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April 21, 2007 at 10:32 PM

Angels 7, Mariners 6, final

I’d love to tell you the entire clubhouse was just thrilled with the way they battled back from a 7-0 deficit in the seventh and a 7-1 game in the eighth to close to within just a run. The big blow for Seattle was, of course, from Ben Broussard in delivering the first pinch-hit grand slam in team history. Which all makes the final score look neat and respectable except for that little detail of this being the team’s fifth consecutive loss.
No, the mood was not a great one afterwards. The fact that the Mariners held a closed-door meeting for 20 minutes after Francisco Rodriguez set Seattle down in order in the ninth should give that away. Mike Hargrove kept the door to his office shut after the clubhouse finally opened, but later informed the public relations staff he wasn’t going to hold his post-game conference with the media.
Hargrove, in my view, used his bullpen quite well in that eighth inning. But let’s not get off-topic here. The game was lost because once again, the Seattle hitters took the entire game to put any numbers up on the board.
“It would benefit us as a club to get it going early,” Raul Ibanez said. “But…late in the game, we’ve had a lot of fight in us. If we combine both halves of the game then we’re going to be really tough.”
Yes, they hit the ball hard at times, but at other times, the hits weren’t so hard and the innings went very quickly for Bartolo Colon.
“You’d like to work counts on him, but he’s throwing strike one just about every time,” Ibanez said. “It kind of puts you in a predicament where you’ve got to be ready to hit right away. He’s pumping a lot of fastballs and he’s got command of it so you’ve got to swing the bat.”
The flip-side of that is Seattle’s pitching. The outing delivered tonight by Horacio Ramirez was awful. He had no command and was very fortunate to escape the first two innings down by only three runs. Pitching, as we can see from having watched the A’s and Angels so far — at least, their starters — is what will ultimately decide the AL West. Seattle’s starting staff, so far at least, has not measured up. You’ve got Felix Hernandez (or, at least, had him) looking like a staff ace. After that, there’s Jarrod Washburn keeping his team in it for about six innings per shot. That’s still better than what the rest of the rotation is offering up.
It’s very tough for teams to win when they are down 4-0 or 5-0 by the fourth inning all the time. And it’s one thing to get on the offense for not scoring early. But a pitcher who trots out there and coughs up a hair ball the way Ramirez did tonight will do little to inspire any offense.
The starters have had the excuse of working on too much rest for a while now. It is a valid excuse, to a point. But it all has to stop now, starting with tomorrow’s outing by Jeff Weaver. I’ve balked at going after the starters too heavily right now because of all the delays. What those delays have done now is back this team into a corner to the point where the pitchers have to start delivering their best to get this team out of its current rut.
A seven-inning outing by Weaver with two runs or less allowed would be a great place to begin. He’s sure had enough rest. The Angels, despite what they’ve shown here the first two games, are still no offensive Godzilla. Just a so-so outing by Weaver, though, and the Mariners likely get swept en route to a sixth loss in a row. After that, it becomes a season-threatening streak. Yes, I’m serious. Unless you think these Mariners are capable of winning eight or nine in a row. From what I’ve seen of the hot-and-cold offense and the pitching so far, I don’t think that’s possible. Contending teams have to be able to match any losing streak with a winning streak somewhere down the line.
Lose nine or 10 in a row, this season will be done early. And that nine or 10 is only another series away if the Mariners go down tomorrow. Early season or not, April or noit, this is a serious time. Don’t forget, all those extra road games in Boston and Cleveland still have to be played. Would the Mariners be 5-8 had they already played them? We’ll never know, but my hunch is, their record would be more like 6-12 by now.
Someone has to step up with Hernandez out. He’s only a 21-year-old kid. Like I said, this is where Weaver has to show why the Mariners went out and signed him. He can’t hit home runs before the eighth inning, but he can sure keep the opposition from launching any until his bats wake up.



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