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

July 8, 2007 at 6:32 PM

Fighting M’s kick some A’s

What an end to a thrilling first half by the Mariners. When we entered this two-week stretch before the All-Star Break, I wrote that it would determine whether this team stood on the “buyer” or “seller” side to the run-up towards the July 31 trade deadline. The Mariners are not only “buyers” they’ve become contenders for first place in both the AL West and wild-card standings.
The Angels are in an unforeseen tailspin, while the Mariners have embarked on an incredible 14-4 run ever since that six-game losing streak came to an end. They are a season-high 13 games over .500 and “We are the Champions!” by Queen was playing in the visitors’ clubhouse after the game. Among other tunes. But it was a victorious feeling in there, the M’s having taken three of four here and knocked the Oakland A’s to the brink of being out of it.
All the talk, naturally, was about the brawl. And Jason Ellison wasn’t backing down an inch over what transpired between him and Joe Blanton.
“He came over and pushed Ichiro and said something he shouldn’t have said,” Ellison said, declining to elaborate on the words Blanton used. “That fired me up, I pushed him back and things kind of went on from there.
“You’ve got to stand up for your teammates,” Ellison said. “Ichiro’s not going to say anything, obviously.”
Ellison later joked: “I didn’t realize how big he was or I would have thought twice.”
Ichiro was glad that Ellison stood up for him.
“I felt helped out in that type of a situation,” he said through an interpreter. “We haven’t had a team playing like this for three years and now that we are playing well, it feels like this team is kind of mending together. And I think that was kind of an example of that.”
Ichiro didn’t blame Blanton for shoving him out of the way. I thought Blanton was taking out some of his frustrations on Ichiro, having allowed a career high dozen hits. Ichiro sensed some of that as well, but understands why everything happened the way it did. He thanked Ellison for having his back.
The Ellison audio is no good because there’s too much music blaring in the background. It was cranked up real loud, understandably, after such a big win. Ichiro, a reader of the blog, likes it when I tell him beforehand that I’m going to use his audio and I simply didn’t have time today. So, no clips from either guy. Sorry.
For his part, Blanton said he harbored no ill feelings towards anyone for what took place. The only thing that turned him off, he said, was all the yapping coming from Seattle’s side. Blanton also appeared to make a crotch-grabbing gesture towards the Mariners players and was doing quite a bit of shouting himself once he was safely behind his teammates and coaches.
Blanton said he was “just going after the ball” and that there were “a lot of guys just standing around.
“I hit somebody and I’m not even sure what happened after that,” he said. “It just kind of developed.”
Raul Ibanez also couldn’t see what was happening from his vantage point on third base. He might have been able to score had he tried, but simply ran in to help his teammates.
Miguel Batista was so irate because he didn’t know why he got thrown out. He was trying to go after the umpires, not Blanton, when restrained. It turns out the umpires had seen somebody jump a barrier between the visiting clubhouse tunnel and the field to enter the fray. They didn’t know who it was and told manager John McLaren they were going to throw Ichiro out of the game unless he gave them a name of another player.
McLaren gave them Batista’s name, knowing he wasn’t going to be used in any event during the game. Didn’t have time to fill Batista in on his little plan. That’s why Batista went wild. The A’s didn’t have much fight left in them after the brawl. Seattle cruised to the 7-3 win from there.
The big moment is the game? Well, other than Ibanez cashing in three runs to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead, how about Eric O’Flaherty pitching out of that bases loaded, none out jam in the fifth?
“The storyline on the game for me was O’Flaherty,” McLaren said. “I mean, that was huge, huge. He’s been spectacular for us.”
O’Flaherty didn’t get the win to improve to 7-0, but he might as well have.
“I knew once I did that, the way we’ve been playing, that we were going to come back,” O’Flaherty said.
Hear some O’Flaherty audiohere.
Jose Guillen gave some funny answers when asked whether he was afraid somebody was going to throw at him when he stepped to the plate once play resumed.
“Hey, you’ve got the wrong guy,” he told the offending questioner. “I’m not afraid of anybody.”
Listen to Guillen here. He’s a funny guy. A few of us thought he was the one who triggered the whole thing, since he’d been stading around the plate are. When we realized it was Ellison wrestling Blanton, we all did double-takes. “You can’t blame me,” Guillen had said, humorously, as reporters approached his locker. “I had nothing to do with it.”
This is how a team contends. By beating other wannabe contenders. Seattle has effectively knocked Toronto and Oakland out of the race in back-to-back weekends. Also swept the Boston Red Sox, who haven’t seemed the same since. This bodes very well for the so-called “second half” of the season. Time for all of us, the team, you, me, to take a much-needed breath or two over the next few days.
I’m out of breath, sititng in the San Francisco Airport. Because of all the brawl reporting that had to be done, I was late getting the train to the airport for the hour-long ride from the ballpark. Had I done it, I’d have been cutting my flight really close. So, I hopped off after 15 minutes in downtown San Francisco, hailed a cab, sped 20 minutes to the airport and am now at the gate. Had time to bang this out on the train and in the cab too. What a week! But this is a fun team to cover. Jason Ellison getting four hits and starting a brawl? Now I’ve seen it all.

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