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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

May 24, 2007 at 12:04 PM

Mariners vs. D-Rays, 3rd game

Hey everyone, time to come in from outside, look away from your work for a moment. We’ve got ourselves a game. One of the worst I’ve ever covered, to be honest. I’ll have to do some checking over the past 10 years because there have been some beauts, especially here.
Jose Lopez just hit a real home run that he didn’t need advice from Carlos Garcia on, making it a 12-10 game with Seattle still trailing. First base umpire Bruce Dreckman just contributed to the awfulness we’ve seen by blowing a call on what should have been an infield hit by Ichiro. The call loomed large, since the M’s would have had two on with one out. As it stood, an ensuing walk put two on with two out before Jose Guillen took a called third strike.
But it’s only a two-run game. Unless the D-Rays have Lee Smith, Dennis Eckersley, or John Wetteland ready to come out of retirement to pitch the eighth, they still need three more outs before closer Al Reyes comes in. I’d bring Reyes in right now, to tell you the truth. Who knows when he’ll get another save opportunity? Reyes is 12-for-12 in save opps, but hasn’t gone more than one inning yet. No time like the present to start. I don ‘t know if this bullpen can hold off the Mariners. Let’s see. Most nervous guy in the ballpark right now? That would be Garcia, whose two decisions at third are the difference on the scoreboard.
PITCHERS FALLING APART
Might as well answer some questions since the only people having any fun are those trying to follow this thing on Gamecast. About the veracity of injuries, I suspect the one to Ramirez is legit because Seattle’s bullpen has been shorthanded of late and the last thing this team needed was a seven-inning relief stint. Hey, at least Ramirez was being efficient, throwing only 36 pitches. Too bad 30 of them got whacked. OK, I’ll get serious.
No, I don’t think this was a Jeff Weaver type of “injury” where routine, daily shoulder pain is exaggerated to spare a roster spot. Yes, I do think MLB should take a tougher stance on these things. But as I mentioned, pitchers feel pain of some sort all the time. Who are we to say what is serious and what isn’t? Just a question to ponder.
Here come the Mariners. Only a seven-run game now. Bases loaded, none out. Well, actually, Jae Seo is out. Here comes the D-Rays bullpen. We may have a game as long as Carlos Garcia keeps both hands tied behind his back.
As far as Sean White goes, that actually wasn’t the most pathetic relief outing I’ve ever witnessed. This one was. I felt like crying for Jeff Tam as I watched him melt down on the mound at Fenway Park that night. The four walks and the wild pitch and the 22 balls in 32 pitches to turn a lead into a loss don’t quite do justice to what happened. I think there were 15 of 16 pitches thrown for balls at one point. Poor guy came out afterwards and stood by his locker answering questions after the humiliating performance of his life. A stand-up guy he was. His career was over pretty soon after that. Yes, Tam used to pitch for the Devil Rays. A nice transition to today and the Tampa Bay bullpen, which has just helped give back three runs to the Mariners in the sixth inning. So, it’s only a five-run game with three innings to go. D-Rays catcher Dioner Navarro has allowed two runs to score on passed balls today, one in that sixth, and also let that foul pop-up drop in. Good thing he had that two-run triple to help even things out.
Tampa Bay has a decent closer, so the M’s need a couple of runs in each of the next two innings to have a valid shot. There should be a rule passed to prevent Seo from getting a win today. The guy gave up seven runs — six earned — on 13 hits in five innings. How can he get a win? Well, he can. His ERA went up to 8.10 though, so there is some justice after all.
Oh yeah, the Adrian Beltre question. He hasn’t had a hit in his last dozen at-bats or so, so he got a sit-down. Yes, I know he hits Seo well. So does the entire universe, it seems. The Mariners aren’t lacking for hits today, they’ve got 14 of them to “only” 11 by the D-Rays. It’s some basepath judgement by the coaching staff that is really hurting now. Those two Lopez outs look huge, since a three-run deficit is nothing when the D-Rays have their bullpen in there. Five runs? Not insurmountable, but Seattle is running out of time.
THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
This is officially the worst game we’ve seen in 2007. I’d throw in 2006, 2005 and 2004 as well, but hey, I wasn’t here as plenty of you keep reminding me. But seriously, what to make of this? Here’s an update on Horacio Ramirez: tightness in his left shoulder.
I’d say Sean White is feeling some tightness in his upper chest cavity right about now. He’s allowed seven runs on 40 pitches already this third inning and the last six guys have reached base. Hargrove just went out to the mound to cheer him up. Yes, he’s taking him out. So, it’s a 10-4 game. No, it’s not over because Tampa Bay starter Jae Seo has been just as brutal as any other pitcher out there and he’s only through three innings.
