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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A doubleheader split


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleveland 4, Seattle 3


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so it ends


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A tight one in LA


Phew. Talk about tense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jarrod washes out the Angels


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Mariners 8, Athletics 7


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

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

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

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

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

Maginificent Miguel?


It's very rare to use the words "Miguel Batista" and "brilliant start" in the same sentence, but that's exactly what was on display in last night's 4-0 blanking of the Athletics. Batista pitched into the seventh inning, allowing five hits and four walks, before giving way to the bullpen, with Ryan Rowland-Smith and Brandon Morrow who combined to toss 2.2 scoreless two-hit innings. It was undoubtedly one of Batista's best starts of the year, as he increases his career high in victories to 14. With the loss, Oakland is officially shut-out of a playoff spot, and while the Mariners' chances to reach the post-season can be considered technical at best, it is encouraging to see such a dominating performance from the pitching staff when there is very little importance to the season remaining.

With the victory last night, the M's have now won six out of seven games in Oakland this year. Which is quite a reversal from last year, in which the M's were swept in three series at McAfee Coliseum. It was Oakland starter Danny Haren's third loss dropped to the Mariners this season. With his 1-3 record against the M's, the Mariners may have cost Haren a shot at the Cy Young Award. If Haren had his 3-0 record and 1.35 ERA against the M's that he did last year, then he'd be looking at a 16-5 record and leading the league with a 2.94 ERA. What a difference a season makes.

The M's hitting stars for the day was Yuniesky Betancourt, who picked up the M's first hit of the game in the third-inning and knocked in the first run in the fifth inning, and Jose Lopez, who struck the first pitch offered to him from Haren out of the park in the seventh inning, scoring Jose Vidro and Kenji Johjima as the 1-0 game was broken open for the eventual 4-0 score. Adrian Beltre went hitless in four at-bats as his average lowered to .279, while Ichiro picked up two hits in five at-bats to inch his average up to .353, four points behind league leader Magglio Ordonez's .357.

To continue the strong pitching and good outings by the Mariners in Oakland relies on the arm of Jeff Weaver, who takes the mound for the M's in tonight's game. Weaver hasn't pitched past the fifth inning in his last four starts, lasting just four outs in his most recent outing against Tampa Bay, in which he allowed five runs on six hits and two walks, but was spared a loss as the Mariners eventually caught up and won 8-7. In his career, Weaver has a 3-4 record and a 5.15 ERA over 73 innings against the A's, and allowed three runs over seven innings in a loss to the A's in his last start against them, allowing home runs to Mark Ellis and Nick Swisher. Swisher has hit Weaver well in his brief amount of face-time against Jeff, picking up three hits and two home-runs in eight at-bats. But most of the A's line-up has not had faced Weaver much, and have not had good success when they have, as evidenced with the numbers by Mark Ellis (.238 average, .619 OPS in 21 at-bats), Shannon Stewart (.275 average, .718 OPS in 40 at-bats), and Mike Piazza (.250, .607 in 16 at-bats). Weaver may very well spin a number of scoreless innings against the A's tonight.

Chad Gaudin takes the hill for the A's tonight, with a career 2-1 record and 4.76 ERA in 34 innings against the M's. Gaudin may have just come off a six-inning, three-run outing in his last start, but he had allowed six runs and ten hits in 3.2 innings in the prior start against the Rangers. Over his last nine decisions, Gaudin has a 3-6 record, including a 4-3 loss to the M's last July, in which Gaudin tossed a complete-game eight-inning loss, allowing four runs on four hits, including home runs to Johjima and Betancourt. Raul Ibanez (.333, .954 in 18 at-bats), Betancourt (.375, 1.250 in eight at-bats) and Beltre (.364, .962) have all hit Gaudin very well, while Ichiro has just picked up three singles in 15 at-bats.

It's a tough game to pick, but with the dominance the M's have played the A's at their home park in Oakland, I'm siding with Weaver to pitch one of his rare good starts and shut the A's down. Final score, 5-1 for the Mariners.

