C.C. Sabathia is decidely not bringining it.
A grand slam by the Pineapple Express- Shane Victorino- puts the fighting Phils up 5-1 in the second, and all but nails the Brewers’ postseason coffin….
Tampa Bay Rays. Postseason home field advantage. Never thought thsoe words would ever go together.
As it is, the Rays have taken advantage of their home field, and jumped out to a 4-3 lead over Javier Vazquez, who was called out by his manager Ozzie Guillen for failing in clutch games.
Lowe v. Dempster.
Or, better yet, Pinella v. Torre, Round 2.
Well, with a dramatic end to a long 163-game season- with the Chicago White Sox being the first team in major league history to win three must-win games against three different teams to secure the final postseason spot- the playoffs are finally here.
October baseball begins with the start to three League Division Series today. Yovani Gallardo takes the hill at Citizens Bank Park against Cole Hamels and the Fightin’ Phils. The four innings tossed by Gallardo last week was the first action since tearing a ligament in his leg May. Gallardo’s injury may have been abbreviated, but a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings isn’t anything to scoff at. (Also, is Gallardo the first pitcher in major league history to start a playoff game with no record on the season- no wins and no losses? Elias?) Still, unless Milwaukee can clone C.C. Sabathia four times, I don’t like their chances against Philly’s home-field advantage. I say Phillies in four.
The Dodgers arrive at Wrigleyville for Game #2 of the day, pitting Joe Torre’s boys in blue against Lou Pinella’s Cubs- who seem to be everybody’s sentimental favorite– in a managerial rematch of the 2001 ALCS. This series should be the most epic of the first rounders, but I expect the Cubs to come out on top in five games, with Pinella exacting his revenge over Torre for that 2001 Seattle Mariner postseason flameout after 116 regular season wins.
And the final game pits the banged-up AL Wild Card-winning Boston Red Sox against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the County of Orange in the State of California in the Country of the United States, who- loathe I am to admit it- are a soundly dominant team and should be the favorite to win the American League pennant. The Red Sox have done a pretty good job beating up on the Angels in the postseason recently, but this is a different Red Sox team- where’s Manny?- and I see the Angels having little problem sweeping the Red Sox in the first round.
The action starts at 3 pm Eastern/ 12 noon Pacific time….
The M’s have a “different” approach towards DH with Jose Vidro? You can say that again!
Why does he need to load the bases before getting the third out in the ninth inning of a game that the M’s are losing 4-0?
Seriously, why he is he still on the roster? Does anyone have a clue? Does he have naked pictures of Lee Paloukinados or something….?
Well, how about that boys and girls? Thanks to some aggressive base-running yesterday by Adrian Beltre, along with a fluke throwing error by Royals catcher John Buck, the M’s were able to squeak by with a 4-3 victory in the final game of the series, avoiding a three-game sweep at the hands of Kansas City. By pulling out the improbable victory against Royals’ All-Star closer Joakim Soria, the M’s limp into the All Star break with a 37-58 record, their worst mark at the half-season point since the team’s 99-loss season in 2004.
What a doozy of a first half! Its appropriate that this team with a nautical theme, as there couldn’t be a more apt metaphor than that of a sinking ship. Indeed, the narrative of the 2008 Seattle Mariners so far could be adapted into a screenplay similar to one of the popular disaster movies that filled the multiplexes. After leading the team to just 25 wins in their first 72 games, the underwhelming John McLaren may have been replaced by Jim Riggleman, but with the disaster motif in mind, he could have well been replaced by Steve McQueen’s corpse, and its doubtful the mid-season record would have been any different. (Do not scoff at the reference to a quasi obscure Hollywood actor. Let’s not forget that the original owner of this franchise was Hollywood legend Danny Kaye, after all.)
The changing of the managerial guard was only the tip of the iceberg that has sunk the Good Ship Mariner’s chances this season. The litany of woeful occurrences to befall this team offer a textbook of Murphy’s infamous axiom that ‘anything that can go wrong, will.’ Shortly before his dismissal, Bill Bavasi- son of the great baseball executive Buzzie Bavasi- was relieved of his general manager duties and replaced by Lee Pelekoudas on an interim basis. Much has been made that a deciding factor of Bavasi’s dismissal is the fact that that the Mariners’ were the on pace to become the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games. While that is a disappointing mark, it should be pointed out that major league teams’ payrolls continue to rise and eventually a team with a $100 million payroll would reach the century mark in losses. Unless a dramatic reversal were to occur in the second-half, the 2008 Mariners will become a trailblazing team of sorts, far removed from the consensus by preseason baseball experts that the M’s should challenge for the division crown– even, possibly, a World Series-caliber club.
