By Scott Rinear
The Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland A’s in extra innings tonight down at the Oakland Coliseum to take the second game of this 3-game road series against the AL West cellar dwellers. I’ll admit it was difficult to stay inside and watch the Root Sports broadcast of the game with summer having arrived alive and well in the northwest, albeit a little late. Coming off a very fun and relaxing 4th of July weekend down at my family’s beach cabin in Normandy Park, I feel ready for a summertime pennant race in the AL West as the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers both won, again, and yet the Mariners are back to .500 and remain a mere 2.5 games out of first place.
Felix Hernandez brought his typical dominant A game, pitching 8 solid innings of 1-run ball. Felix gave up 4 hits on the night, and I was almost glad Oakland leadoff batter Jemile Weeks lead off the game with a hit, that way Dave Sims wasn’t able to jinx a potential no-hitter by mentioning a potential no-hitter with 2 outs in the 3rd inning. Felix also finished the game with 10 strikeouts, striking out 7 of the 9 A’s batters at least once each. It wasn’t until the 8th inning that Oakland mounted a threat off Felix, with a solo home run by Kurt Suzuki just out of reach of left fielder Carlos Peguero‘s leap.
The majority of the Mariners offense tonight had both a name and a steadily bearding face: Dustin Ackley. I get more and more excited about this kid with every at bat. Ackley singled, stole second, and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Peguero in the 2nd. Then, not to be outdone by himself, Ackley smashed a solo home run to dead center field in the 7th, pushing the Mariners lead to 2-0. Maybe if more than one Mariner could have provided some offense in the first nine innings of this game, Felix would have gotten the victory he deserved rather than the no decision he actually got, because All-Star closer Brandon League blew his 4th save of the season, allowing the game-tying run in the ninth.
The Mariners took the lead for good in the 10th when a potential inning ending double play relay throw missed first base by a good 10 feet, allowing Franklin Gutierrez to score easily after leading off the inning with single. Adam Kennedy followed up with an RBI double, putting the Mariners up 4-2. Jaimie Wright pitched the bottom of the 10th to pick up the save, and, as happens only in baseball, Brandon League’s blown save turned into his first win of the year, as he was the pitcher of record when the Mariners regained the lead.
It was nice to see at least two members of King’s Court at the Oakland Coliseum, although Oakland isn’t the most opportune stadium to wear yellow shirts, but A for effort guys. And although I really wish the King’s Court was an organic grass roots phenomenon, it is a much more productive promotional strategy than bobbleheads and rally fries, because at least it has more people paying attention to the game once every 5 games.
Following this series in Oakland the Mariners will enter a brutal 47 game stretch between now and the end of August against some top tier competition, including 10 games versus the Angels and 7 against the Rangers. Also included in that stretch are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cleveland Indians. In fact, during July and August, Mariner opponents are a combined 42 games above .500. Needless to say the next month will be a big test for this 2011 Mariners team and will go a long way in determining whether they stay in the race as summer roles on.
Will the Mariners be buyers or sellers this year as the trade deadline approaches? Your guess is as good as mine. I still say they should make a move to improve the offense if possible, but I don’t have an answer for what move they should make. That’s what Eric Wedge and Jack Zduriencik and the Mariner scouts get paid to figure out. Let’s see what kind of deal they can get done. In the short term this team is at a tipping point, and the next couple of months hopefully will see this team keep pace in the West and challenge for a playoff spot, albeit a little earlier than planned. Go Mariners! http://jeffsmariners.com
By Scott Rinear
Happy 4th of July weekend! Hopefully most of you in the region were able to get out and enjoy a picture perfect summer day in the northwest, finally.
So in case you missed it, Seattle Mariners pitcher Doug Fister, who has developed the unfortunate and unbelievably frustrating reputation of being the tough luck kid because he pitches so well but never wins, lost another heart breaker by one run, a run that should not have scored. San Diego Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin walked in the 5th inning and scored the game’s only run. However, upon further review, it was discovered that the count was 3 balls and 2 strikes when Maybin jogged down to first base. A walk with only 3 balls. The fact that a run scored in this manner was the only run surrendered by Fister in 9 innings of work makes “tough luck” an understatement. There’s not much more to say…keep doing what you’re doing Doug! Your fortunes will improve. And for those of you wondering about protesting the game:
Rule 4.19 Comment: Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play.
Let’s take the positive out of this. Doug Fister is pitching out of his mind, and that is very promising for the future of this team.
