After pretty much the worst possible result in a four-game set in Cleveland, the 20-25 Mariners return west to play two games in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels (17-27) have struggled mightily in 2013, and lost three of four at Safeco Field a few weeks ago. Before the game, here are some news and notes to digest.
Harang back on the mound
Aaron Harang will toe the rubber tonight for the first time since May 7, after he missed his last start with back stiffness. Harang had strung together consecutive quality starts for the first time in 2013 in his two previous starts. Hector Noesi made the start for him in New York last Thursday and helped the Mariners to a victory. It was the Mariners most recent win. Harang, 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA, is still seeking his first road win of 2013.
Smoak quietly surging
With so many other offensive weapons garnering attention for the Mariners this year, Justin Smoak has flown under the radar. His .252 batting average with three homers and eight RBI don’t jump off the page, but he’s been hot lately. He has a five-game hittting streak, has reached base in 14 consecutive contests and hit two home runs this weekend, both in late game situations. His on-base percentage is solid as well (.366) and he has a 2-t0-3 walks to strikeouts ratio, way up from his sub-1-to-2 ratio from 2012. The Mariners have to stick with Smoak as their future at first.
Here are some interesting numbers from the Mariners’ game notes press release today:
- Tom Wilhelmsen has not allowed a hit to a right-handed batter in 2013. Righties are 0-for-31 against the Bartender.
- Raul Ibanez has six home runs in the last eight games he’s played. Because, you know, he’s Raul.
- The Mariners rotation is tied for the American League lead in quality starts with 26, despite having just one this weekend (Brandon Maurer).
- Brendan Ryan has raised his batting average 66 points to .178 with a 9-for-25 clip on the current road trip. He hit his first home run on Saturday.
- The Mariners rank last in the league with a .213 batting average with runners in scoring position in 2013. They hit .190 with RISP on the road.
Brandon Maurer takes on Jerome Williams at 7:05 PT.
Baseball, more than any other sport, is all about numbers. This was the case even before the sabermetric craze that divides analysts today and inspires numerous a JJ Keller column on this website. In this new segment, I take a look at the numbers that shaped a series, beginning with the disastrous sweep in Cleveland this past weekend.
75 – Percent of the games that ended in Cleveland walkoffs. Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes all delivered game-ending hits against Mariner relievers in the series. This brutal stretch of three paintful defeats in four actually isn’t unprecedented for Seattle, who suffered a similar feat at the hands of the Orioles and Indians back in May of 2011. Avoid Cleveland in May is good advice for Seattlelites. Actually, just avoid Cleveland in general.
5 – Earned runs allowed by both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in their Sunday-Monday starts. Felix took his third loss of 2013 while the Mariners continued to hit for Iwakuma, and he earned a no decision. The Mariners cannot win wiht their one-two punch leaking runs like both did this weekend.
3 – Home runs Mariners hit off of Chris Perez in his two appearances in the series. When Perez came in with a two run lead and quickly retired the first two Mariners he faced, the game was assumed over. But back-to-back jacks from Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak gave the Mariners new life (which they would soon extinguish). In Monday’s ninth inning, Perez served up a lead-off, pinch-hit homer to Endy Chavez of all people.
11 – Hits allowed in 5.1 innings by Joe Saunders Saturday in what Root Sports analysts were calling “a good start” from the veteran lefty. No! That was a terrible start! Are you crazy? The wind knocked down a home run and gifted him a double play and he still gave up a home run to the next batter he faced! No more road Joe please.
430 – Pitches thrown by Mariners starters, in appearances that ranged between five and six innings in length. Only Brandon Maurer produced a quality start of the four. All four threw over 100 pitches.
2 (but really 3) – Errors committed by pitchers in Monday morning’s horrendous 10-8 loss. Iwakuma made an early error and Charlie Furbush screwed up a late sacrifice bunt play but the error was charge to Smoak. But none was more glaring or costly than Tom Wilhelmsen’s clank job as he stepped on first for the game’s final out. That error marked Wilhelmsen’s first blown save of 2013 in 12 chances.
7 – Batters retired consecutively by Danny Farquhar in his first appearance with the Mariners. He struck out five of them, but his great performance will be lost in the shuffle of an overall terrible series.
