That the M's won the game on two rbi singles to the EXACT SPOT where Halman stole Francisco's :)
If the Phils had a defensive LF like Halman the game is probably STILL tied 0-0 :)
Great win against a great team and a great pitcher. What a job by Vargas as well! Sure is fun to be a M's fan right now!
=== PUT ME IN, COACH ===
The boys at USSM have argued that LF defense is extra important in Safeco. On Sunday, it was.
In the first inning, with two on and two out, Ben Francisco lofted a short popup to the no man's land behind SS .... you know that spot equidistant SS-CF-LF?
I wondered if Gutierrez was going to get it... probably not. We're down 0-2 in the first?!
Guti didn't get it, but Greg Halman did. Never thought for a moment the left fielder could get anywhere near it.
I've seen that play made, oh, two-three times since Safeco opened. And it was the ballgame.
I believe that it was also Francisco, in the 4th inning, who doubled down the line over Figgins' head ... it sailed over Figgins, hooked into the Kingdome bullpen area, rattled around, and bounced out...
But. A blur came in out of the right side of the screen and materialized as ... Greg Halman! ... Halman scooped and FIIIRRRRRED a one-hop strike to Dustin Ackley, who slapped the mitt on the bag and glared maliciously over at Francisco. Who had scrambled back to 1B.
I've seen that play made, oh, two-three times at Safeco since it opened.
One play muchly to the left, one play muchly to the right, savvy?
It reminded me of that Pixar short where a one-man band guy tries to earn a little girl's coin. In one game, Greg Halman established himself as a one-man band left fielder. You could play five infielders and two outfielders, man.
With Michael Saunders, we all liked the idea that Saunders' defense could carry his bat's learning curve. ... I'm officially calling for Peguero to go down and learn how to hit, while Greg Halman plays LF. Halman, Carp, Gutierrez, Cust, Kennedy, there's your blinkin' 5-to-make-3.
Get over Peguero already, Eric.
The jury's not out on Greg Halman: He has 7 strikeouts against 1 walk in 28 AB's. That would be about 150 K's and 20-25 walks, full season.
140 and 40 would be okay, and it's early. And Halman's approach looks fantastic. We don't say that Halman's suspect: we say the jury's out. And that his contribution on defense gives the jury plenty 'nuff time to stay out.
But SSI is just fine with Mike Carp the rest of the year. If Halman fails in 2011, I'm fine with Carp until Carlos Beltran gets here, or the playoffs do, whichever comes first. I'll take my chances with Mike Carp.
=== In Other News ===
The Mariners scored a future MVP candidate playing for $0.4 million per year. Think I'll drop a thousand or two words on that one, elsewhere. It's not like I (or Luis Rodriguez) have a family or it's Father's Day or anything.
=== Fly By Your ... Instincts, Not Your Instruments Dept. ===
After Ackley tripled against the LHP Hamels, Wedge wanted the insurance run tacked on to the 1-0 lead. So he pinch hit for the LHB Carp... with the LHB Kennedy.
Pure gut feeling that Kennedy would find a way to get the ball into the outfield.
Mariners 0.5 games out of first, celebrating a win going into the day off.
That the M's won the game on two rbi singles to the EXACT SPOT where Halman stole Francisco's :)
In the "never to early to look ahead" dept... The next 19 games leading up to the All-Star Break look like a crucial stretch for the Mariners.
We play 13 of 19 away from Safeco, starting with a 6-game east-coast excursion to have our pitchers hit against the Nationals and the new-look/old-coach Marlins. Then, we return for 6 at home against the Braves (41-33) and Padres. Finally, 7 games on the road at division rivals A's and Angels.
Meanwhile, the Rangers will look to build a comfortable cushion as they play an amazing 16 of their next 19 games at home with the old road trip being a short hop over to Houston to play the worst team in baseball in what will essentially be a home game. The only challenge the Rangers face will be the Texas heat as their opponents (6 vs Houston, 3 vs Mets 3 vs Marlins, 3 vs O's and 4 vs A's) will not make them sweat nearly so much.
If the M's go 10-9, they may still find themselves down 5 games at the All-Star Break, and the focus may be on planning for 2012 with the trade deadline looming.
But if the M's remain within a game or two of the Rangers, then the trade deadline becomes a discussion of adding another piece for a 2011 playoff run.
19 games till the All-Star Break and of course, the first series after the break is a 4-game series against the Rangers @ Safeco. At least the team will know where they stand heading into the trade deadline!
4 weeks from now it should be clear whether to buy or sell. If we come out of the weeks before the All-Star break with a winning record and Texas doesn't gain a lot of ground on us, and then we go out and sweep them after the All-Star Break...
You'd think we'd HAVE to be doing some trading for additions at the end of July.
If we stumble, then we can easily shift into sell mode. We don't have a LOT to sell (that others would buy) but we'll see. Trader Jack can usually pull something good out of his hat, whether buying or selling.
Is the home-road split the important one, or the AL/NL split the important one? :- )
Our pitchers' offensive onslaught should take us to a 17-2 record or so. I expect Pineda to hit HR's for the cycle ... grand slam, 3-run shot, a solo shot, and one with Ackley on third.
We'll have our new DH!
I certainly love the thought of 17-2, and I'm beoming more optimistic as I look at the matchups more closely. It looks like the pitching matchups align VERY well for us.
