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.

As the season is poking along, winding down to an unglorious conclusion, we have meaningless games to be played, such as tonight's 6-5 loss at the hands of the Texas Rangers.

If there is anything the Mariners can play for the in the final two games, it is to prevent the Rangers from achieving a .500 record. Of course, to do that the M's would have to win both games, so it's a minor victory that would be easier said than done.

At any rate, it was pleasing to see that Ryan Feierabend can settle his stuff down and avoid giving up the long ball, which he had troubles with in his last start versus the White Sox. In tonight's game, Ryan tossed 96 pitches over five innings and allowed six hits and three walks- but only two runs. It was much an improvement for Ryan, who was done in by a lousy outing of relief turned in by Emiliano Fruto who came into the sixth, walked the lead-off batter on four pitches, gave up two base-hits, and before you know it, Michael Young knocked a two-out, two-run RBI double to give the Rangers a 5-3 lead and, as Lookout Landing makes clear, effectively killed the M's chances in this game.

Oh well. At least it was great seeing Beltre hit a two-run home-run in the first inning, propelling the M's to an early 2-0 lead. Coupled with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly, and Beltre is now sitting at 23 home-runs and 85 RBIs on the year. I remember a time when Mariner's fans would absolutely cream over those numbers coming from their third baseman- but those numbers should be perhaps a half-season's totals for someone making Beltre's $11 million. Still, Beltre has passed last season's power numbers and can match the 87 RBIs he put up last year, and even if Beltre goes hitless in the next two games, there is no way his average will drop to last year's .255.

Forgive me if I'm pointing out how Beltre has improved. Crikey, if you lop April from Beltre's season totals you'd have a third sacker with a .280 average and an .845 OPS! And while that still may be far below what the most optimistic Mariner fan was hoping when the signing of Beltre was announced, I'll take it, considering the fact that Jim Presley has been my idea of a prototypical Marienr third baseman for some time now. It's unfortuante that Marienrs fans have to keep our expectations low when it comes to production from our team's third basemen, but as I pointed out in an earlier essay, that's what we've come to expect from the Mariners' dark hole at third base. So, in that regards, Beltre's season was kinda, sorta a success.

But not nearly as successful as Raul Ibanez's, who went yard again today for the 33rd time. There is no doubt that Ibanez has been having one of the best Mariner offensive years for a player not named Griffey, Rodriguez, or Buhner.

Now I know Iwas calling on hargrove to start all the kiddiesthis weekend, but if the Marienrs are to deprive the Rangers from reaching .500 this season, they're going to need all their bats in the line-up. And then they're going to have to beat Kevin Millwood, who held the M's to one run over seven innings nearly two weeks ago and has allowed only three runs in fourteen innings against the Marienrs this month. In five starts against the Mariners this season, Millwood has rung up a 3-1 record, improving his over-all record against Seattle to 5-2. Belter only has three hits in twelve at-bats versus Millwood this year (.278 in his career), but Ichiro has torched Millwood for a .471 average in 16 at-bats, raising his career average versus Millwood to .333 in 24 at-bats. Broussard and Johjima are the only Marienrs to take Millwood yard this year, and after tomorrow's game, I'm expecting it to maintain that way.

Felix Hernandez, in his second scheduled "last start of the season", will attempt to deny Millwood his 17th win on the season. Of course, to do that Felix might have to do a little "role reversal' and swap his numbers against Texas with Millwood's numbers agaisnt Seattle. In his last start against Texas the last time these two teams met, Felix allowed four runs in five innings to pick up the loss, his third against Texas this year to go along with a 6.59 ERA in 27 innings. Whatever Felix's number is, the Rangers have it tagged, as Gary Matthews Jr. has a .500 average and a 1.319 OPS in 14 at-bats this season versus Felix, while Michael Young- who else- has a 1.043 OPS agaisnt Felix in 14 at-bats. Those two have worked in tandem to beat up on the Mariners all season, why should tomorrow be any differnt? It's due to the efforts of Matthews and Young that Felix has been able to keep Hank Blalock and Mark Teixiera at a combined .138 average in 29 at-bats, yet still get stomped when he faces the Rangers.

And it's sad to say, but... the Mariners will not prevent the Rangers from reaching .500 this year. At least not tomorrow. No, Felix will get rocked, give up 10 runs in five innings, and then complain about arm soreness that would require Tommy John surgery. No, that won't happen. I was just trying to imagine a sure-fire scenario in which Mike Hargrove would get fired, but I guess he wouldn't for anything like that, those would all be "circumstances outside of his control" though he created them.

No faith in the M's, no faith in Felix, definitely no faith in Hargrove. 10-3, Rangers with the game decided by the conclusion of the fourth. You'll see...

Gil, we hardly knew ye....


Okay, let's face it, when you can't keep the lead and finish off a 6-5 win against the Oakalnd "A's"- which were pretty much nothing more than a field of Sacramento RiverCats wearing the green-and-gold for an evening- then you don't get to play the rest of the year.

Yes, I know that fans will be showing up this weekend for the final series of the season and they all want to see their Mariner heroes- Willie Bloomquist, mostly- in living, breathing action. But fuck it. Last night's ball-game was such a ridiculous embarrasment that I hope Mike Hargrove (who is, indeed, returning next year as manager) gave the whole team an half-hour tongue-chewing after the ball-game. And then decided to bench the team's "stars" for the rest of the season as punishment.

Yes, I know J.J. needs one more strikeout for 100. I know Ichiro is in the hunt for the league-lead in hits. Sorry, they don't get to play any more this year. I know that Betancourt, Lopez, Beltre, and Sexson all have season totlas that they'd like to add to, but fuck it. They don't get to play any more. I'd really like to see the next three games be played by the likes of T.J. Bohn, Adam Jones, Oswaldo Navarro, and all the other youngsters who could stand to gain for playing three meaningless games at the end of September. (Oh, and of course, Raul Ibanez can continue to play as he's had far too great of a season to end it three games prematurely.)

Sure, the M's could drop all three games 17-3- and my dream of seeing a season-ending series play out like this is just as likely as Hargrove getting fired- but so the fuck what. The season's over, let the kids play, and maybe some folks will be able to have some fun this weekend...

Sigh. Obviously, the big play in last night's game was the two-run drive "triple" by Dan Johnson off Putz that went under Ichiro's glove. Needless to say you can understand why I'm upset at them, but in all honsty, why was a glorified version of Oakland's AAA team able to jump out to an early 3-0 and was able to keep the game even close? Oh yeah, because Gil Meche started for the Mariners and effectively ensured he would not be returning in a Mariners' uniform this year. Six innings, three runs, five walks, seven strike-outs.. yep, sounds like a typical Meche start to me. Bye-bye Meche, you former first-rounder who always hinted at but never delivered upon a dominating skill set.

So the final series of the season against the Rangers begins this Friday, Feierabend versus Padilla. After allowing three home-runs in a loss to Chicago last week, Feierabend needs to find that composure that allowed him to toss six scorless innings prior to that debacle in his first start. It appears thatRyan could have dominating stuff if he can just harness his control. You really couldn't ask for much more from a kid who just turned 21...

It's been over five months since Padilla last faced the Mariners, tossing seven innings of one-run ball against Seattle last May. Padilla has been quite a find for the Rangers this season, as he and Kevin Millwood prvoed this season that, though your ERAs may not be the prettiest in the league, pitchers can start and win at Arlington. I wonder if the Rangers will try to spin Padilla's and Millwood's season to pick up a top-line starter during the off-season.

Anyway, Beltre- who had his 16-game hitting-streak snapped by going 0-for-4 in last-night's ball-game- has two hits in fifteen career at-bats versus Padilla, though both of those hits flew over the wall and also knocked in six runs. Sexson has also struggled against Padilla with only two hits in eleven career at-bats, though Ichiro has picked up six hits (including a home-run) in ten career at-bats against Padilla.

Of course, hopefully all those players are riding the pine this week-end and we'll see how Morse, Dobbs, and Jones do in their stead against Padilla. Yeah, right....

A fitting clinch for the A's


There once was a time when division titles and play-off positions were captured by a clutch base-hit or dominating pitching performance- think Bobby Thompson's shot heard round the world in 1951 or, more recently, Curt Schilling's bloody sock.

However, in the past week, baseball fans have witnessed such "historical" event as the Yankees capturing their ninth consecutive division championship with a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. And then there was tonight's mess at Safeco, in which the Mariners rolled over and played the obligatory role of whipping boy, putting up hardly an effort to prevent the A's from sealing the division on home turf.

I'm not taking anything away from the A's. They clinched the division, and they earned it. And I'm sure A's fans relish a dominating 12-3 victory, rather than a close squaker, with Frank Thomas hitting a dramatic game-winning (and division-winning) three-run home-run in the tenth inning or something. If A's fans feel that this trend of 12-3 ball-games will continue in the play-offs, there needs to be a reminder: in the play-offs Oakland will face teams that have good pitching and good hitting (and good managers). In 2006, against the Mariners, Oakland never faced any of that.

I mean, c'mon: there was a 140-day span in between victories by the Mariners against the Athletics this year. (By the way, both Mariner victories against the A's this season were games in which Esteban Loaiza started for the A's.) So, yes the A's earned the division title by dominating the Mariners- and now it's time for them to fold, meekly, in the play-offs. (Shit, I jinxed myself. The A's will probably win the whole thing now...)

Anyways, the type of game that was played tonight: with the Mariners allowing 24 base-runners, the last hope to keep things going in the ninth was Rene Rivera, with both Jason Kendall and Jay Payton (who is now hitting .406 in 16 games against the M's) pick up four hits, I'd say that a 12-3 drubbing to clinch the title is perhaps a fitting way for the A's this year. The game was representative of an entire season's worth of showdowns between these two clubs. The only thing that was missing was Joe Blanton on the mound for Oakland.

Oh well, there's always next year. (Ha!) Still, it was nice to see Beltre continue his sixteen-game hitting streak with a one-out home-run in the sixth inning off Kirk Saarloos, which set off a back-to-back home-run binge with Raul Ibanez, who will finish with ten home-runs and 40 RBI more than Beltre, despite making $8 million less. BEltre's season batting average now stands at .268.

