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September 7, 2007 at 6:43 PM

The nosedive continues; hear audio

A close game turned into a 6-1 rout, the Detroit Tigers beating up on the Mariners this time around. A 12th loss in 13 games by Seattle. That decision to pinch-hit Jeremy Reed for Jose Lopez was a topic of post-game conversation. That was the ballgame right there. Reed was put in a near-impossible situation and failed, as could be expected. Manager John McLaren spoke about why he did it and you can listen in the audio at the bottom of this post, but I want to get into something else first.
Miguel Batista looked great at times, gave up some huge extra-base hits at other moments when it mattered most. To hear him tell it, he pitched a pretty good game. Thing is, he didn’t. He put his team in a 3-0 hole before it could even breathe. And then, just after the M’s missed a bases-loaded opportunity in the seventh, Batista served up a back-breaking home run to Curtis Granderson.
That’s not how Batista saw things. Take a listen to this post-game audio.
“They only hit two really hard balls,” he said. “After that, five hard ground balls hit. Three soft line drives. The home run and the double. I would say my job is to make them hit the ball soft somewhere.”
And it goes on and on…
You know what? This team needed more from Batista. On the mound and off. I’ve seen starters go out this year and toss some darned good quality starts, only to lose, and take the blame afterwards. Even when they didn’t have to. Rick White, for all of the animosity towards him from fans, didn’t actually get rocked in any of his high leverage situations. White could have stood there and pointed to the broken bat base hit by the Angels, and the error made behind him against the Rangers and the close pitches in Cleveland and made a perfectly reasonable case.
But he’s out of a job now and deservedly so. He didn’t get it done. Batista right now is not getting it done.
Batista didn’t pitch all that poorly at times, but he put his team in a position to lose in the very first inning. So, “soft line drives” or “seeing eye grounders” or not, he’s got to do a better job of limiting the damage. He did a great job earlier this season of limiting the opposition to three runs or less each night, notching a career best 13th win back on Aug. 17. Well, it’s now Sept. 7 and Batista, after giving up just a run in Toronto last weekend, has yielded 22 runs in his three other starts since that Aug. 17 game. After each of those outings, Batista said he felt he pitched well. I have to disagree. If Horacio Ramirez gave up 22 runs in three contests, fans would be waiting for him with pitchforks outside the stadium and his teammates would probably beat him black and blue if he dared try to justify it out loud. I don’t care how many soft ground balls you give up, when they lead to six runs — that’s not a good enough performance when Batista’s team needs him most.
Six innings, three runs? Or four? A team can live with it. Not six runs. Not tonight.
Much as I like Batista, I don’t think he’s doing himself a favor here. In fact, if this is the way all the players feel, they might as well mail it in from here and we can all go home. This team needs more from its veterans. It doesn’t need buck-passing, or excuse-making.
The Mariners are finally in third-place in the AL wild-card race, now four games behind the New York Yankees (if they hang on) and fading fast. At this point, in another day or two, it could be about salvaging some dignity from what looked like it would be a memorable season. Seattle is now nine games above .500. Two weeks ago tonight, they moved to 20 over and were two up in the wild-card. That’s six games of ground lost in less than two weeks. Incredible. Something drastic has to be done to jumpstart this offense. There will be many suggestions. I know that with a lefty on the hill tomorrow, some will suggest sitting Raul Ibanez so that Adam Jones can play. My big concern with that is how it will impact Ibanez against righties. Everyday players often need to play every day to be effective. You sit Ibanez against the lefty and throw him off against the righty after that, what’s the point?
Anyway, that’s how I see it. I know some of you see it differently. Maybe tomorrow, you sit Ben Broussard against the lefty, move Jose Vidro to first and put Adam Jones in left field. And get someone else in there for Jose Lopez. The time has come to jumpstart this offense. It wasn’t a problem two weeks ago. It’s become a problem now.
McLaren doesn’t really know what to do. At least, based on how he sounded post-game. Can a manager help these guys win? He can write out the lineups. But if the players are simply going to shrug and say “Hey, I did great!” as they lose a dozen games in less than two weeks, even the all-time greats would be challenged. And McLaren has a long way to go before he reaches those lofty heights.
“Losing, it knocks you down,” McLaren said. “I’ll be honest with you, it just knocks you down. But we’ve got to find a way.”
Here’s McLaren on pinch-hitting Reed for Lopez: “I’m getting some different looks,” he said. “We brought these guys up. Reed led the PCL in hits this year, and I want to see what he can do off the bench. Breaking ball coming in to him and going away from Lopez, I want Reed up in that situation.”
Hear his audio right here. You know what McLaren needs right now? A team of Jose Guillens who want to go out and punch somebody. To get mad at somebody. Not a bunch of excuses. They’re starting to get old.

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