Devil Rays 9, Mariners 2


I should've known better than to pick Jarrod Washburn to beat a team he's been dominating throughout his career. I guess it's a safe bet to state that he won't pick up a victory on the remainder of the season. Jarrod did get off to a hot start to yesterday's ballgame, striking out five Tampa Bay batters in the first three innings before Carlos Pena hit his 40th home-run, becoming the first Tampa Bay batter to do so. But despite his strong start, Washburn faltered in the fifth inning as he allowed two doubles and three walks before being relieved for John Huber, who needed one pitch to induce an inning-ending double play.

They key to the Devil Rays' 9-2 win was the strong pitching of Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnastine, who tapped into the reservoir of talent that allowed him to shut-out the Yankees last month. Sonnastine was also the benefit of luck, as the Mariners had him in jams in the fifth and sixth innings- with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth- which Sonnastine was able to weasel his way out of. In the end, Sonnastine finished with eight strikeouts, six hits, and one run allowed- Adrian Beltre's fourth inning- in his dominating start. In the four game series, Devil Ray starts were 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in 27 innings, striking 30 while walking three. Not sure if the Mariners took the Devil Rays starts likely, but if they do it's apparent they can't any more.

Beltre, who wetn 2-for-3 on the day to bring his average to .281, provided one of the only highlights for the M's with his home-run. It was his 25th home-run, his second consecutive season reaching that number. The other highlight was provided by Charles Jimerson, the speedy outfielder plucked from the Astros system, who hit his second career home-run in the majors in only his second at-bat on the season. And that was about it for the M's.

The M's go back on the road (so much for righting their season at home) to face the Athletics in Oakland. Tonight's start is a rematch of last Wedensday's match-up of Miguel Batista and Danny Haren. The M's rallied to win that game 6-5 on Yuniesky Betancourt's clutch ninth-inning single. Batista provided one of his strongest starts on the season- allowing three runs on eight hits over six innings, while Dan Haren was batted around by the M's who, despite picking up 12 hits against Haren, was held to just four runs by the A's ace.

So are we going to see a replay of last week's ball-game? Not likely. Not with the slumber the M's offense has fallen into. I'm picking the A's to win tonight's game, by a 8-5 score....

Hey Hey Ho Ho! Horacio Ramirez has got to go!


Rule #1 in facing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when Scott Kazmir is pitching for them: You just don't spot them a 4-0 lead in the first inning. You just don't do it.

But that's exactly what Horacio Ramirez did yesterday, when he lasted all of four batters- tying the second-shortest start in Mariner history- allowing three singles an a walk before being relieved by Jorge Campillo, who allowed a two-run single immediately to Delmon Young, thus closing the doors on Horacio's latest atrocious outing. Horror Arm's final line? Try 0.0 innings, three hits, four runs, all earned, one walk and, of course, no strikeouts.

According to the AP story, Horacio was shocked- shocked!- three hours after game-time that he was been pulled so quickly. Someobody should inform Horacio that the M's fighting to their last gasp for a playoff spot, with a non-existent margin of error. Starts that are more expected from a pitcher called up from single-A just isn't going to cut it. Horacio needs to be DFA'd- immediately.

The 4-0 lead was all Kazmir needed, as he once again tightened the screws on the M's line-up. Over six innings, Kazmir allowed three hits while striking out 11. It may have been a situation of the M's batters dialing it in, flailing away at any offering as they had gotten blown out of the game so early. But I don't want to take away anything from Kazmir, who is an obviously talented left-hander who has been nothing short of dominant against the Mariners in his career. Kazmir's shaping up to replace Pedro Martinez as the M's nemesis- Pedro won his first 13 decisions against the Mariners before finally losing to Seattle as a member of the Met's rotation in 2006.

