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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

April 14, 2007 at 12:34 PM

Mariners vs. Rangers

That luck we talked about a bit earlier seemed to ignite the bats at the right time as Adrian Beltre went deep right after Ichiro ended his slump in the fourth inning with a two-out single to right. The homer made it a 6-0 game, which is a good thing, since Miguel Batitsa started to hit the wall a bit those last two innings, yielding a pair of home runs and a ground rule double. He looks done right now, at 99 pitches through six innings. But he allowed only three, went six frames, and has given his team a chance to win.
My guest beat writer this afternoon, HannahJo Beattie, 10, from Spokane, sitting in the pressbox with me, is impressed with the hitting she’s seen from the Mariners today. I’d have to agree, in spite of the luck, it’s been a little more timely than it was last night.
UPDATE: Turns out I was wrong and the Mariners did leave Batitsa out there for two more outs in the seventh before replacing him with lefty George Sherrill. That’s 112 pitches on the day for Batista, but he leaves with a 6-3 lead and just seven outs from victory. A good day from him. The team needs more outings like those from the bottom three guys in the rotation.
LUCKY BOUNCES
Some early observations here, with the Mariners leading 4-0 after three innings. The most obvious is that sometimes a little luck is all a team needs. The Mariners are pitching much better today, but were still doing little offensively until a couple of huge boot-jobs in the infield by Texas third baseman Hank Blalock — on a double-play grounder by Adrian Beltre — and second baseman Ian Kinsler. Instead of being out of the inning with only one Seattle run across, after the M’s loaded the bases with none out, the Rangers gave up four.
Hey, the Mariners will take it. Sometimes, a pair of breaks like those are all it takes to open a team’s offensive floodgates. Let’s see.
On the pitching side of the ledger, Miguel Batista is showing much better command on his fastball than he had in his season debut. Batista has landed several first-pitch strikes and seems to have a better idea of where his pitches are going to end up. His sinker has the Rangers swinging at balls in the dirt. So far, he’s at 51 pitches through three innings, which should get him at least six innings, maybe seven if he can get the Rangers to swing early. He’s allowed only one hit so far and has the big lead now, so he can afford to be aggressive.
On the Texas side, Padilla had allowed just a single the first two innings, but his outing came off the rails a bit that last frame. The killer was the double he allowed to backup catcher Jamie Burke after starting the at-bat by getting ahead 1-2 in the count. Padilla, as we mentioned, should have been out of the inning much earlier, but wound up throwing 34 pitches that frame and now will be hard-pressed to go more than five or six. That’s good news for Seattle. The quicker the M’s can get past the No. 2 starter for Texas, especially with a four-run lead, the better their chances of holding on to win.
NOT HARGROVE’S FAULT
For all of you writing in to rip Mike Hargrove, my first reaction is to do a double-take and wonder what gives? This is not football, folks. A manager can’t stand in the clubhouse and pump his guys into a frenzy 162 times per season. Yes, the Mariners have big problems offensively right now. No, it is not the manager’s fault. My take? Blame the long layoffs for what we’ve seen.
Yes, I know Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre have pulled this April act before. If it was only them having problems, then I’d be inclined to think: “Here we go again!”
But they are not the only ones floundering. Seven of the nine Mariners starters are currently batting at least 50 points below their career norms. Here they are, with those norms in parantheses:
Ichiro .182 (.330)
Adrian Beltre .136 (.270)
Jose Vidro .174 (.300)
Yuniesky Betancourt .158 (.277)
Richie Sexson .190 (.269)
Raul Ibanez .227 (.283)
Jose Lopez .211 (.264)
So, if you know that the long layoffs and infrequent play are causing your hitters to tank, how is sitting any of them out going to help their hitting? They need to get more at-bats, more consistent playing time. That is the opposite of what some of you have ripped Hargrove for. I’ve looked at the games so far and can count only one that Hargrove has played a factor in. That would be the aborted contest in Cleveland, where his quick thinking saved the Mariners from a loss.
Take the case of Ichiro, who carried this team offensively the first three games, but is now 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts the past three — all played within a span of 10 days since the final of those first three games. How is sitting Ichiro out this afternoon going to help? The Rangers are sending Vicente Padilla to the mound. Ichiro is 8-for-14 (.571) lifetime against Padilla with a triple and a home run. Bench Ichiro today and Hargrove would deserve to get fired. Believe me, there will be plenty of chances to rip the manager this season. Right now is not one of them.
Can the Mariners keep using this weather excuse? No, they can’t. Some of them did not have their bats going that opening homestand. They hit the ball hard last night, though. I’ll be looking for some similar improvement today.
Here are the lineups:
Texas
Kenny Lofton CF
Frank Catalanotto DH
Michael Young SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Sammy Sosa RF
Hank Blalock 3B
Brad Wilkerson LF
Gerald Laird C
Ian Kinsler 2B
RHP Vicente Padilla
Seattle
Ichiro CF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Vidro DH
Raul Ibanez LF
Richie Sexson 1B
Jose Guillen RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jose Lopez 2B
Jamie Burke C
Yes, I know, Kenji Johjima is sitting despite being just about the only Mariners player hitting with any consistency right now. But remember, this is a 162-game season and you can’t keep starting your catcher in a day game after a night game without consequences. That move would make no sense in the long term right now. Hargrove’s best bet is to keep running the troops out there and hope something clicks — the way career norms suggest they should. Until it’s proven the weather delays are not behind this, he has little choice.

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