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April 5, 2008 at 5:56 PM

Mariners at Baltimore Orioles: 4/5 game thread

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7:17 p.m.: George Sherrill gets the side 1-2-3 in the ninth and Seattle loses 6-4. I’m off to the clubhouse and will be back later.
Down below, take a walk to Camden Yards with me in our latest video. Tour the pressbox, where we work and then come down on the field during batting practice.

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6:45 p.m.: Got tripped up with the score a little earlier, sorry. That seventh inning felt like a back-breaker for the Mariners after Sean Green walked the first three batters he faced. Roy Corcoran did an excellent job of relief from there, notching three straight flyball outs. But the second of those was a shot to the warning track in left by Adam Jones that brought the runner in from third for a 6-4 lead by Baltimore. Not looking good for Seattle. Poor pitching by Miguel Batista and Green.
6:03 p.m.: It’s only the sixth inning, but that might have been the ballgame in the top of the frame. The M’s put two on with none out, then saw Jose Vidro hit a lazy fly ball to center that failed to advance the runners. Kenji Johjima came up next and hit into a 5-4-3 double-play. In a 5-4 game, the O’s leading, that was huge. Sean Green has replaced Miguel Batista to start the bottom of the sixth.
5:56 p.m.: Miguel Batista just coughed up one big hairball — not to mention a lead — in the fifth inning, issuing three straight walks at one point to force home a tying run, then yielding a Luke Scott single to center and a sacrifice fly to deep center by Ramon Hernandez that’s put the Orioles in front 5-4. A dramatic change of events here. Shades of last summer in Toronto when Batista walked the bases loaded with none out but managed to escpae with only one run allowed and an eventual victory. No such magic tonight. Now, the big question is, who comes back out for the sixth? Once again, that 11-man pitching staff is looking mighty shaky.
5:12 p.m.: Seattle booted the ball around in the bottom of the fourth, allowing the Orioles to tie the game 2-2. But Jose Lopez just put the M’s in front in the fifth, with a one-out, two-run homer to left field. Adam Loewen got one more out in the inning, then was lifted for reliever Matt Albers. The bottom of the fourth turned ugly for Seattle after a one-out double by Kevin Millar. With two out, Luke Scott doubled to right center to bring one run home. After that, Yuniesky Betancourt allowed a Ramon Hernandez grounder to short-hop him and go into left field. Raul Ibanez picked the ball up and heaved a throw home — way, way home as it sailed over catcher Kenji Johjima’s head, allowing Scott to score the tying run.
5:02 p.m.: Still a 2-0 game, Seattle in the lead, as we enter the fourth inning. Miguel Batista got in a bit of a jam in the third, walking Brian Roberts with one out. Roberts then stole second and later third, but the umpire at the latter base didn’t agree and called him out. I thought he was safe. But the M’s caught a break. Melvin Mora flied out to end it. Adam Loewen is missing his control tonight and was up to 54 pitches through three innings. The M’s could help themselves by showing some of that patient approach this inning that we’ve seen all week.
4:43 p.m.: Jose Vidro tagged Adam Loewen for a two-run homer to left field in the second inning that barely managed to stay fair. The second home run in less than a week by Vidro gives Seattle a 2-0 lead heading to the third inning. Miguel Batista gave up a single in the bottom of the frame, but got out of it, largely due to some good hustle by second baseman Jose Lopez on a pop-up to shallow right. Lopez couldn’t hold on to the ball as he made a diving, over-the-head attempt for it. But he alertly picked the ball up and threw out the lead runner, who had held up halfway. Adrian Beltre had been standing on second after a walk prior to Vidro’s homer in the top of the frame. He seemed unsure of what to do as he watched the ball sail out. Perhaps he was stunned to see two homers by Vidro within a three-game span? Who knows. But Vidro nearly passed him on the bases during his home run trot. To answer a question from Adam in the comments thread, Mark Lowe may have only thrown a handful of pitches this season, but they came on