Two years into a five-year, $64 million contract, Adrian Beltre has produced a .262 average, 44 home runs, and 176 RBIs. However, after the All Star break in 2006, Beltre slugged .552 with a whopping 18 home runs. Does this strong second half bode well for a turn-around in 2007, or will Mariners fans have to deal with 'A-Drain' once again? This blog intends to follow the 2007 season for Adrian Beltre, and the Seattle Mariners, and promises to hold no punches.

And the 2007 season is in the books


By the looks of things, it appears that both the Mariners and the Rangers just wanted to wrap things up and head off into the off-season, lick their wounds and prepare for 2008.

In just under two hours, and backed by catcher Jamie Burke's first major league home run, Felix Hernandez came an out away from pitching his second complete game of the season. Instead, he passed the ball over to J.J. Putz, who in a two-out, bases empty situation pounded the nail shut on the M's 4-2 victory this afternoon. And thus, the Mariners 2007 season is wrapped, with the team finishing with 88 wins, far above pre-season predictions by pretty much all of the so-called "experts." For the first time in four years the Marienrs escaped from the cellar of the AL West, and for the second consecutive season, their win total increased by ten. Far and away this season was an unqualified success, and to little surprise General Manger Bill Bavasi and Manager John McLaren were offered contract extensions.

The Mariners fell from the perch atop the wild card standings with a dramatic collapse in Septemeber, to be sure. But this season the team has proved that they can compete, relying on clutch basehitting, a carousel of heroes with seemingly every night a new face providing the heroics, a young and talented bullpen ensuring that victories are preserved by the seventh inning, and a little bit of good ol' fashioned luck and moxie. These elements of the team compensated for the fact that the team's first baseman ended the season with a .205 average and a .694 OPS. OR that starters Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, Cha Seung Baek, and Ryan Feierabend combined to go 20- 29 while allowing 265 earnd runs over 367 innings for a 6.50 ERA. Somehow, with little production from one of the key offensive infield corners and nearly a quarter of all innings pitched lost to ineffective starters, the Mariners almost played their way into the playoffs.

These concerns will be addressed during the off-season, hopefully with the front office taking a long look at Mike Morse, who hit .444 in 18 major league at-bats while using up the last of his minor league options spending most of the year down in Tacoma. Morse should be given every chance to make the club out of spring training next year to help man first base. Or if the chances of Morse making the club out of spring training are slim, then the M's front office should package the Fort Lauderdale native to the Florida Marlins for left-handed starter Dontrelle Willis.

At any rate, with his 8.2 innings of dominating work this afternoon, Felix puts the final touches on an incredible season that tops the list of impressive seasons offered by various Mariners. By finishing 14-7, the young right-hander (hard to beleive he's just been 21 for a month!) made his mark that 2007 was a break-out year, accompanying that record with 165 strikeouts and a 3.92 ERA over 190 innings. His strikeouts were dow na tick from the prior season, though with a half-a-run docked from his ERA. Felix has shown that's he developing into a pitcher, usign a vareity of ptiches and speeds to keep hitters off balance, rather than the thrower who relied on leaving hitters flailing at an overpowering fastball that we had seen in the immature Felix in the couple years prior. Felix's "Coming out" party was the one-hitter he tossed against the Red Sox back in APril, stealing the spotlight from Daisuke Matsuzaka in Dice-K's Fenway debut. That one-hitter was a thing of beauty, and one of the Mariners' top 2007 highlights.

Other stand-outs on the pitching staff include Miguel Batista, who's off-season signing of a three-year free agent deal was met by grumblings from Mariner fans, myself included. Well, all the grumblers have happily proven to be wrong, as the 36-year old veteran won 16 games, becoming the first Mariner to win that many since Freddy Garcia in 2002. J.J. Putz solidified and set the tone for the dominating bullpen, and by picking up his 40th save today, J.J. tied for second in the league and also becomes the second Mariner closer to top that mark, besides Kazuhiro Sazaki's 45 in 2001.

The man this blog is named after, Adrian Beltre, had a fine all-around 2007 season, as he should definitely win his first Gold Glove for defensive excellence and had the best offensive season by a Mariners third-baseman in well over a decade. Unfortunately, by being kept hitless in four at-bats this afternoon, Beltre was kept stymied at 99 RBIs, being held without and RBI the last six games of the season. Jose Guillen was able to manage a single this afternoon, but he was also held at 99 RBIs, as he managed no RBIs in the Mariners' season-ending three-game sweep of the Rangers. Instead, the team's RBI crown ends up for the second year to Raul Ibanez, who eneded up with 105 RBIs despite having just six home runs at the ALl Star break. A dramatic second-half run increased Raul's stats, as he practically carried the team and willed it towards the playoffs during August, only to peter out and come to a dramatic collapse in Septemeber.

Another maligned off-season acquisition, Jose Vidro, became a valuable asset for the club as well, maanging to .314 with a .381 on-base percentage despite seemingly hitting into double plays every time up, snuffing lead-off hitter Ichiro's presnece on the basepaths. When Ichiro's presence wasn't being erased by Vidro, he managed to hit .351 with 37 stolen bases, while also setting an American League record with 43 consecutive stolen bases, dating back to last year. Ichiro also signed a fiveyear $90 million contract, which may have been the number one highlight of the Mariners' season.

