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September 9, 2008 at 10:12 PM

Texas Rangers at Mariners: 09/09 game thread

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Sorry about the captcha problems there, Mike. And about tonight’s game. It’s tough to stay awake watching this parade of relief pitchers on both sides like some meaningless spring training affair. These two teams played a lot of those. The Mariners now trail this one, 7-3, heading into the ninth inning. Seattle finally put a bunch of hits together in the eighth and scored a pair of runs. But the M’s were down by six at the time, so it’s not like it really matters. I’ll start writing down names and stuff if the M’s put a few guys on in the bottom of this inning.
Otherwise, anything good on TV? How about that stinker by Felix Hernandez, huh? You know what? It didn’t matter how many early fastballs he threw tonight. When you don’t have command, or control, you aren’t going to win the game. These Rangers, we told you last week, actually see more pitches per plate appearance than any other American League team. Hernandez allowed seven guys to reach base in 4 1/3 innings without the benefit of a hit. We’ll leave out the fielders who didn’t catch the ball. Oh heck, let’s include them. That’s 10 batters who reached base in 4 1/3 innings on plays that might not have ordinarily resulted in hits.
Hernandez had a really bad day. Another half inning to go and then we’ll all be free.
If you missed it earlier, have a look, below, at Ichiro posing for photos with Wakako Saito, 11, a guest of the Make-A-Wish Foundation who flew here from Nagoya, Japan to meet him. She has had a brain tumor for the past 1 1/2 years.

Here’s a fun stat. Ichiro’s career batting average against Texas starter Vicente Padilla is .559 in 34 career ABs. That’s better than any pitcher he has faced at least 25 times, other than Aaron Sele, who he’s at .632 against in 19 career ABs. Guess he walked a lot as well.
The numbers against Padilla are the sixth highest in active hitter-pitcher matchups in baseball.
These folks run a funny website and took up a discussion about PECOTA and the points we raised on yesterday’s blog about some of the pre-season projections and how they’ve fared. Enjoy it.

8:53 p.m.: No Happy Felix Day tonight, as Hernandez exits after only 4 1/3 innings, having given up six runs, walked four batters (one intentionally) and hit three others. Not to mention a wild pitch in the fifth that nearly got him killed when he raced to cover home plate and got knocked over (on his bad ankle) by Marlon Byrd. Hernandez stayed in the game, walked Nelson Cruz, then watched reliever Randy Messenger surrender a two-run double. So, it’s now 6-1 for the Rangers as we enter the bottom of the fifth. Hernandez is done after 97 pitches (yikes!). He was missing his spots all night. And to think, I just gave him my vote for the team’s Pitcher of the Year earlier today. Both my picks aren’t looking so hot in this one. Gave my MVP vote to Raul Ibanez.
8:10 p.m.: Make that 72 pitches for Felix Hernandez after only three innings. The only reason he’s not down more than 4-1 at this point was likely the best defensive play made all year by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the third. With a runner on second, Nelson Cruz hit a hard chopper deep in the hole to Betancourt’s right. Betancourt snared it on his backhand, then somehow twisted his body and made a leaping throw that one-hopped straight to first baseman Bryan LaHair for the out. When Betancourt makes plays like those, it makes you wonder about all those routine balls he’s missed this year. That stuff tonight makes highlight reels across the nation, which is why folks elsewhere consider Betancourt a Gold Glove candidate. He would be if he was consistent with other fielding aspects. Something to work on for next year.
7:57 p.m.: Felix Hernandez is in serious pitch count trouble after only two innings and trails 4-1 on the scoreboard. Hernandez has thrown 55 pitches already, much of that due to Matt Tuiasosopo’s inability to knock a ball down at third base. Two hard smashes have already gotten by him and allowed runs to score from second base both times. The first came from Taylor Teagarden (already a name on my all-time top-5), a smash that hit Tuiasosopo’s glove and went into shallow left for a single. The next was from Michael Young. Tuiasosopo made a flop-like dive for the ball and it shot on by him. Adrian Beltre likely gets both of those, bad thumb or not. Raul Ibanez wasn’t exactly Vlad Guerrero with his throws home, either. The byproduct is Hernandez has now allowed more earned runs in two innings than in his last two starts combined.
7:38 p.m.: Ichiro just narrowed the Texas lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the first. He led off with an infield single off personal whipping boy Vicente Padilla, then took second on a throwing error by shortstop Michael Young. Ichiro advanced to third on a flyout to right by Jeremy Reed and then — after Raul Ibanez walked — scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Jose Lopez that the Rangers failed to turn an inning-ending double-play on. Lopez gets the RBI, but it was not a great showing by the revamped middle of the order. Lopez got away with his grounder, but new DH Tug Hulett took a called third strike to end the inning.
7:26 p.m.: He’s up against it already, trailing 2-0 after a half inning of play. Hernandez hit Joaquin Arias with his second pitch of the game, then walked Josh Hamilton with one out. Milton Bradley then pulled up lame after the first pitch of his at-bat, forcing Brandon Boggs to come on and pinch-hit. Hernandez struck him out, but then Marlon Byrd skied a ball to left. Raul Ibanez had room to make the play, but appeared somewhat surprised the ball stayed in the park. Ibanez leaped for the ball and may have struck the wall as he was doing so. The ball came down in a place he could make the catch, but he missed it. It went for a double and two earned runs scored.



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