1 – Home run on the season for Brendan Ryan, who turned the corner in Cleveland. He went 5-for-13 with his first two extra base hits of 2013. Will he go on a tear and fight his way over the Mendoza line now? Who knows?
The Mariners play at 7:05 PT in Anaheim tonight and will try and snap the four-game skid this horrific series put them on.
On April 24, the Mariners lost 10-3 in Houston to fall to 8-15 on the young season. This was the low point for the 2013 season, and the team knew they had to respond to have any chance of contending. They responded in earnest, winning five of six series to get to 20-21 on May 16. They had a chance to surpass the .500 mark and make a run at Texas with a good series in Cleveland.
Unfortunately, that dream scenario for the Mariners simply did not play out. They lost a nail biter in extra innings Friday, as an exhausted bullpen yielded a walk off homer to Jason Kipnis. They lost in similar fashion Saturday, on a walk off infield hit after they had stormed back with homers in innings eight and nine. When an up-and-coming team like the Mariners loses two games in devastating fashion, they need their best players to come through and dig them out of the hole.
Felix Hernandez was in perfect position to do just that Sunday morning, as he took the mound against Justin Masterson. Instead, Felix put together his worst start of 2013 and Masterson dominated, sinking the Mariners even deeper in a 6-0 loss.
Hernandez lasted just five innings and surrendered six runs (five earned) on eight hits. He walked two and struck out eight. The big blow came off the bat of Michael Brantley, who ripped a three-run homer to centerfield in the second inning to put Cleveland up 5-0.
The Mariners didn’t do anything to help themselves offensively either, as Masterson dominated for seven incredible innings. He allowed just three hits, walking two and striking out 11. At times, the Mariners had absolutely no idea against Masterson. The loss dropped the M’s to 20-24, and Cleveland can finish the sweep tomorrow.
All that equates to gut check time for Seattle. They need to win tomorrow with Hisashi Iwakuma on the mound to salvage something from this series and prepare for two games against the Angels in LA. They cannot get discouraged by watching Felix get shelled today. That happens to Felix from time to time as it does to all pitchers. Felix especially struggles at Progressive Field, where he is 3-5 lifetime with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts. He had a similarly horrendous start right around this time last season (on May 16, 2012, Felix gave up eight runs on ten hits in just 3.2 innings at Progressive Field). This bad start and loss doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
But it could if the Mariners let it get them down. If they refuse to plod forward like good teams do and dwell on these three consecutive losses, they may never scrape .500 again in 2013. Iwakuma can win tomorrow, and the ship will be right back on track for the best Mariners team in a few long years.
For the fifth time in 2013, Joe Saunders failed to record a quality start on the road, as the Mariners lost 5-4 to the Indians in Cleveland Saturday. Saunders went 5.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on 11 base hits while walking and striking out two. All things considered, it was probably Saunders’ best road start of the season. Still, he laid out a blueprint of how not to make a quality start with a few key things he did or did not do.
Don’t mess around with two outs
Too often during Saturday’s start, Saunders failed to close the book on the Indians after recording two outs. As a matter of fact, Ryan Divish pointed out on Twitter that Saunders has zero 1-2-3 innings in road starts this season. This inability not only costs the Mariners precious runs but also runs Saunders’ pitch count way up. Today proved no exception.
In the first inning, Saunders quickly retired Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis with just eight pitches. When Asdrubal Cabrera stepped in, Saunders gave up a base hit on his fourth pitch of the at-bat. This small crack in the armor proved lethal for Saunders, who threw seven balls to the next two hitters, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds, walking Swisher and giving up an RBI single to Reynolds. All told, he threw 17 pitches with two outs in the first inning.
The second inning almost mirrored the first one, except that Saunders survived unscathed. He only needed seven pitches to retire Mike Aviles and Jan Gomes, but ran into trouble with Drew Stubbs and Bourn. Saunders walked Stubbs and Bourn singled. Kipnis ended the threat with a come-backer to the mound, but Saunders’ pitch count took another huge two-out hit. He threw 16 more pitches with two outs, running his count to 48 through two innings.
