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.

And so it ends

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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.

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