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.

Can't Pass the Angels


Surprisingly, what was supposed to be a pitcher's duel in a match-up of Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver devolved into an 8-6 slugfest. Just as surprising was that Felix, after not allowing a home run in 31 innings entering the ballgame, allowed three in six innings, including two back-to-back home runs in the first inning, Gary Matthews with a three-run blast and Casey Kotchman following up with a solo home run. The tone was basically set from then.

Adrian Beltre picked up two hits in four at-bats, including an RBI double in the fifth that tied the game four-all. Yuniesky Betancourt knocked in Beltre with a single to put the Mariners ahead briefly, but Felix allowed his second three-run home run of the game to Vladimir Guerrero in the bottom half of the inning. All in all, it was undoubtedly Felix's worst performance of the season.

And just like that any momentum the Mariners had in pursuit of the Angels has been quickly snuffed, as the team with the halos reminded the M's who the best team is in the AL West.

Still, the M's return home having gone 6-4 on their road trip, a successful outcome no matter how its measured. They continue to play division rivals in their first series back against the Texas Rangers. Cha Seung Baek takes the mound hoping to compensate for Felix's poor outing. Four of Baek's past six starts have been quality starts, and he has a 2.84-to-5.34 home-to-road ERA splits. In his career, Baek has been very tough against the Rangers, with a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings over four starts, undefeated in three decisions. Nelson Cruz is the only current Ranger with successful numbers against Baek, with three hits, including a home run, in six at-bats. Its numbers like these that hopefully can put a halt to the M's two-game losing streak.

It doesn't hurt that the M's are facing Vincente Padilla, who has struggled in his career against Seattle. Over seven games- five starts- Padilla has compiled a 1-4 record with a 5.79 ERA in 32.2 innings, allowing 58 baserunners and six home runs. Padilla has been inconsistent this year, not being able to pich past the sixth inning in his last three starts, despite throwing seven-inning quality starts the three before that. Adrian Beltre is probably licking his chops to face Padilla in tonight's game, as Beltre has four home runs off Padilla in 20 career at-bats, the only hits he has off Padilla. Jose Vidro and Ichiro Suzuki also enjoy Padilla's offerings, having combined to bat .432 off Padilla in 44 at-bats, with six extra base-hits.

I expect the Mariners to get back on the winning track in tonight's game, but I'm also sure the game will be the low-scoring affair that last night's wasn't. Final call: 5-2, Mariners.

All Good Things Must Come to an End


Well, that was a wild ride, and it was fun while it lasted. But of course, facing Ervin Santana at Angels Stadium, where he's 23-6, pretty much meant that the M's hot offensive streak would go kaput. Indeed, Santana held the M's to seven baserunners in the 4-1 Angel win. Ryan Feierabend pitched into the seventh inning (which probably wasn't expected) and allowed four runs (which probably was) which meant that he pitched well enough to win pretty much every other game on this road trip.

But the M's bats just disappeared and were unable to provide Ryan with any support. Although Ichiro continued his hitting streak to 22 games with a sharp single in the first inning, but the M's streak of consecutive games with at least ten hits ended at six. Ichiro eventually came around to score, but when Kenji Johjima grounded out with the bases loaded to end the first inning, that was pretty much the extent of the Mariners' possibilities for the evening. One mistake pitch by Feierabend to Shea Hillebrand in the fourth inning- which Shea hammered for a two-run home-run- effectively put the game out of reach. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson reverted to their hitless ways, combining to go 0-for-6 on the evening, but considering the Mariners had such trouble getting runners on base, their was only one runner left on base between the two of them.

So the M's first big test of the season ended up naught due to an offense being stymied by strong starting pitching. The M's have a pretty good chance of taking the series in this evening's game, with Felix Hernandez on the mound looking to pitch deep into the ballgame and prove that his back isn't too much of a concern to pull him before he's ready. In his career, Felix has split four decisions against the Angels, with a 3.15 ERA and a 30:6 K-to-BB ratio in 34 innings. He's been very effective at neutralizing the threatening bat of Vladimir Guerrero (hitting .286 in 14 at-bats with no extra base hits) and even if Orlando Cabrera and Gary Matthews Jr. have combined to go 18-for-38 off Felix for a .474, Felix has minimized the damage as only three of those hits went for extra bases.

However, one of Felix's losses against the Angels was a 7-1 smackdown last July when the M's were making noises about being a .500 team and competing in the division. That game was delivered to the Angels by Felix's mound opponent for this evening, Jered Weaver, who rolled over the M's in that match-up amidst rolling over the rest of the league on his way to winning his first nine decisions. Jered not off to quite a dominating start this season, as his 4-3 record can attest to. Still, his overall record against the Mariners include a 2-1 record, 2.89 ERA, and a 19:4 K-to-BB ratio in 18.2 innings over three starts. Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki have both hit home runs off Weaver, and combined for a .571 average and 1.071 slugging off Jered. Ben Broussard has enjoyed success off Jered as well, picking up four hits in eight at-bats, but Jered has made the bats of Beltre and Sexson disappear, as the two have combined to go 1-for-17 against the younger and better Weaver brother.

I'm going to have to give the nod in favor of the Angels in this game, even with Felix on the mound. I've just seen Jered make the Mariners look awfully silly, and until they prove otherwise, I'm going to give Jered the edge in any match-up. 3-2, Angels.

What a weekend! What an offense!


Well, it only took a couple of years, but the offense that was dancing in Mariners fans heads' since Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson in the 2004 off-season has finally materialized. This current road trip is one straight out of 2001, in which the Mariners won their first eleven series on the road. By going 6-1 over their past seven games, the Mariners have scored 60 runs, batted .335 and slugged .529. They amassed at least 29 total bases in one game versus each the Devil Rays, the Royals, and the Angels, in last night's 12-5 thrashing.

Beating up on the Devil Rays and the Royals- the dredges of the major leagues- should be expected from your team if they're to be considered 'good' by any standards. But beating up the leader in your team's division, especially when the opposing team had their ace on the mound? That's not just 'good,' it's a mark that this Mariners team are not the push-overs every sports pundit had them out to be in pre-season predictions. Tonight's game may very well be the first important turning point of the 2007 season for the Mariners: if they're able to take it and ensure a series win over the Angels, they are making it quite clear that it's them, and not the perennial contenders the Oakland Athletics, that the Angels are going to have to surpass for the title this season. And if the M's sweep? then the M's are serving notice that the summer in the American League West will be very interesting indeed.

The most promising aspect of the Mariners' current strong showing are that the bats of Beltre and Sexson have come around and shown that their rumored danger is undoubtedly real. With his four-extra base hit performance in last night's game, Beltre has turned himself into Bad-Ass Beltre, raising his average up to .275 despite being 0-for the first three games on this road trip, receiving a day off against Tampa Bay as a reward for his troubles. Whatever he thought about while riding the bench for that final game in Tampa Bay, the 13-12 blow-out in which Beltre's record of success against Tampa Bay start Jae Seo may have made a difference, he's been taking a vengeance on the baseball ever since, batting .647 with a 1.412 slugging percentage. Yowza!

And though he has yet to crack the .200 mark, Richie Sexson, who began the road trip batting .162, has only been held hitless in one game on this trip, and has raised his average up to .199 by going 11-for-31 for a .355 average, and slugging .613. Who knows what it took to get these two hitters 'on' but whatver it is, it's infectious as the Mariners now have a six-game streak with at least ten hits, as they have captured the current mantle of the top-hitting club in the American league. Too bad they also don't rank among the league leaders in walks or slugging percentage (yet) or otherwise this team would be an undeniable powerhouse!

I'm going to consider tonight's game a huge one for the Mariners, and will reflect on its outcome for the rest of the season. Obviously, the proceeding months will provide the context whether my gut feeling of the importance of tonight's game was correct or not. Then its only fitting, of course, that tonight's game will be started for the Marienrs by Ryan Feierabend, who will be replacing Horacio Ramirez's post on the mound- for at least one start. Feierabend made his major league debut at the end of last season, with decent numbers. However, he was subpar as a starter, allowing 20 baserunners in eleven innings with a nearly1:1 strikeout to walk ratio, but just picking up one loss despite a 5.73 ERA as a starter. Ryan's been less-than-dominant in Triple A as well, allowing 82 baserunners and a .320 average in 49 innings, but does have a minor-league strikeout to walk ratio at a much-improved 2:1 (still far off the 2.3:1 ratio Ryan had in San Antonio in 2006). The 2007 Baseball Prospectus has Ryan pegged as the second coming of John Halama, with a 5.33 ERA if he spent much time in the majors. So, Ryan has his work cut out for him on the mound this evening.

But perhaps the M's offense will continue its hot streak, and be able to compensate for the four miserable innings that Feierabend will most likely provide. If they can score nine runs off Bartolo Colon, one can only wonder at how many runs they'll be able to score off Ervin Santan, who holds a 5.34 career ERA against Seattle in 30 career innings. Santana is a much different pitcher at home, however, then he is on the road, as the nearly seven-run difference in the 9.33-to-2.30 raod-to-home ERA splits attest. Ervin's career numbers against Seattle include seven innings of one-run ball tossed against them at Angels Stadium last April 22, and its just the luck of the Mariners to draw Santana for the second time, at home. Still, Raul Ibanez is batting .545 with a 1.182 slugging percentage in 11 at-bats off Santana, while Richie Sexson has three home runs off Santana in 11 at-bats as well. So the potential for fireworks remains.

