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.

It's over now


Oh, sure the calendar says that there are 31 games left for the Mariners to play. And with a statistical edge over the Yankees, the M's have a fighting chance to earn a play-off berth. But it's time to be realistic here. After dropping their third straight game at home against the Angels 8-2 yesterday, the M's have reached the low point of their season, and any thoughts of besting the Yankees for that final playoff spot needed to be tempered immediately.

That's a pretty strong statement for a team that still has the third-best record in major league baseball. But look at the patsies that the M's have played over the past month that they've fattened their record on- they've been 11-5 against teams below .500 in August (White Sox, Orioles, Rangers) and 5-8 against above-.500 teams (Angels, Twins, Red Sox). Yes, of course, the M's need to beat up on the inferior teams to put themselves into playoff contention. However, the teams that the M's truly need to beat are the ones they're actually battling for the play-offs. And by folding in three straight in the series that tested whether they've been a eason-long fluke or not, the M's proved that they are not ready for prime-time.

Some folks are probably screaming for the head of manager John McLaren, who in his first 53 games as a major-league manager has guided the team to a 28-25 record and the playoff precipice that they are dangling over. I'm not sure if it's the manager's or the front-office's fault as much as it's the team's ability to over-play their abilities and be the benefit of some early season luck that has put the team in the current disappointing situation. It's not McLaren's fault that Felix threw such a clunker of a ball-game yesterday, allowing 13 hits and six runs in seven innings. It's not McLaren's fault that Ichiro went 3-for-13 in the three game series. Nor is it his fault that the M's were only able to tally five extra-base hits to the Angels' 17.

In the end, the M's just flat-out got smoked by a far superior team. But all season I've been saying that the M's are a good, but not great, team who would fall short of the playoffs. Nothing that's happened over the past few days has proven that sentiment is wrong. At the extent of alienating fans who are hungry for a playoff appearance (despite the fact that the M's would be three-and-out), the time has come to re-examine the rosters and various playing roles.

Adam Jones has all but disappeared from the Mariners' plans and line-up recently. Granted, he did have an 0-for-4 night during the Texas series, but still managed to score a run. Jones has received such spotty playing time, he hasn't managed a basehit in two weeks. With the M's being caught in the standings by the veteran Yankees all but guaranteed, McLaren needs to play for the future, and let this young man start every game for the next month. Ibanez can split starts at DH and first, with Vidro splitting time at Dh and econd-base with Lopez. Rosters are going to be expanded, and I know it's tempting to look at the M's record and trot out the same players day-after-day, but that's exactly what has led the team to this five-game losing streak. The sooner the team is not looked at as a play-off contender, the sooner they'll have a vision and plan for the future, and will be able to address their immediate needs.

The M's make a quick stop-over in Clelevand to make up one of the snowed-out games against the smoking hot Indians. Cleveland is the exact mirror image of the Mariners' situation. A month ago, they were jostling for position in the wild-card standings. Now they find themsleves at a lofty perch above the AL Central, with a 4.5 edge over the Tigers, my pick to win the AL pennant.

This will be the M's first look at left-hander Aaron Laffey, who's doing a respectable job filling in the fifth-starter position in the Indians' rotation. Facing a pitcehr for the first time never ends up in good results for the M's, but they have been beating up left-handers all year, so they have that going for them. Laffey has allowed six runs in his last two starts, over 11.2 innings against the weak offenses in Chciago and Kansas City. Will the M's offense be able to step up to the challenge today, or will the mix of disappointment and exhaustion work against them?

Of course, Horacio Ramirez on the mound may work against the M's chances as well. Horacio had perhaps his best outing of the year last weekend against the Rangers, allowing four hits and three unearned runs in 5.2 innings in a 5-3 Texas victory. This is Horacio's first appearance against the Indians, and a team facing a M's pitcher for the first time never sems to work out in the M's favor. Kenny Lofton's picked up a couple of singles against HoRam, but that's it.

In the end, the big bats of the Cleveland line-up are going to be too much for HoRam, despite a valiant effort on the part of the M's line-up. the misery continues, with the losing streak reaching six games with a 10-7 Indians victory....

Blowin' It


Undoubtedly, this home series against the Angels was the biggest series of the season. And there was reason to be optimistic. The team had won 15 of 21 games before dropping the last two games of the series in Texas. They had the third best record in baseball, with an offense averaging seven runs a game and a bullpen that basically turned evey game into a seven-inning affair. And after playing so effectively at home, the M's were coming home for three games in the friendly confines of Safeco for three games against the team they were valiantly pursuing in the divisonal standings.

But now the M's have dropped the first two games of the series, stumbling four games behind the Angels and having their wild card lead in front of the Yankees trimmed to a game. The two losses couldn't have been more different. The first one, a 6-0 blanking by Angels' ace John Lackey, spoke of the M's woeful offense, which has struggled mightily against Lackey this season. Lackey has tossed 24 scoreless innings against the M's so far in 2007. By throwing a complete-game shut-out against them on Monday with a strep throat, he makes shutting down the M's offense look easy.

The offensive heroics we've come to expect from the Mariners' line-up returned with a start last night, when the first five batters reached against Ervin Santana, including three extra-base hits. The M's jumped out to a 5-0 lead, as Sanatan was only able to muster one out against the M's. However, for the most part, that was all the M's were able to manage against Angels pitching, as Dustin Moseley tossed five two-hit scoreless innings to keep the M's bats in check. Jeff Weaver allowed five runs in 4.1 innings for the Angels to get back into the game, and then Los Angeles blew it open against Brandon Morrow, scoring four runs against him in one inning as the game slipped away from the M's despite that early 5-0 lead, with the Angels coming out on top 10-6.

Adrian Beltre has picked up one hit so far in the two games, a two-RBI triple in the first inning of yesterday's game. Kenji Johjima has picked up four hits in seven at-bats with an RBI, while Ichiro has gone 3-for-9 with a triple. Richie Sexson, however, has gone hitless for the season so far.

Tonight's game features yet another match-up between Felix hernandez and Jered Weaver. These two somehow always seemed to get pitted against each other when these two teams face. Will the burden of preventing a three-game home sweep at the hands of the Angels be too much for Felix, who's exhibited a little bit of tendencies to get frustrated on the mound at times this season? Jered has usually came out on top in these match-ups, but the last time these two faced each other, Felix out-dueled Jered, holding the Angels to six hits in eight innings while the M's tallied up 20 hits against Angels pitching, barely pulling out a 8-7 victory. Seven Mariners, including Beltre, pciked up multiple hits in that game. Don't expect to see that again.

In fact, it's hard to pick Felix to beat his arch-nemeis Jered for two consecutive outings. Jered will re-discover his dominance against the Mariner line-up at Safeco. Though Felix will pitch a nice ballgame, Jered will pitch a better one. For a epresing conclusion ot he most important series of the season, I think the Angels are going to top the M's by a score of 6-5. Hopefully, I'm wrong and the Angels get blown out of the water. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

M's drop a close one in Texas


Don't know what was most surprising about last night's 5-3 loss to Texas in Arlington. The fact that only eight runs were scored in the game, despite Horacio Ramirez matched up against Jamey Wright. Or the fact that Adrian Beltre committed two errors, the first on a high throw with two outs in the fifth inning, which led to Ian Kinsler hit a game-tying three-run home-run one pitch later. Those two-out errors seem to always get you every time.

Beltre's other throwing error, a high throw into right field in the seventh, allowed Travis Metcalf to score all the way from first base. Ian Kinsler scampered around to third, and scored when Gerald Laird put down a sacrifice bunt on a pitch that was around his eyes. I wonder when the last time the final score of a game at Ameriquest Field was decided on a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher?