I had said it was going to be an ugly game, and the beginning made me leery of a long, torturous evening at Safeco. Yet somehow the Devil Rays ended up only winning by a 6-2 final score. Perhaps more than anything the reason why the D-Rays weren't able to run away with the ballgame was due to the relief effort by Jorge Campillo, the ERA leader for the M's AAA-team in Tacoma who was called up a week ago to replace the disastrous train wreck in the M's bullpen that was Rick White. In his third outing on the season, Campillo pitching four innings of gritty relief, allowing seven hits and two walks, but only allowing an RBI double to Johnny Gomes in the third inning.

Other than Campillo keeping the Devil Rays in check, the Mariners lacked any highlights, besides Raul Ibanez hit alead-off home-run in the ninth inning. Beltre went hitless in three innings as his average dropped to .279. Both Ichiro and Jose Vidro picked up singles in four at-bats, as their average dropped to .350 and .319 respectively.

Ichiro and Vidro can look towards improving their averages against Tampa Bay starter Any Sonnastine in this afternoon's game. The left-hander has had an erratic first season so far in the majors, alternating eight innings of two-hit ball against the Yankees with allowing seven runs in 3.2 innings against the Orioles. As this his first appearance against the M's, don't expect the Marienrs to rack up seven runs against him, but then again they have played left-handers very well this season with a 24-12 record against left-handed pitchers. Vidro has a huge split against lefties, .350 to .308 versus right-handers. So perhaps we can expect a happy medium of Sonnastine's extremes in today's start.

And the M's have Jarrod Washburn going for them in today's start, who has been nothing short of dominating against the D-Rays in his career. Jarrod has won ten of twelve decisions against the D-Rays, with a 2.53 ERA over 92.2 innings in 14 starts. Carlos Pena is the only current Devil Ray to have hit a home-run off Washburn, but otherwise the other Devil Ray batters have been able to muster nothing against Washburn's offerings. I think that Washburn, despite a 1-7 record in his last eight decisions, will have a start similar to his last one against the Devil Rays- allowing two runs in 6.1 innings last May- to come out on top. The M's will win this one today, I'm calling it by a 7-4 score. Then again, it might just be 5-4, with the M's scoring the winning run in their final at-bat.

For the third-straight game, the M's won it in the bottom of the ninth. This time, it was Jose Guillen's doing as he hit a deep drive to right-fielder Delmyn Young with noo uts and the bases loaded, as Ichiro trotted home with the game-winning run in the 2-1 victory. It was Guillen's turn to take the hero mantle away from Yuniesky Betancourt, who scored the winning run last night and knocked it in the night before. And after two nights of having Guillen running out of the dug-out and pounding on him in celebration, tonight was Yuni's turn to be the first out and return the pounding to Guillen.

The M's remained in pace for whatever possible playoff spot may conceptually await them, as the Yankees surpassed a five-run deficit to top Boston 8-7. So the M's continue to be five and a half games out, with 16 to go.

The name of the game tonight was pitching, as it was indeed one of the toughest pitching match-ups so far this season. Felix was on the mound, facing Jamie Shields who could arguably be referred to as the Devil Rays' "ace." Felix pitched brilliantly, striking out eight in 7.2 innings, with only a mistake slider stroked by infielder Jorge Velandia marring his evening. Shields nearly matched Felix on the evening, just giving up one run on four hits over eight innings. However, the M's were able to string together three singles off Gary Glover in the ninth inning before Guillen's sacrifice fly, and that's all she wrote.

Beltre went 1-for-4 to keep his average at .280, and has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games. Jose Vidro picked up two hits, and Ichiro finished the game 1-for-4 as well to finish the night with a .351 average, six points behind league-leader Magglio Ordonez's .357 average.

Undoubtedly, ninth-inning wins are a whole lot of fun, but eventually you gotta say enough is enough. When are the M's going to jump out to an early lead and sail to any easy victory? Why does every win need to be so scratched-out and hard-fought?

