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July 25, 2007 at 10:02 PM

Aftermath of a disaster

No other way to put it. The Mariners just went 1-6 on a late July trip when they are supposed to be contending for a playoff spot. They lose this game, 7-6, when J.J. Putz gives up a two-run homer to Ramon Vazquez — of all people! — in the eighth to blow his first save since last Sept. 27 against Oakland. He had saved 31 in a row before that, 29 of them this season.
Only the continued woes of the Los Angeles Angels have kept the Mariners remotely close, but some separation is starting to build again. Now at 3 1/2 games and counting. The New York Yankees are just a half game back of Seattle in the wild-card race, having gained six games on the M’s in just six days. That’s incredible.
So, where to go from here. I can remember being in Houston with the team when Seattle lost its fifth of six in a row. I went to talk to Putz afterwards and he implored the fans and media not to give up on the team. The M’s were exhausted at that stage of the season. They don’t have quite the same exhaustion factor going this time and six less weeks of season to turn things around. That last turnaround came quite quickly, mind you.
Putz sees no reason why it can’t happen again. Hear what he thinks the team has to do.
“Just keep playing, keep grinding it out,” he said. “We did the last time and we went on a really nice run. The guys are frustrated too because we’re losing tight ballgames. It’s not like we’re getting our doors blown off.”
Putz isn’t used to getting taken deep or blowing a save. Hasn’t happened in a while. He did fall behind 2-0 to Vazquez, but insisted he wasn’t expecting him to take the fastball that got belted over the right field wall.
“It was a pretty good pitch,” Putz said. “It just didn’t get all the way to the corner (of the plate). He put a good swing on it and got it up in that part of the park.”
Hear that and more of what Putz had to say.
The clubhouse seemed in a state of shock after the game. All the pre-game fun with the haircuts, the eased tension, was replaced by a silence, interrupted on;ly by the sound of suitcases being zipped up.
Miguel Batista said there was no reason to expect what Putz was doing would last forever.
“You can’t expect everything to happen all the time,” Batista said in a clip you can listen to right here. “Look at the fact that for the last three months I’ve been throwing the ball outstanding. This is the first time I’ve given up more than three runs in the game in the last three months.
“And J.J. has been perfect for the whole season. And look what happened.”
Mariners manager John McLaren is now enduring the first crisis of his managerial career. He’s not going anyplace, so those of you calling for his head will have to back off. Don’t forget, he inherited the job mid-season under the most difficult of circumstances. He’s going to make mistakes at times. But he’s coming back next year. Don’t even try to think otherwise. A few weeks ago, many of you were bemoaning Mike Hargrove. You can’t keep trying to run every manager out of town, especially one who has yet to be on the job a month. You lose credibility in your criticism when you are that impatient.
Yes, the season is in big trouble. There were some positive signs tonight, like the 15 hits, Raul Ibanez getting his third double in two nights — and in key situations tonight. Adrian Beltre delivered three big hits. Ichiro came up big at times, not in others. But Richie Sexson is still struggling. Ibanez isn’t out of the woods yet. Kenji Johjima looks awful. The team doesn’t appear to know who its right handed setup man is. Hey, at least this season hasn’t been boring.
McLaren spoke about Putz and some of the positives he saw before the Vazquez blast.
“We need to get out of here,” McLaren said. “It just didn’t work. This is not a good four games right here. We need to get out of here and go on home.”
And I’ve got to run. My plane for Seattle leaves in 6 1/2 hours from now (not a lot of sleep tonight). My father is making a trip to Seattle for the first time since I moved out here. I took him with on a road trip seven years ago but that’s the only time he’s been out there before. Obviously, plenty has changed and I have a lot of prep work to do before his late afternoon arrival from Montreal. Let’s see if the Safeco Field magic cures what ails this team.



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