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

June 4, 2007 at 7:40 PM

Mariners vs. Orioles, Game 1

So, the Baltimore bullpen just blew another late lead. This has been a real issue for the club of late. The O’s were only 20-6 when leading after seven innings heading into the game. The M’s, by contrast, are 27-0. Chad Bradford nearly made it through the eighth for Baltimore, getting two outs before allowing a pair of singles. Jose Vidro then came on to pinch-hit against John Parrish, worked the count to 3-1, then delivered a chopper up the middle that resulted in an infield single that tied the game 4-4. Ichiro then laced a double to left that gave Seattle its first lead of the night.
The Mariners had been 0-25 when down after eight. Good thing they scored when they had the chance. Then again, they’d been only 1-23 when down after seven, so they’ve done something quite unusual here.
Whoever loses this game is going to wind up feeling awfully frustrated. The Mariners, for doing nothing in the fourth inning after putting two on with none out and getting runners to the corners with one out. The Orioles, for what they did in the sixth inning with two on, two out and Miguel Tejada at the plate. The inning ended in comical fashion, with lead runner Brian Roberts breaking for third on the front end of what looked to be a double-steal, then stopping halfway to the bag. Trail runner Nick Markakis didn’t stop until he was about two feet from second, leaving Roberts nowhere to run back to as catcher Kenji Johjima forced him into an inning-ending rundown. Not good baseball. Especially with a guy like Tejada at the plate in a one-run game. Why even think of stealing at that point? I know it gets you an extra man in scoring position, but was the risk worth it? Johjima has a good arm.
If the Mariners come back and win this game, they can thank their defense. Jason Ellison’s first-inning catch in center may have saved a run and Yuniesky Betancourt is looking like his old self at shortstop again tonight. If he played like he did last week, Seattle might be down three or four. Not tonight.
Hernandez made it through 5 2/3 innings, threw 106 pitches, notched his 300th career strikeout. But he’s not his old self. More control issues, despite the fact he landed nearly 70 per cent of his pitches for strikes. It wasn’t the strike zone that was the problem, it was how high up in it his pitches were early. The coaching staff has to drill it into his head between outings. Keep the ball down.
To answer a question from the comments thread, Jose Vidro is out because he has a bone bruise in his finger and the team doesn’t want to rush him back too quickly. He’d also appeared in 26 straight games before the last two and Mike Hargrove figured he could use the added rest. Could be back in tomorrow night.
Felix Hernandez continues to give up a hit per inning, but at least he’s kept the Baltimore Orioles off the scoreboard since the second. Erik Bedard has yet to blank the M’s in any inning, but Seattle still trails, 4-3, heading into the bottom of the fourth. Hernandez is back to getting some ground ball outs for a change. He’d managed three in the first two innings, but had three in the fourth inning alone. Of course, he also yielded his fourth double of the game in that fourth inning. Not the kind of pace a pitcher wants to be on.
He’s also at 80 pitches through four innings, so pitch count is very much an issue and it looks doubtful Hernandez will go six innings in this one. Probably five and change, unless he gets hit hard in the fifth.
On the bright side, Bedard has been terrible. Just gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth and second baseman Brian Roberts just muffed a routine grounder to put two on with nobody out.
So, that’s eight hits apiece given up by the starters and we’re not even through four innings yet. Not quite the mound duel expected, huh?
We’re not even two full innings into this game and already there’s been plenty of bad news on the Felix Hernandez front. No, he isn’t hurt. He’s just pitching like he’s regressed a year. Keeps leaving balls up in the zone and they are getting rocked. Four runs across already for a Baltimore Orioles offense — leading the M’s 4-2 — that had been having trouble scoring.
Hernandez gave up a leadoff double in the first inning to Brian Roberts on an 0-2 pitch he left above the belt buckle. Another run might have scored that inning had Jason Ellison not raced down a screaming liner to the warning track by Miguel Tejada with a runner on. Yes, Ellison is in center tonight. Ichiro is getting a “night off” as a DH. Doing a good job of it too, taking the first pitch of the game by Erik Bedard — fellow Canadian — over the wall in right center. That tied the game and briefly got Hernandez off the hook.
But he promptly went out and allowed three more runs in the second. Two of them would not have scored had Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez managed to turn a double play on that Jay Payton grounder. But Payton hustled quickly up the line and beat out Lopez’s throw to first., allowing one run to score. Nick Markakis then ripped a Hernandez pitch into right field to make it a 4-1 game.
No, I’m not going to tell Lopez how to shift the ball from his glove to his throwing hand on double-play pivots. And he’ll probably do me the favor of not telling me how to go about writing ledes to my game stories. It’s for him to figure out, not for me to be offering help. But I will try to ask some questions about the double-play situation in coming days, how’s that?
The only saving grace for Hernandez is that Bedard is having another of the off nights he tends to have (preventing him from being an “ace”) rather frequently. He’s allowed five hits already, including three straight singles in the bottom of the second to get the Mariners back within two runs. Betancourt had one of the singles and is now riding a major-league-high 16-game hitting streak.
Could be a long night.
Adrian Beltre gets another night to rest his thumb and then could be back in the lineup tomorrow. Jose Vidro also gets one more night’s rest with Ichiro as the DH. By the way, while the good folks on TV at FSN keep saying Bedard is from Ottawa, he’s not. He’s from the pimple-sized town of Navan, Ont., near Ottawa, but not quite there. Bedard and the folks who live in Navan are kind of proud of his humble roots.
Here are the lineups:
2B Brian Robers
LF Jay Payton
RF Nick Markakis
SS Miguel Tejada
1B Kevin Millar
DH Aubrey Huff
3B Melvin Mora
C Ramon Hernandez
CF Corey Patterson
LHP Erik Bedard
DH Ichiro
2B Jose Lopez
RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
C Kenji Johjima
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Willie Bloomquist
CF Jason Ellison
RHP Felix Hernandez



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