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April 13, 2007 at 7:39 PM

Mariners vs. Rangers

I’ll give the Mariners credit in that they are ending this game a lot better than they started it off. Adrian Beltre came through in the seventh with an RBI double, though he was quickly stranded at second with his team still trailing 4-2. Julio Mateo had some struggles, but did pitch 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball to keep his team in it. And that Sexson grab at first to end the top of the eighth on a smash off the bat of Hank Blalock was the kind of play a team needs to help steal a late game.
Seattle is actually outhitting the Rangers 9-8 at this point. So, the bats are connecting. It’s that situational hitting, or lack of it, that has really hurt the team tonight. The Mariners need to stay focused and keep chipping away. A run in the eighth would certainly help their cause. This Rangers bullpen is not infallible, if you’ll remember. So, what looked like it could degenerate into a blowout has turned into an interesting game now that Seattle’s bats have woken up. We’ll see if it happened too late.
Richie Sexson finally came through in a key situation, the only Seattle hitter to do so thus far. His double to drive home Raul Ibanez makes it a 4-1 game, Texas in the lead. Washburn is out of there, as we predicted. He gave them six halfway decent innings, but still not the stuff expected of a No. 2 starter. The 99 pitches thrown over six innings meant he couldn’t get back out there for a seventh. What did him in was that fifth inning, when he needed another dozen pitches to get the third out after retiring the first two hitters. He fell behind 2-0 to Ian Kinsler in the key at-bat of the night so far, then saw his next pitch deposited into the left field seats.
I erred moments ago in mentioning that Washburn won’t get a “quality start”, which he will since only three of the four runs he allowed were earned. But I never really liked that “quality start” stat anyway. In this case, it wasn’t quality enough.
Seattle, by the way, was about an inch away from perhaps a very interesting rally in the sixth. Yuniesky Betancourt was called out by an eyelash at first base, otherwise, the bases would have been loaded with two out for Jose Lopez. Those earlier failures at the plate are definitely haunting Seattle now.


Seattle is looking a little rusty as we enter the bottom of the fifth with the Rangers now ahead 4-0. Some of that situational hitting the team spent all of spring training working on would have come in handy in the fourth, when Jose Vidro drew a leadoff walk against Kevin Millwood. But the M’s went 1-2-3 without advancing the runner, as Raul Ibanez flew out weakly to left, Richie Sexson popped out to right (he does not look good tonight) and Jose Guillen grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Jarrod Washburn looked to have trimmed that pitch-count somewhat in a six-pitch fourth — using a double-play grounder to quickly end the inning. Washburn then got two quick outs in the fifth before a single and a two-run homer by Ian Kinsler doubled the Texas lead. Washburn needed a whole lot more in the way of pitches to finally get that third out and now sits at 82 through five. He’ll probably go six, but the “quality start” he was looking for is out the window. Seattle needs to generate some offense in a hurry.
Washburn’s lack of in-game work showed in the third inning, when he had a potentially inning-ending, double-play grounder hit to him by Michael Young. But the throw to second by Washburn was behind shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, preventing him from turning two and allowing a run to score. Not looking good all around. But there is still plenty of time left.
Some early observations after two scoreless innings here at Safeco Field. First, it’s amazing how balmy a gametime temperature of 51 can feel given what the team had to go through out east this past week. I wonder if this experience will make the Mariners a little weather-toughened? We’ll see.
This outing by Jarrod Washburn has started off a whole lot like his season debut 10 days ago. No one has hit him hard, but he’s already thrown 37 pitches after two innings. It could have been worse, since he got a gift third strike called on the outside corner on Sammy Sosa with the count full to lead off the second. The pitch didn’t appear to be very close to the plate. But, the M’s will take it. The only hit against Washburn, a single by Michael Young in the first, was a blooper to right field. He has thrown first-pitch strikes to every hitter.
Still, the pitch count will have to be trimmed a bit for Washburn to make it past the sixth inning. We saw what the bullpen did with his lead 10 days ago. The longer he stays in, the less chance there is of a repeat.
Richie Sexson looked eaten up by an off-speed pitch thrown him by Kevin Millwood with runners at second and third and the count full in the first inning. Sexson struck out and has one hit in his last 11 at-bats since a three-run homer in Washburn’s last start. He looks like one of those hitters scuffling because of all the weather-related delays, because he sure began the season on a very good note. On a whole, the Mariners have been getting some good swings off Millwood. Looks good for Seattle if Washburn can stay in this game for a while. Right now, he’s battling himself.



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