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September 1, 2007 at 1:32 PM

Mariners in free-fall; hear audio

Eight losses and counting on a day Miguel Batista throws seven innings of one-run ball, allowing only a Gregg Zaun homer in the seventh. Sean Green heads out for a third straight game in the eighth and gets tagged with the loss after a leadoff walk and singles by Frank Thomas and Troy Glaus. M’s go down to a 2-1 defeat.
Here’s what manager John McLaren had to say about Green, who is yielding more runs and hits than earlier this season. He allowed the leadoff walk today, though the hits weren’t all that hard — only not close enough to infielders.
“He was missing but he wasn’t missing by much,” McLaren said.
Green took much the same outlook.
“I wasn’t missing by too much,” he said. “But it’s one of those things where if you walk the leadoff guy you’re going to get in trouble. I made some pitches to get out of it, but the ground balls didn’t get to our infielders.
“That’s baseball sometimes. That seems to be the way it’s going, but we’ll turn it around.”
Hear what Green said right here.
As you might expect, I asked John McLaren and Willie Bloomquist about that ninth inning double-play. Bloomquist had just come on as a pinch-runner against a team that does a lousy job against base-stealers. But Raul Ibanez hit into a first-pitch double-play and stealing never entered into the equation, nor was it a part of the team’s thought process.
There were two ways to go in a situation like that one and the M’s chose — how do we put it? — the conservative route. They figured he’s been hitting the ball hard all month and McLaren was looking to have him either hit one in the gap to score Bloomquist, or even over the fence to take the lead. He didn’t want to put Ibanez behind in the count from the get-go.
“We gave Willie the green light, told him to look for certain things from their pitcher,” McLaren said. “I wanted Raul to hit a gapper or a home run and I didn’t want to put him behind in the count. I don’t think, in that situation, that you take a pitch.
“Raul is very capable of putting the ball out of the ballpark. We just wanted him to get a good pitch. He hit the ball good, but it was right at the guy.”
Ibanez did have a single in the fourth inning and has gotten on base regularly for weeks.
Hear McLaren’s post-game audio here where he discusses the play and that lineup card mixup that wound up costing Toronto a double.
Bloomquist told me he wasn’t going to try to steal on any early pitches. Maybe later on had Ibanez fallen behind in the count. He didn’t want to “close the hole” on the right side that’s created when a first baseman has to hold the runner. With a lefty hitter up, that’s not a bad strategy because a guy hitting a ball hard like Ibanez can then line it through and all of a sudden you’ve got two on with none out.
“You’ve got to let your best hitter do his thing,” Bloomquist said.
One point Bloomquist made to me, which I did not think of when I wrote the previous post, is that Blue Jays closer Jeremy Accardo is very quick to the plate with his pitches, making it more difficult to get a good jump off him if you’re the base-stealer.
So, that’s how the M’s were playing it.
Here was my thought process. You’ve got an M’s team that hasn’t hit the ball any place special all day, yet has gotten the leadoff guy on because of a pitcher’s mistake. If you’re going to take your No. 3 hitter, Jose Guillen, out of the lineup in a game that could go extra innings, replacing him with one of your team’s fastest guys as a pinch-runner, then I think a stolen base is a serious option to be considered in that situation. Especially when your team has already hit into two double-plays the previous two innings, not to mention the others we saw last night. Bloomquist doesn’t have the greatest success rate in steals this season but was pretty good at it in the past when given more opportunities.
Blue Jays catcher Zaun is also terrible at throwing out runners, nabbing only nine out of 67 all year. That’s a rate of only 13.4 percent. So, even with Accardo on the Hill, you’ve still got an excellent chance of pulling off a steal in that situation. And if Bloomquist goes and Ibanez hits the ball to exactly the same spot he did, it goes on through to right field because the second baseman is running over to cover his bag. At the very least, it should keep you out of another double play if Ibanez hits it to somebody.
I didn’t bother asking Ibanez about it because if it was never Seattle’s intention to have Bloomquist go, or Ibanez take a pitch, then he’s free to swing away at whatever he wants. Accardo had just hit Guillen with a pitch, so he’s probably going to try to land a first-pitch strike. Ibanez put good wood on it — as he did to end last night’s game. But the ball went right to second baseman Aaron Hill and the third double-play turned in three innings by Toronto pretty much ended things.
So, the decision to do what the M’s did was not “ridiculous” as I originally termed it. It just wasn’t anything innovative to try to snap out of this eight-game losing streak. It was conservative, by-the-book baseball and it backfired. Been happening a lot of late. Hey, I didn’t invent the game and I don’t pretend to know more than anyone else. That’s just the way I saw it. I’ve seen this Blue Jays team a lot over the years and would have been shocked to see Zaun throw out Bloomquist had he taken off.
One thing we should also remember is that McLaren has said before that he doesn’t play for ties on the road. Risking everything to get Bloomquist over to second is a little like playing for a tie. Not quite the same as sacrificing an out on a bunt, but further down those lines.
Hope that explains everyone’s thought process on this. Once again, if the M’s fail to make the post-season, every move made on this trip could be scrutinized to death so why not get the ball rolling? Sure, the M’s would have looked bad had Bloomquist been thrown out in the ninth with Ibanez up. But I think that with a streak like this, it just might take a little gambling, a little forcing of some issues, to manufacture a run when things aren’t going well.
Newcomer Charlton Jimerson did steal a base in the eighth, off the much-slower delivering Dustin McGowan and Zaun. He took third on Zaun’s throwing error and scored on Ichiro’s single.
Hear what Jimerson had to say about his run scored in his first game since being called up from Class AAA. He entered as a pinch-runner.
Anyway, the three double-plays grounded into (five in two games here) and stranding Ichiro at third base in the first inning sure wasted a solid Batista outing. Hopefully for the M’s, they won’t have to wait another week for a starter to go seven quality innings.
“What I wanted to do is pitch a good game,” Batista said of the 116-pitch effort in audio you can listen to here.
“The only way we’re going to get out of the streak is by playing good baseball. And I know that 75 percent of that responsibility is going to be in the pitching department. So, I wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance.”
The Yankees just beat the D-Rays, so they are two up on the Mariners. Tomorrow’s game is another must-win. Go into Yankee Stadium three down and your goose could pretty much be cooked.
I’m stunned at how long this streak has gone on. The M’s have not been playing horrible ball. They are maintaining their intensity in the late innings as well. That’s three late comeback attempts in three days by the club. But you know what? A loss is a loss. And sooner or later, these players are going to have to step up and win a game. Not just make it a good finish. Push over the top. The attitude is there but the execution isn’t. And winners execute when they have to. Seattle seems to have the attitude. Let’s find out if they have the ability to execute plays when the pressure is on and they need to win.
The pressure sure is on now. As we said, they don’t do things the easy way.

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