Of course, let's not forget the new generation of Mariner offensive stars who made their presence felt this season, beginning with Adam Jones who's been compared to an in-his-prime Eric Davis. Jones hit .314 with a .586 sluggign average, knocking 25 home runs in 101 games for Tacoma before joining the big club at the end of July and hitting .242 with two home runs, including a clutch pinch-hit home-run a couple weeks back against the Ahtletics. Wladimir Balentien was named Rookie of the EYar in the PCL after batting .291 with a .509 average in 477 games in Tacoma, before hitting a double and a home run in three at-bats for the Mariners. And then there was Jeff Clement, who after hitting .275 with 20 home runs in 125 games as a catcher at Tacoma, picked up six hits in 16 at-bats for the Mariners, including two clutch home-runs the last week of the season.

With Ichiro under wraps, an emergring 22-year old ace in the hole, a bumper crop of talented players set to make their impression on the club, and a dominating bullpen, not much needs to be addressed for the Mariners to be a playoff-contending club in 2008. In fact, if there trend of improving by ten games holds, the M's would be in the hunt for home-field advantage during the playoffs if other teams' records remain unchanged....


So the M's and the Indians split the four game series, but it easily could've been a 3-1 split in the Mariners favor. If it wasn't for a mud-coated cleat forcing Ryan Rowland-Smith to toss an errant pickoff throw Tuesday night, the Indians might have gone slinking into Kansas City having lost three of their last four. As it is, somehow the Indians managed to stay afloat and are still battling it out for the league's best record.

I've been viewing this whole series through the prism of October baseball. And the biggest mystery I have about the Indians reaching the playoffs is how can they possibly be competing for the league's best record? In tonight's 4-2 loss to the M's, they were held to one run over six innings by Cha Seung Baek, who was a dynamo on his return to the mound. The Indians consistently got runners on against Baek, but were unable to force any across the plate. The M's bullpen combined for three innings of one-run relief to close the game, finished with Grady Sizemore getting picked off at first by Kenji Johjima.

It doesn't matter if they get home field advantage or not. If the Indians play their first playoff series like they've done the past four games against the M's, they're not going to go far. And that's just pointing out the obvious.

Of the Mariners' 11 hits, nine went for singles. However, two went for two-run home-runs off Paul Byrd, who was unable to translate his dominating career stats against the M's into a victory as he was somehow outpitched by Cha Seung Baek. Byrd was victimized by Jose Guillen and Jose Lopez, with Lopez tying his career high of ten home-runs and Guillen being brought to 99 RBIs, on the verge of reaching his second career 100 RBI season. Beltre, obviously , was held without his 100th RBI as he went 1-for-4 to bring his average to .277, while Ichiro went 1-for-4 to stay stuck at .350, also staying nine points behind Magglio Ordonez's league-leading .359 average. For Ichiro to win his third career batting title, he's going to need to have a huge weekend against the Rangers, with Ordonez responding with an epic collapse in his final season against the White Sox, his former home team who Magglio has just hit .325 with a .878 OPS in 166 at-bats. If things remain the way they are, then Ichiro's .350 average stands to be the highest for a runner-up since Darin Erstad's .355 came in second to Nomar Garciaparra's .372 average in 2000- a year before Ichiro made his major-league debut!

Ichiro has a couple of hits in seven at-bats against Edinson Volquez, tomorrow's starter for the Texas Rangers. One of the Rangers' prized starting pitching prospects, the right-hander has put some solid numbers in his brief foray into the majors this year, with a 2-1 record and 4.40 ERA in 29 innings over five starts. However, after winning his first two starts, the Rangers have dropped his last three. In three career outings against the Mariners, Edinson has a 1-0 record and a 3.86 ERA over 11.2 innings, allowing home runs ot Kenji Johjima and Richie Sexson, though he hasn't faced the M's this year. With so little samples to read from, there's no telling what kind of outing Volquez is liable to have tomorrow, though his last outing on the road consisted of allowing two runs in six innings against the Twins. Let's just hope that doesn't happen tomorrow...

However, Jeff Weaver is starting for the M's tomorrow, and the last time he faced the Rangers he allowed three runs in seven innings last August 23, when the Mariners were still looking like they were going to make something happen with this season. Since then, however, Weaver has won one time in four decisions over six starts, allowing 30 runs in 26 innings, and giving up eight home runs. Ugh. BRad Wilkerson has four extra-base hits in 21 at-bats against Weaver for a 1.126 OPS, while Hank Blalock's only two hits in 11 at-bats against Weaver were home-runs, resulting in a .977 OPS despite a .182 average. Overall, I'm not seeing a consistent trend of dominance of Weaver by the Rangers' batters, so there's no telling what's going to happen tomorrow.

In the end, I'm siding with the Rangers as I predict that Weaver will give up plenty of runs to put this game away early as he has done so many times all ready this season. I'm saying the final score will be 8-6, Rangers.

A doubleheader split


Again, viewing the doubleheader split with the Indians through an October prism, things don't look rosy for the Indians going into next week's playoffs. The Indians should get a mulligan for their 12-4 blowout win in the first game (hey, I pretty much pegged that game's score too!) as they really shouldn't get much props for putting six runs up in 2.2 innings against Ryan Feierabend. The Tribe isn't going to be facing pitchers with that lack of caliber in the playoffs, and as such their offensive explosion- while good for padding stats- is hardly relevant when it comes to sizing up the team for the playoffs.