Gil Meche takes the mound tomorrow against the A's inwhich may be his last attempt to land himself a big, fat free-agent contract in the off-season with someone, somewhere. With slightly above replacement-level stats on the year- 11-8 record, 4.48 ERA, 149 strikeouts over 180 innings in 31 starts- the one thing that meche will have going for his chances to end the season on a strong note is that Macha will more than likely rest his veterans, and give more playing time to third-stringers in tomorrow's game. Meche just might have his way with the A's tomorrow, despite his career 2-7 record versus Oakland. I could tell you that Eric Chavez murders Meche- 10-for-30 with a career OPs of 1.181 against Gil- or I could point out that Frank Thomas and Mark Ellis have combined to hit only .250 in 28 at-bats against Meche without a hint of power. But it doesn't really matter. There's no idea who's playing for the A's in tomorrow's ball-game, so there is only conjecture...

How about the Mariners? As the season's been over for some time, hargrove has been, indeed, playing the youngsters. T.J. Bohn, Oswaldo Navarro, and a increasingly depleted bullpwnstocked with the likes of John Huber, Francisco Cruceta, and Cesar Jiminez have received a good share of playing time in meaningless games over the past month. Hargrove didn't even start Ichiro, ended his consecutive game playing streak at 396, today in a game that the A's clinched the division. So, I'm fucking clueless as to who he'll trot out in tomorrow's ball-game, but whoever it is, they're facing Barry Zito, never an easy assignment. Barry owns a 12-2 lifetime record versus the Mariners, even if he allowed four runs in five innings in an outing against Seattle last month. (To be fair, Zito allowed one run in seven innings in the start before that against Seattle.) Icould point out that Ichio has 24 career hits- and three career home-runs- off Zito in 76 at-bats, and that Willie Bloomquist has touched Zito for two home-runs but... come to think of it, those two will more than likely be in tomorrow's ball-game, with Bloomie starting at short or something.

We'll see who's playing tomorrow. With a pared-down line-up on each side, the game resorts to a pitching duel between Zito and Meche, and no matter how you look at it, that's an unfair "duel." The outcome would be along the liens of 5-3, A's. However, if hargrove has any kind of killer instinct, stocks the line-up full of right-handers and Chris Snelling somehow convinces all the other batters to be patient on Zito's curveball, then the Mariners could take advantage of a stripped-down Oakalnd club.

And what's the likliehood of that happening?

For the seond day in a row, a late-inning offensive explosion by the Chicago White Sox' bats versus the Marienrs' bullpen buried any chances of the M's to finish off the World Champions' 2006 post-season chances. The situations may hvae been different- as opposed to yesterday's ball-game the M's didn't go into the late stages of the ball-game with a commanding five-run lead- but the same result occurred. And, as opposed to the nine runs allowed in the last three innings of last night's ball-game, seven runs were given up in the last two in this one, including a five-run seventh inning which included Juan Uribe hitting a grand slam off Joel Pineiro.

Which begs the question: just why, exactly, is Pineiro even pitching in any Mariner games at all? Mike Hargrove must definitely have some sort of vendetta, as he keeps trotting Joel out to lose spectacularly in the worst situations, all but guaranteeing that Joel will lose his shot at retaining employment with the Mariners. Pineiro has now allowed five runs in 1.2 innings over his last two outings, and his ERA in the month of September has risen to 8.64. Obviously, Mike Hargrove hasn't noticed the "Caution: Flammable" on the Joel Pineiro package, and with Pineiro's presence in the game, a loss for the Mariners is all but expected.

The worst thing about the grand slam given up is that in the top of the inning, a three-run home-run by Johjima put the Mariners within one at 5-4. But, you know how the old saying goes: You play with Pineiro, you get burned.

Obviously, the pitching show-down I expected in today's game never materialized. Being unable to watch or listen to the game, I was unable to tell if the results of Ryan Feierabend's major league debut as a starter- five runs on eight hits, including three home-runs, in six inninngs- was due more to lack of skill or lack of luck. From what I understand is Feierabend has one more start this season to show what kind of stuff he can offer as possible rotation fodder.

Prior to Johjima's home-run, Freddy Garica appeared to have the Marienrs mostly stifled. Freddy's 20-inning scoreless streak was ended on an Adrian Beltre RBI single in the fifth. Despite keeping the M's hitless until the fourth inning, Freddy was chased in the seventh inning after Johjima's home-run. The M's continued to piece awhile at the White Sox lead- scoring three runs in the last two innings, on home-runs by Ben Broussard, Jose Lopez, and Raul Ibanez- but neded up falling short in this afternoon's slug-fest.

Beltre's RBI single was all the offense he could muster, though it did continue his 14-hit streak and maintained his average at .267. There is hopes that Beltre might be able to raise his average over the .270 mark in the next series, but as the M's are hosts in that series against an Oakland Athletic team seeking to wrap up the AL West division title that has been denied from by the Los Angeles Angels this past weekend.

The M's should be accomodating hosts, more than likely. Depending on how the Angels do Monday, Safeco Field could be the site of a division chmapionship. Just for the wrong team.

The A's are starting off with Esteban Loaiza on the mound tomorrow night, he who holds a 7.10 life-time ERA against the Mariners in 57.2 career innings to go along with a 3-5 record. Loaiza has split two decisions with the marienrs this season, including picking up the 'L' in the only game the A's have lost to the Mariners back on April 6th. In those two starts, Loaiza has allowed 10 runs and 15 hits in 10.2 innings. Beltre has only three hits in twelve at-bats (including three RBIs) versus Loaiza. However, Loaiza has been extremely hittable by Raul Ibanez and Ichiro, who have combined to rough Loaia up to a tune of .392 (20-for-51) with Ibanez holding a career .983 OPS off Loaiza. Ibanez might be able to add to his amazing season totals in tomorrow's ball-game, an opportunity that more than likely won't happen to Richie Sexson, as he has struggled mightily against Loaiza, getting two hits in 13 career at-bats with five strike-outs.

The Marienrs are putting up Cesar Jiminez to face the patient A's line-up. Jiminez has allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings for a career of 18.90, allowing three home runs and walking three compared to one walk. It's going to be ugly tomorrow. But who knows? Perhaps Jiminez's assortment of junk will prove to be the magic elixir that was missing from the M's arsenal for success against the A's.

More than likely, the A's will wrap up the division on the victorious side of a 13-3 score or something along those lines. Still, I bet Raul Ibanez hits another home-run and adds to his amazing season totals, as he has all ready reached the most home-runs by a left-handed Mariner batter since Ken Griffey Jr. back in 1999.

And please, for the sake of allthings good and holy, can the Mariners at least win one game in this three-game series versus the A's?

Chi Sox series recap (so far)


At this late of a point in yet another lost season for the Seattle marienrs, there are only moral victories to reach for this team. Such as depriving the World Champion White Sox the opportunity to repeat as champions, and knocking them out of the play-offs in the final week of the season. ANd the Marienrs came a near two-hour rain delay in just accomplishing such a feat this afternoon.

After winning the first two games in commanding fashion- 9-0 and 11-6- the two prior games, the Mariners- behind a dominant effort from Felix Hernandez who had early command of his fiast-ball, throwing it for first-pitch strikes before baffling the Chicago line-up with his off-speed pitches- jumped to an early 7-2 lead before Felix struck out Brian Naderson to finish the fifth, thus making it an official game before the raindrops began falling.

Once the grounds crew was able to pull a tarp over a drenched infield that was slowly resembling a lake, the rain dealy had to be waited out. If the game was called, and with five innings underthe belt it wouldn't be forced to be remade as a part of a day-night double-header on Sunday, then Felix would've finished the final start of the season with a complete game victory, striking out six and allowing two runs in five innings.

Instead, the game resumed two hours later, just in time for the White Sox to rally in the sixth, thanks to a two-out throwing error by replacement shortstop Oswald Navarro (filling in for Willie Bloomquist) and five consecutive hits allowed by Eric O'Flaherty coughed up four runs- none earned- and the lead. The Mariners' bats were never able to recover and, including an all-too familiar implosion by Joel Pineiro who allowed five runs in the eighth, that was the ball-game.

The potential to hammer the White Sox' season shit slipped through the Mariners' grasp, as well as the actual 'W' that would've been registered. The loss was the Marienrs' 80th, bringing them dangerously close to the precipice of a fourth consecutive .500-or-less season, which if isn't crossed in tomorrow's game veruss the White Sox, then will be ingloriously reached in the following series at home versus the A's.

Beltre got the Mariners' offense to a fast start in this afternoon's game, hitting a first-inning home run to put up an early lead. Beltre's home run- and later double- increased his hitting streak to 13 games. Including his ninth-inning grand-slam in Thursday night's game, now mwans that Beltre has been batting .385 and slugging .923 so far in the Chicago series. Over the streak itself, Beltre has been batting .400 with a .727 slugging percentage. Ah, the Beltre we could've had all year....

Richie Sexson also joined in on the early-game offensive fire-works, with a two-run home-run off Mark Buehrle, his 32nd home run of the season, and his third in the past two games. As a team, and despite the bull-pen's late-inning blow-up in today's game, the M's have hit .321, slugged .536, and scored 27 runs in the first three games of the series. That's a nine-run average/per, but of course hardly any runs were needed Thursday night when Jake Woods made fools out of pretty much every Mariner follower by tossing seven scoreless innings against a hungry veteran team looking to recapture a play-off spot. Regardless of his outing on Thursday, however, I still wouldn't say that jake is out of the woods in securing a rotation start for next season...

At any rate, the team's offensive outburst agaisnt the White Sox will more than likely screech to a halt in tomorrow's game. The White Sox are starting former Marienr Freddy Garcia in tomorrow's game, and Freddy has been down-right masterful in his last two starts, allowing one hit in each to shut out the Detroit Tigers 7-0 and coming a few batters away from a perfect game in a 9-0 shut-out of the Angels. So, the Mariners do have their work cut out for them considering Freddy's current stretch of "being in the zone." Still, Freddy does hold a 6.47 career ERA against the M's in 32 innings to go a long with a 1-3 record, so the Mariners have had success when facing Garcia in the past. Rau Ibanez, in particular, has had success against Garcia, batting .581 with a 1.532 OPS in 31 career at-bats versus Freddy. However, Beltre has struggled against Garcia's offerings, only able to pick up four hits and a .496 OPS in 19 career at-bats versus Freddy.

Young left-hander Ryan Feierabend takes the hill for the Mariners in the match-up versus Freddy Garcia. After turning in six scorelss innings in relief, Feierabend makes a start in replacement of Jarrod Washburn, who tore a muscle in his right leg in his most recent start versus the Rangers.

