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September 2, 2007 at 8:51 AM

Mariners vs. Blue Jays, series finale

At least Rick White created the “high leverage” situation this time instead of failing in one. Gives up a single up the middle and a walk. Just setting up the triple play for Eric O’Flaherty, who comes on to face pinch-hitter Troy Glaus. Come to think of it, with Frank Thomas at first and hobble-legged Glaus at the plate, a triple-play isn’t out of the question. John Parrish had been warming up, but bringing him in here would be too much comedey-in-the-making for even the M’s to contemplate at this stage.
Tampa Bay up 2-1 on New York. I think “Nick” is holding down the fort better than White did to those two batters.
Some good news? The M’s just scored another run, with Kenji Johjima hitting a sacrifice fly to right to bring Adrian Beltre home from third. So, it’s 5-3 in the seventh. By the way, Rick White and John Parrish are warming up in the bullpen. Insert commentary as you will. Maybe some of you other than “Nick” want to chime in?
Raul Ibanez just kept his team in the game, making a strong throw to the plate from left to nab the cement-footed Frank Thomas trying to score from second on a Gregg Zaun single. Three singles in the inning by Toronto but zero runs. That’s a break for the M’s. Let’s see if they can do anything with it. Still a 5-2 game heading to the sixth.
The top of the fifth just demonstrated the biggest offensive shortcoming this Mariners team has. They had A.J. Burnett in pitch-count trouble, bulging out at 77 through four. So, what do the M’s do? They allow him to escape the fifth on just seven more pitches. It’s one thing if a guy is throwing strikes, but quite another if you’re not giving him the chance to see if he can do it. Kenji Johjima took a first-pitch ball, then swung into a lazy ground out. Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt then came up and hacked away at everything thrown towards home plate.
Burnett was throwing strikes the first three innings, not as many in the fourth. But he didn’t have to in the fifth. The M’s did his job for him.
Jeff Weaver is out of the game and rightfully so. John McLaren just watched him yield consecutive singles to start the bottom of the fourth. You’ve got one break coming up in John McDonald (though he somehow hits the M’s well) before Vernon Wells and the big boppers come up. At three runs down with A.J. Burnett in pitch-count trouble, you cannot afford to let the gap increase. The M’s still have a shot in this game and McLaren made the right call getting Weaver out of there. Ryan Feierabend is now in the game.
Weaver didn’t agree and he and McLaren appeared to have words as the pitcher left the mound. If that’s the case, Weaver is wrong. He’s allowed to be emotional, but he just let his team down for a second straight game.
Some real good news for a change? The Blue Jays started Russ Adams in the infield today, so it’s not as good as we saw the past two games. Adams is at third and was just generously let off the hook for an error on a hard grounder that got by him for a Raul Ibanez base-hit that put Seattle on the board. Adams is a former No. 1 pick who lost his starting shortstop gig a year ago because of stuff we just saw. That and he kept putting throws into the camera bay.
The Jays then barely missed turning a double play on an Adrian Beltre grounder that second baseman Hill scooped behind his bag. Hill tried to step on his bag and turn two with the throw to first. But the runner at second was ruled safe, allowing Jose Guillen to race home all the way from second on the play to make it a 5-2 game.
A.J. Burnett looked like he was having one of his infamous mental breakdowns out there in that inning. He tends to lose it when a play or two doesn’t go his way.
So, that’s some good news. The M’s now have a pulse. Even better news? Burnett is now at 76 pitches after just five innings. Those six strikeouts he has plus some prolonged at-bats in that last frame have really taxed his arm. If the M’s can get him out of there by the sixth, they might have a shot in this game. Assuming, that is, that Jeff Weaver can do what he hasn’t done all day and hold the Blue Jays down.
OK, here’s some good news. I get to go to New York tonight! Bad news? So do the Mariners. It’s now 5-0 for the Blue Jays after a two-run homer to the second deck in right by fellow Canuck Matt Stairs. A.J. Burnett is running out of time to get his 20 strikeouts. But he’s still working on a perfect game as we enter the fourth.
The starting pitcher has once again buried the M’s before they can make it out of the chute. It’s tough enough when you’re facing a pitcher as spot-on as Burnett has been today, but Weaver is giving his team absolutely no chance to compete.
A few good reasons to keep watching today’s game:
1. A.J. Burnett is 15 strikeouts away from tying the major league record with seven full innings to go.
2. Gregg Zaun is 65 homers shy of tying Barry Bonds for the single season record. He’s got six or seven more innings against Seattle pitching to try to equal that.
3. Jeff Weaver has stopped picking his nose on camera. Wasn’t that a treat?
Uh, that’s about all I’ve got…
Blue Jays up 3-0 after a three-run second, capped by Zaun’s two-run homer to right off Weaver. Zaun’s second blast in two at-bats versus the M’s dating back to yesterday. Burnett has struck out five of the first six hitters. September is about to end much quicker than the Sept. 2 date would indicate.
That wasn’t a good sign for the Mariners in the top of the first. Looks like the “good” A.J. Burnett showed up for the Blue Jays today. Got ahead of the hitters and put them away with his 96 mph heat. I’d heard from my old Toronto buddies that Burnett is trying to become more of a “pitch to contact” and “finesse” guy. Bad idea against the M’s, I told them. Just throw his heat somewhere around the plate and get them to chase. Looks like that’s what he’s doing early. I’d stay away from the “contact’ part if I was him because that’s one thing the M’s do well when pitchers start messing around and trying to be too fine.
Don’t worry, these folks didn’t have pre-game access to Burnett and weren’t about to pass any info on to him. He knows it by now, anyway. If not, they should fire the scouting staff.
So, if you want some good news, here it is…sort of. Roger Clemens is still due to pitch, but Mike Mussina might get the call. The M’s can only hope.
By the way, while everyone was gnashing their teeth towards the end of August, Jose Guillen was putting the finishing touches on a new club record. Turns out he grounded into 11 double-plays that month, something even Jose Vidro couldn’t do.
No need to tell you what has to happen today. If the Mariners lose another one and the Yanks win, Seattle will head to New York needing a series win at bare minimum to avoid falling too far out of the wild-card race. Yes, you heard right. If the scenario I just mentioned unfolds, and the M’s drop two or three at Yankee Stadium, they would be four or five back with just over 3 1/2 weeks to go. That would leave them cooked. Just like they are cooked in the AL West. These are dangerous times for a team to be slumping.
Ichiro needs two more hits to reach 200.
John McLaren is now 28-28 since taking over as manager. But I’m sure “Adam” could have told you that already. How many over was Mike Hargrove again, Adam?
Same lineup today. McLaren confirmed today that Richie Sexson almost certainly won’t play in the Yankees series. The M’s plan to go with Ben Broussard, Jose Vidro and…Mike Morse, at first base. Didn’t say whether Morse will start or possibly fill in there late. Most likely the latter as this is, after all, a playoff race in September.
For now, at least.
The lineups:
TORONTO (69-66)
CF Vernon Wells
3B Russ Adams
RF Alex Rios
DH Frank Thomas
LF Matt Stairs
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Aaron Hill
C Gregg Zaun
SS John McDoanld
RHP A.J. Burnett
SEATTLE (73-61)
CF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
RF Jose Guillen
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Ben Broussard
C Kenji Johjima
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RHP Jeff Weaver
HP Tim McClelland (crew chief)
1B Paul Schreiber
2B Fieldin Culbreth
3B Marty Foster



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