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July 4, 2007 at 7:39 PM

M’s now 3 1/2 out

I was wrong in that John McLaren did let Jarrod Washburn head back out to start the ninth on 108 pitches. Didn’t look like that great a move when Esteban German smashed a ball up the middle for a single and Mark Teahen followed with a walk on the 115th pitch of the night by the lefty.
In came J.J. Putz and, well, you know the rest. A fielder’s choice and a 4-6-3 double-play — on two pitches at that.
This was a well-timed 4-0 win that spares Seattle from having to face four tough starters in Oakland on the heels of a three-game losing streak. With the Angels losing in Texas, the M’s actually picked up a half-game over-all despite dropping two of three here.
And don’t think sending Washburn out in the ninth was a wasted effort. This is the kind of stuff pitchers remember down the road.
“I love that,” Washburn said. “It gives me confidence. You’re not looking over your shoulder out there on the mound. If you’re going well, you feel like you’re going to be out there until you run out of gas.”
Hear the rest of what Washburn had to say about McLaren right here.
We were all over Washburn during that losing streak and justifiably so. But lately, he has delivered when the team needed it. That series-opening win over the Toronto Blue Jays last Friday set the tone for another surprising sweep. Washburn could have gone longer in that game, but Mike Hargrove pulled him after six.
It was a different story this time.
“I told these starters in my first meeting that I had confidence in them and was going to let them pitch,” McLaren said. “Washburn came straight to me and said ‘I’ve got a lot left.’ He pitched good in the eighth inning and that’s why he went back out there in the ninth.”
McLaren got a post-game beer shower to celebrate his first win since taking over for Hargrove on Monday. Richie Sexson actually gave him a plastic sheet to cover himself and McLaren was allowed to remove his cap, glasses and a sling his arm has been in since shoulder surgery last week. He also got the game ball, lineup card and a bottle of Dom Perignon autographed by the entire team.
“It was emotional for me because we needed a win,” McLaren said. “Of course I wanted my first win, but we needed to win as a team. We went through a shock as a team, myself included, when Grover stepped down. We needed a pick me up. We lost a tough game that first night and (Tuesday) night we got beat hard. They beat us up.
“So, we needed a win in the worst way as a team and we got it.”
The only thing not perfect?
“I only brought one pair of shoes this trip,” McLaren said, his current pair doused in beer.
Hear McLaren’s post-game chat on this audio clip.
This was a big-time effort by Washburn, who seems to enjoy pitching against the Royals, having dominated them here back in late-May. He’s now 6-1 lifetime at Kauffman Stadium. Given the way the pitching is slotted against Seattle in Oakland, the M’s could not afford to lose this game. The offense pounded out 10 hits, but really did very little after the first inning.
That left it to Washburn to hold the four-run effort for the entire nine innings, which he did until leaving two batters into the ninth. This was not a particularly good effort by the M’s from a situational hitting perspective, especially the two double-plays hit into by Jose Lopez. The one in the eighth inning hurt, with the Mariners putting runners at the corners with none out only to see Adrian Beltre get caught leaning off third base for that hard smash right at third baseman Alex Gordon. That began a 5-5-3 double-play that ended the inning.
The missed chance loomed large in the bottom of the ninth, when the first two Royals. But Putz came in to record his 24th save in 24 tries and McLaren gets his first managerial win as a full-timer.
“It was great getting him his first win,” Putz said. “Everything in baseball, your first is always special. Like your first hit, first win, first save, first homer. Everything’s about a first.”
It also gets that nagging question off everybody’s mind about “When’s he going to get a win?” In this case, the three days it took wasn’t really long enough to warrant any concern. And now, the team can focus on the really important stuff. Like this tough series looming in Oakland. The A’s are now, believe it or not, 4 1/2 games behind Seattle. The Mariners can really put some distance between the clubs with a series victory.
Got to run. An early flight to the Bay Area, via Minneapolis tomorrow.

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