Felix Hernandez got the start tonight and pitched well enough to hold the Royals to just two runs on six hits before handing the ball over to the shaky Mariners bullpen.
Brian Bannister, son of former Mariners pitcher Floyd Bannister, went seven innings, giving up four runs on six hits including a two-run home run to Russell Branyon in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Royals came into the game leading the Major Leagues in hitting with a respectable .282 team batting average. Not a team known for their power, the Royals will, however, put the ball in play. Tonight they collected 14 hits. The Mariners managed to get eight, but could not get one when it counted late in the game, and are now 1-8 in extra-innings this year.
Today was the official beginning of the second-half of the season, giving one hope that things were going to be different. However, the Mariners put together another classic 2010 choke in their usual style.
It started off in the eight inning when Brandon League came in to protect a two-run lead, but instead surrendered a couple of runs on four hits before getting yanked for Garrett Olson. Olson could not close the deal either, and finally, it was Brian Sweeney whom was brought in to close out the frame with the game tied at four.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Mariners managed to, once again, strand a runner at third with no outs in a tight game. In this case, it was Russell Branyon who walked to start the inning, and then was moved around to third on a double by Jose Lopez. Franklin Gutierrez then went down on strikes followed by an intentional walk to Casey Kotchman to load the bases with only one down.
Milton Bradley was brought in to pinch-hit for Rob Johnson and he also was fanned, leaving it up to Jack Wilson who hit a weak pop-up too short to end the inning.
We have seen this routine many times this year. The last time was against the Cubs, where, once again, Felix was denied a victory by this sort of choke late in the game, and probably is the reason he did not make the All-Star team.
David Aardsma pitched in the ninth with the game tied at 4. I am not sure what was going through Don Wakamatsu’s mind when he decided to go with League in the eight, even though he had Sweeney warmed up and pitching well lately.
Also, generally, teams save their closer till they have a lead to protect, but just like in the Cubs game, he brought in Aardsma to pitch in a tie-game rather than saving him.
In tonight’s game, Don Wakamatsu was forced to use Chad Cordero in the 10th inning, and that move proved to be another disaster as the two ex-Mariners, Scott Podsednik and Betancourt, each drove in runs to put the Royals up 6-4. The Mariners did get a couple of runners aboard, but they could not get the big hit to win the game
I really have to question the way Wakamatsu handled his relievers tonight. The roles seem interchangeable with no real set-up man or closer, but rather a sort of committee that is picked at random.
If David Aardsma has lost his job as closer, then Wak needs to say that. This business of juggling guys around is not good for the moral in the pen, or the win-loss column. Granted there is no excuses for leaving runners stranded at third with less than two-outs in close games like this team has done so many times this year.
If the sabermetrics crowd is looking for a new statistic to measure futility, this would certainly be one where the Mariners led the league. The Royals are still playing like a team that is in contention coming into tonight’s game only eight back in the AL Central.
The Mariners, on the other-hand, had a chance to pick up some ground tonight as Texas lost, but instead will stay at 14 back in the AL West with this dismal performance.
I was planning on heading down to the Safe tomorrow to watch Eric Bedard make his long-awaited first start, but he is apparently suffering from another mysterious sore shoulder issue. Bedard seems to be another Mariner who has the fine art of disappointing Mariners fans down to a science. Http://jeffsmariners.com