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.

A three game sweep at home against any team is sweet. Especially when its against the team with the best record in the league. And especially when that team is the Red Sox, thus quieting the large sections of red-and-white clad hollering representatives of the Red Sox "nation", invading the M's home turf at Safeco. Sweetness, indeed.

The three games versus Boston had it all: a dominating offensive performance Monday night as the M's piled on in a 9-2 victory; a rock 'em-sock 'em back-and-forth resulting in eking out a one-run 8-7 final score on Tuesday; and a surprising five-inning scoreless outing by Ryan Feierabend, who was untouched despite giving up deep flies that died in Safeco's expansive outfield, coupled with extra-inning clutch hitting by Jose Lopez resulting in a 2-1 Mariners win, and the brooms were broken out.

By taking the three from Boston, the M's now have won seven of nine games on the current homestand. And as I've noted in an earlier post, Richie Sexson has been providing strong numbers in helping the M's to their dominant performance so far on this current homestand. However, Richie did go o-for-4 in yesterday's game, lowering his average to .209. Adrian Beltre also went 0-for-4, and he's now hitting .206 on the homestand, with a home run.

Both Beltre and the rest of the Mariners' line-up will have their work cut out for them when they face the Toronto Blue Jays and Dustin McGowan on Friday night. McGowan is coming off a one-hitter tossed last weekend against the Colorado Rockies, in which he went into the ninth inning without giving up a hit, finishing with seven strikeouts and just one walk allowed. McGowan has kept the Mariners scoreless in two career appearances against the Mariners, but those only covered 3.2 innings in two relief outings. Ben Broussard is the only current Mariner batter to have a hit off McGowan, and that was one single in three at-bats.

Jarrod Washburn takes the hill in tomorrow night's game, in hopes of keeping the M's winning streak active. He's coming off a strong performance himself in his last outing, twirling eight innings of one-run ball against the Reds last weekend. However, Washburn has been unlucky against the Blue Jays, as despite allowing just a 4.60 ERA against Toronto over 43 innings, of his seven decision in seven starts Jarrod's lost six of them. Frank Thomas has slugged Jarrod in a pretty big way, who despite hitting just .217 off Washburn, three of Thomas's hits were for home runs for a .966 OPS. Matt Stairs has also hit two home runs against Jarrod out of three career hits.

I think it'll be a low-scoring affair tomorrow night in the safe, with the Blue Jays coming out on top. I'm calling it 4-2, Toronto.

The Mariners squeezed out a one-run victory in their 8-7 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday, a day after trouncing them by a 9-2 score. Those wins, coupled with taking the last two in the series against the Reds, has led to the Mariners' current four-game winning streak and second-place standing in the division. Also, by taking two from the Red Sox, who have the run-away best record in major league baseball, posit that the Mariners could just- possibly- be able to compete with the 'big boys' of baseball. Except, it appears, the Angels, who have had no time manhandling the Mariners this year.

Richie Sexson provided the offensive heroics for the Mariners in yesterday's game, hitting a two-run home-run in the sixth inning to give the mariners their third, and final, lead at 8-6. These sort of clutch hits have become fairly regular for Richie, as he's been hitting .333 with five home runs during this current homestand. Willie Bloomquist also hit a home run- the first one that flew out of the park this season- which is only his sixth out of 1,000 career at-bats. Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4, picking up his 31st RBI with a first-inning bases-loaded walk, finishing the game with a .262 average.

Felix Hernandez was unable to duplicate the pitching success he had against the Pirates last week, as he allowed eleven hits and six runs- five earned- in 5.2 innings in last night's game. Fortunately, the Mariners bullpen came in and got Felix off the hook. The bullpen allowed one run over the last 3.1 innings, with four of the last six Red Sox batters striking out, including the last three J.J. Putz faced in the ninth inning, with Manny Ramirez whiffing for the last out of the game.

J.J. now has 24 consecutive saves. Somebody should check him, sometimes it seems like he's got ice water running in his veins.

Ryan Feierabend takes the hill in hopes for the Mariners to pick up the sweep in this evening's game. Feierabend will be looking to atone for his implosion in last Friday's Griffey love-fest, in which he was unable to make it out of three innings, and allowed eleven base-runners. This is the first time that Feierabend is facing the Red Sox, or any batters on the Red Sox roster, and for some reason that never seems to work out for the Mariners' advantage.

Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the mound for the Red Sox, and he's going to be looking to a little atonement of his own. This will be Dice-K's first appearance against the Mariners since allowing seven hits and five runs in his last appearance against the Mariners, May 3rd at Fenway. Although the Red Sox won that game, Daisuke is still looking for his first win against the Mariners in his thrid start. But he's facing a line-up that has enjoyed success against him, with only two M's batters- Ichiro and Raul Ibanez- having been unable to pick up a hit against Dice-K yet this season. Even though the rest of the line-up has been able to hit Daisuke, he's been able to limit the damage as he's yet to allow a home run against Seattle.

Don't expect the Mariners to pick up a sweep of the Red Sox, as it is highly unlikely Feierabend will outpitch Matsuzaka. I'm calling it for the Red Sox, by an 8-1 score.

Griffey's return


Growing up in Olympia, I had a poster of Ken Griffey Jr. hanging above my bed. They were handing them out at my local Fred Meyer, and autographs were promised. This was 1990, and Junior was a budding superstar, and I jumped at the chance to get an autographed Junior poster. What I wasn't aware of, however, was that it was Dave Valle who was signing the posters. So throughout my adolescence, I grew up with a Junior poster signed by the M's career .237-hitting backstop. How odd. No knock on Val, though, who has proven to be a great ambassador, not just for the Mariners' (I attended a baseball mini-camp once hosted by him and Harold Reynolds) but for his humanitarian purposes as well, as evidenced by the efforts through his organization, Esperanza, devoted to helping impoverished families in Haiti and Dominican Republican.

