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May 9, 2007 at 9:56 PM

Best game of the year

It wasn’t even close, to be honest. This 9-2 victory was Seattle’s best overall effort of 2007, against a legitimately tough opponent, riding an eight-game winning streak and firing on every cylinder. The Detroit Tigers also sent a pitcher, Nate Robertson, to the mound with a 3-1 record and 2.48 ERA. And the Mariners promptly destroyed him. Sure, it took three innings to start doing this. But only because some of the screaming drives the Mariners hit were — once again — right at people.
I’ll be very interested in tomorrow’s game. Richie Sexson will get a day off, just a rest and nothing more. Sexson is now the new clean-up hitter since Hargrove told me after the game he likes the way this current lineup is producing. And who wouldn’t? They just got 16 hits in Comerica Park and have scored 16 runs the past two games. We’ll see if it continues sans Sexson.
Cha Seung Baek hadn’t thrown a complete game since pitching for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the 2000 playoffs. Say, what? You heard me. His big secret to staying strong in those middle innings?
“It was a late-game, so I was a little bit starving,” he said of the one-hour, 36-minute rain delay at the start. “So, the trainer gave me an energy bar (after five innings) and I ate a little bit.”
Make that two energy bars. Baek also began changing speeds and moving the ball around after those first two innings, keeping the fastball-sitting Tigers off-balance.
“My change-up was excellent today,” Baek said.
How about those catches in left field by Raul Ibanez? Or that throw by Yuniesky Betancourt from deep in the hole at short? Or that clutch 4-6-3 double-play to end the fifth inning. Of all these, I’d say the Ibanez catch on Magglio Ordonez to start the bottom of the fourth was the biggest of the night. Seattle had just taken a 3-2 lead on the Jose Guillen homer. If that ball drops in, Ordonez is standing on second with none out, the Tigers probably tie the game and well…you know where things usually go from there for this team.
“I think Cha Seung threw a lot of strikes, he got ahead and he went after guys,” Ibanez said. “He kept us on our toes and it paid off for him.”
Ibanez said the catch Ordonez made to end Tuesday’s game was far more difficult, even though there were similarities between the two. Nobody was impressed by the botched call at home plate to end the fourth inning. My take is that umpire Dan Iassonga has to get in position if he’s going to make that call. You can’t stand directly behind the catcher like he did. Had he been in a better spot, he’d have seen that Pudge Rodriguez was set up on the wrong side of the plate. There was no way he could have blocked Kenji Johjima from scoring. He had to be on the other side of the plate, or at least in the middle with his foot out. That’s where the umpire thought it was. But he was wrong.
And do you know what? It doesn’t matter.
“We played a good ballgame tonight,” Hargrove said. “Against a very good opponent that was hot.”



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