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June 14, 2007 at 4:46 PM

Always To-Morrow

Yes, there will be another day for the Mariners to rectify their first two-game losing streak since dropping both games at the end of that series in Anaheim late last month. The big concern after this game was whether Brandon Morrow is an example of this bullpen starting to burn out.
As a number of you have pointed out, both in the comments thread and in emails to me, walks have plagued Morrow all season. His electrifying arm has bailed him out to this point, but not today. The Mariners lost 5-4 after taking a 4-3 lead into that eighth inning, which began with Morrow walking the first two batters he faced.
Now, in defense of the burnout theory, Morrow has walked seven batters in his last 2 2/3 innings (a span of three games). That’s a bigger rate than the 28 walks allowed in 25 1/3 innings all season.
Then again, four of those walks came in one of the games, so I’m not sure it’s a big enough sample size to draw from. I asked Morrow if he’s tiring out and he said no. Big surprise there. Find me a reliever who will admit to that.
“I’ve just been walking too many people,” Morrow said. “And today was the first time where it came and got me.”
But when I asked Mike Hargrove the same question, he gave me a more-detailed argument that lends support to the “not burning out” theory.
A pitcher wearing down, he said, shows telltale signs.
“The first thing is, he gets up in the strike zone,” Hargrove said. “He (Morrow) wasn’t getting up in the strike zone.”
That’s true. He was simply missing the zone. By a microscopic bit in some cases, by a huge margin in others. At first, I wondered whether or not plate umpire Tim McClelland was giving a little payback to the Mariners for that bumping incident with Jose Guillen. You hate to think that, but McClelland’s strike zone seemed to shift away from what he’d been calling earlier in the game.
It was only on a handful of pitches. But those could be huge for a young pitcher. You hate to think that about any umpire, especially a veteran like McClelland. But these guys are human. And McClelland’s reaction to Jose Guillen was seriously unprofessional — and very human — to say the least.
But Morrow wasn’t buying that as an excuse.
“Yeah, borderline,” he said of a couple of the pitches. “But when you throw the other ones a foot and a half out of the strike zone, they don’t give you those. I mean, it doesn’t really matter.”
I guess it really doesn’t matter. Sure, the Mariners could have won this game. But when you get only three hits all day and are one botched double-play ball fromn being shut out, you probably don’t deserve the victory. Yes, the M’s needed this one because they have again fallen five back of the victorious Angels. Of more concern, they are now tied with that A’s club that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Yes, Jeff Weaver recovered nicely from that first inning and produced six innings and his first “quality start” of the year.
“Every start’s important,” he said. “I’m trying to win ballgames for the club. When you come back from the (disabled list) layoff, obviously you want to see some results right away. You’ve seen that. I think I’ve felt better each time since then.”
Coming after Miguel Batista’s seven-inning outing, it was all very welcome. But this team still needs somebody to go eight or nine at some point as well. Or seven innings more frequently. This bullpen can no longer withstand three inning workloads seven days out of seven. Can’t happen, no matter how many bare minimum “quality starts” are achieved. But Weaver’s outing still ended better than it began.
Here’s some news: Ryan Feierabend will be activated tomorrow in Houston and used in long relief. Jake Woods was optioned back to Class AAA after the game. No, Woods is not happy. But he kept his mouth shut about it, which bodes better for him in the long run.
Guillen could not believe the whole mess with McClelland, who accused him of trying to run him over on that play at the plate. Accused him several, finger-pointing times.
“He said ‘You pushed me!'” Guillen said afterwards. “I didn’t intentionally push him…my head was down, I kept running hard. I put my head up and he was right there.”
“He can think whatever he wants to think,” Guillen added. “He’s one of the veterans in this game. He’s a pretty good one. But that’s the last thing I intended to do. How old is he? Sixty-something? I’m thirty? I don’t think I would do that.”
So, the Mariners fail to pull off what really would have been a steal of a win here. Losing this series was not what they had in mind after that 5-0 start to the road trip. But you know what? They are going up against a really bad Houston club right now. The Cubs, despite their record, aren’t a horrible team and do have good pitching. They aren’t a great team, as evidenced by Seattle nearly winning this one despite being outplayed throughout.
But if the M’s can almost sweep this series, losing on an error last night and some walks today, then doing something big in Houston is not out of the question. Let’s just see how the bullpen holds up and whether or not Hargrove is right or wrong about burnout. The Mariners had been 30-0 when leading after seven innings. Not any more. And there remains a whole lot of baseball to still be played, with the Angels not letting up and the A’s now kicking it into gear.



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