Don't look for things to get any easier in tomorrow's game. Electric left-hander Scott Kazmir deserves to be referred to as the Devil Rays' "ace" in his own right, and if anything could cpnceivably share that title with Shields. And Scott looooves facing the M's, holding them to a 1.93 ERA over 23 innings and a 2-0 record in four starts. One of Kazmir's most memorable starts was a 1-0 shutout of the M's last May at Safeco, won when Jamie Moyer's cleat got caught on the mound, forcing a balk. Kazmir won his last start against Boston 1-0, shutting down the Red Sox' potent line-up by striking out ten over seven innings. And while the M's line-up may be pretty good from the seventh inning on, if you were to match the two line-ups next to each other I might have to go with Boston's. No Mariner batter has hit Kazmir well, with Raul owning the only home-run off Scott, in seven at-bats.

And the M's are going to counter with Horacio Ramirez, who somehow wasn't DFA'd after his last start. Sigh. As if it mattered, HoRam has a 1-0 record and 5.19 ERA against the Devil Rays over 8.2 innings in two starts. Of course, Horacio has been absolutely horrendous in his last three starts, allowing 12 runs over 13 innings. But this current Devil Ray line-up is full of hitters getting their first look at HoRam. Which means they'll have no problem tattooing his offerings all over Safeco.

I'm not optimistic for tomorrow. Residents of the Puget Sound may want to go explore their favortie hiking trail or spend the day relaxing by Lake Washington, because it's going to be U-G-L-Y at the corner of 1st Avenue and Edgar Martinez drive tomorrow. Final score: 10-1, Devil Rays.

Mariners 6, Athletics 5


Somehow, they pulled it out. Once again, Yuniesky Betancourt came through wit the clutch hit in the bottom of the ninth to help lead the M's to a 6-5 victory- just their third win in the last 18 games. Of course, Yuni's game-winning single atoned for him striking out with two outs and the bases loaded in the 7-4 loss to the Athletics the night before. But, batter-wise, nobody's perfect in baseball, and I'll take Yuni's numbers with runners on any day (.344 average, .839 OPS).

Last night's game was a nail-biter, with the lead-changing hands six times before the mob scene of Mariner players stormed from the dugout and danced around the infield. Miguel Batista danced in-and-out of trouble throughout the evening, allowing the lead-off Oakland batter to reach base in the first five innings yet was able to abstain from allowing the big inning. Jose Vidro picked up three hits (including two doubles) in the game, but they went for naught as he was thrown out twice at home on groundballs to the third baseman (I'm assuming Vidro never played little league). Ichiro appeared to get distracted by a charging Raul Ibanez and flubbed Nick Swisher's deep drive to center, committing his first error on the season. Adrian Beltre went 1-for-4 to bring his average to .281.

And John McLaren got the managerial best of Athletics manager Bob Geren, who responded to McLaren's pinch-hitting Jeremy Reed for Jamie Burke by allowing Alan Embree to replace Santiago Casilla on the mound. McLaren switched Reed out for Adam Jones, who promptly hit a game-tying home run. Jones's home-run was only the second pinch-hit homer for the M's this year, the other being Ben Broussard's dramatic eight-inning grand slam against the Angels last April 21.
Exciting stuff. Glad to see that the M's realize that there's still a season going on, even as their implosion has dropped them from contention over the past few weeks. It'd still be nice to see the team put forward an effort that doesn't look like they're just dialing it in. And staving off another sweep with last night's dramatic win exhibits such an effort.

Let's hope the emotional high of the victory for the M's continues through this weekend's four-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Tonight's kick-off game features Jeff Weaver on the mound for the M's. Jeff has been inconsistent throughout his career against the Devil Rays: in 99 innings spanning 17 games (16 starts), Jeff holds a 5.00 ERA and a 4-8 record. And after a four-game winning streak, he hasn't won in his last three starts- losing the last two- while giving up 17 runs and 5 home-runs in 12.1 innings. It appears that after a flirtation of excellence, Weaver has reverted to his horrible early-season form.