Saunders only threw two two-out pitches in the third, stranding a runner at second and throwing only 18 pitches. He threw ten pitches with two outs in the fourth, allowing a single to Bourn before retiring Kipnis. However, he ran into two-out trouble again in the fifth. Swisher basically hit a home run to left field, except that the wind knocked it down and Raul Ibanez made the catch. Cabrera, at first after a lead off single, was totally fooled and the Mariners doubled him off. Yet Saunders apparently learned nothing from Swisher, as he left another pitch out over the plate to Reynolds, who hit it in almost the same spot as Swisher, except this one carried out for a solo home run.
To notch a quality start on the road, Saunders cannot afford to mess around with two outs like he did today.
Don’t sacrifice an early edge in the count
Saunders threw a ton of first pitch strikes today, especially early on. Of the 29 batters he faced, Saunders threw them 20 first pitch strikes. That doesn’t even include at bats where Indians’ batters put the ball in play on the first pitch. Saunders took control of most of the hitters he faced right from the get go, which should foreseeably help him.
However, of those 20 first pitch strikes that didn’t end up in play, Saunders followed 13 of them up with second pitch balls. Saunders would frequently get ahead and immediately surrender his advantage with the next pitch. He needed to stay aggressive and make things happen to keep his pitch count down. Instead, he ended up with 120 pitches in a weak 5.1 inning start.
Don’t heavily rely on balls in play
In five road starts this year, Joe Saunders pitched 24 innings. He struck out seven batters in those appearances. Seven! In 24 innings! Sure, Saunders isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but that’s just horrendous. His inability to get batters out on his own hurts him significantly, as it did today. Saunders allowed 11 hits and recorded 14 outs on balls in play. That’s a horrendous BABIP against, but when you only strike out two batters of 29, that kind of stuff happens. Quality starts are built on commanding the strike zone and batters, and Saunders did neither with effectiveness in the loss.
The Mariners fell to the Indians 6-3 in 10 innings last night, as Jason Kipnis ripped a walk-off three-run blast off of Lucas Luetge. Seattle missed out on their first opportunity to reach the .500 mark since the second week of April, and fell to 20-22. This morning, the Mariners get underway at 10:05 PT, with Joe Saunders taking on Zach McAllister. Before they get
underway in Cleveland, here are some things to look out for.
Woeful road Joe
Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Saunders’ four starts on the road in 2013:
April 3, Oakland: 4 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 3 K
April 19, Texas: 4.2 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 0 K
April 24, Houston: 5 IP, 8 ER, 11 H, 2 BB, 2 K
May 5, Toronto: 5 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 0 K
All four of these are horrid starts in their own special ways, and all four are Mariners’ losses by wide margins. The closest game of the bunch was the first one, a 6-2 loss to the A’s. Anything can happen in baseball, but starting Joe Saunders on the road this year has been akin to a forfeit for the Mariners. Part of that may be that he only has five strikeouts in 18.2 road innings this year. He’s relying on contact too much and paying the price. His 12.54 road ERA has to come down today for the Mariners to sniff success.
Saunders gets day off
Endy Chavez is leading off and playing centerfield today, a role Michael Saunders has occupied in every game since returning from the disabled list. Eric Wedge and my northwest.com’s Shannon Drayer played it off like a regular day off, but Saunders has been slumping lately. Three of his last four games resulted in 0-for-5 performances, and in those three games, he totaled seven strikeouts. That doesn’t equate to quality lead off hitting, and Saunders’ time in that slot could be limited if Chavez or Dustin Ackley can keep hitting.
Morse returns from eye trouble
The official word on Michael Morse’s eye irritation last night was that he poked himself in the eye some time leading up to Friday’s game and had issues with a dislodged contact and blurred vision for the rest of the night. The Mariners could have used his hot bat yesterday, as runs were few and far between. Hopefully the eye issue doesn’t derail Morse’s hot streak, during which he has racked up nine hits in his past four games.
Here’s the lineup for today:
- Chavez CF
- Ackley 2B
- Seager 3B
- Morales DH
- Morse RF
- Ibanez LF
- Smoak 1B
- Montero C
- Ryan SS
After taking two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx, the Mariners head to Cleveland for four games Friday to Monday against the Indians. Tonight’s game features Mariners’ rookie Brandon Maurer starting against Indians’ veteran Ubaldo Jimenez. Before the action gets underway, here are some pregame notes to digest.