So it's easy to pin the blame on last night's loss on Beltre, who also had an RBI single that extended his hitting streak to nine games. But Beltre has been playing solid defense all season, and hopefully last night's game doesn't lose him the Gold Glove. But a mark of a good team, or at least a good pitcher, is to overcome such mistakes and not let errors decide the outcome of the game. Horacio Ramirez allowed the game-tying home-run on the very next pitch, not Beltre. Take that one pitch away, and the M's may have been able to gotten away with a 3-2 lead. The win probability of last night's game showed just how the momentum swung in the Ranger's favor with that home-run, not surprisingly. And that is entirely HoRam's doing.

But last night's loss can't be entirely pinned on Horacio Ramirez either. He actually pitched one of his better games on the season- his four hits and three runs allowed in five innings was his best performance over a start that long this year. And of course unearned runs don't mean much, but this was his first start without giving up any. But in the end, it was the Ranger's batter who were more efficient, as they knocked in five runs on seven hits and three walks, while the M's went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position, eventually stranding 11 runners, twice as many as the Ranger's five.

Of course, this was also the first game with a different line-up then we've seen in recent days. Plenty of Mariners have been calling for manager John McLaren's head, as he's used the same line-up for a number of consecutive days during a span in which the M's will play 37 games in 38 days as make-up games with Cleveland will be needed to be played. Finally, McLaren alters the line-up, giving Ichiro the night off and having Adam Jones (who went 0-for-4 with a run and two strike-outs) lead-off, and Willie Bloomquist start at shortstop in place of Yuniesky Betancourt, who's been hitting .341 with a .979 OPS so far this month. Take out tow of the team's hottest hitters, and little wonder they struggled to score runs last night, despite Jose Guillen delivering another exciting moment when he attempted to score from second on a short line-drive to left-field from Kenji Johjima which would've given the M's the lead.

All-in-all there was a feeling of aggressiveness in last night's game, as the M's seemed to attempt to slug the ball on every pitch (something they've become accustomed to in recent games) while you got the sense that the Rangers were attempting to hold off losing three straight games of a four-game home series.

Jarrod Washburn faces Vincente Padilla in the final game of the series. Washburn is coming off back-to-back starts in which he's allowed just two runs in both. However, Washburn has not enjoyed much success against Texas in two starts so far this season. In 9.1 innings, he's been roughed up for 17 hits and eight runs, seven earned. For his career, he's split decisions and allowed a 4.30 ERA in 144.1 innings, but at Ameriquest Field, he's allowed a 6.14 ERA and 12 homr-runs over 63 innings. Michael Young, as usual, has enjoyed success against Washburn, with a .358 average and 1.019 OPS in 53 at-bats.

Vincente Padilla, once looked as a promising candidate to solidify the Rangers' rotation, has been having a rough year, with a 3-9 record and 6.55 ERA in 17 starts. Padilla has also struggled mightily against Seattle, with a 1-5 record and 7.07 ERA over 35.2 innings, allowing 48 hits and six home-runs. When he faced Seattle last May, he allowed nine hits and seven runs over three innings- and that was at Safeco. No reason why the M's can't beat up on the Nicaraguan right-hander even more in Arlington. Adrian Beltre has punished Padilla in their match-ups. Though Beltre may just have five hits in 22 career at-bats, four of them have left the park, which equals out to a .227 average and 1.064 OPS. Raul Ibanez (.455, 1.227 in 11 at-bats), Ichiro (.550, 1.371 in 20 at-bats), and Jose Vidro (.333 average in 30 at-bats) have all had no problem with Vincente's offerings. Richie Sexson (.235 with six strike-outs in 17 at-bats), however, has struggled against Padilla.

I know I keep saying this, but I believe today's game well be an old-fashioned Texas-style slugging match-up. And I'[m picking the M's to come out on top, 11-7.

Jose Guillen, Ranger killer


So it ended up being a pitcher's duel after all, and it was a lethal combination of a dominating Felix Hernandez plus two RBIs from Jose Guillen that did the Rangers in by a 4-2 score.

With two outs in the bottom of the first, Guillen got the Mariners' night started with a solo home-run to left-field. And with two outs in the seventh and Ichiro at second base, Guillen lined an RBI base-hit to right-field to knock in Ichiro and complete the M's scoring for the evening. Guillen showed his aggressive nature on the basepaths as well today, as he attempted to stretch that seventh-inning single into a double and got thrown out at second for the final out. Plus, earleir in the game Guillen went to thirdfrom first on a single by Raul Ibanez that Ranger left-fielder Frank Catalanatto allowed to drop in front of him. With his performance this evening, Guillen is now hitting .340 against the Rangers this year, with three home-runs and a .969 OPS in 17 games.

As if Jose couldn't make a stronger case to be re-signed to a contract extension by beating up a divisional rival! Of course, as Geoff Baker points out on his Seattle Times blog, all of the leverage for any contract talks has now fallen into Jose's corner. With Jermaine Dye re-upping with the White Sox, meaning that Guillen will be the only free-agent corner outfielder to hit the market this off-season, and he'll be looking for a contract similar to Eric Byrne's recenly signed three-year $30 million deal.

Felix was on top of his game as well, settling down for his first dominating start at Ameriquest Field. After allowing a lead-off single, Felix retired the next fourteen consecutive Ranger batters, including four straight strikeouts at one point. After seven dominating innings in which he allowed three hits and two runs (both on David Murphy's ballpark-assisted line-drive home-run in the fifth that briefly tied the game 2-2) while striking out seven, Felix was pulled from the game despite tossing just 84 pitches. Although the evening down in Texas was not nearly as muggy as it appeared to be last night- with rivets of sweat seeping down poor Kameron Loe- one can only assume that the Texas heat was the rationale for pulling Felix after during such a dominating start. Luckily, George Sherrill, Brandon Morrow, and J.J. Putz combined to toss three-innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball to preserve The King's 10th win on the season.

Ichiro picked up anotehr three-hit night, his second consecutive and fourth in his last six games to take the batting title lead. Adrian Beltre doubled twice to extend his hitting streak to a season-high eight games, but still have of the 16-game streak he had at the end of last season. Beltre's batting average now stands at .282.

That average stands to get even higher and the streak continued when Beltre faces Rangers' right-hander Jamey Wright in tomorrow's game. Beltre has tattooed Wright for a .391 average in 23 at-bats, with two extra-base hits for a 1.065 OPS. In fact, when Wright last faced the M's as a member of the Giants' rotation last season, he allowed a home-run to Beltre in a 5-1 loss. Beltre, Ichiro, and Yuniesky Betancourt got multiple hits in that game. Wright has dropped both of his career decisions against the M's and has given up the same amount of walks as strikeouts (10) in 20 innings. Could the M's bats repeat themselves against Wright tomorrow?

Then again, the Mariners are going to have to survive an outing on the mound from Horacio Ramirez. Horacio + Ameriquest Field = shielded eyes. In his only start at Ameriquest, Horacio wasn't even able to make it through five innings as he allowed eleven hits and eight runs. Is anybody really surprised? Granted, he allowed just one earned run in six innings in his last outing against the Rangers, but that's only because four unearned Ranger runs crossed the plate. Horacio hasn't allowed less than three earned runs in his last six starts- don't look for that streak to end tomorrow. Although no longer a regualr in the Rangers line-up, don't be surprised to see Sammy Sosa get thestart at DH tomorrow night, as Sosa enjoys a .455 average in 11 at-bats against Ramirez. Brad Wilkerson and Marlon Byrd have also homered against the ex-Brave starter as well.

So it's going to be ugly tomorrow. And though I've been picking the Rangers and the M's continue to come out on top, I'm going to tempt fate by picking the M's to win tomorrow. But it won't be pretty, For those fantasy baseball players, make sure you have your Mariner and Ranger batters in the line-up as the balls will fly and the runs will be scored. But I think the M's will come out on top, 13-11.

