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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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August 23, 2008 9:11 PM

Oakland Athletics at Mariners: 08/23 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

wash0823.jpg

This script is following a familliar pattern. Jarrod Washburn throws a "quality start" of six innings, three earned runs allowed, but gets no offensive support. Mark Lowe comes in and throws gas on the flames from there and what we've got is a 5-1 deficit as we head to the eighth.

Seattle finally got a run in the bottom of the seventh when, down by five, Jose Lopez singled and scored from first base on a double to left center off Dana Eveland. But with only three hits heading into the inning, the offense had been AWOL when it mattered.

This was not one of Washburn's better "quality starts" that we've seen seen May. It was a better outing than he had in Chicago last week, but the A's aren't exactly a Murderer's Row of hitters. Washburn got behind too many hitters, seemed to have trouble putting others away and gave up the big hits in the middle innings once again. He could have used some better defense from Jose Lopez on that third run. But it is what it is. If you're a Mariners starting pitcher, you will likely lose if you make more than one big mistake. Washburn made a couple tonight. He was playing with fire. The Seattle hitting tonight has been attrocious. They're making another young pitcher look like Cy Young.

wash0823 010.jpg

A look at tonight's starting third baseman, Miguel Cairo, fielding groundballs during batting practice. Adrian Beltre has a sore shoulder and is going to be tonight's DH.

Here's a look at the offensive numbers put up by Beltre and Cairo since the All-Star Break.

.270/.352/.365

.219/.281/.367

Yes, I know. Quite the disparity. You should note, however, that it's Cairo's stat line that appears first.


I know, I know. Pipe down! Yes, it's true. Beltre has had twice the number of at-bats (128 to 63) as Cairo and I'm sure the latter's numbers would have come down if allowed to play every day.

But this is more about Beltre than it is Cairo. I know we've had quite a bit of discussion about Beltre on the blog this year and whether he's been unlucky, impatient, or whatever.

The luck factor has been well-documented. Beltre has a .262 batting average on balls put into play (BABIP), which is about 30 points below the norm. Couple that with a line drive rate of 20 percent and he should be getting more hits.

But no matter how you slice it, a .648 OPS going on five weeks is too low for the third baseman of a team as devoid of power at key positions like this one. Let's take a look at his "bad luck" in terms of monthly numbers. In May, his BABIP was at its worst, at .156. In August, it's also been bad, though better, at .234. You would expect that Beltre's hitting numbers would therefore be better this month than they were in that horribly unlucky May.

And yet, in May, he had an OPS of .625. This month? It's at .528. So, what's going on? We can agree that luck is probably playing some factor. But how much of one? And how much of it is just poor hitting by Beltre? In all fairness, the one anomoly of the BAIBP stat is that it doesn't count home runs as "hits". With seven homers in the month of May accounting for his 21 hits, the BAIBP numbers were obviously dragged downward by having to discount them from the totals. Without the odd little quirk in the system, Beltre's BAIBP numbers in the two months would be a lot more similar.

If you look a little closer at the numbers, you find that more of his balls have fallen in for hits in August than they did in May. Which is what you'd expect.

But he also hit for greater power in May, which explains his higher OPS. Were his swings on the ball better earlier in the season than they are now? Good enough to get him more home runs? Are his balls not "dropping in" now because his contact on the ball is weaker? Things to consider.

I am aware of Beltre's defense. But if he's to contribute in a meaningful, all-around way to this team, he has to get the offense going as well.

8:20 p.m.: Oakland added another run in the fifth inning to take a 3-0 lead. Jarrod Washburn yielded a leadoff double to No. 9 hitter Eric Patterson, who entered the night batting .133. Patterson was bunted to third by Rajai Davis. Washburn then got the groundball he needed from Bobby Crosby with the count full and the infield in. But Jose Lopez dove over the top of the ball for an ugly-looking single that brought the run home.

Washburn bounced a 2-2 pitch in the dirt to Crosby. That's the second time he's done that tonight. Looks like he's trying to get the splitter over and it isn't working.

8:10 p.m.: A poor fourth inning by Jarrod Washburn in which he fell behind too many hitters and yielded a two-run homer to Daric Barton on a 3-1 pitch. Barton was hovering near the Mendoza line hitting-wise and had only five long balls all year. He's also a lefty and the guy Washburn wanted up in that situation, with a runner on second and two out. But he missed his spots by a big margin a couple of times, then gave up the long ball to right field. So, a 2-0 lead for the A's as we head to the fifth.

Washburn has compounded his problems tonight by not putting away Frank Thomas, who entered the game hitless in his last 26 ABs -- a career worst. But Washburn walked him in the first inning, then fell behind him 3-0 in the fourth before giving up a single on a 3-1 pitch. All of the extra pitches have driven Washburn's count to 75 -- meaning he'll have to work hard to go even six innings tonight.

The Mariners, meanwhile, are accomplishing next to nothing offensively. Dana Eveland had notched eight consecutive outs before Raul Ibanez tripled with two down in the bottom of the fourth. But Jose Lopez struck out to end the threat.

7:47 p.m.: Heading to the bottom of the third here and we're still scoreless. Jarrod Washburn gave up a leadoff single in the second inning but got out of it on a groundout and two pop-ups, one to first, the other to shallow center field. Washburn then got through a 1-2-3 third inning on two harmless pops to right and a groundout to third.

Dana Eveland used a double play grounder by Wlad Balentien to help get out of the second after a leadoff single by Jose Lopez.

7:18 p.m.: We're through a half-inning of play here, with the game still scoreless. Jarrod Washburn gave up a one-out double to Bobby Crosby on a line drive to left that handcuffed Raul Ibanez. But Washburn escaped with a pair of groundball outs.


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