However, with the second late-inning failure by Joe Borowski in two days in the second game's 3-2 Mariners, eyebrows are again raised about the durability of the team's much-heralded bullpen going into October. After getting two quick outs, Borowski left a fastball up like a gift to pinch-hitter Jeff Clement, who thanked the Cleveland closer by depositing the ball deep into the right field stands for his first major league home-run, after picking up his first major league hit on a ground-rule double earlier in the afternoon in the doubleheader's first game. With a Ben Broussard walk, Jose Guillen bloop single, sacrifice fly by Adrian Beltre, and a hard smash by Mike Morse one inning later, the Mariners came out on top 3-2 in the second extra-inning game of the series.

It may be one of the last highlights for Morse in a Mariners uniform as Morse, despite being a good-looking and obviously talented young ballplayer, never managed to insert himself into the Mariners' plans as a role-player a la Wille Bloomquist, and now faces an off-season in which his status with the Mariners' future is in question. Having run out of options, Morse needs to make the team out of spring training, or else will be exposed to the waiver wire will he will be undoubtedly picked up. If the team's plans don't include Morse, then perhaps they'll be able to package him together for a trade to pursue the M's most dominating need: pitching. Thinking of teams that may be going through a rebuilding period and making an effort to get younger, I immediately think of the Giants. Could the M's package Morse together with another attractive young player and perhaps pry Matt Cain, who's 16 losses this season may have tarnish his value, off San Francisco's hands?

Without a doubt, of the four teams going into the American League playoffs, the Indians have the weakest bullpen, despite Borowski's league-leading 43 saves. If the Indians' offense aren't able to put away games early and often, and the team's chances for a championship relying on the inconsistent arm of Joe Borowski, their chances are in doubt indeed.

Fausto Carmona looked playoff ready in the first game of the double-header, pitching seven innings and allowed three runs on seven hits, two of which were home runs including Wladimir Balantien's first major-league home-run. (Quite a day for young Mariners hitters hitting their first major league home-runs!) In the second game, it's not surprising that Jeremy Sowers had a dominant start against the Mariners, despite his 1-6 record and 6.93 ERA on the season. One of Sowers' two league-leading shut-outs tossed as a rookie last summer was against the Mariners. Making his first start since the beginning of June, the Mariners were just the team for Sowers to face as he kept the Indians in most of the game. However, Jarrod Washburn also had an excellent start as he just allowed two runs on two solo Indians home-runs, keeping the Mariners in the game long enough for the M's to stage their late-inning rally and win for the first time all season when trailing after eight innings. The inability of the Indians' offense to ramp up any runs against a talented veteran like Washburn speaks more volumes about the state of the team more than them slapping Feierabend around like a red-headed stepchild in the first game.

Adrian Beltre was held without an RBI on the doubleheader to end the day stuck at 99 RBIs. Ichiro also ended the day where he started, with a .350 average, trailing Magglio Ordonez's league-leading .359 average.

The Indians' get a chance to roll up stats in their quest for playoff home-field advantage when Cha Seung Baek starts for the Mariners in the last game of the series. Baek is making his first start since mid-June, having been sidelined with an inflamed shoulder. The Indians have been brutal against Baek in two starts this season, as he allowed ten runs on 18 hits in 11.2 innings, and Baek holds a career 5.94 ERA against the Tribe. Don't expect a strong performance from Baek in his first return to the mound in three months tomorrow.

Paul Byrd takes the hill for Cleveland in tomorrow's game, and despite allowing seven runs on 11 hits in four innings of an 8-7 loss to the M's last June (in yet another game that Borowski blew), Paul has a career 6-2 record and 3.14 ERA over 63 innings. But Byrd has had trouble with the bat of Raul Ibanez, who's picked up 11 hits in 20 at-bats including four extra bases 9and two home runs) for a .550 average and 1.550 OPS. Jose Vidro also has two home runs to go along with a .571 average and 1.743 OPS in 14 at-bats. Adrian Beltre just has a .261 average in 23 at-bats, while Ichiro is batting .281 in 32 at-bats.

So the M's might be able to put some up runs up on the board tomorrow against the Indians, but the Tribe will put up more against Baek. I'm picking the final score to be along the lines of 8-6 and Cleveland will take one more step towards their claim of home-field advantage during the playoffs.

Cleveland 4, Seattle 3


Viewing last night's game through an October prism, it's hard to interpret the results. Cleveland has been thesurprise team of the AL Central, finally delivering on the prism showed a couple of years ago, but somehow managing to leapfrog the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox- the division's representatives in the playoffs the last two years- to win the title, and currently hold the best record in the American League. They were able to do this with a pitching staff that was absolutely beset by injuries, and limited production from Travis Hafner, who averaged 35 home runs and 113 RBIS the past two years but currently is sitting at 23 homers and 96 RBIs and a 200-point decrease in slugging average from last year.