As we pass the technical half-way point of the 2011 season and approach the All-Star Break, I wanted to weigh in and perhaps start a discussion about Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge. Sprinkled throughout the posts on this blog in 2011 have been some brief opinions, praise, and criticisms of the Mariners’ second go-around with a former Cleveland Indians manager, but I feel the man (Wedge, aka Mt. Mustache) deserves a little more attention and discussion.
The founding father of this blog, Jeff, and I, in our back and forth Mariner banter this season have long since come to the conclusion that Eric Wedge is The Man, plain and simple. “Fear the Mustache” is Jeff’s brainchild. It’s not about Wedge being a particularly scary individual. It’s about Wedge’s style as a manager and the respect he commands from his players and their opponents, and of course, very literally, his utterly fantastic mustache!
“Fear the Mustache” is also a warning. Wedge became the faltering Indians manager in 2003. The Indians moved up a spot in the final AL Central standings each of his first 3 seasons, and by 2005 they were within 2 games of the playoffs. Then, after a down year in 2006, Wedge lead the 2007 Indians to a 96 win season, a 4-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, and were one game away from reaching the World Series, losing the ALCS game 7 to the Boston Red Sox.
Wedge was awarded Manger of the Year honors for that 2007 season and I believe he’ll receive that award again, soon, as the manager of the Seattle Mariners. Think about it. The 2011 Mariners were “supposed” to be well out of the race by now. And on paper they probably should be. Through his managerial decisions Wedge has gotten the most out of a team offense ranked last in hits, runs, batting average, on-base %, slugging % and OPS. A team with numbers like that has no business anywhere but the cellar. Of course the Mariners’ brilliant pitching staff has a lot to do with their current “striking distance” position in the AL West, but I think a lot of the credit should also be given to Wedge.
I realize one half season might not be enough for some to reach this sort of conclusion, but for me it’s an intangible gut feeling that Wedge is finally our guy, and that he’s made it far enough into the building that he’ll avoid falling victim to the Mariner manager revolving door that was installed when Lou Piniella exited said building.
Eric Wedge was a catcher in his playing days, which included a College World Series title with Wichita State in 1989 and some time in the minors and a few stints in the majors. He and his wife Kate Wedge are very active in the community, both in Cleveland and in Seattle, giving a lot back and offering their help during a time when there a lot of people that need it.
So that’s my opinion and feelings about our new manager, but I want to know what other Mariner fans think of Eric Wedge at the mid-way point of his first season as our manager. Is he our guy? Go Mariners! http://jeffsmariners.com
By Scott Rinear
The first ever Seattle Mariners road series at Safeco Field came to an end in tonight’s first ever 7:10pm Sunday night game, as the Mariners beat the Florida Marlins 2-1 in 10 innings.
Once again Doug Fister pitched very well, throwing 8 solid innings, walking none, and surrendering only 1 earned run. Fister decided to address his own tough luck run support problem when he laced a double into the right-center gap past the drawn-in Marlins outfielders in the 5th. He then personally scored the game’s first run on an RBI single by Brendan Ryan. In fact, in their Safeco Field offensive debut, Mariner pitchers batted .250 with a double and a run scored in 8 at bats.
It would have been a great story if the single run Fister scored ended up getting him the win, but it was not to be. After an 8th inning single by our old pal Jose Lopez and a sacrifice bunt, Marlins second basemen Omar Infante fouled off pitch after pitch in a great 12-pitch battle with Fister. Infante ended up with the bigger half of the wishbone, lining a 2-out RBI double down the left field line to tie the game. So it would be another no decision for Doug Fister, and extra innings for the Mariners.
Dustin Ackley lead off the 10th with a double, finishing the game a home run shy of the cycle. Ackley then tagged up and moved to third on a fly ball to left by Miguel Olivo. You wanted a bizarre ending to a weird series? The Marlins “attempted” to intentionally walk Carlos Peguero, and relief pitcher Steve Cishek missed the catcher completely, allowing Ackley to score the go-ahead run on the wild pitch.
It was a crucial win for the Mariners as the Athletics, Angels, and Rangers all lost on Sunday, pushing the M’s back into 2nd place in the AL West, and only 1.5 games out of first.
In the spirit of this goofy road series at Safeco, I wanted to deviate somewhat from the normal subject matter and talk about a few pet peeves of mine. Let’s call it the first installation of what I like to so cleverly call “Scott’s Pet Peeves.” Mainly I want to know if I’m the only one.
Pet peeve #1: The behind-home-plate camera angle Root Sports seems to grow fonder of with every pitch. Bottom line: we can’t see anything! Sure we can see the ball on its way to the plate, which is kind of neat. But once the ball gets to the hitting zone, the place where a lot of the action of baseball occurs, everything becomes a jumbled mess of umpire/catcher/batter with a flash of the ball heading somewhere that we won’t really know until they switch camera angles. Enough Root Sports! Stick to the center field camera please. Am I the only one?