But enough about Valle. Tonight was all about Griffey. Watching him address the crowd as well as the career highlights brought back a flood of when I played baseball during my little league days. How my teammates and i would take turns mimicking his swing, with his back hand trailing his bat hand just so. For his first couple of years in the majors, I clipped and saved every story in the local paper that marked a Junior highlight: his first game, his first home run at the Kingdome. I remember the initial series of Upper Deck baseball cards and how card #1- Ken Griffey Jr.'s first "real" rookie card- was selling for well above triple digits at one point. I remember my Ken Griffey Jr. candy bar that I was going to save and sell, well, now I guess. Except my older brother ate it. More than anything, I remember how Griffey made being a Mariners fan fun.

Tonight was all about Griffey- that is, until the actual game began. As expected, the emotional outpouring on the field and around the stadium proved to be too much for 21-year old starter Ryan Feierabend, whose mechanics were completely off, bringing back that ol' time Mariner pitching that we all know and love. Feierabend insisted the ceremonies and the ovations didn't interrupt his routine or carry any extra weight onto his performance. But considering that in Griffey's first at-bat versus Feierabend, Ryan threw two tosses over to first base to keep Brandon Phillips, who reached on an inside Feierabend pitch that nipped his left leg, close. Feierabend's avoidance of Griffey brought a chorus of boos to the crowd- who obviously wanted to see Griffey pitched to. When Feierabend finally pitched to Griffey, Junior promptly lined a single to right-field, eventually scoring on Alex Gonzalez's bases-loaded double, finishing the first inning with the Reds up 4-0. Sadly, that was Griffey's only contribution to the game as he struck out three times and reached on a fielder's choice in his other at-bats.

Feierabend was squeezed at the strike zone by home plate umpire Mike Winters all game, causing Mike Hargrove to argue with Winters and get tossed from the game in the second inning. Feierabend was on the corners all night, but not getting any favorable calls, thus forcing him to throw meatballs down the plate which were hammered by the Reds' hitters. This partially explains Feierabend's line of nine earned runs allowed in 2.2 innings. That, and the fact that the Reds' have a pretty tough offense, leading the major leagues with 105 home runs at the end of the game. Feierabend's replacement, Jason Davis, didn't fair much better as he allowed seven runs in three innings. Davis was replaced by newcomer Ryan Rowland-Smith, a newcomer for the M's bullpen, an Australian left-hander called up from Tacoma, whose appearance in the game ensured that one historical feat would occur in Safeco tonight: the first major league appearance of a player with a hyphenated last name. In his major league debut, Rowland-Smith struck out the first batter he faced, who happened to be none other than the man of the evening, Ken Griffey Jr.

In short, every other Reds batter seemed to channel the spirit of Griffey, everyone except Junior himself. Reds' number nine batter, catcher David Ross, slugged two home-runs and knocked in five runs, while second baseman Brandon Phillips hit two solo home runs. Josh Hamilton also added a solo home run, as the Reds tallied 16 runs and 16 hits as the finale turned out to be a behind-the-shed whipping, 16-1, with the Mariners' run an unearned knocked in by Willie Bloomquist.

Ichiro got his hitless monkey against Aaron Harang off his back by singling in the fourth inning, extending his hitting streak to 17 games. Otherwise, Harang had absolutely no problems with Winters' strike zone as he otherwise allowed just two other singles, while striking out seven in eight innings, allowing reliever Mike Gosling to toss a scoreless inning to finish the game off. Beltre went o-for-3 to lower his average to .266, while Sexson went hitless in two at-bats lowered his average to .206.

Hopefully, the Reds' tapped their emotional reservoir and emptied out in Friday night's game, and their offense will run on fumes for the rest of the weekend. Jarrod Washburn will be looking to right the ship in tomorrow night's game, hoping to pick up his first win in nearly a month, beating Kansas City last May 27. Washburn has yet to face Cincinnati in his career , but of the Reds batters who have faced Washburn in the past, Ken Griffey Jr. does have one of two home runs, with David Ross having hit the other one. Kyle Lohse takes the mound for the Reds, and he holds a respectable 3.68 career ERA in 59 innings versus the Mariners, despite a 2-4 record. Ben Broussard has a good track record against Lohse, with five of his eight hits going for extra bases, including three home runs, for a .989 OPS in 28 at-bats. Richie Sexson also has good career numbers against Lohse, with a .389 average, two home runs, and a 1.143 OPS in 18 at-bats. With Raul Ibanez's .227 average against Lohse, perhaps Broussard can make a spot start in left-field, giving Ibanez a day off. Beltre has only one hit- a home run- against Lohse in six career at-bats.

There will be no pitching match-up in tomorrow's game. Balls will be flying, and this time don't expect it to be so one-sided. But I'm still going to have to side with the Reds in tomorrow's game, with a score along the lines of 9-6.

So of course after my kvetching about the Mariners' starting pitching, 17 shutout innings are tossed by Jeff Weaver and Felix Hernandez. Which begs the chicken-or-egg question: has the Mariners' starting rotation indeed rediscovered their confidence, or is it merely the futility of the Pirates' woeful offense? More than likely, it's a combination of both, as the AP story states that the combined records of four of five pitchers who have shut-out the Pirates this year- Kameron Loe, Kyle Lohse, Weaver, and Felix- were 5-22 at the time they tossed their shutouts. Got struggling starting pitching? The Pirates' offense will cure what ails you.