Morse scratched with an eye irritation
That pretty much sums up exactly what we know. Michael Morse, who has nine hits in his last four games, will miss tonight’s game with an eye injury. Endy Chavez will play right field in his stead. That is a big blow to a Mariners lineup that will need to show support for Maurer.
Noesi to Tacoma
A day after he made his first start of 2013, the Mariners sent Hector Noesi to AAA Tacoma today. They promoted reliever Danny Farquhar in his stead. Every reliever on the 25-man roster besides Charlie Furbush pitched last night, and with two game in less than 24 hours upcoming, Eric Wedge must have felt he needed additional relief help.
Farquhar makes some sense, since he has succeeded in medium to short relief in 2013. He boasts a 2.25 ERA in 15 appearances. He racked up 20 innings pitched in that time, and also has six saves for Tacoma. He has struck out 30 batters while walking just four.
Noesi, on the other hand, probably couldn’t pitch for the next few days anyway, after he started and threw upwards of 80 pitches yesterday. I would be surprised to see him pitch in Tacoma, and he might be back with the big club by next week, especially if Aaron Harang can’t make his next start.
Pestano returns to fold for Tribe
Vinnie Pestano, perhaps Cleveland’s best relief pitcher, was activated from the disabled list today and will be available for duty out of the ‘pen tonight for the Wahoos. Pestano, who pitched for the US in the World Baseball Classic in March, went on the DL on May 1 because of a sore right elbow. Pestano had posted a 2.25 ERA with no record so far in 2013. The Indians sent lefty Nick Hagadone back to AAA Columbus to balance the roster.
Maurer looking for first career road win
Maurer has only made two starts on the road so far in 2o12, and he took the loss in both contests. In his most recent road start, he recorded a quality start against Texas, but the Mariners didn’t score any runs to support his cause. The first inning hasn’t been his strength, so getting off to a good start will be important for Maurer. Maybe if the Mariners show him some support by scoring in the first inning before he even takes the hill, the early going will run smoothly for Maurer.
Here’s the lineup trying to help Maurer against Jimenez at 4:05 PT.
- Saunders CF
- Ackley 2B
- Seager 3B
- Morales DH
- Smoak 1B
- Ibanez LF
- Shoppach C
- Chavez RF
- Ryan SS
I did an email interview with Brian Heise of Wahoo’s on First, the Fansided Indians blog, as a preview for the Mariners’ series in Cleveland this weekend. Here’s a link to the interview on their site. I’m also going to publish the answers here.
Brian Heise: The Mariners have spent the past few years stockpiling young talent, especially for the everyday lineup, but have yet to see real results from Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, etc. Is it just growing pains or is something else going on here that is cause for concern?
Me: Some of it is growing pains, but some of it seriously worrying. Montero especially has struggled behind the plate and with the bat, so his days at catcher appear numbered. Smoak and Ackley have improved their approaches at the plate this year, but as the number show, there’s still a ton of room for growth, especially relative to their expectations. Smoak has hit well from the left side of the plate in 2013 (he’s a switch hitter), and his walk numbers are way up.
BH: There’s a lot of hype surrounding Mike Zunino. Do you think we’ll see him with the Mariners this season and, more importantly, is the hype warranted?
Me: Zunino is an interesting case, because he was tearing it up in AAA before strikeouts launched him into a massive slump. He’s not ready for the bigs as of yet, but he might see time later in the summer, depending on how the Montero situation plays out. I fully expect him to be the organization’s catcher of the future once the Montero experiment ends.
BH: How did you feel about the recent extension the Mariners gave to Felix Hernandez? Sound financial investment, or are they playing with fire by committing so much to a player with a lot of mileage on his arm even though he’s still only 27?
Me: It’s hard to quantify how much Felix Hernandez means to this organization in dollar value. He IS the Mariners. So when the big seven year extension came down this winter, nobody in Seattle was too concerned. The Mariners need Felix, not only from a baseball standpoint, but from a financial and perception standpoint as well. In my opinion, no dollar amount was too much to lock up the Seattle sports superstar for the foreseeable future.
BH: What were your expectations for the Mariners heading into 2013 and how do you feel about them midway through May?
