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

April 18, 2007 at 6:30 PM

Mariners vs. Twins

Mariners finally woke up the last two innings and knocked Carlos Silva out of the game. Nice to see Richie Sexson hit his first home run in the last eight games, a three-run blast to-boot. That got Seattle back in it a 5-3, heading into what turned out to be a gut-wrenching seventh.
The Mariners loaded the bases with one out, but the big at-bat was Adrian Beltre striking out against Twins reliever Matt Guerrier. Jose Vidro did his job after that, drilling a Guerrier pitch. But it was right into first baseman Justin Morneau’s glove. That’s the way things go sometimes when a team waits six innings to start showing signs of life.
Seattle has to keep the same approach they had the last two innings. The bullpen has done a fine job so far, holding the Twins to just two runs in nearly eight innings. That’s one half of the equation, but now the offense has to come through in the clutch. They’ll have the power guys coming up next inning. My guess is, it’s then or never.
Not much to say about this game so far. The Mariners are down 5-0 in the fifth and playing like a team staggered by a first-round uppercut to the jaw. They had just two hits heading into this inning and only a pair of racing catches in center by Ichiro has kept this from being a 7-0 or 8-0 game.
I know losing Hernandez was a blow, but this Seattle offense is rolling over just a little too easily for my liking. It’s a trend we’ve seen in games when opponents have scored first and I don’t like it. I mean, it was still just a 3-0 game in the first inning after Hernandez went down. The sky hadn’t caved in yet. But there has been very little for fans to get excited about. Carlos Silva has used only 63 pitches to get through five innings — with the fifth just ending on another fine glove play by Twins third baseman Luis Rodriguez, who’s made several exceptional stops already this series.
Time to scare the wits out of everyone. Felix Hernandez left tonight’s game for what the team is calling precautionary reasons because of — tightness in his right elbow. Uh-oh! Time to get those panic buttons ready. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. This is not good news. Fans of the team can only hope this was a one-day thing, perhaps brought on by the cold weather or something. But elbow tightness is never a good thing. Chances are, if you’re asking me, that he’d likely miss at least a start. But I’m just speculating. We’ll have to wait and see.
It’s 5-0 for the Twins right now and it’s only the third inning. You know what that means. This is when the Mariners offense usually turns the lights out for the night and catches some z’s in preparation for the next game. We’ll see. Jake Woods is pitching like a guy who didn’t expect to be on the mound so quickly. He’s walking guys left and right, falling behind hitters and looking very rusty.
All those folks arriving late to the ballpark tonight are going to be very disappointed to find out they’ve waited all day just to get a chance to see lefty Jake Woods on the mound for Seattle.
Felix Hernandez started the game, but recorded just one out — an RBI groundout by Michael Cuddyer. That was after the Twins loaded the bases with none out on two singles and a walk, then scored on a wild pitch. Hernandez ran the count to 3-1 on the inning’s fifth hitter, MVP Justin Morneau, before the training staff and coaches ran out to the mound and yanked him from the game after a brief discussion.
The crowd, needless to say, is still in a state of shock. It’s 2-0 Twins, Hernandez’s shutout streak is over and we’re all waiting breathlessly for word of what’s going on. Let you know more when we do.
OK, scratch that lineup I just gave you for the Mariners and ignore all the stuff I said about Jose Guillen and his knuckles (except the part where I wrote that they didn’t look too good). Turns out they aren’t very good at all. So not good, in fact, that he’s been scratched from tonight’s lineup and replaced by Ben Broussard, who makes his first start in right field and bats sixth.
It’s all King Felix tonight. We start at 17 consecutive scoreless innings and a Twins lineup without Torii Hunter, still nursing a bruised shoulder from last night’s game. Here are the lineups:
2B Luis Castillo
CF Jason Tyner
DH Joe Mauer
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Justin Morneau
C Mike Redmond
LF Jason Kubel
3B Luis Rodriguez
SS Jason Bartlett
RHP Carlos Silva
CF Ichiro
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Jose Vidro
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
RF Jose Guillen
C Kenji Johjima
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
RHP Felix Hernandez
First off, I’ll do this now since I’ve been trying to bill it up the past few days. Forget about any Jeff Weaver-Jered Weaver clash on Sunday. Jeff told me in the clubhouse that he’d spoken to Jered on the phone and it seems highly unlikely he’ll pitch Sunday. The Angels are apparently going to keep their rotation in turn, which means, with an off-day tomorrow, Jered Weaver will next pitch on Monday. Jeff Weaver was a little disappointed. He’d hoped all the rainouts and snow cancellations were actually linked to the cosmos somehow and about to help spawn the intra-family matchup. Oh well!
Guillen is in the lineup tonight. Told me his knuckles took the brunt of that Ramon Ortiz pitch. They look pretty banged up to me, but he’s in there.
Jose Lopez was, naturally, quite thrilled about his contract extension. Just remember, this covers his arbitration years only. He’ll still be eligible for free agency right on time after 2011. But locking up young players before their arbitration years is a strategy Bill Bavasi first copied from the Indians when he was an Angels GM in the mid-to-late 1990s. The Indians, under then-GM John Hart, originated the technique to help give manager Mike Hargrove the core of a team that won five straight division titles.
So, Bavasi has locked up Lopez, J.J. Putz and Betancourt. So, you’re all wondering, what about that Hernandez kid? What about him, indeed. Hernandez let it be known in spring training that he was interested in doing such a deal. Trouble is, his agent will be whispering in his ear just how much money he stands to make in arbitration if he sits it out until after the 2008 season. In other words, it will take quite a bit of coin for the Mariners to get Hernandez’s name on such a contract.
These arbitration things are based heavily on service time. But the way Hernandez keeps pitching, the performance aspect will work its way in there. Few players before him, especially on the mound, have ever done what Hernandez is doing. I wouldn’t want to take too many chances with an arbitrator if Hernandez wins a Cy Young Award at, say, age 21 or 22. But that’s just me.



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