Record: 15-10 (39-37 overall)
AL West Standings: L.A. (42-33); Texas 1.5 GB; Seattle 3.5 GB; Oakland 10.5 GB.
Top Hitter: Ichiro continues to tear the cover off the ball, hitting over .400 in June including a streak of 7 straight multi-hit games. He has hit safely in 35 of his last 37 games and looks ready to run away with the AL batting title for the third time in his career. Ichiro also scored 18 runs and stole 8 bases in June, his highest monthly totals of the year in those categories. More importantly, Ichiro looks relaxed around his teammates this season and the talks of him being a clubhouse cancer have quieted down (at least while the Mariners keep winning). Despite missing the first two weeks of the season to a bleeding ulcer, Suzuki is still on pace to become the first player in baseball history with 8 consecutive 200+ hit seasons.
Top Pitcher(s): Felix Hernandez is finally starting to pitch like a king ready for his crown, coming off a stellar month of June in which he went 3-0 with a 0.94 (yes, 0.94) ERA while striking out 35 in 38 innings. With the Mariners’ offense struggling to score on a nightly basis the team has needed Hernandez to be a stopper and so far the 23-year-old hurler has answered the call. King Felix has rebounded nicely after a bumpy May and should have a shot at making his first AL All-Star squad. Just as important to the Mariners’ resurgance has been the continued dominance of off-season acquisition David Aardsma. The stud of the Mariners’ pen was perfect in June, converting all 8 save opportunities while not allowing a single run and striking out 20 in 11 innings (and only 4 walks). If Aarsdma can continue to keep his walk total low he should be a long-term answer for the Mariners because he certainly has the stuff to be among the game’s elite closers.
Biggest Surprise: Despite a negative run differential (296 runs scored/314 runs allowed) the Mariners are two games over .500 and only 3.5 games out in the division. First year manager Don Wakamatsu should receive praise for his effective use of the bullpen which has allowed Seattle to grit out one run games and stay competitive despite the club’s offensive woes.
Biggest Disappointment: It’s never a good thing when a player gets hurt—it’s probably something much worse when you’re actually glad a player a did. But such is the case with the perpetually underwhelming chipmunk-cheeked SS for Seattle, Yuniesky Betancourt. The M’s shortstop has been nothing less than mediocre the past three seasons, playing average defense at short while hitting around .280 with little power and even less plate discipline (70 BB in 2088 career ABs). Betancourt had been even worse this season, hitting .250 and getting benched by Wakamatsu for his poor work ethic and struggles at the plate. Betancourt was placed on the 15-DL over the weekend with a pulled hamstring, an injury that would be much more exciting if his replacement Ronny Cedeno wasn’t hitting .133. Where the heck is Felix Fermin when you need him? Should the M’s think about giving the Rays a call and asking about Triple-A shortstop Reid Brignac?
Griffey Watch: The Kid continues to “heat up” as the season progresses, improving to a line of .238-4 HR-11 RBI in June (he just missed hitting his 10th HR of the season off Mariano Rivera last night). It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s good to see that there’s still some life left in his bat and Mariners fans hope that he can continue to turn the corner and add some pop to an otherwise listless lineup.
Injuries: Endy Chavez (torn ACL–out for year); Adrian Beltre (bone spurs in left shoulder–6 to 8 weeks); Erik Bedard (left shoulder inflammation–due back July 4); Yuniesky Betancourt (hamstring–mid July return); Carlos Silva (nauseau, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea–no return expected, ever).
July Schedule: 2 @ NY; 3 @ Boston; 3 vs Baltimore; 4 vs Texas; All-Star Break; 4 @ Cleveland; 3 @ Detroit; 3 vs Cleveland; 3 vs Toronto; 2 @ Texas.
Overall Grade: (A) June was a step in the right direction for Seattle, as the team continued to win close games and the offense began to show some signs of life. The next few weeks will be very important to the Mariners as they will determine whether the team becomes buyers or sellers with the trade deadline looming. Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Mariners to send them to the All-Star game in St. Louis!
Filed under: AL West, Baseball, Mariners | Tagged: adrian beltre, AL West, Dave Niehaus, david aardsma, endy chavez, felix hernandez, ichiro suzuki, jarrod washburn, jason vargas, jose lopez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners, reid brignac, Seattle Mariners | 2 Comments »