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June 12, 2007 at 4:43 PM

Mariners vs. Cubs, Game 1

As I was just saying, that whole Bloomquist-Vidro thing was looming rather large. Just kidding. So, Vidro just misses a home run off the ivy-covered wall in left, then scores on a Bloomquist single to right field. Not only that, a chug-chugging Vidro gets thrown out at home by right fielder Jacque Jones, only to see Michael Barrett forget to hold on to the ball as he spun to tag the runner. Nice of Vidro to slide on that play…yeah, right. But anyway, that’s kind of how things have gone for the M’s of late, like that insurance run Jamie Burke just delivered with a rocket that Derrek Lee barely got a glove on to keep it from going down the right field line.
If J.J. Putz can hang on, what a win this will be. What a road trip this already has been. Seattle gets back to three behind the Angels with the victory. In other words, about where they’d have been had they won that series finale in Anaheim two weeks ago. So, they spent two weeks making up for that one game. But at least they’llk have made up for it. They’ll also gain a game on Oakland. Try to settle down. If it’s any consolation, the fans here are simply tearing their hair out over that Barrett drop.
Are we having fun yet? I hope so. The bullpen sure isn’t, nor is Richie Sexson, his average down to .195 as he leads off the 13th inning against Cubs reliever Will Ohman. Oh man! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. A good omen, perhaps? Sorry, again, I couldn’t stop myself. It’s getting late.
Some of the reporters up here are debating Hargrove’s moves as well. The Vidro-Bloomquist thing could come back to haunt them.
What a night by Eric O’Flaherty. Does he get another inning? Looks strong to me. I’d keep him out there. You know, a game like this, can have reprecussions both ways. Win it, and it becomes a rallying point. Lose it? Don’t even want to think about it now. But what an effort by the bullpen.
Excellent outing by Jason Davis in that he kept the ball in the park, Wasn ‘t so sure when I saw a few of those balls jump off Cubs bats, but he did the job. I forgot about Eric O’Flaherty. After he’s used up — and he can likely still go another inning, maybe even two — it’s Jake Woods if there’s a tie and J.J. Putz if there’s a lead. Can the M’s pull this one out? Maybe. The way these teams are swinging, I agree with the comments about a home run deciding this. No sustained rallies since the Cubs botched that chance in the eighth. How huge is that stand by Morrow and Sherrill looking?
How will this bullpen look tomorrow. Very ugly. What a mess. But it will look a lot better with a five-game winning streak. By the way, the Angels lost. This game is a big one. Mariners just went 1-2-3 in the 11th. Let’s see if O’Flaherty can keep them alive.
Jose Vidro, who pinch-hit for Adrian Beltre in that 11th, is now playing second base. Yes, you heard me right. This could be a huge factor in determining the game’s outcome. The Mariners hope not, but that’s a big liability on the right side of the infield. And he’ll be there the rest of the way. I wonder if Beltre hurt his hand on that grounder he bobbled. I assume that’s the case.
Well, we got our answer. It’s Jason Davis on the mound in the ninth. I can hear remote controls across Seattle clicking the game off right now. This is where Davis really needs to make a stand and give his team a chance to win. He has not looked all that impressive since joining the Mariners. After Davis, there’s Jake Woods if this goes extras and J.J. Putz (if he feels up to it) to close if Seattle takes the lead. No, this isn’t pretty. I know some of you thought that leaoff batter Alfonso Soriano just hit a winning home run on that flyout to start this inning.
But he didn’t. Remember, it’s time to breathe. Two outs to go in this inning.
Now you see what happens when a bullpen is shorthanded. To answer some questions I’ve been getting, yes, I was surprised to see Mike Hargrove pull Jarrod Washburn for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. Washburn’s official pitch count was 94 — unlike the Gameday reading of 89 — which means he had quite the stressful inning in the sixth. A 24-pitch stressful inning by my count. Not sure how accurate the Gameday count was prior to that frame. I wonder whether that factored into Hargrove’s decision.
Washburn does tire out in a hurry as the innings get past the fifth, so the coaching staff might have seen something.
If this was strictly a hitting decision, I’d have liked to see Washburn try to bunt the runner over to second and remain in the game. I mean, it wasn’t like the bases were loaded with nobody out. This was Jason Ellison stepping to the plate with a runner on first. Not like he was going to get a pinch-hit homer. I don’t like the move if it’s only about hitting. But I don’t know what Washburn’s state of mind or physical readiness was at that point.
Sean Green got through the seventh, but then had to suck it up in the eighth and got drilled. The tying run was across when he was lifted, but that was a huge out Brandon Morrow got when Ryan Theriot hit into that fielder’s choice out at home.
