2 pitch, Mike Fontenot met his fate on a 2-2 pitch, and Starlin Castro ended the inning on an 0-2 pitch. The impressive outings are starting to be a bit more plentiful for the Hawaiian. I guess the key now is hopefully that he doesn't have a hiccup in his next appearance. He's had five staright outings that have been good to really good. This one was really good.
The weak link in the Mariner bullpen was on watch when the game got away. He came in with the game tied at 2-2 and a runner on second with one out. He then walked Theriot, but that was probably one of those unintentional intentional walks that sets up the double play. It did, but then Marlon Byrd singled to score Soriano and give the Cubs the lead they wouldn't relinquish, making it 3-2 to cap the scoring. One hitter late, White got a double-play ball to end the inning, but alas, timing is everything. I really wish the Mariners could easily replace his spot in the bullpen with someone less sucky, but right now that appears to be not that possible. I remember earlier in the year when Kelley was sent down, I was upset and thinking the Mariners had sent down the pitcher named Shawn/Sean. Anyway, White put the final dagger into what should have been a Mariner win. It would have been a seven-game winning streak for the Mariners, but it was not to be.
Rowland-Smith. Bush. Tonight.
My goodness. It's really too bad the team had to be buried so far below .500 before they started putting another streak together like this one. What's helped the Mariners in this stretch of six straight wins, however, is the fact that the three-game series against the Reds was sandwiched between off days. What did that mean? It meant no fifth starter. They haven't had to think about replacing Ian Snell just yet. Doug Fister's injury pushed Ryan Rowland-Smith up into the fourth slot, whereas he was one of the arms struggling to take hold of that last spot in the rotation. Anyway, my point -- Mariner starting pitchers this season are averaging 6 1/3 innings per start, but that's a mark buoyed by Cliff Lee, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, and Felix Hernandez (descending order). Luke French threw four innings in his only start, Ian Snell averaged 4 1/3 innings per start, and Ryan Rowland-Smith averages about five innings a start. Granted, the horses at the front of the rotation have to be your horses, but the margin of error is slim when the bullpen is drastically thinned the day ahead of the ace pitcher's start. The margin of error is also thin when the team doesn't score any runs, but that night was not this night.
-- the awesome starting pitching will be addressed in gameball entries
-- the bullpen again was given another night off by Lee. Going into Thursday afternoon's game, Brandon League and David Aardsma will have a day of rest, Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have eight days of rest, Chad Cordero and Sean White will have nine days of rest, and Brian Sweeney will start to wonder whether he'll get to make an appearance before getting sent down or designated for assignment or something.
-- eight runs' worth of Mariner offense. Perish the thought. They exploded for four runs in the fourth. Jose Lopez singled with one out, and Franklin Gutierrez bounced a ball too far into the hole for shortstop Starlin Castro to make a play. Josh Wilson then bounced a ball off the third-base bag that went into foul ground, but it was ruled fair, and the bases were loaded. Casey Kotchman got a rare hit, reaching outside and poking a ball over the third baseman to score Lopez and tie the game at 1-1. One out later, Michael Saunders drew a four-pitch walk to make it 2-1, then Ichiro banged a single into center to plate two and make it 4-1. With one out in the sixth, Rob Johnson singled into right and went to second when Shawn Colvin bobbled the ball. Two pitches later, Saunders doubled hard toward the rightfielder corner to score Johnson and make it 5-1. Ichiro then bunted to the left side, where Randy Wells came off the mound nicely and almost had Ichiro at first, though Ichiro did kinda step on Derrek Lee's glove. With runners on first and third, Chone Figgins grounded to third baseman Jeff Baker, who went to second for the force as the score was now 6-1. In the eighth, Johnson walked with one out, and Saunders went yard to cap the scoring at 8-1.
-- any blown chances? Kotchman drew a leadoff walk in the third and never got further than second. That was pretty much it for huge blown chances by the Mariners.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had two hits, but didn't score. Figgins didn't get a hit or score. The Mariners remain 10-4 when both players score runs and 13-20 when both collect hits.