Pet peeve #2: Booing the opposing pitcher for trying to hold a baserunner close. This Major League-wide phenomenon is more of a curiosity than a pet peeve. Holding a runner close by throwing over to first a couple of times is as much a strategic part of the game as a pitcher working the corners. I’ve never understood why keeping runners close ALWAYS warrants an appearance by a flock of boo birds. Am I the only one? If anyone out there reading this goes to games and boos in this situation, I just want to know why.
Pet peeve #3: Dave Sims. I can’t be the only one?
The Mariners will be right back on the field tomorrow night as they welcome the Atlanta Braves to the Safe, although this series will see the DH position again. I wonder if the Mariners should just pretend it’s National League rules again, because .250 with a double and a run scored actually looks pretty good. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
By Scott Rinear
First off, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, especially to my dad, who I hope was able to catch some of the game today. The Seattle Mariners won yet another series on this 2011 Father’s Day, taking rubber game of this series from the Philadelphia Phillies in front of a sellout crowd at Safeco Field. The story of the day was Mariners starter Jason Vargas, who put on an absolute pitching clinic, hurling his 2nd complete game shutout in his last 3 starts.
It’s difficult to describe a performance like the one we saw today from Vargas other than it was a true pitching gem in every sense of the phrase. Vargas mixed pitch speeds beautifull, working the inside and outside corners all game, inducing many easy ground balls and lazy flyouts. The final stat line for Vargas was 9 innings pitched, 3 hits, 6 K’s, and only two walks. And the third Philly hit didn’t come until bloop single by Ryan Howard with 2 outs in the 9th. At one point Vargas set down 15 Philly hitters in a row,. The only thing resembling trouble came in the 4th when the Phillies managed to get a few runners on, but that threat was promptly ended by Chone Figgins when he caught a soft liner and doubled Carlos Ruiz off at first.
Most people around the country probably assumed that the dominant left-hander in this match-up would be the Phillies’ Cole Hamels. Hamels’ record is an impressive 9-3, but that third loss was today facing Vargas and the Mariners. Hopefully this series against the Major League’s best team might help put the Seattle Mariners more clearly on the national map, as our carefully crafted mix of rookies and veterans have now won a series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees. There shouldn’t be any 3-hour time difference excuses after today’s afternoon game. Philly fans, both in Philadelphia and the pockets of red that came out to the Safe this weekend all know this team is for real.
With Vargas pitching out of his mind, 2 runs were all the Mariners needed to get the win. Justin Smoak had 2 hits and one of the RBIs driving in Ichiro Suzuki in the 6th. Ichiro ended up with another multi-hit game, and now has had at least 2 hits in 7 of his last 8 games, driving up his average to .277 (haters beware, you’re time is done). Dustin Ackley continues to prove he belongs, both offensively and on defense. Ackley lined a ball to the right-center gapl in the 7th and legged out his first triple, then scored the second on a pinch hit RBI single by Adam Kennedy. Ackley also made some solid plays at second base, showing some impressive range on a couple grounders. If Ackley can manage a double against the Washington Nationals in a couple of days, he’ll have a 4-game cycle in his first 4 Major League games. Somebody help me out, has that ever happened before?
I love that manager Eric Wedge showed his confidence in Vargas letting him take the mound in the 9th. Even after Howard’s hit with Brandon League warm and ready, Wedge called his infielders to the mound and had a quick pep talk with his starter. I can’t read lips, but I imagine it was something like: “you’re the man, now finish this!”
I’ll bet that Ben Francisco was going to be Vargas’s last batter regardless because if Francisco had reached base, you never want a pitcher who threw the game Vargas had to that point to have any chance of taking the loss, and Carlos Ruiz would have represented the go ahead run.
None of that speculation ended up mattering, as Francisco flew out to end the game. And so it continues, as the Mariners went toe to toe with the mighty Philadelphia Phillies and came out on top. I can already here the Debbie Downers playing the “we didn’t have to face Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay” card, but if you look at the numbers, Cole Hamels is currently the best pitcher on the staff so I’m not hearing that.
