12:48 p.m.: Once again, the M’s head into the ninth inning having scored just a lone run. That’s three games in a row for anyone keeping score at home. That’s six games in a row in which Seattle has scored three or less heading into the final frame. You can’t win that way. Not much else can be done right now. You mix the lineups around, move guys up and down, but soon it becomes like shuffling deck chairs on the old Titanic. The M’s need hitters to do what’s expected of them. No jokes here. A bunch of .200 averages were not expected. Not all of these guys were expected to hit .280 with 20 homers, but something a little more in the middle would help. Anyhow, we head to the ninth in a 6-1 game.
In case you missed it last night, here’s the video of my trip from Cleveland to the Bronx:
12:04 p.m.: Wow, we get to see Cha Seung Baek pitch the same day Miguel Cairo gets a start at second. You always see something special at Yankee Stadium. Baek came on after Felix Hernandez yielded a two-run homer to Johnny Damon and singles to everybody else in the sixth inning, save for one double-play ball. M’s now trail 6-1. They will soon be 0-13 in games in which they’ve trailed by two or more at any point.
11:49 a.m.: Looks like the sight of Cha Seung Baek warming up was enough to scare Felix Hernandez into tossing a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Hernandez got through it very quickly, keeping this a 4-1 game. As we mentioned though, good teams have to score five to win. The M’s have a long way to go, especially when they keep stranding runners. To Adam in the comments thread, thanks for clearing that up. I agree, indeed, that pitching alone will not help a team win. But I think that the kind of pitching the M’s have gotten, combined with average offense, should be enough. I don’t think most posters on this board expected to see so many regulars just flat-out stink the way they have.
11:28 a.m.: The news just keeps getting better and better for the Mariners, as Cha Seung Baek is now warming up in the bullpen as we enter the fifth inning. Felix Hernandez just doesn’t have it today. Got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in that fourth inning but he’s had plenty of stressful frames already. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done after only 78 pitches.
Richie Sexson ruined a chance for the M’s to get back in it by grounding into a double play with two on and one out in the fourth. That’s where a team needs a slugger who can step in and deliver a home run or a gap double. Not every time, but Sexson — or somebody — certainly has to start doing that more often. If he doesn’t, this team’s chances go down significantly.
11:08 a.m.: Felix Hernandez just gave the Yankees the lead back in the bottom of the third inning, seeing them put up three to go ahead 4-1. He yielded back-to-back doubles to Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter to score one, then a two-out single just over the third base bag by Hideki Matsui that plated another. Not sure what Raul Ibanez was doing on his throw back in. Looked like he tried to stop throwing at the last second, but couldn’t do it and had the ball go into the grass as the runner moved up to second. The error cost Ibanez’s team a run as an ensuing single by Melky Cabrera brought the run home. Ichiro bobbled the ball for yet another error in center, which moved the runners up. Hernandez intentionally walked Robinson Cano after that to load the bases.
Mel Stottlemyre went out to talk to Hernandez after the Matsui hit. I’m not surprised. That ensuing walk to Jason Giambi looked like something of the Hernandez we saw often last year. One bad break and he loses his focus. Stottlemyre was no doubt trying to impress upon him the need to retire Cabrera and avoid a fourth run. But Hernandez couldn’t get it done. The difference between his outing so far and what Erik Bedard did last night. First time I’ve seen Hernandez do this in 2008, so we won’t go off too long on the topic. But to get a true gauge on a guy, you have to see how he handles setbacks as well as success. This offense is up against it now, that’s for certain.
Seattle tied it up in the top of the inning as a two-out single to right by Yuniesky Betancourt, a stolen base (something he has to do more frequently) and a single to center by Ichiro nets Seattle a rare run before the ninth inning. Coming into this game, the M’s had scored three runs or less in the first eight innings of their last five contests. Ouch.
10:45 a.m.: Seattle trails 1-0 after two innings of play. Not good when your team is scoring only one or two runs per game, but, so be it. If this team is going to win anything, it’ll have to score five or more at some point. Not too worried about one run. If I was, it’d be time to pull the plug on the season and I’m not ready to do that on May 3. But the Yanks got to Felix Hernandez in the first with a leadoff double by Johnny Damon in the first and a single lined to center by Bobby Abreu.
10:18 a.m.: A half inning already done here, with the Mariners going 1-2-3 in the first against Mike Mussina. Miguel Cairo went off on plate umpire Paul Schrieber during the at-bat. The pitch called for a strike wasn’t the greatest, but that’s a pretty quick-trigger temper for a guy who hasn’t played all year. Interesting.
51 Ichiro CF
13 Miguel Cairo 2B
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
9 Jeff Clement DH
44 Richie Sexson 1B
2 Kenji Johjima C
50 Wladimir Balentien RF
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
RHP Felix Hernandez
18 Johnny Damon LF
2 Derek Jeter SS
53 Bobby Abreu RF
55 Hideki Matsui DH
25 Jason Giambi 1B
28 Melky Cabrera CF
24 Robinson Cano 2B
11 Morgan Ensberg #B
26 Jose Molina C
35 Mike Mussina RHP
For Adam in the comments area, about what you wrote last night, I don’t think it’s a “myth” that pitching wins. It does win. Most of the arguments in favor of the Erik Bedard deal were that it would give this team a playoff rotation, that the defense would not sink this team and that the offense had to be about the same as last year’s, maybe only slightly worse — but at least league average — to contend.
Well, the M’s have one of the best rotations in baseball at the moment, if not the best. If Miguel Batista keeps up what he’s done his last two healthy starts, this is a World Series winning rotation. That said, the offense is not league average. Not by a longshot. League average would see them scoring another run per game. If you look at this U.S.S. Mariner post from last night they ran an excellent chart showing the M’s scoring four runs or less most times. Something we already knew, but the chart truly hammers it home. An average offense in the AL will typically score close to five runs per game. Do that and a team’s winning percentage (with average pitching) jumps to .593 from the .471 winning percentage achieved by scoring four runs per game. Of course, there’ll be slumps and not everyone will score five or more each and every game. But the point is, the wins start to climb if you can average that many per contest. Also, the M’s, as we’ve mentioned, have an above average rotation. The offense is just not doing what was expected. I know that some of you, Adam included, felt the offense would go off a cliff. I did not. Never expected to see Brad Wilkerson fall apart the way he did, Kenji Johjima ride off a cliff, Jose Vidro completely lose it, or Ichiro hit as poorly as he did in the opening month. But I also believe the internal replacements for Wilkerson and Vidro will make this a better offense going forward. That Ichiro will pick it up now that it’s May. That Johjima will raise his average by at least 100 points before season’s end. And that, with an offense closer to league average (which I believe this team will end up with), and J.J. Putz healthy and back to normal, the pitching additions of Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva make this a contender. I don’t think the defense, outside of last night, has had much to do with the 17 losses. Think the offense has everything to do with it. That said, even with zero offense, the team is still only 4 1/2 games out of first place. So no, I disagree it’s a “myth” that pitching wins. I think this team will win quite a few games because of this pitching — even with an offense that’s just average. Not if the bats continue this way. But I don’t think they will.