1) Cliff Lee
I hope everyone's enjoying the hell out of these final few Lee starts. Did you see the bender that ended the siXth inning? Lee was in as much control as you can be without throwing a no-hitter or perfect game. Lee scattered nine hits and once again didn't walk anybody. As the awesomest pitcher on the Seattle staff, he now has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 19:1. He also averages eight innings per start over a span of 11 starts this season. That's purely amazing. How many pitchers these days can average eight innings every time they're on the mound? This may be a crap season, sure, but if you've been watching Clff Lee all season, count yourself as a witness to something very special. Lee has raised his game to an absolutely ridiculous level. I mean, there's contract-year pitching, and then there's this. I hope Jack Zduriencik doesn't wait all the way up to the deadline to deal him away, because I don't want the Mariners to get Bedard'd again (i.e., possible trade foiled by injury), because then that's on Jack, if you ask me. My hypothetical trade window for Lee was June 15th to July 1st, and I like Lee, but he can't be in a Mariner uniform after July 1st.
2) Michael Saunders
Though I wouldn't off hand be able to name the other two, this easily had to be one of Saunders' three best games as a Major Leaguer. The boxscore line shows Saunders going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, and a home run, driving in four of the Mariners' eight runs. How sad is it that Saunders has been up with the big club for only 33 of the team's 71 games, yet he's only one home run off the team lead for home runs? That's absolutely sad. For the record, Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, and Mike Sweeney are all tied for the team lead with six homers, and Sweeney has his six homers in 28 games. Saunders popped up to short with a runner on first in his first at-bat. In the crazy fourth, the Mariners sent nine hitters to the plate, and Saunders was the seventh. He was up with the bases loaded and two out and drew a four-pitch walk to put the Mariners into the lead for good at 2-1. In the sixth, Saunders doubled hard toward the rightfielder corner to drive in Johnson and make it 5-1. In the eighth, Johnson was on first base and Saunders teed up the pitch he got, sending it over the 385-foot marker in rightcenter. His swing looks quick, short, and powerful when he connects, and I've said once earlier this year that it reminds me of Chase Utley. If the Mariners can get consistently decent hitting from Saunders, it will be awesome.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder went 2-for-4 in the game, leaving him at 98-for-290 (.338) on the season. This puts him on pace to finish the season with 224 hits. Ichiro grounded out to the pitcher to lead off the first. In the third, with a runner on first, Ichiro grounded hard to third, but third baseman Jeff Baker bobbled it for an error. That was the end of Ichiro's badness. With the bases loaded and two out in the fourth, Ichiro singled through the middle to plate two runs and -- a huge hit giving the Mariners a 4-1 lead. In the sixth, Ichiro did the covert bunting thing, bunting along the left side, where Wells came off the mound well and nearly had Ichiro at first, but Ichiro sorta inadvertently stepped on Lee's glove a bit, and he was safe and Saunders went to third. In the eighth, Ichiro walked right after Saunders homered. All in all, that was a 2-for-4 day with two RBIs and a walk for Ichiro. He may not have scored any runs, but he rewarded the bottom third of the lineup for getting aboard. The 7-8-9 hitters (Kotchman, Johnson, Saunders) scored five of the Mariners' eight runs.
The Mariners' designated hitter went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Figgins went 0-for-5, but he at least managed to drive in a run, and he managed to steal a base as well. I don't know what I can say that I haven't already said about Bradley. He's on an 0-for-19 drought going back to the final game of the series in Saint Louis on June 16th. In the last five games, his batting average has dropped from .230 all the way to its current .207. It's too bad the Griffey at-bats have gone to someone that really isn't taking advantage of them and as a result it's almost a wash. Of course, we've never tried to argue Bradley was one of the greatest players ever to play the game. Griffey was that, and Bradley wasn't. We just didn't want our good memories of Griffey tarnished any longer. Right now, though, Bradley's just crap, and we don't have a good deal of our baseball memories attached to him. Thus, it's way easier to pile on him when he's awful. The highest he's ever hit this season is .244 aftrer a 3-for-5 night against the Padres.
