Mariners clip Birds 2-1, fly home after rough road trip

  The Seattle Mariners finished up a rough road trip by containing the St. Louis Cardinals to one run and going on to win the final game of the series 2-1. Jason Vargas was outstanding tonight going 7 2/3 innings and only giving up 5 hits and allowing no walks against a potent Cardinals offense, he now moves to 5-2 on the year. Jaime Garcia pitched a nice game but will pick-up his third loss of the year despite only giving up 5 hits and walking one tonight. Jason Vargas has been a shining star in an otherwise dismal year for the Mariners as he continues to get the job done on a regular basis.

   This was a fun game to watch, featuring a David and Goliath type match-up in front of 40,020 Cardinals fans mostly dressed in red and anticipating another slaughter by their sluggers against the hapless Mariners. Baseball is a major part of the culture in this part of the country and the fences are adorned with the faces of past heroes like Stan Musial, Bob Gipson and 87  year-old Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst who was interviewed before the game. I remember Schoendienst from when I was a kid rooting for the SF Giants and he managed the Cardinals winning the World Series in 1967. Red still hits fungos every day and sounded sharp as a tack in his interview. 

   Sometimes in a season like this it is nice to reflect and enjoy the rich history of this game rather than fret over the win-loss column. It also makes it easier to watch a game like tonight’s and just enjoy the quality plays. One of the most exciting plays of the night was watching Milton Bradley climb the fence in the 4th inning to rob Albert Pujols of a homer. Bradley jumped up and swatted a ball that had barely cleared the fence back in to play as if he was playing badminton,  holding Pujols to a double. Pujols would eventually score that inning for the Cards only run on the night, but Bradley’s play was spectacular and fun to watch.

  Offensively the Mariners picked up a run in the 4th when Josh Wilson hustled to break-up a double play allowing Milton Bradley to score on a grounder by Langerhans who got the start at first. The only other run for the Mariners came in 5th inning when Chone Figgins delivered a clutch 2-out double to score Michael Saunders from second and break the ugly 0-16 with RISP streak of the Mariners. But tonight really was all about Jason Vargas who knows how to execute the most basic of  pitching fundamentals ie: getting the first pitch in for a strike, which at one point in the game he had done in 14 out of 18 batters he faced. 

    Jose Lopez came out of the game in the sixth with an injury to his knee which is not good for the club as we seem to have half a dozen guys on the DL now.  Speaking of which, where are these guys? Josh Bard went down a month ago and seems to have disappeared off the map. Bedard seems to be in perpetual limbo, and Jack Wilson apparently left a game in the 6th inning because he was tired, also Mike Sweeney has been out on the longest 15 day DL I can remember. It all seems quite surreal as the AAA guys slowly have taken spots in the line-up over the last month or so leaving us with an ever-changing cast of characters with a new surprise line-up everyday.

   Well at last our battered sailors are making way for their home port after this 3-7 road trip,now  floating in the wake of their AL West rivals the Rangers and Angels who are starting to turn it on. Hope to make it down to the Safe to see the Reds this weekend or for sure when the Cubs and Lou Pinella come rolling in.

Team has meeting, then delivers beating 4-2

  The Seattle Mariners rallied around their Ace pitcher Felix Hernandez and came away with a 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres to snap a 5-game losing streak. This victory came on the heels of a closed-door players only meeting after the Mariners loss on Saturday. Apparently the veterans Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley and Cliff Lee showed leadership in pulling the meeting together. It was nice to see these guys step-up and start the process of being more accountable to each other in the post-Griffey era. Griffey was a great player but the truth is that back in the glory days of the 90’s  it was guys like Jay Buhner who kept the team together and were not afraid to call each other out when they needed to for the good of the team.

  Felix Hernandez pitched like the lion he is today going 8 and 2/3 innings  giving up only 4 hits and walking only one Padre while striking out 9. Milton Bradley blasted a 2-run homer as well, and you can say what you want about Bradley but he does play with heart. It was nice to see Rob Johnson pick up three hits today, including a single in the top of the ninth in which he eventually scored on with the help of a clutch double by Ichiro, giving the Mariners an insurance run.

  Felix Hernandez gave what I thought was his best performance of the year. I was also glad to see Wakamatsu allow Felix to go out to the mound in the ninth despite his pitch-count and get the first two outs before handing the ball over to Aardsma for the final out. As you know I have been writing a lot about the scientific approach to pitch-count that the Mariners have been following like a religion up to this point in the season with miserable results. With all due respect to the sabermetrics crowd on certain unnamed blogs, I am old-school when it comes to judging when it is time to pull a starter. By that I mean if you have a big strong kid like Felix on the mound throwing well, you make the judgement based on the situation at hand. And after losing 5 games in a row and your Ace is on the mound feeling and looking strong, well then let him finish the game and count the pitches later but first win the game!