And Jason Hammel takes the mound for the Devil Rays in his debut outing against the M's. This never bodes well for the Marienrs, as we have seen time and again young pitchers coming in and shutting the M's down. And when they're in a Devil Rays uniform, it's incredibly maddening. (Doug Waechter pitching a two-hit shutout against the M's in 2003 anyone? Admittedly, it was his second outing against the M's, but do two scoreless relief innings count?) And his last two outings couldn't be much more of the opposite of Weaver's, allowing three runs over 11 innings.

I'd like to think the M's could stretch their one-game winning streak into multiple games. But the chances of doing that with Weaver on the mound don't seem very liekly. Especially against Tampa Bay's explosive line-up. I'm picking the Devil Rays to come out on top in this one by a 7-2 score, with the M's being out of it early. Again.

The Collapse Continues


It was yet another uneven match-up before last night's game even began. The Tigers' Justin Verlander- who coming off a Rookie of the Year season has to be amongst the front-runners for the Cy Young Award in his sophomore year- against the Mariners' "ace" (national media's words, not mine) Miguel Batista. To the surprise of, well, not me but I'm sure anybody else who paid attention, the Tigers routed the M's last night 6-1 as the Mariners fell further behind in the standings, their possibility of a play-off spot receding farther than Rudy Giulani's hairline.

Verlander tossed eight innings of one-run ball, with a Raul Ibanez sacrifice fly accounting for the M's only run. The Tigers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after two innings and the rest, as they say, was history. Jose Vidro picked up three hits, and Beltre had a double, but with Ichiro putting up a rare 0-for-4 night (only his fourth hitless night in his last 29 games), the M's offense were unable to get anything going against Verlander, as he struck out three without walking anybody.

For anyone who wondered what kind of toll the long stretch on the road would take, it's pretty clear that it's fatigued an already weary team. Not looking to make excuses, but every year the Mariners are the most-traveled team, due to location and divisional rivalries, traveling at least 5,000 miles. Now throw in the make-up games against Cleveland and road trips that take a haphazard, circuitous routes around the country, and it's of little surprise that the M's have managed just a 5-10 record in their last fifteen games, excluding the three-game sweep by the Angels at home. However, in the 'not making excuses' vein, the Mariners have been the benefit of a remarkable amount of luck that led to late-inning comeback wins, and coupled with a dynamite bullpen that's repeatedly locked-up the games at seven innings- stepping in for a troubled starting rotation that sports an ERA above 5.00- the Mariners have exceeded expectations. And now they have come crashing back to earth.

If there's a bright spot left in the Mariners' season, it's the fact that they play two-thirds of their last three weeks at home, playing the likes of Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland. Is that too little, too late? Especially when the Yankees get home-and-home series against the Orioles and also face the Devil Rays at their tail end of the season. And the Tigers also receive some breaks from the schedule, with two of their last three series of the season facing the Royals and the White Sox.

There are reasons to feel optimistic about this evening's game. Nate Robertson takes the mound for the Tigers, and he's not exactly one of Detroit's most prolific starting pitchers. However, he's maintained a 3.26 ERA over 47 career innings against the M's, with a 4-3 record against Seattle. Yet, Detroit has dropped Nate's last four starts, and Nate was blown-out in a 9-2 loss to the Mariners the last time he faced them in Comerica Park last May, allowing 10 hits- including a home-run to Jose Guillen- and six runs in 4.2 innings. However, Jeff Weaver, tonight's starter for the M's, got blown-out by the Tigers when he faced them last, allowing seven runs and ten hits over five innings in an eventual 11-7 Tigers victory. Marcus Thames, currently a part-time fill-in for Gary Sheffield, homered off Weaver.

