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August 15, 2007 at 3:56 PM

M’s lose 6-1; post-game audio

Yet another chance to gain ground in both the division and wild-card races goes out the window as Seattle, New York and Los Angeles all lose on the same day once again. This is shaping up as the year no American League team wants to make the playoffs.
I’m only half-serious of course, but let’s glance around a bit. You’ve got the Boston Red Sox doing all they can to blow that monstrous AL East lead, the Tigers and Indians fighting to out-lose each other in the AL Central — it took 12 innings for someone to win that game between them last night — and then the Angels letting this Mariners team hang around the periphery for most of the last three months. One of these days, the Angels might wake up a very sorry lot. But the M’s would have to go on a winning streak and overtake them first. So far, the M’s seem content just to hang around.
We won’t even get into the wild-card hunt, where a crazy winning streak by Toronto or Minnesota could take those clubs from obscurity right to the forefront of a race their fans gave up on long ago. Does anyone want to reach out and grab that brass ring? So far, it seems like all they want is some brass knuckles — as in right to the jaw any time one of them has a chance to actually take charge. This AL sleepwalk to the playoffs saw the Mariners pounded 6-1 by the Twins today, as you all know. Seattle somehow lost a series to a team that hadn’t been able to score runs all month — then erupted for 17 the final two games.
Seattle couldn’t take the out the Twins were giving them on that Nick Punto bunt in the eighth. Jose Lopez took his time getting to first base to cover, Jarrod Washburn made like a quarterback trying to lead him to the ball and the Ryan Leaf-like result was a two-base error and the beginning of the end.
“I turned to throw and I didn’t see Lopez anywhere near the base,” Washburn said. “I should have gathered myself.”
Good on Washburn for taking the blame. What did Lopez have to say? He didn’t think he was any later than he should have been, saying he had a long way to go to get to the bag.
“The pitcher’s got to catch the ball and throw it,” he said with a shrug.
I don’t think Lopez was hanging his pitcher out to dry or anything. Let’s not forget, his English isn’t perfect and he was trying to express himself as best he could. What he wasn’t doing was blaming himself for what happened.
I asked manager John McLaren whether he thought about pinch-hitting for Lopez in that seventh inning situation. His response was that he didn’t like “the lefty-righty matchups” so he stuck with Lopez.
McLaren also said the reason he didn’t pinch-run for Jamie Burke that inning, when he was thrown out at second by Torri Hunter on what should have been a bloop single to center by Yuniesky Betancourt, was a short bench. He was already playing Adam Jones in center and had just Willie Bloomquist to pinch-run.
In the end, he didn’t want to burn Bloomquist in a tie game with two or more innings still to go. Hear the post-game audio from McLaren right here where I ask him about pinch-hitting for Lopez.
Some of you are all over Sean Green today. You know, he was one pitch away from getting out of this thing. Yes, he gave up the grand slam to Hunter in the ninth. But that didn’t lose the game. It was Green, remember, who kept Seattle in the game in the eighth by keeping it a 2-1 score. Believe me, from what I saw out of the offense today, the M’s were going to lose 2-1 if Hunter didn’t go deep. How do I know? Crystal ball inside my head.
“I made one bad one there and the end and he caught me on it,” Green said “I was trying to go down and away with the slider. It was away, but it wasn’t down enough and he’s a very good mistake hitter.”
Hear some audio, why don’t you?
What do I think? I think this team still has obvious holes. I think management needed to find another starting pitcher somehow, some way. Barring that, I think it absolutely had to find another right handed reliever for late-inning situations. Four lefties in the bullpen is a bit ridiculous right now. As good as Green has looked this year, he is not infallible. As much as Brandon Morrow has shown this year, he is also showing some cracks. The only two lights-out guys in that pen are J.J. Putz and George Sherrill. But neither of those guys is an eighth inning set-up man by definition. Maybe Sherrill could be one. But there are a lot of question marks floating around. This bullpen, in my opinion, would be championship caliber with Green pitching the seventh inning and a dominant, veteran right hander working in the eighth — a guy who can work to righties and lefties with equal success.
From what I hear, the M’s are still looking for that righty. Good luck finding one now. Maybe it’s true that there was no one out there for the M’s to get by July 31. But that doesn’t make me feel any easier.
That said, this game was lost because the team didn’t hit when it had to.
There will have to be some tough decisions made about playing time in coming weeks. It’s going to be hard to keep Raul Ibanez out of the lineup now that he’s hit six home runs in nine games. Equally tough to sideline Jose Vidro now that he’s back to being a hits machine. I was all for playing Adam Jones every day when those other guys were struggling back in July. But things have changed. The veterans have stepped up and earned their playing time of late. Jones could be a great player some day and a starter next season. But he is still getting his feet wet now and will have to make the most of every game he plays in. Otherwise, those appearances will be tougher to justify if Ibanez and Vidro keep up their red hot pace.
I know that’s going to rankle some of you. But there is a playoff berth at stake. You have to go with the hot hand, not keep reshuffling the cards in hopes of getting a different hot hand. That makes no sense. The way I see it, Ibanez and Vidro have to play their way out of these lineups. Jones will have to take what he can get. Not going to be an easy time, I’m sure, but winning cures a lot of woes. This team has to start winning again — and soon. Don’t count on the Yankees and Angels to keep losing. Angels have Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey going their next two games.
Nice time for an off-day. The M’s need to regroup.

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