Maybe there's something to this Ryan Franklin run support thing after all. Or maybe he just has the consistent misfortune of running into incredible pitchers. Rich Harden was downright fantastic last night, and there's nothing Franklin could do about it. One run, and that game was over.
It's a real shame, because Ryan tossed himself another solid eight innings. You never would have thought he'd last so long if you only watched through the third; he was getting into deep counts and missing around the fringes of the zone, forcing him to come back over the plate. The key to Franklin's game is getting ahead of the batters and, lacking a strikeout pitch, keeping them off balance with a bunch of moving junk. When he falls behind, he has to come back into the middle of the zone, and that's when bad things happen. So went the first few innings last night.
After Kotsay homered, though, Franklin found his groove, needing just 65 pitches to get the next 18 outs. The most amazing part? Of the 23 outs that were put in play, 15 were of the groundball variety. Ryan Franklin's been flashing a much better sinking fastball so far this season than the one he dicked around with in the past, and it's paying dividends. Pitchers who induce more groundballs are able to survive low strikeout rates better than others, so that pitch is going to be important for Franklin over the rest of the year. Not that anyone can have much success over an extended period of time with a 1.57 K/9. That really needs to...I dunno, triple?...because things are going to get ugly if he can't miss any bats. That .144 BABIP is both amazing and unsustainable.
There was just no hitting Rich Harden last night. I'm surprised that Macha left him out there to throw 119 pitches, but if you were watching the guy pitch in the sixth and seventh innings, you couldn't see any signs of fatigue. 96-98mph fastballs followed up by a devastating splitter low and in...this guy's going to fighting Johan Santana (and, of course, King Felix) for Cy Young awards year after year after year. Harden was fooling Richie Sexson, he was fooling Adrian Beltre, and he was...well, he was doing whatever it is that everyone else is doing to get Miguel Olivo out. Pitching normally, I guess.
Although Jeremy Reed went hitless against Harden last night, his approach still impressed me. He got to three-ball counts in each of his at bats against the guy, walking once and striking out twice. In the first, Harden came after him with a 98mph high fastball on a full count that nobody could've touched, so I don't fault Reed for that. The guy is just having terrific at bats right now, and while his BA isn't where you'd like it to be, he's still got a .356 OBP. Believe the hype.
I'm kind of disappointed - I was looking forward to seeing how far a Harden fastball could fly off of Richie Sexson's bat. If he were able to turn on one of those, the ball might've knocked the Lookout Landing section clear out of the stadium. Alas, the only ball he hit hard was a comebacker straight to Harden's glove, which remained attached to his wrist.
Was anyone else watching on MLB.tv a little thrown off by having A's and Giants commercials aired on the same network, during the same ad segment? I know it's FSN Bay Area, and that both teams are in the region, but these two teams aren't fond of each other. You don't see Yankees Magazine on NESN for a reason.
I will say one thing about the commercials: that A's ad with the pitchers trying to get something out from being stuck in the tree? That's gold. (You can see it here. "Good Samaritan.")
The Safeco Scorekeeper had another one of those "leaving his unique mark on history" days. In the bottom of the second, Bret Boone hit a routine grounder to Mark Ellis, but he threw the ball away, allowing Boone to reach safely (Boone went on to take too wide of a turn and was gunned down going for second). Verdict? Infield single! An inning later, Ichiro hit another routine grounder to Marco Scutaro at short, but the ball hit off his glove and rolled into the outfield. Verdict? Infield single! I could hardly believe it when he tagged Hatteberg with an error for bobbling a throw in the 8th.
Fortunately for the scorekeeper, there weren't too many people around to witness his lunacy. For the second straight night, Safeco set a record low for attendance, with just 22,428 fans showing up for the game. An artist's rendering:
I don't like the trains that run by Safeco. I find their incessent horn-blowing needless and bothersome. I really don't like it when they make all that noise during a Miguel Olivo at bat. Is it really necessary to put him at even more of a disadvantage? His concentration already sucks enough in a standard environment. The last thing we need is for the Sounder to compound the problem by blaring its devil whistle while our most clueless hitter is standing in against a talented young flamethrower.
Bottom of the sixth:
I Suzuki grounded into double play, shortstop to second to first, W Valdez out at second
Apparently, it can happen.
We saw Shin-soo Choo's Major League debut last night (or, as the Oakland announcers so fondly call him, Chin-so Shoe). He took ball one from Octavio Dotel before grounding out to first to end the game. He's no Greg Dobbs.
Wilson Valdez dropped down another bunt in the third inning. Later on, in the sixth, he showed bunt again before-Holy cow, it's a trick! He pulled back! I can't believe he just-He hit a single!! AHHHHHHHH!! Good things happen when you don't give yourself up so easily! Too bad the guy's still hitting .245.260/.286. When he came up to hit against Ricardo Rincon in the eighth, I was actually pulling for Willie Bloomquist to pinch-hit for him. I should never have to say that about anyone.
Adrian Beltre may not be driving the ball too much right now, but he's starting to have better at bats. He took Harden to 11 pitches in the bottom of the sixth before hitting a liner directy to Still Hitless Charles Thomas (or, as some folks on Athletics Nation so affectionately call him, Two Buck Chuck) in left. He isn't really commanding the strike zone as well as Jeremy Reed is right now, but the hits - and homers - will come. I don't think you can really fault him for going o'fer last night, considering how well Harden was pitching.
Matt Thornton made an appearance last night, throwing 10 pitches and missing the zone with six of them. Hargrove yanked him for Hasegawa before much damage could be done. I'm just saying.
The Mariners' pitching staff ranks second-to-last in the Majors in strikeout rate, at 5.11. What does it tell you when Jamie Moyer leads a starting rotation in K/9? Great defense aside, no team can maintain a good ERA with such a low K rate. Only the 2002 and 2003 Detroit Tigers' pitching staffs struck out fewer batters in the past three years, and they combined for a 5.12 ERA. Something has to give, and I'm worried that it won't be the strikeouts.
Gil Meche looks to build off his last start tonight against Cleveland. First pitch is at 10:05pm EDT.