So, if last night's 4-3 (hey, I actually got the score right, for the first time all year!) win were to say anything about the chances for the Indians in the upcoming playoffs? Victor Martinez's ability to capitalize on Felix Hernandez's pretty much only mistake in the first inning for a three-run home-run shows that the Indians' line-up holds a very dangerous, potent bat despite Hafner's tail-off. And Martinez's bat is able to stand up to the best stuff from any team's ace. And the Angels hope these two teams don't get matched up against the Indians in a possible LCS, as Martinez has hit John Lackey very well (9-for-19, for a .474 average and 1.072 OPS).

However, considering the string of scoreless innings that followed Martinez's three-run blast shows that the Indian's offense as a whole has problems scoring runs. They are no Angels offense, or the Red Sox's offense, able to scrap together a number of runs in a multitude of different manners. The Indians' offense had seven 1-2-3 innings. They eventually used some base-running wiles to score the go-ahead run in the 12th inning, with Mariners' last-season cast-off Asdrubel Cabrera scampering to third on a wild toss to first from Ryan Rowland-Smith (who was so incredible in picking Chone Figgins off first just a week ago). Coupled with a sacrifice fly from Kenny Lofton, and that's all that the Indians needed to finally quell the Mariners' hopes of perhaps tying the Yankees for the wild card. (The M's are 6.5 games back with six to play. I feel sorry for any fans who got suckered into being put on the priority list for playoff tickets in exchange for buying season tickets for next year. Then again, next year should be a good one, and I wouldn't mind having season tickets....)

The fact that the game even reached the 12th inning raises an eyebrow regarding the Indians' chances to survive the different rounds of the playoffs and reach the Fall Classic. All season long, much praise has been heaped onto the Tribe's 'pen, even with expected closer Keith Foulke announcing his retirement in spring training, pushing Joe Borowski into the closer role. All season long, Borowski has done his closest impression of Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, with an ERA over 5.00 and seven blown saves to accompany his league-leading 43 saves. Last night was his seventh blown opportunity, when he allowed a game-tying two-run home-run with one outs in the ninth inning to Adrian Beltre, who showed his true bad, bad self with his clutch home-run. With Borowski as the team's closer, are the Indians really able to prevail in the clutch situations in the play-offs, facing the top clutch hitters on the league's best teams? As long as it's Borowski, despite having the most saves in the league, closing out any rallies, I'm going to have to say that the Indian's chances are suspect.

Including his home run, Beltre finished the game going 3-for-5 with a double and his two RBIs bring him to 99, brining him knocking on the door of his second career 100-RBI season. Ichiro finished the game going 2-for-6 to bring his average to .350, now nine points behind Magglio Ordonez's league-leading .359 average, and Jose Vidro also picked up two hits in four at-bats to bring his average to .317.

It did end up being a pitching match-up, even if it didn't seem like ti was going to be in the first inning. Despite his mistake to Victor Martinez, Felix pitched an outstanding game against the Tribe, with eight hits allowed in seven innings, with the three runs all that he allowed. However, his quest to join Miguel Batista as the M's first 15-game winners in four years will come to a halt, as his ability to play a part in the decision was long gone by the time the bullpen's wildness lost the game in the 12th inning. For most of the game, Felix was matched by Cleveland start Aaron Laffey, who replaced C.C. Sabathia in the start as Eric Wedge shaped up his rotation for the playoffs, pushing Sabathia back to face the Royals on Friday. After going 13-4 in a minor league season split up between AA Akron and AAA Buffalo, Laffey pitched perhaps his strongest major-league start in his eighth career start in the bigs. Over 5.1 innings, Laffey allowed just one run on an RBI double play, with four hits and two walks. It didn't matter that the M's avoided Sabathia, as they were stymied regardless.

Today brings a rare double-header to Safeco, with the Indians being the ostensible "home" team in the second game, making up the final of the four games snowed out in the Indians' home opener back in April. Be prepared for the ball to fly and runs to be scored a-plenty. With both teams reaching deep into their bullpen last night- 13 relievers total, with six used by the Indians and seven used by the M's- expectations will be placed on the starters to pitch deep into the ball game, regardless of how they're performing. With the team's play-off fates settled, there's not much to be strategizing for, although Cleveland would like to lock-up home-field advantage in both playoff rounds. So expect Ryan Feierabend to pitch close to seven innings to give the bullpen a rest, something he hasn't come close to all season. Plus Feierabend has yet to face the Indians, and that never works out in his favor.

Although the M's missed a Cy Young candidate in C.C. Sabathia yesterday, they are lucky enough to face another one today in Indians' right-hander Fausto Carmona, who has rebounded from a horrid 1-10, 5.42 ERA in 2006 to a 18-8 record and league-leading 3.03 ERA this season. Carmona has yet to face the Mariners this season, but in his one career appearance against Seattle last season, Carmona pitched one inning of ineffective relief, allowing four runs on three hits and two runs, giving up two two-run singles to Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez in the ninth inning to give up the game as the M's won 7-3 last July at Jacobs Field.

Despite that poor outing, there is little to doubt that Carmona can dial in a dominating outing against the M's today at Safeco. Without a doubt, I'm going to have to give the edge to the Cy Young candidate, who is going to best the M's 22-year old left-hander (who the Indians have won 31 of 49 games against for the best record against lefties in the majors). Plus, with the season officially ended last night, expect McLaren to trot out a bunch of youngsters in the line-up today, with exceptions for Adrian Beltre and Jose Guillen, who have 100-RBI seasons in their sights. Perhaps some of them may have faced Carmona in the minors and have had success, but I still expect Carmona to have a dominating start. I'm saying the final score will be along the lines of 12-5, Indians.

