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

May 30, 2007 at 5:03 PM

Mariners vs. Angels, Game 3

Hey, “CR”, I wasn’t saying I felt bad for Hernandez for leaving that last pitch up. I felt bad because he had him struck out on the previous offering and had pitched him rather well to that point. Remember, there was no place on the bases for him. Hernandez’s options were very limited. But yes, that last pitch was very hittable and high.
Mariners got the leadoff runner on against K-Rod in the ninth, but to no avail, stranding their eighth runner of the game in an 8-6 loss. Are now 5 1/2 back. This one hurts because the M’s had chances all night, stranding eight baserunners. That insurance run in the seventh was huge. Once Yuni Betancourt catches the ball, the run is home. Ichiro has to make that play if the idea is to limit the scoring. Not sure he could have gotten there but it was all moot once the shortstop tried an off-balance throw home from mid-center.
Off to the clubhouse.
Hard not to feel for Felix Hernandez in that at-bat with Vladimir Guerrero. For anyone who didn’t see it, Hernandez just gave up a three-run homer to Guerrero to fall behind 7-5 in the bottom of the fifth. Thing is, Hernandez pitched about as perfect an at-bat as you can without getting Guerrero out. His slider, coming in at 85 mph, broke off the plate in unhittable areas to keep Guerrero in a 1-2 count. He then nearly fanned Guerrero on a foul tip that Kenji Johjima couldn’t squeeeze. Most of the stadium thought Guerrero was out. You could hear the sighs of relief when Guerrero stayed in the batter’s box. The next pitch, a fastball, got up a little too much and Guerrero crushed it the opposite way. Hard break for Hernandez. Guerrero is on fire this year. Will be the AL MVP if he keeps this up. It’s really no contest right now. Mariners have a couple of shots at the middle relievers these next two innings. This is where they have to mount another rally.
Got to give the Mariners credit for what they did to Jered Weaver in the fourth and fifth innings. Instead of folding up and going home, they scored two runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead. They knocked Weaver from the game with an RBI double by Adrian Beltre and a run-scoring single by Yuniesky Betancourt with two out in the fifth. Seattle maintaining its composure, after looking lost for much of the second and third innings, was even more impressive given how they’ve caught some bad breaks along the way.
Jose Vidro came up with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, but, as he so often does, hit the ball hard and on the ground, to the third baseman, who threw home for a force out. The inning then ended on a Raul Ibanez fly ball to center.
Seattle could have had even more runs off Weaver this inning, but Kenji Johjima was robbed of a run-scoring double by Gary Matthews Jr. on a ball obsolutely crushed to the deepest part of center field. But still, quite a turnaround in this very important game. Felix Hernandez survived a third inning in which he yielded a double and two singles without giving up a run. He can thank Orlando Cabrera for being too hesitant in trying to advance from second to third on a pitch in the dirt — with Vladimir Guerrero at the plate, of all things! A really bad mental mistake there by a veteran player. You can’t get thrown out in that situation. If you aren’t sure, stay put. Instead, Cabrera hesitated a couple of seconds too long, then broke for third, stopped and tried to head back to second.
Can’t do it. Guerrero, of course, hit a single right after that which would have easily scored Cabrera. Right now, it’s the difference in a 5-4 game, Seattle in the lead, heading to the bottom of the fifth.
These are not the same Mariners we saw for most of this road trip. Down 4-1 in the third inning after Felix Hernandez got lit up for a pair of monster home runs, a three-run blast by Gary Matthews, followed by a Casey Kotchman solo shot, back-to-back in the first inning. Hernandez began falling behind hitters and threw a 3-1 pitch right down the middle that got absolutely smoked dead center by Matthews — roughly where Jose Guillen hit his ball the other night.
Guillen had given Seattle a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Jered Weaver began throwing like his brother. Allowed a two-out walk, then a wild-pitch, then saw Guillen scorch a ball into left field. The M’s opened the second inning with consecutive singles, but did nothing to advance the runners. Yuniesky Betancourt hit a weak pop-up to center — not what you’re looking for in that situation — and Jose Lopez popped out to the shortstop. Ichiro then grounded out to end the inning.
Betancourt’s defensive woes continue. He let a Vladimir Guerrero shot scoot on by his glove for a single ahead of the Matthews homer in the first inning. If he snags it, it’s at least one out, possibly two and inning over. Betancourt has not helped his team early in this game. We’ll see what happens, but that four-spot off Hernandez is probably more than the Angels expected to score the entire game.
Here’s the latest Jeff Weaver update. He’ll throw a bullpen session tomorrow in Seattle, a simulated game on Sunday and then — if his arm is still attached to his body — will rejoin the starting rotation. Yes, you heard me. No rehabilitation assignment.
“We talked to Jeff and gave him his options and let him do what he wants to do,” Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said.
