New guys droppin like flies.

The big weekend is almost upon us, and for some out there it’s already upon us (the traffic was much thinner than usual Tacoma commute fare) and the Bavasi Bashers have been given more ammo from which to fire.  We lost yesterday what has been described as the worst game of the year and I think they may have some credibility with that description.  Bad base-running, bad pitching all around and 25 combined runs can do certainly skew a dude’s perception. 

What Bavasi Bashers are all a-smile about is the eventual return of Horatio Ramirez to the DL.  After blowing another first inning lead Ramirez left the game in the third(?) with tightness in his tossin shoulder.  This cat has an injury history and that’s one of the reasons we were able to get him in the trade with Atlanta for another injury prone but talented pitcher in Raph Soriano. Aon2x5uc  The man is an enigma to me.  At home dude is sterling; 4 and 0, 2.19 ERA, good right? However away from the cavernous confines of the Safe he is a warm steaming t*rd (the soft serve kind, like you spent the night binging on PBR and Taco Bell) and his numbers reflect it; a Weaver-esque 0 and 2 with a diaper filling 13.21 ERA all on the road. 

So the question posed is the same I posed when t*rdboy Weaver “went on the DL.”  Who will fill the spot in the rotation? I nominate Justin Lehr (5-0, 2.44 ERA, 30 K’s 14 walks at Triple A Tacoma). I’ve seen him pitch a couple of times and while my blind no-depth perception havin’ a*s is the best judge of stuff he gets guys out consistently and to me that is really what matters.  I think he’s earned his shot.  Who do you guys think we should put in there if Ramirez is gone for a while?

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This is what happens when you find a stranger in the alps!

CHRIS O’MEARA/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The road trip is starting off the way we all have hoped.  Two straight victories has the team back at .500 and scraping together wins even when they continue to struggle at the plate as a team.  The star of last night’s win was Crazy Jose Guillen who went 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs against the Devil Rays down in Tampa.  Ichiro increased his hitting streak to 16 games during the two wins and Miguel Batista and Jared Washburn pitched well for an inconsistent offense to scrap together enough runs to get the W. 

In a game ripe with clichés one of the most popular is “good teams win the games they are supposed to win.” This is exactly what the Mariners need to do, and with taking the Tampa series is what they are starting to do. If you look at the past few seasons you will see instances of the Mariners struggling against clubs that are supposed to be worse than them (i.e. 3 and 6 against the Royals last season).  These losses are costly because when they lose to contenders (see 2 and 17 vs the A’s last year) it compounds into the mediocrity that has plagued the franchise since 2004.  Beating teams like Tampa Bay is even more critical than beating the Red Sox and Angels because they are supposed to beat the Devil Rays; it’s a plus if we can beat the elite of the AL. 

Don’t look now but 1st baseman Richie Sexson has reached with a hit in each of the three games he has started since coming back from some bench time allotted for a nasty 0 for 16 slump.  His average is still on .174 but he does have a 3 game hitting streak including a 2 RBI single that started the rally against the Rays on Monday.  Of all the guys that we need to heat up this is the one that will be the most crucial in deciding whether or not the Mariners are for real or just another mediocre and ineffective club. 

Great article here by Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune about Adam Jones:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/sports/mariners/story/69079.html

A note about Felix getting back into shape.  One thing I noticed last season with the younger, fatter Felix is his tendancy to overthrow on pitches and this will cause him to fall off of the mound to the left.  Before the month long layoff this season I didn’t see that instead “34” was on target, in control of all of his pitches and staying on the mound.  Since he has come back I noticed that he is starting to overthrow his offspeed stuff again and falling off the mound.  Wonder if the injury messed with his focus a little bit.  I fully expect him to work it out, a month is a long time to not be pitching to major league hitters.   

Finally in a non-baseball related note I would like to be the first to welcome this man to the Seattle sports scene (assuming of course we draft him):

JONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES FILE
Here’s to hoping that Mr. Durant is the catalyst to keeping the Sonics in Seattle. 

Nothing is f@#!$d? The plane has crashed into the  mountain!