Adrian Beltre has only three hits in 16 career at-bats against Robertson, but all three have been for extra-bases, including two doubles and a home-run. Yuniesky Betancourt has hit Robertson well, with five hits in 10 at-bats, while Ichiro has gone 8-for-25, all singles, against Nate. For Detroit's line-up, Magglio Ordonez has made Jeff Weaver his personal punching bag, tattooing Jeff at the tune of a .316 average and .945 OPS- including three home runs- in 38 at-bats. Sean Casey has a .316 average in 19 at-bats, while two of Brandon Inge's three hits against Weaver have left the yard.

In the end, which ever team is able to knock the opposing starter out of the game early stands the best chance to win. There may very well be the chance that both starters may not make it much past the third inning, but regardless I'm going to have to give the Tigers in the edge in today's game, as they'll continue the M's misery by a 10-8 score.

Another day, another Yankee blow-out win


Stop me if you've heard this one.

A close game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners went into the late innings, where the Yankees piled on the runs and blew the game out of the water. A night after Spike Lee and Brad Pitt got to watch the Yankees crush the M's 12-3, in a case of deja vu, the Yankees nearly repeated the same performance in tonight's game. The differences were slight: this time, the M's actually had the lead going into the seventh inning. And Alex Rodriguez, sprained ankle and all, slugged two home-runs in the eight-run seventh inning that would never end, when nothing the M's tossed to Yankees batters resulted in outs. Thanks to the six walks allowed by the Mariners pitching staff, the Yankees finished with ten runs on seven hits- a far cry from last night's extra session of batting practice in which New York talled 12 runs on 20 hits. But it didn't matter as the Yankees rang up another win, this time by a 10-2 score.

I thought this bullpen was supposed to be good? You know, keep it to a seven-inning game, and all the other accolades that has been tossed to the M's pen all year. There is an old adage in baseball that "great pitching beats great hitting." Either this series against the Yankees proves that dage wrong, or else the greatness of the line-up far surpasses the supposed greatness of the M's bullpen that the adage doesn't even apply.

Not looking to repeat myself, but the Mariners are going to have to conjure up some 1995-style to make the playoffs. By dropping two of three games to the Yankees, the M's are looking up at a three-game deficit with 24 games to play. Mathematically, it could be done. But realistically, the moment of truth came when the M's were swept in three games by the Angels at home last week. The playoffs aren't in the cards for the M's this year, which is actually a good thing as it will prevent the front office from resting on its laurels and address the glaring holes in the team that are truly preventing it from being a great team (first base, second base, left field, but the most pressing need is the starting rotation).

So though I'm skeptical about these next few weeks, I guess I'll have to point out the obvious that the next season against the Tigers has play-off implications. One team will knock the other out of the hunt for the postseason, and luckily for Detroit, they couldn't pick a better time to face the reeling M's. I would say that the M's can safely play for the future and see what their young players can do. But for some reason, McLaren continues to trot out the same line-up, despite the fact that its averaged 3.6 runs over the past ten games.

For the love of God, McLaren, will you just let the kids play!?!?!?!?!

Yankees 12, Mariners 3


It could've been worse. No, really. It could've.

With Horacio Ramirez on the mound against Chen-Ming Wang, this game was pretty much over before it began. But once it started, it was a remarkably close contest, with the Yankees holding a 1-0 lead through five innings. Granted, they widened that lead to 4-0 in the sixth inning, when Horacio petered out. But still, the game was within reach. Until Seattle's bullpen- which has been nothing short of remarkable all season long- came in and tossed batting practice in the latter half of the game, allowing a seven-run seventh inning in which six straight Yankee batters reached base. And just like that, the Yankees steam-rolled the M's on their way to a 12-3 victory.

Horacio actually pitched one of his strongest starts of the year, holding the power house Yankee line-up to just three runs in 5.2 innings. Of his 99 pitches, two-thirds went for strikes. Once the benefit of tremendous run support at the start of the season, Horacio has now allowed three runs in each of his past three starts- with just a 0-1 record to show for it. But this game was all but decided even before it began. By holding the Mariners to one run in 7.1 innings, Wang improved his career record against the M's to 6-0 while lowering his ERA against the team to 2.51. Considering the fact that Roger Clemens appears to have lost the dominating touch against Seattle that he's had throughout his career, it appears that another pinstriped pitcher is stepping in to dominate the M's in every start. Every time Wang is scheduled to pitch against the Mariners, Johnny Mac or whoever the manager might be that week should go ahead and write 'L' over the schedule and make preperations for the next day.