The icing on the Father’s Day cake was a Texas Rangers loss to the Atlanta Braves, meaning the Mariners are back to within a half game of first place as they gear up to head to the nation’s capital for series with the Nationals. And, thanks to the band U2, our upcoming road trip will only be those three games, as the Florida Marlins will be coming to Seattle at the end of the week but will suit up as the home team. So if you want to see our pitchers step into a Safeco Field batter’s box, come on out for the Marlins series. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
by Scott Rinear
And without further ado, I bring to you the excitement that is the 2011 Seattle Mariners! Every now and again the stars in the baseball universe align in such a way that situations like the present state of affairs in Mariners land come to pass. Even before tonight’s game, the first of three against the cream of the National League crop Philadelphia Phillies, the buzz and excitement had stirred up the hibernating butterflies in my stomach. The good kind of butterflies; the kind you feel when baseball games actually mean something.
First, Dustin Ackley made his Major League debut tonight in one of the most highly anticipated Mariner debuts I can remember. Add to that some recent multi-hit games by Ichiro “double-trouble” Suzuki, a lucky but game-winning 2-run single by Carlos Peguero, and Greg Halman’s first big league home run to dead center field no less, and what you get are two of the most valuable intangibles in any sport: momentum and confidence.
Tonight’s game included a brilliant rookie vs. veteran pitching matchup with Mariner rookie sensation Michael Pineda taking on the Phillies’ Roy Oswalt. Pineda was looking to get back to his dominant winning ways after a couple of rocky starts, and he was threatening to do that in a big way as he flirted with a no-hitter through 5.2 innings.
But first, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for, “The Debut.”
Mustached magician Eric Wedge decided to put Dustin Ackley in the 7th spot in the batting order, and in the top of the 2nd, Ackley stepped into a Major League batter’s box for the first time. I can only imagine what was running through the young kid’s head as he shifted around in the box and took some practice swings. I watched the game on TV and even from my couch I could feel the immediate embrace by the Safeco crowd. And it was loud! “Welcome To The Show Ackley!” was the hand-drawn sign Root Sports chose to point a camera at, and it was certainly an electric welcome by the fans.
Facing Roy Oswalt pitching for the Major League’s best team is not the softest of landings for a young rookie. The first pitch was a 90+ mph fastball near the middle of the plate. Ackley probably decided at some point prior to the game that he would take a look at the first pitch, and why not? It’s the biggest moment in his life. If it were me I’d want to soak up every second. The 0-1 pitch was off the plate away, but the home plate umpire called it a strike, his own personal “Welcome to the Show, Rookie.” Oswalt’s 0-2 pitch was a beauty, painting the outside corner at the lower realm of the strike zone. But, like most naturally gifted hitters, Ackley fouled the strikeout pitch off. Still no balls and two strikes, Oswalt came in with a low change-up, hoping to fool Ackley after three straight fastballs.
As Ackley’s base hit made its way past Oswalt, over the mound, and into centerfield, I found myself screaming and jumping up and down in my living room. The large crowd at the Safe did the same. I haven’t heard Safeco that loud in while. And so the Dustin Ackley era begins with a single up the middle, the place where every hitting coach instructs a player to attempt to hit the ball. I still remember my dad telling me that over and over again at an early age, that my approach at the plate should always be: “Think up the middle.”
It’s not very often you get to write about and describe a successful Major League debut, but there were other fireworks in this game. Ichiro continued his torrid hitting with his sixth multi-hit game in a row, this time with 3 base knocks. Miguel Olivo broke out of his slump with his 11th home run of the season, and Brendan Ryan found his stroke again with an RBI triple in the 3rd and RBI single in the 7th.
Michael Pineda was lights out for the first five innings, holding the potent Philadelphia offense hitless until a 2-out single by Shane Victorino in the 6th. Pineda finished his night’s work with 5 K’s and 1 earned run in six innings. Brandon League closed the door in the 9th for his league leading 20th save as the Mariners won 4-2.
The Mariners remain a half game out of first after a Rangers win, but it’s getting harder for people to ignore this team, especially if they can take game 2 tomorrow with Felix Hernandez taking the mound. Dustin Ackley lived up to the hype. One game in you can already tell he’s going to hit, and he played solid defense. The anticipation of his debut now transitions into the anticipation of how good he might be, and, after beating the best team in baseball, how good the Seattle Mariners might be. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
by Scott Rinear
Much like the weather today in Seattle, the Seattle Mariners offense was unseasonably cold with only a few bright spots. Los Angeles Angels ace Jered Weaver made pitching in the Major Leagues look rather easy tonight, breezing through his complete game shutout giving up only 5 hits. I expect the typical reaction regarding the Mariners offensive struggles. But, after a performance like this one, you have to tip your cap to Weaver, as he was flat out filthy on the mound.