And so it ends


For the second year in a row, the AL West champion has clinched the division while beating the Seattle Mariners.

With their 7-4 victory over the Mariners this afternoon, the Angels have officially shut the door shut on Seattle's 2007 season, clinching the division title with a week to spare. The Mariners gave it a good run- coming within a game at the end of August- but the wheels fell off, and their penchant for playing close games while getting all the breaks to come out on top ending up catching up with the team. The team's deficiencies were revealed as the Mariners' pitching staff was exposed, warts and all, during the stretch in September when the team lost ten of twelve games.

The Mariners lived and died with their bullpen all season long, riding a dominant pen to contention. But when it faltered, the team was unable to compensate with either a dominant offense or starting pitching. So it should come as little to surprise that the day the M's 2007 season ended, it was because of a major let-down on the part of the bullpen. The Angels scored four runs combined in the sixth and seventh innings, during which two walks and two singles were allowed by the M's relievers. Nothing should be taken away from the outing of Jeff Weaver, who was charged with five of the Angels' runs while putting three Angels batters on base by hitting them, but if the M's relievers had come in and done their usual dominating job by shutting the Angels' bats down, Jeff could've been looking at his eighth win and the Angel's celebration could've been postponed for one more day. But the M's relievers did not have their usual dominating stuff, and as such, the game was put out of reach when the M's scored two runs in the eighth inning.

Being said, I have to reiterate that Weaver did not pitch well enough to pick up a win. When he wasn't missing the zone and hitting the Angels' batters; bodies- including Angel second baseman Howie Kendrick twice- Weaver was allowing home runs to such known sluggers as Casey Kotchman (Casey's tenth homer of the season), and Maicer Izturis (Maicer's sixth on the year) in the second inning, which pretty much was all the Angels needed with John Lackey on the mound. It was beginning to look like it was going to be another nightmarish outing for Weaver, but somehow that was all the Angels were able to score against Weaver until the sixth inning.

What was surprising about Lackey's outing against the M's wasn't that he won his fourth in four decisions, but that he allowed any runs while doing so. He had strung together 24 scoreless innings in three starts against the M's so far this year. But the string was broken when Jose Lopez knocked in an RBI single in the fifth inning, scoring Ben Broussard. Regardless, as typical for the Angel's "big game' pitcher, Lackey dialed in another dominating start when it was important, holding the M's to just two runs over seven innings as he turned it over to the trusted bullpen, and his big-game sidekick Francisco Rodriguez, who shut the Mariners down with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Broussard was the offensive hero for the M's in this afternoon's ballgame. He had struggled while getting increased playing time the week coming into the game, picking up just two hits in his last 19 at-bats. But in four at-bats today, Broussard doubled twice, knocking in his 29th RBI while scoring one run as well. Broussard came to the plate in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, for the potential to hit his second grand-slam home run of the season and bring the M's within run. Instead, he struck out swinging on a wild pitch, the first of two consecutive wild pitches from Justin Speier that al;lowed the M's their two runs of that inning.

Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4 for the afternoon and scored run, bringing his average to .278. Ichiro also went 1-for-4 to have his average dip to .350, and Ichiro continues to trail Magglio Ordonez's league-leading .358 average.

Ichiro might have an opportunity to make up ground against Magglio in tomorrow's game facing C.C. Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians, the second AL Cy Young candidate faced by the M's in as many days. In 38 career at-bats against Sabathia, Ichiro has picked up 15 hits for a .395 average, with six extra base hits- including three home-runs- for a 1.132 OPS. Raul Ibanez has hit Sabathia okay as well, with two home runs and a .278 average and a .861 OPS in 36 at-bats. However, Beltre has been held hitless in ten at-bats against the Indians' ace (perhaps it's time for a day off for AB tomorrow?), Betancourt hitless in eight at-bats, and Jose Guillen with just three hits in eleven at-bats. Little wonder that Sabathia holds a 2.95 ERA in 73 innings against the M's, to accompany a 4-3 record.

With nothing except pride to play for, it's now all right for various Mariners to focus on individual accomplishments. With a possible two starts left in the season (unless management decides to shut him down, as it would be unfortunate for a shoulder injury in a meaningless game to occur), Felix has a chance to pick up two wins and join Miguel Batista as the M's crop of current 15-game winners, the first one in four years. Felix, however, is winless in two starts, and has an ERA above 5.00 in 11 innings which, granted, is an extremely small sample size. Former Mariner prospect Shin-Soo Choo has the only home-run by a Cleveland batter off Felix, but Choo hasn't seen playing time since August.

It's hard to tell based on the small sample sizes of Indians batters what may be in store against Felix tomorrow, but one thing is for sure. Tomorrow's game will be a beauty of a pitching match-up, but I'm going to have to give the nod to the Cy Young candidate. While of course I'm going to be pulling for the King, I think C.C. and Cleveland will best Seattle, by a 4-3 score.

A tight one in LA


Phew. Talk about tense.

