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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

June 15, 2007 at 5:30 PM

Mariners vs. Astros, Game 1

A third straight loss taken here by the Mariners, this one 5-1 to the Houston Astros. Another six-inning outing from a starter, with a lot of hits scattered by Felix Hernandez until that two-run homer by Mike Lamb. I agree with some of you that an 0-2 pitch from Hernandez has no business being that high up in the zone. Or that far into the strike zone. Hernandez threw 74 of his 99 pitches for strikes and that type of ratio isn’t always a good thing. Not when the opposition has 12 hits off you — Hernandez’s season-high against.
He fooled some of the hitters, notching six strikeouts. But not all of them, obviously.
Bottom line? When a team’s only offense off Wandy Rodriguez is an inside-the-park solo homer, that team is destined to lose. Only seven runs scored by the M’s in their last three games. The offense is taking a breather after that torrid pace and the starting pitching, while adequate at times, has not been enough to compensate. This trip is now 5-3 and the M’s have to hope the Angels lose later. I’m off to the clubhouse.
Well, I’d barely gotten those previous words out when Felix Hernandez breezed through a 10-pitch inning and Willie Bloomquist got Seattle on the board with an inside-the-park home run. That’s the first of those for the M’s since Adrian Beltre hit one at home last June 23. It’s the 22nd such homer in club history, but only the sixth on the road. Also only the second such homer in the history of Minute Maid Park. A little surprising, given that rather-odd grassy berm out in center field that contributed to Bloomquist’s feat. Anyhow, it’s just a 2-1 game now and Hernandez looks to have at least another inning left in him. We’ll see.
Here’s the deal. It’s 2-0 for the Astros as we start the fifth inning. But the Mariners are very fortunate to only be down by that many runs. Houston is outhitting Seattle 8-2. Felix Hernandez has given up the eight hits plus one walk in four innings. But these Astros look very much like the team I watched play in the 2005 World Series the last time I was at this ballpark. In that series, a 4-0 sweep for the White Sox, the two games in Houston saw the Astros frustrate their fans to no end by continuously putting runners on base and not bringing them home. I mean, Games 3 and 4 seemed to take four hours each (maybe they were that long, I don’t remember). If you’re going to lose, do it quickly. Don’t torment and tease the fans.
Anyway, I bring it up because these Astros (nowhere near as good) seem to need a half-dozen hits to generate one run. In fact, it seems like every NL team the M’s have played on this road trip has the exact same problems. Nine baserunners in four innings against Hernandez and you come away with two runs? Hernandez and company should take that and run away from here laughing their heads off.
Only problem? Uh, the M’s can’t seem to get a hit. I know they have two. Not sure how that was done because the top of the fifth just ended before I could finish typing this. A 1-2-3 inning. Not good. If Hernandez holds these guys to two, or even three runs or less, the Mariners have to be able to win the game. We’ll see what happens. This is a big inning for Hernandez. He faces the heart of the order and that 29-pitch fourth inning shot his count up to 71. Has to make a stand here and position himself to go at least six innings.
Felix Hernandez is getting hit hard here and is very fortunate to only be trailing by a 1-0 score as we enter the third inning. Hernandez gave up two singles and a double in the first inning, yet somehow got out of it with no runs allowed. It helped that Henter Pence swung into a first-pitch double play and that Lance Berkman got thrown out at home by Ichiro, moments after the latter had failed to squeeze his double to center.
But the second inning began with a single by Mark Loretta and a one out double to left center by Mike Lamb to bring a run home. So Hernandez gave up hits to four of the first five batters he faced and five of the first seven. But he did strike out the side in that second inning to keep Lamb at second. So far, all three of Hernandez’s strikeouts have been called. Looks like he has the umpire in his corner because a couple of those strikeout pitches were a little on the dubious side. If Hernandez needed an inning or two to warm up, there’s worse that could have happened to him.
After all, he has given up five hits already — two of them doubles — but only trails by the one run. His pitch count is also only at 27. Considering all the baserunners allowed, that’s about as good as it gets. A lot of baseball to be played.



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