Mariners starter Doug Fister was lights out for 6 of the 7 innings he pitched. The first inning proved to be the difference in the game, as Fister gave up 4 runs on 4 hits with an uncharacteristic display of wildness and missed locations. It was an unfortunate time for a bad inning, especially facing a pitcher like Jered Weaver. Fister was able to find his rhythm, and quickly. Over his next 6 innings, Fister shut the Angels down, giving up only 3 more hits and no additional runs.
The lone bright spots were the 5 hits and some defense the Mariners were able to muster. Ichiro Suzuki checked in with a single and a double in the game and made two stellar running catches near the right field corner. If Ichiro’s slump warranted so many questions about his so-called deteriorating abilities, then I ask a similar question after tonight. Since his rare day off on June 10, Ichiro is 8-17 with four straight 2-hit games, and has flashed some of his vintage leather in right field. Do four games make a big enough sample size to welcome back the Ichiro who has spoiled fans with unbelievable offense and defense for 10 years? Anyone who reads my posts can guess my answer. Yes. I think Ichiro is back and will once again have at least 200 hits and hit over .300. I want to know what everyone else thinks.
Another positive tonight was the play of newcomer Mike Carp, both at the plate and in left field. I’m not sure if Carp has played left for this team yet, but I liked what I saw. Carp’s solid throw to home in the first may have cut down Erick Aybar trying to score had Figgins not cut the ball off. Then he made a sliding catch in foul territory to end the nightmarish first inning. Carp was also 2-3 at the plate, putting some good swings together against one of the better pitchers in the game.
With Carp, Carlos Peguero, and Greg Halman all having spent some time in left field, which one of the three has the best chance of being the everyday left fielder? For that question, your guess is as good as mine. Honestly, I like all three players, and I hope the organization can figure out the best way to take advantage of their young talent.
Speaking of young talent, Dustin Ackley will hopefully be making his Major League debut next week. It’s looking like Monday against the Washington Nationals could be the start of the Ackley era, according to Geoff Baker’s blog for the Seattle Times. There has been a lot of speculation in the media and blogosphere about why Ackley has not been called up yet. Whatever the reason, it’s only a matter of time, a matter of days most likely, and I can’t help be excited.
I remember when the Mariners picked Ackley 2nd overall in the 2009 draft, and a few days later I was able to catch a North Carolina baseball game on TV. I was excited to see Ackley play live so soon after he was drafted. I only watched a few innings, and only watched one of Ackley’s at bats. Home run to left center.
It’s obvious everyone in Mariners land wants Ackley on the team yesterday. What isn’t obvious is what people are expecting from this kid. I made the mistake last season of expecting Justin Smoak to hit 5 home runs in his first game as a Mariner and set myself up for disappointment. The questions become: What are people’s expectations of Ackley this season and beyond? Will the second base experiment pan out, or will the scouts who say he should move back to the outfield be correct? Personally, I have a really good feeling about this team’s future. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
by Scott Rinear
The Angels took the first game of the 3-game home series tonight, winning 6-3 down at the Safe. The Mariners went up against one of the American League’s best pitchers in Dan Haren, who entered the game with a 2.51 ERA, 4th best in the AL. The Mariners sent their crafty southpaw Jason Vargas to the mound tonight, who was coming off two solid June starts and who shut this Angels team down last time he faced them on May 18.
The scoring in this one started early with a 2-out RBI single in the 1st by Angels second basemen Howie Kendrick, who added a double in the 3rd and continued his hot hitting against the Mariners this season.
Ichiro lead off the bottom of the 1st with a line shot up the middle and stole second 3 pitches later. Former Angel and every-now-and-then cleanup batter Adam Kennedy laced a double down the right field line scoring Ichiro to tie the game at 1 after one inning of play.
Young slugger/speedster Carlos Peguero muscled a ball past Angels first basemen Mark Trumbo in the 2nd, showing off his wheels by stretching it into a double. One wild pitch and one Franklin Gutierrez infield single later, and the Mariners were on top 2-1.
The short-lived one-run lead disappeared when Vargas hung a breaking ball in the 3rd that even Vernon Wells and his sub-.200 batting average was able to deposit in the left field bullpen for a game-tying home run. Wells would not go quietly into this night.
Chone Figgins turned on a pitch in the 5th, doubling off the right field wall. Ichiro followed with a bunt base hit, and Brendan Ryan gave the Mariners the lead with a sac fly scoring Figgins.
The Angels scored 3 in the 7th including Vernon Wells’ second home run of the game. The Mariner bats were not able to plate any more runs, and Angels went on to win 6-3.