Expect Feierabend to get into trouble early, but the Mariners' strong bullpen will step in admirably and get things under control. Expect Ervin Santana to make a strong start, but to get into trouble later in the game. And with their hot hitting, I do not expect for the M's to fold as badly against Santana as they did a month ago. It'll be a close game, but I'm giving the nod to the M's, 7-6, with the game decided by the bullpens...

The Hit Parade Continues...


With their second consecutive 18-hit, 10-2 thrashing of the Kansas City Royals, the Mariners are beginning to look like the dominating offensive team that they have on paper. The Mariners have batted .414- .377 with runners on base- while scoring 22 runs over the past two games. That's more runs than they had scored in their preceding six games.

Today's offensive outburst leaves the team fourth in the league in batting at .277, and follows a not too distance trend in which the M's were unable to score more than four runs in nine out of eleven ballgames. Let's just hope they have some more runs in store for the rest of the weekend series against the Royals.

Even Adrian Beltre was getting in on the act. One day after being benched to clear his mind after three hitless games, Beltre knocked three hits -one double- in four at-bats to raise his average up to .249. Richie Sexson also picked up a couple of hits including a double, meaning Big Sexy has hit .450 with four RBIs over his past five games. It may be a couple of weeks since Richie has hit a home run, but obviously his bat is coming around and I'll take his recent production over nothing at all.

I predicted a pitching match-up, and it turned out to be a one-sided affair. With Ichiro hitting his 24th career lead-off homer and Raul Ibanez also scoring in the first inning due to Sexson's double, Gil Meche didn't have the benefit of being staked to a 6-0 lead this time around. Indeed, the Mariners had no problem with Meche's offerings as they handed Meche his worst outing of the season. Over his past two starts, Gil has delivered fairly common numbers that Mariners would expect: 12 earned runs allowed in 9.1 innings, giving up 19 hits and three runs. There's the Gil Meche we all knew and loved. Or at least tolerated.

And Felix stepped up with a promising outing, showing that for all intents and purposes the dominating Felix we saw earlier in the season had returned. Hopefully, this time for good. Felix held the Royals in check, allowing just two runs on seven hits over 5.1 innings. Some back tightness required his removal from the game in the sixth inning, a removal that Felix was none too pleased about as his frustration was well exhibited for all to see. Regardless, once again the Mariners' dynamite bullpen stepped in and completed the job, allowing just one hit over the final 3.2 innings. John Huber, recently recalled from Tacoma to fill the roster spot vacated by Horacio Ramirez who is headed to the DL with shoulder tendinitis, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to slam the door shut.

Can the M's recent offensive outburst benefit Cha Seung Baek in tomorrow's game? In his first four starts of the season, Baek was getting tremendous run support as the M's averaged 8.5 runs as he took the mound. Yet somehow Baek was unable to pick up a win while getting all that support. Over his last two starts, the M's have scored just two runs. Which version of the M's offense will be showing up tomorrow? Regardless, as Baek held the Royals to one run in six-plus innings a month ago, expect for Baek to have another strong performance in tomorrow's game.

Brian Bannister is taking the mound for the second time in his career, and both times against Baek. In fact, Bannister is looking to avenge the 5-1 loss he received at the hands of the Mariners a month ago. Bannister allowed three doubles to Mariners hitters in that start, and if the game is anything like today's, expect to see more doubles and some home-runs.

Final: 6-2, M's. But any win means nothing if the Angels and the A's never lose...

I should've known better


Of course when Horacio Ramirez is facing Jae Seo in a pitching duel the scoring would get out of hand. I need to stop being so conservative on my final score predictions!

Once again, a sweep of the Devil Rays in Tampa Bay was averted, as a seven-run third inning fueled a 13-12 victory by the D-Rays. For a change, blame can't be placed on Ramirez's alter ego Horror-Arm, as he was removed from the game in the bottom of the third inning due to tightness in his left shoulder. Sean White, who has done such an excellent job of long relief filling in for Felix Hernandez in Felix's last two starts, channeled Horror-Arm instead. In two-thirds of an inning in the third, White allowed seven runs on nine hits, including six consecutive two-out baserunners.

Although this may have temporarily out the Devil Rays up by a 10-4 score, the Mariners refused to roll over and continued to claw back. Three-run innings in the sixth and seventh made it a 12-10 ballgame, and when closer Al Reyes came on to preserve a 13-10 lead in the ninth, Ichiro made it interesting when he hit a two-out two-run home-run after pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez was walked. After Jose Vidro reached on a single, Jose Guillen struck out swinging to cap an 0-for-6 day, and on to Kansas City we go.

Still, despite the ugliness of the final score a couple of questions could be asked: Namely, why was Beltre and his 6-for-9 career numbers against Seo riding the pine in favor of Willie Bloomquist getting the start at third? And what kind of poor reflection is it on third base coach Carlos Garcia that Jose Lopez got thrown at home twice during the game? Sure the reason why the Mariners lost begins and ends with the lousy pitching, but certainly those decisions added to the final outcome as well.

This evening's game has the potential to be a rare pitching duel down in Kansas City. Gil Meche is taking the mound for the Royals, and he's looking to make his record 2-0 in two starts versus his former team, after allowing three unearned runs and ten hits in an 8-3 win over the Mariners on April 28. Both Vidro and Ibanez touched Meche for three hits in that game, so let's see if Raul can return to the line-up to continue to inflict damage on his former teammate. Jose Guillen is the only Mariner batter who has a home-run off Meche in his career, so here's hoping he can make a comeback from his awful day at the plate yesterday.

However, the biggest difference in Meche's last start against Seattle at Safeco and tonight's is the fact that his opponent on the mound won't be Jeff Weaver, but rather Felix Hernandez. Felix hasn't faced the Royals since his third major league start as a precocious 19-year old on August 15, 2005, in which he held the Royals to one run on three hits while striking out 11 in an 11-3 victory. None of the current Royals batters have given Felix any trouble in their career, and as the kid gloves have been taken off Felix, if he's economical with his pitches he might be able to pitch into the eighth inning.

Final: 4-1, Mariners as they return, once again, to .500.

Tampa Bay series: Methodical Victory


Yes, I know two victories in two games at Tampa Bay isn't saying much. But what's of interest is how these games were won.

In both games, the Devil Rays jumped out to early leads in the first inning: two runs in the first off Jarrod Washburn in yesterday's 5-2 victory, and a one-strike lead-off home-run by B. J. Upton off Miguel Batista in today's 5-1 win, which brought the Mariners back to .500 with a 21-21 record. The Mariners had the bases loaded and two outs when they scored the runs that got them back into both games: Richie Sexson- who's struggles at the plate have been mighty a quarter through the season- pushed a single through the left side of the infield with the bases loaded in yesterday's win, and Yuniesky Betancourt lined a double into left field in today's game. Both games saw excellent performances from the starting pitchers: Washburn pitched into the seventh inning allowing just one earned run, while Batista allowed just one run through six innings. And the bullpen has combined to throw 5.2 innings of hitless relief over two games, striking out seven.

In short, methodical. To the point where it was almost predictable. Boring, even. But if victories like these become the M's routine for the rest of the summer, any complaints by me will be kept at a minimum. Of course, I will point out that Adrian Beltre played absolutely no role in either games, being held hitless in eight at-bats with four strike-outs as his average tumbles to .236, committing the error that allowed the unearned run to score yesterday. Luckily, Jose Guillen was able to compensate for an 0-for-5 day by picking up four singles and knocking in two runs.

Well, all good things come to an end, and tomorrow Horacio Ramirez takes the mound for the Mariners as they attempt to go for the sweep. Ramirez may have won his past two starts, allowing four runs in twelve innings. But considering his 2.19-to-13.17 home-road split- and the fact that the Mariners haven't been able to sweep the Devil Rays since 2000- tomorrow may be the perfect time for Ramirez's alter ego, Horror-Arm to make an appearance. This will be Ramirez's first start against Tampa bay since his rookie year for the Braves in 2003, when he held the D-Rays to two runs over 6.2 innings, striking out eight. As Ramirez is pitching against a line-up that is mostly unfamiliar with him, expect him to deliver a repeat performance meaning that the M's pitching will deliver- shockers!- three solid starts in a row. (And Baek's start on Monday wasn't all that bad until he tired out in the seventh.)

On the mound for Tampa Bay tomorrow is right-hander who has struggled immensely so far this year, and luckily shares a league with Jeff Weaver, therefore providing some perspective for the awful numbers he has put up. And indeed the numbers have been awful: a 2-4 record with a 7.80 ERA, with 66 hits and 10 home-runs allowed so far this season in just 45 innings. On his baseball-reference page, Seo's ERA+ rating so far this year is 56, basically meaning that not only is he not even league-average, but he's about as half as a good as a league-average pitcher. But it should not be surprising, then, to learn that Seo has been dominating in his career against the Mariners, limiting them to a 1.13 ERA over 16 career innings, allowing just one unearned run over seven innings in his last outing against Seattle in a 5-1 loss last August. Adrian Beltre is 6-for-9 with a home-run against Seo in his career, meaning tomorrow may be a good day for Beltre to bust out, while Richie Sexson is 4-for-8 with a 1.600 OPS against Seo. Despite Guillen and Vidro combining to go 6-for-31 against Seo, expect to see some offensive explosions tomorrow.