Does this pending loss hurt? Does Ramirez have a lousy road ERA? Of course it hurts. It burns. The Angels just got destroyed in Detroit. OK, the M’s finally got out of the third. Seattle cannot afford to blow this sweep opportunity. As I mentioned, this game is not over yet. Seo looks awful and won’t go — shouldn’t go — much more than five or six innings. We are going to see Tampa Bay’s middle relievers. Get that six-run deficit down to four by then and we might have ourselves a game. Otherwise, this could be one of those season-defining moments. It’s already distinguished itself as a horrbile game to watch. Seo and Ramirez were outdueling each other to see who could give up a lead faster. Throw in a D-Rays catcher who let a foul pop-up drop into play, a passed ball just one pitch after the Mariners foolishly waved a runner home from third and got him thrown out by 10 feet and then…well, lookie here, Jose Lopez just got thrown out by 20 feet trying for an inside-the-park home run in the fourth. Uh, hey, can someone turn on the score so third base coach Carlos Garcia can see what it is, please? Somebody? Anybody paying attention? I can’t believe what I just witnessed. Lousiest game of the year. By a country-mile. Make that acre.
PUT UP YOUR DUKES…OR NOT
The Devil Rays are sitting Elijah Dukes out once again, a big break for the Mariners and Horacio Ramirez. Guess the “support” of the Tampa Bay front office doesn’t extend to risking having to play him in front of the hometown fans. So, looks like they’re going to take Dukes on the road and hope this little domestic violence mess blows over by next week. Whatever.
Seattle is sitting Raul Ibanez out yet again, despite manager Mike Hargrove telling us before the game that he was healthy and will go tomorrow night. What’s holding him back? Hargrove wouldn’t say. So, I will. The D-Rays have been such a competitive embarassment to baseball the past two nights that Seattle could field its Class AAA Tacoma affiliate here and probably sweep the series. There, I said it. The M’s likely figure it’s dumb to risk using Ibanez out there when he can get a rest, take that plane ride and play a real team tomorrow night. Sorry, but I’ve seen these D-Rays mail-in entire series too often over the last decade. More than any other team I’ve watched play. This series, they’ve played well the first two innings in each game, then simply folded up shop and gone home. It’s not like Miguel Batista was all that much better after last night’s second inning.
Ben Broussard is in the clean-up spot today, with Richie Sexson hitting fifth. Now, that’s a twist. Broussard is in left field again with a lefty on the mound. Let’s see if he has to make any running catches early.
Ichiro just began the game with an infield single, extending his hit streak to 17 games. This is Ichiro’s 1,000th major league game, so congratulations to him. He is a fantastic player and I have thought so ever since he broke into the majors back in 2001.
But for those of you wondering if I’ve changed my mind since last night, no I still would not pay him $15 to $20 million a season. If I believed that the only thing keeping this team from contention was a premier leadoff hitter and excellent defensive center fielder, I would say, heck yeah, go out and pay him. But this team needs so much more. It already has a top minor league prospect in Adam Jones who has to play somewhere at some point. Could he share the outfield with Ichiro? Sure. It depends how much money this organization wants to throw around. If the Mariners plan to have a payroll of $130 million for next year, I’d say sure, go out and sign Ichiro. Gives you one less thing to worry about in the runs department because he’s guaranteed for 100. Chops 200 hits off that yearly quota as well. And any ball hit in the air towards center is almost always going to end up in his glove, though most premier center fielders can make that claim since they are all terrific acrobats.
But this is not a stats-only question and I think most baseball observers are smart enough to figure that out. The Mariners need more starting pitching and that is where I would still have to place the bulk of my additional financial resources going forward if I was them.
Bidding on Daisuke Matsuzaka, for all the hand-wringing that Boston Red Sox move generated last winter, would have made far more sense for this Mariners club than the bid they made on Kei Igawa. The Mariners have a bunch of Igawas in their ranks. They need a Matsuzaka to take them to another level. To give them a different look. They need another impact arm. No, the free agent pitching crop hasn’t cut it this year for the most part. Doesn’t mean you give up trying. If the Mariners are to win the AL West, it will be because of better pitching. Not because of a leadoff man in the order. Even a great one.
Show signs of hiking the budget to another level entirely and I’d keep Ichiro in a second. A suggestion I saw on another website that I feel this way because of being stiffed on interviews by Ichiro is, to put it mildly, way off the mark. Ichiro has never denied me an interview since I arrived here last September. Didn’t deny me one in Toronto either. I could care less how he dresses, though I find some of his get-ups intriguing. His quotes have given me some very interesting stories here and here and here again just last night.
But he could sit and have coffee with me for two hours every morning. It still wouldn’t change the way I feel about his value to this franchise. At the level he is looking to go to, I still believe the Mariners could better use the money than tying up roughly a fifth of their payroll in a leadoff hitter. How many hitters can a team pay more than $12 million a season with a starting staff that’s still only third-best in the division — at most? These are the questions, unfortunately, that I get paid to wrestle with. I don’t have the luxury of deciding who is worthy and who isn’t based of how many good interviews they’ve given me.
In the 1 1/2 innings it took to write all this, the game is tied 3-3 and in serious contention for the worst all-around contest the M’s have been involved in all year. Let’s see if the D-Rays do their one-and-quit routine after Hargrove read Ramirez the riot act on the mound that awful first inning.

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