Once again, the Mariners staved off a division-clinching clebration held by the Angels, but as Ringo Starr said, it didn't come easy. Granted, the M's did jump out to an early 3-0 lead after five innings thanks to some stellar pitching from Miguel Batista, but the Angels clawed back two runs, including one from J.J. Putz, who's been reliably dominant all season. Still, despite putting Putz in a runners-on situation in the ninth inning, Putz froze Garret Anderson- who's had the most RBIs in the major leagues since the All-Star Break- with a 96 mile-per-hour heater, and that was all she wrote as the M's clung to a 3-2 lead, leaving the Angels' magical number unchanged at one to clinch the title.

Contrary to the high-scoring affair I thought a match-up between Miguel Batista and Bartolo Colon, the final score stands as a testament to the surprising efforts from the dueling hurlers. Despite walking five Angels batters, Batista pitched into the sixth, when he ran into trouble when four straight Angels batters reached base, beginning with Garret Anderson reaching on a wild pitch that was swung and missed for a strike three. Luckily, Howie Kendrick grounded into a force-out at home, with Kenji Johjima getting bowled over by Caeey Kotchman, which must've been the decisive moment of the game. Once again, a gutsy performance by the Mariners bullpen preserved a close game for the team- including Ryan Rowland-Smith who upon entering the game in the seventh inning promptly picked Chone Figgins off first for the final out of the inning.

Normally when Bartolo Colon tosses eight innings of three-run ball against the opposing team, the other team stands little or no chance of winning. This means even more credit is needed to be given to Miguel Batista for his outstanding outing. By becoming the first Mariners pitcher in four years to win 15 games, Batista has also allowed just one earned run over 11.2 innings in his last two starts. As Miguel has two remaining years left on his contract, here's hoping he's found a late-career resurgence for the M's, a la Jaimie Moyer.

The offensive day wasn't much for the M's, who made the most of their nine hits, leaving just eight runners on as opposed to the Angels, who left 19. Both Ichiro and Willie Bloomquist picked up two hits on the afternoon, with Ichiro finishing the game at a .351 average, seven points behind Magglio Ordonez's .358. Ordonez has been on a tear, picking up six hits over his last nine at-bats his past two games, which has helped put Ichiro in his rear-view mirror for the batting crown heading into the final week. Adrian Beltre had an RBI single in the fourth inning, eventually reaching on Ben Broussard's RBI double, and he ends the game at a .278 clip- just seventy-three points behind Ichiro!

For all intents and purposes, the charade of the M's keeping the Angels from their divisional title will come to an end in tomorrow's game. Obviously, the Angels will be determined to clinch the division in their final home game of the season, plus the pitching match-up for tomorrow is laughably one-sided. Former Angel Jeff Weaver- who, despite his close approximation of a decent pitcher in the latter half of the summer, is perhaps the one Mariner I could put most of the blame on for the team's inability to reach the play-offs- takes the hill in an attempt to duplicate his most recent outing, seven innings of three runs against the A's last week. However, despite a 5-7 record and 3.78 career ERA against the Angels, when he last faced the Angels last month, he got torched for eight hits, two home runs, and five runs allowed in 4.1 innings of a 10-6 Angel win. Gary Matthews Jr. has been a personal bane to Weaver, having touched Jeff for six hits in ten at-bats, with four doubles and two home-runs for a 2.200 OPS. Luckily for Jeff, however, Matthews has been injured and out of the line-up as of late, but don't be surprised if Mike Scicosa is able to fit Matthews in somewhere, perhaps at DH. Other Angels have hit Jeff will in a small number of at-bats, but that's libale to change over and extended length of time. As evidenced by Garret Anderson and Orlando Cabrera combining to just pick up ten hits against Weaver in 49 at-bats.

But did I mention that John Lackey is pitching for the Angels tomorrow? The same John Lackey who has won all three of his decisions agaisn the Mariners this season, and has not allowed an earned-run against the M's in 24 innings? If ever there was a pitching match-up was decided before it even began, this was it. As if I need to make mention of Lackey's 9-8 record against the M's, or his 3.98 career ERA over 131 innings against Seattle. Or that Raul Ibanez has hit .356 in 45 at-bats against him, whil Ichiro has hit .310 in 71. Or that Ben Broussard has two home-runs agaisnt Lackey, while Beltre has struggled mightliy against Lackey, picking up just seven hits in 40 at-bats for a .175 average. None of those things will matter. No, the only thing that matters is that Lackey will toss seven shut-out innings while the Angels roll to a 9-2 victory, taking the division title for the fourth time in five years, and ending any last bit of drama from the 2007 AL West season.

And with the Tigers out of the picture, I'm going to go on the record and say with the Angels' combination of a solid three in their pitching staff, a deep bullpen, a smart and active running game, and Vladimir Guerrero, they're my team to be the first club to win multiple championships in the 2000s.

Jarrod washes out the Angels


I guess it was too soon to completely write off Jarrod Washburn for the season, saying it was unlikely that he'd pick up another victory on the year.