Speaking of preperations for the following game, hopefully John McLaren's plan for tomorrow is to incorporate more of the younger players who got called-up with the roster expnasion into tomorrow's game. Conventional wisdom may lead you to believe that in these "must" wins against a formidable opponent that the M's are trying to best for a play-off spot, it would make most sense to stick with the veterans. However, it was also these veterans that helped lead to this embarrassing blow-out tonight in the Bronx. There weren't many positives in tonight's ballgame. Adrian Beltre , who is quietly having the second-best season of his young career, hit his 22nd home-run of the season. Otherwise, it was the M's top half of the eighth inning that provided the other highlights.

Two longtime Mariners prospects made their debut in a Mariners uniform in the eighth inning of last night's ballgame, former first-round draft pick Jeff Celement, who struck out in his first at-bat, as well as Wladimir Balentien, who despite having an incredible year at AAA Tacoma it was doubtful he'd be able to make it to the big club after he dislocated the little finger on his left hand a month ago. But Balentien was able to make it and suit up for the big club when rosters expanded, and in his first major-league at-bat hit a two-run double, knocking in Adam Jones and Charles Jimerson, who had reached base when Wang left the ball-game. It was a little bit of life, and far too little too late when the Yankees were sitting at an 11-1 lead, but it's nice to see the youngsters inject a little bit of life into the line-up and bring in more runs then the veterans were able to.

Which brings up the question about who should play/sit in tonight's rubber game of the series. Rookie right-hander Phil Hughes- who has been disappointing this year, with a 7.85 ERA at Yankee stadium and the Yankees losing the last four games he's started- is making his first career start against the M's, which means that he'll twirl a two-hit shutout. Considering that the M's have been 1-9 the past ten games, it's of little surprise that a number of Mariners batters have been struggling at the plate. Raul Ibanez (.222), Jose Vidro (.222), and Jose Guillen (.185) have all been ciphers in the line-up over the past week. Perhpas it's time to have them sit and take a rest? Willie Bloomquist can man second base, while Adam Jones takes over for Ibanez in left and Balantien can take a turn as the DH. Jones may not have as good a split against right-handed pitching as the other two do (Balentien sluged .519 against right-handers at AAA this year) but considering the fact that Hughes is a struggling rookie, it might be the most appropriate time to start Jones against a right-hander and, possibly, increase has confidence facing righties.

Jarrod Washburn, the M's hard luck pitcher of 2007, takes the hill for the M's this evening. Jarrod has intermixed some strong starts with some stinkers, but only has a 1-6 record over his last seven decisions due to woeful Mariners offensive support. His last start against the Blue Jays was undoubtedly a stinker, allowing six runs in 3.1 innings, walking five and giving up three home-runs while striking out none. However, Jarrod has been impressive against the Yankees in his career, with a 5-4 record and 2.48 ERA over 69 innings in ten starts against them, including a 2.73 ERA at Yankee Stadium despite a 1-3 record there. Derek Jeter's given Washburn the fits, with a .355 average in 31 at-bats, while Alex Rodriguez has slugged five home-runs off Jarrod for a 1.013 OPS over 43 at-bats. However, Hideki Matsui (2-for-14), Robinson Cano (2-for-10), and Bobby Abreu (1-for-13) have largely been nullified by Washburn.

If both pitchers perform as they're expected to, then it should be safe to assume that the M's will have this one in the bag, possibly even early. However, I'm feeling skeptical and doubtful that the M's are going to be able to stand up to a Yankees team that has the playoffs in their eyes. I'm going to side with the Yanks iver the M's, with the final score being along the lines of 8-5.


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