According to his post-game interview with Shannon Dreyer, Felix insisted that all he needed to do was rediscover the balance that he was lacking since the beginning of the season, when he got off to such a dominant start. If that was all that was lacking, then he rediscovered it, and hopefully the Felix that struggled to a 1-3 and record and 5.97 ERA in the six starts since his return from his month-long stint on the DL is history. Felix used his high 90-mph fastball to take advantage of the Pirates' free-swinging ways, picking up eleven first-pitch strikes against the team with the second-lowest on-base percentage and second-fewest hits in the National League. Thanks to the Pirates, Felix made eight scoreless innings look easy.

John Van Benschoten was once again betrayed by the offensive futility of his team, who have now scored a total of one run in his two starts. Van Benschoten has allowed just five runs and a .225 opponent's batting average in his two starts, with nothing to show for it. Could you imagine a worse fate than being a talented starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Ichiro extended his hitting streak to sixteen games with a double in the third inning. Ichiro's RBI single in the fifth capped an epic eleven-pitch battle between Ichiro and Van Benschoten who was throwing everything including the kitchen sink in a futile struggle to get Ichiro out. Afterwards Van Benschoten was quoted as saying, "I should have just thrown the ball down the middle and let him do whatever," with the frustration making itself apparent regardless of whether the you hear the words live or read them in print. After Ichiro's single, Jose Lopez followed with a two-run double, and with Felix being at the top of his game, that was all that was needed.

Adrian Beltre contributed another 1-for-4 night, maintaining his average at .270. Richie Sexson's 0-for-3 night dropped his average to .206. One wonders how the M's bats will be able to handle the Cinncinatti Reds, another of the NL's worst pitching staffs.

Tonight will be the Ken Griffey Jr.-love fest and regardless of who you are, if you're a Seattle baseball fan, you'll have a lump in your throat as Junior will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. If it wasn't for the efforts of Junior, there may not have been a Safeco Field or, indeed, any Mariners baseball in Seattle. Everyone has there own favorite Junior moments- I saw him hit that double versus the A's in his first major-league at-bat, listened to him climb the centerfield wall to take a way a sure home run from Jesse barfield in Yankee Stadium, and, of course, that iconic scramble around the basepaths to beat the Yankees in the 1995 playoffs- and tonight will be a great opportunity to revel in them.

And you know Griffey will ride that emotional wave to hit a couple home runs in one of this weekend's games. My money will be on tonight's. Ryan Feierabend will be hard-pressed to duplicate the starts provided by Weaver and Felix over the past two nights. Stepping into replace the ineffective Cha Seung Baek in the M's rotation, Feierabend will make his first appearance as a starter since beating the Rangers on June 3rd. No Reds batters have faced Feierabend yet in his young major-league career, and usually I interpret that as an edge for the pitcher, but I wouldn't be surprised if Feierabend will get distracted by the emotions that will be on the field. Obviously, I'd like to see him overcome the attention and continue the trend of starting pitching. Either way, I'm sure he'll strike out Adam Dunn a couple of times.

The Mariners' bats will have their work cut out for them as they face the Reds' ace, Aaron Harang. Though Dunn and Griffey have been having All-Star type seasons, Harang's numbers on the year (7-2, 3.88 ERA, 90 strikeouts in 99.2 innings) demand a case that he should be considred for the national League's pitching staff. Harang holds a career 2.11 ERA versus the Mariners, but has lost all three decisions against Seattle, the last time was allowing two runs in seven innings in 2003. Ichiro may not be able to continue his hitting streak tonight, as he has been hitless in ten career at-bats against Harang. Adrian Beltre has the only home-run off Harang by the current Mariners' batters, Beltre's only hit in five at-bats.

So I don't believe the Junior love-fest will translate into a victory for the Mariners. Harang won't be as dominating as he's been against the Mariners in the past, as both sides will be jazzed up and runs will score. I think a big night at the plate from Junior, however, will help the Reds to victory, with a score along the lines of 8-6.

Pity Junior. As with every former Mariner player (which even includes A-Rod), I'd like to see him win a championship. And that's not going to happen any time soon. It might be the best choice at this point in his career if Junior jumps at the opportunity to be traded to an American League team where his skills at the plate and in the field (but mostly at the plate) could help a team on the verge of contending for a playoff spot get that extra push to the post-season. A team like... the Seattle Mariners perhaps?

Jeff Weaver, hero?


And of course when I wrote that we shouldn't expect Jeff Weaver to stop the Mariners two week-plus streak without a win from their starting pitcher- much less a quality start- along comes none other than Jeff Weaver, all 0-6 and 10.97 ERA of him, comes along and merely tosses a complete game four-hit shutout versus the Pirates. This is why I love baseball.

Weaver threw pitches at a number of different speeds from a variety of arm angles. According to the AP story, Weaver was influenced from watching game film from when he won 14 games two years ago with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But I would also wager Weaver was just as influenced from the results opposing pitchers' had against the Mariners' offense the past few games. Just like the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez and the Pirates' Tom Gorzelanny had the Mariners' hitters flailing at off-speed pitches off the black, so did Weaver's selection of off-speed and breaking pitches returned the favor to the Pirates' bats. At one point, Weaver retired 16 consecutive Pirates batters as he put both his winless start to the season and the Mariners' six game losing streak to a dominating end.

Let's hope that his strong start instills in Weaver a sense of confidence for the rest of the season. And perhaps some confidence for the rest of the starting rotation as well. Hopefully, Felix was watching from the bench and got some inspiration from Weaver's performance to go out in tomorrow's game and pick up his first win in six starts.

Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4 on the evening, knocking in a run with a second-inning single to left fielder Jason Bay, who's throw home pegged Kenji Johjima in the back, allowing Johjima to score. After scoring on a Richie Sexson RBI single, Beltre ends the evening with a .270 batting average. Sexson also contributed his second home run in two days to deep left field, as he ends the evening with a .209 batting average- Big Sexy is now hitting nine points over .200! If he manages to repeat his .322 post-All Star batting average that he hit last season, his average would fall in line with last season's .262 average, despite the horrid start to this season. There's hope for Sexson yet!