Final score: 7-3, Mariners.

One Game Stop at Jacobs Field (I'm Scared)


Of course the Mariners would be stymied by a young pitcher making his first start against them, just a day after knocking out a Hall of Famer in the fourth inning. Its almost clockwork with these guys.

Not many pitchers can out pitch Felix Hernandez. Even Daisuke Matsuzaka came up short. But in 83 inning s over six innings in today's 2-1 Padre victory, Justin Germano wove a selection of curveballs, change-ups, and two-seamers that kept the mariners' batters off-balance. The only run scored by the Mariners off Germano was an unearned run in the second inning- Lopez knocking in Betancourt from second after Kahlil Greene's throwing error- keeping Germano's ERA after his three-start beginning to his 2007 major league season to a microscopic 0.47. Germano was more Madduxish than Maddux himself was in yesterday's ballgame.

Although Felix struggled again with his control, if he had been the beneficiary of any offensive support he pitched well enough to win. Felix tossed 103 innings over five full innings, 60 of which went for strikes. He allowed eleven base-runners, including three walks, struck out nine, and also threw two wild pitches- all which racked up the number of pitches he tossed in a less-than-economical performance. Still, the Padres could only push across two runs against Felix, as they spent most of the afternoon standing around on the bases rather than running home, with a total of 15 runners being abandoned on the basepaths by the Friars.

A day after a new-look line-up hammered Greg Maddux, only nine singles were all that could be mustered by the Mariners against the Padres' pitching. Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4, to bring his average to .255. Perhaps his key at-bat came in the bottom of the ninth inning, when after Jose Guillen and Ben Broussard greeted another future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffmann with lead-off singles, Beltre worked the count to 2-1. On the next pitch, Beltre made a questionable decision as he attempted to move the runners along with a sacrifice bunt.

There are some who will argue that sacrificing and moving runners along is practicing good baseball strategy, while there are others who insist that you only have 27 outs in a baseball game to work with and you should never give up any at any cost. I don't necessarily fall into either camp, but I will say that when the tying run was staring across the diamond at Beltre and he all ready had one strike against him, attempting a bunt is probably not the best strategy Beltre should've considered. I mean, a week ago Beltre hit a go-ahead home-run from another Hall of Fame closer in Mariano Rivera. As the win probability for the game revealed, the chances for the M's to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat were turning in their favor after Broussard's single. But Beltre's botched bunt attempt followed by a weak foul pop to first confirmed the inevitable, as the game was all but decided by the ill-advised bunt attempt. Beltre was praised on-air by Mike Blowers and Dave Sims for attempting to move the runners along, but in truth, whether it was indeed Beltre playing 'unselfish' baseball or Hargrove showing his usual lack of understanding baseball strategy, it was a boneheaded move that quickly killed any momentum they had going for themselves.

Oh well. The M's can think about how a two-run outing tossed by Felix went in vain as they fly half-way across the country for a quick stop at Jacobs Field to play one of the four snowed-out make-up games against the Indians. Last time we saw the Mariners batting at Jacobs Field, they were futilely waving their bats to no avail as Paul Byrd had the benefit of falling snowflakes to hide his pitches among on his way to nearly five no-hit innings. That game was called, as was the rest of the four-game series, and Jacobs Field has all but ensured to be a house of horrors for the M's this season for multiple reasons. Not only will they have to interrupt their road trips and spend off-days to make a beeline to Cleveland, they have to play an Indians time that has been en fuego and appear to be a very solid and intimidating ballclub.

The Mariners have their work cut out for them. The Indians moved into first place in the Central Dvision over the weekend, and are off to a 16-4 start at home, their best home start in over a decade. The Indians have won six of their past eight, and have their ace, C. C. Sabathia, on the mound to face the M's tomorrow afternoon. Not only is Sabathia off to the best start of his career at 6-1 with a 3.65 ERA (assisted with nearly seven runs a game by Clevelands' bats), but he has also put up some solid numbers against the M's. In 68 innings over ten starts, Sabathia holds a 4-3 record with a 3.03 ERA and a nearly 3-to-1 striekout-to-walk ratio. The M's will need a big game from Ichiro to be able to hold their own against the Indians' ace, as Ichiro enjoys burly numbers against Sabathia: .429 with a 1.229 OPS in 35 at-bats, with three home runs and three stolen bases. Expect Ichrio to keep his multiple-hit streak going.

Raul Ibanez also enjoys success against Sabathia, with a .278 average and .861 OPS in 36 at-bats. Of course, Ibanez has been suffering from back spasms, so weshould not expect to see him in tomorrow's ballgame. However, Raul's likely replacement, Willie Bloomquist, has hit one of his four career home runs off of Sabathia. As for Beltre, he'll be looking for his first career base-hit off Sabathia in eight at-bats.

Cha Seung Baek was failed by the Mariners' defense in his only career start against the Indians. He allowed only one earned run in five innings, but four unearned runs as well. The sample sizes of the Indians' batters practically are nonexistent against Baek, so for a change the Mariners will have the advantage of trotting out an unknown quantity against the slugging Indians line-up, an unknown who allowed three runs over six innings in last week's loss to the Angels. Today's scouting methods may negate any advantages an unknown pitcher may have on a line-up, but as the Mariners have proven time and again, including in this afternoon's ballgame, that young pitchers can have an advantage the first time they're facing a team's line-up.

But the Indians' line-up is simply too strong from top to bottom, and they definitely get the nod in tomorrow's game. 7-3, Indians.

Muzzling Mad Dog


Obviously, it takes facing a future first-ballot Hall of Famer for the M's to break out of their offensive funk.

For the second time in his career, Greg "Mad Dog" Maddux, faced the Mariners, and for the second time in his career he came away with a loss. This time it was at the hands of a vicious 7-4 pounding. The Mariners limited Maddux to 3.2 innings, his shortest outing since May 8, 2006 when he faced the Padres as a member of the Chicago Cubs' pitching staff. During his brief outing in last night's ballgame, Maddux allowed seven runs- all earned- on twelve hits. Maddux entered the game with a 31-7 SO-to-BB ratio and is known for his impeccable control throughout his storied career. Part of the danger, however, of being consistently around the plate is that if the other team's batters go on the offensive- as the hack-tastic Mariners tend to do practically every night- they'll potentially hammer Maddux's offerings, as was the case last night. Of the 22 batters Maddux faced, six swung at the first pitch and five of those reached safely. The Mariners batters who had a history of facing Maddux from the National League- Vidro, Guillen, and Beltre- combined to go 6-for-12 in last night's ballgame, scoring four runs and knocking in six with one double and two home-runs.

Obviously a far cry from what was expected from Maddux in last night's game. Beating up Maddux gives me an idea to see how the Mariners have fared against Hall of Fame pitchers in the franchise's history. That'll be another blog post...

Once again at a start in Safeco Field, Horacio Ramirez pitched very effectively, tossing six innings and allowing eight baserunners and three runs. And the M's crackerjack bullpen effectively quelled any chances the padres had of getting back into the game.

Today's rubber game fields a match-up of young starters for both sides. Justin Germano, who just a couple of weeks ago was twirling his way to a 4-0, 1.69 record San Diego's AAA franchise in Portland- takes the hill for San Diego for his third start of the season. It appears that Germano's minor-league success has been able to translate favorable into the majors, as in his two starts so far he has allowed seven baserunners and one run in thirteen innings, including seven innings of scoreless ball against the woeful St. Louis Cardinals' offense last Sunday. Germano has never faced the Mariners in his career, so don't be surprised if he tosses seven scoreless innings against them in today's game.

King Felix takes the mound for the Mariners in their attempt to take the series. In his second game back from missing a month due to elbow soreness, Felix's leash will be extended a little further for tonight's game, with his limit being kept at 85-90 pitches. Let's see if he can minimize the control problems that he had in last week's start versus the Angels, and see if he can complete five innings. Regardless, although Felix did pick up a victory in last season's start against the Padres, it came despite his best efforts to give the game away, as he allowed seven runs in six innings.

Don't back on Felix dialing in a dominating performance in today's ballgame- it's doubtful that he's 100% yet. And as Germano is a greenhorn making his first appearance against the Mariners, I always have to give a nod in that direction. Prediciton of the final score: 6-2, Padres.

The Padres = Best Pitching Staff in the NL?


The old adage is that pitching wins ball games. If that is true, then expect to see the Padres sitting atop the standings in the NL West at the end of the season. Over the past few seasons, the organization has done an incredible job and not only shaping pitchers but generating incredible results from these young arms. Last season, the Padres finished tied for second in the NL in quality starts, which compensated for an offense that splits half its time in Petco Park, thus helping the team to 88 victories and a second consecutive division title.

The rotation was anchored by Jake Peavy, who despite a sub-.500 record at 11-14, he led the National League in SO/9 IP with 9.56 as he finished second in the league with 215 strikeouts. As strong as those numbers might be, Peavy is off to an even stronger beginning to this season, so far leading the NL in ERA (1.64), strikeouts (71), and SO/9 IP (10.59). Luckily, the Mariners will miss Peavy in this series.