Lilly. Hernandez. Today.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The result was great, but you could argue this would have been an interesting game if all you saw was the lineup card. Jack Wilson made his return, playing shortstop and hitting eighth. Josh Wilson stayed in the lineup, however, shifting over to second and batting second. In other words, Chone Figgins was given the night off (upset stomach, it turns out). This five-game winning streak started the last time Jason Vargas took the mound, and it continued four games later with the same guy on the mound and a win. It's not like the Mariners are good again -- they still only managed to score two runs -- but they're back to 12 games under .500 after spending about two weeks below that mark. Too bad they've been so bad, even if they ran the table to get to .500, they'd be past the halfway point of the season at 41-41 (82 games). Anyway, three cheers for the starting rotation, as they've made this five-game winning streak possible. Even Ryan Rowland-Smith threw scoreless ball into the seventh inning, so it's been more than a good turn through the rotation.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the entries below the bullet points
-- fresh off his best appearance of the season, Brandon League came in to start the eighth inning, trying to preserve a 2-0 lead. He got a first-pitch strike on Starlin Castro before throwing the next four pitches for balls. Ryan Theriot then singled to push Castro to second. League needed two pitches to induce Marlon Byrd into a 4-6-3 double play, moving Castro to third. Chad Tracy also only needed two pitches, and he ended up flying out. David Aardsma, with the same score, didn't quite have a 1-2-3 inning this time, but no runs came across, so the end result was great. Aardsma got the first two hitters out, but then walked Geovany Soto and gave up a single to Alfonso Soriano. Aardsma then got Tyler Colvin swinging to end the game.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: League and Aardsma threw in this game. Going into Wednesday's game, Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have seven days of rest, Chad Cordero and Sean White will have eight days of rest, and Brian Sweeney will again be patiently waiting to throw at the big-league level for the first time since 2006.
-- as for the offense, it was good enough to win, but only because the starting pitching was insanely good again. The Mariners pulled out the win on Sunday despite getting only three hits, all in the same hits. They were slightly better this time, getting five hits and getting two runs out of the deal. The two runs all came on one hit, that being the Franklin Gutierrez home run in the second inning that accounted for all the scoring. Jose Lopez led off the inning ahead of Gutierrez with a single, accounting for the other run in the game that wasn't scored by Gutierrez. As for scoring threats that went nowhere, Ichiro led off the game with a walk and was erased five pitches later on a double-play ball off the bat of Josh Wilson. A kinda-threat with two outs occurrred when Josh Wilson singled and Milton Bradley walked in the third, but Lopez flew out on the first pitch. After Ryan Dempster set down 10 of 11 Mariners, Mike Carp hit a ball to short that was bobbled by Castro, allowing Carp to reach. Eliezer Alfonzo singled nicely through the right side to move Carp to second. Jack Wilson then had three pitches to bunt and blew them all. Michael Saunders was caught looking, then Ichiro punched a ball right to the third baseman, who went to the bag for the force. It was quite fortunate the Mariners didn't have that inning haunt them.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had a hit in the game, but didn't score a run. Figgins didn't play at all. The Mariners remain 10-4 when both players score and 13-20 when both collect hits.
1) Jason Vargas
For a while there, it looked like he was on the way to his deepest outing of the season. One bounce here and one bounce there (and getting squeezed on a couple pitches, leading to his first walk) in the seventh quashed his chances to come back out for the eighth in the eyes of Don Wakamatsu. Ultimately, what Wakamatsu probably saw was that in Vargas' five starts previous to the start than kicked off this winning streak, Vargas broke 100 pitches in each start. What's fortunate for Wakamatsu and the Mariners, however, is that in the last two starts, Wakamatsu has had a short leash on the pitch count, but Vargas has gotten very deep with the 94 pitches he's thrown. How awesome is four hits over seven innings? Vargas has been easily one of the three best starting pitchers for the Mariners this season, and the fact that he somehow has a 6-2 record is just amazing, and it makes him a bit more lucky than some of his rotationmates because the six wins are dependent on whether or not the team scores enough runs for him. The Mariners are 2-4 in his no-decisions, and he had good statistical lines in three of those four Mariner losses.