Me: I expected them to show improvement, and so far, I’m content with where they are. They come into this weekend at 20-21, in second place in the AL West and having won five of their last six series. I said 80 wins would be an ambitious goal for this team, and they are right on track so far. The difference from the 2012 team is they have two MLB middle-of-the-order mashers in Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse that make them competitive from a hitting standpoint. If they can win games with their three through five spots in the rotation, they could contend for a wild card spot.
BH: What’s your prediction for the series?
Me: The easy prediction here is a split, with the Mariners winning the two games started by Felix and Iwakuma Sunday and Monday. I’m most looking forward to the Felix vs. Justin Masterson match-up Sunday. Masterson looked great in game one of the doubleheader against the YankeesMonday, and Felix will be battling a stiff back. I’ll stick with a split, but I think the Indians beat Felix and the Mariners beat Ubaldo Jimenez tonight.
The Mariners took a major step forward this week, winning a series in New York for the first time since 2004. They improved to 20-21, taking sole possession of second place in the AL West (still seven games behind Texas, though). Perhaps most impressive, they did it while losing a Felix Hernandez start and winning a game started by Hector Noesi. Here are five things the Mariners showed in the three-game series.
1. Born this way
This catchy and horrid Lady Gaga anthem could easily become Raul Ibanez’s walk-up music at new Yankee Stadium, as he showed in the first two games that he was born to hit in the Bronx. In those two contests, Raul went 4-for-9 with three homer runs and eight RBI. Sure, he threw up a nasty 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday, but the guy kills in Yankee Stadium. Brian Cashman is probably kicking himself about not re-signing Raul this offseason.
2. Morse back on his horse
Michael Morse now has two hits in each of his last four games, and has raised his batting average from .225 to .261. On Thursday, he hit his tenth home run of the season, a massive swat that carried way out to right centerfield and held up as the game-winning run in a 3-2 victory. On Monday, Geoff Baker called for Morse to pick up his game. Morse did just that in the Bronx, consistently putting the Mariners in positions to score runs, or in the case of Thursday, taking matters into his own, gigantic, beastly hands.
3. Bullpen one of baseball’s best
Disclaimer: I have no statistical evidence to back this up. The Mariners are 19th in bullpen ERA, eighth in batting average against and eleventh in saves. None of that really jumps off the page. But when Charlie Furbush blew the game for Felix in the seventh inning Tuesday, it was only the second time the Mariners bullpen had blown a save all year. Fast forward to Thursday, where the bullpen amounted for all nine innings in a win no baseball realist expected.
The Mariners have a rising young setup man in Carter Capps, and lethal left-handed out pitcher in Oliver Perez, and a closer with perhaps baseball’s nastiest 12-6 curve in Tom Wilhelmsen. Couple that with Yoervis Medina’s solid middle relief, Lucas Luetge’s lefty specialty and Noesi in spot starts, and you have a ‘pen that can hold it together in crunch time, like they did all throughout Thursday’s win. When Stephen Pryor and Josh Kinney come back, the M’s might just have one of baseball’s premier relief squads.
4. King and Kuma the best around
This one doesn’t come attached with a debate: Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have formed the best 1-2 punch in baseball so far in 2o13, bar none. Felix’s 1.53 ERA ranks him first in the American League; Kuma’s 1.84 mark has him third. Felix leads the league in innings pitched; Kuma ranks sixth. Felix is third in the AL in WHIP at 0.93; Iwakuma’s 0.78 WHIP leads the pack by a wide margin. For sabermatricians out there, Felix is tops in AL starter WAR, while Kuma is third. They are the prized thoroughbred horses at the top of the Mariner rotation, and the M’s would be nowhere without their success.
5. Middle mark looming tonight
Another result of the series win, the Mariners’ fifth in their last six, is the chance to reach the .500 mark for the first time since the first series of the season with a win in Cleveland Friday. Brandon Maurer takes the hill against Ubaldo Jimenez, as the rookie tries to save an exhausted Mariner bullpen with his first career road quality start. First pitch is at 4:05 PT.
Breaking news out of Mariners land, as Aaron Harang will not make his regularly scheduled start Thursday due to stiffness in his lower back. Instead, former Yankee Hector Noesi will make his first start of the season.
