Take a look at the photo above and then the image below. The photo above is the pitch that Mike Sweeney swung at on a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second and two outs and the M's down 3-2. Look at the swing, because it's low and because it's away, he was forced to swing like that -- reaching just a little bit on it. That he was able to hit the ball that far into the left-center gap and get people's hopes (I thought it had a chance to find grass for a brief second) is pretty impressive. Was it a strike? Hmm, I guess it was was probably too close to watch.
What's not impressive is some of the borderline pitches he swung at, including a pitch almost in the dirt on a 2-0 count - a count where he should be sitting on one spot and one spot only. Is it unfair to beat up on Sweeney for this one at-bat? Perhaps, I'm being overly critical of Sweeney. After all, not many other people on the team are hitting either. But it seems that he has been given the right to go up and hack at pitches with abandon with an almost Yuni-like fervor, and yet no repercussions come from it.
I'm not alone in this thinking. Check out midway down Jeff Sullivan's post from Lookout Landing
Mike Sweeney is a hacker. For some reason, Mike Sweeney is a hacker, and when your only positive attribute - your only positive attribute - is your ability to hit strikes pretty hard, hacking's a negative.
Realistically, Sweeney could have drawn a walk - to put the game-winning run in scoring position, or at least forced a 3-1 count - still a prime hitters count. Is it as easy as I make it sound? Well not for most people, including myself. But Sweeney is a professional hitter and the leader who preaches accountability, so he's accountable for a not-so-perfect at-bat in a key situation.
I talked with a few other writers and we noticed that Sweeney seems to be swinging at a lot of first pitches. Perhaps, it's because he isn't playing every day and figures the first pitch might be the best to take.
I'm not saying he can't hit. In fact, I think Sweeney has a better chance of hitting a ball out of the park then several other players on the team. But when manager Don Wakamatsu says it's game of inches and points to Sweeney just missing with the deep fly to left. You also could say it's a game of inches - by not swinging at pitches just inches off the dirt on 2-0.
Actually, I feel bad for my little diatribe there. But not bad enough to delete it. Perhaps it's a level of frustration I feel for the Mariners starting pitchers. Obviously, they can't really come out and complain about the lack of offense. But I guarantee you they feel it. How could they not. Fister has now thrown six quality starts (an overrated stat, but still), along with four starts of 8 innings and he has an ERA of 1.96 after giving up three runs today, and he's 3-2 on the season.
Perhaps it isn’t fair, but basically here’s the scenario Seattle Mariners’ starting pitchers often face each night they step on the mound.
- Give up one run, you have a chance to win.
- Give up two runs, your chances of winning are about 25 percent.
- Give up three runs, and well, there’s reason why the Mariners are now 14-26 on the season and have lost five straight and seven of their last 10 games.
It really does feel that way at times when you watch a game and the M's get behind.
Fister really only had the one bad inning - the fourth. Sure he gave up a run in the third, but it was the fourth where he walked Jose Bautista after giving up an RBI single to load the bases and then he hit John Buck on a 2-2 fastball on the elbow.
“I was trying to go in and unfortunately it hit him,” Fister said.
For all the things that Fister isn’t – a hard thrower, or a pitcher with explosive stuff, or a pitcher that’s logged a lot of innings – he has shown a fair amount of poise. And he didn’t fall apart like most pitchers with his experience level would have in similar situations. Instead, Fister struck out Edwin Encarnacion and then got Lewis to fly out to end the inning.
“He just stepped it up,” Wakamatsu said. “He over-pitches sometimes and falls behind a little bit. But when he trusts his stuff, he’s thrown some good games against some awfully tough lineups.”
After hitting Buck, he retired the next 14 batters.
“There were things I needed to make adjustments on,” Fister said. “It took me a little longer that it probably should have.”
The Mariners did rally a little. It was good to see Ichiro and Chone Figgins deliver some big RBI singles. But the M's had 10 hits in the game and stranded 11 runners. They were also 2 of 9 with runners in scoring position, including and inning where they had runners on first and second with no outs and the top of the order up and they fail to score a run.
BLUE JAYS NOTES:
- Starter Brett Cecil recorded his 3rd quality start of the season and is now 2-1, 3.42 ERA (10 ER, 26.1 IP) in 4 starts on the road, compared to 0-1, 10.13 ERA (9 ER, 8.0 IP) in 2 starts at home…has won 6 of his last 7 starts on the road dating back to July 10, 2009 at Baltimore.
- John Buck extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his 1st inning single…hitting .419 (13x31) on the streak…longest hitting streak of his career, and the longest streak by any Blue Jay this season…Buck entered the game also leading AL catchers in runs (16), 2B (11), HR (8) and XBH (19).
- Alex Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 6 games with a single in the 4th…during the streak is batting .292 (7x24) with 3 runs, 2 doubles and 3 RBI.
- Lyle Overbay recorded his 6th multi-hit game of the season…with a double in the 9th, 15 of his 29 hits this season have been extra-base hits, including 6 of his last 9.
- Closer Kevin Gregg recorded his American League leading 12th save of the season.
- The Blue Jays broke a streak of 6 straight games with a home run…still lead the majors with 65 HR on the year.
- Toronto has won 4 straight against Seattle, and 14 of the last 22 dating back to July 21, 2007.
- Starter Doug Fister recorded his 6th quality start of the year…went 8.0 IP for the 4th time this season (tied for most in AL with Matt Garza), 3rd time going 8.0 IP at home…lost for the 1st time in 7 starts (last loss: 4/8 @ OAK)…5 strikeouts were a season-high.
- Fister retired the first 6 and last 14 batters he faced…ERA at home this year is 1.66 (7 ER, 38.0 IP)… Fister’s 1.96 ERA this season is the 2nd lowest in club history through the first 8 starts of the season behind Erik Hanson’s 1.37 ERA in 1993…ahead of Randy Johnson’s 2.16 in 1995 and Felix Hernandez’s 2.33 in 2005.
- Milton Bradley returned from restricted list and recorded his 4th multi-hit game of the season… Bradley has hits in 9 of his last 10 games…over the last 15 games is batting .308 (16x52) with 6 runs, 5 doubles, 1 home runs and 10 RBI.
- Josh Wilson recorded his 3rd multi-hit game of the season (last: 5/11 at BAL)…in his last 11 games he is batting .278 (10x36) with 7 runs, 1 triple, 1 home runs, 3 RBI and 5 walks.
- Ichiro has hit safely in 25 of last 31 games, batting .385 (50x130)...moved past Cesar Cedeño on the all-time his list with a single in the 7th…now has 2,088 hits in his career, one hit shy of Al Dark for 218th all-time.
- Franklin Gutierrez had his 12th multi-hit game of the season (last: May 5 vs. Tampa Bay)…the 12 multi-hit games are 2nd most on the team (Ichiro, 21).
- Seattle is now 4-11 this season in one-run decisions…6 of last 7 games have been decided by 1 run (1-5 in those games).