Ryan Rowland-Smith versus Justin Duchscherer. Decent pitcher’s duel, right? When you consider the lack of power in both the Seattle and Oakland offenses, yes, but this game wasn’t so predictable.
-Both pitchers struggled out the gate, throwing a grand total of 53 pitches in the first inning. They got off to an almost equally rocky start. Duchscherer threw 26 in the first, and Ryan Rowland-Smith threw 27. You know it’s rough when Rick Adair has to visit the mound in the first inning. Rowland-Smith continued to struggle after Adair left the field, hitting Kurt Suzuki on the elbow. The good thing about this is that it was Rowland-Smith’s only walk of the game. He got it out of his system early.
Don’t expect this from Ryan Rowland-Smith all the time. He seemed off today and should rebound in his next outing. He brought his pitch count down for every other inning he pitched tonight, and ended up with a 2:1 strike to ball ratio over 96 pitches. Although he only gave up one walk, he also only struck out one batter in five innings. This is less than a third of his career strikeout to inning ratio.
He has solid change of speeds topping out around 90 with his fastball and coming in around 70 with his curveball. His change up is about ten mph slower than his fastball. Location seemed to be the problem tonight.
-Milton Bradley came through big in the fist inning, launching his first hit as a Mariner well over the rightfield fence. It was a smooth, powerful swing that clearly brought him a lot of needed relief, as the club’s new clean-up hitter. He was all smiles back on the bench, which is just as relieving for fans to see.
The missed catch up against the wall in left-center to end the game stands out, but Bradley looks good overall. He seems to run down fly balls pretty well. He just needs to be more aware of the fence next time. At the plate, he went deep into the count each time. Look for him to be at or near the top for walks on the team all season.
-Lopez was really aggressive on the basepath tonight. Luckily, it payed off. He’s not the fastest runner on the team of course, but it worked. He won’t always be so fortunate to get a wide throw from the catcher and a bad pitch in the dirt. Gutierrez was also more aggressive. It’s a part of the small-ball attack, the strategy the Mariners have to use with their lack of power and abundance of speed. Look for most of the team to likely be more aggressive baserunners this year.
Aside from baserunning, Lopez’s swing is right in tune. He finished with three solid line drive singles to left tonight. His last at-bat was impressive. Lopez may not walk often, but he knows how to work the count in his favor. He can foul off pitches until the sun comes up, as we learned last season from his 14-pitch at-bat against Russ Springer. He didn’t foul off that many in this at-bat, but he made the pitcher throw him what he wanted, a meaty fastball right over the plate for a base hit. Nicely done.
-Sean White gave his usual quiet, effective performance. Ground outs and a fly out. Three up, three down. Most of his pitches were low 90s fastballs. He’s looking pretty good.
-Brandon League had a hard time hitting his spots, but he brought some nasty stuff to the plate. He has a good, mid 90s fastball with a lot of movement. It was most effective when he placed it up in the zone. Hitters got a piece of it when he threw it low though. He had a poor strike to ball ratio of almost 1:1, and he gave up four hits in less than two innings, but better command of location should improve his numbers in the future.
-Lowe struggled a little tonight, digging himself into a couple full counts. The big hit from Suzuki was crushing.
-This was yet another close game against a division rival. It came down to the very end. A few defensive blunders are what lost it for the M’s, not just in the bottom of the ninth though. Rob Johnson’s bad throw to second and Ichiro’s uncharacteristic bobble in the outfield were both costly. This strong defensive squad won’t always make so many mistakes, but when they do, they may be crucial as they were this time.
End result: 6-5, Oakland A’s win.