Kenji Johjima added weight to his case for the All-Star game by picking up three hits in tonight's game, raising his average to .316. And Ichiro Suzuki continued his latest hitting streak to fifteen games with a third inning single. Suzuki's presence on the basepaths seemed to rattle Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm, as Suzuki immediately stole second- on a pitch that bounced away from Pittsburgh catcher Ronny Paulino- and stole third, although Paulino's throw may have beaten Ichiro, if Kata-riffic Pirate third baseman didn't allow the throw to bounce away from him into short left field. Jose Lopez then had no problem knocking Ichiro home with a groundball to shortstop. Bautista had other fielding woes, including rushing a throw in the second inning deep into the stands behind first base, and had other miscues that didn't show up in the box score, besides helping the M's roll to an easy victory behind Weaver's dominating start.

Felix takes the mound for the rubber game of the series, looking to improve his 4.76 ERA during interleague so far this season. Felix has yet to face the Pirates so far in his career, so if he's able to repeat Weaver's "dream" performance, then the Mariners stand a good chance of taking the series. However, things aren't going to be particularly easy for the M's bats in tomorrow's game. Former first-rounder John Van Benschoten takes the mound for the Pirates, and due to injuries that have derailed his career, will be in the hunt for his first major-league victory in three years. Benschoten picked up the loss in his last outing versus the White Sox despite allowing just two runs in nearly six innings, as the Pirates' bats failed him in a 6-1 loss.

Still, I'm going with the Mariners in tomorrow's game. The Pirates' line-up is the perfect opportunity for Felix to dial in a vintage performance, and if he can mix up his speeds and keep the Pirates off-balance, then Felix will be able to chalk up his first win in a month. Still, I think pitching will control the tempo of tomorrow's game, with a final score of 3-2, Mariners.

Oh, and some Mariners news update. The next big pipeline to players from the Far East, and the Mariners have signed their first two Chinese players to share their Japanese-influenced roster. Signed by the M's are infielder-outfielder Yu Bing Jia and catcher Wei Wang, both members of China's national team. Welcome to The Show, fellas, and let's see how Chinese ballplayers can translate to the American game....

Losing... to the Pirates?


This six-game losing streak is getting out of control. Especially when the Mariners falter 5-3 to the lowly Pirates, the worst team in perhaps baseball's worst division.

The Mariners are still looking for a strong performance from their starting pitching, who still hasn't picked up a win since Ryan Feierabend on June 3rd. Don't expect jeff Weaver to stop that trend in today's game.

Where oh where did the offense go?


Upon first glance, the 5-1 score that the Astros beat the M's by gives the impression of a pitcher's duel, but the truth belies that initial glance. Despite throwing nearly 75% of his pitches for strikes (74 out of 99) Felix Hernandez was unable to finish off Astros' hitters, as they collected 12 hits off him in six innings. Nine of those hits, luckily, were singles and Felix only walked one batter, otherwise the Astros batters- who have been struggling all year long- would've put up some numbers that more effectively represented just how much they dominated Felix's offerings.

Six Astros finished with multiple hits. Craig Biggio went 3-for-5 to finish the game 12 hits shy of 3,000. Despite struggling most of the year, Biggio's bat has come alive of late, as he's hit .500 over a modest four-game hitting streak. Mike Lamb finished the evening 4-for-4, with a two-run home-run in the sixth inning off of Felix. Lamb has only increased his average 41 points in his last two games versus AL West rivals Seattle and Oakland, going 7-for-12 to lift his average from .248 to .289.

Meanwhile, in the other line-up, Willie Bloomquist's exciting sixth-inning inside-the-park home-run past Houston centerfielder Hunter Pence was all the Mariners were able to muster. The M's have consistently taken left-handed pitchers to town so far this season, but last night they were stymied by lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who mixed up speeds and locations to leave the Mariners' batters befuddled all evening. They were only able to collect five singles besides Willie's mad dash around the bases, though Ichiro did extend his hitting streak to ten games, the 24th time he's done so, which is the most of any active major leaguer.

What happened to the M's' offense? Where did it go? In winning the first five games of this road trip, the M's averaged nearly six runs per game as they batted .307. As their five-game winning streak morphed into a three-game losing streak, they've been averaging half as many runs while hitting .172. It should be pointed out that those five wins were gathered in late-inning clutch situations, with the game on the line. Despite the early 7-0 lead that the Mariners jumped out to against the Cleveland Indians, which was squandered by Cha Seung Baek, the Mariners' offense has not been able to put games away decisively and early. To put that in a different perspective, with last night' loss to Houston, the current streak is eleven games without a victory from a Mariners' starter, since Ryan Feierabend held the Rangers in check for four runs in seven innings on June 3rd.

Today's game will probably be the Mariners' last best chance to finish the ten game road trip above .500, rather than coming home with a five-game losing streak on the heels of a five-game winning streak. Woody Williams, who has struggled all season for the Astros, takes the mound in this evening's game against the Mariners. The Mariners have given the right-hander fits in his career, as he holds a 3-5 career record with a 5.12 ERA in 70 innings, and Woody has allowed an eye-catching 16 home runs against the Mariners in that small number of innings. Against a pitcher with that type of track record, it could portend well for the Mariners' offense to break out of its slump. However, most of the current Mariners have a mixed bag of results against Williams. Raul Ibanez is hitless in ten at-bats versus Woody, while Richie Sexson is hitting .222 (6-for-27) and Jose Guillen has four hits in thirteen at-bats, except both Richie and Sexson and Guillen have homered off of Woody.