How will the 21-year old youngster do in tomorrow's game? It's hard to say. Feierabend is an unknown quantity. There is no anayliss provided of him in the 2006 Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times only has some lines from mid-summer minor league games, BP's website only offers translated stats, and Baseball America's site only offers Ryan's season stats for the M's AA San Antonio Missions. Although those numbers might be impressive- I'll take a 2.3 hit-to-walk ratio, and a 1:1 hit allowed per inning despite a 9-12 record- none of these offers any clue as to what type of pitcher Feierabend is and if he'll be able exploit, or will he be xploited by, the White Sox tomorrow. What I do no is that, as a whole, the White Sox hit right-handers nearly 30 points higher than they do left-handers (.291 to .263) with an OPS 90 points higher (.839 to .747). Considering the effort Ryan's contributed so far for the marienrs from the bull-pen, his numbers as a starter in AA, and the wide discprency of the White Sox's numbers versus left-handers against right-handers, don't expect to Ryan to fall flat on his face in tomorrow's ball-game.

However, don't expect him to win either. Though it'd be hard to expect that Freddy's streak of scoreless innings per start should trump the Mariners' recent success at scoring plenty of runs, the M's have been shut-out so many times this season that I feel hesitant to suggest they'll be able to scratch one across against Freddy. I think tomorrow's game will be the opposite of the past few games, with both pitchers contributing solid starts and the game will be decided by a few runs. Being said, I think Freddy and the White Sox will continue to hold on to their play-off hopes by their fingertips when they come out of tomororw's game on top of a 4-0 score.

Being said, Beltre will probably hit a first-run home-run just to spite me. In which case, I'd welcome it...

Baek's mastery of the Rangers continues


It's hard to believe, considering the outings Cha-Seung Baek has provided for the Mariners here in the tail end of the 2006 season, that he was released by the club after a disastorous 2005 minor league season. Baek ended up re-signing with the M's for the league minimum and not only did he become the ace of the Tacoma Rainers' staff, but it appears that with each strong outing (minus, of course, the hiccup that was last week's smackdown at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays) Baek is entrenching a spot for him in the Mariners' 2007 rotation.

And the verdict remains to be decided whether that is a good thing or bad thing. It's obvious to make the statemnt that Baek has very hittable, league-average stuff- which is exactly what you would be looking for from a #5 starter. Plus, as a #5 starter, Baek would mostly pitch against other teams' #5 starters, so it's not as if the M's bats will be stifled by opposing team's aces while Baek allows hits and runs to the other side. Also, on the positive side, Baek would be making the league minimum as the #5 starter, as opposed to Joel Pineiro, who this season was paid $4.8 million to provide an ERA upwards of six from the #5 spot, which he eventually lost. That's a lot of money, for very little return. So, if the Mariners end up saying adios to Pineiro over the off-season, and given Baek's coming-out performances, it seems very likely that baek will be the #5 starter in next year's rotation, unless the Mariners' brain trust pull some silly Wade Miller-type moves during the off-season. (Off topic, but wasn't Wade the ace of the Astros over Roy Oswalt at one point?)

And given the un-balanced schedule, I would be content for Baek to retain his spot in the rotation next season, as that would give him plenty of more opportunities to face-off and neutralize that heady offense of the Texas Rangers. Given Baek's two-run, 6.2 inning start versus the Rangers in tonight's ball-game, that means that Cha-Seung has now allowed two earned runs in 21.2 innings, good enough for a microscopic 0.83 ERA. I understand how one shouldn't put too much stock in small sample sizes- no way would Baek be able to maintain an ERA this low in a season's worth of 160+ or so innings. Besides, I did correctly state that his scoreless inning streak would end in tonight's ball-game, and it did after 19 innings, with Nelson Cruz hitting a two-run home-run off Baek in the fifth. Still, it sure would be nice if their was at least one divison rival that we could trot a starter out with the feeling that he would dominate the other side and give the Mariners a near-automatic shot at winning.

Beltre continued his hitting streak to ten games by going 2-for-5 with two singles in the ballgame. During his hitting streak, Beltre has raised his average nearly ten points, from .255- the lowest it had been in two months- to .264. However, Beltre's two hits had less to do with the Mariner's victory then his ground-out that knocked in a run the night before. Instead, the offense was supplied by Raul Ibanez, who hit his 28th home-run leading off the fifth, and by Rangers' rookie second-baseman Ian Kinsler, who by committing two errors allowed the Mariners to score three un-earned runs and jump out to an early 5-0 lead. Thanks a bunch Ian!

With Baek's strong pitching and Kinsler's poor fielding, the Rangers found themselves in a pretty big hole to climb out of. Hank Blalock knocked in Carlos Lee in the ninth inning for the Rangers to pull within three, but once again J.J. Putz came in and nailed the door shut for his 34th save.

Now its on to Chicago, where the Mariners always do a miserable job facing the World Champion White Sox who, barring an act of God, will not be playing to repeat their title this October. Well, perhaps "miserable" is too hyerbolic, as the two teams have only faced each other five times this season, with the M's dropping a two-game set in Chicago last May. However, given the M's strong play on this road trip- especially offensively- coupled with the fact that the White Sox' pitching staff is simply not as good as last year's may bode well for the M's chances for this series. A split of the four-games may seem entirely possible.

But don't expect a win to come tomorrow, as Jake Woods takes the mound for the Mariners. Yes, Woods may have allowed only two runs in six innings in his last start, but that was against the Kansas City Royals, and the Mariners had to hold on to win an 11-8 ballgame for Woods to pick up that "W". In 4.1 career innings over the White Sox split over two outings, Woods has allowed five runs on six hits for a 10.38 ERA. Jermaine Dye might use tomorrow's game as an opportunity to strengthen his case for AL MVP, as his only career at-bat versus resulted in a two-run home-run. Tadahito Iguchi also owns a two-run home-run off Woods. Expect Woods to get hit earlier, often, and hard. For those of you with a TV, you may not want to watch.

For the White Sox, Javier Vazquez takes the hill and he has pretty much opposite results in his career against the Mariners. In his two career starts, Vazquez has gone unbeaten versus the M's, keeping them to 5 runs in 12 innings for a 3.75 ERA. , including limiting the M's to two runs over six innings last April at Safeco. However, the White Sox have lost the last seven games Vazquez has started, and Beltre- who is nowhere near his abysmal April self that we grew to detest just a fewshort months ago- has enjoyed quite a bit of success against Vazquez, with plenty of at-bats against Javier from their days together in the National League. In 21 at-bats, Beltre has ten hits for a .476 average, and with four extra base hits, he has an OPS of 1.262 against Javier. Sexson and Broussard (who, of course, wasn't with the club last April) have also combined to hit Vazquez well, 12-30 for a .400 average, with four extra-bases. So, it's not as if the Mariners don't stand a chance in tomorrow's game.

But, in reality, I fail to see Jake Woods over-coming the powerful White Sox offense, despite Chicago's recent streak of being unable to win for Vazquez. (Besides that seven game losing streak, they have also lost ten of Javier's last thirteen starts.) When all is said and done, I wouldn't be surprised if the final score is 7-3 in favor of Chicago, with at least Adrian, Richie, or Ben hitting a home-run. Along with Raul, who has simply been incredible this year....

Willie Bloomquist: 5-for-6?


Yes, I know Arlington is a hitter's park, but Bloomquist's line in tonight's game is absolutely ridiculous:

6 2 5 1

The five hits was the most production from a Mariners second baseman since... well, pretty much anything we've seen from "All Star" Jose Lopez. Granted, only one of Bloomquist's hits went for extra bases- a seventh-inning double- but of those four singles, one of them came in the ninth, allowing Greg Dobbs- who had reached third on a three-base error on a comebacker to the mound- to score, and Willie eventually scored the tying run on an Ichiro Suzuki single. "Willie Bloomquist" and "clutch" don't often pop up in the same sentence very often, but his performance in tonight's ball-game- especially in the ninth inning- was definitely clutch, and may have landed him the opportunity, whether rightly earned or not, to keep playing for his home-town team for a few more years.

It's nice to see the Marienrs regained their hitting ability. One night after being one-hit by Kevin Millwood through six innings, the Mariners exploded for 18 hits against a rag-tag Texas pitching staff. Still, it can't be said as they were efficent with their hits, as even though they mave have doubled the hit total of the Texas Rangers, the M's left 16 on base compared to the Rangers' five. But that's what happens when the Rangers ended up taking batting practice in the third inning, when they hit three home-runs off of starter Jarrod Washburn- who took himself out of the game after spraining his right calf after allowing a double to Mark DeRosa. Mark Teixiera, Hank Blalock and Ian Kinsler all hit home-runs off Washburn and reliever Cesar Jiminez, knocking in four runs. That's what you call being efficent.

Still, Bloomquist's five hits are hard to explain, even factoring the hitter-friendly park factors down in Arlington. He entered the game batting .171 at AmericaQuest field. If anything, one should;ve expected anotehr 0-for-4 rally-killing night from the Ignitor. But I'll take the production from unexpected sources such as Bloomquist, and Adam Jones who hit the game-winning pinch-hit two-run single knocking in Mike Morse and Jose Lopez with the go-ahead runs. One inning of solid releif later, J.J. Putz closed the game out for his 33rd save and the Mariners did an amazing come-from-behind victory, down 7-5, and winning 9-7 by scoring four runs in the ninth and tenth innings.

Sadly, of the 18-hit explosion, Adrian Beltre naried did partake, just turning in one hit in five at-bats, though he did knock in a run with an RBI ground-out in the fourth inning. Thoguh that does bring his average to .263, it does continue his nine-game hitting streak that he's been on since his return after the birth of his son, Adrian Jr.

It would be interesting to see how Adrian fares against Robinson Tejeda, the starter for the Rangers in tomorrow's ball-game. Though it would be nice to see AB turn on his power stroke against Tejeda, he doesn't have any at-bats against Tejeda for any sample size to draw a conclusion from. Tejeda has only one start against the Mariners under his belt, keeping them to two runs in 6.2 innings, tossed a couple of weeks back while beltre was away with his newborn. Ichiro was the only Mariner to get multiple hits, with two in three at-bats, while Tejeda did a good job confsuing Richie Sexson, striking him out in all three at-bats that Sexson faced Tejeda. Perhaps Beltre's presence in the line-up tomorrow may pose more of a challenge then Willie Bloomquist, who manned third while Beltre was out. Though, Bloomer did have five hits in today's game- and picked up two hits in that 3-2 M's victory that Tejeda didn't receive a decision in.

