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.

A tight one in LA

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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.

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