Don't expect the Mariners' streak of games not won by their starter to end in today's game, as Cha Seung Baek takes the mound for the M's. Still smarting from coughing up that 7-0 lead versus the Indians, Baek will probably be looking to compensate for that poor outing. However, it is now sorely obvious that Baek is nothing much more than a five-inning pitcher, at best. Like Felix yesterday, this will be Baek's debut against the Astros, but pitchers making their first appearance against a team never seems to work out for the Mariners as it does for opposing pitchers making their first start against the Mariners' bats. There are two batters in the Astros' line-up who have faced Baek before: Mark Loretta and Carlos Lee, who have combined to go 1-for-9. But the Astros collected 12 hits off a pitcher they had never seen. but as Felix was consistently around the strike zone last night, perhaps Baek needs to exhibit some wildness to keep the Astros' hitters in check.

Tonight's game has the markings of a slugfest, which will, once again, be decided by the teams' bullpens. But I'm predicting the M's will jump out to an early lead, which will be able to hold up. My final: 10-8, Mariners.

Cubs win 5-4


At one point in yesterday's game, Raul Ibanez hit a bases-clearing double to put the Mariners up 4-3. It was only the second hit that the for the M's at that point in the game. Very rarely do you manage to beat a team out-hitting you by five times as many hits, as the Cubs had racked up ten hits against Mariners starter Jeff Weaver. And that lead proved to be tenuous, as the Cubs bunched two walks, a sacrifice, and a double off of Brandon Morrow to win the game 5-4.

Brandon Morrow picked up his first loss of the season, dropping his record to 3-1. Unfortunately, the blown save also cost Jeff Weaver his first shot at a victory this year. Despite the ten hits, which Weaver scattered effectively, Weaver walked just one batter and even, while batting, sacrificed his body to be hit by a pitch from Jason marquis. By limiting the Cubs to three runs in six innings, Weaver managed to lower his ERA from a run-and-a-half, from a 12+ ERA to 10.97. He has now allowed just four runs over ten innings in his last two starts- both against National League teams. When one considers the success Weaver had after being picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals in the middle of last season, one must wonder if Weaver just isn't a more effective pitcher against the weaker National League line-ups. And if so, perhaps the Mariners can continue to trot him out and establish some cache as trading bait for a National League club looking for an extra push to separate themselves from division opponents and push their way into the playoffs. Such as seeing Weaver don the Dodger Blue once again- or perhaps Pat Gillick may swing a deal a la Jaimie Moyer and have Weaver end up with the Phillies? He's only signed to a one-year deal, and that's got to be attractive to any National League team if they're discussing Weaver to help with a late-season push.

As established, Adrian Beltre didn't play in the game, and will probably miss the series in Houston. His replacement, Willie Bloomquist, went 0-for-4. Having Adrian's bat in the line-up probably wouldn't have mattered much as the Mariners only picked up three hits on the afternoon.

Felix Hernandez takes the mound against the Astros in this evening's ballgame. Felix has been scuffling his last fews tarts, allowing a 7.13 ERA with 14 earned runs given up over 17.2 innings. All though Felix has never faced the Houston Astros before, he has a less-than-stellar 5.55 ERA against the national League in his career, but his ERA is slightly lower on the road (4.10) than at home this year (4.76). Working in his favor is that the only batter in the Astros' line-up to have faced Felix is Carlos Lee, from at-bats gained during his short stint with Texas last season. Lee picked up four hits- one double- in eleven at-bats for a .273 average.

However, Wandy Rodriguez is also making his first appearance in his career against the Mariners. Although Rodriguez has kept Jose Guillen hitless in six at-bats, Jose Vidro is licking his chops to face Wandy, having picked up six hits- including one home-run- in eleven at-bats for a .545 average. Vidro is my 'pick to click' for the Marienrs in today's game. If he does well, so will the Mariners' chances, and vice-versa. making things tough for the M's is Wandy's sterling 2.75 ERA in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park, being able to limit the offensive antics for opposing teams at his home field.

Still, I think the Mariners will regroup from the tough Cub series and rally to win in today's ballgame. Felix is due for a strong start, and will come out on top in a pitchers' duel. Jose Vidro should lead the Mariners with a multi-hit game, and the final score will be along the lines of 5-2.

Cubs win, 3-2


As expected, the M's weren't able to get much of anything going against Sean Marshall, as the Cubs eked out a 3-2 victory, snapping the mariners' five-game winning streak. Of course, Miguel Batista allowed a season-high five walks in half, and was the victim of an ill-opportune error by Yuniesky Betancourt, who's low throw to Richie Sexson muffed an inning-ending ground ball and allowed two go-ahead unearned runs to score on Mike Fotenont's grounder just out of reach one batter later. If those walks were cut in half, and if the error was avoided, the 3-2 deficit could've been turned into a 2-1 victory. But baseball's not a game of should'ves....

Batista did go seven innings, thus giving an overtaxed mariners bullpen an evening off. Despite his five walks and nine hits allowed, and Yuniesky's error, Batista was the benefit of some inept Cubs bats, as six runners were left on base by various Cubs hitters with two outs. Richie Sexson provided the offensive highlight of the game for the Mariners, connecting on a deep drive in the second inning, his tenth of the season. That coupled with Jose Lopez's RBI ground-out in the sixth was all the Mariners could muster versus Sean Marshall, who walked none and limited the Mariners to seven baserunners in eight innings.

Adrian Beltre didn't make an appearance in the game, and spent the evening in the dugout with his left hand in a splint. According to manager Mike Hargrove, Adrian Beltre will be "shut down" for the next few games, meaning that Beltre's bat will not be able to enjoy the hitting-friendly environs of Minute maid Park in Houston. Perhaps Beltre's current sub, Willie Bloomquist, may receive an offensive boost while picking up a few starts against the Astros. Not likely.