Against his former Angels team- a team that had nothing short of man-handled the Mariners all season on their way to the division title- Jarrod tossed seven innings of five-hit shut-out ball as the Mariners were able to put the Angels away by a 6-0 score. Considering his career 4-2 record against his former team, Jarrod's strong start couldn't be considered entirely unexpected, as he tossed at least seven scoreless innings for the third start this season. However, Jarrod had dropped his last five decisions and won just one of his past ten heading into last night's game. But he had everything working for him, as he mixed up speeds and tossed 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes as he combined with two scoreless innings from Brandon Morrow to toss the M's twelfth shut-out of the season, and the second of the Angels for the season.

Jose Guillen, who's obviously making me feel very silly for questioning his acquisition as a free-agent during the off-season, helped spear-head the offense for the Mariners, picking up three hits including his 21st home run and 94th RBI. Guillen is having one of the strongest seasons in the former can't-miss prospect's career. Though he may not meet his career highs in home runs (31) or RBIs (104), he'll come within sniffing distance which is quite an accomplishment for a player that managed a meager .216 average in 241 injury-plagued at-bats for the Washington Nationals last year.

Beltre also helped with the offensive attack, picking up three singles and two RBIs- his 95th and 96th on the season. Beltre is also having his strongest season in Mariner teal, and to get an idea of what he's meant to the Mariner offense, consider the fact that he has more RBIs than Manny Ramirez (86), Travis Hafner (95), and Lance Berkman (95). The team's offense wasn't helped- last night at least- by the normally reliable, who went 0-for-5 for the first time since two uncharacteristically similar games at the beginning of last month against Boston. By being held hitless, Ichiro's average drops to .350 and his ability to catch up with Magglio Ordonez's .354 average over the last week of the season seems doubtful at best.

The series continues tonight with Miguel Batista- who tossed the other scoreless start against the Angels this year, seven innings in a 2-0 Mariners win last July- matched up against 2005 Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon. The Mariners have won Miguel's last two starts, including his masterful six scoreless inning outing against Oakland last week. If Miguel wins tonight, he'll be the first Mariner pitcher to win 15 games since 2003, when all five members of the starting rotation reached double figures in wins. However, the scoreless start against the Angels notwithstanding, Miguel has been hit pretty hard by the Angels throughout his career. His most recent start against Los Angeles, a 6-0 shutout loss during the season-inflating sweep by the Angels at Safeco at the end of August, Miguel allowed ten hits and six runs, including a home run to Garret Anderson, over six innings. Vladimir Guerrero has feasted on Miguel's offerings, picking up 13 hits and a home run in 26 at-bats for a .500 average and 1.249 OPS, while Orlando Cabrera has picked up ten hits and a home run in 31 at-bats for a .323 average and .848 OPS. The only Angel batter who's struggled against Miguel is the normally expected Mariner-killer Gary Matthews Jr., who's hit just .190 in 21 at-bats.

Bartolo Colon has had strong numbers against Seattle throughout his career, with a 12-9 record over 25 starts. Except Bartolo has been a different pitcher since winning 21 games and the Cy Young in 2005, winning just seven of 19 decisions since. He's won two of three decisions against Seattle this year, despite allowing 13 runs in 21 innings, with the Angels scoring seven runs in both of his victories. However, in his last start against Seattle, Bartolo was hit extremely hard, allowing nine runs and 11 hits over 6.1 innings in a 12-5 Mariners win, with both Guillen and Beltre homering off Colon. The Mariners' line-up is stocked with batters who've had great success against Colon, including Beltre (a .389 average and four home runs for a 1.294 OPS in 36 at-bats), Raul Ibanez (.326 average in 45 at-bats), and Ichiro (a .304 average and three home runs in 56 at-bats). However, other Mariner batters have struggled, including Ben Broussard (a .176 average in 17 at-bats), Jose Guillen (.188 average in 16, despite homering off Colon in their last match-up), and Jose Vidro, who's only picked up two singles in 12 at-bats.

In the end, tonight's game will be a good old-fashioned rock 'em-sock 'em match-up. But I'm picking the Mariners to come out on top, and I'm predicting a 9-7 score, as the M's stave off the Angels' singular cliam to the division for one more day.



The M's bested the A's 9-5 yesterday for their third win in a row, and eighth of their nine games in Oakland this year. It's nice to see the M's winning again after losing 17 of 24 games, even if it is three weeks too late. There are going to be some contrarians that will hold a negative perspective on this season, calling it disappointing as the M's will come up short of the play-offs. How could it possibly be disappointing when the playoffs haven't even been a topic of discussion since 2003?

Six Mariners picked up multiple hits in yesterday's game, including four knocks from Yuniesky Betancourt, who has to be the most productive #9 batter in the league as he also had three RBIs and his 38th double, as the M's picked up 16 hits for the day. Unfortunately, Beltre went hitless in five at-bats as his average dropped to .276. Ichiro went 2-for-3 to bring his average to .354, and now leads Magglio Ordonez by one point for the league lead. This offensive barrage gave support to Felix Hernandez who didn't have exactly a very strong start, as he allowed seven hits and four walks in five innings, which was a far cry from the numbers he had against the A's, in which he had allowed one run in 23 innings in his prior three starts this season against Oakland.

