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May 3, 2007 at 9:15 PM

This one hurts

Lots of long faces in the clubhouse tonight after the Mariners lost 8-7 despite being spotted a 5-0 lead in the first inning by Dice-K and the Red Sox. This wasn’t how the Mariners wanted to begin what shapes up as a pretty big road test against teams expected to contend. The Mariners won’t get many off-day reprieves this season and will show signs of weariness at times.
But they just didn’t get a competitive outing from Horacio Ramirez tonight. Forget about that checked swing that wasn’t called a strike on Manny Ramirez in the eighth, or the poorly-located offering two pitches later by Chris Reitsma that was drilled into the right field seats for the winning run.
This loss was about the 95 pitches Ramirez needed to get through just four innings after being handed a 5-0 lead before even taking the mound. Ramirez insisted his approach never wavered despite the huge lead.
“I was just out there trying to get guys out and I wasn’t able to do that tonight,” he said.
Ramirez said it was a command issue, not a lack of aggressiveness, that saw him issue those two critical walks in the five-run second inning that enabled Boston to tie the game. “It was a command issue,” Ramirez said. “Sometimes, my ball was running a little too much out of the zone. I tried to make the adjustment and…I was just erratic tonight. Just erratic.”
Mariners manager Mike Hargrove was in an unusually terse mood after this one. Strangely terse, for a guy who had just seen his team win seven of its last eight. Perhaps he senses the opposition is about to get a whole lot tougher than what he saw from anemic Oakland, Kansas City and Chicago offenses. The Red Sox scored plenty of runs in a hurry tonight.
Hargrove cut short his post-game conference with reporters when asked about the Ramirez checked swing.
“We had Manny struck out,” Hargrove said. “Plain and simple.”
The count actually moved to 3-1 instead of 2-2 after the checked swing was ruled a ball. Ramirez took the next pitch down the middle for a strike — which he likely wouldn’t have done in a 2-2 count — then smoked the full-count offering.
But Hargrove wouldn’t elaborate further when asked about the at-bat. He muttered an expletive and then told reporters: “The fact of the matter is, I’m done.”
Hargrove’s team is far from done at 12-11 on the season and just a win or so out of first place. His reaction, perhaps only fleeting, seemed a little bizarre. But perhaps it reflects just how tough a loss this was. Teams simply can’t give away games in which they are spotted a 5-0 lead against a top pitcher. With Class AAA call-up Cha Seung Baek going tomorrow night and Jeff Weaver on Saturday, nothing is guaranteed win-wise. In fact, the team’s outlook could get gloomy real fast if it continues to give away games the way it did here.
Reitsma had turned in a fine outing, as had Julio Mateo before him. But it just wasn’t meant to be.
“I thought he went around,” Reitsma said of the Ramirez checked-swing. “From my angle, on the mound I really couldn’t tell. But yeah, it does really change the complexion of that at-bat for sure. It (would have been) a strike instead of a ball. You go about finishing the rest of the at-bat in a different way.”
But Reitsma wasn’t making excuses.
“The bottom line is I made a bad pitch in a tight spot and he hit it out. There was really no excuse other than that.”
He got that right. Fenway Park or not, wind blowing out or not, this was a game that got away and it hurts. The Mariners got crushed hitting-wise, 15-6, and were fortunate to still be in a tie game by the eighth. They need much more from the starters or this trip will get ugly fast.

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