And its not as if those pre-season prognostications should have as wildly off the mark as they were. The M’s were heading into the season with a pitching staff with a two-headed ace in Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard. Bedard was widely considered to be the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game, who would only benefit by pitching half his starts in Safeco Field. Instead, Bedard- who had a long history of fragility while in Baltimore- morphed into “Mr. Glass” with a number of different ailments including a troublesome hip, back spasms, and shoulder stiffness limiting Bedard to just 81 innings in 15 starts so far this season, being unable to toss more than 100 pitches. With Bavasi hving mortgaged the M’s future by dealing All-Star closer George Sherrill and Adam Jones to the orioles in exchange for Bedard, and also considering Bedard’s penchant for providing “dumbass” answers during his interview sessions that can only be described as alienating, there is no question that this trade is a complete bust.
At the same time, the Mariners’ All-Star closer of their own, J.J. Putz, has struggled with injuries of his, taking two different trips on the disabled list. When he has been on the mound, Putz has been horrendously ineffective, walking 17 batters for a 2.00 WHIP in 19 innings after allowing just 26 free passes over 150 innings in the two prior seasons. Putz’s absence led to a bullpen in complete disarray, resulting in 14 blown saves in 36 opportunities, helping explain the team’s woeful 11-19 record in one-run games. Recent steadiness in the closer position has been provided by Brandon Morrow, who in his second year reeled off saves in eight opportunities before coughing up two losses in dramatic fashion by allowing ninth-inning home runs to the A’s and Royals last week.
Of course, the pressure on the bullpen wouldn’t be so intense if the Mariners’ offense had the ability to score runs. Instead, the team ranks dead last in the league in runs scored (374), on-base percentage (.312), and slugging average (.374). The two year continued offensive struggles of Richie Sexson didn’t help any, as the .696 OPS Richie contributed won’t cut it in the American league, where first base is considered a premiere offensive position. Having an offensive void at that position hamstrings the M’s offense, and only adds to the problem when other automatic outs such as Kenji Johjima (who is now a part-time catcher after signing a three-year contract extension), Jose Vidro, and Miguel Cairo are considered. The disappearance of Sexson’s once powerful bat is puzzling, as Richie went from averaging 32 home runs and 112 RBIs from 1999-2006 (excepting his injury-shortened 2004 campaign in Arizona) to compiling a negative 7.1 VORP in 491 plate appearances over 74 games before the front office had enough, and mercifully cut Sexson to find his fortunes with another team. Sexson’s spot at first will be filled in by Jose Vidro (.571 OPS, 9.7 VORP) and Miguel Cairo (.552 OPS, negative 0.4 VORP) who may not provide any better offensive numbers, but are getting paid far less than Sexson’s $16 million salary. Which, of course, the M’s are still on the books for unless another team claims him off waivers, thus requiring the Mariners to pay a prorated scale of the league’s minimum salary.
Sigh. The second half can only be better, correct? Something about how everything gets darkest before dawn, right?
Here’s a sad parting note: The Mariners might only be sending one All-Star representative to New York in Ichiro (attending his eighth straight All star game, and fifteenth consecutive when you include the Japanese All Star games), but I count five former Mariners on the rosters in A-Rod, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz (who is injured), Sherrill, and Carlos Guillen.
Losing a 2-1 ballgame on a wild-pitch tossed by your number three catcher is the perfect summation of the Mariners’ 2008 season. That’s pretty much this season so far in a nutshell: anything that can possibly go wrong, will.
With the Mariners’ bullpen having been stretched to its limit due to the two teams’ marathon of offensive ineptitude, Jamie Burke- who had tossed four professional innings in the minor leagues, and has a repertoire of four pitches that can be tossed for strikes- took the hill, an indication that the four hour plus ballgame would soon be over. After Miguel Cabrera led off with a deep double to center field, pinch-runner Michael Holliman advanced on the slider Burke threw into the dirt, which bounced away from catcher Jeff Clement. Marcus Thames brought Holliman home with a sac fly. After the M’s went down with a GIDP and fly out by Ichiro and their half of the inning, it was all she wrote as Todd Jones wrapped things up nicely for his 16th save of the season. And Burke- just the third position player who took the mound throughout the Mariners’ franchise history- picked up his first career loss.
The weird turn of events in the fifteenth inning blew the M’s shot at taking three of four from the Tigers, which would’ve been the M’s third straight series win. (What? Really?) Ryan Rowland-Smith put forth his best effort to give the M’s line-up a shot at taking the win, as he held the Tiger’s potent offense in check with just one run over five innings. However, Nate Robertson held the Mariners to just one run over nine dominant innings, needing just 100 pitches while doing so. (Which makes sense, as Robertson had allowed 11 earned runs over his last 16.1 innings.) The Mariners were never able to get anything going, as they failed to put runners on against Robertson and four Tigers relievers. And when they did get runners on, they were unable to do anything, being held hitless in seven at-bats in those situations.