The pitching staff also included veteran Woody Williams (12-5, 3.64) and promising youngster Clay Hensley (11-12, 3.71). The relief corps includes perhaps the best closer in the league in Trevor Hoffmann, perhaps the best setup man in Scott Linebrink, as well as Cla Meredith (who tossed 33.2 scoreless innings, setting a team record, and led all NL pitchers who had at least 50 innings with a 1.07 ERA and a .170 batting average against). To this embarrassment of riches, the Padres coaxed David Wells (231 career wins) and signed future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux (336 career victories) to a free-agent contract.

Yesterday, I wrote that Chris Young may be the best pitcher on the staff. That's a pretty strong statement, considering that Peavy is a perennial Cy Young candidate as long as he stays healthy. But the Texas Rangers cast-off showed flashes of dominance last season, including two back-to-back performances of eight-inning performances, in which he allowed just three hits and no runs. So far this season, Young has all ready had four outings in which he allowed one run or less, with the fourth coming last night in a 8-1 victory over the Mariners, in which Young allowed just seven baserunners in 6.2 innings. The only run generated by Ichiro's speed on the basepaths, as he stole second and third in the third inning to score on Jose Vidro's broken bat blooper.

Miguel Batista allowed just one earned run in his 6.2 innings, but Beltre's error in the fourth allowed three unearned runs to score. The Padres roughed up Chris Reitsma for four runs in the eighth to complete the scoring, as Reitsma got in touch with the horrible 2006-version of himself for an evening. Besides his error, 1-for-4 at the plate, collecting just one of the ten singles the Mariners were able to generate off the Padres' pitching. The nadir of the Mariners' offense on Friday was Richie Sexson's 0-for-4 night, with three strikeouts and five men left on base. Richie voiced his frustration after the game, pointing out the patently obvious: "There is no excuse for the way I'm leaving guys on base. I played horrible."

And thus, the Mariners drop back again below .500. They have done a pretty good job of minimizing the losses, but now they have reached their first three-game losing streak since the third week of April.

To stop the losing streak at four depends on which pitcher takes the mound for the M's in this evening's ballgame: will it be capable and at times dominating Horacio Ramirez, who carries a 1.45 home ERA split this season and a 1.45 in his three victories this season, including six innings of one-run ball versus the Yankees last weekend. Or will it be his alter ego, Horror-Arm, who carries a 13.17 ERA in his other three starts? From his days in the NL, Ramirez has a history of being roughed up by the Padres, as he has a career 6.35 ERA over 17 innings in three starts against them. The worst offender is Khalil Greene, who Ramirez should walk in every at-bat in tonight's game. In both of his career at-bats facing Ramirez, Greene has hit a home-run and knocked in six runners. Mike Cameron has also roughed up Ramirez pretty bad, going 3-for-5 with a home run in a small sample size.

Ramirez's 6.40 ERA on the season is an exact double of his opponent on the mound this evening, the legendary Greg Maddux's 3.20. With a pitching staff as deep as the Padres', it's almost unfair that San Diego was able to spirit Maddux away from the Dodgers as on off-season free-agent signing. Maddux has a 31-7 SO-to-BB ratio so far this season, and is coming off a complete game one-run performance against the Cincinnati Reds last Monday. If there is anything going for the Mariners in this evening's match-up it's that Maddux has lost his only outing against the M's, even though he only allowed two runs in seven innings. Jose Vidro has enjoyed success against Maddux from his NL days, with a .318 average in 44 at-bats, while Beltre has a .269 average in 26 at-bats with a home-run. To the surprise of nobody, however, Maddux has dominated Richie Sexson, holding him to one hit in thirteen at-abts with six strikeouts. Considering the mess Sexson is currently in, expect Maddux to continue his dominance in this evening's game.

I predict Horacio will have a good, but not great, outing and the Mariners' bats to continue to struggle against the Padres' pitching. Final: 5-1, Padres. The Padres could very well reverse the 5-1 record the M's had against San Diego last season.

No Share of the Division Lead


As the series between the Angels and the Mariners commenced, the M's stood a chance of catching and even passing the Angels for the lead of the American League West. And with the 11-3 pounding they gave the Angels and Tuesday, it appeared that the team was being driven by a desire to finish the series atop the standings. However, an offensive implosion similar to the one that happened against the Yankees a couple of weeks back. The day after racking up 11 hits and 14 runs, the M's were handcuffed by Jarrod Washburn for only four hits while being shutout for the third time this season. The disappearance of the M's bats wasted an effective start by Cha Seung Baek, who allowed seven baserunners and three runs in 6.1 innings, yet was still saddled with the loss.

And last night it was the poorest start of the season by Jarrod Washburn, who allowed 11 baserunners in six runs in six innings, that did the team in for a 7-3 loss. This time, a solid offensive performance was wasted, as he collected three hits- including two doubles- off of Angels' pitching to raise his average up over the .240 mark to .243, yet was unable to knock in any baserunners. Yunieksy Betancourt also collected three hits, including a second-inning double that plated Beltre. And Ben Broussard, who was making a spot start for Raul Ibanez in left, hit a lead-off home-run in the sixth. Its a shame Big Ben's bat can't be worked into the line-up in more of a regular basis, as that .321 isolated power from a left-handed bat sure would be nice to rely on.

Oh, and Ichiro got thrown out stealing in the seventh inning, thus ending his American League record for consecutive steals at 45, falling five short of Vince Coleman's major league record. Such was the night for the M's. With their 5-1 record against the Mariners, the Angels show that they will be the powerhouse team for the M's to beat to be able to compete in the AL West this year. The Mariners may have a record of 7-2 against Oakland and Texas, but if they can't figure out a way to overcome the Angels' effective starting pitching, they're going to finish just as I predicted they would in my preseason predictions: in second place, with just a few games behind the Angels.

Interleague baseball makes a brief appearance around the majors this weekend, and if the M's .778 record in interleague from last year carries over this year, then the boys in teal must be excited. Of course, facing the padres' tough, burly right-hander Chris Young in the opener may just temper any enthusiasm. Young has enjoyed success against the M's in his career, with a 2-1 record in five starts, with a 3.81 ERA and a 22-5 SO-to-BB ratio in 28 innings. However, Young is also coming off a start in which he allowed five runs (four unearned) in five innings against an anemic Cardinals' offense. The "picks to click" for the Mariners against young are Ichiro, who besides having a great May (.338 with an .811 OPS) has .400 in a5 career at-bats against Young, with two home-runs. Richie Sexson also has two career home-runs in eight career at-bats against Young for a 1.750 OPS, but as it's still before the All-Star break, don't expect much more besides some strikeouts or some hard hit liners right at padres' defenders. Beltre's bat has all but disappeared when he's faced Young, with just two singles in eleven at-bats with four strikeouts. It's safe to say Young owns Beltre.

Miguel Batista takes the mound for the Marienrs, and he's looking to compensate for his poor outing against the Yankees last weekend, in which he allowed seven runs in just a little over two innings. That performance was a far cry against the effort that produced three straight starts allowing just two runs. Batista has also held his own against the Padres, with a 3.92 ERA and a 3-4 record in eleven starts in his career against the Friars. Brian Giles has enjoyed success against Batista, with a .360 average and 1.027 OPS in 25 at-bats, while on the flip side Miguel has dominated Jose Cruz Jr. to just two hits in 20 career at-bats.

I expect Batista to return to the form he had showed in the three previous starts before his nightmare start against the Yankees. However, I am not optimistic about this game. Chris Young is one of the best up-and-coming pitchers in the National League, who may be perhaps the best pitcher on a staff that includes Jake Peavy and who also has better numbers on the road then at home (of course, those splits may be skewed with his time spent down in Arlington). At any rate, the M's will muster up little offense and waste a great start- again. Final: 3-1, Padres, as the mariners return to the Land of Sub-.500.

5/17 Rubber Game v. Angels


I really want to believe in this good start/bad start pattern....

We could say Felix's start was a "bad" start, even though he was effective, and the halos had a good deal of luck going for them.

We could also argue that Baek's start tonight was a "good" start, even if it started poorly....he did a good job of keeping the M's in it for more than half the game.

Which sets us up for a great start from Wash tommorow, and why not? 2.64 ERA on the season, 2.97 at home in 33 of his 47 innings....

Does not mean this will be a cake walk. No matter how quad like Anaheim's lineup is. Vlad makes a huge difference. Colon has been pitching great as well.

4-3 M's.

Welcome Back Felix!


Holy blowout Batman!

Was that really the same Kelvim Escobar in last night's game? The one who had allowed one run over his last two starts coming in? And his most recent start a seven-hit shutout of the Cleveland Indians? Well, the Mariners made him look absolutely Jeff Weaverish as they jumped all over his offerings, hitting practically everything he threw at them for an early three-run lead in the first inning, on their way to an eventual 11-3 victory.

In fact, with their sloppy defensive play and multiple wild pitches, the Los Angeles Angels as a team didn't appear remotely close to a first-place club. And if they continue to play in a similar manner, they won't be. By slapping the Angels silly, Three Stooges-style in last night's ballgame, the Mariners have brought themselves within one game of first place in the division!

The big story of last night's game, however, was the return of King Felix on the mound. It may not have been a spectacular outing by Felix, who struggled with his command throughout the evening, but he was able to tap his dominating fastball when he needed, striking out five batters in just under four innings of work. Of the seven hits against him, most were infield hits and only two were hit hard. Still, three times he went to full counts against batters, and as he was on a strict 80-pitch limit, chances of him sticking around long enough for a victory when he was throwing 42% balls were pretty slim. As a result of his early departure, Sean White was able to pick up his first major league victory with 4.1 strong innings of scoreless relief, throwing just 39 pitches as he just mowed down the Angels. new arrival Jason Davis finished off the game by tossing the ninth, allowing a ground rule double to Tommy Murphy, but that was it.