Beltre's injury and the Mariners' refusal to put him on the DL is cause for concern. They don't want to put Beltre on the disabled list as they beleive recovery from the injury wouldn't take a length of time necessary to go on the DL. However, Beltre is currently unable to swing a bat, and if they rush Beltre back into the line-up without giving the wrist a chance to fully recover from injury, Beltre- who was on an offensive tear before rolling his wrist- may have his wing affected by attempting to favor his wrist, and this may even do more damage, both physically and mentally. I'd suggest putting him on the DL, just to give him time to return to the line-up as a healthy and productive Beltre. Plus, it would also free up a roster spot to bring in another arm for the over-used bullpen.

Today's game features Jeff "The Deceiver" Weaver against the Cubs' Jason Marquis, former teammates on last year's World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Marquis has been having a brilliant season for the Cubbies, with a 5-3 record and a 3.01 ERA. Weaver, of course, has had pretty much the opposite for the Mariners, as he's still winless and his an ERA over 12 one-third of the way through the season. In his only career start versus the Mariners, Marquis allowed one run on four hits through six innings. Both Jose Vidro and Adrian Beltre- who will not be batting at all, of course- have hit home runs against Marquis, but the rest of the Mariners' line-up has little to show in their match-ups against Jason. Jeff Weaver's biggest nemesis in the Cubs' line-up is Jacque Jones, who has hit .310 (9-for29) with four extra-bases for an .892 OPS against Weaver. On the other hand, Derek Lee has been hitless in six at-bats versus Weaver.

For the Mariners' to be able to win two of three as I predicted going into this series, Weaver is going to have to be on top of his game, providing his best start of the season. He pitched somewhat respectfully in his last start against San Diego, before leaving with tightness in his back. If he's pitching well, he should avoid doing anything to aggravate his back, such as bunting every time up regardless of the situation and jogging to first. But having Weaver pitch effectively seems like a pipe-dream and Mariners fans should maybe feel lucky that this game is radio-only so the horror won't be televised. My prediction that the M's would take two of three seems short-sighted (it was predicated that this game would be the one that was dropped) as I'm sure the Cubs will come out as victors in this one 8-2.

Five game winning streak


Five games. Five clutch situations. Five different heroes. Holy moley, it's tough out here it be a Mariners fan.

After scoring the winning run in Monday night's game, Willie Bloomquist continued his unlikely heroic ways by knocking in Jose Vidro in the thirteenth inning on a soft single to right. Vidro, squat body and compact legs and all, chugged around third and bowled over Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett to score the go-ahead run. After an intentional walk to Ichiro Suzuki, pinch-hitter lined a single off first baseman Derek Lee's glove allowing Yuniesky Betancourt to score, completing the scoring in the Mariners' 5-3 victory.

Since June 1, Willie Bloomquist has gone 10-for-24 to raise his average 100 points to .267. Adrian Beltre, meanwhile, who had to be pulled from his last night's game as the wrist he rolled a couple weeks back was flaring up on him, has gone 3-for-21 in June, lowering his batting average to .266, below Bloomquist's. Not sure if that means Bloomquist may be seeing more playing time, if not at Beltre's expense then who else would take a seat for Willie to get some extra playing time. Or if it merely means that Bloomquist is a hot commodity off the bench, and deep down inside he's truly a National League player, and the reason why he's been the epitome of mediocrity while playing with the Mariners is that he's simply in the wrong league.

The Cubs got of to a hot start, tagging Jarrod Washburn hard in the first inning as Angel Pagan knocked in Alfonso Soriano with a double, and Derek Lee singled in Pagan for a early 2-0 Cubs lead. Just when it seemed that the Mariners were going to get blown out of the water in this game, Rich Hill balked Kenji Johjima in the second, and Jose Guillen tied the game up with a home run in the third. The two runs were all that Washburn was going to allow against the Cubs, as he ended up with a quality start, allowing just two runs in six innings. Normally, that would've been handy to provide the bullpen with some rest, but with seven innings left to go once again the Mariners' bullpen was extensively used, as six pitchers were used by Hargrove to throw seven innings of one-run game. But, no matter, the fifth consecutive win was in the books, thanks to none other than Willie Bloomquist.

Miguel Batista takes the mound for the Mariners in today's game, holding a career 2-2 record and a 6.27 ERA in 47 innings versus the Cubs. However, most of the Cubs that have given Batista trouble in the past are no longer with the team, as current Cubs Alfonso Soriano (2-for-19), Aramis Ramirez (2-for-14) and Derek Lee (4-for-16) have struggled against Miguel. Sean Marshall is making his career debut against the Mariners, and as he's been having an excellent season- with 2.08 both on the road and at the friendly confines of Wrigly Field- I'm going to have to give him and the Cubs a nod in this match-up. It could turn out that the Mariners' offense will fluster the young pitcher, but I'm siding with Chicago on this one, as they'll triumph by a score of 6-2.



That's 13 'u's- one for each total base in yesterday's game for Raul Ibanez. To say that he was indeed a 'pick that clicked' yesterday could be perhpas one of the understatements of the year for the Mariners. All Ibanez did was go 4-for-5, doubling his season total in home runs by smacking two two-run bombs, to go along with a triple, and willed the team to victory by knocking Willie Bloomquist in on the game-winning double in the top of the ninth. (I knew Willie would be involved somehow if the Mariners won!)