back-to-back days. So, he couldn’t be used a third straight day that series finale with Texas. And last night, it was mop-up time after the seventh. Lowe is the de-facto closer right now. You need to save some guys for the eighth and ninth. The M’s were trailing 4-2 in the game by the time the seventh began. I could understand the argument for bringing Lowe in to a high-leverage situation in the seventh if his team was ahead. But at the time, his team was trailing. And it wasn’t like there was a bases loaded jam. It was a walk and a quick homer that made it 6-2. It doesn’t make sense to use him in that situation. Or in the eighth. So, I’m not sure of the problem regarding his use.
As for Ryan Rowland-Smith, how was he to be used? The team positioned itself to win all three games against the Rangers. J.J. Putz blew the save and they lost. Not sure where Rowland-Smith fits into all that. I know the team didn’t want him going a week withoiut pitching, but I just don’t see too many opportunities that presented themselves. Not buying the argument.
4:25 p.m.: Miguel Batista looked sharp in the bottom of the first, notching a groundout back to the mound and another to third base to start the inning. Nick Markakis then rolled a grounder up the middle for a single and later stole second base. But Batista struck out Kevin Millar on a full-count offering to end the frame. Scoreless after one.
4:17 p.m.: The M’s squandered a scoring chance in the first inning as Raul Ibanez drew a two-out walk, then advanced to second on a wild-pitch. But Richie Sexson took a called third strike to end the inning. No comments, please. Well, actually, OK, you can comment if you’d like.
4:11 p.m.: A breezy night here at Camden Yards as Miguel Batista takes the mound for Seattle, against Adam Loewen. See Loewen throwing the game’s first pitch to Ichiro on the previous page. Was a beautiful, sunny day here, but some clouds have eased in over the ballpark within the past hour. Doesn’t look like rain, but it’s gotten somewhat cooler than before. Cooler than last night, anyway. They announced the gametime temperature as 63 degrees, but there is no way. Feels like 50 or lower. The kind of weather that makes you blow on your hands.
We met with manager John McLaren in the dugout a short time ago. I asked him whether he’d given any more thought to going to a 12-man pitching staff and he said that several options had been discussed. But he doesn’t anticipate anything happening before this series is over.
“Again, things can change game to game,” he said. “But again, we don’t plan on changes overnight.”
To answer a question one of you asked me earlier today, yes, R.A. Dickey still has minor league options left — two years worth. So, this year and one more after that. Will Dickey be part of a revamped bullpen? Possibly. Though right now, McLaren is also eyeing Arthur Rhodes and Brandon Morrow just as intently, if not more so.
I spoke to Cha Seung Baek earlier and he told me he was missing his spots a lot over the middle of the plate. His English is getting much better and he told me he didn’t want to make excuses for giving up the home runs. But, he added, sitting out eight days between mound outings didn’t help his control. He’s also working to adjust to the differences between starting and being a long reliever. Starters obviously know they are going to pitch and can go through all of their stretching and pre-game routine. With long relievers, it’s a guess. Baek knows he has to get used to warming up on-the-fly and being ready to go in after sitting for a long time.
McLaren said “maybe” when asked whether the layoff had impacted Baek’s control. He noted that the two other pitchers used in the middle innings, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Roy Corcoran, were also plagued by inactivity.
The lineups:
51 Ichiro (L) CF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
28 Raul Ibanez (L) LF
44 Richie Sexson 1B
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
12 Mike Morse RF
3 Jose Vidro (S) DH
2 Kenji Johjima C
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
43 Miguel Batista RHP
1 Brian Roberts (S) 2B
6 Melvin Mora 3B
21 Nick Markakis (L) RF
15 Kevin Millar 1B
17 Aubrey Huff (L) DH
9 Scott Moore (L) LF
55 Ramon Hernandez C
10 Adam Jones CF
12 Brandon Fahey (L) SS
29 Adam Loewen LHP
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