Yay Jose(s)!


With a bases-clearing double by Ichiro sounded by home-runs by both Joses in a seven-run sixth inning, it didn't take much from Jeff Weaver on the mound as the Mariners coasted to a 9-4 win over the Mariners. Luckily, however, Weaver dialed in another spectacular August start, allowing seven hits and three runs in six innings, throwing 60 of his 82 pitches for strikes.

The M's entered the sixth inning behind 3-1, due to home-runs hit by the Rangers' Brad Wilkerson and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But after Jose Guillen hit a lead-off home-run and Raul Ibanez flied out, the M's strung together two hits, a hit by pitch, fielding error, which loaded the bases for Yuniesky Betancourt popped out to Saltalamacchia behind the plate. Then with a 3-2 count on Ichiro, Rangers' starter Kameron Loe tossed a breaking-pitch on the outside right-hand corner that Ichiro just barely got a piece of. After staying alive, Ichiro reached out and slapped the low curveball delivered by Loe out over the head of center-fielder David Murphy- who was playing close for the slap-hitting Ichiro. After knocking Loe out of the game, Jose Vidro rudely welcomed new Rangers reliever with a home-run to right-field. His two-run shot were RBIs numbers 50 and 51, becoming the ninth Mariner to have 50 RBIs on the season, a Mariner first.

Kameron Loe tossed 100 pitches as he was unable to finish six innings for the Rangers. So far this season, Loe hasn't shown much stamina as he's only been able to minimize damage through 45 pitches. From pitches 46-60 Loe's BAA is .321, 61-75 it's .333, and pitches 76-90 batters are hitting .306 against Loe. Without the numbers of OPS or a corresponding breakdown of his BABIP for these later innings, I cannot say decisively that Loe has been getting hammered or has been a victim of bad luck or sloppy defense. But with the high number of hits he's allowed so far this year (142 in 121 innings) it's safe to say that Loe has been hittable, and the longer he stays in the game the Rangers' chances of winning drops lower, as tonights win probability from Fangraphs can illustrate. Once touted as a key member of the Rangers' future rotation, Loe has developed to be a four-inning pitcher, at best. having a swingman start every fifth game for you is a recipe for certain disaster, which is what the Rangers have become synonymous with in recent seasons anyway...

Adrian Beltre went 2-for-5 to bring his average up to .280, a height it hasn't reached since July 15th, when it was perched at .281. Ichiro picked up three hits to bring his average to .352, just a tick off Magglio Ordonez's .353 average. Three other Mariners picked up multiple hits as the team tallied 15 basehits, and even Richie Sexson had an RBI single, now picking up hits in 13 of his last 15 games.

The Mariners attempt to stretch the winning streak to multiple games by facing Kevin Millwood tomorrow night. Millwood has good career numbers against Seattle, with a 7-4 record and 4.22 ERA over 79 innings. He picked up a win when he faced the M's at Safeco a few weeks back even if he didn't pitch particularly strong, allowing four runs on eight hits and four walks in 5.1 innings as the Rangers edged the M's 8-7. Both Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson have had success facing Millwood, each hitting three home runs off of Kevin- in 51 career at-bats for Beltre and 45 for Sexson. Jose Vidro has also had success against Kevin, batting .333 with an .899 OPS in 75 at-bats.

On the mound for the Mariners tomorrow night is Felix Hernandez, who has not had good success either against Texas or at Ameriquest Field. Felix is 2-4 with a 5.44 ERA in 46 innings against Texas, and has gotten pounded for a 9.15 ERA over 19.2 innings at the Rangers' home ball-park. Sure, it would be nice for Felix to put it all together, and have another one of those masterful two-hit, eight scoreless inning starts, but don't bank on that for tomorrow. Michael Young has done the most damage against Felix- with a .375 average and .983 OPS in 24 career at-bats, but then again Young has consistently put up solid numbers against the Mariners in general.

It's hard to pick against the King, but I don't think he'll have his best stuff tomorrow. I'm not saying Kevin Millwood will out duel him in a pitcher's match-up, but in the end I'm going to give the edge to the Rangers, as they'll squeeze out yet another one-run win over the Mariners in Arlington, by a 7-6 score.

Twins series recap


For the first two games of the Twins series, the Mariners were unloading upon Minnesota's pitchers, playing home-run derby in the cozy confines of the Metrodome. The M's made Matt Garza look pretty silly in a 9-4 win on Monday. Garza had allowed just one home-run all year, but the M's touched him for four home-runs and seven runs as Garza was unable to make it out of the third inning. The Mariners proved that there is nothing quite like using vengeance to get revenge on someone, getting Garza back for his dominating, seven-inning three-run start that he tossed against the Mariners a week prior in Safeco.

The M's jumped out to an early lead again on Tuesday, with Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson hitting back-to-back home-runs in the second inning to continue with the home-run heroics. The scored stayed 2-0 for five innings before the teams traded runs in the sixth. Regardless, with the M's breaking the game open for four runs in the eighth against Minnesota's bullpen, Jarrod Washburn was finally able to pick up his first win in two-and-a-half months with yesterday's 7-2 victory.

However, today the Twins got back at the M's for Seattle's batters putting them in early deficits the first two games. Miguel Batista was on the mound, having won six of his last eight starts, and only once this season and had only pitched less than five innings in a start twice this season. However, he was out of the game today by the third inning, as the Twins pounced all over his offerings for seven runs in the first inning, fueled by Michael Cuddyer's grand slam. After getting lead-off batter Alexi Casilla to ground out, Batista allowed hits to the next seven batters. After allowing another run in the third, Batista was replaced by Ryan Rowland-Smith, who had been selected by the Twins in the Rule 5 draft a couple seasons back but had to be returned to the Mariners. Rowland-Smith shut the suddenly potent Twins offense, tossing four hitless innings as the Mariners put four runs on the board. Despite reliever John Parrish giving up five hits, the Twins were unable to score and the game ended with the score at 8-4.

Ben Broussard's home-run in the seventh- his first at-bat in 11 games- was the M's seventh home-run of the series. Indeed, offensive heroics were spread throughout the line-up for this series. Adrian Beltre picked up six hits in 14 at-bats, with two doubles and a home-run, to extend his hitting streak to six games. Raul Ibanez had a big explosion on Monday, with three hits and two RBIs. Ichiro picked up six singles in 14 at-bats, while two of Richie Sexson's three home-runs left the yard.

The Mariners continue their ardorous journey on the road, arriving in Arlington tomorrow to play three against the division rivals Texas Rangers. Hopefully, the Rangers' offense will be spent after the history-making 30-3 whuppin' they gave the Baltimore Orioles at Camden yards this afternoon. Jeff Weaver takes the mound tomorrow for the Mariners, and while it may be tempting to root for the league's shut-out leader- 5.57 ERA and all- who's won all three of his starts in August to pitch a good game tomorrow, Weaver has historically pitched very poorly against the Rangers in Arlington (2-5, 5.25 ERA against the Rangers and a 1-2 record with a 6.23 ERA at Ameriquest Field).

Weaver's mound opponent, Kameron Loe, pitched five scoreless innings in his last start to win his for the first time since the beginning of July. The Rangers topped the M's 4-3 in Loe's last outing against Seattle a few weeks back. Loe has a career 2-1 record and 3.82 ERA against the M's over 33 innings. Although Beltre has only two hits in 11 career at-bats against Low, Yuniesky Betancourt (.455 in 11 at-bats), Raul Ibanez (.385 in 13), and Ichiro (.308 in 13) enjoy feasting on Loe's offerings. However, the only Mariner to have homered off Loe is Jose Guillen, which was also Guillen's only basehit in five at-bats against Loe.