Cha Seung Baek takes the hill for the Mariners, a week off his six runs in 3.1 innings debacle versus the Toronto Blue Jays in a 10-0 shellacking that ended the M's last home-stand. Of course, it should be reminded that Baek kept the Rangers scorelss through seven innings in the start prior to that. In his career, Baek has tossed fifteen scorelss innings against the Rangers, split between two starts. It goes without saying that that streak has to come to an end sometime, and it more than liekly will tomorrow in the Ranger's home ball-park. Still, that doesn't mean the Rangers will score many runs. Of the four hits he has given up against the Rangers, all of them have been for singles. Obviously, Cha Seung has got the Rangers figured out to some eextent, which bodes well for his chances to make the 2007 rotation.

With Baek on the mound, I think the Mariners have a good chance in tomorrow's game, especially with Beltre in the line-up against Tejeda. I say 6-1, Mariners, and speaking of a score that confidently agaisnt an opponent in the AL West, I know I'm goig to regret it....

A tale of two bullpens.


The disparity between the bullpens for the marienrs and the Rangers couldn't be more stark then what was on display in this afternoon's game. After jumping out to a 4-1 lead over Gil Meche and the Mariners after four innings, the Mariners' bats exploded for nine runs in betwen the fifth and eighth innings. Meanwhile, the Mariners' bull-pen allowed just one run during that span, and the tandem of Fruto-Sherill-Huber combined retire the last 14 Royals batters in a row.

The Mariners once again reached double figures in base-hits, as they have done in every game of this series. Five Mariners batters had multiple hits, including Ichiro, who with two hits to reamin tied with the Rangers' Michael Young for the league-lead with 203. Chris Snelling and Kenji Johjima both hit two-run home-runs in the ballgame- the third on the year for Snelling, and the 17th for Johjima, who will more than likely be sadly over-looked in the Rookie of the Year voting- with both home-runs coming in the late rally against the Royals' sorry bullpen. Beltre had a single and a walk in four at-bats as his average stays at .262.

Considering that the M's batted .353, slugged .533, and scored 33 runs in this four-game series, it's hard to believe that they merely managed a split. But the M's pitching staff hardly took advantage during this series, as the M's arms allowed a .302 average, .504 slugging, and 30 runs allowed during the four games. In today's ball-game, far from being any sort of match-up of two starters on strong streaks, instead Gil Meche just pitched good enough to win. In six innings, Meche allowed nine hits, two walks, and five runs, but as it was said on the post-game show, "Meche has pitched good enough to win and lost at points this season, so we'll take it." With his eleventh win on the season, Meche has reached his second-most total in his career as he contineus to seek a big off-season free-agent contract, either offered by the Mariners or whoever puts a bid in for his services.

In contrast, Runelvys Hernandez may not have pitched that horribly- and he avoided picking up the loss- but by allowing four runs in 4.2 innings, it was hardly as strong a start that Hernandez has been pitching for the Royals over the past month or so.

Here's hoping the Mariners' hot bats continue into the next series versus the Rangers- and that the pitching staff can offer some performances that will take advantage of any hot hitting. In the 13 games between the two clubs so far this year, with Texas winning nine against the M's so far, the Mariners have done a respectable job scoring against the Rangers, averaging an exact five runs a game. The problem is that the M's pitching staff has allowed an exact six runs per game. Both the M's offense and pitching against the Rangers has been wildly erratic this year. Back in May, two days after being shut-out 2-0 by John Rheinecker, the M's scored 14 runs to help Felix Hernandez win a 14-5 ball-game. And who can forget back in August when Joel Pineiro kept the Rangers scoreless through five innings before allowing six runs in 1.1 innings?

Felix takes the mound for the first game of the series tomorrow night, hoping to supplied once again with a barrage of Mariner offensive heroics. That 14-5 win was Felix's only victory in four tries versus this year, to go along with two losses. However, in his most recent start against Texas- which also was his last start over-all a week ago- Felix allowed one run in 5.2 innings and didn't get the decision in a 5-2 Rangers victory. In six career starts versus the Rangers, Felix has some pretty lousy numbers, with a 6.03 ERA in 34.1 innings, and allowing 53 base-runners during that span. Michael Young and Gary matthews Jr. have particualrly given the young King fits, by combining to hit .424 (14-for-33) off Felix, with nine RBIs (Matthew has seven of those). However, luckily for Felix, although the top of the order has seemed to have figured Felix out, it can't be said the same about the middle of the line-up, as Mark Teixiera and Hank Blalock have combined to hit .129 with 10 strikeouts in 31 at-bats.

Kevin Millwood, who picked up the loss despite allowing just three runs in six innings versus the Mariners last week, takes the mound for the Rangers. Despite picking up the loss, Millwood's career record versus the Mariners now stands at 4-2, and his career ERA is lowered to 3.92. Indeed, in that last game versus the M's, Millwood was one three-run home-run from Johjima away from shutting the Mariners out through six innings. Johjima now owns a career 1.091 OPS against Millwood, the second highest of any Mariner off Kevin, right behind Ben Broussard who has hit a home-run in seven career at-bats for a 1.232 OPS. Richie Sexson enjoys batting against Millwood as well, with a .984 career OPS in 29 at-bats and though he may lack the gaudy power numbers his teammates may have against Millwood, Beltre owns a .273 career average off Millwood in 33 at-bats.

On the surface, Millwood versus Felix sounds like it has the makings of a low-scoring tight-knit ball-game. But those are very rare in Arlington. Instead, I do predict the M's bats to continue to rake and score runs, but I also expect Felix to allow some crooked numbers as well. And since they're playing a team in their own division, I'm going to have to give the edge to the Rangers. 12-8 is my stab at the final score in favor of the Rangers, with Pinero, during junk time, allowing the game to get away from any chance of a comeback...

After 32 days removed from the starting rotation- and 16.1 innings and a 3.86 ERA since- Joel Pinero was re-inserted in the Mariners' starting rotation in today's ballgame versus the lowly Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately, the results for Joel's first start in a motnh were sadly expected: seven runs allowed on seven hits in four innings to increase his over-all season to 6.27. Whatever case Pinero attempted to make to preserve hisspot in the rotation was rendered moot. And Mike Hargove's pronouncement that Joel shall remain in the starting rotation for the rest of the season should send shudders down the spines of every Mariner fan who are still following, sadly, this train-wreck of a season.

It's hard to say if the seven-run effort by the Royals- who have now tallied up 25 runs in the first three games of this series- are due more to the more lively bats of these new-look Royals or simply are a cause of Pinero taking the mound. Granted, the bat of Ryan Shealy was able to be kept silenced in today's ball-game as he went hitless in two at-bats (plus a walk and a hit-by-pitch by Pinero) but when you consider that Pinero allowed Joey Gathright's first career home-run- a two-run shot in the third inning- there's hardly any room or reason to celebrate. I can understand nine RBIs in two-games from a top prospect who was Todd Helton's heair apparent at one point, but allowing a two-run home-run to a slap-happy outfielder who entered the game batting .229? That's inexcusable.

The Royals were very effective in making the most of their opportunities. Their seven runs were knocked in on eight hits, and only four runners were left on base by Royals batters. The Mariners may have been able to out-hit the Royals 10-8, but the bats were stymied by a very effective starting performance from Mark Redman- who I still think would be a smart free-agent signing for the M's as he would be a cheap option to nail down the #4 spot in the rotation. Redman limited the M's to eight singles through eight innings, before Mike Morse and Ichiro Suzuki had RBI doubles in the eighth. Otherwise, the M's were able to get nothing going against Redman. who came one out away from throwing his third complete game of the season before reliever Joe Nelson came in and struck out Adrian Beltre on three strikes, thus picking up his eighth save of the season.

Perhaps the only positive outcome of Pinero's expected lousy start was that the M's were able to get a long look at rookie left-hander Ryan Feierabend, who after tossing two innings of hitless relief in last week's 10-0 blowout loss at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, tossed four innings of one-hit scoreless relief in today's ballgame. That means, so far over his young career- so small sample size warning should be in effect- that Feierabend has tossed six innings of one-hit scoreless ball. Shades of Mark Lowe...

The other highlights for today's ballgame was all Ichiro, as he reached the 200 plateau for the sixth time in his career, extending his major-league record of most 200-hit seasons to begin a career with. Ichiro also set an American league record by stealing his 33rd consecutive base, breaking the record set by the Royals' Willie Wilson. Years spent in the Japanese league be damned, their should be no argument of whether or not Ichiro belongs in the Hall of Fame. He most obviously does.

Beltre went 1-for-4 in today's ball-game, dropping his record to .262. It was quite a let-down from the ball-game the day before, when Beltre went 3-for-4 for the second game in a row with 5 RBIs as he came a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Beltre's heroics yesterday helped the Mariners over-come an early 6-0 deficit as they clawed and fought their way back to eventually win 12-8.

The Royals jumped to their early lead yesterday when Ryan Shealy hit a grand-slam in the first inning off of Francisco Cruceta, who showed that he belonged in the starting rotation just as much as Joel Pinero does. Only the Royals would be able to hit a grand-slam in the first inning and not win a ball-game, though I recall that did happen to the A's in the 1988 World Series, so I guess I can't say that such a series of events would "only" happen to the Royals...

Gil Meche attempts to even out the four game series tomorrow for the Mariners. Meche hasn't allowed more than five hits or two runs in any of his last four starts, so chances look good that he might be able to win his second decision in a row after going nearly two months between wins #9 and #10. In his only start versus the Royals this season, he limited Kansas City to one run in seven innings last June. That win evened Meche's career record versus Kansas City to 3-3 with a 4.66 ERA, which includes one of Meche's two career shut-outs. The Royals batters that meche needs to be wary of are centerfielder David DeJesus, who of his four hits in eight career at-bats versus Meche three have gone for extra bases for an 1.806 OPS. Angel Berroa has also hit will against Meche- five hits in 14 at-bats for a .357 average. Obviously Meche has yet to face Shealy yet in his career, but the new Royals' slugger has a drastic split versus right-handers as opposed to lefties (.908 OPS to .701). So there are a few bats in the Royals' line-up that could jump out and sting Meche's offerings.

Going for the Royals is Runelvys Hernandez, who was fairly volatile in his most recent start, a 5-3 victory over the Indians, as he took some swings at catcher John Buck in between innings. It appears that Hernandez has finally over-come the various injuries that have dogged him throughout his career, as he has had a streak of solid outings recently, winning four of his past six decisions which include a 2-0 shut-out of the Toronto Blue Jays. Hernandez may have a losing record against the Mariners, 1-2, but he does hold a career 3.60 ERA versus the Mariners in his career. This will be Hernandez's first start against the Mariners this season, and there are a number of batters in the Mariner line-up who, no doubt, are excited to be facing Hernandez's offerings tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully, Hargrove inserts Mike Morse in the line-up again, perhaps starting right-field for the second day in a row over Chris "Doyle" Snelling, as Morse has hit a double and home-run in three career at-bats off Hernandez for a 2.667 OPS. Beltre has a double and a triple in ten career at-bats off Hernandez for a 1.100 OPS, and even Willie Bloomquist has a 1.250 OPS off Hernandez in eight at-bats.