With a bullpen like the M's have, little wonder they are challenging the Angels for the division lead!

Beltre went 1-for-5, as his batting average continues to drop south, now standing at .239. The M's offensive attack was led by Ichiro, who picked up five basehits in a game for the sixth time in his career. Jose Guillen continued to wield his hot bat for May, going 2-for-4, with a double and picking up two RBIs. Both Jose Lopez and Kenji Johjima hit their fifth home runs of the season, Lopez's capping the six-run explosion in the fifth.

All around solid play by our boys in teal & navy blue!

Cha Seung Baek should feel no pressure, regardless of the fact that the chances of the team clinching a tie for the division rests on his shoulders. Hopefully Baek can channel the ability that led him to stymie a division leader in his last performance, in which he held the Tigers to two runs in a dominant complete game performance. The Mariners' starters' streak of good start-bad start seems to be momentarily uninterrupted by Felix's brief outing. So let's see if Baek can shake of any of that mojo and deliver anotehr quality performance. Baek does have one career outing against the Angels, however, a rocky performance in which he allowed five runs over seven innings. Garret Anderson (home run) and Vladimir Guerrero (double) have both touched Baek for extra-base hits, but Baek has kept Figgins and Kotchman combined hitless in ten at-bats.

And the Mariners are going to have to repeat their offensive performance with John Lackey as they did against Escobar. Lackey has some tough career numbers against the M's (6-8, 4.86 ERA) and has had trouble getting Raul Ibanez (.361 in 36 at-bats) and Ichiro (.295 in 61) out. Though he has struggled so far this season- hitting a lowly .176- Richie Sexson has been hitting the ball hard for his outs, and facing lackey just may be what he needs to break out of his offensive slump as he enjoys good power numbers against Lackey (.429 average, 1.310 OPS, two homer runs and ten RBIs). Beltre, however, is hitting just .233 in 30 at-bats against Lackey.

There will definitely be some runs scored in tonight's game. I doubt either team will score double digits, but it will surely be no pitching match-up. And with the momentum going on their side, I'll have to give the nod to the M's ,as they will tie for the division lead with an 8-6 victory.

Not bad for a time that was 5-9 after their first fourteen games, huh?

The Secret of Horacio's Success


According to The Oregonian columnist Brian Meehan, the secret for Horacio Ramirez to cut through the Yankees like a square of ice cream cake was that he just needed to "have fun."

Someone should have suggested that to Joel Pineiro, who had a contentious relationship, at best, with the local media last season...

Horror-Arm's Redemption


The theme of this past weekend's series against the Yankees was turning the tables on them, getting back at the Yankees for the prior weekend's series in New York. After Darrell Rasner had tossed six shutout innings in his start last weekend, Jarrod Washburn returned the favor by tossing eight against Rasner and the Yankees on Friday night. And after Chien-Meng Wang tossed nearly eight perfect innings against Seattle a week ago Sunday, Horacio Ramirez was had a perfect start against the Yankees in yesterday's game, albeit for only three innings. Still, after 82 pitches in 6.1 innings (50 for strikes) resulting in only six baserunners and one run, Ramirez came out on top with his best start of the season, a 2-1 victory against the mighty Yankee offense. As Borat would say, "Great success!"

As such, I will dispense with the Horror-Arm nickname. At least for this post.

Andy Pettitte pitched well enough to lose, allowing two runs and nine hits in 7.1 innings. But the mariners capitalized on the Yankee mistakes that were made. The first mistake was Alex Rodriguez's throwing error in the third on Jose Vidro's single, allowing Vidro and Ichiro to take another base. Raul Ibanez immediately followed with an RBI single. Jose Guillen- who has been swinging a hot bat in May (.368 average, 1.110 OPS)- led off the fourth with a double just out of reach of centerfielder Johnny Damon's glove. A walk to Beltre (who went hitless in three at-bats to drop his average to .240) and a sacrifice bunt to Yuniesky Betancourt led to Jose Lopez's sacrifice fly for the Mariners' second run. And that's all that Seattle needed.

The Mariners get a rare off day today in their midst of hectic scheduling to make up for the early season poor weather postponements. And then the Angels come to town, with the lead of the division potentially on the line. The M's trail the Angels only by a game and a half, and a strong showing by Seattle could upset the divisional standings by next weekend. Felix Hernandez is looking to get things started tomorrow night in his first return from his stay on the DL, recovering from elbow problems. The plans are to 'baby' Felix and keep him to around 70 pitches in his first game back- as he's put up pretty good numbers against the Angels in his career (2-2 with a 2.64 ERA) it wouldn't be too much a stretch to assume those 70 pitches will be dominating ones!

Julio Mateo's replacement found?


The Mariners acquired right-hander Jason Davis today from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named. Does this all but guarantee Julio Mateo will be DFA'd?

Davis' ERA stands at 4.76 on the season, increasing more than four times in his last two appearances from 1.13. The 2007 Baseball Prospectus (which does not carry an entry on Adrian Beltre, by the way) states that Davis throws hard, yet still manages to find bats.

Sounds like a perfect addition to the M's bullpen....

Well, it should've been obvious that Miguel Batista was going to struggle against the Yankees. Jarrod Washburn did just throw eight shutout innings the game before, and going with their trend of alternating great starts and poor starts, far be it for Batista to be able to toss a second consecutive great- or even a good- start.

All it took was the first four Yankee batters to reach base in the fourth, followed by stringing a single and two doubles later in the inning. After the Yankees had batted around, they had jumped to a 5-0 lead. With Robinson Cano's two-run single an inning later (one run unearned due to Jose Guillen's error), the Yankees had completed their scoring for the game. But it was all that was necessary, as Yankee starter Matt DeSalvo allowed only two runs in 6.2 innings as the Yankees topped the M's 7-2.

With his strong start, DeSalvo ensured that he would be able to duplicate the success against the Mariners that he exhibited last Monday. Over his two starts against the M's in the span of a week, DeSalvo has allowed three earned runs in just under 14 innings, with ten hits, six walks, and only two strikeouts. DeSalvo's tendency to not miss Mariner bats makes me wonder if he hasn't been the beneficiary of good luck in these two starts, but regardless it appears there is another Yankee-pinstriped Mariner killer to join Chien-Ming Wang.

Jose Vidro was the lone offensive star for the Mariners in Saturday's game, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, thus tripling his amount of doubles on the season and raising his slugging 24 points. Beltre went 1-for-4, thus maintaining his average at .246.

Considering the Mariners' starters' trend of alternating great and poor starts, logic dictates that Horacio Ramirez will have a strong start against the Yankees on Sunday. But, then again we are talking Horacio Ramirez facing the Yankees, so logic dictates that Horror-Arm will get blown out of the water. Then again, in his only career start against the Yankees, Horror-Arm tossed eight innings of one-run ball. So he may very well continue the flip-flopping trend and follow up batista's poor start with a gem on Sunday. Bobby Abreu may have 22 at-bats against Horror-Arm from their days in the national League East together, but has only picked up six singles during their confrontations. Jorge Posada is the only current Yankee to have an extra-base hit off Horror-Arm, a double.

Meanwhile, left-hander Andy Pettitte takes the mound for the Yankees. Pettitte hasn't been consistent in his career versus Seattle, with an 8-9 record in 17 starts with a 4.97 ERA. Of course, the present Mariners' line-up is one that doesn't have much experience facing Pettitte, but it still hits left-handers .43 points higher, and outslugs them by a .150 margin.

My gut instinct tells me I shouldn't, but I'm going with Horror-Arm in Sunday's game. The Yankees may just be the tonic that he needs. Although New York's offense is strong, nothing is a given, as Washburn proved on Friday. Final score: 7-4, M's.

The M's League-Leading Fourth Shutout


Last Sunday, Jarrod Washburn allowed three runs in five innings, but was on the losing end of a 5-0 shutout loss at the hands of Darrel Rasner and the Yankees. Tonight, Jarrod returned the favor, as he kept the mighty Yankees offense in check, limiting them to six hits in eight scoreless innings, as the M's returned the favor to Rasner and the Yankees by a score of 3-0.

To say Jarrod has stepped up big time for the Mariners this season would be an understatement. With the loss of Felix and the embarrassing debacle every fifth day that is Jeff Weaver on the mound, Washburn has done nothing but provide steady leadership along with a steady string of quality starts. Washburn hasn't given up more than eight hits or four runs in a game, and has twice tossed at least eight scoreless innings in a start. By dropping his ERA to 2.64 in tonight's ballgame, Jarrod now ranks seventh in the league (while Gil Meche's 2.15 ranks third). Tonight's win may have evened up Jarrod's record to 3-3, but if his run support (3.6) wasn't a full run lower than the Mariner's average of runs per game (4.7), then perhaps Jarrod could be challenging Beckett for the best pitcher on the young season.

And funny little trend the M's have going, with a bad start followed by a great start followed by a bad start followed by a great one. Obviously the only consistent thing about this team's pitching staff is its inconsistency.