It's going to be a rock 'em- sock 'em type game tomorrow night with this pitching match-up. And with Weaver on the mound, I'm still going to have to go with Loe. The Rangers will go on top, 11-6. If that happens, let's just hope the Angels (who are facing Toronto and rookie Jesse Litsch, who's pitched surprisingly well for a 24th round draft pick) lose tomorrow. Which is doubtful....

White Sox series recap


This past weekend's series with the White Sox proved to be a test of the Mariners' character. If they are, indeed, one of the top echelon of teams in baseball, then they needed to stomp all overthe sub-.500 teams that they play. Winning any less than two games would've been a disappointment. Instead, the M's won all three games, playing commanding baseball all weekend. The M's jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Friday before holding on to win 5-4. on Saturday they came from behind to win for the 36th time this season, by a 7-5 score. ANd yesterday they jumped out to an early lead, knocking White Sox starter John Garland out of the game in the third inning as the M's won 11-5.

The victories keep the M's on top in the wild card standings by a half-game over the Yankees., and just two games behind the ANgels in the West. Now the Mariners reach the part of their schedule where they get to ultimately prove their season is not a fluke. 17 of their next 20 games are on the road, playing against such contenders as the Yankees, Tigers, and Indians. There only three games at home will be against the Angels. it's time to put up or shut up for the M's.

There were numerous hitting stars over the weekend for the M's. Beltre had a solid weekend, going 6-for-12 with a home-run to raise his average up to .274. Ichiro went 4-for-11, Raul Ibanez went 5-for-10 wit ha home run, and pesky Jose Guillen jump-started the M's offense all weekend, going 5-for-11 with a home-run and seven RBIs, including the sixth five-RBI game of his career on Sunday. Even Richie Sexson was able to pick up a hit in each of the three games, as he has a modest four-game hitting streak in progress.

The M's kick-off their road trip tonight in Minnesota facing the Twins' right-hander Matt Garza, who hled the M's to seven innings of three-run ball facing them in a start last week. The Marienrs are matching with Horacio Ramirez. Ugh. I'm not looking forward to this one at all....

For the second game in the past week, a grand slam was hit by the Mariners' opponent in the ninth inning. The first one was allowed by J.J. Putz against the Chicago White Sox last weekend, as Putz ended up with a four-run save in a 7-6 M's victory. The next one came last night as Torii Hunter came up to the plate for the second time in the ballgame with the bases loaded (both times after intentional walks to Mariner-killer Joe Mauer) in the ninth inning and rather than knocking an RBI single as he did the first time up, in he deposited the ball over the fence against the usually steady Sean Green, who allowed his most runs on the season and saw his ERA tick up by 60 points, in yesterday's 6-1 Minnesota win.

This blew up an other-wise tightly-played contest. Contrary to it being a slugfest with both teams tagging the other starting pitcher for a number of runs, Scott Baker nad Jarrod Washburn, allowing a solo home-run a piece for a 1-1 tie through seven innings. Then came the eighth inning RBI knock by Torii. And then the complete fiasco in the ninth.

What is most eyebrow-raising about the ninth-inning slams in the span of five days is that all season the M's bullpen has been the team's strength. It may very well be the best bullpen in the league, and if it's success was cut in half, then the idea that the M's would have the third-best record in baseball would be laughable. So as the season gets whittled down to the last six weeks, and the dog days of summer set in, it's a little worrisome for the bullpen- especially for Putz- to be allowing such late-inning heroics to the other side.

Washburn pitched well enough to lose- two runs, one earned, over seven innings- but came winless for the seventh time since the Fourth of July. Scott Baker, contrary to getting lit up as he did in his first career outing against the M's, had no problem figuing out the Mariners' line-up, allowing ten runners over 6.2 innings, getting into jams in the second, third, and seventh innings but escaped unscathed. Raul Ibanez's solo home-run (his sixth in his past nine games, do you think he's responding ot the pressure from Adam Jones's call-up?) in the sixth inning was all the offense that the M's could muster against Baker. Ichiro slappeda couple of singles, but that was all, as Adrian Beltre wnt 0-for-4 to have his average drop to .267.

Despite dropping two of their first three games on this homestand, the M's are still in a statistical dead heat for the top of the Wild Card standings, tied with the Yankees as both Cleveland Detroit lurk a game behind. The White Sox roll into Safeco on Friday and the M's should easily repeat what they did last weekend, take two of three, and perhaps even hit a ninth-inning grand slam of their own. Consider it payback time....

Minnesota 11, Seattle 3


Well, you can't when them all. But I'll be happy if the Mariners continue to keep winning 56% of the time.

The final score in last night's ball-game, 11-3, was indicative of the fact that Horacio Ramirez started for the M's, delivering a typical "Horror Arm" outing as he dropped his first decision of the season at home, allowing nine hits and six runs over five innings. Ramirez has now allowed 28 earned runs over his last 24.2 innings. The most I can say about him is that I miss Rafael Soriano.

Raul Ibanez also picked up the start in left field last night, which may have had some effect on the final score. Granted, he didn't receive any official errors, but with the number of balls that found its way into the left-field corner, it appeared that the Twins knew to take advantage of the M's achille's heal and pepper the ball into that part of the ball-park. Granted, Raul did drive in one of the M's three runs, but he could always do that in the line-up as the DH, and deny the opposing team the weakest defender to hit the ball to, a main portion of the strategy to beat the M's.

Jose Vidro was the other hitting star for the M's last night, with two RBI singles, his fourth multi-hit game in his past six games. I've been critical of Jose all year, mainly because I thought the M's gave up too much in Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto. But considering the constantly-injured Snelling is now filling a DL slot for the Athletics and that Fruto has a 1.15 BB-to-SO rate down in the minors, I think the M's got a pretty good return for their DH. Sure, Vidro's presence in the DH slot forces Raul on the field, making the M's a weaker team defensively, and perhaps Vidro should fill in more at second base to replace the struggling Jose Lopez. But one thing is for sure- with a .980 OPS since the All-Star break, Vidro's bat needs to stay in the line-up every day in some capacity.

Most credit for the Twins victory last night has to be given to their starter, Matt Garza, who has ben a top prospect in the Twins' system as he shot through it in a rocket-style race to the big leagues. In his first career start, Garza pitched seven innings and allowed three runs, keeping the M's off balance with high 70s/ low 80s breaking pitches and a fastball that clocked in the mid-90s. Garza has been very effective in limiting the damage by opposing teams so far this season. the M's three runs were the most that have been tallied against the Twins in Garza's eight starts. He's undoubtedly a top talent, and with Francisco Liriano accompanying Garza and Santana in the rotation next year, the Twins may very well have the best 1-2-3 starters in the league, if not in all of baseball.

The M's face another Twins prospect tonight in Scott Baker, who admittedly has a lower cahce in the eyes of the Twins' organization than he used to. Baker has a low walk rate- just 20 in 92.2 innings, or roughly two per game- and being constantly around the strike zone has given Baker trouble in the past, as batters have routinely smacked Baker around. This season, however, he has seemed to found a solution to those problems, with opponents hitting sixty points lower and slugging 130 points lower than in 2006. Regardless, Baker allowed six runs in 5.1 innings in his last start against the Los Angeles Angels, which came after 16 innings of one-run ball in his two preceding starts. Baker lost his only decision against the M's, allowing ten hits and five runs in a 8-2 pasting the M's gave him in the Metrodome last May. The M's talled 19 hits that game, with four Mariner batters racking up three-hit ball-games, and Ichiro wasn't one of them. Adrian Beltre, however was, while Richie Sexson and Kenji Johjima hit home-runs. Can a similar pasting be in store tonight?

