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July 25, 2007 at 5:11 PM

Putz blows save, game

J.J. Putz just saw his saves streak vanish in style on a two-run homer to right field by former Mariner Ramon Vazquez here in the eighth. Putz had saved 29 of 29 before giving up the jack. That put his team behind 7-6 in the eighth and the Mariners went 1-2-3 in the ninth to lose their sixth in a row. What a stunning turn of events here, but you knew the streak couldn’t last forever. Terrible timing.
Adrian Beltre comes through with his third double of the game, bringing in two runs to tie it, while Raul Ibanez then doubles him home to put Seattle up 6-5 here in the eighth.
Fortunately for the M’s, this inning shows why Ron Washington is very fortunate to still be employed as manager of the Rangers. Why on earth would you pitch to Beltre with first base open when you have a hitter doing as poorly as Ibanez has all month in the on-deck circle? Forget the fact that Ibanez did double in his at-bat. Washington had no way of knowing he would do that. Beltre has been smoking the ball tonight. I know Washington didn’t want to put the go-ahead run on, but we could all see what was coming.
But anyway, the M’s will take it. Nobody’s keeping score on style points any more. They need this win in a very bad way. Mark Lowe is up in the bullpen, but I don’t know if he’s going to see any action with his team ahead. Sean Green is coming back out in the bottom of the eighth.
Another chance for the M’s in the eighth inning with one on, one out and pinch-hitter Ben Broussard in to face Joaquin Benoit. Don’t think Eric Gagne is available tonight, so the M’s may still have a shot in the ninth if they can keep the deficit at just two runs, or maybe get one back here. I can’t believe this team is five outs away from being swept by a team this bad in a four-game series. The powers-that-be have some problems that need to be fixed in this lineup. They know what they are. There are only so many times we can all say it…
Broussard doubles off the wall in ledft. Runners at second and third with Ichiro up. Mohwak power for Broussard? This may be Seattle’s final chance.
So, Miguel Batista gives the two runs right back in that fifth inning, but he just got through the sixth. Not sure why he was still out there, pitch count at 92, having been visited by the training staff in the fifth after his pitches started going all over the map. He kept shaking his head at the trainers. What was he saying? “No, I’m not dehydrated” or maybe “The X-Files were on early last night”…Who knows? He got through the sixth, as we mentioned, but the way everyone not named Beltre or Ichiro keeps swinging the bat, that 5-3 deficit is looking rather big. Still three innings to go.
It’s now 4-3 for the Rangers in the bottom of the fifth inning. The M’s had scored twice in the top of the frame to tie it but Miguel Batista just gave a run right back. Seen that twice from him tonight and once from Jarrod Washburn last night. That’s how you lose five or six in a row.
Adrian Beltre and Ichiro are both having good nights at the plate for Seattle, though the latter has looked confused on the basepaths a couple of times. Kenji Johjima looks lost out there, grounding into a double-play and popping out with two runners on his first two times out. Batista is having problems on the mound this inning, walking leadoff batter Ramon Vazquez on four pitches, then uncorcking a pair of wild pitches — around a strikeout — that put him on third. Kenny Lofton then singled to put Texas ahead 4-3 and an ensuing single by Michael Young now has runners at the corners with one out and Mark Teixeira up. Not looking good.
Still scoreless heading into the bottom of the second after Kenji Johjima hits into a double play. Sigh. Miguel Batista got the Rangers 1-2-3 in the first. Let’s see how he does from here. As promised, I asked John McLaren before the game to clarify his stance on not playing for the tie in the ninth when he’s on the road.
Here’s what he told me: “I’m not going to say we’re not ever going to bunt for the tie, but I don’t particularly like to do that,” he said, in this audio clip.
I asked him whether that’s because he doesn’t want to give up a crucial out and he nodded yes. Hear the rest of what he said.
Ever hear of the group Haircut 100? That’s what the visitors’ clubhouse looked like a little earlier this afternoon as the Mariners had their heads buzzcut, one-by-one, including manager John McLaren, the team’s traveling secretary and one of the PR assistants. The only ones who didn’t get the cuts? Bullpen coach Jim Slaton and starting pticher Jeff Weaver. I spoke to Weaver, who was about to depart for Seattle ahead of the team so he can prepare for his start tomorrow night at Safeco Field.
“I’ve got some things I’ve got to accomplish first,” Weaver said about the head shave, adding that he told ringleader J.J. Putz what those goals were and that he’d lose the hair once they were met.
Presumably, the goal is to win tomorrow night’s game.
“When you’ve got a dome like mine and ears like mine, you’ve got to make sure you accomplish some goals before shaving your hair off,” he said with a chuckle.
Ben Broussard is now sporting a mohawk hairdo. Jose Vidro had his head shaved entirely. What a hoot. Vidro, by the way, will be batting fifth tonight for the first time in his career. McLaren felt the need to mix things up in the lineup and has his hottest hitting regular in the RBI spot.
The last holdout amongst players still here in the hair department was Felix Hernandez. Several veterans called out teasignly to him as he resisted getting the shave. “Oh, he will,” lefty reliever George Sherrill said. “It’s either a haircut or two black eyes and a haircut.”
Sherrill may have only been kidding. Putz came up with the idea, calling McLaren last night to tell him about it and ask whether he’d participate. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson both helped out with the cutting and shaving parts. I’m very impressed with Putz, only a third-year regular but acting like a longtime veteran. Several of you have asked me what the mood is like in the clubhouse and I can tell you there was next to no tension in there today.
This “team building exercise” was much better than sitting around and brooding over a five-game losing streak. It went on for an hour, with lots of laughs involved. Afterwards, the players sat around a television set, rooting loudly as the Oakland A’s mounted a three-run comeback in the ninth to tie the Los Angeles Angels. Alas, the A’s still wound up losing, so the M’s are three back in the AL West.
I won’t run through a whole trades forecast now, but I will tell you that those Jose Guillen talks are going to extend into August. The team is expected to make Guillen an offer early in the month and it all should be wrapped up within a week or two if the two sides agree.
I also, after reading repeated demands from you, asked McLaren about his no-bunting/playing for ties in the ninth on the road strategy. I’ll get back to you on that in a few moments, but wanted to post the lineups right now…
TEXAS (45-56)
CF Kenny Lofton
SS Michael Young
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Sammy Sosa
RF Marlon Byrd
LF Frank Catalanotto
C Gerald Laird
2B Ramon Vazquez
3B Travis Metcalf
RHP Brandon McCarthy
CF Ichiro
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Jose Guillen
DH Jose Vidro
1B Richie Sexson
C Kenji Johjima
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RHP Miguel Batista
HP Tim Welke (crew chief)
1B Lance Barksdale
2B Gary Cederstrom
3B Jim Reynolds



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