So which starting pitcher will continue his streak of good performances. If I had to pick one, I think I would side with Meche. Still, there's every possibility that both pitchers might be able to dial in outstanding performances. Although 48 runs may have been scored in the first three games, I wouldn't bat an eye if a "pitcher's duel" were to occur before these two post-Tommy John surgery survivors. Still, I do think the Mariners will come on top and split this series: 5-3, M's.

This is ridiculous.

Only against the Mariners can Odalis Perez cough up ten hits and six runs in five innings and pick up a win. The Marienrs don't even deserve to call themselves a 'major-league' team.

One day after being shut-out, the Mariners' offense, does, indeed 'explode' against the Royals as they score eight runs. However, Jarrod Washburn obviously had some problems with these new-look Royals, who I told you weren't the sam pathetic Royals team we all new and loved. For the second consecutive game the M's pitching staff allows ten runs, as Washburn raised his ERA 0.19 points.

And what, exactly, did I say about Ryan Shealy and this game? Oh yeah:
I'm a little wary of this kid Shealy that the Royals have. He's been putting up good numbers for the Royals since coming over from the Rockies- .301 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 40 games. He might be the unheralded difference in tomorrow's ballgame...

Ding ding ding! Too bad my view in the tea leaves resulted in the Mariners' squandering their highest offensive output since a 10-5 trouncing of the Baltimore Orioles on July 31.

And seriously, when your top two batters both go 3-for-4 and each knock in three runs, what's the likeliehood that you'll lose the ball-game? Pretty good, if you're the Seattle Mariners, as those are exactly the lines that both Ichiro and Beltre provided in this afternoon's game. And to keep the totals identical, both hit home-runs as well, Ichiro hitting his eighth, and Beltre his eighteenth.

However, that tandem was not nearly enough to counter-act Shealy and Esteban German combining to go 5-for-9 with eight RBIs. And as Jarrod Washburn is unable to once again take advantage of one of the best Mariners' offensive gifts handed to him on the season (in the four starts he has pitched that the marienrs have scored at least four runs, Washburn's record is 0-1) it is quite clear that Washburn isn't even sniffing at deserving the $9.375 million he is earning this year as his record drops to 8-14.

At least one of the highlights of the night is that Beltre's average raised four points to .259 and his OPS was raised eight points to .754. Hopefully, Beltre can finish the year out of the .250s zone, the range of mediocrity.

Francisco Cruceta takes the mound for the Mariners tomorrow, attmepting to limit the M's losing streak to just two games. This will be Cruceta's third major league start, his fourth over-all appearance, and his second for the Mariners after allowing three base-runners in 1.1 innings against Texas last Sunday. As a 25-year old journey-man with control and home-run issues in his career, not much should be expected from Cruceta as a starter. Cruceta may have finished with a 13-9 record in triple-A, he still allowed 25 home-runs in 160.1 innings. That 1.6 ratio falls in line with Cruceta's average throughout his career, and are alarming numbers for a minor leaguer. Plus the Royals' .437 winning percentage versus right-handed pitchers (45-58) is leagues better than their .273 record versus left-handers (12-32).

Taking the mound for the Royals in this marquee match-up is Luke Hudson, who enters the start with a 5.25 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. The only current Mariner to have a hit off Hudson is Ben Broussard, who in two at-bats has hit a home-run. No other Mariner has an at-bat versus Hudson besides Eduardo Perez.

So who will win this battle of medicority? With the Royals bringing in their smallest crowd of the season in today's victory over the Mariners- 8,839- it's hard to imagine much more coming for tomorrow's exciting Cruceta-Hudson showdown. Though it would be nice if a young pitcher for the Mariners would dominate the opposing team in a start, that only seems to happen to the Marienrs, not for them. I call the Royals in tomorrow's game- 7-4. And I wouldn't be surprised to see Shealy jack another...

Not even close!


Jsut as meche's winless streak came to an end, the Mariners' streak of winning all of Cha Seung baek's starts ended in today's 10-0 fiasco. As noted in my previous post, baek has had a history of poor luck against the Blue Jays, and in two career starts has now allowed 14 earned runs in a career six innings against Toronto over two starts. Yikes!

And, as I noted, Burnett can dominate the marienrs when he is "on." And he was defintiely "on" today. Over eight innings, Burnett allowed no runs on six hits and struck out eleven, as the Marienrs were shut-out for a major-league leading (and club-record tying) fifteenth time, though it feels like they've been shut-out 115 times this year.

The Mariners offense were able to generate nothing against Burnett, as of the seven hits against B.J., only two went for extra bases- doubles by Adrian Beltre and Chris Snelling. (beltre's double maintaining his average at a gag-a-riffic .255.) And, to nobody's surprise who's follwod the M's hack-tastic season so far, managed only two walks against Burnett's 11 K's. On the contrary, the patient Blue Jays worked seven walks against M's pitching, and combined with 12 hits that's a lot of baserunners for an afternoon. To compare the various degress of effectivenss of the two teams' offenses, take a look at the number of men left on base- seven for the Blue Jays, fifteen for the M's.


All though they do end up splitting the six-game home-stand with a .500 record, the Mariners get an imemdiate chance to right their ship on the first game of their road trip as it takes them striaght into the heart of baseball medicocrity in Kansas City. However, while typically a trip to Kansas City may cause a marienrs fan to rub their hands and lick their chops in glee, it must be pointed out that this a different, younger, and more talented Royals club then we've seen recently. As I write this, the Royal are roughing up Jake Westbrook and the Indians 6-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. None of the Royals' top six batters have abatting average below .270. This will be the first time the Mariners get a look at first-baseman Ryan Shealy, who at one point was rumored to be pushing Todd Helton out of Colorado. And last night, pitcher Runelys Hernandez took some swings at catcher John Buck, despite the team coming on top of a 5-3 win.

Thos Royals are muy feisty!

However, despite their offense, the key weakness for the Royals has been their pitching for a long while. Case in point is the Royals' starter for the first game of the series, Odalis perez, who pouted and burned so many bridges for the Dodogers while posting up such guady numbers as a 4-4 record and 6.83 ERA that I bet the Dodgers' braintrust quietly called the Royals' managemtn team "suckers" for allowing them an opportunity to dump Perez in Kansas City. For the Royals, his numbers have been not-quite-as-bad: 1-3 with a 5.48 ERA in eight starts.

However, he is a left-hander facing the Mariners for the first time. For some reason, that messes with the teams' fragile mental state. Of the two current Mariers who have received more than six at-bats against Perez, both Beltre and Sexson have three hits for a .500 average, and Eduardo Perez has homered off Perez in four at-bats. I'm a-thinking that Perez's eroding physical skills and continued arm troubles over the past couple of years will be no problem for the M's bats. If they can't take advantage of an obvious below-replacement level pitcher, then their offense truly is the worst in Seattle's history.

Hoping to reap the rewards of a generous Mariners' offense is Jarrod Washburn, fresh off his six-inning one-run no-decision against Texas last week. Washburn has had little problems with Kansas City throughout his career, posting a 6-3 record and 3.13 ERA in 11 starts, though he did allow seven runs versus Kansas City in 4.1 innings in his only start against him this year, so let's hope he pitches as he did last week and not how he did last June. Mike Sweeney- has had discovered his bat as of recently- has enjoyed good career success versus Washburn, with a .346 average and .885 OPS in 26 at-bats. And John Buck, Emil Brown, and Angel Berroa have homered off Washburn in limited at-bats, though he has kept second baseman Mark Grudzielanke to one hit in eleven at-bats.

For an "out-burst" by the M's, I guess they would have to score six runs with this offense. As long as Washburn can keep the Royals to fewer than that- which he had trouble doing a few months ago- the Marienrs should be able to go back in the win column. Though I'm a little wary of this kid Shealy that the Royals have. He's been putting up good numbers for the Royals since coming over from the Rockies- .301 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 40 games. He might be the unheralded difference in tomorrow's ballgame...

Gil Meche picks up his tenth win!


Yup, it only took two months but Meche finally racked up his long-sought double-digit win of the season, 4-2 against the Blue Jays, the team that he last won against on July 14th. In 5.1 innings, Meche was a two-run Vernon Wells home-run away from keeping the Jays scoreless. Of the 91 pitches Meche threw in tonight's start, 63 went for strieks as heracked up seven strike-outs against the free-swinging Blue Jays. meche was supported from some sterling pitching out of the bullpen, as five relievers combined to keep the Jays scorelss- pitching their way out of two bases loaded jams- with J.J. Putz finishing up for his 32nd save, and preserving meche's tenth victory.

On the offensive side, the Marienrs had a good night with the bats, as they dang near took batting practice in the three innings off the Jays starter, Shawn Marcum. Some baseball experts liken Marcum to the Jays' ace Roy Halladay, but judging by tonight's performance Marcum is a far ways off in following in Halladay's footsteps. Still, let's not forget that after an eye-opening first season, including a one-hitter in his second major league start, in 1998 Halladay found himself back in A ball two years later learning to pitch all over again. So it's probably too soon to pass judgement on the Jays' young right-hander.

Adrian Beltre got the M's scoring starting off with a first-inning solo home-run, which Rick Rizz on the radio tributed to Beltre's new son, Adrian Jr. This is Adrian's 17th home-run of the season, which would be a good number for a slugger, perhaps, in the mid-80s when 20 home-runs was considered a good bench-mark for a slugger. However, when you consider that Beltre's home-run out-put measures less than a third of what the Phillies' Ryan Howard has produced on the season, the differences are quite stark.

Raul Ibanez contributed his 27th home-run, and both Jose Lopez and Chris Snelling (batting in the number nine hole) contributed RBI singles to complete the Mariners' scoring. Still, the Mariners had plenty of lost opportunities on the evening, considering that they tallied twelve hits, two walks, and stranded twelve base-runners. It cannot be denied that the combined efforts by the Mariners' pitching this evening helped bail out an offense that squandered their chances to put this game out of reach.