Kenji Johjima was the offensive hero of the game, knocking a two-run home-run in the fourth inning that effectively sealed it. While nobody's paying attention, Johjima has been having a solid year up in the Pacific Northwest, and with Joe Mauer shelved currently, there's a chance we may see Kenji suit up for the American league squadron in the All Star Game. Adrian Beltre got one hit in the ballgame, an eighth inning double which may have knocked in the team's fourth run if pinch-runner Jason Ellison hadn't been caught stealing. Still, even by going 1-for-3, Beltre is hitting a pedestrian .246, which is actually 20 points higher than what he was hitting a year ago. With the hot hitting done by various members of the team, Beltre's (and Sexson's) early-season struggles at the plate have been overshadowed. The Mariners had all ready been shut-out five times a year ago. With Jarrod's brilliant performance tonight, the team now leads the league with four shutouts tossed.

Let's hope the bad start-brilliant start doesn't continue into tomorrow's game, otherwise Miguel Batista's streak of quality starts would come to an end. Batista has allowed just two runs in his past three starts, including last Monday's game against the Yankees, when an umpire's gift led to a no-decision for Batista in the eventual 3-2 win. Batista was matched up against Matt DeSalvo, who will also start for the Yankees tomorrow. DeSalvo did keep the M's to one run in seven innings in Monday's game, but he also struck out none and walked three, and I just don't trust numbers like that. Similar to their triumph over Rasner today, I think the M's will figure out DeSalvo tomorrow. I call it 5-3, M's.

Oh, and perhaps the best news of the day besides the M's beating the Yankees is that Jeff Weaver will be going on to the 15-day DL due to shoulder tendinitis. So that explains everything. Jeff didn't suck because he was untalented or had poor mechanics. It was because he was injured. I'm sure he will be improved and much better on his return. I can count on it. No I don't really mean that. I wonder if Jeff has been on the phone with Scott Speizio about how mean the M's fans are yet this season...

Jeff the Deceiver strikes again!


Well, it took all of eleven pitches before the Mariners were out of yesterday's game, when Magglio Orodnez knocked the first offering from Jeff Weaver over the fence to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

Eleven pitches. Sigh.

By dropping to the Tigers 7-3, Weaver has become the first Mariners starter to lose his first six decisions since John Cummings went 0-6 on the season in 1993. To get an idea of just how Weaver's poor start has been hurting the team, I created a little mathematical formula to see what his record would be like if he was performing at the averages created by the m's starting rotation. Basically i looked at how many decisions were getting started from the rest of the Mariners' starters (18 out of 24, or 75%) and then looked at the winning percentage of those decisions (10-8, or .556). So, if Weaver had a .559 winning percentage of 75% of his starts, his record would be 3-2. In short, due to his god-awful start, Weaver has cost the M's three wins. Instead of a 15-15 record upon their return home to Safeco, they could be sitting at 18-12, and leading the American League West by percentage points.

Remember this when they lose the division by a few games at the end of the year. Jeff Weaver is this year's Eddie Guardado...

Due to his atrocious start, Jarrod Washburn is going to be forced to be perfect against the Yankees, Cha Seing baek-style. Granted, Washburn does carry a career 2.80 ERA against the Yankees wiht a 4-4 record in nine career starts. He had a fairly strong start against the Yankees last Sunday, allowing just three runs in five-plus innings, but that was when the Mariners' offense disappeared in a 5-0 shutout. Washburn has neutralized a coupleo f Yankees threats- Jason Gimabi is batting just .194 off the southpaw in 36 career at-bats, while Derek Jeter just has a .107 isolated power off Washburn, picking up just three doubles in 28 career at-bats. It would probably be best, however, if Jarrod avoids A-Rod, as Alex has slugged five home-runs off Washburn in 39 career at-bats, with a 1.064 OPS.

Darrell Rasner, who tossed five-plus innings of shutout ball against the Mariners last Sunday, takes the mound for the Yankees tonight. I'm not sure he'll be so successful against the Yankees the second go around, but then again the Mariners develop a relationship with certain starters- Pedro, Blanton, Wang- which allows them to fold up like wet newspapers when they're on the mound. Rasner may very will be the next Mariner killer in pinstripes.

Tonight will be a close game, but I'll give the nod to the Yankees simply because they're the Yankees. The bullpens will decide it, but I think the final score will be along the lines of 4-3, with a dramatic homerun by A-Rod brining it home for New York,

Paging Dr. Baek!


Man, oh man, that was just what the bullpen ordered.

Against the Tigers in yesterday's 9-2 victory over the Tigers, Cha Seung Baek through a complete game, keeping the Tigers' explosive offense to just two runs and six hits. Most importantly, Baek helped himself minimize the number of baserunners by allowing no walks. Granted this was the second start in a row by a Seattle starter without giving up any walks, but Baek obviously appeared to keep the Tigers' hitters a bit more off balance than Horror-Arm's soft toss. Baek mixed it up throughout the ballgame, getting a number of groundouts to stave off any trouble at the beginning of the ballgame, before striking out the side in the sixth and then getting the Tigers' hitters to mostly fly out to end the ballgame.

In yesterday's post, I said that with Weaver and Ramirez imploding every fifth day, the other three-fifths of the mariners rotation needed to step up and be perfect as much as possible. Glad to see that Baek stepped up to the challenge.

Baek received plenty of help from the bats, as six Mariner batters got multiple hits. Raul Ibanez rapped out three hits, including a double, and Jose Guillen provided assistance in a big way with his three-run home-run in the fourth inning, the first of three straight three-run innings for the M's as the quietly put the game away. Beltre even picked up a hit and an RBI in five at-bats, as his average dipped to .252. Regardless, it was dominating baseball being put on display by the M's at Comerica park yesterday, ensuring that even if the M's lost today they'll return to Safeco with a tough road trip to New York and Detroit no worse than .500.

And lose today they most likely will, as the real horrors await. Considering how much fun the Tigers had with Horror-Arm's putrid offerings two nights ago, one can only imagine they're licking their chops in anticipation of facing Jeff Weaver today. Granted, the one-time Tiger "ace" has a career 2.53 ERA and a 1-2 record in three starts, but one would have to be naive to assume Weaver could buck his trend of being the Official Worst Starter in Mariner History this afternoon in Comerica. Look for Magglio Ordonez to give Weaver fits, as he's picked up ten hits in thirty-three at-bats- a mostly empty .303 batting average as only three of those hits have gone for extra bases, but still he'd be the one to start off any rally or clear the bases with a sharply well-placed single.

Fireballer Justin Verlander takes the hill for the Tigers. Verlander has only one career start against the M's, in which he tossed seven innings of one-run ball versus Seattle last year, allowing just four hits. Of the five Mariners to have picked up hits against Verlander, Broussard has two of them, and, yes, Beltre has one as well.

There will be no suspense in today's ballgame. The Tigers will, indeed, win and send the M's back to Seattle at .500. The biggest question is how many runs will Jeff Weaver allow in the first inning? Well, since the Tigers tend to score most of their runs later on in the game, I'm going to go on the conservative side and say Weaver will jsut give up two. Final score: 7-2, Tigers.



Horror-Arm is the number three pitcher in the Mariners' rotation. Horror-Arm coughs up any lead given to him by the offense. Eleven hits in five innings should be expected in a typical start by Horror-Arm. Horror-Arm likes to play soft toss to the opponents' bats, and attempts to set personal best for most extra base hits allowed with each start.

Horror-Arm is my new nickname for Horacio Ramirez, who's line over his last two starts definitely is something to cringe at: 9.2 innings, 22 hits, 14 runs (all earned), and a 13+ ERA. There is talk of a pitcher coming over to influence the rest of the thread. The San Diego brass, for example, were excited over the influence Greg Maddux would have on such talented young arms as Jake Peavy and Chris Young. The Diamondbacks were hoping for a similar positive influence by Randy Johnson upon last year's Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. Although there is no way to mathematically quantify the influence Jeff Weaver is spreading through the Mariners' staff, but it does appear that Horror-Arm is taking whatever pearls of wisdom Weaver has to offer to heart. Then again, Horror-Arm may just have brought a middling skill set and a sub-average arm to the Mariners, putting forth the obvious fact that the team got fleeced for Rafael Soriano. Horror-Arm has yet to allow fewer than seven hits in any of hist starts, and has pitched into the seventh inning just once. though his 43 hits allowed in 26 innings results in a .368 batting average against- is better than Weaver's 40 hits in 17 innings for a .465 batting average against, but you can always refer to him s Weaver Lite if Horror-Arm doesn't suit you.

Obviously, the play of Weaver and Ramirez over the past five weeks has been maddening and disappointing, and does not spell for a competitive season by the Mariners. With their pattern of getting blown out of the water in each of their starts, that demands pressure on the other three spots to be completely perfect and win every time out. And with Felix's return pushed back another week, that is obviously impossible to expect from the other starters. Batista has settled down and has provided a return on his signing, Washburn has kept the M's in the game in every start he pitched, and the jury may still be out on Cha Seung Baek (after last Friday's start against the Yankees, no sure rotation spot can be settled for him) I think there is little disagreement that he would be a marked improvement in the rotation over Jeff Weaver. But the bottom line is, the Mariners can't compete in a tight division with three-fifths of a rotation. I know its only May, but perhaps its become necessary to promote some of the young starts that we caught a brief glimpse of last fall, or begin to start looking for what we can salvage from the bottom-feeders in the standings (i.e. Shawn Hill or Jason Bergmann from Washington, or Jorge de la Rose from Kansas City).