Ahh the beauty of allergy season. Nothing says spring like lying on the couch staring at the ceiling while drowning in a river of one’s own mucus; it truly is the best of times I assure you.  It is also a severe hinderment of one’s creative ability so hence why I haven’t been around as often.  However I got a few clear headed moments so it’s time to rant. 

This is the line that all of Trident Nation got to see this morning:

16
Wed
vsLAA
17
Thu
vsLAA
18
Fri
vsSD
19
Sat
vsSD
20
Sun
vsSD
21
Mon
@CLE

Yep that says that the Mariners have lost 5 out of their last 6 games, three of those losses to the divisional leader, two of them to a National League club that we beat 5 out of 6 times last season and one make up game to baseball’s hottest team.  Players are getting benched, managers are getting publicly testy and the whole thing is starting to feel like the wheels are starting to come off. 

A lack of scoring has (once again) become the bane of Mariners fans.  Ever since the end of the glory years and what appeared to be the instant aging of Bret Boone and John Olerud in 2004; this club has gone lengthily stretches where it has struggled to score runs.  Management has tried to throw money (Sexson, Beltre, Guillen, Vidro, Johjima) and youth (Lopez, Morse, Leone, Jacobsen..etc) and coaching changes (Perry, Baylor, Molitor and now Pentland) at the problem but nothing has worked.  As Ryan Franklin could gladly testify to, the Mariners have been one of the worst run support clubs of the last five seasons.  It’s no wonder that big name pitchers like Zito and Schmidt didn’t want to come here to pitch with only 1.4 runs of support per game.  Yeah that is what we are doing offensively during the 5 losses. 

TONY DEJAK/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

And it’s not like the team isn’t getting hits.  During Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Padres the Mariners got 9 hits, but left 14 men on base including 2 on in the 9th against Trevor Hoffman with none out.  I would love to list each time the M’s have had one or more on, one or more in scoring position with 1 out or less and still fail to plate any but there isn’t enough internet for all of those stats.  We have 3 guys in the lineup hitting over .300 and when Sexson isn’t playing no one is hitting under .250.  There is no reason for such atrocious clutch hitting.  I wont’ even start on the base-running mistakes; my blood pressure can’t take it. 

Hargrove is trying to make things happen.  There are a lot of things we can blame a manager for, but he can’t polish a **** when it comes to bad hitting. All he can do is bench guys and shake up the lineup. Dude has tried both so far with little or no luck.  Sexson was benched for 2 games after dragging the team through an 0 for 15 slump that helped decide a game because he choked with runners on.  Betancourt also saw some pine after he watched his average begin to slip because he couldn’t lay off up and in fastballs. I don’t know what else he can do to get these guys to hit, you can’t “get “someone to hit. The game doesn’t work that way. 

There is a chance however to put the brakes on this flaming bus before it slams into the side of the mountain killing all occupants including the season.  6 games against the Royals and Devil Rays are on tap before facing the Angels again.  Realistically, if they can take 5 or 4 of these and 2 from the Angels we could climb right back in this thing.  We just need to score some runs. 

Tonight the M’s begin the Rays series in Tampa. Jared Washburn will face Rays ace and future Yankee starter Scott Kazmir. 

Think about the Future

TED S. WARREN/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Man I’m telling you.  If I set my diet to correlate with the amount of runs scored by the Mariner offense on a given night, I would be suffering from a serious case of diabetes by now.  After scoring 11 runs on Tuesday the Mariners got blanked by John Lackey last night wasting a 6 inning, 3 run performance by Cha Seung Baek. So we’re back to 2 games behind the Angels in the AL west with the big pitching showdown tonight in the rubber match.  It’ll be Jared Washburn vs. Bartolo Colon.  I don’t anticipate a lot of scoring coming from this one.

So I was listening to the local sports talk station on my way to the office this morning (when you spend as much time in traffic as I do you’ll do just about anything to alleviate the boredom and prevent yourself from commiting vehicular homicide) and they said that the Mariners are 11-5 in nights pitched by those other than the big 3 signed by GM Bill Bavasi last winter.  Calls against Bavasi’s incompetance and for his firing are loud and constant thoughout Trident Nation; with these facts in place It’s hard to blame them.  Considering this info you have to say that Hargrove has done a pretty good job with a mostly flawed rotation to keep the team over .500. 

