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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

May 11, 2011 at 6:57 AM

Reflections on a crazy game in Baltimore

smoakpie.jpg

(Photo by Associated Press)

Old friend Tyler Kepner,* who used to cover the Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and now is the lead baseball writer at the New York Times, was at Camden Yards last night to profile Michael Pineda. Yes, the East Coast establishment is starting to notice the Mariners’ rookie sensation, whose outing was one of many things kind of lost in the shuffle Tuesday night.

*I must interject a note on perhaps my favorite correction of all time, which ran in the New York Times a couple of days ago and referenced a fun Kepner article about former Mariner R.A. Dickey naming his bats. The correction, dubbed by NBC.com the nerdiest in the history of the New York Times, read:

“An item in the Extra Bases baseball notebook last Sunday misidentified, in some editions, the origin of the name Orcrist the Goblin Cleaver, which Mets pitcher R. A. Dickey gave one of his bats. Orcrist was not, as Dickey had said, the name of the sword used by Bilbo Baggins in the Misty Mountains in “The Hobbit”; Orcrist was the sword used by the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield in the book. (Bilbo Baggins’s sword was called Sting.)

Now that we have that straight, we return to our regular programming.

Pineda worked six innings, giving up seven hits and three runs, walking one and striking out six. He was one out away from getting out of the sixth unscathed, which would have given him an excellent performance. But Vlad Guerrero, still swinging from his heels at age 36, hit a scorching grounder that shortstop Brendan Ryan couldn’t field for a single. That was the first of four straight hits, good for two runs, the big hit a two-run double by Adam Jones, before Pineda got out of the inning.

“It was frustrating,” Pineda said. “I got two outs, then I couldn’t get the third out.”

I didn’t get a chance to ask him, but it had to have been a thrill for Pineda to face Guerrero, who is looked up to by all Dominican ballplayers. Guerrero got two singles off Pineda, who retired him once on a nubber in front of the plate.

Eric Wedge said of Pineda, “I thought Michael threw well again today. They’ve got a good, veteran lineup. We had a chance to get him a win late, It just didn’t turn out. Ultimately, he did his job.”

Still, Pineda was in line for the win after the Mariners scored two in the top of the seventh. But Jamey Wright gave the two runs back in the eighth, setting up a wild final few innings.

It’s a small sample size, but Wright, who had a 0.73 ERA in his first 13 games, allowing seven hits and striking out 10, has given up six hits (plus three walks) in his last four games (four innings) for a 6.75 ERA, with just one strikeout. And Brandon League, in his last two outings, including last night, has given up seven hits and five runs in a combined two innings.

One of the unsung heroes for the Mariners last night was Chris Ray, who has had a rough season but came through in the 12th inning in relief of Aaron Laffey. Ray, once the Orioles closer, brought a 13.50 ERA into the game and had appeared just once since April 23. When he came into a 5-5 tie, Laffey had left him with runners on first and second, no outs. Ray got future hero Matt Wieters to fly out to left, then struck out Mark Reynolds. J.J. Hardy reached on an infield single, loading the bases, but Ray then struck out Brian Roberts to end the inning and keep the Mariners alive.

“Ray working through that was big for him, and big for us,” Wedge said.

Laffey also deserves a mention for wriggling through the previous three innings, the longest relief stint of his career. He worked out of a first and second, one out situation in the ninth; runner on second, one out in the 10th; and runner on second, one out in the 11th.

“Good thing I’m used to pitching with runners on base,” Laffey said afterwards. “The last couple of years prepared me for that.”

Laffey said his arm felt strong during the long stint but his legs began to weaken.

“I haven’t thrown that many innings since spring training,” he said. “Plus we had a cross-country flight. I’m still getting used to all the travel, compared to Cleveland. After the game, I jumped into a cold bath and tried to rejuvenate my legs.”

Finally, here’s the take on the Felix Pie-Justin Smoak dustup (pictured above) from the Baltimore perspective.

“I tried to run, so I stopped and tried to run again, and he was right there, so I didn’t do it on purpose,” Pie told MLB.com. “He told me that was wrong. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I did nothing wrong.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter backed up his player.

“I learned my lesson a long time ago when I was playing first, and I went to tag a guy and he knocked the ball in the stands, so you don’t assume anything,” Showalter said. “I like the way Felix handled it. I’ll leave it at that. The game has changed. You’re just supposed to stop and let everybody tag you. He was blocking his path to first base. What am I missing?”

That’s one way to look at it. Another is that Pie was dead to rights, and he instigated a needless battle. One thing for certain: Smoak didn’t back down.

One final note: I talked to some players last night before the game about the departure of Milton Bradley, and they had nothing but nice things to say about him. This quote from Jack Wilson is reflective:

“Here’s the thing people don’t know about Milton: Even before he came over, you see what happens on TV and you see him get ejected and what not, and you automatically think bad, but this guy’s a great guy. No one here had any problem with him at all. He has a passion for the game that sometimes overflowed, I guess you can say.

“I was sad to see him go. It’s a situation where you don’t know if he’s going to play again. I hope he does. I’m going to miss him.”

Wilson said he has gotten to know Bradley off the field because both live in Southern California during the off-season. He only had a chance to say a quick farewell after Bradley was called into the office on Sunday and told he was cut.

“When you get that kind of news, you don’t have a lot of conversation,” Wilson said. “It’s obviously a tough moment for him in his career. You give him his space, but I’ll definitely reach out to him in the next couple of days.”

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