At any rate, Beltre picked up two hits and an RBI in yesterday's 9-7 loss to the Tigers, raising his average to .255. Other highlights included a three-run home-run by Richie Sexson in the top of the first (the three-run lead that Horror-Arm coughed up the next inning) while Yuniesky Betancourt had three hits and three RBIs. This goose-bump inducing game came the day after a gift from an umpire helped the M's edge the Yankees 3-2 in the series final. To any Yankee fan who may come in here to read this, yes, Bloomquist was out. Anyone with a pair of eyes could see that. Why Don Mattingly (filling in for the one-game suspended Joe Torre) didn't come off the bench to offer at least a meek protest I'll never know. But in the end, it doesn't matter because after a situation like that Kyle Farnsworth has to strike out Kenji Johjima. And he didn't, so the M's capitalized. Seriously, as a Seattle sports fan I know all about having poorly made calls hurt you. (Super Bowl XL anyone?) The fact of the matter is you have to overcome those calls, or put yourself in a position where they won't prevent you from winning the game.

Cha Seung Baek takes the hill tonight, looking to atone for last Friday's dismal performance in his first career start against the Tigers. His opponent on the hill is left-hander Nate Robertson who, holds a career 4-2 record and a 2.34 ERA in six starts against the Mariners. Beltre has really struggled against Robertson collecting just two hits (both for extra bases) in thirteen at-bats. Ichiro Suzuki, however, has hit Robertson pretty well, with a .318 average in 22 at-bats, though that average is pretty empty, devoid of any extra base hits or, indeed, even an RBI. Richie Sexson is the only other Mariner hitter with at least 10 at-bats who has enjoyed any degree of success versus Robertson, with a 1.235 OPS in 11 at-bats.

It could be worse. Jeff Weaver could be starting. Oh wait. That's tomorrow's game. No way the M's stop the blazing hit Tigers in today's game. Final score, 7-4, Detroit.

The Good and The Ugly


This past weekend's match-up against the Yankees in New York posed a variety of interesting story lines. The Mariners were coming into Yankee Stadium with a better record than the Yankees for the first time in five years. The Mariners had won seven of their past nine games. And the Yankees pitching was in complete disarray, forcing Joe Torre to rely on Kei Igawa, who had all ready been banished to the bullpen in his first month in the major leagues, and such high-profile names as Darrel Rasner and Matt DeSalvo. In short, it promised to be an interesting series.

And indeed, Friday night's game appeared to confirm as much. Due to some prior commitments, I had to attend a meeting at five in the afternoon. I was listening to the game long enough to hear the Yankees bats' make mincemeat out of Cha Seung Baek's offerings, jumping out to an early 5-0 lead. It appeared the prior night's doubleheader versus Texas and the incredibly late return to New York was having no effect on the Yankees' bats. Or it could be that Baek was being exposed as the far mediocre pitcher that he is. Whatever the case may be, after Kenji's home run put the M's on the board, I flipped off my radio and attended my meeting.

Two hours later, at the meeting's conclusion, I flipped my radio back on, expecting to hear Mike Blowers intricately explain how Baek's subpar offerings were akin to Christmas presents to the Yankees hitters, complete with shiny wrapping paper and thoughtfully wrapped bows. Baek intended to make sure that the Yankees' hitters knew he was thinking of them. Of course, not having been able to follow the game, I let out a blurt of surprise and shock to hear the score was 14-8 in the seventh inning. If there was one game that I could've bypassed every other intrusion upon my life, it was this slugfest, in which the Mariners were burying the Yankees. The final results were 20 hits and 15 runs. And the idea of the Yankees' pitching staff made me chuckle as I considered the rest of the weekend match-ups.

And then Saturday happened.

It wasn't just that Chen-Ming Wang dominated the Mariners. That's typically been the case, as Wang becomes an East Coast version of Joe Blanton whenever he pitches against Seattle. Matched-up against Jeff Weaver, I expected a blow out, and was surprised the Yankees managed just eight runs in the ballgame. To paraphrase Fugazi, you can expect a steady diet of nothing whenever the Mariners' square off against this pin-striped Korean. Unable to be patient and wait for a pitch they want, Wang has been masterful in every start against the Mariners, being able to coax a steady supply of ground balls that limit the M's ability to sustain any possibility to compete, as basehits are few and far between and double plays are far more common. But Saturday's game bordered on the absurd.

Perfect through eight innings, the Mariners stood a chance to set some dubious records. The record for most hits by a team in a game preceding a perfect game was 16 by the 1964 New York Mets (who picked up a victory against future manager, Phillie hurler Dallas Green). Any time your time is mentioned in the same breath as with any Mets team from the early 1960s, that is not good. Luckily, Ben Broussard kept the Mariners out of that dubious record book, waiting for the only hanging change-up Wang tossed all day, which Broussard immediately deposited over the fence in the eighth inning.

Have I ever told you that Broussard should be the Mariners' everyday designated hitter, and the signing of Vidro was a waste of money? Oh yes, Idid. Plenty of times.

Anyways, the mariners finished with two runs, and as I don't work for the Elias Sports Bureau, I can't cough up the facts that the M's set a major league record for largest one-game difference in number of hits with eighteen, dropping from 20 to 2. That did, however, enshrine this team in the Mariners' club record hall of infamy, sitting a team record. Twice in the franchise's past it had a seventeen hit difference in back-to-back ballgames, once against the White Sox in September of 1987 and the other against Oakland in July of 1984. So, history was set this past weekend in the Bronx, if only its history that we never ever want to see repeated.

And Jeff Weaver dropped to 0-5. There may have been one point in the franchise's history when it was expected for starting pitchers to drop their first few decisions to start the season off, with at least one pitcher dropping their first four decisions from the dismal seasons of 1977-1982. However, just as those days hearken to a different era, it had been nearly fifteen years since a Seattle starter had dropped his first five decisions, tracing back to John Cummings in 1993. Still, even though Cummings finished the season at 0-6, his ERA stood at 6.02, his ERA stood at a fraction of Weaver's current 15.32. Weaver officially has the worst start to a season by a Mariner starter. That flushing sound is $8.35 million saying good-bye.

The Mariners picked up four hits in Sunday's ballgame, but were shutout by Rasner and the Yankees' bullpen 5-0. The most excitement of the game was Roger Clemens announcing that his career has morphed into becoming Andy Pettitte's faithful lapdog, as he intends to sign with the Yankees this month and return in pinstripes in June. Hey Rocket, if Pettitte jumped offa bridge, would you follow?

The story on the field involved some dust-ups as Josh Phelps tried his hardest to take Kenji Johjima out on a hard slide at home. After the benches were warned, a close pitch inside to Yuniesky Betancourt resulted in Joe Torre and Scott Proctor getting ejected from the game. Still, the M's committed three errors and had no offensive punch to support Jarrod Washburn, who allowed three runs in five-and-a-third innings. Beltre went 0-for-4 in the game, and as he was given the day off Saturday, he's gone 2-for10 in two games of the series so far, his average dropping to .245 as the Mariners revert to .500.

The chance to leave the Bronx as an above-.500 team depends on how they face the Yankee's DeSalvo in today's game. DeSalvo, making his major league, debut is such an obscure prospect for the Yankees, that he doesn't even merit a mention in the 2007 Baseball Prospectus. Still, he has been having a solid season so far in the minors, with a 3-0 record and 1.05 ERA, throwing nearly 12 innings of scoreless ball over his last two starts. Still, DeSalvo is a 26-year old throwing in AAA, so you'd have to be concerned if he wasn't dominating.

Expect the Mariners to score at least a handful of runs, but don't expect Miguel Batista to shut down the Yankees. Sure, he may have been solid over his last four starts, allowing just four runs over nearly thirteen innings, but he has been mediocre versus the Yankees in his career, with a 2-2 record and 4.58 ERA over 37 innings in 16 games. Johnny Damon in particular (a .522 average and 1.462 OPS in 23 career at-bats0 has eaten Batista alive, along with Hideki Matsui (.583, 1.449 in 12 at-bats) and Alex Rodriguez (.385, 1.145 in 13 at-bats).

My money's not on the Mariners in this one. 10-5, Yankees, as the Mariners return to the ranks of mediocrity...

The Tao of Manny


Look, one thing you can say about the "Manny being Manny" hoopla and the annual "will the Red Sox trade him or won't they" controversy that occurs twice each year (once at the trading deadline, again during the offseason) it can't be denied that Manny Ramirez is a great ballplayer, full of enthusiasm, and it is, indeed, a joy to watch him play. You never want to see your team lose, but it's a much better feeling know that it was at the bat of a great player like Ramirez, who went 2-for-5 with two homers and three RBIs in yesterday's 8-7 win by Boston over the M's, rather than a ninth-inning three-run home run off the bat of, say, Marco Scutaro.

Undeniably, I was very much impressed by Manny Ramirez in yesterday's ballgame. Much more impressed then the last images I had of Manny playing against the M's, was last July when Manny was kicking the ball around left field and then pointing at Coco Crisp to retrieve it as if Coco was Manny's personal caddie. Very interesting, and amusing, to watch, and of course his play was dismissed as "Manny being Manny." The M's won that game with a memorable inside-the-park home run by Beltre, but yesterday the M's were beat by Manny being Manny at his best.

