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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

September 9, 2007 at 8:59 AM

Mariners vs. Tigers, series finale

Adam Jones finally in the game, playing right field. Eric O’Flaherty just got through a 1-2-3 seventh. The first such inning tossed against the Tigers this afternoon. M’s lead 13-7 with two innings to go. Let’s see whether the bullpen can hold on. Whatever happens, I’d bet we’ll see J.J. Putz close it out.
Yuniesky Betancourt just saved his pitcher two runs with a phenomenal glove snare and throw to first on a Magglio Ordonez chopper headed up the middle. There had been runners on second and third with two out. The way this game’s going, a 13-6 lead for Seattle after four (yes, you’re reading that right) is far more palatable than 13-8.
Jeremy Reed just pinch-hit for Richie Sexson here in the fourth. He lined out to right field. That could mean one of several things: Sexson could be hurting again. Or, the team figures (unwisely) that a five-run lead in the fourth is safe enough. Or, maybe John McLaren got tired of watching Sexson hit into inning-ending outs, which he’s done twice today.
Watching the Tigers, I can see why they’ll fallen so far, so quickly. They look terrible, both in the field and on the mound. The hitting is fine, but the pitching has been awful the last two nights. Jeremy Bonderman delivered the worst mound performance today that I’ve seen in months. And that includes what the M’s bunch has offered up of late. Bonderman had a big lead and was pitching scared. Falling behind hitters, then getting smoked when he came over the plate. These are the Mariners. Bonderman isn’t supposed to be falling behind them in the count. Few pitchers ever do.
M’S UP 10-5
Raul Ibanez hits a three-run homer in the third as the M’s score eight runs in two innings to take a 10-5 lead. Felix Hernandez just walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the inning before getting a force play at second. You know what Hernandez needs to give his team here? A shutdown inning. This game is far from over, believe me. You know what your blog guy needs? This game to speed up. He’s got a 7:20 p.m. flight back to Seattle and 90 minutes to play less than three innings is a bit too leisurely a pace for my liking.
Keeping that fifth run off the board looks huge now that the M’s have scored three in the second to take a 5-4 lead and are still batting. They’ve chased an awful-looking Jeremy Bonderman from the game and Jason Grilli is now warming up. Big game so far for Jose Guillen, who has two hits and three RBI. So far, my playoff contender for 2008 has Adrian Beltre and Guillen as shoo-ins. Playing in September just isn’t the same as the rest of the season. You need guys who are mentally ready to take the field each and every game. They may not always succeed, but they come prepared to play.
That said, this game isn’t over yet. M’s need to tack on as many as they can here.
About the best thing that can be said for the first inning by Felix Hernandez, a four-spot put up by the Detroit Tigers, is that he stranded the potential fifth run at third with less than two out. A strikeout and a groundout got Hernandez out of the jam, but his team now trails 4-2. We mentioned the bullpen earlier on, but this group of starters simply hasn’t cut it on this trip. No other way to put it. The starters have let this team down big-time. And for a good part of the season as well. This team just isn’t ready for prime time and ownership has to figure that out.
By the way, I’m sitting in the pressbox and a Japanese reporter seated behind me has his feet up on the desk and is fast asleep. Sort of sums it all up, doesn’t it?
M’S UP 2-0
Jose Guillen, the new clean-up man, doubles home a pair of first-inning runs as the revamped lineup pays dividends in the first inning. Ichiro and Adrian Beltre had led the game off with singles. Beltre has upped his game on this trip. He’s the least of this team’s troubles. Guillen comes to play every night, but had struggled somewhat of late and looked awful in the field last night.
Richie Sexson ended the rally with a flyout. Just throwing that out there.
So, Felix Hernandez has a 2-0 lead. John McLaren had said he needed his club to put up some early runs. Hernandez has them here. Let’s see what he does with them.
(10:01 a.m.): For “Jack” down below, who said this isn’t the manager’s fault? Sure, he has something to do with it. I said it isn’t “all” his fault and that it’s primarily the players’ fault. Believe me, first guy fired out of all this will likely be the manager. You won’t see Richie Sexson “fired” for hitting .200 all year. He’ll be getting his $14 million next year, regardless.
