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June 26, 2007 at 8:23 PM

Mariners vs. Red Sox, Game 2

Told you this wouldn’t be easy. Who wasn’t feeling the hairs curl on the back of their neck as George Sherrill struck out David Ortiz in the eighth? Yes, the Red Sox did score a run when Kevin Youkilis hit a sacrifice fly to center. But the big runner was the one at first base, who was stranded when J.J. Putz got J.D. Drew to bounce out.
Putz will need a five-out save tonight. He’s got the bottom of the order coming up in the ninth, so the odds are slightly in his favor. Opponents entered tonight hitting just .135 off him. Notching a five-out save against this Boston club, if he can pull it off and go 22 for 22, is a big reason Putz should be headed for the all-star game. What a night this has turned into! Seattle holds an 8-7 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. Some insurance runs here would be quite a boost for Putz.
SEXSON HOMERS AGAIN
You know, it’s funny, I was just leaning over to colleague Larry Stone and telling him how Mike Hargrove had to pull Felix Hernandez and bring in Eric O’Flaherty to face David Ortiz in that sixth inning. Hargrove did just that, so what does Ortiz do? Hits a game-tying single to left. Sure, O’Flaherty jammed him, but it didn’t matter.
Oh well, it really didn’t matter because Richie Sexson just hit a two-run homer to right field before I could start typing another paragraph. What a game. Make it 8-6 for Seattle, still in the bottom of the sixth, with O’Flaherty now in-line to “vulture” another win and improve to 5-0 on the season.
Hernandez just didn’t make me comfortable facing Ortiz in that situation. He’d already yielded 11 hits and six runs — five earned — and was very fortunate not to have surrendered more. Lopez saved at least one run with a great diving snare of a line drive and some poor situational hitting by Boston ended some other rallies far earlier than they should have. As I’ve mentioned before, the Red Sox aren’t the Pirates. But the M’s still have a chance to win this game, up by two with three innings to go. It won’t be pretty, but style points don’t count any more. Seattle needs some wins. Yes, they could pick up a game on the Angels, down by four in the eighth. That will leave the M’s “only” six games behind a team they trailed by 5 1/2 games a month ago. See my point? The Angels aren’t exactly shaking. More importantly, a win keeps the M’s only three back of Cleveland and helps them pick up a game on Toronto and Oakland.
Also helps them win a series against the Red Sox. Not to shabby in light of the down moments experienced in recent weeks. But they have to hang on first. The way this game’s gone, nothing is guaranteed.
CHANCES BLOWN EARLY
Not quite sure what to make of this game so far. Both teams have gone out of their way to squander chances through the first 3 1/2 innings. It’s now 4-2, Seattle in the lead. Could be about 8-2 by now. Or it could be 7-4 for the Red Sox. The first inning was likely the worst we’ve seen all year in terms of pitching quality, clutch hitting and defense. The lone exception would be the inning-ending double-play turned by Adrian Beltre on that Mike Lowell grounder to help Felix Hernandez escape that opneing frame. Boston had loaded the bases with none out with a run already across, but could score no more.
Seattle then scored three runs in the bottom of the inning with only one hit — a single — to show for themselves. That’s because Red Sox pitcher Kason Gabbard all-but-self-destructed in a 42-pitch inning that saw him walk four batters and hit another with a pitch. All three runs Seattle scored came without a hit. That’s five runs in two games scored that way. When that happens, a team will most likely win.
The only reason Gabbard got out of the first inning is because Yuniesky Betancourt hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Gabbard is still in the game in the fourth, but will likely be done by the fifth. His pitch count is too high, already at 80, and Seattle has runners at second and third with none out.
Cleveland came back with five in the ninth to beat Oakland, if you can believe that. So, the M’s need this game to keep pace with the Indians and put some healthy distance between them and the A’s. I see the discussion going on about Jose Vidro and I have to say that, .300 batting average or not, his lack of power and double-play vulnerability is becoming a serious liability. Time to move him lower down in the order once Raul Ibanez returns. You can’t have a DH with an on-base-plus slugging percentage lower than .700 (he’s at .708). Those 13 double-plays he’s hit into leave him tied for third most in the AL.
But the Mariners are winning. Take this one and a sweep is possible tomorrow. Did anyone envision them doing that? This Boston lineup, by the way, undergoes a severe talent dropoff after the No. 6 hitter. Not as scary as some other lineups I’ve seen this year. Alex Cora truly killed that last inning for the Bosox by swinging at the first pitch from Hernandez after he’d walked Eric Hinske to put two on with none out. Cora tapped lightly into a textbook 4-4-3 double-play, which got Hernandez off the hook big-time. That kind of stuff drives managers crazy. Helps the other manager, this one being Mike Hargrove, wipe some sweat off his brow.
This game isn’t over yet. Sit back and enjoy the wild ride.

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