   So as to be clear I have a respect for statistics, trends, and projections based on past performances but it just seems a Manager needs to be able to follow his gut feeling as well, and not become over reliant on abstract numbers. Rest assured I have a copy of  Baseball Prospectus 2010 full of useful information that I refer to now and then, but we are talking about a real live group of men not some bizarre fantasy baseball league.

   We shall see if this club is ready to suck it up and come out swinging after the closed-door team meeting yesterday. Luke French will be making his first start this year with the big club facing the tough Adam Wainwright as we make our way to St Louis to face Albert Pujols and the Cardinals. This should be a fun and interesting series to gauge the grit of our  sailors from Seattle. Heart and guts cannot be measured by sabermetrics, but I’m hoping our team is  ready to represent  the true scrappy nature of the Northwest Pioneer spirit for the rest of the campaign .

Milton Bradley leads Mariners over Tigers 5-3

 Milton Bradley the ugly duckling of baseball may have finally found a home here in Mayberry with Skyscrapers-Seattle. Bradley drove in 3 runs tonight including a 2-run homer and looks like he is having fun as well! The Detroit Tigers even with the imposing  Jason Verlander on the mound, couldn’t contain the live bat of Bradley who lined the first pitch he saw in the first over the right field fence to set the tone for this one. The Mariners sent the dependable Doug Fister up against a Tigers line-up that was missing slugger Miguel Cabrera, and as usual Fister kept his end of the bargain going seven strong innings before handing the ball off to the bullpen.

 Though Fister may not have had his best stuff he seems to have the confidence to pitch effectively like a seasoned veteran. Fister gave up a homer to Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge in the sixth, but we answered back in the bottom of the inning with a little lightning of our own, this time off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez who hit a solo blast to right to keep the game tied 3-3. But Verlander stayed in the game and was still throwing his fastball at 98 mph in the 8th inning. Chone Figgins hustled for a 1-out double off the wall in left in the 8th, followed  Gutierrez who managed to get a walk to set the stage for Milton Bradley who then delivered a clutch single that the speedy Figgins scored on with a perfect slide at the plate. Jose Lopez added an insurance run on a sacrifice fly, and David Aardsma came in to pick-up the save in the 9th.

 Milton Bradley was so excited after chasing Verlander out of the game with his RBI single, that he ran over to the home dugout while the pitching change occurred and high-fived his shipmates! Something has gotten into our Choir Boy Bradley and whatever it is I hope it is contagious. Between Bradley and the Mike Sweeney we may have enough spark to fire-up the boilers on this ship and start steaming on the long voyage back to .500. Hope to see some of you down at the Safe tomorrow, I’ll be down in section 124 row 14 looking for a mini-sweep in this 2-game series.

Slow News Day for Mariners

Yesterday I took a nasty tumble at second base while I was playing softball,  after I shook it off the first thing that came to my mind was I’m to old at 52 to be playing shortstop. Jack Wilson is 20 years younger and he is thinking the same thing, Ken Griffey is 40 and looking at the end, and Milton Bradley is taking a deeper look at life himself for perhaps the first time. Americans have always loved to compete, and we seem to derive a little to much of our identity based on what we do for a living in comparison to other people around the world. You could make the case that our will to win is what made this country great. But at what cost to ourselves, our planet, and those we care about do we need to keep pushing the envelope?

  In my case it is a no-brainer, this will be my last season. Jack Wilson sounds like he is ready to give it up. Ken Griffey will probably finish the year in some capacity. And perhaps Milton Bradley has hit some sort of bottom spiritually and emotionally and may surprise us all by evolving into a more well-rounded human being. Of course no one much cares about my baseball career, but it is a slow news day and I thought I would break things up with a feel-good story.

  Baseball is a bit different from most sports with all the history, metaphors, and parallels to real life. When I look through my scrap-book of old players that my grandfather GordonDusty”  Rhodes played with in the majors, and look at the faces, I see people like us in their timeless poses. Somehow when I put on my cleats or head down to the Safe I get lost in to a time-warp. For the players who are actually in the dug-outs it must be even more surreal and difficult to let go of. Chone Figgins must somehow still be holding on to his confidence, Griffey to his faith in his swing, Rob Johnson to the time when he was a top prospect. In reality it is our higher nature that has to intercede and tell us when it is time to move-on, if we listen. If not the game of baseball can be a cruel Mistress indeed.

