Monday, July 13, 2009

The GBU: Rangers vs. Mariners

I managed to make it down to Seattle yesterday to catch the Mariners knock off the Rangers 5-3 [Lookout Landing], and thought I'd present a few thoughts on the game in classic GBU style. They follow below:

- The Good:
- Ichiro Suzuki: Ichiro was impressive as usual, going two-for-five while making several outstanding plays defensively. He scored from first with an impressive burst of speed around on a Jose Lopez double, and pulled off a nice unusual slide at home to boot, staying away from the tag while throwing his arm out and catching the corner of the plate. However, perhaps his best moment of the day was his RBI single; he took a swing and didn't get much on it, hitting the ball lightly to the pitcher, but managed to beat the throw to first with an impressive sprint. He's having an incredible season so far at the age of 35, with a career-best .480 slugging percentage, .873 OPS and 133 OPS+, a .362 batting average (second-highest of his career), and .393 on-base percentage (third-highest of his career). Ichiro's still got plenty to offer this team, and was a very deserving All-Star selection.

- Erik Bedard: The Mariners' Canadian ace turned in a strong showing, scattering three hits and two runs in five and two-thirds innings of work. Unfortunately, two of those hits were home runs, but it was still a rather impressive performance from him; he was almost unhittable for most of the day. He has a tremendous .263 ERA and a 163 ERA+ this year, and is responsible for a lot of the Mariners' success.

- Russell Branyan: Branyan didn't have a great game Sunday, but he wasn't bad; he went 0 for 4 with a walk and a RBI. He's been one of the best Mariners this year, though, batting .280/.382/.573 with a OPS of .956 and a OPS+ of 152, both team highs. He's been a tremendous addition to the team.

- Don Wakamatsu: Seattle's rookie manager had an tremendous day and showed why he's been selected as one of the coaches for the A.L. All-Star team. As Art Thiel of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer pointed out in a column Sunday night, Wakamatsu's been very effective at managing his personnel all season long. He was particularly impressive Sunday, as the Mariners' crucial fourth run came after he inserted fleet pinch runner Josh Wilson for Ken Griffey Jr. and pinch hitter Chris Shelton, a former Ranger who was only called up to the team on Thursday [Jim Street,], for Ryan Langerhans. As Nate Mayer of Mariners Dock wrote a while ago, Shelton has some impressive potential; he may be a valuable presence for the team down the stretch. Wilson scored on Shelton's single, and that proved to be the winning run.

- Jack Zduriencik: No, the general manager didn't do anything of note Sunday, but he's played a large role in turning this franchise around, as Jerry Brewer pointed out in a Seattle Times column today. Moreover, he just made an incredible trade, dumping all-around liability Yuniesky Betancourt off to the Kansas City Royals for two pitching prospects. Rarely do you see a unified reaction to a trade, but almost everyone who's weighed in on this one thinks it's a steal for the Mariners and a horrible move for the Royals. Check out a few sample reactions from Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer, Rany Jazayerli, Keith Law and Minda Haas and Zach Saunders.

- The roof: The Safeco Field roof is very impressive. It was raining lightly when we got to the stadium (about an hour ahead of game time for batting practice), so the roof was closed. Even with it closed, the sides are still open, allowing a good view of the city. Just before game time, the rain eased off, so they opened the roof; it went from completely closed to completely open in 10 minutes or so, which was most impressive. Later in the game, rain started to fall again, so the roof started to close and was completely shut in just a matter of minutes. For a city like Seattle with unpredictable weather and plenty of rain, this roof is just about perfect.

- The microbrews: Safeco has an impressive selection of beer, featuring several smaller local breweries as well as the likes of Miller and Coors. For someone like myself who enjoys expanding his beer horizons, this was fantastic.

The Bad:
- The post-game crowds: It proved next to impossible to get out of Safeco after the game thanks to massive presses of people. Happens everywhere, but still annoying.

- The prices: Like most ballparks, the tickets weren't bad but the food cost an arm and a leg. Still, that's to be expected these days.

The Ugly:
- The OBP: The Mariners have added a number of better on-base percentage guys this year [Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times], but they still have some absolute black holes in their lineup who never walk. On Sunday, they started Jose Lopez (hitting .256/.287/.428), Ronny Cedeno (.168/.227/.301), Rob Johnson (.203/.263/.336) and Jack Hannahan (.143/.143/.286). Those are some pretty appalling numbers.

- The Rangers' pitching: Like the Mariners' batting lineup, the Rangers' pitching Sunday was not impressive. Their starter was Dustin Nippert, who had a 7.36 ERA and a 60 ERA+ by the end of the day. After just three and two-thirds innings and three earned runs, he was replaced by Derek Holland (5.97, 75), who threw two and two-thirds. He gave way to Darren O'Day, who's actually one of the Rangers' better pitchers (1.93, 231) but allowed the crucial two runs (both earned). C.J. Wilson and Jason Jennings both saw a bit of work as well and were okay, but not spectacular.

The conclusion: Overall, it was a pretty good game and a lot of fun to watch. It was also quite meaningful, something that's been rather rare of late for us Jays' fans: the Rangers' losses on the weekend allowed the Angels to take top spot in the AL West, with Texas 1.5 games back and the Mariners only 4 games back. The AL West pennant race is going to be an interesting one to watch this year, as all three teams are in contention. It should be a great battle.

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