The victory was a turn-around from the prior evening's game, in which the tandem of Ted Lilly and the Jays' superiro offense proved, to nobody's surprise, to be too much for the M's Jake Woods. Woods once again was unable to manange to pitch through six innings, a mark he has yet to reach in any of his five starts on the season. Through 5.1 innings on Monday evening, Woods allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks, as the Blue Jays eseentially locked the game up with a 5-0 lead in the fourth.

That was in part due to the anemic out-put the M's bats managed against Jays' starter Ted Lilly, who discovered his Mariner-killing ways in holding the M's to two runs in seven innings. Not only was it Lilly's third consecutive strong start, but it also allowed Ted to reach a career high in wins with 13. Beltre did manage one hit against Ted, and with his 2-for-9 performance over the series' first two games- home-run or not- his average has dropped to .255 after reaching a season-hgih of .268 just a scant two weeks ago.


Luckily, A.J. Burnett is taking the mound for the Jays tomorrow night, and Beltre has been able to hit A.J. pretty well. Over his career, Beltre has a .278 batting average against Burnett in 18 at-bats, with his five hits including three doubles and a home-run for a .927 OPS. The Mariners, as a whole, have rocked Burnett pretty hard in the two career starts he has against them. A.J. has yet to win a game, and holds a 5.73 ERA against Seattle, allowing seven earned runs in 11 innings. Most of the rocking by Seattle's bats against Burnett happened in the last start against he had against Seattle, when Burnett allowed ten hits and five runs in four innings of what would eventually be a 7-4 loss. In his only other start againt Seattle this year, however, Burnett got a no-decision as he limited the M's to two runs over seven innings. So it's evident that Burnett can dominate the Mariners if he's "on."

Cha Seung baek takes the mound for the Mariners in a match-up against Burnett, and the M's radio guys were quite fond of pointing out the fact that the marienrs have won all four games that Baek has started this season, and baek himself has a 3-0 record as he makes a strong case to be in Seattle's 2007 rotation. Obviously, that streak can't continue indefinitely, specially when you consider his last start baek had against Toronto- back in 2004- Baek allowed eight runs in just 2.2 innings, including a home-run to Vernon Wells.

So I find it highly unlikely that either Baek's streak or the Mariners' winning streak will continue in tomorrow's game. Still, I think it will be a fairly tight game, with a final score along the lines of 5-4, with the bullpens deciding the outcome. Still, finishing the home-stand 3-3 is as good- if not better- than could've been expected as it got under way.

Here's hoping I'm wrong, and the M's wind up with a 4-2 home-stand!

Can't win them all


So the Mariners were all primed to sweep this three-game series against the Rangers, with Felix Hernandez delivering a King-like performance on the mound. However, once again the game devolved into a 2-2 grudge-match and was decided by a showdown of the team's bullpens. This time around, extra innings were averted as the Rangers were able to scratch a couple of runs out against Jon Huber in the top of the ninth inning and Texas' ace closer Akinori Otsuka got the save in the ninth by coaxing a double-play grounder from Jose Lopez with two runners on.

Felix's start may have been King-like, allowing eight baserunners and one run in 5.2 innings, but once again Felix was done in by his figurative Achille's heel, high pitch counts. That's going to happen with power pitchers that rack up a good number of strike-outs. However, regardless of how great it is to see Felix tally up some impressive strikeout numbers, he would simply be more effective if he were able to induce groundballs at a better rate. It would reduce the number of pitches on his arm, and allow him to stay longer in the game. As it was, Felix couldn't make it through the sixth inning after throwing 105 pitches, forcing him to hand the ball over to a much-taxed bullpen.

Though it was unfortunate that Jon Huber had to pick up his first major-league loss after picking up his first win, for a 25-year old in his fifth career appearance it's asking a lot to shut down a team with such an offensively potent line-up as the Rangers' for two nights in a row. And the player that did him in was the much-maligned Michael Young, who knocked in the go ahead run with his third hit of the ball-game. The folks over at USS Mariner may consider Michael Young to be one of the game's most "over-rated" ball-players- saying that his numbers have been inflated by playing at Arlington- but if you look over his page at Hardball Times there is much to like about Young's production. Consistently batting between .342 to .374 with runners in scoring position over the past few years? Creating between 6 to 7.4 runs per game during that span? Having clutch factor of 11 so far this year?

I'm sorry, I know that both Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt have tremendous upside, but Young himself has yet to reach thirty. His numbers at Safeco may not be eye-popping fantastic- .274 career average and .693 OPS, but they are better than Lopez's (.249-.672) and comparable to Betancourt's (.284-.700). If Young is feeling no longer welcome in Arlington, Seattle should make a chance to add him to the roster. Seeing a Ichiro-Young tandem at the top of the order would be fantastic.

At any rate, the loss in today's game deprives the M's a shot at a four-game winning streak and leaves them at 67-73, a precarious nine games from the sub-.500 edge. Toronto rolls into town, and Seattle has had success against the Blue Jays this year. Well, success being measured by the fact that the teams have split six games, thus the Mariners have a better winning percentage against the Blue Jays than they do the rest of baseball. Plus, the Blue Jays come into town scuffling, having lost two of three from the Angels in the first leg of their West Coast trip.

Ted Lilly takes the mound for the Blue Jays in tomorrow night's game. And though he might not have the best of career numbers versus the M's- 3-6 record with a 6.24 ERA- Lilly will always have a spot as a "Mariner killer" in my heart when he stymied the M's on three hits in six innings for Oakldn in an eventual 12-0 victory for the A's in late Septemmber, as the M's and the A's were racing each other down to the wire for the AL West divison championship. The M's were out of it at that point, but it was the final twist of the knife into the heart of Mariners' fans, as their last competitive season wound down to a disappointing conclusion.

At any rate, this is Lilly's first start against the Mariners this season. Ichiro, who is now one hit behind Michael Young in the chase for most hits in the league (192 to 193) is lookign forward to facing Lilly, as Ichiro holds a career .345 average against Ted in 29 at-bats. Adrian Beltre, who should be back in the line-up tomorrow, has also hit Lilly well, with a .444 average and one home-run against Ted in nine at-bats. However, the M's clean-up hitter, Raul Ibanez, has struggled against Lilly, collecting just two hits in ten career at-bats, with four strike-outs.

Attemtping to keep the M's losing streak to just one is Jake Woods, who takes the mound to challenge Lilly. Woods is fresh from allowing three runs in four innings in a rain-interuppted start at Detroit last week. And when you consider all of those runs came in the first inning, Woods had no problem correcting himself and limiting the Tigers' line-up the rest of the game, before a near two-hour rain dealy chased him from the mound. Woods owns a career 5.06 ERA in 5.1 innings against Toronto, all in relief. Outfielder Frank Catalanatto has hit the Blue Jays' only home-run off Woods.

I see the game being close, with Woods keeping the M's in game for the most part. I wouldn't be surprised if the game is decided, once again, by the teams' bull-pens. Still, I think the Blue Jays have the edge in this one, eking out a 6-4 victory.

Unless, of course, Adrian returns rejuvenated from the birth of his son (not daughter as I erronously reported) Adrian Jr. and slugs three home runs. Welcome back, Adrian! And congratulations!

Well, after a grueling four-hour, sixteen-minute showdown between the Marienrs and the Rangers, Jose Lopez was able to line an offering from Josh Rupe into center field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the thirteenth. As the ball bounced over the wall, Raul Ibanez scampered home from third as Lopez's ground-rule "single" snapped a 2-2 ballgame, and handed the marienrs their second straight win in kicking off their home-stand, and fourth win in a row over-all.

Admittedly, this was hardly the outcome of the game I was expecting prior to it's start. A Washburn-Tejeda match-up seemed to guarantee a solid offensive performance from both teams' bats. Instead, both teams' bats did nothing except flail away, doing a very good job of missing the ball in its entirety. The Rangers struck out 14 times in last nights game, compared to the Marienrs' 10 team Ks. More of an eye-opener, and which led directly to the mariners' win in the thirteenth, was the patience of the M's bats: they gained seven walks to the Rangers' three. Three of the Mariners walks came in the thirteenth inning, when both John Rheinecker and Josh Rupe exhibited a severe lack of control.

In a touching case of coming full-circle, Rheinecker picked up the loss in relief, thus losing a game against the Rangers in which Jarrod Washburn delivered an outstanding performance for the M's. Indeed, Waashburn allowed one run in six innings, allowing only eight base-runners during that span. He would've picked up the win had J.J. Putz not allowed a tying two-out home-run to Gary Matthews Jr. in the ninth inning. Matthews has been a particular pest against the Marienrs in recent years, with a .312 career average and .514 career slugging percentage against the Mariners. Against J.J., those numbers are even more severe- a .600 average with two doubles and two home-runs in 10 at-bats. So, when J.J. fell into a full-count against Matthews and delivered a fast-ball down the middle, nobody should've been surprised when a game-tying home-run was the result.

Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope the M's learned some lessons about 'fundamentals' from last night's game. Though chancesare the M's will revert to their hack-tastic ways in this afternoon's game against the Rangers' Adam Eaton.

In fact, with an Eaton-Hernandez match-up this game should feature strikeouts galore. Or, rather, if Felix has perhaps learned anything from this season so far, it's to concentrate on coaxing groundballs, to save both his arm as well as to maximize his innings pitched. Perhaps if Felix is able to adopt this new approach, he might be able to reversal his poor record against the Rangers. In his career, Felix holds a 1-3 record with a 6.91 ERA, allowing 45 base-runners in 28.2 innings. In his three outings against the Rangers this season, Felix has allowed a minimum of four runs in each game. Michael Young, in particular, looks forward to starts from Felix Hernandez, as he boasts a .438 average and 1.1.25 off the King in 16 at-bats, though Felix has done a good job of nullifying the offensive threat of Mark Teixieira and Hank Blalock, who have combined to hit .120 (3-for-25) off Felix with eight strikeouts.

Adam Eaton has a batter record versus the mariners- a career 2-2 record with a 4.09 ERA, though he too has allowed plenty of baserunenrs against them, 31 in 22 innings. This is hissecond match-up against Seattle this year, after holding the M's to two runs in six innings last month. Richie Seson licks his chops facing Eaton, with a .417 average and 1.333slugging percentage against Adam in 12 at-bats including two home-runs. However, Eaton has had no problem with Ichiro, limiting his output to two hits in eleven at-bats for a .182 average.

It's a shame that Beltre has been out of the line-up the past couple of days, for he has enjoyed good success against Adam Eaton in his career as well. In 42 career at-bats, Beltre has hit .310 with an OPS of .822 against Eaton. However, his wife has given birth to the couple'ssecond daughter in Los Angeles, which is thereason why Beltre has been absent and Ute Bloomquist has been manningthird. I understnad that it's possible for Beltre to return to the line-up this afternoon which bodes well for the Mariners.

