Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Game 77 Recap

Game 77: The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Before the season started, some (including myself) thought that the Mariners were the favorites to win the AL West. They added Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley to a team that finished a solid 85-77 last year. After parting ways with Figgins, John Lackey and Vlad Guerrero, it appeared the Angels' reign atop the division was in jeopardy.

Instead of being somewhat of a surprise team in 2010, the Mariners are surprisingly bad. To start, they were outscored on the year and had an expected record of 75-87, so the foundation they were building upon was somewhat shaky. Many traditional baseball thinkers doubted that their mostly-pitching-and-defense mode of roster construction could work, and so far this season - although you couldn't tell by last night's game - it certainly hasn't. They are a dismal 14 behind the Rangers just 76 games into the season, in last place in the West by four in the loss column. Three weeks ago Dave Cameron at U.S.S. Mariner summed up their season to date thusly.

The biggest culprit is their offense. The M's are in last place in runs scored, home runs, doubles and slugging percentage and second to last in batting average and on base percentage. Only two of the players in their starting lineup (Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez) have an OPS+ better than league average. First base and designated hitter, the two positions that should be the easiest to find offensive production at, have been especially dismal, the production while occupying those roles checking in at a 42 & 43 OPS+, respectively. The reacquisition of Russell Branyan should be a boost to the former and parting ways with Ken Griffey has already helped with the latter, but it's probably too little, too late.

There's about 60% of the season left and their pitching staff has performed admirably, but it's hard to imagine that Seattle can leapfrog Oakland, Texas and Anaheim and win the division, and that's what they'll need to do because the Wild Card is almost certainly coming from the East. The Mariner's season may be sunk, but they still provide an extremely tough matchup for the Yankees once again tonight as King Felix takes on Javier Vazquez.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Brett Gardner's wrist keeps him on the bench for the second straight night. In his stead, Colin Curtis gets his first Major League start. Jorge Posada is the DH for the second consecutive night.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Colin Curtis LF
Francisco Cervelli C

Javier Vazquez RHP
Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Braynan 1B
Milton Bradley DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jack Wilson SS
Michael Saunders LF

Felix Hernandez RHP

Game 76 Recap

[WE data via FanGraphs]

Usually, if a starting pitcher gives up seven runs in a game, there is one inning that they could point to that really did them in, but that wasn't the case last night for Phil Hughes. He got through the first unscathed but allowed a run in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings.

It didn't seem like he was getting hit all that hard, but it was one of those nights when the Mariners' hitters seemed to find holes in the Yankee defense. So when the Mariners scored three runs with two outs in the sixth, the game was pretty much out of reach. Sure, the M's plated seven runs against Hughes and put 12 runners on base in 5 2/3 innings, but I thought he pitched okay. There will of course be the inevitable mainstream media consternation about the extra rest he was given, but he wasn't wild or laying too many balls over the middle of the plate. He just caught some bad breaks, had a couple of errors made behind him and was up against Cliff Lee, who didn't have any of those problems.

Lee went the full nine and aside from the two solo home runs that he gave up to Nick Swisher and the ultimately futile rally the Yanks made in the ninth, was as good as you expected him to be last night. He only struck out two batters but when he allowed balls in play, they tended to be weakly hit or in the general vicinity of a defender.

Losing the series opener against a team that's a baker's dozen under .500 isn't optimal, but this wasn't a terrible defeat. Both teams took an excellent pitcher to the mound and the Baseball Gods decided whose night it would be. The Yanks have another uphill battle tonight as Javy Vazquez matches up against Felix Hernandez.