The team had little choice in that regard, since it cannot force Weaver to go out on a rehab assignment. So, they were in a bit of a corner there. Here’s where my sympathy starts to wane, though, when Hargrove — speaking on behalf of the organization, we think — denied there was any type of “animosity” between the team and the pitcher. First off, nobody in the media that I know of ever used that word. There certainly seemed to be a serious difference of opinion. Or maybe the team really does want to be forced to take a pitcher out of the rotation next week, or keep one on the DL, in order to replace him with a guy who was 0-6 with a 14.32 ERA and hasn’t pitched competitively in a month? Just guessing.
“He wanted to do it one way and I felt the other way was just as good,” Hargrove said.
In the manager’s words, though, it really doesn’t matter because this was all about getting Weaver’s pitch count up. Now, here’s why I say that I think Hargrove is speaking more for the organization than himself. Because 24 hours ago, Hargrove explained his reasoning for why he wanted to send Weaver out on a rehab assignment.
“He hasn’t pitched competitively in three weeks,” Hargrove said. “It’s just to see how he’ll do in different game situations.”
Hmm, nothing there about pitch counts. In fact, the pitch count argument was Weaver’s and not the team’s.
“It’s not necessary for me right now,” Weaver said yesterday of a rehab assignment. “I’m more or less recovered and I feel strong. My pitch count is already there. It’s not like I have to start all over and build back up to it. It’s there already.”
I asked Hargrove moments ago whether he was still worried about the fact Weaver hasn’t pitched in a competitive situation in three weeks (his words of yesterday, not mine).
“No, not really,” he said.
Must have been some simulated game Weaver pitched on Tuesday.
Even with the abrupt about-face by the team, which is exactly what this is, no matter what spin is attempted, Ryan Feierabend gets one more start on Sunday. Hargrove said today that Feierabend was always going to start on Sunday. That may be so, but when asked about it after Tuesday’s game, he had refused to confirm this to be the case. The reason? Rhymes with Beaver Cleaver.
So, who comes out of the rotation? Early odds say it’s Horacio Ramirez, still on the DL. Or, if Feierabend gets smacked around on Sunday, the team can always use that as an excuse to send him back to Class AAA. Cha Seung Baek? Can’t see why, if winning is still a priority. Not our decision. We just get to comment on it. As I wrote earlier, I like Hargrove and believe he’s a man of integrity. Just don’t think he’s in complete control of this situation, nor is his boss, GM Bill Bavasi. Otherwise, the story wouldn’t change so much in a 24-hour span.
Hargrove said that, yes, he did sit Sexson partially because of his numbers against the other Weaver (it’s all Weaver all the time tonight). But “it has mainly to do with (the fact) Richie’s swinging the bat well right now. And given his numbers against Weaver, I don’t want to do anything right now to set him back.”
Guillen gets moved to cleanup and Ibanez to No. 3 to split up the left bats in the order.
Just read what “Nuss” posted on his blog. Very interesting. Could not have said it better myself. Don’t think I did. What can I say? Great minds think alike? Or, perhaps it’s that this isn’t rocket science. Tonight’s game is a big one and you can tell people that 10 different ways and it all sounds the same. I’m sure “Tictac” was just being funny, but for those of you without a sense of humor, rest assured, I’ve never had to borrow anyone else’s work. Got too much original material just floating around in my head. Besides, what else could we write about today?
Richie Sexson is out of the lineup tonight, Ben Broussard in, taking his fifth spot. The reason? Well, we haven’t spoken to Mike Hargrove yet but my educated guess would be that Sexson is 0-for-9 with four strikeouts lifetime against Jered Weaver. Broussard is 4-for-9 with a double and an RBI.
Jose Guillen bats clean-up tonight, with Raul Ibanez hitting third. Interesting.
You know what? I kind of like the fact this team has to play so many days in a row. It’s been forcing Hargrove to rest players and make lineup alterations when he otherwise might not have. I think he’s a better manager for it and like the job he’s done with the team this season — especially his handling of the bullpen.
To answer a quibble from “Al” I’m not sure I follow. Cha Seung Baek replaced Felix Hernandez for four starts and the M’s won all four games. So, Hernandez or not, the team would not do better had he been in.
Baek has since taken two of Weaver’s outings and is 1-1. Doesn’t mean he’d have beaten the same clubs had he replaced Weaver when the latter was going 0-6. You can’t do things that way. We know how he did when directly replacing Hernandez. We can imagine, but never be sure how he’d have hypothetically done had he replaced Weaver in those six lost games. We have no way of knowing.
Now, if “Nuss” goes out and posts a blog on this exact same topic, I don’t want to know about it (LOL!).
The lineups:
LF Reggie Willits
SS Orlando Cabrera
RF Vladimir Guerrero
CF Gary Matthews Jr.
1B Casey Kotchman
2B Howie Kendrick
C Mike Napoli
DH Shea Hillenbrand
3B Erick Aybar
RHP Jered Weaver
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Jose Guillen
1B Ben Broussard
C Kenji Johjima
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
RHP Felix Hernandez



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