Toronto edges Seattle 3-2

Doug Fister pitched his heart out again tonight, going 8 full innings only to lose this one to the powerful Toronto Blue Jays. On hand at the Safe tonight were 19,208 hardy fans including several thousand loud and proud Canadians complete with their Maple leaf flag. Though the Mariners showed signs of life tonight and even out hit the Jays 10-6, this won will go down as another 1-run loss.

  Brett Cecil got the start for the Blue Jays and pitched well until the 7th when the Mariners put together a rally and scored 2 runs but left 2 stranded as well. The Mariners took this one down to the wire and had 2 runners on in the bottom of the 9th when Mike Sweeney made the last out with a deep fly to left.

Milton Bradley was back in the line-up tonight after being away for a couple of weeks and managed to pick up 2  hits. Josh Bard started behind the plate and though he is no Johnny Bench, seems to look more in control back there than Johnson or Moore. 

  People in Seattle want a winner bad, and we all had our hopes up this year after all the off-season chatter. Sadly this season is proving to be another emotional roller coaster. I think it is starting to sink in for me that we may have to accept things the way they are barring any unforseen miraculous turn-around. I even thought about trying to root for another winning team just to get some relief, but that never works and thus the eventual return to hoping for a turn-around. So unlike another unnamed Blog that threatened to shut-down if the Mariners didn’t listen to their suggestions, I’m going to keep posting as long as you are still reading, one game at a time…

Bradley Hits Bottom, Mariners sink 8-3

In the last 24 hours the main focus in the media including all of us in the blogosphere regarding the Mariners has been focused on Milton Bradley. Today Milton admitted he needed help in a meeting with Jack Z. and Wak  for emotional issues. Perhaps it is family, romantic, or addiction issues we don’t know. All I know is that if indeed he is sincere and realizes he can’t go on living the same way and wants help this blogger is in full support and hope he finds recovery from his demons.   Just like thousands of  others around the world  Milton may have reached a place of emotional and spiritual bankruptcy, he has taken the first step towards a new life and I wish him well.

As far as the game on the field, what can I say. Another decent pitching performance by our starter Cliff Lee who kept the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays in check till the top of the 8th when he gave up 3-runs, coupled with minimal run support. So the Mariners lost their 5th game in a row but still are only 3 games back in the AL West. Franklin Gutierrez gave us some hope in the 4th when he hit the first Mariners home-run in 76 innings to drive in Kotchman and give us a temporary lead. But the pesky Rays came right back to tie it in the bottom of the inning.

Lee who is only human was left out to pitch the 8th and Tampa added on 3 more there. We got a look at Josh Wilson who came in to fill in for Jack Wilson who left early with a hamstring injury. Josh  played well till he overthrew a ball to first trying to double-up the Rays.The Rays put up 3 more in the top of the 9th and the Mariners did get a run in the 9th but the final tally was 8-3 Rays. Tonight’s attendance was 14,627 and it is starting to feel like the old Kingdome days in the 80’s when you could hear every yell from a fan across the stadium.

For some reason a lot more of you have been stopping by to check-out my new “Expansion Blog” in the past few days, I appreciate that. I have tried to stay semi-positive and will continue to do so, however if you are looking for a place to spew venom about individual players including Milton Bradley this may not be the site for you.

I remember when I was a young sailor caught in what seemed like endless storms in the Gulf of Alaska and how I thought they would never end, but they always did. And this too shall pass.

Mariners lose again 6-3

The Texas Rangers minus their home-run leader Nelson Cruz, once again beat the Mariners today 6-3. Watching this game was not as painful as last nights 12 inning melt-down, but it was not pretty either. Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee were supposed to be the anchors of this ship, but without any offense we are adrift in what looks like another storm. As was pointed out by Fox Sports who carried this game, you need to go up to the plate with an idea of what you are looking for. We seem to have a lot of guys who appear to be clueless or perhaps Wak needs to include this training into the “Belief system”.

  Jack Zduriencik has built a ballclub around Pitching, defense, and speed. It is obvious that strategy will not carry us even in the AL West which is wide open. We were able to ride on the back of hot-hitting Franklin Gutierrez earlier in the season, but now he too looks clueless striking out when the chips were down again today with 2 on and no outs in the 9th.

Milton Bradley continues to raise his average, but he and Gutierrez  let a ball drop between them in the 2nd that was catchable and cost us 2 runs.This homestretch is going to be a crucial and tough one if we wish to avoid sinking into Davey Jones’s locker. After Texas we have both Tampa Bay and the Angels and if we don’t get on course this season could be a major let-down. Maybe it’s time for Wak to impose some discipline in the dugout and let the fading Griffey know the high-school shenanigans need to be put on hold till we start getting back to fundamentals.

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