A look at the crowd on its feet at Camden Yards for the game’s final at-bat, with former Mariners reliever George Sherrill retiring his onetime battery-mate Kenji Johjima to notch his second save as the Orioles’ closer. A much-deserved 7-4 loss for the Mariners here tonight. I can tell you that, down in the clubhouse, the team isn’t as worried about its long-term hitting situation as it is the short-term bullpen status. Mariners manager John McLaren admitted his experiment with an 11-man pitching staff might soon be over.
“It’s something we’re going to have to talk about,” he said. “We have talked about it.”
Hear what McLaren said in this audio clip.
They’ll have to talk some more. The team was caught shorthanded in the sixth and seventh innings tonight. Cha Seung Baek gave up homers in the sixth and seventh, while Ryan Rowland-Smith was tagged for a double and a single. A wild pitch by Roy Corcoran allowed another run to score and capped a two-inning bullpen stint that turned a 3-2 affair into a 7-2 game.
McLaren would have liked to bring Sean Green in for that sixth inning. But with J.J. Putz out, Green has been bumped further back in the bullpen and wasn’t available for such early use.
”The mindset’s so much different because we don’t have guys in those roles,” McLaren said after the defeat evened his club’s record at 2-2. ”Usually, in that situation you think about Green, but he has to go back (further in the bullpen). If you go to him too early, you’re going to need him (later). And if you need him, you don’t have him.”
McLaren didn’t have much and that’s the problem. Putz is tough to replace and his absence reverberates throughout the bullpen. That’s why going with only 11 pitchers, for the sake of carrying extra backups rarely being used, isn’t working out.
Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn felt he was making good pitches those first two innings, when the O’s hitters ran his pitch count up to 61. But those pitches kept getting fouled off.
“You just keep trying to make a pitch and hope they put one in-play,” he said. “You can’t just give in to them and try to put one over the plate.”
Washburn didn’t give in. McLaren, as I suspected, said he tried to ride him through the fifth because of those two lefties among the first four batters. But Kevin Millar popped that go-ahead homer out to left field. Still, in that situation, a 3-2 decifict should not be the end of the world. The Orioles are a rebuilding team and the guys being trotted out to the mound, like Steve Trachsel and Dennis Sarfate, were hardly Cy Young Award material. But the M’s made them look that way and didn’t really get going until the ninth.
I asked Jose Vidro about that play in the seventh and he told me Brad Wilkerson had the green light and was going on a straight steal. It wasn’t a hit-and-run with two strikes in the count. Wilkerson was thrown out easily after Vidro swung and foul-tipped a third strike into the catcher’s glove. Tough inning for the M’s.
Richie Sexson wasn’t making a big deal out of his home run. He said it was only the fourth game of the season and that folks have to be patient with him and the offense.
“We’re talking about four games,” he said. “It really is four games. I felt good for four games. I didn’t get a ton of hits, but I feel it’s important.”
He’s right. But I’d still like to see Mike Morse, who got that ninth-inning double, get some playing time tomorrow night. He will.