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August 13, 2007 at 5:25 PM

Mariners vs. Twins, Game 1

Not sure I agree with bringing J.J. Putz into a 3-3 game in the ninth. I guess it’s now a sudden death affair and John McLaren knows there won’t be any save situations. He had Putz warmed up just in case Seattle scored in the eighth, so you might as well use him now is his logic. Relievers hate gettiung warmed up for no reason. I just don’t like seeing closers used in non-save situations if you can avoid it with the stretch run approaching. And the bullpen is rested.
Oh well, the move has been made. Putz just gave up a leadoff single.
Quite the home debut for new reliever John Parrish in the seventh, huh? First pitch goes to the backstop, three pitches later there’s a walk, followed by a single. Nice of the Twins to give Parrish an out via a bunt (I hate that move right there, especially with your leadoff guy up and a struggling pitcher on the mound). Sean Green then gave up a grounder to the right side and a double off the glove of Adam Jones to tie the game.
Both runs are charged to Parrish, who seems to have replaced Richie Sexson as the boo target of choice.
Nice recovery by Jones from winding up in the crowd to throwing out a clueless Joe Mauer at third. What was Mauer thinking? Not sure. There’s a reason the Twins have become a sub-.500 team.
So, a strong effort by Felix Hernandez goes out the window. Maybe if Jose Vidro doesn’t make that early error, Hernandez is out there in the seventh and keeps the lead. Who knows? Hernandez must be feeling robbed when he looks over at Horacio Ramirez’s win totals.
So, we’re in the bottom of the fifth here and Felix Hernandez is clinging to a 3-1 lead, courtesy of Richie Sexson’s two-run double to left center in the first and a Jose Vidro RBI single this frame. The expected pitching duel has materialized. I’m told that Johan Santana has a gouged fingernail that has limited the effectiveness of his slider of late. Some inside info there that I’m sharing with you.
Keeping Sexson in the lineup, as well as Raul Ibanez, has worked so far since the latter had that single ahead of Sexson’s double. And keeping Vidro at second base enables the team to have its hot bats in the lineup while playing Adam Jones in left field. You can’t have it both ways. To get Jones in there, some sacrifices have to be made. Playing Vidro at second is not optimal, but you can’t pull him from the lineup the same day you rest Adrian Beltre.
Vidro at second has had one negative consequence tonight. His first inning error on a routine ground ball will likely result in Hernandez pitching one fewer inning tonight, since he had to throw 31 in the first. Hernandez is now at 101 pitches after only five. Could this — and Vidro at second — impact the game? Possibly. But only if the bullpen fails to get the job done. Vidro, it should be noted, has three hits, singling ahead of Sexson’s first inning double and just driving in the game’s third run for Seattle moments ago.
Like I said, you can’t have things both ways, or the perfect lineup all the time.
NOTE: Plenty of regulars have been emailing in to complain about being banned. Rest assured, it isn’t you. It’s all part of the same software problems we’ve been having for months now. It was supposed to be taken care of back in June, but obviously is still an issue. I’m going to meet with some of our paper’s online folks in coming days to discuss that issue and some others. For now, accept my apologies, please be patient and try to post a few minutes after you get rejected. Usually, it lets you back on fairly quickly.
On to the post…
Talked to Raul Ibanez a few moments ago about winning AL Player of the Week honors and he told me he feels “blessed” given everything he’s been through recently. He’s been working with hitting coach Jeff Pentland at shortening his stride at the plate. How? By taking a golf-like stance in batting practice. Seriously. Ibanez takes a tap step before striding forward when he swings. Pentland now has him taking that tap step, then holding steady when he swings and not striding forward. Or striding forward just a little. In games, he’s allowed to take that forward stride. But the idea is, hopefully, with the golf stance in BP, the stride will be shorter than before. The plan seems to be working.
An interesting lineup tonight. Big night for Richie Sexson in front of an impatient Seattle fan base. Sexson looked improved on the road, but the fans have really gotten on him here. My take on that? The fans can do what they want. They pay the freight. No player likes to get booed by his home fans, but that’s the price you pay when you’re the big gun and not producing.
It’s the same in any job. It irritates me when folks email me every time Eric Gagne blows a save and wag their fingers as if to say “See? That would have been a terrible move by the Mariners.” As if that excuses a team’s inaction on all other fronts. As if it was really Sept. 13 now instead of Aug. 13. But hey, I get paid to put up with a lot of stuff.
Same goes for a major league hitter. Sure, hometown booing puts more pressure on a player, but this is a pressure sport. Jose Vidro was under a lot of pressure six weeks ago and he responded. That’s why he plays second tonight and Jose Lopez sits. It has to be about getting the hottest guys in there. Ibanez has responded in a big way. Sexson has responded somewhat and will have to keep doing the same. A playoff-bound team expects no less. You produce or you pay the price, in boos and playing time. Sure that’s harsh. But the compensation is well worth it.
Now, my take on Sexson’s playing time? Because obviously, he hasn’t been the team’s hottest first baseman over the longer term. Well, now that he’s popped a couple of balls out of the yard, the M’s have to find him playing time. If you wait this long, it’s foolish to abandon Sexson once he starts performing the way you want. I would have bailed on him a lot sooner, yes, but the team did not. That’s all that matters here. The team did not. And since the team didn’t, it must see its course through now that Sexson is hitting a bit and going deep. The team obviously figures that Sexson at 100 percent is better than Ben Broussard at the same level and has waited this long to prove it. So, to bail now would be even worse than having waited too long for Sexson to come around. That’s my take.
In the end, the team winning is what’s important. If the team can win by using Adam Jones to put more pressure on the veteran hitters, then it’s a good strategy. If it falls apart, blows up in everyone’s face, it’s a bad strategy. Winning is what matters these final six weeks. Not style points. Yes, I liked Jones as the everyday left fielder a month ago. But things have started to change. Right now, the situation is very delicate, but has been working out for the M’s. When it stops working, that’s when you make a change. Not when Ibanez wins Player of the Week and Sexson starts hitting home runs.
The lineups:
2B Alex Casilla
SS Jason Bartlett
C Joe Mauer
CF Torii Hunter
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
LF Rondell White
DH Jason Tyner
3B Nick Punto
LHP Johan Santana
SEATTLE (65-50)
CF Ichiro
2B Jose Vidro
RF Jose Guillen
DH Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
C Kenji Johjima
LF Adam Jones
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Willie Bloomquist
RHP Felix Hernandez
HP Jim Reynolds
1B Tim Welke (crew chief)
2B Lance Barksdale
3B Gary Cederstrom



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