September 2010

Aardsma getting closer to closing again

If the Mariners have a save situation in tonight’s series opener against the Rangers, look for Brandon League to get the call.

But the main man, David Aardsma, is getting closer to to resuming his closer role.

Interim manager Daren Brown said Aardsma, sidelined with discomfort in his left oblique, was feeling better today than he had in the previous five days and is supposed to play catch prior to tomorrow night’s game against the Rangers.

If all goes well, he might be able to return to duty.

Switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak returned to his old stomping grounds.

Acquired in the trade that sent Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe to the Rangers, Smoak could be in line to receive at least a partial share of the postseason shares the Rangers will get.

Back in Seattle, designated hitter Russell Branyan was seeing a spine specialist and Mike Carp was having his right arch checked out. Brown said a medical update could be available later tonight. Both are expected to miss the entire Rangers series.

Rookie Matt Mangini is getting his second consecutive start at third base in tonight’s game. He cleanly handled all four grounders hit at him in Sunday’s game against the Rays. Brown said Mangini has the kind of work ethic that will make him a superb defender. Mangini committed 24 errors during the season at Triple-A Tacoma.

So far so good for right-handed reliever Dan Cortes. He is the first Mariners reliever to start his career with consecutive perfect innings since Kevin King in 1993. Here’s predicting that Cortes will have a better career than King. Mike Schooler made three consecutive appearances in 1988 without allowing a baserunner.

Ichiro Suzuki’s right ribs were a tad sore today after being plunked by a pickoff throw at first base yesterday. There is not a lot of beef in the area that hit him.

Without further adieu, here is tonight’s Mariners lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Jose Lopez, DH
4. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
5. Justin Smoak, 1B
6. Adam Moore, C
7. Matt Mangini, 3B
8. Greg Halman, LF
9. Josh Wilson, SS
RHP David Pauley

— Jim Street

Passing time at The Trop

Some random thoughts on a Sunday morning in St. Pete:

* Franklin Gutierrez (60), Jose Lopez (56) and Casey Kotchman (51) are the only Mariners with more RBIs this season than Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has this month (40). Russell Branyan (57) doesn’t count because he hasn’t spent the entire season with the Mariners.

Tulowitzki, by the way, was projected by many experts (including MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo) to be the Mariners’ first-round Draft choice in 2005, when they had the fifth overall pick. They chose catcher Jeff Clement and Tulowitzki was selected by the Rockies two picks later. Ouch.

* Interesting comments in the St. Pete Times today from the Rays clubhouse talking about how the first two batters in Saturday night’s game — catcher John Jaso and second baseman Ben Zobrist — challenged Ichiro’s arm, and won, stretching singles into doubles.

“Most players are not going to challenge Ichiro in that situation,” manager Joe Maddon said, “and (Jaso) did, and he’s safe. Everybody in the dugout was like, ‘No! No! No!’. And then they’re like ‘Yeah! Yeah!, Yeah!’. It worked out great.”

*Tropicana Field has become the “noisiest” facility in the Major Leagues. Not because fans fill the place every night (or day), but the sound system is soooooooooo loud it’s almost like being in an NBA arena. The Devil Rays swimming in a pool out there in center field must be scared out of their wits.

* St. Pete Times baseball writer Marc Topkin had an intersting stat in his Cy Young Award handicap chart, pointing out that Felix Hernandez has pitched against teams with records of .500 or better 63.6 percent of the time this season while CC Sabathia is at 51.5 percent. Rays lefty David Price has had it even tougher than Felix, facing winning teams 73.3 percent of the time.

Furthermore, Price has received an average of 6.04 runs per start, compared to 6.12 for Sabathia. Felix? Try 3.09.

*The Mariners need to win one more game on this road trip to avoid becoming the second team in franchise history to notch only 23 wins on the road during a non-strike season.

And finally, the Mariners’ lineup for the series finale against the Rays has been posted:

1. Ichiro, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Jose Lopez, DH
4. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
5. Justin Smoak, 1B
6. Matt Mangini, 3B
7. Josh Bard, C
8. Greg Halman, LF
9. Josh Wilson, SS
LHP Luke French

— Jim Street

Rays boost Felix’s Cy Young Award hopes

Felix Hernandez lost his 12th game of the season yesteray afternoon in Toronto, but several hours later he might have picked up a few Cy Young Award votes.

A few eyebrows had to be raised in New York when Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, regarded as Hernandez’s primary competitor in the Cy Young Award race, was shelled during a seven-run, sixth-inning uprising by the Rays.

Earlier in the day, King Felix pitched a complete-game two-hitter against the Blue Jays. But the first hit he surrendered was a home run in the first inning and that was the only run off the Mariners’ ace in a 1-0 loss at Rogers Centre.

According to several reports on which way the voters are leaning, wins are definitely important, especially for pitchers on teams competing for playoff spots, but it appears that overall numbers could be the determining factor.

And that would be a good thing for Felix.

According to figures compiled by STATS, Inc., which tracks just about everything that can be tracked, of the 10 big-league pitchers who have tossed the most low-run innings this season, Hernandez (92.7) and 20-game winner Sabathia (91) are the only American League pitchers that have allowed one or fewer runs in at least 90 percent of the innings they’ve pitched.

With at least one start remaining, Hernandez, a 12-game winner, has pitched in a MLB-leading 202 scoreless innings, 14 more than the Phillies’ 20-game winner Roy Halladay. Felix also has tossed 26, one-run innings among the 246 total innings pitched in. Sabathia has logged 233 innings overall, including 177 shutout frames and 34 one-run innings.

Halladay leads all Major League pitchers at 94.7 percent –188 scoreless innings and 42 one-run innings in 243 total innings. Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, a 16-game winner, is next at 93.5.

— Jim Street