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April 25, 2007 at 10:34 PM

Mariners celebrate 2-0 win

There was no mincing words for Jarrod Washburn after this one. Like the game itself, played in just one-hour, 47 minutes, his words were short and sweet.
“It’s one of the best games I’ve ever pitched,” said Washburn, who tossed his first complete-game, three-hit shutout. “I wouldn’t say it’s the best stuff I’ve ever had or anything like that. I was by no means dominating. I was just able to make them mis-hit the ball.”
Washburn has gone nine innings twice previously in his career, the last time being in 2004. He’d given up three hits once before, but that was in an eight-inning effort. While striking out just two batters, he also showed what “piching to contact” is about.
“I’m a contact pitcher,” Washburn said. “I don’t strike out guys. I rely on my defense, which played exceptionally behind me tonight. Sometimes the hits fall in and sometimes, we can make a play on them.”
That part is very true. But Washburn also helped his own cause by throwing first-pitch strikes. And while that forced hitters to swing at ensuing offerings, none of them was left in a danger-area that could be punished by the type of hits like the Mariners got with two home runs off Joe Blanton. Those were on hanging curves left to Jose Guillen and Kenji Johjima. They were the only such pitches Blanton threw all night.
Washburn didn’t make any such mistakes. He couldn’t afford to, the way his offense is scuffling.
“The difference is that he stayed out of the middle of the plate,” Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. “He stayed on the corners. Either up and away, or down and in. I don’t know that he left a ball out over the plate all night long. Blanton did twice.”
And that, essentially, is the difference between “pitching to contact” and winning and “pitching to contact” and getting rocked. Washburn finished off the hitters more quickly in this one than, say, Jeff Weaver did last weeked. Weaver wasn’t hit all that hard either and some balls did get through. He just threw too many balls along with his strikes and surrendered some hits after the Angels had fouled off a bunch. Weaver also left too many of his pitches in the same locations time after time. Even the weakest of hitters can catch on to stuff like that. Washburn didn’t do this. As Hargrove mentioned, he stayed up and away with some pitches, down and in with others. He changed things around. The hitters couldn’t set themselves and get comfortable looking for a ball in one particular area.
What we saw tonight is the prototype the Mariners envisioned for this mound staff. Let’s see if anyone follows.
Does the offense have a problem? It certainly does. Guillen mentioned it to us afterwards. He said the Mariners can’t keep stranding runners the way they have — including himself. They are now 7-9, but three of those wins have come in wonderfully pitched gems. At least they won this one. They all count and it buys the offense more time to figure out just what the heck is going on.
Lots of quick swings did them in as well. Blanton had his stuff going, too.
We’ll see what happens tomorrow. But this is the kind of effort a No. 2 starter has to turn in. Washburn won’t always go nine. He may never do it again. But he has to give seven good innings every other outing to be a true No. 2 in my book and tonight he offered up that and more. Not much else to say.



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