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August 15, 2007 at 12:33 PM

Mariners vs. Twins, series finale

There’s something you don’t see very often. A team opening an inning with four consecutive singles to center and not getting a run out of it. Seattle did just that in the seventh inning, but Adam Jones got thrown out on a botched hit-and-run and Jamie Burke got nabbed at second after Torii Hunter allowed a ball blooped to center to drop in front of him.
Hunter picked the ball up and threw out Burke on the force at second. Burke had held up between first and second because he didn’t want to get doubled off had Hunter caught the ball. Instead of the single that should have been, Yuniesky Betancourt gets a fielder’s choice, so technically it was only three singles instead of four, but we know better. Not sure why John McLaren did not pinch-hit for Jose Lopez. I told colleague Steve Kelly I’d have used Jose Vidro in that situation (before the at-bat) and taken my chances with him at second. But Ben Broussard would also have worked.
Roof is now caving in on the M’s in the eighth after that Washburn throwing error at first base on the bunt play. Washburn out of the game, Brandon Morrow gives up a bases loaded single to make it 2-1 for the Twins. George sherrill now on a got a huge strikeout on Justin Morneau with the bases still juiced. One out and Sean Green is now in the game. Things have taken a bleak turn in the span of just a few minutes. Green has to hold the M’s in it here.
Barely got the last post done before Raul Ibanez tied the game on a solo home run to left field off Scott Baker. So, how big is that Jarrod Washburn stand looking now? Pretty huge, I’d say. A 1-1 tie. Let’s hope my 19-inning prediction goes by the wayside soon. One thing I’ll say about Washburn today, he’s gotten a lot of guys to pop the ball up. Very useful when there are runners on base, which there have been on occasion.
Jason Bartlett has a strained right hamstring. Is listed as day-to-day. Washburn got through the seventh 1-2-3, so get set for the finish. Can the M’s pull out some more late drama?
Ron Gardenhire just got tossed from the game after arguing with plate umpire Gary Cederstrom about that strikeout call on Justin Morneau in the sixth. The out was huge for Jarrod Washburn, who seriously manned-up after putting the first two batters on base. Washburn came back and fanned Michael Cuddyer, swinging this time, on a 1-2 pitch to end the frame and Gardenhire went ballistic afterwards.
Still a 1-0 game heading to the bottom of the sixth. If the M’s come back and win, that Washburn stand will be the story of the game (unless the game goes 19 innings or something, which it could the way these offenses look).
Jarrod Washburn finally blinked first and the Minnesota Twins have a 1-0 lead on a Rondell White homer to left in the top of the fifth. The ball hit the top of the wall and bounced into the bullpen. But seriously, the M’s have to get some offense going against Twins pitcher Scott Baker. He hasn’t looked all that dazzling and has been hit hard on a couple of occasions. The offense needs to come through.
So, the M’s finally got the Philippe Aumont signing done. No money figures yet, so I’ll try to nail that down. Aumont will be at Safeco Field on Friday to meet with the media and hear my French.
Nice to see the continued cracks about Al Reyes being made. Funny, funny. By the way, to whoever suggested this in the previous thread, I never said the M’s should go out and trade for another situational lefty like John Parrish. I believe I wrote that if they couldn’t pick up another starter, they should try to get a proven right handed set-up man. Big difference. Yes, Eric Gagne is struggling in mid-August. If he’s setting up for Papelbon in the World Series two months from now, I promise I won’t rub it in anyone’s face — on this blog at least. Just like I haven’t harped on the fact that Sean Green gave up that run-scoring double the other night — to a lefty hitter — or that Mark Lowe is in Class AAA because he couldn’t work back-to-back games up here.
Save the jokes until we see how the season pans out. Right now, that extra starter would look pretty good.
Looks like the M’s finally solved their Jason Bartlett problem. He appeared to pull a leg muscle on that infield hit in the sixth. M’s went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth before I could finish typing.
Nice early day today, so let’s get started. I’ve got some news you’re all going to love. Horacio Ramirez will start next Monday in Minnesota. Yes, that’s right. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about this last night. The team figures its best bet right now is to stick with what it’s got and that’s Ramirez. Cha Seung Baek threw a three-inning simulated game down in Peoria the other day, but is still weeks away from a hoped for September call-up. The other minor leaguers we’ve all discussed? Not as attractive to the team right now. Will the team take a flyer on an available pitcher like David Wells. Looks like he doesn’t want to come here. Jose Contreras? You have to give something up to get something back.
Anyway, that’s what the team is doing. Mariners manager John McLaren spoke moments ago and said pitching coach Rafael Chaves will work hard with Ramirez in coming days to improve the differential in speeds between the lefty’s fastball, change-up and breaking pitches.
“Right now, they’re pretty close,” McLaren said. “They’re real close. We want to spread them out.”
McLaren mentioned changing the grip on Raqmirez’s change-up. I spoke to Chaves afterwards and he agreed that this will eventually be done. But the first item he plans is to alter some of Ramirez’s mechanics. Chaves feels Ramirez’s release point is problematic and causing the mound problems he’s experienced.
This isn’t an entire switch to what the organization has been saying for weeks about Ramirez. They feel he isn’t getting the job done on key pitches that can impact a game. Before, the problem was mental. Now, they’re convinced he has that part down and is focusing on what he has to do in key spots. Thing is, he can’t physically get the job done.
So, that’s the new plan of attack. Chaves has worked miracles with Jeff Weaver already this season. But this is a bigger challenge. He won’t have the time he had with Weaver. This team cannot be giving games away every five days and hope to keep pace with other playoff contenders.
“We’re not at the point where we’re going to throw in the towel by any means,” McLaren said.
Is McLaren truly confident that Ramirez can turn things around? I’m not a mind reader, so I won’t speculate. The reality? Even if he’s just touting the party line until a life preserver can be thrown his way by Baek returning in September, or a deal being made, he’s not going to say anything that would further undermine his pitcher’s sagging confidence.
Make no mistake. This is a real problem. The M’s are about to send a pitcher back to the mound on the road where he has a 13.50 ERA after he just got pummeled at home. Only good news? It’s the Twins. Better them than the Yankees or Tigers. Or the Rangers or Blue Jays. Oh yeah, those are the teams awaiting Ramirez down the road. Though I suspect the team isn’t looking that far ahead. Right now, they are crossing their fingers and hoping he can survive next Monday.
So, go ahead. Go nuts. I know this won’t be a popular decision for the majority of you out there. But as I said last night, the team pretty much sealed its own fate in this matter by sticking with what it had on July 31. Now, it has to work with what it’s got.
Want some good news? Well, the M’s can notch another series victory today. Wanted more good news? Well, uh, Adam Jones is in the lineup? Best I could come up with for now.
The lineups:
MINNESOTA ((59-60)
2B Alexi Casilla
SS Jason Bartlett
DH Joe Mauer
CF Torii Hunter
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
LF Rondell White
C Mike Redmond
3B Tommy Watkins
RHP Scott Baker
SEATTLE (66-51)
DH Ichiro
2B Jose Lopez
RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Richie Sexson
CF Adam Jones
C Jamie Burke
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
LHP Jarrod Washburn
HP Gary Cederstrom
1B Lance Barksdale
2B Jim Reynolds
3B Tim Welke (crew chief)



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