George Sherrill came on to save the day again. That 3-2 pitch looked inside to me, but Marty Foster has been calling those a strike all night and Sherrill got the call for the second out on pinch-hitter Felix Pie. Sherrill then fanned Mike Fontenot, allowing Mayor Nickels and Mariners fans across the nation to exhale in relief.
Who pitches the ninth? Who knows? Will we see another ninth-inning victory pulled out?
OK, I laid your one question out to Mayor Nickels and no, he won’t be forming a task force to arrest Richie Sexson.
“I think Richie is starting to come around,” Nickels said, still chuckling at the task force suggestion.
“The hitting is just amazing,” he said. “If we get some help from the starters, to take some pressure off the bullpen, we’ll be in great shape.”
Nickels is from Chicago and staying here with his cousins, who visited Safeco Field when the Cubs played an interleague series there in 2002. He’s here wearing a Mariners jersey and cap, sitting behind the visiting team’s bullpen about five rows up along the left field line.
“The fans have been friendly,” he said. “But they’re not so sure what a Mariner is just yet.”
OK, enough with the mayor. On to the game. Jarrod Washburn seems to have figured out the strike zone of plate umpire Marty Foster after that 29-pitch first inning in which he fell behind 2-0. Mariners now lead 3-2 after Washburn himself delivered the go-ahead run with a single. That Yuniesky Betancourt play to end the first inning, barehanding the ball on a tough hop, might be the play of the night. Yes, the pitcher was due up next, but it would have been a 3-0 game with Washburn at 30-plus pitches, so who knows? He’s still on-pace to go seven innings, so cross your fingers. A big break last inning when that line drive was caught by Jose Guillen. Angel Pagan got a terrible read on the ball and was doubled off by a country mile.
This inning will be a huge test for Washburn if he’s to go seven or more. Has to get past Mark DeRoda, leading off the sixth, and then it’s a pretty weak-hitting bottom of the order. A 1-2-3 frame allows him to start next inning off with Cesar Izturis and the pitcher’s spot. Let’s see.
Going to be speaking to our city’s mayor, Greg Nickels, in a few moments. He’s here at the game tonight. Any questions you want me to ask him? Send them in quick. Baseball-related ones would be better.
No big changes to report heading into tonight’s game. The bullpen is still looking shaky. J.J. Putz is feeling slighty under the weather, but could be available if absolutely needed. Brandon Morrow and George Sherrill could also possibly go an inning tops, but likely only a batter or two, if needed. In other words, the Mariners really need Jarrod Washburn to go seven or eight innings.
“Nine innings would be better,” Mariners manager Mike Hargrove quipped. “We need some innings.”
One guy who could be helping the bullpen sooner, rather than later, is Mark Lowe. I know a lot of you were discussing him today, so I’ll update you. Hargrove and the medical staff say he could be back before the all-star break. Seriously. He’s only another week or so from being sent out on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment. Yeah, he wanted to skip it, but Hargrove laid down the law and…no, no, that was just a joke. Lowe knows he needs one. Threw 45 pitches in a bullpen session yesterday and about a half-dozen were sliders — the first time he’s tried that.
Lowe has another bullpen session Thursday, then Sunday. There will be a simulated game or two after that and then the rehab stint. Will he be effective right off the bat for Seattle? Depends on his velocity. It can take time to build that up. But I can envision him being an effective contributor come late-July, early August. So, that’s great news. As long as he isn’t rushed back.
Speaking of which, Chris Reitsma has no structural damage to his elbow. Just the same injury as last time. The team plans to take it slower with his recovery this time, especially in the early stages, when his throwing will be limited.
Hargrove also was quick to douse the whole four-starter idea. Not just in regards to this year’s team. Just about any year at any time.
“Pitchers aren’t trained to go like that,” Hargrove said.
In regards to having to limit pitch counts of starters going on three days’ rest, he added: “You’ve got a lot of organizations that limit all their starters to 100 pitches. It’s tough to get a complete-game out of 100 pitches.”
So, that’s it then. We can keep debating the merits of a four-man rotation instead of five. But it isn’t happening in Seattle this year.
Made for some fine discussions, though.
MAN CRUSH ALERT: Kelvim Escobar has eight strikeouts through three innings for the Angels. Up 2-0. But the Reds now have two on with none out in the fourth.
The lineups:
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Angel Pagan
1B Derrek Lee
C Michael Barrett
3B Mark DeRosa
RF Matt Murton
2B Ryan Theriot
SS Cesar Izturis
LHP Rich Hill
CF Ichiro
2B Jose Lopez
RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
C Kenji Johjhima
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
LHP Jarrod Washburn



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