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.

Maginificent Miguel?

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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.

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