Purgatory Online

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The beat goes on tonight, with John Lackey looking to redeem himself. It's pretty sad when you're worried about suffering in comparison to a guy because you can't match his 5.2 inning, 4 earned run start, but there it is - Lackey needs to pull a Ramon and show us that he can, in fact, be an average pitcher.

The usual suspects in the Mariners' lineup have had success against him in the past: Bret Boone, who's 8-for-18 against him lifetime, Edgar Martinez, who's 5-for-14, and...well, Randy Winn, who's 4-for-13. It's possible Winn will return to the two-spot tonight, as Olerud is 5 for 19 against him.

The Mariners, meanwhile, will give the ball to Ryan Franklin, who's 31 years old but only caught on as a full-time player in 2002. After spending most of his time as a slightly better than average reliever, he was converted into a starter last year and started 32 games for Seattle, compiling an impressive 3.57 ERA. The Mariners didn't give him much in the way of run support, though - they scored two or fewer runs in 11 of his 13 losses - and he became the only pitcher in the top 10 in ERA with a losing record.

Franklin proved tough to slap around last year, both in general and for the Angels specifically. He left before the sixth inning only once in his 32 starts in 2003, while his lifetime ERA against Anaheim is 2.59 in 59.0 innings. His principal weakness is the longball, however, and this is a team that can exploit that - Franklin gave up 34 homers in 2003, tied with our very own Jarrod Washburn for the league lead. If Eckstein and Erstad can set the table, the Angels may be able to do some serious damage with the middle of the lineup. Eckstein hasn't hit him well in the past - he's 2 for 26 - but Erstad is 6 for 15 against him, and Anderson 10 for 24.

Once past Franklin, the Angels will have the advantage of facing a fairly depleted Seattle bullpen. Shigetoshi Hasegawa went two innings last night, and Julio Mateo made relatively brief appearances both last night and Tuesday - either of them could pitch, I suppse, but it's more likely that Ron Villone or newcomer J.J. Putz (that's pronounced "Poots," by the way; he was recalled from Triple-A before last night's game) would be Bob Melvin's first resort, unless Mike Myers gets the call to pitch to a lefty. Kevin Jarvis seems to be on the brink of becoming a nonentity in that bullpen.

For his own part, Lackey has a history of pitching well to the Mariners himself, putting up a 3.22 ERA in 36.1 innings lifetime and a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings in 2003. His most recent start against Seattle, encouragingly enough, resulted in one of his two career complete game shutouts. That was on September 24, in Anaheim: 9.0 IP, 5 hits, no runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. If Scioscia needs the bullpen this time, however, both Ben Weber and Kevin Gregg should be available for set-up duties, while Aaron Sele hasn't pitched since Friday. It's probably not likely that Scot Shields will be called upon, as he's thrown 36 pitches in the last two days, and I suspect that Frankie Rodriguez - who's thrown 39 in two days - will be used only in an emergency. It will be interesting to see how Scioscia uses Weber and Gregg - Weber's given up earned runs in each of his three appearances so far this year, including three in 0.2 innings on Monday, while Kevin Gregg has five scoreless innings under his belt, compiled in four appearances. I suspect we'll see Gregg against the heart of the Seattle lineup in the late innings, unless the Angels have a big lead and Weber or Lackey are cruising.