Lots of relieved-sounding people in the visitors’ clubhouse tonight as the Mariners pull off a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays to snap their four-game losing streak and improve to 3-5 on the season. We talked about the work by Ryan Rowland-Smith, notching five straight outs to record his first career save and preserve Erik Bedard’s first win as a Mariner.
But how about Jose Lopez and his mad dash to second on that foul pop-up? Or his relay throw to third and the way Adrian Beltre blocked the bad to prevent B.J. Upton from sliding in safely for a triple? Big plays in a big game for Seattle.
“We got sloppy and we left some men on base, but we got a win,” manager John McLaren said.
I talked to first base coach Eddie Rodriguez about Lopez tagging on the foul pop-up. They’ve practiced that play in spring training and the base runner is supposed to be alert. Supposed to be “focused”. Lopez, this time, was all that. Rays catcher Shawn Riggans wasn’t as he kept trying to call timeout — taking his eyes off Lopez.
“He was standing on the bag and I’m telling him ‘Watch the play, watch the play, watch the play,’ ” Rodriguez said. “I think Riggans was asking for time, but they wouldn’t give it to him because the ball was still in-play. I just told Lopey ‘Get off, get off, get off’ and when he (Riggans) turned around, Lopez took off.”
In other words, Lopez had his head in the game.
“Everybody had their backs to me,” Lopez said. “Nobody saw me.”
Good for Lopez. He’s had a rough year since last June. Maybe it’s not time to give up hope just yet. We’ll see. He’s off to a fast start.
Brad Wilkerson finally got a big RBI hit and so did Richie sexson, whose at-bats are looking stronger and stronger as the season progresses. He feels he was pressing too hard at Safeco Field last week, trying to impress the home fans, and has eased up on the road. I asked him whether he minded seeing Raul Ibanez walked twice in front of him to load the bases.
“It’s almost a move as a manager that I’d have to make,” Sexson said with a shrug. “I hit .205 last year.”
Love the honesty. Let’s not over-analyze this game. There were plenty of mistakes and it’s only one win. But a win this team badly needed.