Color me unimpressed by Daisuke Matsuzaka, however. I'm not sure what return you should get from a $100 million investment in a starting pitcher, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that having the first three batters lead off the game with bases on balls is far from it. Admittedly, I turned the game on just at the tail end of the first inning, so I missed Matsuzaka's struggle with his control. But his numbers in two games versus the M's break down as the following: 12 innings, 13 hits, 10 runs, all earned, six walks, and five K's. The Red Sox should feel lucky that the Mariners aren't a divisional rival.

I wonder what it is about the M's line-up that unnerves Maisuzake so much, with successful results against Dice-K? Is it the presence of two Japanese regular hitters, who may be familiar with Dice-K's offerings? Has the 'battle of the blood type' all but decided, with the Mariners' Japense blood types coming solidly on top?

Speaking of being unimpressed, it's hard to win when the first four batters in your line-up combine to go 0-for-13, as the M's 1 thru 4 managed to contribute yesterday. Sure, they did score six runs as they were smart enough to keep their bats on the shoulders when Daisuke was unable to find the strike zone, but when you compare Ibanez's hitless in four at-bats day, with a measly RBI on a fielder's choice, compared to Manny's day from the Boston four-slot, you can understand the advantage the Red Sox had the Mariners in yesterday's ballgame.

This advantage was assisted in the poor showing on the mound by Horacio Ramirez. Unable to match the feat of dominating a line-up with little experience against him, as Miguel Batista was able to do with the White Sox in yesterday's ballgame, the Red Sox had a field day against Horacio's offerings, collecting 14 base runners in four innings. Watching the game yesterday, it didn't appear that Ramirez was throwing up soft-toss batting practice offerings a la Jeff Weaver. Instead, he struggled to find the outside corner all game that can make him effective. With a 45% walk rate (43 walks our of 96 pitches thrown the Red Sox were able to be patient and wait for mistakes to feast upon. And feast they did.

Ultimately, as I predicted even if I got the score wrong, the game was decided by the teams' bullpen. The M's bullpen picked up another solid outing in relief of Horacio's early departure, pitching three solid innings before Manny's game-winning off of Chris Reitsma in the eighth. perhaps the most disappointing fact for Reitsma was that Manny's homer came right after Chris made Ortiz look foolish by striking him out on a curveball in the prior at-bat. Oh well. You can't win them all the time.

Regardless, the M's come into New York sitting a game over .500. I'm sure that everyone affiliated with the M's, from the players to the manager to the front office, are breathing a sigh of relief that their record is where it stands. Today was to be the day that Felix made his return to the mound, but with the Mariners looking to give Felix a little bit more time and not rush him off the DL and jeopardize the health of his arm, he won't be returning until the next time his turn in the rotation comes up, on May 9th. And so, in a match-up right out of the World Baseball Classic, Korean right-hander Cha Seung-Baek has one more audition to prove that he's more Meche than Weaver and thus deserves a spot in the rotation, and faces off against Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa.

There is not much history by these two pitchers facing off against their opponent. Baek has one career appearance against the Yankees, in which he tossed five innings of three-run ball in a no-decision, with those three runs being the result of giving up a three-run home-run to Bobby Abreu. Kei Igawa's season has not gotten off to a good start, with his 2-1 record burdened by an ERA over 6.00, twice allowing seven runs in a start. Having all ready been briefly demoted to the bullpen, Igawa made a case for his return to the rotation by tossing six scoreless innings in relief against the Red Sox last weekend. Igawa does have better splits at home and against right-handed batters, so unless Hargorve inserts Broussard into the line-up to get anotehr lefty in there, the M's may not be able to beat up on Igawa as other teams have. Still, they just did finish giving a far superior Japanese pitcher fits, so don't be surprised to see the M's come out on top. Final score, 8-5, M's.

Make it Seven of Eight


With a power display by Jose Guillen and Yuniesky Betancourt coupled with an impressive start by Miguel Batista, the Mariners continued their winning ways, beating the White Sox 3-2 to complete a two-game sweep. I'll admit, I was a little leery of how Batista was going to perform on the mound, as it appears you can never be sure what to expect from Miguel. But by allowing only three singles and two solo home runs and walking none over seven-plus innings, Batista delivered his best start of the season, which was nailed shut by George Sherrill and J.J. Putz. However, Beltre finished hitless in three at-bats for the afternoon, his season average at .258.

Others are beginning to notice. In the AP story linked to above, Greg Bell called the M's "not the same wilting bunch" that has finished in last the past few seasons. Shhh, Bell. Don't let the secret out. Otherwise, you'll ruin the Mariners' element of surprise!

Cynics may point out that the Mariners haven't been handed tough opponents over their current stretch of success. After their six game losing streak at the hands of obvious playoff contenders the Twins and the Angels, the Mariners have played the lackluster Rangers and the listless A's. And the Royals, who are always a bright spot on any schedule. The White Sox may have won the World Series a couple of years ago, but currently they're the most offensively inept club in baseball, with a team batting average of .221. The Mariners get their first real test to prove that, indeed, they belong in the upper part of their division with their current road trip taking them into New York and Detroit.

But first they need to pop into Boston to make-up last month's canceled game on what would otherwise be an off day. The M's get to face the exotic offerings of Daisuke Matsuzaka for a second time. Although Matsuzaka's won his last two starts, it's clear he was the benefit of run support provided by the Red Sox' burly offense. Despite allowing ten runs in thirteen innings, the Red Sox combined to score 18 runs over Matsuzaka's last two starts. Granted, Matsuzaka did lose his only start of the season against the Mariners, as he gave up three runs on eight hits, while the Red Sox offense was stymied by Felix Hernandez.

Unfortunately, the Mariners don't have Felix to counter with on the mound in today's game. Instead they will offer Horacio Ramirez, who is making his first career start versus the Red Sox. Perhaps he could provide an element of surprise to befuddle the Red Sox's imposing bats, similar to Miguel Batista's performance in yesterday's ballgame. But it appears that Ramirez got the short straw in the two match-ups of Sox offense. At this point in the young season, the White Sox are the exact mirror-image opposite of how the Red Sox are performing. Ho-Ram has his work cut out for him in today's ballgame.

It'll be a close, tight ballgame and I feel that the bullpens will help decide it. But ultimately the Red Sox will come on top, final score 6-4.

I Could Get used to this Winning Thing


Seriously. Six of the last seven games have ended up with the Mariners in the 'W' column. If we can just wipe the continued Jeff Weaver nightmare from our traumatized minds, perhaps the Mariners could stand a pretty good chance to win on any given night, against any given team.

Perhaps its too late for "I told you so's" but didn't I say before the season that the Mariners are a good enough team to compete in this division, not the near-unanimous doormats that everyone in the national media thought they would be? Yes, I believe I did.

Anyways, in the latest example of winning baseball, you have a combination of seven innings of two-run baseball from Jarrod Washburn (who has become the Mariners' savior in Felix's absence), a 3-for-4 game from Beltre, and a two-run home-run by Richie Sexson that put the Mariners ahead for good in the fourth inning. Who cares if he can't hit a single, jsut as long as he keeps winning ballgames with homers. Viva la Richie!

This afternoon's ballgame gives Miguel Batista anotehr chance to turn his season around on the right path after holding the A's to two runs in his last start. Batista might be winless against the White Sox in his career, but he does have a promising 2.93 ERA in nearly 31 career innings versus the South Siders. Admittedly, Batista has also little face time with the current crop of White Sox batters, which means he'll either struggle or get hit hard.

His opponent on the mound is young pitcher John Danks, making his fifth career major league start. Though he is winless on the season, in none of his outings has Danks been hit particularly hard. Even if he has allowed 18 base runners in his last eleven innings, he hasn't been nowhere near as combustible as Brandon McCarthy, the man he was traded for. Danks has a low-90s fastball and a devastating curve, with excellent control. The one caveat about control artists, however, is that since they're in the zone they have to be incredibly lucky with balls put into play. Danks' last start illustrates that problem perfectly. Though he walked none in six innings in Detroit, he did allow nine basehits, giving up four runs. Of course, as he hasn't faced the Mariners as of yet- and his splits are better in day games- there is always a chance that he might dominate in today's game as well.

Not likely. I think both teams will score a handful of runs, but with the Mariners riding their current Weaver-free hot streak, they'll come out on top by a score of 7-5 or something similar. Brandon Morrow will vulture another win, and J.J. Putz will dominate yet another ninth...

Meche vs. Weaver


I'm not just talking about Saturdays matchup, we all know how well that went.

I'm talking about "if"

If only we had Meche still in the rotation rather than Weaver. Sure, Weaver was a bit cheaper, but Meche was still way overpaid. As has been the increasing case with MLB players in general- this offseason just took the trend to a new level.

I know, "if" is crap, anyway.

I just think the Front Office made yet another mistake in not going after Meche more agrresively. He was always kind of groaned on by fans here in Seattle, and for good reasons. It seemed he had a tendency to make any situation tense. Still, I think he was affected by a lot of bad run support at certain times, more so the past three years. The fact is, at the end of the day he brings home W's. Forget about ERA, WHIP K's per 9, any of that junk for a second, and realize that Meche has never had a losing season in his seven MLB season. Not bad. Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan, to name just a few, all had losing seasons at some point. Sure, Meche has got plenty of time to change that trend, and one would think pitching for the lowly Royals would help that...but here it is, May, and he's 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA through 41 innings over 6 starts.

Not bad at all.

Good luck, Gilly.


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