Even still, I predict that the Rangers will scavenge one win out of this series. It won't be a blow-out, and I',m not expecting offensive heroics from either side, except maybe a home-run from Sexson. But in the end, I think Eaton will out-pitch Hernandez. 5-3, Rangers.

Home Runs with runners on = win!


Okay, so out of my possible putcoems for tonight's game, I didn't factor in the possibility of the Mariners hitting two big home runs with runners on, and effective pitching from Cha Seung Baek shutting down the Rangers' offense. Yet that is exactly what played out in tonight's game, with Kenji Johjima's fith-inning home-run three-run home-run (after the Mariners were unable to get a basehit through four innings) and Richie Sexson's eighth-inning grand slam (his fifth this year, and his first since hitting one against Tampa Bay last month) accounting for the M's offense.

The game started off with the pitching-match possibility I envisioned, and I had flashback's of the Mariners' 2-0 Memorial Day loss against John Rheinecker and the Rangers. However, in this occasion, the Mariners had the younger pitcher stymying the Rangers' bats, as opposed to Rheinecker out-pitching Jarrod Washburn. Both pitchers came out very aggressive and throwing lots of first pitch strikes in tonight's ball-game- 65 of Millwood's 102 pitches went for strikes; 60 of Baek's 93 were. The M's were very hacktastic early in the ball-game, as per usual. At one point, Millwood had struck out four over the third and fourth innings. Chris Snelling dialed in a Willie Bloomquist-like performance for the evening, as he had problems taking the bat off his shoulder as he was called out on strikes out all three times he was at-bat. (In comparison, Bloomquist only struck out once in three at-bats.)

However, although Millwood was able to take advantgae of the M's free-swinging ways to chalk up seven strike-outs compared to the three that Baek picked up, Baek did a better job limiting the number of mistakes to the Rangers' bats. Indeed, with his seven scoreless innings, Baek has now kept the Rangers scorelss over fifteen innings in the two starts he has faced him. Obviously, that is fantastic and exactly what the M's need from their starting pitcher- not just pitchers who can beat teams in their own division, but preferably pitchers that can dominate and demoralize the opposition!

The only thing keeping this game from being a shut-put was a mild hiccup from Joel Pineiro in the ninth inning, as Joel allowed two runs on three hits and an error in the inning. Still, all-in-all it was a fantastic game, with sorely-needed clutch production from the M's bats with runners on base, and a dominating outing from the sterting pitcher. Hopefully, this game will set the template for many others like it in 2007.

The Mariners face Robinson Tejeda in the second game of the series tomorrow. This will be the first career start for the 24-year old right-hdnare, who sports a collection of off-speed pitches in his repetoire: a sinker, curve, and change. Obtained in the off-season trade for David Dellucci, Tejada has spent the majority of the season in the minors, making this his tenth start of the season. For AAA Oklahoma, Tejeda went 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. To get an idea of how Tejeda has performed so far against the AL West, he has struggled against the Angels, giving up 5 runs in 3.1 innings in his only start against Los Angeles. However, Tejeda has dominated the A's so far in his career, winning both games he has started versus Oakland, and not allowing an earned run in 12.1 innings. No current Mariner batter has yet to face Tejeda, so the team really will be introduced to the young pitcher for the first time- and that rarely works out in the Mariners' favor.

Jarrod Washburn takes the mound for the Mariners as they attempt to take the first two games of the series. Though Washburn has split his last four decisions, he has also allowed 16 earned runs in 25.2 innings over that span for a 5.71 ERA. Washburn has decent career numbers against the Rangers, with a 7-6 record and 4.10 ERA in 19 career starts. That ridiculous shut-out loss at the hands of John Rheinecker on Memorial Day was Washburn's only match-up versus the Rangers this season, and he wasted seven innings of two-hit ball in that outing.

Washburn needsto keep the ball away from Michael Young in tomorrow's game. The All-Star shortstop, who was unfairly maligned by Rangers' owner Tom Hicks on a Texas radio show and criticized for not being a "clubhouse leader", has hit .286 with three home-runs in 42 at-bats for an .843 OPS. Carlos Lee has also hit Washburn pretty well- a .321 average and .845 OPS in 21 at-bats, and Hank Blalock owns a .360 average and .887 OPS in career 25 at-bats off Washburn.

So is it likely for Washburn to repeat his seven-inning two-run performance against the Rangers that he had earlier in the season in tomorrow's game? Given his tendencies to allow fly balls, I doubt it and I think that's what he'd have to do to earn a 'W'. However, does that mean Washburn will be out-pitched by Tejeda? It's dang near impossible to get a read on which pitcher or offense will do better in tomorrow's game, so I'll call it a toss-up. Each time has just as much of a chance of scoing a handfull of runs as the other. It depends on which team can score more than five runs that will become the winner. Yes, ladies and gents, balls will beflying tomorow, so if you're heading to the game at Safeco, be prepared to duck or to push small children aside in desperate hopes of retrieving a ballpark souvenoir.

3-3 better than 0-11


By taking two of three game from the fast-collapsing Tigers, the Marienrs return home after splitting their six-game road trip. This result is miles improved over the 0-11 record they had on their last trip, all against AL West inter-division rivals. Even though they weren't able to win any games against their division rivals on this latest road trip, I'll take .500 over .000 any day.

And over-all, the Mariners played a very competitive raod trip, with Monday's 6-2 loss at the hands of Detroit the only game not decided by one run or fewer. With a couple bloop hits or balls bouncing the other way (or two-out base-hits with runners on), the Mariners could've definitely had a 5-1 road trip. Still, considering that the TIgers swept the Mariners back in April- with all three games being decided by two runs or less- it is heartening for the M's to take two of three from the best team of the season, regardless of the fact that Detroit is fading as the season winds down.

By coming in top of these close games on the most recent road trip, the M's relied on outstanding pitching performances and some great defensive plays. In Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Tigers, Joel Pineiro- remember him?- dialed in 3.2 perfect innings in relief of Jake Woods after an 82-minute rain delay, striking out four. That was also the game in which Yuniesky Betancourt tagged out Magglio Ordonez, who reached on an infield single and attempted to take second on a wild throw. However, catcher Kenji Johjima was backing up first, and threw down to second where Betancourt covered and tagged out Ordonez as Magglio attempted to reach the bag. And on Wedensday, though he failed (again) to reach his tenth victory, Gil Meche tossed an effective 97 pitches over seven innings, shutting the Tigers' offense down on five hits and three walks.

How the Mariners did not win was through any clutch hitting by Adrian Beltre, who is sporting an 0-for-19 slump over his last four games. Beltre looked particularly clueless in Monday's 6-2 loss, striking out four times against Detroit starter nate Robrtson- Robertson's only strikeouts at the game. Beltre was swining so much, he was pratically swining at retun throws from the catcher back to the pitcher! To be fair, AB's two RBIs in Tuesday's 4-3 win was the difference of the game, with both runs being knocked in on infield outs with runenrs on. (I guess infield outs are acceptable with runenrs on- more than strike-outs, that is- but what do we have to do to get some mothafrickin' hits with mothafrickin' runners on?) Still, by reverting to his horrendous and clueless April-like approach to the plate, Beltre's average has dropped to .255, and his place in the batting order has dropped to eighth. Which seems appropriate.

It's now official: Howard Lincoln and the Mariners' ownership have spent $48 million on a .255 eighth-hitting third baseman!

After this successful- if not dominating- road trip, the Mariners return home to face the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rangers- to no surprise, as they play in the same division as the M's- have owned Seattle this year, winning seven of nine games. On the other hand, the Mariners have split six games with the Blue Jays. Toronto are just two wins behind Boston, and its been 13 years since that team's finished higher than thrid place, when they won their second of back-to-back World Series in 1993. As the only thing the Mariners have to look forward to for the rest of the year is to play the role of the spoiler, wouldn't it be fun to put the kibash on the hopes of Toronto fans? The Rangers, however, have been a stronger team on the road (37-33) than at home in Arlington this year (35-36). If they had been able to dominate at home, the AL West could've been a two-team race between Texas and Oakland. But, alas.

Regardless, the Ranger's road record doesn't bode that well for the Mariners' chances on this current homestand. I envision a split of this home-stand to be the best case scenario, with winning two games of six more likely.

The Mariners get to face Texas' ace, right-hander Kevin Millwood, in the opener. In three starts against Seattle this year, Millwood has won two of them. Though he has allowed 29 hits in 19 innings, he's walked only won Mariner due to the M's hack-tastic ways. Beltre only has two hits in nine at-bats versus Millwood this season, so look for his struggles to continue. Ichiro has loved facing Millwood this year, collecting seven hits in ten at-bats, and Ben Broussard is the only marienrs to face him this year. Beltre is a career .273 hitter with one home-run in 33 at-bats, so perhpas BA might hit a single while striking out three times. Sexson has also hit Millwood well, with a .308 average and three home-runs in 26 career at-bats. Still, considering Kevin's 4-1 career won-loss record and 3.82 ERA- and their titantic struggles against division rivals this year- the Mariners ahve their work cut out for them.

Cha Seung Baek, the young Taiwanese right-hander, takes the mound for the Mariners in his first start after ending the M's 12-game road losing streak last Saturday against Tampa Bay. Though Baek may lack the experience that Millwood carries into the game- this is Baek's only eleventh career start- it may be less of a mis-match than how it appears on paper. In his three starts for the Marienrs this year, Baek has pitched very effectively, holding opponents to a .180 batting average agaisnt while maintaing a 3.12 ERA in 17.1 innings. That ERA would be a lower if it wasn't for his near 1-to-1 hit-to-walk ratio (11-to-9). Cut that walk rate in half, and Baek's ERA would be hovering around 2.00. This is Baek's first start against Texas this year, but in his only career start against Texas from back in 2004, Baek dialed in eight shut-out innings, allowing three hits while picking up the win. Indeed, out of the Rangers' current line-up, none were ableto get any of those hits off Baek two years ago. I'm not expecting for Baek to throw a no-hitter as Florida rookie Annibal Sanchez did yesterday, but look for Baek to dial in a fairly effective start.

