Looks like the Mariners aren’t much of a draw in Baltimore. Not in the middle of a Monday afternoon, anyhow.
2:27 p.m.: Obviously, we’ll have to see whether something is wrong with Ryan Rowland-Smith. If not, this is going to be an interesting post-game session with John McLaren. Not sure I agree with using Eric O’Flaherty three straight games. Gives up a go-ahead home run to Aubrey Huff (yes, a lefty) in the eighth and the M’s are now three outs from victory, down 5-4. Felix Hernandez took the heat off McLaren yesterday, but I have a feeling it’s now back on flame broil. Let’s see if there’s an explanation down below after the game, other than letting O’Flaherty “get back on the horse.” Don’t think this was the time, if Rowland-Smith is available.
A look at Ichiro during batting practice, sizing up the ballpark prior to his leadoff homer.
2:10 p.m.: A gutsy effort by Carlos Silva to get through seven innings today. Second time in a row he’s done that. Did it in style, too, fanning Nick Markakis on a called third strike with a 91 mph fastball and the count full with two on. I expected to see Ryan Rowland-Smith warming up in the bullpen. Not Eric O’Flaherty. Thought John McLaren might bring in a lefty to face Markakis in that situation, but did not think I’d see O’Flaherty warming up. I wonder if Rowland-Smith is fully healthy. Will have to ask him. But anyway, you see now why the team picked up Silva. Two seven-inning efforts already this season. This rotation is well ahead of last year’s with him added, never mind Erik Bedard. Still 4-4 heading to the eighth.
1:59 p.m.: I wasn’t a big fan of letting Jose Lopez bunt in that seventh inning after Ichiro’s leadoff single. I know there haven’t been a lot of runs generated by this offense, but why give up an important out when there are other options available? Like a hit-and-run, or even a steal? I know there was a lefty on the mound, making steals more difficult, but you also have a guy on first who the manager thought could swipe 80 bags this year. Remember? So, the M’s give away an out, Raul Ibanez taps out for the second out of the inning and then Mike Morse fans against the righty. I agree with bringing Morse in and getting Jamie Walker out of the game (not to mention an ineffective Brad Wilkerson). But I think the m’s put themselves behind the eight ball needlessly by having Lopez sacrifice. If your No. 2 hitter can’t execute a hit-and-run, he shouldn’t be hitting second.
1:36 p.m.: Is Kenji Johjima ever going to get another hit? That’s twice today where his broken bat pieces have gone further than the balls he’s hit. How many times are you going to see Jose Vidro walked intentionally? Well, he was. Richie Sexson hit a double to right center (just where he wants to be driving the ball, good piece of hitting there) with one out in the sixth, leaving first base open. Vidro was walked and Johjima barely lofted a broken bat blooper to the shortstop. Yuniesky Betancourt flied out to right to end the threat. A disappointing end to a promising inning for the M’s.
1:29 p.m.: Carlos Silva got roughed up again in the fifth, though he held the O’s to just a run that tied the game 4-4. Adam Jones led off with a double to left field, took third on a bunt, then scored on a single to right by Brian Roberts. But Silva got out of further trouble with a strikeout on Melvin Mora and a flyout to left by Nick Markakis. On to the sixth.
1:23 p.m.: Mariners are now leading 4-3 midway through the fifth after Raul Ibanez doubled home Yuniesky Betancourt in the top of the inning. Some of you were ready to bury Ibanez yesterday morning, but he’s now got five hits, including two homers and a double, the past two days. Looking through the comments from this morning, I see that Chris from Bothell has a bunch of you stirred up by saying we aren’t six games into the season, but truly 168 in given how the M’s seem to have picked up from where they left off last year. A cute comment, but the only problem I have with it is, once again, that with a healthy J.J. Putz last Tuesday and again yesterday, the M’s are probably a 4-2, first-place club in spite of their struggles. If that were the case, no one would be panicking like they are. So, who do you blame for that? Putz? That’s why it’s important to keep a level head about this. Or, at least, understand what’s driving some of the decision-making.
