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May 27, 2007 at 4:38 PM

How sweep it is

So, let’s recap the past week’s events. The Mariners, as we discussed last Tuesday, had to go 5-1 in this six-game stretch against Tampa Bay and Kansas City to have a realistic hope of gaining ground on the Angels. Mission accomplished. The M’s did gain a half-game on the Angels after being five back at the start, so they head to Anaheim trailing by 4 1/2
Sure, it was a tall order. But the Angels have superb pitching and are on a role. As we discussed, a 4-2 mark would have been nice, but then the M’s would have lost ground. This is what contenders do. They have to sweep. They have to win five, six and seven games in a row. If not, they do this little .500 dance the M’s have been jigging to all season.
“No disrespect, but when you have a ballclub like the one we have, these are the types of ballclubs that your have to beat,” Jose Vidro said. “For us to be successful, there’s no way we could have lost this series.”
Not only lose. They couldn’t afford anything but a sweep. That defeat against the D-Rays on Thursday assured that. But the M’s surprised a lot of folks, me included, by making up for that mistake by sweeping here. With offense like this, it would be tough not to have won.
They are tops in AL batting average at .279, up from .269 since Thursday. They have hit .369 with 21 extra-base hits over the last four games. Sure they’re pounding the daylights out of last-place teams. But so what? They had to beat somebody to stay close to the Angels.
“If we’re serious about getting to the post-season, then we need to stay close to Anaheim,” Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. “Any time you play teams below you — and I’m not saying that to denigrate the Royals or the Devil Rays — those are the teams that you need to play well against and beat.”
Jarrod Washburn said the rain delay really didn’t throw him off all that much. All three runs he allowed came after the 22-minute delay in the top of the sixth. Washburn is thrilled to see the hitters performing so well and added that the playoff teams he’s been on always made a habit of taking care of business against the teams below them.
“You’re supposed to beat them, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to,” he said. “It’s what we expected, it’s what we’d hoped for. It’s good that we started it out the way we wanted. Now, we’ve just got to go into Anaheim and try to keep playing well there.”
The Mariners outscored the Royals 26-7. They beat the Royals and D-Rays by a combined 48-23 score.
Most of the players were happy. But Ichiro, who extended his hit streak to 20 games with two more singles, warned that the M’s are still making mistakes being concealed by the victories.
“It’s hard to tell whether a team is doing well or not just because they are winning,” Ichiro said through interpreter Ken Barron. “Something I see that’s true in this league is that when teams are winning, people will not see mistakes that we’re making. Because of that, that’s something I’m afraid of.”
What mistakes?
“I can’t tell the media that,” he said.
I can think of a few. Yuniesky Betancourt keeps making like Steve Sax on routine throws to first base. Hargrove has coach Carlos Garcia working on getting him to raise his arm angle.
“The last three or four ballgames at least, maybe longer than that, he’s thrown that big rainbow over there,” Hargrove said. “His arm angle’s too low. We’ve got to get him back up. That’s all. I was taking to Richie and he’s telling me ‘That ball’s moving a good four feet.'”
Let’s hope that’s all it is because his defensive miscues are becoming very noticeable. Jose Lopez made his first error in 42 games in the ninth inning on a tough throw to try to finish off a double-play. That’s too bad because Hargrove was going to rest Lopez today before thinking better of it since the team was already down one regular with Kenji Johjima out.
We’ll see if Ichiro was on the right track. The Angels are a different caliber of team than what the M’s have seen the past week. And while Seattle will miss the two best Los Angeles starters, Bartolo Colon has owned them and Ervin Santana does very well at home. No room for mistakes this week. If anything, the M’s have to avoid getting swept. That would be devastating to their chances in the division. Win tomorrow night, and that pressure gets taken off and Seattle can concentrate on making some real progress against the AL West leaders.



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