Harang has struggled mightily so far in 2013, posting a 1-4 record with a 7.30 ERA. However, his last two starts had been better, as he went 1-1 in two six inning, two run performances.
Hector Noesi makes his first start of 2013 for the Mariners. Noesi posted a 2-12 record with a 5.86 ERA in 22 games in 2012, which included 18 starts. In 2011 with New York, he posted a 2-2 record with a 4.47 ERA in 30 apperances (two starts). In 2013 out of the bullpen, Noesi has allowed four runs in nine innings of work.
Whether Noesi can get it on track as a starter remains to be seen, but the Mariners are undoutasbly behind the eight ball, as they oppose left-hander Andy Pettitte tonight in the Bronx. The game starts at 4:05 PT. Here is the Mariners lineup:
- Saunders CF
- Bay LF
- Seager 3B
- Morales 1B
- Morse RF
- Ibanez DH
- Montero C
- Ackley 2B
- Ryan SS
The Mariners defeated the Yankees 12-2 Wednesday behind a massive surge of offense that began with a seven-spot in the top half of the first. Hisashi Iwakuma improved to 5-1 in the victory while Phil Hughes, who lasted just 2/3 of an inning, fell to 2-3. The real story was Raul Ibanez though, as he hit his fifth and six home runs of 2013, swatting a grand slam in the first and a two-run homer in the fifth.
When the Mariners signed Ibanez in late December, most Mariner fans didn’t exactly shout with glee at their Christmas present from Jackie Z. My reaction, and what I perceived as the general consensus reaction, was “oh, that’s nice.” Not many thought Ibanez would make a significant impact for the Mariners in 2013.
Now, Raul has played in only 22 games, still doesn’t hit lefties well and can’t play a competent left field. However, in flashes, he has provided the Mariners with the necessary pop to get over the hump and win big games.
He displayed his pop in a big spot in the first inning of Wednesday’s win. With the bases loaded and the Mariners already leading 2-0, the Mariners could not afford to take their collective foot off the gas and let the Yankees off the hook. Ibanez, a 40-year old 18-year veteran, knew that. He capitalized on a Hughes hanging breaking ball and crushed it into the Yankees bullpen to put the game out of doubt before it really even got started.
The Mariners have certainly improved offensively in 2013. Having real, major league, middle-of-the-order hitters like Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse has helped them immensely. But the killer instinct it takes to clear the bases when the game is there to be put away still eludes the Mariners sometimes. It did on Tuesday, when they failed to knock insurance runs across up 3-1 with first and third in the top of the seventh and lost the game in the next inning.
But in a huge spot, with a chance to bury one of the best teams in the American League before Iwakuma even took the mound, Ibanez demolished one to bring out the rye bread and mustard. It was grand salami time.
Other news and notes from Wednesday’s win:
- Kyle Seager pounded a pitch from Yankees reliever Brett Marshall in the sixth inning for a three-run homer to right-centerfield. It was Seager’s fifth jack of the season, and he may have locked down the third spot in the order for a few more weeks.
- Speaking of Marshall, he made his major league debut Wednesday, and manager Joe Girardi didn’t make it easy on the rookie. Marshall entered in the fourth inning and racked up 5.2 innings pitched and a whopping 108 pitches. He threw 56 strikes and 56 balls and allowed five runs, nine hits and five walks while saving the rest of the Yankees bullpen for more meaningful appearances.
- So committed to preserving his bullpen was Girardi, that when Marshall made it clear he was tapped out in the ninth, Girardi moved shortstop Alberto Gonzalez to pitcher. Gonzalez got the one out he needed, inducing a pop out from Robert Andino. Andino apparently can’t even hit position players.
The Mariners and Yankees play the rubber match of the series at 4:05 PT Thursday. Aaron Harang takes the mound for the Mariners against Andy Pettite. Harang will have to hope the bats come back and support him Thursday for the Mariners to take two of three in the Bronx.
The Mariners lost a game they probably should have won Tuesday, falling to the Yankees 4-3 in the Bronx. Former Mariner Shawn Kelley got his second win of 2013 while Charlie Furbush earned his second loss. Mariano Rivera, the man, the myth, the legend, notched save No. 16 in the same number of chances. Here’s what I observed in Tuesday’s loss.
