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

July 7, 2007 at 12:51 PM

Mariners vs. Oakland, Game 3

Hey “Alex”, hey “Alex”, hey “Alex’…just kidding. Hit the post button only once please. Why aren’t they trading Richie Sexson? Perhaps his .210 batting average and eight-figure salary? Sexson has to go on a tear before anyone will give up something serious for him.
I just got saved by a bloop single to right by Mark Ellis in the fifth because I was about to inform you that Felix Hernandez had a no-hitter through five. I know some of you don’t like to jinx a pitcher like that, but it’s my job to tell you what’s happening, especially in a non-televised game, not help the players with superstitious behavior. That stuff went out of fashion in modern sports journalism when we stopped wearing fedora hats.
Anyway, now I don’t have to worry. Hernandez looks great and he has to because it’s still only a 4-0 game in the sixth inning. Seattle had a great chance in the fifth, loading the bases with one out and Adrian Beltre up. But the M’s couldn’t produce the add-on runs this time as Beltre struck out and Yuniesky Betancourt popped out.
But the way Hernandez looks, four runs could very well be enough.
HARDEN OUT ALREADY
An unusually good job by the Mariners here today of working the count against Rich Harden. He was on a pitch count of 60-65 and has now been pulled at 66 pitches just two outs into the third inning. A’s are going to Lenny DiNardo, the originally-scheduled starter for today’s game. Seattle has two on with two out and a 4-0 lead here in the third. Jose Vidro made up somewhat for that earlier double play by blooping a single in front of right fielder Nick Swisher to start this inning. Raul Ibanez then doubled and Vidro scored on a groundout.
DiNardo just fanned Yuniesky Betancourt to end the inning. But Harden is done before the fourth. The Mariners are a long way towards winning this game.
Felix Hernandez has allowed just one walk the first two innings. He threw more breaking stuff than usual early on. It seemed to work. No first inning troubles for him in this game and that’s always big for this rotation.
ROTATION STUFF POST-GAME
Just about to get underway here. The Mariners took batting practice in indoor cages again today as they try to do all they can to give the players added rest so they don’t stumble into the All-Star Break. To answer your question “Mark” I tried to pry the rotation out of John McLaren in the dugout pre-game, using some of my trick question techniques. He didn’t buy into it, but congratulated me on the effort. The M’s like keeping their secrets and will keep this one until after the game for reasons that escape most of us. Pitching coach Rafael Chaves was telling the starters before the game how the rotation is going to break down, so only the M’s know why it has to be kept secret for three more hours. Maybe they’re thinking of demoting Felix Hernandez to Class AAA if he has a bad outing today? Don’t worry, that was a joke, people, I’m not being serious.
Anyway, McLaren did say that he’s only going to give us the four starters for the upcoming Detroit series, hardly a surprise since Ryan Feierabend (the de facto fifth starter) is likely headed back to Class AAA after the break unless he throws a no-hitter tomorrow. So, we’ll get just four names. As you know, they will be Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver and Miguel Batista in no particular order. Well, there is an order. It’s already been set. But the M’s love their secrets. I love chocolate chip cookies and the M’s let me have those in the pressbox dining room so I guess I’ll allow them this one little pleasure without further comment.
McLaren did talk more about using his bench during the second half. He wants his backups to see action roughly two times per week each in a variety of roles. That includes backup catcher Jamie Burke, who will automatically start the standard day game after a night game for the rest of the year. Burke might also play twice a week more that usual the rest of the way, with the team ever mindful of the workload on regular Kenji Johjima. Burke has shown he can play without being a liability offensively the way Rene Rivera was in 2006 and he works well with the pitching staff.
Rich Harden is on the mound for Oakland with a pitch count limit of 60-65. The Mariners just made him throw 19 in the first inning. Might have had more if not for — you guessed it — the 15th double-play of the year grounded into by Jose Vidro (the standard 4-6-3). So, we’re scoreless heading into the bottom of the first. Despite the double-play, Seattle is on-pace to knock Harden out by the fourth inning, so that’s already a positive devleopment even without a run scoring.
Someone, I think it was “Sammy”, commented on relievers being an easily acquired commodity. While that was the common “Moneyball” premise, I don’t think it holds true today. There have been countless team executives groaning about relievers being a truly scarce commodity heading into the trade deadline season. While, yes, some teams have developed a crop of talented relievers — including the Mariners — I think it’s a stretch to say finding them is “easy”.
The M’s found Brandon Morrow with a top draft pick. J.J. Putz took years to develop before he became a closer. George Sherrill was a true diamond in the rough, yes, I’ll agree with that. But I think what has helped the Mariners find guys who have become successful relievers is that they tend to look for hard throwers. There are not a whole lot of finesse guys in this bullpen. You look at the next tier of guys ready to join this bullpen, the Mark Lowes and the Jon Hubers of the world and they all know how to bring it. Same with Morrow. Rafael Soriano last year. These guys bring out the heat.
We noticed that in Toronto last year. We were all very impressed with all of the young, hard throwers Seattle had. You put those guys on a mound and they can get away with a lot of mistakes. Heat does that for you. Give them some experience, let them learn how to pitch and they become even better. But not every organization has successfully gathered hard throwers as well as the M’s have. Might make it look like an easier thing to do than it is.
I have a pretty good feeling that Julio Mateo is on the trade block. In this type of a market, even with his legal woes, the Mariners will likely be able to get something for him. If he was going to pitch here again, he’d have been called up already.
Someone else asked me whether I have a meal allowance. No, just a regular expense account. We pay to dine in stadium press dining rooms and it’s usually a decent hot meal with a soup and salad bar. Better than eating concessions stand food. Usually. Oakland’s food might be the exception to that rule. OK, it’s now the second inning and Adrian Beltre just hit a three-run homer off Harden after two inning-opening walks. Wow. My sources here in Oakland tell me the A’s will likely begin wheeling and dealing some players away if they lose three of four in this series. Forget about a second-half run. They will unofficially be calling it a day if they lose more ground to the Mariners. Now, sometimes teams go on a big roll after that in spite of their management. But that’s what I’m hearing. If the A’s lose this series, they will not be deadline “buyers” like the Mariners.
Hello “Resin” — nobody is saying anything about a nine-rookie lineup. Loved Andruw Jones in 1996, but that was one rookie. I’m saying that if you put more than two in any lineup, you’re asking for trouble.
Not much else to update you on. It was a short night. Richie Sexson and Jose Lopez are back in there.
OAKLAND (44-42)
LF Shannon Stewart
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Nick Swisher
DH Jack Cust
3B Eric Chavez
1B Dan Johnson
2B Mark Ellis
SS Bobby Crosby
C Jason Kendall
RHP Rich Harden
SEATTLE (47-36)
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Jose Guillen
1B Richie Sexson
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez
C Jamie Burke
RHP Felix Hernandez
UMPIRES
HP Marty Foster
1B Travis Reininger
2B Ted Barrett
3B Tim McClelland (crew chief)

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