After a strong first few innings, Cha Seung Baek faltered on the mound once again, allowing five runs in 5.1 innings to a Cleveland office who after looking so tough and dominating earlier in the season, came off a 12-inning 1-0 shuout to the Cinncinatti Reds on Sunday night. It's becoming pretty obvious that Baek is a five-inning starter at best, which creates a drain upon the efforts of the Mariners bullpen and Hargrove's management of them. How is he to conserve them wisely or abstain from using them in pressure-packed situations in the preceeding four games if he knows he's going to need at least three innings from his relievers' arms on the games that Baek starts? Only twice this season in ten starts has Baek pitched at least seven innings. If Jeff Weaver is back as he appeared to be in his last start, then Ryan Feierabend, who pitched adequately as Weaver's replacement, should maintain in the rotation and push Baek to the bullpen. It's time to point out the obvious: Baek is not a major-league quality starter.

Off the Mariners go to Chciago where they will get a three-game taste of afternoon games and ivy at the Cubs' Wrigley Field. Considering the horrid implosion thatt he Cubs have been so far this season, I see the M's taking two of three easy as their march to the playoffs continues...

A Sweet Sweep in San Diego


Admittedly, I was not looking forward to how the Mariners started off their second four-city, ten-game road trip. Three games against the San Diego Padres' major-league best pitching staff in the unfriendly confines of Petco Park. Urgh. Any games I watched would be viewed through fingers clasped over my face. It had the makings of an ugly series.

But somehow, the Mariners were able survive both three games against the padres' pitching and the re-emergence of Jeff Weaver, who made his first start after spending a month on the DL. After winning both games Friday and Saturday by identical 6-5 scores, the Mariners finished their unbelievable weekend with today's 4-3 win over Padre starter Chris Young. Young has been incredibly tough in his home ballpark, allowing just three runs over his last five starts at Petco coming into the ballgame, a span of nearly 35 innings. Somehow, the M's were able to get to the dominating Young and score three runs in seven innings.

Adrian Beltre got his first start on Friday's game, batting seventh and going hitless in five at-bats. He went 1-for-4 in Saturday's game, with a double, as his average has currently settled at .267. After his OPS peaked at .816 at the end of May, it's now dropped 30 points to a still-respectable .786. The slack was picked up, however, by the top of the order, as Ichiro and Jose Lopez combined to hit .345 on the weekend (10-for-29) while knocking in seven runners. But the truly big bat was wielded by Raul Ibanez, whose second home run of the season won the game on Friday evening, and despite going hitless on Sunday, contributed a .400 weekend while providing ten total bases for a .667 slugging average. Despite getting hits in the first two games, Yuniesky Betancourt went hitless as well in Sunday's game, thus ending his major-league best 20-game hitting streak.

And the bullpen was once again fantastic, as it has been one of the Mariners' strong suits all season. Minus Jason Davis's two innings of three-run relief for Jeff Weaver on Saturday, the Mariners' bullpen contributed10.1 innings of scoreless relief over the weekend, allowing seven hits, walking four, and striking out nine. J.J. Putz continues to be perfect with 16 saves in 16 chances.

Listing the accomplishments by the team can only do so much justice. But more than anything, one needs to simply look at the M's record: 33-26, seven games over .500. Look, I know it's the first week of June and its absolutely crazy to talk wild card or playoff spot right now, but as the standings currently stand there are only a handful of teams that the M's are currently in competition for a playoff spot with. The Tigers and the Indians look like they're going to be a dog-fight for the Central all season long- and you can never count out the rest of that division, besides the Royals of course- while the M's are in fierce competition with the Angels and the A's, neither of which are willing to lay down like the Rangers and allow the other teams to run away with the division. With the drama all but drained from the AL East so early this season- when was the last year the M's had a better record & higher standing in the playoff slot than the Yankees at the middle of June- it appears that the Al West will be the source of some juicy, juicy plotlines as the season develops. And this was the division (or the Mariners at least) that was all but dismissed by the baseball experts in nearly every preseason forecast.

Speaking of the Indians, the Mariners make another one-game stop in Jacobs Field on Monday. I feel much more optimistic about the team's chances against the Indians then I did last time. Sure, Cha Seung Baek allowed five runs in 6.1 innings the last time he faced Cleveland, but Baek had kept the Indians hand-cuffed to two runs and four hits through six innings before melting down. And that was the last game before the Maribers' suddenly started pulling up double figures in hits in every contest, ripping off a 14-5 record- a .737 winning percentage- since then. Baek may have pretty lousy career numbers against Cleveland- two losses in two starts with 18 baserunners allowed and a 4.76 ERA in 11.1 innings- but the right-hander has been surprising when its been unexpected of him this year.

And the Mariners have their work cut out for them facing the Indians' Paul Byrd, who has owned the M's throughout his career, with a 6-2 career record, and a 2.29 ERA in 59 career innings. The last time Byrd faced the M's, he was one out away from throwing five official no-hit innings against them on that fateful day in May in which the first game of the four game series was snowed out in Jacobs Field. Raul Ibanez may be a good "pick to click" and continue has hot hitting, as he holds a .529 average in 17 career at-bats against Byrd, and Jose Vidro has seven hits in eleven at-bats against Byrd- including two doubles and two home-runs- for a .636 average and a 2.030 OPS. Adrian Beltre, however, has been able to muster little against Byrd's offerings, hitting just .238 in 21 at-bats.

Why I'm feeling much more better about this Mariners teams as they've won nearly three of four games over the past few weeks, sometimes you have to go with the logical conclusion. Playing at Jacobs Field against a strong Indians offense does not bode well for the Mariners' chances in today's game. Byrd and the Indians will come out on top, 7-4, unless something absolutely amazing happens, like a low-hit game from Baek, or a multiple home-run afternoon from Willie Bloomquist....