Questionable umpiring mars result
The worst bit of ump-work didn’t even cost the Mariners a run. That took place when Felix Hernandez and Kendrys Morales both decided to cover first on a really weird play made on a ground ball to Robert Andino hit by Lyle Overbay. Andino’s throw arrived in plenty of time, but Felix didn’t get out of Overbay’s way. The umpires huddled and incorrectly ruled Felix interfered with Overbay, allowing him to reach base. Here’s the rule on interference from the MLB rule book, per @KJRMitch on Twitter:
“OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball impedes the progress of any runner”
So maybe Felix technically did that, but Overbay was already called out, so it shouldn’t have mattered. Throw in Charlie Furbush getting squeezed at least twice in the costly seventh inning and Mike Morse striking out for the final out on a pitch Rivera threw at least a foot inside, and the umpiring in this game was atrocious.
Ibanez born to play in new Yankee Stadium
As a rule, Eric Wedge avoids playing Raul Ibanez against lefties. Raul only had 11 ABs against southpaws in 2o13, with just one single to show for it. But Wedge rolled the dice on Ibanez Tuesday, knowing his prowess in dealing with the right field short porch in New York. And boy, was he right. Raul hit a sharp line drive to right off of Sabathia in the sixth inning that probably would have left one out of thirty parks in the majors. Fortunately, that one park happened to be the one the Mariners were playing in at the time. Ibanez can provide a big lift with his spurts of power, and as long as he does that every once in a while, he’ll stick around for all of 2013.
Felix’s leg “issues” cost Mariners
Felix was in top form tonight. Any time runners would threaten in scoring position, he pitched out of it with his dominant changeup. But he suffered two leg injury scares, once in the fourth and again in the sixth. The second not only threw off his rhythm and cost him a mistake pitch to Overbay resulting in an RBI double, but convinced Eric Wedge that he had to pull Felix after the inning. Then Wedge pulled a perfectly fine Yoervis Medina for “lefty-specialist” Charlie Furbush, who didn’t get any lefties out unscathed. You have to think Felix’s massive contract was weighing on Wedge’s mind at that point. The move cost the Mariners the game, as Felix could have pitched the seventh inning.
The Mariners fell to 18-21 and throw Hisashi Iwakuma against Phil Hughes tomorrow at 4:05 PT
The Mariners begin a three-game series with the Yankees in the Bronx today at 4:05 PT. Here are a few storylines to follow throughout the series.
Tuesday features class of AL starters
Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia. Both names evoke thoughts of terrifying and elite pitching prowess. Both names will appear in Tuesday night’s lineup card with a “P” next to their names. With Felix, a former Cy Young winner with a 1.53 2013 ERA, and CC, a former Cy Young winner at the head of the Evil Empire’s rotation, runs will likely prove few and far between. Who has the advantage? Sabathia tends to dominate the Mariners, with a 12-4 record and 2.46 ERA in 20 career starts against Seattle. But Felix pitches lights out in Yankee Stadium, with a 4-1 record and 2.13 ERA since its inaguration in 2010. It’s a close matchup, by I give Felix the slight edge because of how well he has pitched so far in 2013.
Andino, Ryan starting together again
The two worst hitters on the 25-man roster will both start for the second consecutive game for the Mariners. Andino will play second and Ryan shortstop, even though the two are hitting .159 and .122, respectively. Why? Well first of all, Dustin Ackley is left-handed and Sabthia could pose a matchup nightmare for him. Ackley is 1-for-7 career against Sabathia with four strikeouts (although that one hit was a two-run homer). Perhaps more to the heart of the matter, Andino and Ryan have the Mariners’ two best career averages against Sabathia. Ryan is 4-for-10 with three walks, while Andino checks in at 10-for-28 with a home run. Add in the fact that both hit the ball hard twice on Sunday, and runs could be produced from the bottom of the Mariners’ order tonight.
Granderson returns for New York
Manager Joe Girardi stuck Curtis Granderson in the cleanup spot and in left field Tuesday for his season debut, after he fractured his forearm during his first at-bat of Spring Training. Granderson, a three-time all star, hit .232 with 43 home runs and 106 RBI last season for the Yankees. In 2011, he led the American League in RBI and runs scored. Against Felix, Granderson is a career .273 hitter in 55 at-bats, with two homers and 20 strikeouts. Granderson is the first of a long list of injured Yankee starts to return to the lineup this season, and could provide New York with a big lift. It’s not like the Yankees exactly need one, though, as they come into tonight at 24-14, one game up on the Orioles in the AL East.