Jarrod Washburn takes the hill for the M's tongiht, and considering his 5-4 career record and 3.69 ERA over 78 innings against the Twins, he might be able to pitch himself into position to pick up his first win since the Fourth of July, having gone 0-3 with three no decisions since then. However, the last time Washburn faced the Twins last May, he allowed eight hits and four runs as the Twins eked out a 6-5 victory. The Twins offense won a war of attrition against M's pitching in that game, picking up 13 hits, all but three were singles. However, Washburn has done an incredible job of minimizing the Twins' big bats, with Torii Hunter hitting just .179 in 28 at-bats against Jarrod, while Rondell White has been limited to a .250 average (including a homer and 3 RBIs) in 16 at-bats.

Still, runs will be scored in tonight's game. I do not have confidence in either starting pitcher to limit the other team, and do believe the game will be decided by the teams' bullpens. Both teams have really strong teams, with the M's- who have perhaps the best in baseball- having a slight advantage, so I'm calling them to return to the win column tonight, beating the Twins by a 9-7 score...

Road trip = great success


The White Sox and Orioles never knew what hit them.

The six-game road trip was undoubtedly a great success. After Jeff Weaver's brilliant five-hit 6-0 against Chicago yesterday afternoon, the M's return to the friendly confines of Safeco field having won fix of six on the road. The M's return home not only in the statistical lead for the Wild Card, but also with the third-best record in all of baseball.

This quite a scenario, and one that Mariners fans are unfamiliar in how to deal with. Here at BBB, celebration of the Mariners' success is the order of the day. We dole out criticism and snarky comments when deserved, but it's kind of hard to do that when the team is in the top 10% of all of baseball. Yes, I've said it many teams, the M's have been the benficiaries of luck all season, but if the results over the road trip prove anything its that the team can be a dominating one, beating up lowly teams and untalented pitchers when needed. It's not as if they won games that were squeakers, narrowly coming out on top in a one-run fashion. (J.J. Putz's "grand slam save" on Saturday notwithstanding.) Indeed, the M's typically came out to an early lead and either continued beating up on the other side- as with the Orioles- or simply denying the other side to catch up with them, as they did in the Chicago series.

The exception, of course, was the 5-3 loss to Chciago on Friday, a loss that has been called a "travesty" by some, mostly due to the fact that Raul Ibanez played left field rather than Adam Jones. And, of course, the White Sox implemented the best plan to beat the M's, which is to hit balls into left field. Raul's lousy fielding ability appeared almost contagious, as usual sure-gloved Ichiro misplayed a ball in the game, which rolled to the center field wall in the seventh inning, allowing Darin Erstad to have an RBI triple. However, in Raul's defense, he did almost emulate Adam Jone's 7-3 double play from the day earlier. And Raul didn't go hitless with runners on all by himself in Friday's game, as he picked up three hits and homered in a game that the M's out-hit the White Sox 11 to 7 yet left 14 runners on base. There were only thre innings in Friday's game in which the Marienrs never got on base, yet were only able to muster three runs. And that wasn't just bcause Raul Ibanez played in the field.

Do I think the M's would be a better team with him off the field and playing DH? Undoubtedly. But with the number of players that need to be rotated and kept fresh, there will be times when Raul- gimpy legs and all- will man the corner outfield spot. And even though he's been doing that for the majority of the year, somehow the M's have been able to put together the third-best record in baseball, despite all odds.

Jeff Weaver was absolutely brilliant last night, as he did what was necessary to shut down a moribund Chicago offense. It was his second complete game shut-out of the year, and considering he has four wins so far this season he may unquestionably have the highest percentage of wins that are complete game shut-outs. He mixed up his speeds and arm angles to tally up eight strike-outs, a season high and his most since last June 16, when he was pitching for the Angels against the Padres. The M's played home-run derby against White Sox starter John Danks, with both Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre hitting their 18th home-runs of the season, while Jose Guillen hit a line-drive shot for his 16th home-run in the fifth inning. Beltre picked up six RBIs over the road trip, while Sexson picked up hits in all five games he played, raising his average seven points to .206. (Maybe it helps not having the home crowd booing him in a mix of disappointment and anger.) Ichiro, of course, was Ichiro as he batted 12-for-29 on the road trip, picking up hits in all six games, including three straight three-hit games in Baltimore.

The M's have their work cut out for them in today's beauty of a pitching match-up. Left-hander Johann Santana, who is, for all intents and purposes the best pitcehr in the game, takes the mound for the Minnesota Twins tonight as they start a three game series in Safeco. Despite an uncharacteristic 12-9 record- more indicative of the team's inabaility to provide him with run support- Johann has been dominating against the M's in his career, winning seven out of eight decisions with a 2.83 ERA over 70 innings. The last time he pitched against Seattle, Santana allowed one earned run over seven innings in a 6-5 Twins victory last April. However, both Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki have roughed up Santana, with Raul picking up 11 hits in 28 at-bats (including a home-run and eight RBIS) for a .393 average while Ichiro picking up 11 hits in 29 at-bats- including two triples- for a .379 average. When it comes to who should play first for the M's in today's game, however, a challenge is raised as both Sexson and Ben Broussard have combined to pick up just eight hits- half for extra-bases- in 35 at-bats, with 14 strike-outs. Ugh.

Felix Hernadez starts for the M's tonight, his first career match-up against Santana. Considerng that Felix has allowed four earned runs in both of hislast two starts, here's hoping that he doesn't allow an ybasket case tendencies and can buckle down against the Twins. In five career starts against Minnesota, Felix has split two decisions with a 2.67 ERA over 30 innings. As long as Felix keeps the ball away from Joe Mauer (6 for 11 for a .545 average against Felix) things should be fine, as the rest of the Twins' line-up has struggled to produce against Felix.

So, yeah. Johann vs. Felix in Safeco = pitcher's duel. It may even be decided by the bull-pen but in the end I think the Twins will be able to squeeze out on top. I'm saying 4-3, Twins as Felix and Johann compete against themselves to see who can rack up the most strike-outs....

And it don't stop


One more game in Baltimore, another 15 hits piled up by the Mariners.

It was indeed a wild and woolly game in Camden Yards- and a wet one as well, with a nasty-looking storm system rolling in and stopping the game for 24 minutes. Although the Orioles were the benefit of a gift third-inning grand slam by Miguel Tejada that shouldn't have been, and roughed up Horacio Ramirez for eight runs- seve earned- in 5.1 innings, it wasn't enough. The Mariners' offensive onslaught continued unabated, as five players picked up multiple hits, including three players who picked up three hits on the evening to roll over the Birds for a 13-8 win. Ichiro had three hits for the third consecutive night (obviously he'll miss playing in Baltimore), and the youngster Adam Jones, in his first start of the series, also picked up three hits. And scored the tying run. And the go-ahead run. And doubled up Brian Roberts off first with a throw from left field in the bottom of the first inning.

Whew. All that in one game? The Future definitely made his presence felt in Baltimore tonight.

The win put the Mariners a full game ahead of the Tigers, who lost today against Tampa Bay, and the idle Yankees in the wild card standings. Not bad for a team all but written off prior to the season by the so-called "experts." To gear up for the play-off push, the M's plucked John Parrish off waivers from Baltimore yesterday, so he swapped clubhouses prior to the game, but didn't make an appearance for his new club. Unfortunately to add Parrish onto the roster, Mark Lowe had to be dropped to make room, and to extend his return from injury down in Tacoma.