The closest the M’s came to pulling out a stunning victory was in the 13th inning, in which Ichiro Suzuki followed a one-out walk by getting gunned down by Pudge Rodriguez trying to steal second, just the third time the M’s lone All-Star representative has been caught stealing so far this year. They say that baseball is a game decided by inches, and considering that Jose Lopez followed immediately with a single to center, if Pudge had been off by a few inches or just a little late on the pitch, the M’s would’ve had the 2-1 final score, and the Jamie Burke pitching fiasco could’ve been avoided. Instead, the M’s dropped their twenty-fifth out of twenty-seven games in which they’ve scored two or fewer runs.
As it was, the M’s will have to settle for a series split, using a combination of good pitching and solid defense to hold the Tigers to 13 runs over the four games. The M’s continue on to McAffee Coliseum for a three game series against the Athletics. The last time the Mariners came to Oakland in mid-April, they swept a two-game series while the two teams were in the process of figuring out their season narratives. Both teams finished that sweep with a 9-8 record and a game out of first place. The Mariners proceeded to have their season bottom out, losing 45 of their next 71 games, while the A’s have won 38 of their next 71 games.
Tonight’s match-up pits left-hander Jarrod Washburn against fellow lefty Dana Eveland. Washburn is just one out away from having a five-start streak of at least six innings and two or fewer runs allowed, and is returning to the spot where he tossed his last career shutout against the A’s last April. As for Eveland, he held the M’s to three runs over five and a third innings against the M’s last April at Safeco, picking up the win in his first career start against Seattle. An interesting stat about Eveland is the fact that he’s only allowed three home runs so far this year, with the last one coming off the bat of Tampa Bay’s Jonny Gomes way back on May 21. It’s safe to say that he’s due.
The A’s might be a surprise this season. However, Washburn’s career numbers against Oakland (8-13, 4.07 ERA in 192 innings) aren’t horrid, and indicate that he should have no problem continuing his streak of quality starts. With the slightest amount of run support, Jarrod should pick up his fifth win of the season. I’m picking the M’s to come out on top, by a 4-2 score.
After going 2-for-3 with two doubles and knocking in three of the Mariners’ four runs in last night’s 4-2 victory, Miguel Cairo was the second unlikely hero in as many nights helping push the team to victory. Yes, I’m just as shocked as you are. Regardless, Miguel’s heroics led to the M’s to take their third straight series, after a streak in which they had dropped six out of seven series.
Tonight is the first game of a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers, who have pwned the M’s so far this season, taking five of six games. Carlos Silva is taking the hill to face off against Justin Verlander, who had the only loss by a Tigers starter against the Mariners. I’m picking the M’s to come out on top, stretching their two game winning streak into a three-game one. I mean, why not?
Baseball is a pretty weird game. You just never know what to expect.
take last night’s game for example. My eyes glazed over after the Blue Jays took advantage and scored three runs on the Lopez flub to jump ahead of the M’s by a 6-2 score.. Considering the fact that I’ve seen this story played out an untold number of times, along with the fact that I was growing increasingly irritated with the vocal supporters of the Jays in the stands at Safeco (Canada Day? Nice promo, that.) I turned off FSN.
Little did I know the game would become perhaps the best Mariners victory of the season, so far. And it was all so obvious. I mean, after chipping away at he Blue Jays bullpen with a run in the sixth and two more runs in the seventh, of course Richie Sexson- who had gone 25 games and 80 at-bats since last going yard- would lead off the eighth with a game-tying home run. And after loading the bases against Scott Downs, a pitcher with a 26 inning scoreless streak on the line, of course it would be the heroics of the Mighty Willie Bloomquist– still searching for his first extra base hit in 86 at-bats- to push the winning run across for a 7-6 victory. Huzzah!
I have learned my lesson. From this day forward, I shall never turn off a Mariners game in progress. I bow my head in shame.
Oh, and don’t look now, but the Mariners are playing .600 ball (7-4) since McLaren’s dismissal. Now instead of a mediocre team 22 games under .500, they are a mediocre team 19 games under .500.
Tonight’s rubber game pits Jarrod Washburn, fresh off a 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres in his fourth straight start of tossing at least five innings and allowing no more than two runs, will face off against Dustin McGowan. Washburn has struggled in his career against the Blue Jays, dropping seven of nine decisions despite giving up just one run over six innings in a no-decision five starts ago that the M’s eventually came out on top by a 3-2 score. McGowan, meanwhile, had an even better start, limiting the M’s to five hits and one run in a complete game 3-1 victory in his debut outing against Seattle, walking two and striking out seven including Jose Lopez three times.
Expect the M’s to mount more of a serious challenge against McGowan this time around. Washburn should be able to continue his streak of strong starts against a Blue Jays offense that rivals Seattle’s for ineptitude. I’m lloking for the M’s to come out on top by a 3-2 score, which means Washburn could be looking at a possible two-game winning streak! Holy cow, wouldn’t that be something?