This is a team on the rise if you look at the pieces we have in place and those that are poised to come up in the next few years.  With Felix, Wash and Baek the rotation is suddenly pretty solid coupled with a bullpen anchored by JJ, Morrow, Sherril, White and now Jason Davis. Justin Lehr can be promoted to join the staff to give a 4 deep roation and Jake Woods can be brought up for long relief.  This could be a good young staff for a long time barring injuries that have a history of derailing that dream.  The catching position is established with Kenji and also with Johnson and Clement in Triple-A. A talented young middle infield and young guns Jones, Belentien, Tuiosisopo (I butchered that spelling) and Saunders in the minors due to be in the lineup in 2 years the future is looking pretty good.  This could be the beginning of a second golden age if everything goes to plan. 

Imagine 2 years from now, the Mariners take the field with this rotation: Felix, Wash, Baek, Morrow and Lehr. This bullpen: Mark Lowe, Eric O’Flaerty (antoher slaughtered name), Sherril, Reitsma, Davis, Woods, Travis Chick (got him for Guardado) and JJ to close. This lineup: Ichiro (Jeremy Reed or Free Agent if he leaves), Adam Jones, Vlad Belentien, Sexson, J-Lo, Yuni, Marcus Tui at third, Kenji catching, Johnson backing him up, and an injury free Clement at DH. Young, talented and possible: hey, a guy needs hope these days.      

It’s Heaven and ****

I am a fan of victory, in most cases regardless of how we manage to get it.  1-0 or 15-14 I like to see my team win and I think everyone else that watches this game feels the same.  Im saying this to shift the focus of last night’s 11-3 victory of the Californaheim Angels to the positive.  Felix Hernandez did return to the mound and did pitch last night as planned. However "34" showed some signs of rust after being on the shelf since April 18th and as a result his command suffered, unable to consistently locate any pitch other than his fastball.  His health no longer seems to be an issue, his velocity appeared sound hitting upwards of 98 miler per hour on the gun.  Hargrove and pitching coach Raph Chaves kept the ace on a short 75 pitch leash and pulled him after 78. Felix left the game after 3 and a third, 3 earned runs, 3 walks and 5 k’s. 

Fortunately we did not need a stellar performance from our injured ace to achieve victory on Tuesday night.  I did not expect the offense to do much damage against Angels starter Kelvim Escobar (top 5 in the AL for ERA at the time) but the fellas stepped up, chasing Escobar in the third and scoring 8 off of him.  The story of the night was the performance of Ichiro.  The prennial all-star played like one again list night with an astounding 5 hits, 1 run scored and a stolen base.  Now the Mariner glory yers for me are 1995 and 1997 not only because that was our first taste of success but because I was home to see them.  In 2000 I was on a naval vessel off the coast of Isreal and in 2001 I was at a Marine Base in North Carolina preparing for a possible invasion of Afghanistan; fortunately my unit was not sent to either theater and I got my dishcharge comabt free.  I bring this little tidbit up due to my observations on Ichiro’s performance this season.  Now he does not have the most hits nor the highest average of his tenure this season but this has been the funnest season for me to watch this guy play.  I wasn’t home during his MVP season of ’01 so I didnt see his fire then.  However this season he is playing with a fire I haven’t seen even in his record breaking ’04 and ’05 seasons. Maybe it’s the new talent around him or maybe it’s a contract year but he is doing everything he can to help this team win baseball games and I am loving every minute.  Hitting homers, stealing bases, it is really fun to watch.

Speaking of stellar performances; Kenji Johjima had 2 hits and hit another homer last night raising his average to .312 on the year.  Please vote for this guy, he is Nwfnq2y8 an All-Star and deserves to be honored as such.  Jose Guillen continued his hot play with 2 more hits and 2 more RBIs and he is creeping pretty close to .300. May be sending an All-Star ote his way if he keeps this up.  J-Lo, who had been struggling on the road trip lifted a 2 run shot off of Escobar and helped run the righty from the game.  Last night also saw the Mariner debut of Jason Davis.  The new guy pitched a scoreless ninth with a hit and a K looking pretty sharp.