Considering how lousy Ramirez pitched tonight- admittedly it was exaggerated by Nick Markakis taking an extra pitch for ball four after swinging through strike three prior to Tejada's slam- the only way Ramirez could've picked up his first road win of the season was if the M's continued their hot-hitting ways. There has been some chatter of the M's making a gamble on claiming David Wells from the waivers, as he was designated for assignment today by the Padres and replace Ramirez in the rotation with Boomer. However, consider that Wells has allowed 26 earned runs over his last 16.2 innings, it has to be asked whether performances like that would be a noticeable difference. Considering that if the M's were to claim Wells- and that would only be if the teams beneath them in the wild card standings, particularly the Tigers, don't claim Wells first- they would have to pay the league minimum for four innings of Wells' dreck. For results like that, why not insert somebody that the M's are all ready paying the minimum to, like perhaps Ryan Feierabend or Cha Seung baek, once he's healthy?

At any rate, the M's take their offensive heroics on the road to face a White Sox team in Chicago that's incredibly in disarray. Just two years removed from winning the World Series, Ozzie Guillen's team has the vaguest resemblance to the team that took all the marbles. The pitching staff that was so dominating on a national scale can't seem to get anybody out currently. The offense is a shambles, with nearly the entire infield struggling to hit .220. For all intents and purposes, a sweep is a definite possibility for the M's (they took both games of a two-game series at Safeco earlier this year) in Chicago, or at least taking two.

The match-up in Friday's opener is Javier Vazquez against Jarrod Washburn. Vazquez is one of the few White Sox having a decent year, with a 9-6 record and 3.64 ERA. He has given up at least two runs in six straight starts, with a 3-1 record during that span. Vazquez did face the Mariners in the two-game match-up earlier this year, allowing four runs in seven innings in a 5-2 Mariners victory, in which he gave up a two-run home-run to Richie Sexson. For his career, Vazquez has split four decisions against Seattle, with a 4.05 ERA- and 26 strikeouts- in 26.2 innings. Adrian Beltre has had no problem with Vazquez's offerings, hitting him to a tune of a .464 average and 1.161 OPS in 28 at-bats. Richie Sexson (.375) and Jose Guillen (.368) have also had success against Vazquez, but as Guillen's swollen middle finger will keep him out of the field for at least one game, expect Guillen to be available for pinch-hitting duties only.

Jarrod Washburn was the winning pitcher in that 5-2 match-up, givign up two solo home-runs by Luis terrero and A.J. Pierzynski. Tomorrow represents round two between these two starters. Washburn has a career winning record against the White Sox, 6-5, with a 3.90 ERA over 94.2 innings. However, Jermaine Dye has eaten Washburn up for lunch, with a .409 average and 1.159 OPS in 44 at-bats, while Paul Konerko has also gotten the better of Washburn in their match-ups, batting .357 with 1.164 OPS over 42 at-bats. So if those two are on top of their games tomorrow, then Washburn will be on top of their game. But I highly doubt the White Sox will be able to quell the M's offensive fire. In the ened, the M's will come out on top, 7-3.

It appears that a trip to Camden Yards in Baltimore was all that was needed for the M's slumbering ofense to perk up. For the second night in a row, the M's offense kept piling up the hits and the runs, churning out 15 hits on a way to a 8-3 victory. My prediction of a closely-knit well-pitched ballgame lasted all of seven pitches, with Jose Vidro knocking a two-run home-run against Jeremy Guthrie in the top of the first inning. Still, Felix Hernandez didn't have his best stuff either, as evidenced by the fact that the score was a 3-3 tie after three innings, making clear this game was not going to be a pitcher's duel. However, at that point the M's scored five more runs, while the Orioles feebly answered with just one.

Besides Vidro's bomb, Jose Guillen also homered while Raul Ibanez hit his third home-run in two games. John mcLaren has been saying that Raul is on the verge of busting out and leaving his slump behind him, and with every indication os far in the Baltimore series, McLaren's been proven correct. Adrian Beltre picked up two hits in five at-bats, bringing his average to .279. Besides some stellar defensive gems- which Mike Blowers commenting that this year's Gold Glove for American elague third basemen should all ready be locked up in Beltre's locker- the most exciting play that Beltre was involved in all night was when he attempted to score with two outs in the ninth inning, chugging from first on Raul's double, only to be thrown out on a close play at the plate.

So the M's have taken the first two games of the series, and go for the sweep tonight. Tonight's pitching match-up is a face-off between two disappointing pitchers, Horacio Ramirez against Daniel Cabrera. Seattle traded dominating reliever Rafael Soriano to Atlanta for HoRam, who was supposed to provide stability in the Mariners' rotation. Instead, HoRam has been wildly consistent, with a 6.88 ERA despite a 6-3 record. HoRam has been downright putrid on the road, where in five starts he's allowed 31 runs in 20.1 innings for an astronomical 13.72 ERA. However, HoRam has won all three career starts against the Orioles, with a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings, and will be looking to avenage his aborted four-inning performance against the Red Sox last Friday, in which he coughed up thelead right after the Mariners got ahead and McLaren wasn't about to let HoRam put the team into any kind of hole. HoRam's record against the Orioles includes seven innings of two-hit ball tossed against them a month ago in a 4-2 Mariners victory. Ramon Hernandez- who seems to love facing Mariners pitching- is the only Oriole batter to have success against HoRam, with a .400 average and two home-runs in ten at-bats. Otherwise, HoRam has been quietly dominating over the Orioles throughout his career. Will this dominance continue today?

The Orioles answer with Daniel Cabrera, a promising, talented young arm who was supposed to benefit the most from Leo Mazzone signing on to be the Orioles' pitching coach. Instead, Cabrera has solidified his reputation as one of the wildest pitchers in the league. He led the league in walks with 104 last season, and his 79 free passes currently lead the league as well, though the 4.7 BB/ 9 IP rate he's averaging this season is much lower than last year's 6.3 BB/9 IP. The walks have frsutrated Cabrera's dvelopment, as he has done an excellent job of keeping opponent's batting average low- around the .250 mark- and has limited the number of home runs he's allowed. But with all the baserunners he allows (an average of eight walks plus hits over his last five starts, including seven innings of one-hit ball tossed against Tampa bay) it always appears as if he's going to get blown out of each start.

Cabrera is unbeaten against the M's in five career decisions over seven starts, with a 3.61 ERA over 47 innings. However, the last time he faced the M's was a month ago, when he allowed five runs in five innings for a no-decision in a game the M's won 6-5, allowing a home-run to Ben Broussard. It remains to be seen whether Broussard will get a start in tonight's game against the wild Oriole right-hander, as who would sit to have their bat replaced by Ben: the hot Guillen or Ibanez, or Richie Sexson, who's got on the hit parade as well, who's picked up three hits in eight bats so far in the first two games. Broussard's not the only Mariner who enjoyes facing Cabrera- Ichiro has a .348 average against Cabrera in 23 at-bats, Beltre a .333 average in 15 at-bats, and both Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez have homered against him. Sexson, meanwhile, is hitless in thirteen, so her's hoping the McLaren makes the right decision and sits Richie in plays Broussard at first tonight.

If the M's are able to stay patient and allow Cabrera to fill the bases up with runners, building up the pressure which would allow Cabrera to make a mistake, then they have a chance in tonight's win. But I have very little faith in HoRam on the road, despite his history of success against the Orioles. It'll be another wild one, but I think the Orioles will pull this one out. The final: 9-8, Baltimore.

And by the way, the M's wake up this morning ot find themselves statistically in front in the wild card race:

Seattle Mariners 62 49 -- 51 games left
Detroit Tigers 63 50 -- 49 games left
New York Yankees 63 51 0.5 48 games left

Oh yeah, and Barry Bonds became home run's new king this past week. Woo-hoo. Now we can root for A-Rod to break Bonds' record.