Mariners skipper Eric Wedge continues to show his moxy when choosing who to play on a given night. On paper, tonight’s lineup should have been shut out. Coming into tonight’s game, the starting nine were a combined 7-42 (.167) against the Angels this season, with a career .243 batting average against Haren. I don’t think Wedge really cares much about numbers like these. The .243 career batting average against Haren could be seen as a good thing, considering the Mariners 2011 team batting average was sitting at .228 and Haren’s batting average against was at .219. Although it didn’t lead to victory tonight, I trust Eric Wedge as the leader of this team, at a level unmatched since the days of LOOOUUUU!
Say what you will about the Mariners, their offense, and the normal cast of characters everyone jumps on. We can all speculate and attempt to predict the future to our hearts’ content (and we all do all of the time). But here we are, less than a month from the All-Star break, 2 games out of first. Attributing the Mariners’ current position to an early season fluke of overachievement is no longer a viable explanation, no matter how relentlessly and obsessively a lot of people seem to cling to that idea. We have moved beyond the early season and if anything this team is underachieving, as shown by the some of the veteran players’ numbers compared to their career stats.
And my apologies to those of you who apparently thrive on the assumption that following each loss or bad inning is the start of the inevitable collapse. The Mariners had a terrible April, and by May 13 were 16-23, 5.5 games back, with all of the familiar negativity and criticism firmly intact. One month later, the Mariners have gone 18-10 and sit only a couple games out. They gained ground on the Rangers even when Texas was red hot, and they have maintained their position as both teams have cooled somewhat in June.
How has this happened? We have a gutsy manager who isn’t afraid to go with that gut, a manager who has done more with this group than I thought possible. Also, in the last month, the Mariners have not suffered more than a 2-game losing streak. Since 2004, there have only been 4 separate month-long spans in which the Mariners held their losing streaks to 2 games or less, and none at all in 2004, 2005, or 2008. The pitching staff and just enough offense have been keeping the “inevitable collapse” at bay.
The Mariners got a little unlucky tonight. If Miguel Olivo hangs on to the ball thrown to him by Figgins with Jeff Mathis trying to score the game-tying run, and the Mariners bullpen takes over in the 8th with a 1-run lead, I believe we win this game. Olivo hangs on to that ball 99 times out of 100, and Vernon Wells’ second home run never happens. But that’s baseball. Wedge will have these guys ready to even the series tomorrow. Go M’s!http://jeffsmariners.com
by Scott Rinear
The Seattle Mariners’ struggles on the South Side of Chicago continued today as the White Sox jumped all over Felix Hernandez early on, winning the game 5-1 amidst sweltering 90+ degree temperatures. The loss officially ends the Mariners consecutive series wins streak at 6 straight, and tomorrow the Mariners will try and avoid the sweep.
April, 2009 was the last time the Seattle Mariners beat the White Sox in Chicago. Felix Hernandez was on the mound in that game, the night half of a day-night double header. Seeing “@ CHW” has not been a welcome site on the schedule for almost a decade. Since 2002, the Mariners are 11-29 at U.S. Cellular Field including 6 sweeps. I’d be surprised if another stadium has been as bad for the Mariners in that span, and it doesn’t seem to be a White Sox thing, as the Mariners are 23-15 at home versus the ChiSox in that same span. Sometimes another team, or in this case another stadium, just has your number for a while.
Even Felix Hernandez, the best month of June pitcher in terms of winning percentage (.800) the game has ever seen, was not enough to change that luck. South side slugger and Mariner-killer Paul Konerko put the White Sox up 1-0 with a solo home run in the second. The White Sox exploded for 4 runs in the 3rd with a 2-run triple by 44-year-old Omar Vizquel and a 2-run long ball by Carlos Quentin.
The Mariners lone run came on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Olivo in the 4th inning, as White Sox starter Phil Humber had the Mariner hitters off-balance all night.
The Mariners have dropped the first two games of this tough road trip, and I imagine the radio waves and internet will be swimming with the usual negativity about this Mariners team and the lack of offense. The reason I am confident in this is that before this current road trip the Mariners were 15-5 in their last 20 games since May 16. Only two other teams could say the same, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the surging Milwaukee Brewers. Before today’s first pitch, the Mariners were averaging 4.7 runs per game in June and five different players had combined to hit 9 home runs in 6 games. But, one 3-1 road loss later, and earlier today we were immediately back to panic button mode.