2) Franklin Gutierrez
The Mariners' centerfielder went 1-for-3 in the game, driving in the only runs of the game on his two-run homer in the second inning. The homer was his sixth of the year, and while I won't completely rule it out, I don't think there's any way he's going to push 20 home runs like he did last year. He definitely won't do it if Wakamatsu's going to leave him at fifth in the lineup instead of at second or third. Last year, Gutierrez hit his stride hitting right behind Ichiro, and to me, pushing Gutierrez out of the second spot in the lineup was my biggest irk with having Chone Figgins joining the team. Anyway, there still exists a chance where Gutierrez could get hot at the plate for a solid month and a half or two months and hover around .300. Maybe he'll end the season doing that, who knows? If he does, it'll be a good thing they did the long-term extension when they did (last winter). It's too bad he hasn't hit more homers, sure, but it's not like anyone else in the lineup is really shouldering the power load.
The Mariners' leadoff hitter and rightfielder went 1-for-3 in the game, leaving him at 96-for-286 (.336) on the season. This puts him on pace to finish the season with 222 hits. Again, I hate to say it, but that pace has to pick up soon, though lately it seems the Mariners can win without his offense, or offense from barely anyone. In this five-game winning streak, Ichiro has gone 5-for-19, which is hardly what we expect from Ichiro. He has a double, homer, and an RBI in that stretch as well. He was a .341 hitter before the winning streak. Who doesn't love a good statistical anomaly? The sad thing is just that out of Ichiro's really good seasons, the team's only been really good once, and that was in 2001. The team was awful in 2004 when Ichiro got all those hits, probably in part because it didn't matter whether or not they pitched around him because whoever hit behind Ichiro probably wasn't going to drive him in, and even if that happened, the pitching would implode. I just wish it could all come together for Ichiro and this team. One of these years, maybe.
What hurts here is that I already know and I'm sure most Mariner fans know he's not going to hit, and he's not going to hit anywhere near as well as we've seen Josh Wilson hit this season (he should be a good deal better defensively than Josh Wilson, though). That's what makes the blown bunt in the seventh inning hurt even more. That's probably the one thing I thought we could depend upon when it came to Jack Wilson at the plate, but he couldn't do it. Chalk some of it up to first-game jitters, maybe? I don't know. Could it be possible to make a spliced Wilson? Maybe we could take Josh's hitting and Jack's fielding and make an uber-Wilson? We could call it Jash Wilson, since Jock Wilson would sound a little too hokey. That'd be the best way to take care of things, and it'd free up a roster spot, and it'd make it so I didn't have to specify which Wilson did what out there, and I could just refer to a Wilson again. All in all, I'll be curious to see whether this really cuts into Figgins' playing time any further (okay, I later learned about the upset stomach of Figgins). Jack will probably get good playing time regardless because his playing time was never predicated upon his offensive prowess anyway.
Wells. Lee. Tonight.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Normally when the Mariners score a total of seven runs in a three-game series, there's a great chance the Mariners lose two of those three games if not the entire series. This time, Mariner pitchers held the Cincinnati Reds to one run in three games. The duo of Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell had a combined record of 0-11 going into this game, and the Mariners had a record of 3-16 whenever Snell or the Aussie started. It took until the 69th game of the season, but the Mariners finally won a game in that scenario. They won this game despite going 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position, a stat not only damning for the hitless part, but also for the lack of opportunities. Probably the revelation of this game, however, was that the bullpen put the win on lockdown.
-- the starting pitching will be discussed in the entries below
-- the first arm out of the bullpen will be discussed in the entries below. David Aardsma came into the ninth trying to cash in on a 1-0 lead. He had the Reds' sixth, seventh, and eighth hitters to face, and he threw a 1-2-3 inning. He got authoritative strikeouts off of Jay Bruce and Laynce Nix, then Chris Heisey popped into foul ground, where Casey Kotchman, he of the now-Major League record of consecutive games without an error, made the catch and a Fathers Day crowd of 32712 erupted in a flood of joy.
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: Brandon League and David Aardsma threw in this game and will have a day of rest for Tuesday's game. The rest of the bullpen will be even more rested. Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have six days of rest, Chad Cordero and Sean White will have seven days of rest, and Brian Sweeney is still available when needed.