Not even close (Mariners 10, Orioles 3)


As I predicted, the Mariners put the game away in the later innings in tonight's 10-3 victory over the Orioles. But despite leaving the game with a 3-2 deficit, Jeff Weaver was able to pick up his third win rather than the M's bullpen picking up the decision, thanks to a two-run home-run by Raul Ibanez put the M's ahead to stay.

This was Ibanez's second home-run of the game, including a solo shot in the first inning. This ended a prolonged slump by Ibanez, who hadn't hammered a home-run since June 23, and was just hitting just .173 since the All-Star break. Speaking of slump-breaking, Richie Sexson picked up two hits, his first multiple-hit game in nine games. Indeed, with Ben Broussard off to visit his wife in Texas and celebrate the birth of his second child, John McLaren retreated to using the standard M's line-up in tonight's contest, and it paid off in dividends. With Adam Jones riding the pine, chemistry was "restored" to the tune of 19 hits churned out by the line-up. A bona-fide offensive explosion.

Similar to Horacio Ramirez's outing last Friday, Jeff Weaver weaved in and out of trouble all night, allowing 11 hits in six innings. However, despite two lead-off doubles, Weaver minimized the damage the Orioles hitters were able to muster, resulting in him leaving the game with the M's down by only a run. Ramon Hernandez roughed Weaver up, as he tends to do, knocking in two of the three runs with RBI singles. But that was not enough to put the Orioles on top. And with the Orioles' bullpen allowing eight runs over the last three innings while the M's bullpen kept the O's scoreless, the game was put away quickly. Any approximation to a close-knit low-offense game vanished with the crack of Raul's bat.

I'd be surprised if tomorrow night's game didn't, however, result in a low-scoring pitching-dominating affair. Jeremy Guthrie has slowly established himself as a dominating pitcher in the Orioles' rotation, and would be the ace if it wasn't for the dominating presence of left-hander Eric Bedard. Guthrie has been quietly having a fantastic season, not giving up more than three earned runs in his past four starts, and has only given up more than three earned runs twice in his 18 starts. Guthrie's season includes six innings of two-run ball in a 8-3 Orioles victory over the M's last July 17, his only career start against the M's, which included three hits by Jose Vidro and a solo home-run by Kenji Johjima.

The losing pitcher in that match-up was Felix Hernandez, who is taking the hill to avenge that loss. Felix allowed just three runs in six innings himself, before five runs were allowed by Eric O'Flaherty that dug a huge hole that the M's were unable to climb out of. For his career, Felix doesn't have very good numbers against the Orioles, with a 2-2 record and 5.65 ERA in 28.2 innings. Felix has, however, won his only two starts at Camden Yards. A number of Orioles hitters have had success with Felix's offerings. The hot-hitting Corey Patterson (.363 average and .895 OPS since the All-Star break) has hit Felix to the tune of a 1.273 OPS in 11 at-bats, with three of his four hits going for extra bases. Jay Gibbons, despite a lousy .228 average on the year, is coming off a four-hit game his last game played against Tampa Bay, and has a 1.255 OPS in ten at-bats against Felix. Nick Markakis (.545), Melvin Mora (.600), and Brain Roberts (.385) have also hit Felix pretty well.

I'm not optimistic that Felix will be able to shut the O's down in tomorrow's game, or that the M's will be able to continue their offensive fireworks against Guthrie. It will be close, but I expect the O's to eventually come out on top. Final score: 6-2, Orioles.

6-4 homestand, what awaits on the road?


With the 7-4 victory over the Red Sox on Friday, I thought the emotional high of taking two of three from the Angels would indeed carry over and that the M's had a chance to take the weekend series from the Red Sox. With a three-run home-run by Yuniesky (MVP) Betancourt, plus two hits by Adam Jones in his season debut for the big-league club- plus a game-turning eluding of Boston first-baseman's Kevin Youkilis tag just before Yuni's home-run- Friday's game was the highlight of the weekend. Of course, that's what's to be expected when the Red Sox had Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett lined up to start Saturday and Sunday.

For anyone who still may think that the Mariners are a playoff-team, consider that the M's matched Dice-K and Beckett with Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista. Horacio Ramirez started for the M's on Friday night, and despite allowing ten runs in four innings, somehow managed to avoid giving up any big hits to Boston's potent offense and kept the M's in the game long enough to come out ahead. The fact remains that with a pitching staff as the current M's have, they would be three-and-out in the first round playoff series, an uncomfortable truth the M's would find out if they do, indeed, catch the Indians or the Angels for a playoff spot. As if the glaring need for a dominating starter to lead this staff isn't any more obvious. Hopefully, the front office is aware of what their most pressing off-season need is.

Still, a 6-4 homestand is always a positive outcome, even if the M's did drop the last two games. But not everybody had a positive outcome. Richie Sexson, for example, went 2-for-25 on the homestand, concluding it with a incredibly anemic .080 average. To no surprise, he took a spot on the bench the last two games versus the Red Sox, which the M's dropped. I'm not saying there's no connection, it's just an interesting coincidence. Jose Guillen voiced his unhappiness when it was announced that Adam Jones was being promoted to the big club. Jones' presence creates a competition for playing time with Raul Ibanez, Jose Vidro, Ben Broussard, and Richie Sexson, all who have been mainstays in the line-up throughout the season. And with Sexson taking the long-awaited spot on the bench, it appears he's the first victim of the playing time crunch. And who would have thought that the absence of an .080 average could, actually, have a negative impact on the team's chemistry?

Beltre hit safely eight of the ten games at Safeco, with five extra base hits including two home-runs. Ichiro, to no surprise, batted .318 over the past ten games. But Yuniesky was the hitting star for the M's, batting over .400 over the homestand, with three of his seven season home-runs. The best thing about the homestand is that the M's concluded it a half-game out of the wild-card, even if the team they're in pursuit turned from the Cleveland Indians to the Detroit Tigers, as the surging Indians passed the slumping Tigers in the American League central.

The M's take their game on the road for the first stop at Camden Yards this season, after taking four from six so far this season from the Orioles in Seattle. Jeff Weaver takes the mound for the M's in tomorrow's night game, holding solid if not spectacular numbers against the O's in his career (3-4 record, 4.11 ERA in 50 innings). For Jeff to be successful and pick up his third (!!!) victory of the season, he has the keep the ball away from Ramon Hernandez (.351) and Miguel Tejada (.393) who both have hit Weaver hard in 65 combined at-bats, with ten extra-base hits between the two of them.

In the match-up of one-time successful pitchers with their better days behind them, Steve Trachsel takes the mound for the O's. One year ago Trachsel was winning 15 games for a New York Mets team that came a game away from the World Series. Now Trachsel is a memeber of the Orioles' rotation, which is the closest that major league baseball gets to being in limbo. In his four career appearances against the M's, Trachsel has dropped all four, allowing 17 runs in 19 innings. Trachsel hasn't won a game in nearly two months, since beating the Rockies last June. Beltre has enjoyed success against Trachsel, with a .318 average and 1.000 OPS in 22 at-bats, while Jose Guillen has a .300 average and .883 OPS in 20 at-bats. Hopefully those two will step up for the other Mariner batter with extensive National League experience against Trachsel, Jose Vidro, who carries a .211 average in 38 career at-bats versus Trachsel.

The M's will put an end to their short losing streak in tomorrow night's game. I'm not saying that Weaver will shut the Orioles down to pick up the victory, or that Jones will be in the line-up disturbing team chemistry, but when the dust is settled the M's will be on top, 6-3.

Yuni for MVP!


