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April 26, 2007 at 12:17 PM

Mariners vs. A’s, series finale

An interesting development here as the Mariners hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Chris Reitsma is on the mound, having been brought in by manager Mike Hargrove with two out in the sixth inning. The interesting part is that Brandon Morrow is up and throwing in the bullpen. He’ll likely be out there in the eighth inning. Funny, I thought that was Reitsma’s job. Hargrove apparently saw enough from Morrow the other night to want to use him in Reitsma’s spot — even though Reitsma hasn’t had a chance to pitch all season with a lead in the eighth inning. Looks like he’s lost his role — for this game at least — without ever getting a chance to perform in that role. Interesting.
My take on it is Hargrove figures this A’s lineup is pretty weak and will simply be overwhelmed by all the late-inning heat. Probably not too far off on that.
Miguel Batista is poised for the win despite 5 1/3 mediocre innings. No, the A’s didn’t score many off him either. But Batitsa hardly went nine innings the way Jarrod Washburn did.
Reitsma gave up two hits in the seventh, prompting George Sherrill to be brought in to retire the final batter, lefty Eric Chavez. The latter popped out foul to the catcher, setting up a situation where Morrow will likely begin the eighth against righthanded hitting Mike Piazza.
OFFENSE STILL SCUFFLING
After all those words down below about Raul Ibanez not getting any opportunities, he had two on with one out in the first inning, but flied out to left. In fairness to him, he hit the ball hard and Shannon Stewart made a lunging catch. Ibanez then came up again in the third inning with Jose Vidro on for second time. This time, Ibanez grounded into a 4-6-3 double-play.
Nobody had been doing anything offensively, until Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez hit back-to-back RBI doubles moments ago to make it 2-0 A’s in the bottom of the third. But this isn’t close to what we saw last night. Miguel Batista threw 21 pitches in the first inning — two more than Jarrod Washburn had through two innings in last night’s affair. Batista is already at 46 with one out in the third and Joe Kennedey isn’t looking much better. Both of these guys should be done after five or six. No double-complete-game this time.
Also, just to clear up some apparent confusion about how Adrian Beltre fared as a No. 2 hitter last year compared to No. 3.
No. 2: .310 AVG, .367 OBP, .564 SLG
No. 3: .270 AVG, .331 OBP, .515 SLG
So yes, Beltre did hit better in the two-spot last season, which is why he’s there now. Batista just struck out ‘the side” in the third, but he allowed two in the process and has thrown 66 pitches already. Nice recovery to fan the final two batters with two on, but he’s down 2-0. The way Seattle’s offense looks, that may be as good as 20-0.
OUT OF LINE?
Here are the lineups. I’m sure Seattle’s will continue to generate heated debate because…well…it hasn’t changed a bit. More on that later.
OAKLAND
LF Shannon Stewart
2B Mark Ellis
3B Eric Chavez
DH Mike Piazza
1B Dan Johnson
RF Travis Buck
SS Marco Scutaro
C Jason Kendall
CF Danny Putnam
LHP — Joe Kennedy
SEATTLE
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
I’ve actually really enjoyed reading your discussions off last night’s game. Glad to also see everyone dealing with what was my big area of concern coming away from it. That would be the offense. As I mentioned in spring training, I’ve had my doubts about using Jose Vidro as the No. 3 hitter. For that plan to work, I believe I said Vidro had to supply the expected on-base percentage in the mid-to-high .300s. He hasn’t done that over-all, at .338, though he’s been at a .407 clip the past week and has actually taken off since the team got to play a few games in a row after the disastrous Cleveland-Boston road trip.
Yes, almost all the hits are singles. But the team knew that heading in and so did we. He’s done his part.
The guy mucking it all up right now is Adrian Beltre. As I wrote in spring training, the second half of the Vidro-as-No. 3-hitter actually working required Beltre to supply OBP and power in the No. 2 spot. Anything else and the whole plan falls apart. Well, it’s falling apart. Beltre’s produced a sub-.300 OBP (that’s the “Mendoza Line” in this hitting category, by the way) and a sub-.400 slugging percentage.
The only reason Vidro is hitting third is to accomodate Beltre’s comfort level in the No. 2 spot. Beltre supposedly hits better in the second spot — and past numbers have supported this. But he’s off to his usual slow start (don’t get me started on Richie Sexson) and it’s killing the offense. We are still only in this team’s third full week, but I can’t see this arrangement continuing much longer. For all the grief Vidro took from fans a couple of weeks ago, he is living up to his past reputation. He battles pitchers, works the count and produces hits. He is riding a 10-game hitting streak — after a bloop single in today’s first inning moments ago — and looks very much like a No. 2 hitter. That’s the only flip I’d consider right now. I like where Johjima is hitting, in a less pressure-packed No. 7 spot. It balances out the order and you need that now because Jose Guillen isn’t hitting either. That’s a real drop-off on the back-end without Johjima there.
Look, if Sexson and Beltre don’t hit, this team won’t win. Period. No amount of lineup shuffling is going to change that reality. However, if you flip-flop Beltre and Vidro, it would seem you’d at least have a better chance of Raul Ibanez driving someone home. Or of Sexson getting someone in on a sacrifice fly (hold the jokes, please).
Under the current set-up, that isn’t happening. Ibanez is lucky if he sees one guy on base in an at-bat. He’s the clean-up hitter and as of last night had fewer at-bats with runners in scoring position this year than any of the top-six hitters in the order. That should tell you something.
As for the pitching situation, I’ll take a good outing by Washburn any time, regardless of the perceived quality of the lineup he’s facing. I’ve seen lineups filled with Class AAA guys walk into Yankee Stadium and kick butt. Washburn pitched well last night, end of story. He was particularly good at manipulating the “eye level” of hitters by mixing up the location of his pitches. There was no location pattern to his pitches that the hitters could pick up on. Hence, they could never set up for a pitch down low, or up higher. Nobody hit the ball particularly hard off him. We haven’t always seen that from other “pitch-to-contact” types this season.
As we mentioned in last night’s blog, the A’s have been hit hard by injuries and it helped that Washburn was “facing a decimated” lineup. But the A’s never really had a lethal lineup to begin with. It’s roughly the same crew in there for the A’s again today. If Miguel Batista throws a three-hit shutout, then maybe we’ll revisit the issue. But for now, I’ll give Washburn credit for getting the job done — statistically better than he ever has before — and worry more about the pitchers who can’t say the same.

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