-- as for the offense...what offense? The teams in this game combined for six hits, three apiece. Chone Figgins, Jose Lopez, and Josh Wilson accounted for the three Mariner hits, all of which were singles, and all of which occurred in the fourth inning. Mike Carp drew the only Mariner walk of the game, doing so as the first Mariner baserunner of the game, leading off the third inning. Chone Figgins broke up the no-hitter with an infield single to lead off the fourth. Lopez singled one out later to move Figgins to third. Franklin Gutierrez then hit a fly ball deep enough to center to score Figgins from third. After the Reds relayed the ball to the infield, they threw to third, appearing to appeal to third to see if Figgins left third base early. Figgins was never called out, and so the Gutierrez sacrifice fly capped the scoring. Josh Wilson singled after the sacrifice fly to move Lopez to second, but Carp flew out to end the inning.
-- in one of the more hilarious stats from this game, the final 13 Mariners to step into the batters box in the game all made outs. The Mariners somehow won despite this.
-- Ichiro went 0-for-4 in the game, leaving him at 95-for-283 (.336) on the season. Is 240 hits too lofty an expectation for me to have of Ichiro? His current pace will give him a 223-hit season.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat. Ichiro had no hits and didn't score a run, and Figgins had a hit and scored the only Mariner run. The Mariners remain 10-4 when both players score and 13-20 when both collect hits.
1) Brandon League
After the wheels finally were falling off the Ryan Rowland-Smithmobile, League came in and threw probably his best two innings of the season, excelling in two different roles. League came aboard in the seventh after the Aussie walked the first two hitters of the inning. Corky Miller was up to bunt the runners over, and he succeeded. With both runners in scoring position, League had the grade-A sinking stuff going, and he got Orlando Cabrera and Brandon Phillips whiffing to end the inning. So in the seventh, he played the role of fireman, and he bailed out Rowland-Smith. The eighth inning was all his, and he was due to face the third, fourth, and fifth hitters in the lineup. League got a tapper to the right side from Joey Votto and backhand flipped it to first. League then got Scott Rolen whiffing and got Jonny Gomes to ground out to third. There's 93 games remaining on the Mariners' schedule, but I think there's a great chance this will hold up as League's best outing of the season. He was dominant.
2) Chone Figgins
The Mariners' second baseman broke up the no-hitter with an infield single in the fourth, and he ended up scoring the only run of the game. Figgins is now a .236 hitter with an on-base percentage of .340 and a slugging mark of .285, but he's really not meant to slug. He hit 30 doubles, seven triples, and five home runs last season with the Angels. Right now, he's sitting on 10 doubles and one triple, and we're 12 games from the halfway point of the season. He also drove in 54 runs last season, and he has 18 so far. There's no way he'll get close to 54 RBIs this season. The batting average has a better chance of righting itself than the RBI total, that's for sure. Figgins is a .288 career hitter, and he'll have to go on an ungodly kind of tear in order to get to his career mark. How about another stat that Figgins has no chance in hell of matching? Figgins has 70 total bases this season after piling up 242 total bases last season. His career high is 255 total bases in 2005. He failed to break 200 total bases in 2007 and 2008, but that's more a result of playing about three-fourths of both of those seasons.
3) Ryan Rowland-Smith
The Aussie needed this. Sure, he walked five hitters. Sure, this wasn't his deepest outing of the season (he went seven innings in his second start of the season). He was far from perfect, sure, but the results finally turned up roses for him, and that's something he's needed and this team has needed. More importantly for his confidence, Don Wakamatsu gave him a longer leash when he sent him back out to the mound to start the seventh inning. Granted, it was a bad move in hindsight, but it probably means a lot to Rowland-Smith. You could say Wakamatsu gave Rowland-Smith just enough rope to hang himself, but that's not the point. Wakamatsu let the Aussie break 100 pitches for only the second time this season. Five walks are bad, sure, but all in all, six shutout innings looks great on Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Mariners are really going to need someone to eat up a bunch of innings after Cliff Lee totally gets traded, and having the resident Australian throw seven innings every time out like he did the second half of last year would surely help.