A 5-2 homestand is not too shabby


So the Mariners may have stumbled in the finale against the Orioles in today's game, but you can't fault the over-all effort put forth by the team in their homestand against the Rangers and the Orioles. By winning five of seven, the M's batted .328 and averaged seven runs and nine hits per game, although the .426 slugging average over the homestand belies the fact that the Mariners' offense was overly reliant on singles- and two-out singles at that- which means that the M's have little margin of error to work with. Unless they are able to start driving the ball on the road trip that takes them to National League ballparks (and facing tougher National League pitchers) that margin could flip, and the M's two-out magic could easily dry up. But while the going's good, let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope it continues...

After jumping out to an early lead in today's game, the Orioles started the fifth inning with four consecutive hits- a double sandwiched by three singles- on their way to put up a five-spot against Jarrod Washburn, who evened up his record on the year at 5-5. Given the two-out rallies that marked the M's victories over the Orioles the past two nights, it was impossible to count the M's out. Unfortunately this afternoon, the M's only went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and two outs after the Orioles jumped ahead in the fifth inning, thus accounting for the final 9-5 score. And once again Adrian Beltre did not make an appearance, thus limiting his effort to one pinch-running opportunity since he rolled his wrist last weekend.

The Mariners get a rare day off to travel to Petco Park in San Diego to face the Padres' tough pitching staff. And as Greg Maddux is pitching today against the Dodgers, the Mariners will miss an opportunity to duplicate their rout of the future Hall of Famer that they accomplished last month. Regardless, I've been doing research on how Hall of Famers have done against the Mariners throughout the franchise history. I just may have some results to share by the Padres series, as the M's look to duplicate the .750 record they had last year against the senior league during the next two weeks of interleague play.

Four games above .500



That's no influence from Disney's latest Pirates of the Carribean movie. I'm just voicing my frustration that, due to circumstances outside of my control, I was unable to pay close attention to the M's games over the weekend, just as the Mariners kicked it up anotehr notch and are now semi-comfortably perched at four games above .500.

Also, that 'aargh' also voices my feelings as I had to switch off last night's game- in the bottom of the eighth inning, when six consecutive batters got on base with two-outs, resulting in a four run rally, which turned a 4-3 deficit into a 7-4 victory.


This rally compensated for another poor start from Felix, who was hit hard in the early innings as he allowed four runs on six hits in the first two innings. Felix was unable to make it past the sixth as he threw 106 pitches in 5.2 innings, his pitch count inflated by allowing eleven hits and a walk. The rally also blew a solid start by Orioles' left-hander Erik Bedard, who tossed six solid innings, allowing three runs and striking out seven. Bedard had retired nine in a row before being lifted in the seventh inning for Jamie Walker, and as usual for the Oriole's bullpen they turned a sure Bedard victory into a gift for the opposing team. Bedard must hate his teammates in the bullpen: of his thirteen starts so far this year, roughly half (six) have been no-decisions.

And Beltre made an appearance on the basepaths as a pinch-runner, running for pinch-hitter Jose Vidro in the eighth inning, and ended up scoring a run. This was Beltre's first appearance since rolling his wrist last weekend against Texas. Yay!

The four game perch above .500 provides a good vantage point to look out over the upcoming schedule. After finishing up the series with the Orioles, its time for the annual extended trip to the National League for extended interleague series. First for the Mariners is a trip to Petco where they have a series against the Padres' tough pitching staff, then a one-day stop-over at Cleveland to face the burly Indians, and then back-to-back series against the imploding Cubs and the punchless Astros. Four games above .500 is a great place to be heading into this stretch of the schedule.

But first things first, the M's have to finish off the Orioles. They have Cha Seung Baek taking the mound for them tonight, the Korean right-hander who has delivered quality starts in roughly half of his appearances. This is Baek's first career start against the Orioles, and he does have a slight edge in his home-to-road ERA split (4.26-to-5.34) but nothing dominating. Northwest native Brian Burres (hometown: Oregon City, Oregon, and picked up his baseball chops at Mt. hood Communtiy College in Gresham, OR) takes the mound for the Orioles. Growing up a baseball fan in the northwest, although I have no information to support this assumption, but I would assume Burres is facing his boyhood heroes in the Mariners this evening. Something always seems to work out for pitchers in that position, and I'd wager that Burres would be able to quiet the hot bats of the M's. It doesn't hurt that he has a 2.01-to-4.60 road-to-home ERA split, or that he's allowed two earned runs in eleven innings over his last two starts.

Burres is exactly the unexpected buzzsaw that has given the M's fits over the past few seasons. One might think that with their hot bats, a newbie like Burres would cause the M's to lick their chops as they prepare to face him. I'd say hold on, and don't let your hopes get too high. Expect a low-scoring affair, with the Orioles coming out on top, 5-2.

Where has Slicky gone?


Holy smokes, where have I been?

Who knows...

Anyway, lets do a recap of the M's first weekend of June, shall we?

taking 3 of four from The Strangers was a great start, especially since the only game they lost was a one run loss on Friday night, 8 to 9, as the Four foot tall Kenny freakin' Lofton snagged a would be 2 run go ahead homer from big bad Adrian Beltre in the eighth inning. And if that wasn't enough, "KF" Lofton hit a sacrifice fly to give Texas the lead for good. And if THAT wasn't enough, Beltre rolled his wrist over late in the game and is still MIA.

What a horror of a loss...

but other than that, what a fun weekend!

Great hitting (outscoring the good ol' boys 33-24, out hitting them 47-39), great pitching, especially in clutch situations, and an all around defensive whipping as Seattle commited only one error during the series in comparison to Texas' five.

Also, Ichiro set a new M's record by hitting in his 25th consecutive game, promptly going hitless the next day.

The Orioles come into town tommorrow, and a match up of Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez could be a marquee game. However, due to both teams recent surging hitting, coupled with worn out rosters, I see a bit of a slugfest at the safe monday night. M's pulling it out 8-7.


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