Tonight the Angels series continues with Cha Seung Baek opposing former ace of the Halos John Lackey. Correction to yesterday’s post, Miguel Batista will not be pitching in this series, instead Thursday will be a Washburn-Colon matchup.   

Big Return for a Big Series

Do you hear that? That is the collective tension of all of Trident Nation humming over the return of the uncrowned savior.  Felix Hernandez returns to the mound tonight for the first time since mid-April to face the Californiheimangeles Angels in this season’s most important series thus far.  But before I get to all that let’s talk about the past weekend.

JOHN FROSCHAUER/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Our return home proved fruitful, taking 2 out of 3 from the New York Yankees.  Pitching, both good and bad, was the story of the series.  Jared Washburn put on another great performance on Friday night; 8 scoreless innings, 6 K’s and only one walk with 6 hits.  No one has stepped up in "34"’s absence like Washburn over the last month.  3 wins is not enough to show for the great work he has done.  If he keeps this up i will dissapointed if he is not on the AL all-star squad.  Speaking of All-stars, be sure to get some votes out fo catcher Kenji Johjima.  He’s hitting .307 and hit a crucial homer in Friday’s win.

The other big pitching performance belongs to Horatio Ramirez.  Ramirez looked bad (verrry bad) in his last two starts, giving up big 2nd inning leads to the Red Sox and Tigers respectively.  Sunday he helped silence his critics (Me? nah!) with 6 and third innings of one run 5 hit ball to give the M’s the series victory.  Crazy Jose Guillen got 2 hits on Sunday to get his average up to .286, dude was on fire during the road trip, looks like he is finally getting healed. 

In the aftermath of the Juilo Mateo situation the Mariners made a trade with Cleveland bringing right hander Jason Davis over from the Indians for a player to be named (which in my head translates into Bill Swift All-Star candidate).  According to Jim Street of mlb.com Davis has an 18-22 career record with a 4.69 ERA in 114 Major League games. He was 0-0 with a 4.76 ERA in eight relief appearances this season for the Indians.  I wonder who will go to Cleveland, Justin Lehr? Hope not.

I am glad I can finally say this: The Jeff Weaver Era is Over!   For now anyway. The team put the lord of s*ck on the 15 day DL for "right shoulder tendinitis" which I think means "we don’t know what to do with this guy so we will stick him here for a while so he can’t hurt the team anymore."  So he’s on the shelf for now and with any luck we can finally cut ties once he "heals."

Now for the grand finale, the big series with the Angels.  We come into the series just 2 games behind the Angels for first in the AL west and we got swepped by them in Anaheim a few weeks back so this is a series that this team needs to win.  Tonight’s first game is a pitching duel in waiting, Felix vs. Kelvim Escobar who is 4 and 1 on the year with a 2.21 ERA. Cha Seung Baek and Miguel Batista will also pitch in the series.  Cross your fingers everyone things are about to get ill. 

The Final Straw?

Paul Sancya

To no one’s suprise we lost today and Jeff Weaver fell to 0 and 6 on the year with an ERA above 14.  Once again the opposition got an early when Weaver gave up 3 in the bottom of the first to the Tiger’s in Thursday’s 7-3 loss at Detroit.  The man appears to be coming apart mentally as well as physically. The rotation is not the place for him to work out the issues that he has.  Now the question is what do we do with him? Personally I would see if he would accept an option to triple A so he can work with the coaches down there and he can regain his confidence to possibly help us down the stretch if the M’s are still in contention.  If he will not accept a minor league assignment he may have to be released and the club will have to eat the rest of the 8 million dollar contract.

Another point of concern coming from this game was the staggering number of runners left on base (11) and runners left in scoring position (6). The Mariners had 12 hits and only scored 3 runs.  It may be the effect of enduring such a long stretch of games without rest.  Focus can be lost and mistakes can be made when a team plays for weeks without rest. 

The Mariners come home to play the Yankees for the weekend starting tomorrow. Run support starved Jared Washburn will face New York starter Darrell Rasner, whom shut us down pretty good just a few days ago.  Here’s to hoping that a return to Safeco will help rejuvinate a team that is starting to show some signs of fatigue.  I will say this though, despite the Weaver issues, the missed games and breakless schedule the guys are hanging at .500 and playing hard despite the circumstances.  I applaud them for that.