Still, it's hard to feel optimisitc about Seattle's chances versus Millwood and the Rangers. I'm still expecting for the Rangers to come out on top, with a 6-4 score. If it wasn't for Baek's run of success this season, I would say that the Rangers could score more runs, and Baek may very well lose it in this start and put up double digits by the fifth inning. However, it could very well be a pitcher's duel, with the final score along the lines of 3-2, and the game being decided by the team's bullpen, and the Rangers' bullpen hasn't been nearly as bad as in recent years past. Still, 6-4 Rangers sounds like a safe gamble.

Hargrove got out-Witted


ok, so due to the early start and the fact that I work week-ends, I was only able to tune into a few minutes of today's ballgame. I shut off the radio after the Mariners batted in the top of the eighth with the game seemingly in hand, leading by a 6-4 margin. But, one three-run home-run by Kevin Witt- this year's minor league home-run leader and long-time journeyman with plenty of pop in his bat- later and the Devil Rays wrapped up the series, two games to one. (Didn't I say the Mariners would be lucky to escape this series with one victory? Even if the they did stifle Delmon Young's bat.)

Ok, here's the thing. Kevin Witt has been around for a while and he strikes fear in the heart of nobody. There's a reason he's leading the league in home-runs as a 30-year old, and that's the fact that he can't hit major league pitching very well. Except, of course, first-pitch fastballs right down the middle. If Witt- or anyone- can't hit those there is no reason why they should be in the majors. And it's quite clear that not only Witt can hit them, but he can turn on them.

It should be asked why Felix was kept so long in the game at that point. He had all ready given up four runs in five innings before giving up Witt's homer- hardly the dominating start that he had in his prior start versus the Angels. Witt struggles against breaking stuff- a decent off-speed curve-ball would've had him flailing. As luck would have it, Felix had bounced the last three curve-balls in the dirt as he walked Ty Wiggington before Witt. So, just when you need an off-speed pitch for Witt to flail madly at, Hargrove decided to keep Felix in, although he had all ready tossed 101 pitches in 7.2 innings and clearly was running out of gas. I understand that Hargrove lacked Rafael Soriano and Julio Mateo, and that J.J. Putz had come in the 8th inning the night before to pitch a two-inning save, but still. Obviously Felix didn't have what you needed in that situation. If ever there was a timt to bring in George Sherrill- who holds left-handed gbatters to a .145 average- or Walla Walla's Eric O'Flaherty- keeping left-handers to .225- to face the left-handed hitting Witt, this would be it.

But, no. Hargrove rolled the dice and kept Felix in. The result? A game-winning three-run home-run from the bat of Witt. I feel the actions Hargrove is taking are deliberate. HE simply must not like managing baseball in the Pacific Northwest and wants out. But instead of simply resigning and sparing the misery he is inflicting on Marienrs fans, he is attempting to subvert them from within. Why? For out of spite, it appears. I mean, how many years will it take Felix's psyche to recover from being mishandled by Hargrove like so?

Truth be told, it's not as if the Marienrs had their chances to put the game away early yesterday. They batted Tampa Bay starter Brian Stokes around for seven hits and three walks in four innings, but only scored two runs. For the game, the marienrs had 13 hits and six runs, yet only scored four times and left a ridiculous 27 runners on. If the Mariners had gotten just one key two-out hit, the team would've prevented their inevitable Hargrove-induced slide to sub-.500. But instead the Marienrs showed their patented 2006-style lack of clutch, and a bunch of ducks were left, once again, clogging up the basepaths.

And by lack of clutch I'm looking squarely at Adrian beltre. His 0-for-5 from the three-spot of the marienrs' line-up makes it hard for a team to win a game. Of course, Ichiro's 0-for-6 from the lead-off spot makes it doubly hard. Sexson may have gotten on four times with two hits and two walks, but even if he went 5-for-5, it would be hard to compensate for Ichiro's and Beltre's 0-for-11 feat, leaving 14 runenrs on combined.

And Beltre's futility continues today. As I write this, the Tigers have a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning, despite Jarrod Washburn having retired 14 Detroit batters in a row. Tha Mariners have had no problem getting on base today against Detroit starter Nate Robertson, collecting eight hits and two walks- and just one run- so far to the four base-runners that Detroit's collected so far. Of course, to no surprise, none of those base-runners have been Ichiro or Beltre, as they have combined to go 0-for-8, with Beltre striking out all of eight times.

Its time for Beltre to move back down in the order. And, dare I say, to take Ichiro out of the lead-off spot?

Oh, and by the way, R.I.P. Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin.

The King's turn


As i live in Portland, OR with no cable access, the only way I can catch Mariners games is through the local sports AM radio station. Unfortunately, I flipped the radio on last night and instead of hearing the Mariners dramatically ending their 12-game road losing streak 4-3 over the Devil Rays last night, I was treated instead to the Oregon State-Eastern Washington college football game.

It upsets me to no end that everyone's focus in the sports world shifts to football all of a sudden as the calendar changes into September. I mean, yes the new football season's started and old rivalries have new blood and who do the pundits think will come out on top and blah de blah blah... but has anyone noticed there are some freakin' pennant races going on in baseball? I mean, nearly every team in the National League could be a potential wild card winner, and that means every passing day's outcome is a life-and-death matter for those team's fans.

I mean, it's not like the opening of baseball season in April detracts from the current basketball season. I mean, there is still two months left in the NBA at that point. And when the NBA finals do come around in June, I can understand the sports world focusing on basketball. I mean, June baseball is hardly of little importance, besides the AL beating up the NL in interleague play. But for football to detract from the most exciting part of the baseball season just doesn't make sense...

Admittedly, the pennant races and wild card results matter not to the Mariners and their fans. So perhaps I shouldn't get bent out of shpae due to the fact that I ended up with college football when I was expecting major league baseball. But, as I said, its the only way I get to follow the M's. And I don't like the best part of the baseball season to be superceded for football.

Anywya, on to the game. Yes, the M's won. Their first road win in exactly a month- last Aug. 2nd at Baltimore. Cha Seung Baek was the slayer of the beast, being stingy with the base-runners for a second start in a row, allowing seven in 6.2 innings. Who knows what's going to happen with the composition of the Mariners' starting rotation in the off-season- it's pretty much guaranteed that we can all say BUH-bye to Joel Pineiro, but will the M's resign Gil Meche or blow a wad of cash on Jason Schmidt/Barry Zito instead?- but if there is room for Baek in next year's rotiation, given what I've seen so far here in his late season efforts I would be comfortable with that.

Beltre led the Mariners' offensive attack, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI singles accounting for half of the M's four runs. He brought his batting average up a point, to .264. Given Beltre's horrendous start, if he can finish at .270 by the end of the year- his career mean that he would regress to- I think would be an ultimate individual accomplishment for Beltre in '06. Beltre was also involved in a ridiculous triple play in the third inning when, with Raul Ibanez striking out on a 3-2 pitch, Beltre took off for second before pulling up when it was obvious the throw from Tampa bay catch Dionar Navarro would beat him by a mile. After getting tagged out, this allowed Devil Rays shortstop Ben Zobrist to throw home, where Jose Lopez was attmepting to score, and Navarro tagged Lopez out. It was a 2-6-2 triple play- the second one that caught the M's this season- and according to SABR, it was the first triple play of that kin recorded in major league history.

Felix Hernandez takes the mound for the Mariners in the rubber game of the three game series, and if he's on top of his game like the five-hit 2-0 shut-out over the Angels in his last start, the Devil Rays have their work cut out for them. In two career appearances versus Tampa Bay, Felix has a 1-0 record with a 1.15 ERA and 13-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15.2 innings. The lethal bat of Delmon Young might be the only thinking keeping this game a cakewalk for the M's, but so far Young has been a non-factor in this series, which speaks well for the M's pitching corps.

For the Devil Rays, Brian Stokes is making his major league debut after being called up from AA Durham. Stokes is a 26-year old journeyman who went 7-7 with a 4.11 ERA for Durham. Baseball Prospectus has nothing on him, so I have no idea what kind of pitcher Stokes has. Chances are, considering that little has been said of the quality of Tampa Bay's pitching staff whether in the majors or the minors, that Stokes is a below replacement-level arm. Luckily, he's a right-hander so I find it doubtful that the M's will struggle to score as they have the past two games.

This game is pretty much one-sided. Felix should definitely dominate, and Beltre will raise his average to .265. 7-2 Mariners, final.

Jamie shields' the Devil Rays


Well, the answer to at least one of the questions I had for this weekends' series in Tampa Bay was answered Friday night: and that was that the Mariners would be unable to generate enough offense to beat Jamie Shields.

In his last two starts against the Mariners, Jamie has allowed three runs in 15 innings. Amazingly, he failed to earn a victory both times, losing a 2-0 game the first time, and being out of the game by the time Ty Wiggington's pinch-hit single knocked in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning of last night's 2-1 victory over the M's.

The only offense generated against Jamie was a second inning home run hit by Kenji Johjima. And that was all she wrote.

Meche, again, failed to earn his tenth win of the season and his first since mid-July. If he had gotten a lick of offense, he pitched well enough to win, allowing only four base-runners in eight innings and striking out eight. Only for the Mariners could a pitcher dial in a start like that and not win. Or for the Devil Rays as those numbers nearly mirror the start provided by Shields- seven innings, six base-runners.

Both teams got only five hits. It's just that Tampa Bay knew when the best times to get those hits were. And Adrian Beltre went 0-for-4 with two strike-outs to drop his season batting average to .263. At one point he was sniffing .270, now he's inching back towards the .250s.

Tonight the Mariners face J.P. Howell, a Kansas City Royals cast-off. Though Howell may have a 7.53 ERA on the season, his last start against Baltimore was a quality one, allowing just two runs in six innings. In Howell's only career appearance against the Mariners, he allowed six runs in five innings. Raul Ibanez owns the only Mariner home-run off Howell, with Beltre getting one hit in three at-bats. (Naturally, we should expect Howell to hand-cuff the M's offense!)

Young Korean right-hander Cha Seung Baek takes the mound for the Mariners in his third start of the season. In Baek's last start vlast Sunday, he two-hit the Boston Red Sox for nearly six innings, though he did give up five bases on balls. For his career, Baek has pitched only one inning against Tampa Bay, allowing no runs.

So tonight's game is one of those forgettable September match-ups of pitchers with two big question marks over their heads. Both teams are trotting them out there, not expecting much other than, hopefully, a clearer idea of how these pitchers will fit into future plans. There is no discernable edge to either team. Though Howell is below-replacement-level garbage, Delmon Young may take quite a liking to Baek's offerings. At any rate, I predict that this is the game that will be decided by the team's bullpwns,. which will ultimately doom Tampa bay. 10-3, Mariners.


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