I can only pile on Bradley so much when the rest of the lineup only managed three hits. I have no idea if and when this guy is going to turn it around. Even though the consensus was that he sucked with the Cubs last year, he still hit .257, which is a hell of a lot better than the .215 he's hitting right now. He's halfway to last year's home run total of 12, however. Sure, the Mariners just swept Cincinnati, but it was on the strength of their pitching and definitely not on the strength of the offense. Bradley's 0-for-11 in the series says as much. It's a bit of a shame. From June 6th to the 16th, he went 10-for-33, which isn't horribly good, but it got him from .211 all the way up to .230. Three hitless games later, he's back down to .215. That didn't take long at all. What's weird is that despite sitting out two weeks in May, he still had 20 RBIs after two months of play. This month, he's driven in all of five runs, though that can be partially attributed to people in the lineup sucking in front of him.
Dempster. Vargas. Tuesday.
This was more like we'd imagined the season. Mariner fans would pray for train for three out of every five days, then the opposition would get Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez back-to-back and have to deal with it. The Mariners have now won three straight as a result, something they haven't done since the beginning of June. Though many teams haven't felt the full wrath of this combination when facing the Mariners, the Cincinnati Reds fell victim to a successful execution of the Mariners' blueprint to winning. Somewhere the Mariners found said blueprint, dusted it off, and won themselves a series at home against the Reds with the possibility of sweeping with a win on Sunday afternoon. While Cliff Lee did it almost all by himself on Friday night, Felix Hernandez got a decent output from the offense. Thus, you could say the Mariners won with the help of their offense in this game, as opposed to Friday night, when Lee won in spite of the Mariners' offense. Anyway, with a win on Sunday, the Mariners will have only their second four-game winning streak of the season. The bad news is that four games amounts to the longest winning streak the team has had this season.
-- the starting pitching will be addressed below
-- the bullpen rest bulletin: the entire bullpen had a second straight night off. Going into Sunday's game, Brandon League and David Aardsma will have three days of rest, Shawn Kelley and Garrett Olson will have four days of rest, Chad Cordero and Sean White will have five days of rest, and Brian Sweeney will be ever-patiently waiting to appear in the big leagues for the first time in four years.
-- as for the offense, there were two innings of goodness. In the third, Ichiro line-drove a homer just beyond the rightfield wall to put the Mariners ahead 1-0. In the sixth, the big inning smiled upon the Mariners as they scored four times to get a bit of comfort for Felix. Jose Lopez led off by singling on an 0-2 pitch. Franklin Gutierrez then doubled just inside the bag down the leftfield line, pushing Lopez to third. One out later, Casey Kotchman was given the open base at first (intentional walk -- they must have really thought he could lift a fly ball or get a hit, double-play chance be damned). With the bases loaded, Rob Johnson got enough wood on a pitch, flying out deep enough to centerfield to score Lopez and move Gutierrez to third, putting the Mariners ahead 2-0. Then Michael Saunders jumped on the first pitch he saw, ringing it off an auxiliary scoreboard under the Hit It Here Cafe to cap the scoring at 5-1.
-- as for blown chances, Chone Figgins got aboard with an infield single with one out in the first, but Milton Bradley and Lopez were caught looking. Figgins stole second on the Bradley strikeout, but the inning was still blown. With one out in the second, Josh Wilson doubled down the rightfield line and it bounced over the fence. After Kotchman grounded out to the pitcher, Johnson stung a ball to the right side, only to be robbed by a diving Joey Votto at first base, keeping the game scoreless (note: Johnson was also robbed on a high-chopping grounder that ended the eighth, and he was out only due to a barehanded Web Gem-nominated play and throw by a charging Scott Rolen). I don't usually say it's a blown chance if everything occurs with two outs, but in the fifth, Ichiro and Figgins hit consecutive singles, only for Bradley to pop out to short. The seventh was more of a Marinerlike inning. Figgins singled to lead off, then was erased on a Bradley grounded (Figgins stopped in his tracks and moved back toward first, and Brandon Phillips had to chase him down). Lopez then grounded into an around-the-horn double play to end the inning.
