For seven games, the SeattleMariners failed to hit a home - a streak ended last night when Russell Branyan nearly reached the upper deck at Safeco Field with his 21st of the season.
That seven-game powerless stretch marked the second-longest in franchise history, and the Mariners have two of them this season. Tonight, they face the best pitcher Cleveland has to offer, Fausto Carmona, who has allowed only 12 home runs in 169 innings this season.
Perhaps more unnerving, no player on the Seattle roster has ever homered against Carmona.
So home runs don't figure to be the weapon of choice for the Mariners tonight, though they'd surely accept a few. If you were Carmona, who would you pitch most carefully to?
Branyan is the only real power on the team, and the RBI leader - Franklin Gutierrez - has 52 RBI in 485 at-bats. And aside from Ichiro's .311, no one in the Seattle lineup is hitting as high as .250.
What's it all mean? Nothing you haven't heard and seen for months: The Mariners having trouble scoring runs, and cannot win often without them. When they score at least four runs, this team is 35-17. They have scored two runs - or less! - in 59 games, and won only nine of those.
Luke French, then, will try to his job against Cleveland and hope the Mariners offense does its job. What are the chances?
- After French worked a 1-2-3 inning, Ichiro Suzuki grounded to shortstop - and beat the throw for his 47th infield hit, and his 174th hit of the season. Chone Figgins walked. Franklin Gutierrez singled, driving in Ichiro with his 53rd RBI. Branyan walked to load 'em up. Jose Lopez struck out. Casey Kotchman grounded into a double play. Yikes! In the first: Seattle 1, Cleveland 0.
- French walked the No. 9 hitter, Lou Marson, to give Cleveland it's first base runner with two outs in the third inning. French then picked Marson off first base with a sweet move.
- Through four innings, French has worked around two walks and given the Indians nothing else, protecting a one-run lead. How long can he hold a team scoreless? That's the question every Mariners pitcher has faced this year thanks to this offesnse. In the fourth: Seattle 1, Cleveland 0.
- Kotchman singled with two outs and was thrown out - by a lot - trying to stretch it to a double. More aggression than blunder. Good hustle without the speed to make it work. After four: Seattle 1, Cleveland 0.
- Luke French is pitching a gem, allowing only two walks through six innings. Of his 1 o8uts, four are strikeouts, one a ground ball and 13 have come on fly balls. He's putting fastalls where he wants them and throwing his changeup - at 76 mph - in any count. Great command, great pitching.
- Gutierrez walked with one out and stole second base, his 20th of the season. Branyan struck out. Lopez grounded out. The only Mariner to reach scoring position since the first inning, Gutierrez is stranded. After six: Seattle 1, Cleveland 0.
- French walked Shin-Soo Choo with one out and then, on his 97th pitch, allowed a sharply struck ground ball single up the middle to cleanup hitter Shelley Duncan. Jayson Nix lined to left field, and Michael Saunders doubled Choo off first. In the seventh: Seattle 1, Cleveland 0.
- Through seven, Seattle's 'attack' has produced one run. French is out, Brandon League is in to see if he can get a 1-0 lead to the ninth and David Aardsma. He did.
- Ninth inning: Aardsma Time. With no margin for error, Seattle's closer - 10-for-11 in save opportunities since the All-Star break - was asked to finish French's fourth win. Pinch-hitter Trevor Crowe walked but was caught stealing by Adam Moore's throw and a marvelous catch-and-tag by shortstop Josh Wilson. Michael Brantley singled on a ball Lopez misplayed at third. Asdrubal Cabrera singled Brantley to second. Choo fouled out, with Saunders making a long run and a diving catch. A wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third base. Duncan struck out. It's a final: Seattle 1, Cleveland 0.