The Mariners, after tonight’s loss, are now 35-54, a .393 winning percentage. To avoid 100 losses, they will have to go 28-45 (.383) the rest of the way. That’s not a real high bar, but without Cliff Lee going every five days, you really have to wonder.
The Mariners got unexpectedly great work in the first half from Jason Vargas and Doug Fister. Will that continue? We’ll see. In his first start since the All-Star break, Fister was roughed up for 12 hits and six runs in 5 2/3 innings tonight in the M’s 8-3 loss to the Angels in Anaheim. Yes, as Don Wakamatsu pointed out, seven of the hits were ground balls through the infield. But in four starts since coming off the DL for a tired shoulder, Fister has worked 20 1/3 innings, giving up 29 hits and 16 earned runs (7.08). That’s cause for concern.
So is the offense, obviously. The Mariners were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring postion tonight. That’s pretty much the norm. They did get a huge hit from Ichiro, a three-run double in the fifth to pull the M’s within one, 4-3. But with no outs, they couldn’t get Ichiro home with the tying run. Unfortunately for them, that’s pretty much the norm, too. Chone Figgins grounded out to the right side to move him to third. So far, so good. But on Franklin Gutierrez’s grounder to third, Ichiro was thrown out easily at the plate.
Wakamatsu said the contact play was on, meaning Ichiro was dictated to run for home. But, Wakamatsu said, “He needed to get in a rundown and let the runner (Gutierrez) get to second base.”
And Gutierrez needs to find a way to hit it somewhere besides third base.
“We’ve talked over and over — with a runner at third, we have to eliminate the third baseman,” Wakamatsu said.
There were other little things in the game that explain why the Mariners are now 16 games out of first place — like Jose Lopez’s inability to field Howie Kendrick’s grounder to his left in the sixth, which would have ended the inning. Instead, Kendrick wound up at second with a double when the ball kicked away. The play was originally ruled an error, which I think was the correct call. Either way, Bobby Abreu promptly hit a two-run single, and suddenly, the M’s were down an insurmountable 7-3.
I also thought Ichiro had a chance to grab Erick Aybar’s two-run single that dropped in front of him in the second, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Bottom line: the M’s aren’t doing the little things, or the big things, that win games. It could be a long second half.
P.S. Wakamatsu said Erik Bedard will return home with the team after Sunday’s game and be examined next week by Edward Khalfayan, the M’s team physician. Wakamatsu said he may undergo an MRI or CATscan.