It’s not that I’m naive and not aware that this team is last in the American League in runs, hits, total bases, batting average, on-base%, slugging % and close to the bottom in most other offensive categories. How could I not be aware of this? It’s all anyone EVER talks about in one way or another. Today on the radio it was back to how terrible Jack Cust is and why hasn’t Mike Carp been brought up yet to DH. I actually agree with this move. I’m just tired of the constant seeking out of what’s negative about the Mariners. In the last 22 games, the Mariners have a better record than most MLB teams, including the Yankees and Rangers. My question is, if the Mariners can go 15-7 in their last 22 and be above .500 for the season and in striking distance of first place, and do all of this with the weakest offense in the league, how good could they be if their offense can find a way to improve?
Chone Figgins was able to get a hit today, but also struck out, committed his team-leading 7th error, and ended the game by hitting into a double play. I heard a great statement on the radio today, that the only thing Figgins has done consistently in the last 5 years is frustrate the Seattle Mariners and their fans. I have to bring up something I heard on the Root Sports broadcast tonight. In the 4th inning Mike Blowers and Dave Sims were talking about Figgins during his second at bat. Blowers mentioned how frustrating it is to the player when slumping, and Dave Sims chimed in that it was “more than for the fans at home, that’s for sure.” I just wanted to go on record in saying how tired I am of Dave Sims and his cocky and condescending statements. We as fans have the right to be frustrated about how players on our team are performing, and we have the right to voice that opinion. Sims’ comment, to me, took a shot at Mariners fans. I don’t want to listen to a broadcaster who is going to take shots at a frustrated fan base for being frustrated.
With that out of the way, at the time of this post the rest of the AL West was losing or had already lost, so hopefully we won’t lose any ground after tonight’s loss. I’ll be back out tomorrow rooting for our Mariners to break their unlucky streak in Chicago and get back to the offense they showed at Safeco. Go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com
The Mariners wasted yet another fine performance
from one of their starting pitchers, Doug Fister this time, losing 5-2 to the
Oakland Athletics on Easter Sunday. Fister pitched six solid innings, giving up
only 1 earned run and 4 hits, while striking out 5 in the no decision. This is
Scott once again doing my Sunday post so let’s get to it. But first, happy
birthday to Mike Blowers. I’ll put some emotion into his birthday sentiments when he puts some emotion into his broadcast.
The Athletics scored first on a
two-out RBI single by Hideki Matsui in the top of the first inning. The score
was tied in the bottom of the first after Ichiro reached on a bunt single,
stole second, was bunted to third by Figgins, then brought home on a ground out
by Milton Bradley. The score stayed 1-1 until the 7th inning due to stellar
pitching by Fister and the A’s starter Brett Anderson, who went 7 innings,
giving up only 1 earned run and 5 hits, striking out 6. Anderson is one of the
A’s great young arms at only 23 years old, and backed up his third best ERA
(1.56) in the American League with his performance in today’s victory, his
second of the season. Anderson’s effort was aided by some outstanding defense
by A’s center fielder Coco Crisp who, in the bottom of the 6th, prolonged
Miguel Olivo’s frustration at the plate by chasing down Olivo’s 398 foot line
drive, catching it milliseconds before slamming in to the centerfield wall. The
wall now has a Coco Crisp-shaped imprint.
The A’s added 4 more runs in the last 3 innings after Fister was pulled,
including 2 runs in the 7th following a costly error by Figgins on a double
play ball. The Mariners added only 1 run in the bottom of the 7th. And so it
continues…the Mariners were 0-8 with runners in scoring position in the game.
The A’s were 4-15, with two of those hits being 2-out RBIs (the best kind).
The Mariners are now officially the worst team in the Majors, with a
half game lead over the Padres, Astros, and White Sox in the race for next
year’s first overall draft pick. There are many reasons for the Mariner woes
this season. In general terms, the team’s lack of offensive production and
clutch hitting is probably the biggest and most chronic problem. I want to
address two more specific situations within this larger problem.
First, the lack of run support for Mariner starting pitchers, which is
particularly frustrating and obvious
when our pitchers are throwing well, and never more obvious than with a 13-12
Cy Young award winner. This is nothing new in Seattle, but has become so
prevalent that even Michael Pineda’s rookie success (5th best ERA in American
League) and potential stardom is less sweet in my eyes, because what pitcher
besides Felix will want to stay with this team long term? For instance, in
Fister’s 5 starts this season, the Mariners have scored 3 runs, which means the
opposing pitchers’ combined ERA when facing Fister is 0.87. That’s why Fister
is 1-3 even with a very solid 3.19 ERA.
