An anatomy of two half innings:
Top of the first, Mariners up, Colby Lewis on the mound. Ichiro doubles to lead off, Figgins walks, they go to second and third on a wild pitch with Kotchman up. Kotchman drives in Ichiro with a groundout, Figgins is at third with one out. Bradley strikes out, Griffey flies out. Mariners up 1-0.
Bottom of the sixth, Rangers at-bat, a tiring Jason Vargas on the mound. Young grounds back to Vargas for a quick first out. Josh Hamilton walks, then Vlad scorches a pitch on the outside corner for a double, scoring Hamilton. Cruz singles to score Vlad, on another decent pitch. Chris Davis gets an infield single when Kotchman dives and has the ball go off his arm and bounce into foul territory. First and second, one out, Shawn Kelley in for Vargas. Teagarden strikes out, but Arias sneaks a single past the diving Lopez and Wilson, scoring Davis. Borbon flies out to end the inning. 4 runs in, Rangers up 5-1.
The first inning started exactly how the Mariners would love to start every game, with Ichiro and Figgy on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. It’s the linchpin of the Mariners’ offense. And really, they’d be pretty happy to start every game 1-0. They should have gotten Figgins in, but it wasn’t a bad start. In comparison, the Rangers got Hamilton on because he’s scary to pitch to, then they smoked a couple of tough pitches and had two runs in three batters. Not real different from the Mariners’ first at that point. They scored in drastically different ways, but there was only a run difference. At that point in the sixth, luck kicked in for the Rangers, with a couple of weak hits to score the final two runs.
I don’t have a lot of point in this, except that those two half innings exemplify the current difference between the Rangers and Mariners. They were similar innings, except that the Rangers had a couple of huge hits from the middle of the order with a runner on, and then the bottom of the order kept the inning alive for an extra couple runs. The Mariners only hit of the first was Ichiro’s leadoff double, it took a lot of work and a wild pitch to score him, and then the middle of the order couldn’t come through to add on any runs. Both pitchers threw similarly, well enough to win if they got a few runs or were facing a weak offense. Unfortunately, both of those were the case for Lewis and neither was for Vargas. Will it stay this way for the Mariners all season? It shouldn’t. They have good hitters who just aren’t hitting. Still, without some major line-up changes, they’re not ever going to come close to what the Rangers can run out there. Whether that will be the difference in the division remains to be seen.
There were some positives. Vargas looked solid until the sixth, when he ran out of gas a little and the Rangers figured him out a little. Before that, he looked pretty similar to Braden for the A’s on Tuesday: solid command, good change. Franklin continues to swing the bat well. He needs to be hitting higher in the order against righties and lefties. Kotchman hit his homer farther than he’s probably ever hit a ball before. I’m not convinced on him by any means, but you can see the potential for him to blossom into a threat. He’s shown more than I expected, so far. Sean White looked solid, although it didn’t really matter by then. Franklin had a couple of excellent catches. And that was the game. Better luck tomorrow. It’s still plenty early, but they could really use a win with Felix throwing.
Hero: No one stands out, but I’ll give it to Franklin, as the only guy who looks like he’s in midseason form.
Goat: Milton got the biggest suckfest at LL, so we’ll give it to him. A double, or even just a single, in the first could have made it a different ballgame.