Player of the Game: Ichiro (2.216 NRuns: 0.466 hitting, 1.750 fielding)
Adam Moore and Mike Sweeney: 1.928 offensive NRuns
Josh Wilson and Michael Saunders: -2.259 hitting NRuns
Mariners bullpen: 1.048 pitching NRuns
Mariners defense: 4.050 NRuns
Rays Player of the Game: Evan Longoria (2.772 NRuns: 1.896 hitting, 0.876 fielding)
Rays pitching: 1.397 NRuns
Goat: Casey Kotchman (-2.213 NRuns: -1.281 hitting, -0.445 fielding, -0.487 running)
I reference Adam Moore and Mike Sweeney as a single item because both are nominal backups but were inserted in the lineup as a challenge, and both responded with good games at the plate. Now, it doesn't cancel out all the negative performances this season, and it's going to take more than one good game in Tampa Bay to show that both men are solid contributors, but if Wak's trying to jump start his anemic offense, he can do worse than to seriously test drive Adam Moore at catcher and Mike Sweeney at DH, especially in the case of Moore given Rob Johnson's continued problems on defense.
Likewise, I coupled Michael Saunders and Josh Wilson as they were inserted into the lineup to try and spark the offense and had shown hot bats... but looked cooled off today. Wilson's flatlined as his hot start has quickly given way to a parade of outs over the last four games, the latter extreme being closer to what he gives you as a hitter.
Saunders is more likely for real, but a badly popped out bunt (one telltale sign last year that he wasn't ready was a continued tendency to try and bunt himself on) brought back painful, face-palming memories. I know the Rays had the shift on against him and maybe he was trying to take advantage of the shift. But he's not Juan Pierre (and thank heavens for that), so he should quit trying to hit like him. Just hit it over the infield, Mike, as you've been doing over these last few games.
To a lesser extent, trying to bunt the first pitch is not a good idea: Most teams are privy to when a player may try to bunt, and will pitch around you to induce a strike on a bad bunt. At least get a good count where you can expect a fastball... and if you're getting a fastball in a good count, just swing away anyway. A player as good as Saunders bunting in the first place is just a waste. That's something Josh Wilson should be doing.
Doug Fister's first three innings were solid. His last two innings were terrible. If ever there was a game that would send Doug Fister's stratospheric 2010 resume hurtling back to Earth, this was going to be it. Except that it didn't: The defense (especially Ichiro with one of his best games in the field in a 2010 season where he has struggled some) picked Fister up, and Fister showed some mettle in getting out of trouble with a big out in his 5th and final inning.
Fister ultimately only allowed a single run. His outing was still bad, but remember what I said previously about one of the three facets of the Mariners game needing to come up big to win. Today, the defense saved about four runs and change, and saved Doug Fister's outing from looking as bad as it actually was.
And then the much maligned bullpen stepped up and gave a solid 4 inning performance in relief, especially Kanekoa Texeira with what was easily his finest performance of the year, striking out the side in the 6th and pitching a solid 7th. This is where Kanekoa can help the team the most: Pitching multiple innings in middle relief and stringing together big outs with minimal assistance from the defense.
Even Shawn Kelley's inning, which featured a two run bomb from Evan Longoria, was mostly solid otherwise (Longo just saw the first pitch fastball right down the pipe coming and killed it because he's good). And David Aardsma got a bit of help with a bogus called strike two on John Jaso, but got both his strikeout victims to chase bad pitches up and away. Pumping "here it is hit it" heat at the zone with the occasional splitter and change is Aardsma's game. As long as he hits the edges of the zone he is tough to beat (whether or not the home plate ump gives him a pitch or two).
We're more than six weeks into the season and Casey Kotchman, even with a mental health day or two, still isn't getting much done at the plate aside from making killer outs with men on base. Using Langerhans at 1B wasn't a bad idea during the previous couple days, as Langerhans continues to show a demonstrated ability to draw walks whether or not he can hit (which is what's kept a poor hitting Chone Figgins from looking outright terrible).
The Mariners are still a dim 13 to 1 shot as of this morning to make the playoffs even after that win. They need a lot to go right and very, very little to go wrong for them to have a serious shot at the postseason. But wins like today indicate that matters for this team are much more encouraging than the eight game skid and the weekend series loss to Baltimore indicates... provided the right guys are on the field and Wak doesn't place too much more trust in the liabilities. The only belief system Don Wakamatsu should have at this point is in his productive players.