Sunday, April 3, 2011
Ichrio sets franchise hits record in Mariners 5-2 win over Athletics
The Seattle Mariners(2-0) scored three runs in the ninth inning behind Ichiro's franchise setting base hit to defeat the Oakland Athletics(0-2) 5-2. The Mariners for the second straight day were led by great starting pitching and took advantage of the A's mistakes defensively. The Mariners were led by Ichiro who recorded two hits which passed former teammate Edgar Martinez with 2,448 career for most hits in franchise history. The Mariners improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and look to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 1995. The Mariners at no point last year were two games over .500 . Eric Wedge has to be thrilled with the starting pitching he has received. Last night everyone expected Felix Hernandez to be dominant but Jason Vargas followed up that performance. Vargas went 6 2/3 innings allowing just one run and striking out six. The Mariners are playing small ball and actually resemble a major league ball club. Wedge through two games has his team playing the game the right way.
Just like the previous game the Mariners pitcher found himself in trouble early on then settled down. In the third inning Vargas found himself in a second and third, one out jam. Vargas got David DeJesus to ground out which allowed a run to score. Then Vargas struck out Josh Willingham to keep the damage at 1-0 after the third. Vargas wouldn't allow another hit until the seventh inning as he dominated a weak Athletics lineup. The Mariners would rally in the sixth off of A's starter Brett Anderson. After recording the first two outs Milton Bradley would single to left. Then Bradley stole second base. Former A's hitter Jack Cust was at the plate who had walked three times the previous game. Facing a 3-0 count Cust was given the green light and ripped a base hit to centerfield scoring Bradley to tie the score up at 1-1.
In the seventh inning the Mariners offense would strike again. Once again the Mariners allow they didn't score on the A's starter worked the pitch count so Anderson could only last six innings. New Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan doubled to lead off the inning. Then Jack Wilson followed that up with a single to shallow rightfield to give the Mariners a first and third nobody out for youngster Michael Saunders. Saunders hit the ball to centerfield scoring Ryan from third base to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead. Vargas in the bottom half of the inning was pulled with a runner on and two outs. Vargas would end up going 6 2/3 innings, five hits, walking one and allowing just one run. Vargas would also strike out six batter. Jamey Wright would relieve him and get out of the inning protecting the 2-1 lead.
In the eighth inning Wedge handed the ball over to new setup man Chris Ray. Ray's Mariners debut wasn't a good one. Ray allowed a bunt single to Coco Crisp to lead off the inning. Then he allowed a base hit to give the Athletics a first and second nobody out situation. DeJesus then grounded out to Jack Wilson for a fielders choice. That play was confusing as the Mariners thought Wilson caught it and if he had trapped it the runner at second base should have been out. Instead it was first and second just one out. Crisp then stole third base to give the Athletics first and third one out. Willingham then singled to right field scoring Crisp which tied the game up. For the sixth straight season the Mariners have blown a late inning lead in the first or second game of the year. Ray would eventually get out of the inning with the score still tied at 2-2.
In the ninth inning facing the Athletics closer and former Mariner Brian Fuentes the Mariners had a scoring rally. The inning begin when Jack Wilson singled to left field. After a sacrifice bunt by Saunders allowed Wilson to reach second Wedge pinch hit for Adam Moore with Miguel Olivo. Olivo singled to left field giving the Mariners first and third with one out. Ichiro who had tied Edgar Martinez earlier with an infield single had a good spot to pass Martinez. With the infield in Ichiro hit it to the first baseman who had to come home. The throw was off which allowed Wilson to score and because of the throwing error Olivo went to third base. The Mariners had taken a 3-2 lead on that base hit. Then Fuentes threw a wild pitch which allowed Olivo to score and Ichiro to reach second giving the Mariners a 4-2 lead. Ichiro then stole third base and Chone Figgins last night's hero hit a sacrifice fly scoring Ichiro from third to give the Mariners a 5-2 lead. The Mariners by taking the extra base scored three runs they wouldn't have if they hadn't been aggressive. The Mariners would then hand the ball to closer Brandon League. League would retire the side in order to record the save and give the Mariners a 5-2 win.
The Mariners despite not hitting the ball all that great have found a way to score in the first two games. It helps that the Athletics have committed six errors. The Mariners are taking the extra base which is winning baseball and will be counting on their pitching staff to win games this year. Vargas was pretty dominant today striking out six batters which he hadn't done in his previous 13 starts dating back to last season. The Mariners have improved to 2-0 under Wedge which is the best start for a Mariners full-time manager since Chuck Cottier in 1985 who began his Mariners career 6-0. This may just be game two of a 162 game season but for a club that lost 100 games last year they needed some confidence. All wins count the same eventually which is good to see the Mariners off to a good start.
Star of the game:
This goes to Ichiro who broke Edgar Martinez franchise hits record and drove in the winning run. Ichiro was 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored with a stolen base. Ichiro already has three stolen bases on the young season. Ichiro might not be the legend that Martinez is but this is a big accomplishment and fitting he tied and passed Martinez on infield singles. Ichiro has 2,248 hits now and if he keeps up his pace he should go over 3,000 hits in the middle of the 2014 season.
Here is a stat for the weird from Zach Cecil if you haven't already saw he pointed out that Ichiro broke the record on the 10th anniversary of his debut April 2nd, 2001. That isn't the weird part the weird part is that Edgar Martinez passed Ken Griffey Jr. on April 3rd, 2001. So pretty fitting all the way around. Ichiro is starting the year off with a bang so far with four hits and three stolen bases.
Pitcher of the game:
This is clearly Jason Vargas who was just dominant. Vargas went 6 2/3 innings, allowed just five hits and one run. The big thing that made this Vargas start standout was the fact he struck out six batters. Vargas who has improved on his swinging strikes looked pretty sharp last night. Vargas who was considered the fifth best player in the big J.J. Putz trade is now the teams #2 starter. Vargas although against a weak lineup looked pretty good.
All in all the Mariners are playing pretty good baseball which they didn't do last year. The Mariners vastly underachieved last year after overachieving in 2009. Possibly this year can provide some balance for the ball club. The Mariners bullpen proved until David Aardsma they will be scary all season long. The Mariners offense is working the count which is forcing the A's to go to their middle relief. Wedge seems to be pressing the right buttons so far. It also helps a manager when his starting pitchers are going deep into games and dominating the opposition. The Mariners look for the sweep against their division rival on the road. The sweep although early would put them three games up while a loss only puts them just a single game. The Mariners are playing better which after last years disappointing season is great to see even if it's just smoke and mirrors.