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May 23, 2007 at 5:45 PM

Mariners vs. D-Rays, Game 2

When the Devil Rays decide to roll over, they do it in style. This game has been over about four innings already but there are still three outs to go. It’s still 5-1 for the Mariners, so they are two-thirds of the way to that sweep they badly need. No, there will not be any dramatic comebacks tonight. The furthest the D-Rays have sent anything flying the past few innings was when one of their bats was sawed in two at the handle by a pitch and soared three quarters of the way towards first base.
They’ve had just one hit, a single, since the fourth inning. Miguel Batista went only six, so he wasn’t in Cy Young form, but the D-Rays don’t appear too interested in making this a game no matter who is out there pitching. But, hey, the Mariners are going to win and that’s a good thing for them. Style points don’t count when September comes to a close. It’s all about the wins. Taking care of business.
Four hits tonight for Jose Guillen. Could have been five after an error was called on Tampa Bay third baseman Josh Wilson on a Guillen ball in the fourth that never really touched him.
And how about smooth-faced Mariners manager Mike Hargrove? Shaved off that goatee he’s carried since the first day of spring training. Hoping for a superstitious change? No, that’s not it.
“I screwed up this morning,” Hargrove said before the game. “I was trying to trim it and took a huge gash right out of it.”
So, you discuss. Will this impact the team? Is a winning streak in the works?
To settle a debate starting up in the previous post’s comments thread, I will not be re-evaluating my stance on Ichiro anytime soon. I like him at his current contract numbers, but not at what they will likely inflate to next season. He is having a great May, no doubt, but was invisible through too much of April. He has to do more than go on a great three-week run to change my mind. That’s a lot of coin he’s looking for. This is a .500 team (after tonight) he’s playing on. Maybe if he helps lead them to the postseason the way Shannon Stewart did the Minnesota Twins a couple of years back (or the way Ichiro did it in 2001) then I’ll start believing. But right now, for $15 million to $20 million, I don’t think he brings enough. Even with his stellar defense. That .800 OPS is not the same as some of those other center fielders bring in the power and RBI departments. Speed is his big threat and I still think he has to use it more.
The Mariners are taking care of business tonight, up 3-1 heading into the seventh inning. No, it has not been pretty. Downright ugly at times. But beating this D-Rays squad often requires just showing up and that’s what the Mariners appear to have done.
Seattle had only five hits off a pretty lame-looking Casey Fossum. But that’s just about all it took since Fossum issued four walks, threw a wild pitch and had a pair of costly errors made behind him in throwing 103 pitches over just 5 1/3 innings. Only one of Seattle’s three runs was earned. But the three total look to be enough to win this one since the dreaded Tampa Bay middle relief corps is now in the game.
M’s starter Miguel Batista could have been down five runs after two innings if not for two stellar defensive plays in the second by Ichiro in left center and Yuniesky Betancourt diving to his left behind second base. Tampa Bay had notched a leadoff single when Dioner Navarro drove a ball to the gap that a sprinting Ichiro barely chased down. For most outfielders, that ball’s a double at least. The next batter lined a single, and then B.J. Upton scorched a grounder that appeared headed into center field before a diving Betancourt snagged it. Betancourt flipped the ball to second for the out, and Batista escaped the inning.
A huge dodge, that was. He’d had a similar first-inning experience in which he yielded a leadoff homer by Upton and every other ball after that seemed to be hit hard. Batista allowed a single and a double that same inning, along with two long flyouts, but escaped further trouble with a timely strikeout.
It was only a matter of time before Fossum and company coughed up their 1-0 lead. Fossum lowered his ERA from 7.80 to 7.15 but still was booed when taken out. As I mentioned Tuesday night and today, folks, this Devil Rays team is pretty terrible. Great talent in spots but very little pitching and bad defense because of youthful inconsistency. This is sweep time for the Mariners. They have three innings to go and are taking care of business.



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