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May 16, 2007 at 7:58 PM

Mariners vs. Angels, game 2

Not sure what Angels manager Mike Scioscia was thinking in that sixth inning, but he got away with murder. Scioscia walked Raul Ibanez intentionally to load the bases with one out and bring up Richie Sexson.
Sexson entered the night 9-for-21 (.429) lifetime off John Lackey with with two home runs and 10 RBI. The only reasoning I can come up with is that Ibanez was hitting .361 in a lot more career at-bats off Lackey (36) and this way you pick your poison and set up a force at any base.
Sexson had been hitting the ball on the ground in two prior at-bats and Lackey bested him again this time, getting a chopper to third base for a force out at home. Lackey then struck Jose Guillen out on a full count after an epic at-bat, featuring numerous foul balls with two strikes in the count. Even the strikeout was an adventure as catcher Mike Napoli dropped the ball, then couldn’t find it right at his feet. As lead runner Ichiro sprinted for home, Napoli finally picked the ball up and stepped on the plate for the force out a step ahead of Ichiro.
So, it’s still a 2-0 game, one out and a man on for the Angels in the seventh. Cha Seung Baek just got pulled after his 94th pitch. Eric O’Flaherty comes on. Baek allowed six hits total, only three singles after that first inning. But he won’t get a win tonight.
A good news, bad news type of situation unfolding for the Mariners tonight. First, the good news: Cha Seung Baek has retired 14 of the last 15 batters he’s faced, including the last nine in a row. Other than that first inning, he’s been great. His pitch count is climbing though, up to 77 through five innings, so he’ll have to be efficient in the sixth if he wants a shot at another seven-inning “quality start”. Then again, considering how he began the game, who expected him to last this long?
The bad news, of course, is that John Lackey has retired 15 of the last 16 hitters he’s faced. Lackey had nabbed 14 in a row before Kenji Johjima lined a ball off the pitcher’s right foot for an infield single. The way Lackey has looked tonight, injuring him might be Seattle’s best hope. He already tweaked a leg muscle on a throw earlier in the game and now this. Who knows? But this game is sailing along right now, still 2-0 heading into the sixth. Seattle needs baserunners and needs them soon because once this Angels bullpen gets the ball in the eighth inning with a lead, you can usually turn out the lights. I said, usually.
Speaking of the L.A. bullpen, I see some activity there…perhaps the Mariners really did manage to knock Lackey out of the game with that Johjima liner? We’ll have to see in the bottom of the inning.
Looks like the Angels showed up for this one, as opposed to last night. They lead the Mariners, 2-0, heading into the fourth inning. All the Los Angeles runs came in the first, with Cha Seung Baek looking like the guy he replaced, Jeff Weaver. Baek kept getting smoked hard on a leadoff double to right-center and two straight RBI singles to right field. That prompted a mound visit by pitching coach Rafael Chaves and Baek adjusted from there and secured a pair of pop-outs with a runner on third.
Those were important outs because it’s still a two-run game. The way John Lackey is pitching, it’s going to be hard for the Mariners to score many runs. He’s retired nine in a row after a leadoff single by Ichiro — who made it to third with only one out but was stranded. Hey, nobody said this series was going to be a cakewalk for Seattle.
The Mariners have put some good swings on a handful of Lackey pitches, which does lend some promise for the innings ahead. Jose Guillen drove a fly ball deep to right that was caught in the second inning while Jose Lopez did the same to left field in the third. But the Seattle swings haven’t been consistent enough to get a sustained rally going — or any type of rally at all for that matter.
Baek appears to have settled down after that first inning, giving up just one more hit.
To answer a question from the previous post, Julio Mateo is earning his full major league salary while on the Temporarily Inactive List.



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