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May 9, 2007 at 5:58 PM

Mariners vs. Tigers, Game 2

Well, this one sure turned into a rout in the middle innings. Make it 9-2 for the Mariners, heading into the eighth. Cha Seung Baek just got through the seventh inning on his 79th pitch. I’d leave him out there for now. Why not give the bullpen a night off? Baek has gotten even more effective as the game progresses, striking out the side in the sixth.
As for the hitters? Remember all those balls they’ve been hitting right at people? Well, the trend continued in the early innings against Tigers starter Nate Robertson tonight. And then, all of a sudden, the trend shifted. Want the turning point? Maybe not that three-run homer in the fourth by Jose Guillen that put Seattle ahead. It was only 3-2 at that point and Detroit can usually overcome a deficit like that. No, I’d say it was after plate umpire Dan Iassogna made a terrible call at the plate to end that fourth inning after Kenji Johjima had easily beaten the tag at home. Mariners manager Mike Hargrove argued the poor call to no avail. A little cosmic payback perhaps for Willie Bloomquist getting that phantom steal in New York the other night.
But no matter.
Everything the Mariners laid wood on after that seemed to drop into play. They scored three more runs in the fifth and another four in the sixth to run away with this game. Nine of the next 13 batters the Mariners sent up after the blown call at the plate were able to reach base. They notched five doubles and three singles during that span and the Tigers more or less kissed their eight-game winning streak goodbye.
I’ll tell you something. This is the best I’ve seen the Mariners look, from a team perspective, in weeks. Everything is working tonight. They are full value for this win and a 3-4 road trip against these opponents isn’t too bad. I’ll be more impressed if they go home 4-4 instead of 3-5 as we all kind of expected. Actually, I’d expected a little worse. But this soon-to-be win was convincing. I was not impressed with either of the New York victories, the final one somewhat lucky and the first run a result of two bad Yankee pitchers now in the minor leagues.
But not tonight. This showed me something. Play like this on a consistent basis and I’ll start to get excited about Seattle’s chances. Just a little. Get waxed tomorrow and I’ll yawn, catch the flight home and enjoy the weekend.
Take away the leadoff batters and Cha Seung Baek has a perfect game going through three innings. Unfortunately, he’s served up a homer, a triple and a single to each of the three batters he’s faced to lead things off. If Magglio Ordonez can double to start the fourth, the leadoff guys will have hit for a straight cycle. Anyway, two of those leadoff hits came around to score, so it’s still a 2-0 game.
But here’s some good news. Baek started moving the ball around a bit more in that third inning and the final two outs were of the softly hit variety. Baek has also thrown only 31 pitches to this point. The Tigers are teeing off on him early, but not all of the balls have been squarely hit. A few of the outs have been very long and well-hit drives, but Baek is still hanging in there. He could last seven innings at this rate, though he’d do best to keep the leadoff guys from getting on. The Mariners badly need a starter to go six or seven tonight. The bullpen is tiring.
And you know what else the Mariners could use? A three-run homer from Jose Guillen, that’s what. Seattle had hit the ball hard at times off Nate Robertson but — once again — right at people. That’s suddenly changed in the fourth as Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson — yes, him — lashed a pair of one-out singles. Guillen put the first pitch he saw in the right field seats. What a turn of events! Now 3-2 for the M’s. Let’s see if Baek can hold the lead for more than a half-inning.
Game is underway, albeit one hour, 36 minutes late. Cha Seung Baek might have been wishing they’d called things off when he left a 1-2 fastball over the heart of the plate in the first inning. Curtis Granderson smacked it into the right field stands for the eighth leadoff homer of his career and second this season. Placido Polanco then hit a ball even further than Granderson did, but it was caught on the run in deep left center by Raul Ibanez.
Tigers have been smoking balls early. Baek threw another pitch right down the middle to Carlos Guillen, leading off the second inning, and it was ripped down the right field line for a triple. Guillen then scored one out later on a sacrifice fly — again, drilled on a line — to right field. So, it’s 2-0 for the Tigers already. My advice to Baek? Stop leaving balls belt-high, right down the middle. Other than that, he’s been superb.
By the way, Felix Hernandez felt fine today after the bullpen session. He’s still on-target to pitch next week.



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