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.

Cleveland 4, Seattle 3

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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.

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