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May 26, 2007 at 3:50 PM

Mariners vs. Royals, game 2

We’re already in the seventh inning and that grand slam home run by Kenji Johjima in the fourth is standing up in a 4-1 game. Another great outing by Cha Seung Baek. This Royals club had been smoking the ball against Cleveland last week, but has been handcuffed all day by Baek. Hard to believe the Mariners did not want this guy in their starting rotation to begin the year. I mean, that 4-1 record last fall, did anybody see it? Baek had fifth starter material written all over him. I can understand the temptation to throw $8.3 million at Jeff Weaver. Theoretically, he could have been an improvement had he pitched like he did for St. Louis in the post season.
Could have, but didn’t. So, the team is out $8 million and finally has the right guy in the rotation. Should the M’s be criticized for this? Absolutely. They underestimated Baek’s talent and overestimated Weaver’s. And cost their owner big bucks, not to mention all those lost games. Sure, it’s hindsight. But plenty of people in that front office are paid top dollar to make accurate assessments. A Mariners team with three rotation vacancies could have saved itself plenty of headaches by filling one of those spots with a no-brainer internal move. That way, perhaps, the team could have been a little more discriminating with how it went about plugging the remaining two openings. Instead, they’ve got two underperformers on the DL and Miguel Batista.
My little rant is done.
On the positive side, what an improved catcher Johjima is turning into. Leads the team with seven home runs, is batting well over .300 and has thrown out seven of his last 13 would-be base-stealers. Talked to Johjima about that before today’s game and he credited the pitching staff.
“The pitchers are giving me a better chance because they’re holding the ball more, doing more pickoff moves to first base,” Johjima said. “They also use their slide step. That gives me a lot more time to get that guy out at second base.”
Anyway, we’re on into the bottom of the seventh. Ichiro flied out in that top of the inning and remains hitless. He’ll need a rally somewhere to get another shot at extending his hit streak to 19 games. Baek is at 84 pitches to start the inning. He’ll be on a short leash from here on in, but still looks sharp.
GUILLEN SITS SORE LEGS
Rain has stopped and it’s a decent, somewhat overcast late afternoon here at Kauffman Stadium as we await today’s game. Jose Guillen, as we mentioned, is getting a rest. He told me his hamstrings were killing him after that series against the Devil Rays, played on the artificial surface at Tropicana Field. Guillen is hitting .359 lifetime off the Royals, the third best average by an active player. But he could barely walk before last night’s game, needing a trainer to massage the hamstrings enough to get him ready to play.
To answer the Brandon Morrow question from the previous post, he is hardly wasting away in the bullpen. Morrow has become the team’s primary set-up man to J.J. Putz. He is an extremely valuable addition, especially now that Chris Reitsma suffered that elbow injury. As I wrote in spring training, the only reason Morrow is here is because he is valuable to the club. The heat he brings late in games and his ability to go multiple innings gives the bullpen options it did not have before.
Morrow could not have started the game next Tuesday. He hasn’t been stretched out long enough to go more than three or four innings max. You’re better off getting Ryan Feierabend up here from Class AAA to go the minimum five. He throws harder than most lefties and will give that Angels offense a look they probably haven’t seen this season from a southpaw. Oh yeah, speaking of the Angels, that Escobar guy won again today in New York. Another seven inning “quality start” for him. Know you all don’t want to hear it. Mariners now five back. They need to win here tonight, as we discussed in the previous post. Going 5-1 in this six-game stretch really looks like a necessity if the M’s want to gain any ground before visiting Anaheim.
Here’s a tip for prognosticators: keep an eye on what happens in the first inning. Cha Seung Baek has given up nine of his 22 runs in the opening frame. Mariners have been outscored 43-22 in the first inning (and 75-42 in the first two innings). If Baek gets a scoreless first, it could bode very well for Seattle.
The lineups:
KANSAS CITY
CF Daivd DeJesus
2B Mark Grudzielanek
RF Mark Teahen
DH Mike Sweeney
3B Alex Gordon
1B Ryan Shealy
LF Shane Costa
C Jason LaRue
SS Tony Pena
RHP Brian Bannister
SEATTLE
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
RF Ben Broussard
C Kenji Johjima
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
RHP Cha Seung Baek

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