-- now, the Ichiro/Figgins stat: only Ichiro scored. Ichiro had two hits and Figgins had three, so the pair combined for five of the Mariners' 10 hits. The Mariners remain 10-4 when both players score and are now 13-20 when both collect hits.
1) Felix Hernandez
The guy definitely had it working. Sometimes he has really good starts where he's a groundball machine and everything's put in play. This start had him striking out nine Reds. While I enjoy the groundball games just fine, the strikeout games are more of a domination with a bit of flair. Felix's strikeout high this year is high, something he's done in four of his 15 starts. He hasn't reached double-digit strikeouts yet in a game this season. For me, I think it's been good that Felix early on in his career hasn't tried to strike everyone out, and that's something it took Freddy Garcia a couple years to fully realize. He set down his first eight hitters before Drew Stubbs got an infield single with two out in the third. His hiccup inning came in the fourth, though the Reds had to squeeze out their run. He walked Votto with one out, the only walk he issued on the night. Rolen flew out to very deep center, and Botto aggressively tagged and went to second. Jonny Gomes then singled on the first pitch, scoring Votto to tie the game. Felix also weathered the dropped foul fly by Josh Wilson that should have ended the fifth inning, but it only cost Felix four pitches. Felix gave up a one-out single to Votto in the sixth, but then got a double-play ball. Votto again singled with one out in the ninth, but Felix weathered that as well.
2) Michael Saunders
I had Saunders put into the goat section on Friday night, and it appears that's exactly what it took to turn him around. He only had the one hit in this game, but that hit was a three-run homer that gave the Mariners all the breathing room they needed so they could cost through the final three innings. Saunders jumped all over a pitch that was up in the zone over the inner half of the plate, ringing it off a scoreboard (I think it's usually a board used for pitch counts or the batter's statistics) beneath the Hit It Here Cafe. Though it wasn't very far to centerfield at all, it got a measurement of 408 feet, which is far for a homer hit to rightfield. My nightmare stat from the Friday game post was that Saunders was in a 10-for-59 (.169) stretch with a double, homer, and five RBIs over 24 games. He only went 1-for-3 in this game, sure, but who doesn't love another homer and three more RBIs? After hitting .221 last season, he's a .225 hitter thus far. Also, his four homers in eighty at-bats are four more homers than he had in 122 at-bats last season.
Two more hits for the Mariners' leadoff hitter as the beat continues. He went 2-for-4 in the game, making him 95-for-279 (.341) on the season. He is on pace to finish the season with 226 hits. On this night, there would be non cheap infield singles for Ichiro. His line-drive homer was probably the most line-drivey homer I've seen out of him. Usually his homers involve him jumping and turning on an inner-half pitch, and usually I imagine a decent amount of arc on his home runs. This one, however, was gone almost as quick as the ball took to get from Matt LeCure's hand to Ichiro's bat. That ball was gone very quickly. Moreover, it got the Mariners on the board and eased the doubt of the Mariners' inability to score runs in the game since now they had a number greater than zero. I'd still like to see Ichiro get on a 240-hit pace, but I think he'd have to really get hot for a couple weeks for that to be a possibility. Of course, the good thing about Ichiro is that over the span of the remaining three and a half months, he's more than likely to get really hot for a couple of weeks at some point.
It's too bad the hitless games come more often than the games where he does actual meaningful stuff. If there's one good thing about this Mariner win, it's that it takes away from the fact that the guy they had hitting third (Gutierrez has hit fifth the last three games) went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. The Mariners already jettisoned that Hall of Famer guy, who wasn't hitting at all, but Bradley getting a bunch of DH at-bats and hitting .219 doesn't exactly represent things going as planned. However, I do hope that when the Cubs come to Seattle, Bradley hits for a home-run cycle off of Carlos Silva. Hopefully Lou Piniella leaves Silva in the game long enough for that to happen. I want a solo shot, a two-run shot, a three-run shot, and a grand slam off of Silva, and by Bradley. Ten RBIs. That'd be wonderful. That would almost make up for everything else in the season at this point, except for the fact that Bradley's sucking and/or personal issues were a factor (not THE factor, but a factor noneetheless) of the Mariners' floundering from May to the present.
Harang. Rowland-Smith. Today.