It's amazing how there can be such a difference in the results between the A's-M's match-ups this season as opposed to last. The A's still playing the same brand of baseball they always play, making opposing pitchers throw strikes and if they don't get them, they don't swing. This put the M's relief corps in a tight spot in yesterday's game, when, with a three-run Mariners lead in the eighth inning, the first three Oakland batters reached on base via the walk. With a bases loaded, no-out situation, Shannon Stewart hit a sacrifice fly to bring in one, but that's all the A's got as George Sherrill was able to get the last two outs of the inning, which sandwiched another walk. So that's four walks, and just one run. I think Mariners fans were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief when that inning was over, especially when the M's were able to get that run back an inning later and then some, when both Betancourt and Ichiro had RBI singles in the ninth.

The M's continue on the road to meet this seasons' nemesis, the Angels, who have taken a page from the A's book and have beaten up the M's all season to ride their way to a division crown. The Angels have won 11 of 15 games between the clubs, with a sweep last month that effectively took the air out of the M's season. Jered Weaver, who has won three of four decisions against the Mariners over six starts, takes the hill for the Angels in tonight's game. Weaver has allowed two runs or less in six of his last eight starts, and in his last start during last month's sweep of the M's he allowed two runs- one earned- in eight dominating innings of an 8-2 victory. Although many Mariners have good numbers against Weaver- such as Beltre (.313 average in 16 at-bats), Ben Broussard (.412 average, .974 OPS in 17 at-bats), Raul Ibanez (.500 average, 1.368 OPS in 16 at-bats), and Ichiro (.353 average with a home-run in 17 at-bats)- Weaver always somehow manages to pull out a win.

And there's little to doubt that he'll be able to pull out another victory, as he's facing Ryan Feierabend for the M's. Feierabend is making his first start since he allowed two runs in five innings against the Rangers on July 24. Feierabend has been hit pretty hard in a number of starts this year, but in his start against Los Angeles last May he pitched one of his few fairly good starts, as he allowed four runs over 6.2 innings in a 4-1 Angels victory. Feierabend's attempting to make a case for himself to be back in the M's rotation, but don't expect things to break his way in today's game against the Angels. With Weaver on the mound, and Feierabend's tendency to give up the big inning, all bets have to be on the Angels to roll over the M's in today's game. Final score I'm predicting is the Angels will come out on top, 11-2.

Mariners 8, Athletics 7


Even though Raul Ibanez hit a fourth inning to help bring the Mariners to an early 8-1 lead, the M's bullpen so desperately tried to give the game back to the A's. After Jeff Weaver tossed seven innings of three run ball before being replaced by Eric O'Flaherty, who promptly hit Daric Barton with a pitch before walking the next two batters. After loading the bases, O'Flaherty was replaced by Sean Green who allowed a bases-clearing triple to Mark Ellis. Suddenly, the game was 8-6, and Green gave up Jack Hannahan's second RBI double later in the inning as the A's pulled within run. But that's as close as they got, as Brandon Morrow and George Sherrill shut Oakland down with 1.1 scoreless innings, with Sherrill striking out the side in the ninth to fend off the A's for an 8-7 win.

The win was now the M's seventh in eight games so far this season in Oakland, a complete opposite to the throttling the A's gave the M's last season. Unfortunately, the dominance of the A's by the M's isn't going to lead to a division title, unlike the A's coasting on a 17-2 record against the Mariners last season to a playoff spot last year.

Raul's slam plus a first-inning RBI double gives him 100 RBIs on the season for the second consecutive season. Adrian Beltre also had an RBI double for his 94 th RBI, as he went 1-for-5 for the game, bringing his average to .278. Ichiro had a lead-off double in the first inning- the first of three consecutive doubles, before Raul's and Beltre's RBI doubles- for his only hit in three at-bats as his average dips to .352, four points being AL leader Magglio Ordonez's .356 average. In the end, the M's made full use of their eight hits for the game, scoring their eight runs, while the Athletics scored their seven runs on eight hits.

The pitching match-up for today's early afternoon game looks one-sided and bodes favorably for the M's chances for a sweep this series. Felix Hernandez, fresh off holding Tampa Bay to one run in 7.2 innings in a 2-1 no decision last week, takes the hill for the M's against Dan Meyer, who has pitched all of 13 big-league innings in his career. Felix has dominating numbers against the A's, including a 1.96 ERA with 37 hits allowed in 46 innings to go with a 4-2 record. In his last start against the Athletics last July, Felix allowed one run over seven innings in a 7-1 Mariners victory. Mark Ellis, with six hits in 19 at-bats, is the only Athletic batter who has hit Felix slightly well, with the low numbers against Felix by Shannon Stewart (five singles in 19 at-bats) and Dan Johnson (two singles in eleven) give an example of the low offense the M's are able to muster against Felix's offerings.

Dan Meyer was a one-time prospect who's past few years have been shelved due to shoulder injuries, including a ghastly injury of a piece of his shoulder blade breaking off and getting lodged in an 'inconvenient' place. In his last outing, Meyer allowed six runs on five hits and three walks over 2.2 innings against the Rangers. Although I've pointed out numerous times that first-time pitchers tend to have dominating outings when the face the M's, as it appears that the once-talented Meyer has dropped due to the mediocre level and also considering the fact that the M's have beaten up on left-handed pitching all year, the sweep of the A's is all but a sure thing. I'm picking it for the M's as an easy win, by an 8-1 score.


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