Second, and this one has a name, is Chone Figgins. I am done with Chone
Figgins! He is possibly the highest paid rally-killer in MLB history. I did
some math: if you project his current stats for the whole season, he will make
$103,260.86 per hit this season. I guarantee you only the very best players,
barring someone with an injury-shortened season, make anywhere close to that
amount per base hit. And let’s take a look at the value of the few hits Figgins
manages to produce. So far, with runners on base, Figgins is 5-38 (.132); with
runners in scoring position, Figgins is 2-19 (.106); and with runners in
scoring position and two outs (“in the clutch”), Figgins is 0-9. He’s a .285
lifetime batter batting .160. I realize it’s not the primary job of the #2
hitter to drive in runs, but a .160 batting average and no clutch reliability
is absolutely unacceptable for a player making $9.5 million a year.
I could easily keep going, but that’s enough negative statistical
analysis for one holiday. Hopefully I’m wrong and Figgins catches fire and
youngsters like Carlos Peguero surprise us by having some rookie success. I am
still hopeful for the future and fully support this team with all of my
baseball heart, but this particular post comes from a more short-term, moment in
Happy Easter and Go M’s!
Tags: Scott's Posts
Ahoy to everyone out there in Mariners land, this is your
fearless captain’s fearless fill-in (first mate?) embarking on my maiden voyage
navigating the choppy waters of the Mariners blogosphere. I maintain the privilege
and honor of calling Jeff my friend, and while I might not be as seaworthy,
I’ve stocked up on dramamine and oranges and will be steering the ship most
every Sunday throughout the season. Oh, and Happy Birthday Mom!
A brief history: My name is Scott and I was born, raised,
and currently reside in the Pacific Northwest. I’m 31 years old, married almost
a year, and I joined the Mariners fan base in 1989, back in the days of Scott
(Bankhead and Bradley), Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds (to name a few), and the
early years of Griffey Jr., Randy, Edgar and Buhner (my only memories of Ken
“Digger” Phelps involve a 9th inning home run in an A’s uniform spoiling a
Brian Holman perfect game bid on Earth Day in 1990).
My love for this city and our baseball team knows no bounds
and remains unconditional no matter how far off Milton Bradley’s throws to the
plate might venture (seriously Milton, from left field? come on man), to what
extent Bobbleheads become more important to management (and fans) than wins, and
no matter how frustratingly few runs are scored during a great pitching
performances by King Felix. Being an optimist and I have to believe Jackie Z’s
plan will pan out with the development of good young talent in the next few
years; I have to believe this because the alternative, continued and indefinite
mediocrity, is pointless to stress out about right now in my opinion, and is
how fans can burn out on their home teams and start wearing Red Sox hats like a
bunch of bandwagon chumps.
Okay, back to baseball. Amidst an open roof and periodic sun
breaks, Erik Bedard made his second start of the season today against the
Indians, coincidentally the last team he faced on July 25, 2009 when he tore
his labrum and missed what seemed like an eternity. To quote Jerry Seinfeld
when discussing having theater seats akin to Lincoln’s, “Let’s hope this night
goes a little better.”
After a beautiful diving catch by Michael Saunders filling
in for Milton Bradley in left, the Indians started strong once again with
another first inning homer by Asdrubal Cabrera and a long RBI double by Shelley
Duncan to the left-center gap with just enough hang time to remind me how much
I miss Gutierrez. Two more runs in the second, one in the third, a solo home
run by former Mariner Jack Hannahan in the 4th, and it was 6-0 Indians before I
had a chance to fully shift my attention from The Masters.
The Mariners got on the board in the 4th with a sacrifice
fly by future star Justin Smoak, scoring Figgins from third, around the same
time the roof and stat book were closed on Bedard’s day after giving up 6
earned runs in 4 innings, ballooning his ERA up to 9.00 after two starts. David
Pauley pitched well in relief with three perfect innings including three
strikeouts. Ryan Langerhans hit his second home run of the season in the 7th, a
2-run line drive over the right field wall, and Michael Saunders followed suit
with a solo shot two batters later to cut the score to 6-4. As a side note,
Langerhans now has a 4 strikeout game, a 4 walk game, and leads the team in
And that’s where the scoring stopped, with the final score
6-4 Indians, completing the three game sweep of our Mariners, their second
consecutive series being swept (which technically constitutes a vacuum, right
Jeff?). My player of the game for the Mariners is David Pauley with his stellar
relief work that helped keep this game respectable.
Hopefully the captain and loyal followers of this blog are
satisfied with my first crack at the blog world. Win or lose I am just a grateful
fan happy to have the opportunity to relay my thoughts and opinions about our
Mariners, and I’m grateful that we at least have a professional baseball team
and St. Petersburg, Florida does not. Stay positive and patient Mariners fans
and go M’s! http://jeffsmariners.com