To “ScottM” nobody here is haunted by what was written about Carlos Garcia. When it comes to turning points on this road trip, his waving around of Adrian Beltre might have been the final nail in this season’s coffin. It completely turned that middle game. You can’t just look at all the runs the Yankees scored later on. The entire complexion of the game turned on Garcia’s call and if he does the smart thing, Seattle likely takes the lead in that game and plays everything differently the last four innings. And this wasn’t the first move by Garcia that was so “against the rules” of a third base coach it boggles the mind. He foolishly waved Jose Lopez around for an inside-the-park homer attempt with none out in Tampa Bay and they lost by that one run. And that was during a stretch of questionable waves home he had made that month. That Tampa Bay decision was his Mulligan. His one brain cramp allowed. Make more than one of those per year and any coach is asking for trouble. Hey, I don’t control his future. Speak to Howard Lincoln about that one, but the odds of Garcia returning to coach third would appear to be dwindling daily.
Not much to say this morning. The clubhouse was gloomy, the manager’s office even gloomier. This team is going through a collapse like few others in the history of the game. Add on the mounting tensions with umpires and I wouldn’t be surprised if something was about to blow. Brian Gorman, the umpire who botched the Ichiro call at first base last night, is behind the plate today. If things head south early, or Felix Hernandez gets squeezed early as he so often does, expect the M’s to take out two weeks of frustrations on him.
Here’s what manager John McLaren had to say about the calls that aren’t going his team’s way.
No, McLaren isn’t blaming the umpires for losing 13 of 14. McLaren tells us here that he and his staff have been meeting regularly, scratching their heads to figure out what has gone wrong. They’ve apparently pondered different lineup combos, but have chosen to stick with what’s gotten them here to this point. The lineup last night wasn’t the problem, it was the starting pitching and the bullpen. The bullpen’s ERA over these last 14 games has been 7.28. So, no, it isn’t just one player making or not making a difference. This collapse has been far more complex, involving some key members of this team — like an entire bullpen outside of J.J. Putz — who are younger and less easier to use as whipping boys than the usual suspects flogged daily. This has been a total team collapse.
Today, maybe it’s Felix Hernandez allowing two runs, but the offense only scoring one. Who knows? Thing is, there isn’t any one magical solution to this. The players are getting paid to win games and they have to start winning them. Regardless of the managerial decisions or lineups. No mangerial decision or lineup loses you 13 of 14 when you’re 20 games over .500. This is on the players. Thing is, it won’t be at season’s end. Most will go home, play some golf and collect another seven-figure paycheck next season regardless of how they finish this year.
It’s the coaching staff that will pay the price. Believe me, they know it.
“I know it’s going to start going that way at some point because I’ve got a job to do,” McLaren said about questions on his job security. “I just really want to concentrate on the game today.”
Hear some more McLaren audio right here.
McLaren said former managers Larry Bowa and Art Howe called him this morning to offer their support. Both are good friends. Just remember, the coaches (and managers) all make far less than the players do. As much as we all like to speculate about their jobs and futures, they aren’t heading home to million-dollar mansions and boats. (Most aren’t anyway). These are true livelihoods at stake as well as reputations. The front office as well. I’m sure there will be plenty of looking over the decisions made throughout this Bill Bavasi “hot seat” season in coming days. Everyone knows it. There is a lot of tension surrounding this club right now.
Some lineup changes, as Jose Vidro sits in favor of Richie Sexson, who serves as DH. Willie Bloomquist replaces the invisible Jose Lopez at second. If you ask me, this makes the lineup weaker. Vidro was 4-for-8 the last two games. He’s only 1-for-6 against Jeremy Bonderman, while Sexson is 3-for-10. Bloomquist in for Lopez is a saw-off, both offensively and defensively (the way Lopez has played the field of late). Sounds like another “gut” decision by McLaren. Let’s see if it pans out. Adrian Beltre moves up to No. 2 in the order, while Jose Guillen bats cleanup.
DETROIT (77-65)
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Placido Polanco
DH Gary Sheffield
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Jose Guillen
LF Timo Perez
C Mike Rabelo
SS Ramon Santiago
3B Brandon Inge
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
SEATTLE (74-66)
CF Ichiro
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Jose Guillen
1B Ben Broussard
DH Richie Sexson
C Kenji Johjima
2B Willie Bloomquist
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RHP Felix Hernandez
HP Brian Gorman
1B Paul Nauert
2B Rob Drake
3B Gerry Davis



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