Anyhow, Brad Wilkerson is stinking up the joint again today. He’s been doing a lot of extra cage work with hitting coach Jeff Pentland and the word is, he’s close to a breakthrough. We’ll see. Ibanez was close to one last year, if you’ll remember, and did actually come through a few days later. The team is giving guys like Wilkerson plenty of time (or rope to hang themselves with, depending on how you see things). But they can’t keep a guy batting .050 or whatever in the middle of the order for too much longer. There is, believe it or not, a sense of urgency about what’s gone on. I don’t think we’re going to see a repeat of the past, where guys could hit at a sub-.200 level for months. I get the feeling from talking to folks that it will be different this year. Things like the hitters, or even with Eric O’Flaherty. Nothing says he has to be situational lefty for life or that Ryan Rowland-Smith can’t take over that job if O’Flaherty implodes a couple of times more. I think Arthur Rhodes will be that main lefty come May. But for now, it’s too early. O’Flaherty is still the No. 1 lefty and he gets the call in the eighth and ninth. Until he shows he can’t handle it. But you don’t base that off two outings to start the year.
1:03 p.m.: Nice bit of hustle by birthday boy Adrian Beltre to tie the game 3-3 in the fourth inning. Beltre was standing on second base after a leadoff single and a one-out walk drawn by Richie “Ball Four” Sexson. Jose Vidro then hit a grounder to first base that the Orioles tried to turn two on. But Vidro beat the throw back to first, with pitcher Daniel Cabrera covering. Cabrera seemed to fall asleep after that, not realizing that Beltre, who had gone to third, was darting for home. Beltre scored, nearly running over umpire Brian O’Nora, who wound up in a locked embrace with Beltre as they tried to slow their momentum.
12:53 p.m.: Rough third inning for Carlos Silva, who gives up three and now trails 3-2 heading into the fourth. The switch-hitters touched him up that frame, with Luis Hernandez notching a one-out single to center and then being driven home on a Brian Roberts double to the left center gap. The outfield throw was fine, but cutoff man Yuniesky Betancourt turned in a poor showing on his relay to the plate. Betancourt had time to nab Hernandez, but seemed unaware of that and rushed an off-balance throw that had no juice on it. That made it a 2-1 game. Melvin Mora stepped up next and drove a ball over the wall in left to put the O’s ahead 3-2.
Daniel Cabrera has retired seven in a row. Mariners need to start hitting before they let another quick start go for naught.
12:34 p.m.: A pair of 1-2-3 innings by both starters in the second. Carlos Silva did a decent job against the lefties in that second frame, handcuffing Aubrey Huff on the 4-1 groundout. What’s with the diving by Richie Sexson at first base? Looks like a lost soccer goalie. Luke Scott hit one to the warning track in right field, but Brad Wilkerson was there for the catch. Style points don’t count. Only outs.
12:23 p.m.: The home runs just keep coming for the Mariners, who lead 2-0 after an inning of play. That’s 15 of the last 16 runs via the long ball scored by Seattle’s offense after Ichiro led off with a solo blast to right center off Daniel Cabrera and Raul Ibanez followed two batters later with a shot to right. Mariners manager John McLaren made some minor lineup adjustments, moving Adrian Beltre into the cleanup spot, putting Richie Sexson sixth and Brad Wilkerson fifth. McLaren wants to split up the righty bats.
The Orioles put a lefty-stacked lineup out there against Carlos Silva in the bottom of the inning. Silva got a quick groundout and a popout, but then saw lefty Nick Markakis double down the left field line. Markakis is now 7-for-10 lifetime with three doubles off Silva, not exactly renowned as a lefty-killer. Did a good job against the Rangers’ lefties, but he’s not in Safeco Field anymore. Got out of the first with a flyball to center by Kevin Millar.
Here are the lineups:
51 Ichiro (L) CF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
28 Raul Ibanez (L) LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
6 Brad Wilkerson (L) RF
44 Richie Sexson 1B
3 Jose Vidro (S) DH
2 Kenji Johjima C
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
52 Carlos Silva (1-0, 1.29) RHP
1 Brian Roberts (S) 2B
6 Melvin Mora 3B
21 Nick Markakis (L) RF
15 Kevin Millar 1B
17 Aubrey Huff (L) DH
30 Luke Scott (L) LF
55 Ramon Hernandez C
10 Adam Jones CF
2 Luis Hernandez (S) SS
40 Daniel Cabrera (0-0, 13.50) RHP