Anibal Sanchez (vs Fister) may be the toughest pitcher we face in the first 9 games as we miss Zimmerman of Nats (though Marquis is somehow 7-2!), Josh Johnson of Marlins and Hudson/Hanson/Jurrjens of Braves. Heck, we may even miss Dan Haren in the final 4 vs Angels.
After the gauntlet of good starting pitchers we've run against so far this year, it looks like we'll only have to deal with Sanchez and Jered Weaver in this stretch, so certainly reason for optimism for our Ackley-infused offense to put up some runs over the next 3 weeks.
I like tonight's lineup, bumping Ackley to 5, giving Olivo an extra day of rest, and at the same time making sure Figgins is out of the lineup so that we would not have Gimenez/Fister/Figgins (okay, maybe Figgins bats ahead of Fister, but looks like Livan is batting 8th for Nats) sinking the bottom of the order.
Interestingly, the M's rotation shapes up to have Pineda/Hernandez pitching last 2 days before the break and probably largely unavailable for the All-Star Game. I wonder if the M's may skip a Pineda start in these next 3 weeks?
No letups, M's, and no looking ahead - that's our job :-)
In regards to the trade deadline, I agree that there will likely be a clearer picture by the end of July. But, I would also add that the trade deadline is not a binary decision time -- there is a 3rd option -- stand pat.
Typical group-think is that either you are "in" the race (buyer) or "out" (seller) ... and that if something doesn't get done one way or another the period was "wasted". While I would accept this view as "generally" correct ... I think the 2011 Mariners may well fall into the 3rd category ... where they are in trade ZugZwang and their 'best' option is to play the hand they are holding.
Mind you, if the club could replace Figgins with ... Longoria or AROD, I'd be more than ready to board the trading train. But, with the current roster -- the current weaknesses -- the current talent on the farm -- my instinct is that option 3 is likely going to remain the best. I'm sure Jack will be hunting anyway ... but barring one of those "say what" trades (Tampa got Kazmir for Victor Zambrano as I recall) ...
It is definitely possible to stand pat and say, "we're going to war with the guys we have. Ackley, Peguero, Halman and Carp are your mid-season upgrades, as well as more Kennedy and less Figgins/Cust."
But if you're going to stay in the race, and an upgrade to the pen or the DH slot doesn't cost you that much, then why wouldn't you spend a little extra?
And if you don't think you can compete, then why wouldn't you try to add an extra player or two for your next championship team by trading a commodity?
If we don't do anything, we could still win the division. That's possible. The kids would have to continue to amaze but it could happen.
But there's a reason most teams choose to be buyers or sellers every year: because just making calls at a pot instead of either going all in or ditching out and folding is a good way to lose your investment without a significant chance of winning the whole thing.
Or to put it another way: fish or cut bait, don't just hope a trout jumps out of the water to get ahold of your lure.
Maybe Ackley, Smoak, Peguero, Halman, Carp, Pineda, Pauley, League et al can make this happen. Figgins and Guti could rebound to career norms, Cust might find a bit of pop by getting to sit on the bench more, and all our starters can continue their first 3 months for the next 3.
Then standing pat sounds great. It sounds kinda like getting a straight out of a 4-8 hand to take a pot from a team holding face cards, but these things happen a not-insignificant amount of the time.
But if you thought you had a magic rotation, the kind that could take any team in the playoffs if they had just a LITTLE offense, and you were fighting for the division lead at the deadline, would you really skip the chance to add some offense to push yourself over the edge?
The Mariners walked away from a chance to add an arm in 2002, or a bat in 2003 to help them reach the playoffs and just missed out in a stacked division two years running.
This division isn't stacked like that, but it is fairly even. It would take a Cool Hand Luke to assess our roster and decide that it's good enough to win the division over two equally-matched teams and compete for a World Series if we just wait to see that river card.
Jack hasn't had the opportunity yet to make that call. We'll see in three weeks which of the 3 options suits him.
And S&S dictates the conversion of some of that redundant talent. You've got exactly 25 roster slots, and the traffic jam is already sounding off with a lot of angry honking.
On paper, we should be able to count on him to deal for an impact rental bat, you would think.
Couldn't have gotten off to a worse start as M's squander a 4-run 9th inning lead while the Rangers overcome a late 2-run deficit. Oh yeah, League is probably unavailable and may be hurt.
Baseball can be painful.
We need rental relievers. About three of them.
See: tonight's wasting of Bedard's fabulous outing.
Better defense would be nice too.
Would have to come cheap, since both Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles have been displaced and have no long-term future there. Aviles appears to have found his stroke after being shipped to AAA, with 4 HR in his last 10 games. He has a track record of MLB success that LRod doesn't have (he was injured in 2009), and would be a good semi-platoon partner for Kennedy.
Also, KC doesn't really have a leadoff hitter (Alex Gordon has been mostly leading off), so they might even take a flyer on Figgins if we ate the great bulk of the money. These are the guys who took Yuni off our hands.
Neither one is an exciting bat, just an upgrade from Figgins and Wilson for the days when Wedge will rest AK and/or Ack.
I think you pretty much have to sell on Bedard. I wouldn't be confident in him staying healthy until August, much less 2013.
Z might be able to pull a Lee-esque haul with the way Bedard is pitching. If we can get a young premium MLB-ready player, that move needs to be made.