First pitch is at 4:05 PT and will be from Sabathia to Michael Saunders. Here’s the rest Mariners’ lineup:
- Saunders CF
- Bay LF
- Seager 3B
- Morales 1B
- Morse RF
- Shoppach C
- Ibanez DH
- Andino 2B
- Ryan SS
Happy Felix Day!
I have defended leaving Brendan Ryan at shortstop for a while, even when he was hitting below .200 for the majority of last year and partially into this year. But after almost 30 games and almost 100 AB’s I have officially given up on him. His defense is phenomenal and if he could hit .250 he would be a very valuable player to have. But this is the realization I am steadily having about Brendan Ryan: He cannot hit .250 in the MLB, or even .225. And expecting him to do so anymore is a waste.
What has finally made me lose my last straw was finally looking at his stats, in both the box score and online. We all know his triple slash line is awful and that he has struck out as many times as he has had an RBI, scored a run, walked AND stolen a base combined. I am not kidding, that’s 19 on each as of the morning of May 13. But those things just show how bad he is, and what I am more interested in is why he sucks. Or, to put it more succinctly, what changed from last year or two years ago that is suddenly causing him to suck.
And the really sad answer that has caused me to give up on him is that really not much. His K%’s have gone from 17.6 to 20.4 since 2011 and his BB% has shifted from 6.9 to 8.6, which should offset the uptick in K’s. His batted ball profile (Line drive %, fly ball % and ground ball %) is almost identical, with a small drop in line drives and small gain in fly balls. He is seeing the same percentage of pitches according to pitch F/X and even swinging at a similar percentage of pitches inside and outside the strike zone (All of these numbers can be found on Fangraphs). It is this information that has driven me give up on Ryan, quite simply he is not an MLB-level hitter anymore.
So this takes us to the actual productive part of this article (As much as I love being Captain Obvious, I think we all knew Brendan Ryan couldn’t hit). And that is what the Mariners can do about this situation because I really doubt that Wedge can justify starting a shortstop that hits less than his weight (This is both shortstops on the roster right now). There are a few options in AAA, namely Nick Franklin and Carlos Triunfel. Franklin is the new sexy middle infield prospect who has torn up AAA pitching in about 30 games. Triunfel is the prospect turned bust, turned somewhat interesting player who is still only 23. Franklin would be the better replacement for Ryan but there are a series of factors that could see Triunfel as the short-term replacement.
First of all, Robert Andino should be cut before Ryan is. Andino is cheaper and worse defensively than Ryan. Offensively they are pretty much a push; Andino is sporting a solid .159 average in 70 AB’s. But this comes with the issue that Andino is also the backup third baseman. So whoever is called up would have to play some third base when Kyle Seager or Dustin Ackley need a rest. This requirement favors Triunfel, not because Franklin can’t play third, but because Triunfel has the stronger arm. I would not be surprised to see Wedge cite that as a reason for choosing Triunfel over Franklin, he also cares little for plate discipline, which Triunfel lacks.
The second issue is one of experience. Triunfel has played with the Mariners before, albeit briefly in September last year. Franklin is also a prospect and the issue of service time comes up. The Mariners do not want to start his service clock early and lose a year of team control over Franklin. This becomes a non-issue once we get deeper into summer and Franklin can be called up without starting his service clock. Meaning Triunfel could be called up soon to replace Andino but then replaced by Franklin later in the year.
Nick Franklin should be called up to replace Robert Andino and share time with Brendan Ryan. This team cannot carry TWO shortstops who are hitting less than their bodyweight. One of Ryan or Andino should be cut to help improve the offense. Even if Franklin or Triunfel do play poorly, they are getting MLB experience and that will make them better, even if they struggle at first. Andino and Ryan are not getting better by playing everyday, they are making the team worse. And as much as I love the talking buffalo commercial, its time to let the next generation of players get experience, meaning Ryan or Andino have to go.