I don't know about you but it sure is a lot of fun paying attention ot games that matter in August. Oh, I'd be listening to Marienrs games on my kitchen radio, watching FSN any chance I got , and religiously reading the next day's recap even if the M's were twenty games out. But an extra-inning victroy after a three-run lead was blown in the ninth by the team's ace closer is so much thrilling when the games matter. And last night's 8-7 victory over the Angels had it all: the horror of seeing Felix sprawled on the ground after crashing into Ben Broussard in pursuit of Vladimir Guerrero's infield double; the fist-pumping excitement watching Felix overpower Angels hitters; the joy in seeing the M's put up a 5-0 lead, making a victory a sure thing; the sorrow when Putz- so dominating for so long- somehow choked up that ninth inning three-run lead; and the absolute bliss when Yuniesky poked that ground ball through a drawn-in five-man infield with the sacks full of Mariners runners. Creators of roller coasters couldn't do worse than atempt to emulate the rises and falls of last night's game.

So the M's kicked off the first day of August taking the rubber game of the three-game series against the Angels, and things are shaping up to be the most dramatic late summer in M's history in four years, since their late-summer swoon in 2003. Although they only picked up a game against the Angels- making that seven-game skid a couple weeks back look very large indeed- any enthusiasm about the Mariners should be tempered by the fact that 2003's swoon has been common for the Mariners in recent history. Last year, the M's played sub-.400 ball in August, as the team that nosed above .500 in June sunk to the depths of the Al West one more time. The Angels, meanwhile, put up a 16-13 record in last year's August, part of a brilliant second half in which the Angels won 46 of 74 games in an attemtp to reach the postseason- an attempt that fell short. (Such is the fate when you hsare a division with the Oakland A's. You can't be near perfect. You have to be perfect.)

Obviously, if the two teams repeat what they did last summer, the M's would be looking at a near-insurmountable eight-run deficit come Septemeber. (You can never rule anything out if you have memories of the 1995 season etched in your brain.) But this Mariner team should avoid a similar collapse. Of the 27 games remaining this month, less than half are against teams with winning records- three against Boston, six against Minnesota, three against the Angels in Seattle at the end of the month (which should be very interesting), and a make-up game against Cleveland. As for the upcoming Boston series, all I can say to the Red Sox is to look out. After taking two of three from their bitter divisional rival who had dominated them all season, you know the Mariners are going to be riding an emotional high when the Sox roll into town this weekend. And its been confirmed that Adam Jones will join the team at the beginning of the series to add some oomph to the offense.

For the Mariners to continue to compete throughout August, look for Beltre to wield a hot bat. August is his best month, as he appers to improve as the season progresses. Its the only month that he tops .300 in his career, with an .893 OPS that easily tops the other months. And Beltre picked up two hits, scoring twice as well, in six at-bats in last night's game to bring his season average to .275. Ichiro had another typical Ichiro night last night, picking up fourth four-hit game of the season to bring his average to .351. Ichiro also enjoys hitting in August, with a .319 Yuniesky Betancourt, who I am supporting for MVP after last night's game, struggles mightily in August, hitting just .258, so let's hope last night's heroics translate into a career month for Yuni, as it would help the team challenge the Angels down the stretch.

The three-game series agaisnt the Red Sox starts Friday and with this emotional high the M's are on, I can see them taking two this weekend....

A Strong Lackey Effort


Remember yesterday when I stated that it only seems like John Lackey dominates the M's when he pitches against them? Well, other times, as in the seven-hit shutout he tossed against them in yesterday's 8-0 Angel victory, he actually does.

Of course, it doesn't hurt Lackey any when his teammate Gary Matthews Jr. goes 4-for-5 with two home-runs and three RBIs. Or when Orlando Cabrera and Maicer Izturis pick up three hits each, with Izturis hitting his second home-run of the year. Nor does it hurt the Angels any when Jeff Weaver delivers another start more reminiscent of a AAA journeyman- as he was doing at the beginning of the season- allowing six runs in four innings, with three walks and no strikeouts.

All in all, an ugly game for Mariners fans, which all but erase the spectacular 2-0 victory the night before.

Jose Vidro was the "big bat" for the Mariners in last night's game, picking up two singles in four at-bats. In fact, he was pretty much the M's lone bat, as the team could only muster seven singles on the night, being out of it early and struggling against Lackey's dominance. In the AP write-up on the game, Lackey said he atributed throwing more diving, split-fingered pitches against the M's for his success against Seattle this year. (He has tossed 15 scoreless innings against Seattle over two starts.) Thanks a lot for that, Lackey. Oh, and news flash for you: Maybe you should pitch like that in all your starts rather than than just against the M's. Something tells me you'll be one of the league's most dominating starters. Unless simply being an All-Star is good enough for you.

Beltre went hitless in four at-bats, bringing his hitless streak to two games, and dropping his average to .274. Urgh.

So the M's aren't going to be in a position to finish the series a game behind the Angels, and therefore all pressure should be off the team for tonight's ball game. Let's hope the pressure is really off Felix Hernandez, who as we all know, allows himself to implode emotionally when the going gets tough, affecting his pitching in a negative manner. Felix is coming off a brilliant seven-inning, one-run effort against the A's in his last outing, but it's been a couple weeks since he strung together two consecutive starts. And he has not fared well against the Angels this season, allowing 10 earned runs in 9.2 innings for a 9.31 ERA, allowing 16 hits and three home-runs. Indeed, Angels batters feast upon Felix's pitching. Orlando Cabrera has been perfect in six at-bats against Felix so far this year and hold a career .600 average against Felix in 20 at-bats. Vladimir Guerrero has three hits in three at-bats against Felix this year, with a home-run, and holds a career .412 average in 17 at-bats against him. Gary matthews has hit Felix exceptionally hard in his career, with a .417 average, with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 24 at-bats. At least Felix has minimzed the damage from the Angel's new catalyst, Reggie Willits, holding him hitless in four at-bats this season and seven in his career. Maybe its just Willits' turn to break out tonight....

Jeff's younger, more talented, brother Jered is taking the hill in tonight's game for the Angels. Jered has a history of success against the Mariners, sporting a 2-1 record and 4.24 ERA in four career starts against them. Of those four starts, three have been head-to-head match-ups against Felix, with Felix coming out on the losing side all three times. So this could be shaping up to a classic AL West pitching match-up for years to come. Assuming, of course, that Felix gets over that bump and actually beats Jered. Of course, a little help against Jered by the offense against Jered would be nice. The M's big bat against Weaver is Ben Broussard, who holds a .455 average and 1.1.36 OPS against Jered in 11 at-bats. Considering that Richie Sexson has been held hitless in nine career at-bats, and Broussard loves mashing righties, I hope McLaren gives Richie a night off tonight and lets Broussard's bat do the talking against Jered. Raul Ibanez and Ichiro have also enjoyed success against Jered, combining to go 9-for-19, each hitting a home run against Jered. Adrian Beltre has three hits, including a double, in eleven career at-bats versus Jered.

Given the track record of the end results when Felix faces Jered, I'm not confident in the M's coming out on top this evening. If Broussard starts, he could pick up a couple timely hits and keep it close, but I'm still calling this one for the Angels, 9-3.

Oh, and with the passing of the trade dealine and the M's only doing a minor deal involving Julio Mateo (who was sent to Philadelphia, where he can join a "wife beaters" club with Bret Myers) I believe it's safe to say that the M's did the best move this trading season by signing Ichiro and insuring that he'll stick around in blue-and-teal for the next five years. Huzzah! And it sounds pretty confident that superstar prospect Adam Jones will be called up to the big club this week. With the M's collection of young prospects- Jones, Balentin, Clement, Morrow- and their refusal to move any not only gives explanation as to why the team was so quiet on the trading front, but also means the front office knows they have the nucleus of the next young, dominant Mariners team of the future.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to seing what a AAA-seasoned Jones, who has nothing left to prove in the minors, can do in the bigs. As far as I'm concerned, whenever Jones arrives, then so has the future....


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