3:08 p.m.: John McLaren did indeed let Miguel Batista head back out for the eighth. Batista notched two quick outs on a Gary Matthews Jr. grounder and a Vlad Guerrero flyball to right. Garret Anderson then singled up the middle and McLaren went to Arthur Rhodes in the bullpen. You know what that means here in Anaheim. A pitching change, runner on, the home side losing and time to kill? You guessed it…
Rally Monkey time. Where normally sane adults and their kids start waving around multi-colored capuchin monkeys while leaping about to the tune of Naughty by Nature’s classic (use term loosely here) “Jump Around!” tune. Anyway, the gambit failed, because Rhodes struck out Casey Kotchman. On to the ninth.
Remember, don’t forget to take your video tour of Angel Stadium down below:
2:48 p.m.: Miguel Batista is through seven innings, giving up a leadoff single to Maicer Izturis, but later fanning a pair. That’s nine strikeouts for Batista so far, the most he’s had since notching 11 with the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 6, 2006. Actually, scratch that. We’ve just been told he only has eight Ks today, which makes me feel better because I’d previously written he had only six before the two this past inning. M’s still lead 4-0 as we enter the eighth. Brandon Morrow is warming up in the bullpen. Arthur Rhodes now up as well. Let’s see if John McLaren allows Batista back out there, with a pitch count at 101. Batista can go into the teens once he passes the century mark. But you’ve also got the big power hitters coming up. I’d maybe give him a batter or two. Only two hits off him — both singles — by the Big Three of Gary Matthews Jr., Vlad Guerrero and Garret Anderson. Both by Guerrero.
2:32 p.m.: Miguel Batista is through six innings on just 89 pitches. We could see him go seven today, since he’s got the bottom third of the order due up next frame. Batista went seven innings only six times all of last season, including twice in the final month. So, this is big. He’s up 4-0 as we head to the top of the seventh. M’s actually just went 1-2-3 in their half, so it’s the seventh-inning stretch, seen above. Batista back out on the mound.
2:18 p.m.: Make that six strikeouts in five scoreless innings for Miguel Batista. He’s dialed-in today, looking a lot more like the guy we saw in 2007. The M’s needed this. They still aren’t scoring runs in droves. But the pitching is giving them a chance to win. Not as many fans here today, but still a hefty 43,631 (considered a sellout despite the empty seats visible throughout the ballpark.)
2:09 p.m.: Willie Bloomquist singled to open the fifth and Ichiro tripled to right center to bring him home. Jose Lopez then cashed-in Ichiro with a single looped to right field, making it a 4-0 lead for the Mariners. Seattle could have blown the game open even wider that inning after a Raul Ibanez single put two on with nine out. But Adrian Beltre struck out, Jose Vidro tapped out to first base. Richie Sexson then worked yet another full-count walk to load the bases. Los Angeles then pulled starter Dustin Moseley in favor of right hander Darren O’Day, who gor Brad Wilkerson to ground out to second. This team does not do things the easy way on offense.
1:38 p.m.: Lots of runners stranded by both teams in the third inning. Seattle put runners at second and third with only one out in the top of the frame, but saw Adrian Beltre rap a ball to third baseman Chone Figgins — resulting in lead runner Ichiro getting caught in a rundown and ruled out when he brokehis baseline to avoid a tag. That left runners at the corners and Jose Vidro promptly grounded out to second to end the threat.
Things gor dicey for Miguel Batista in the bottom of the frame. A leadoff infield single by Erick Aybar was erased by a double play lineout to Beltre at third. But Batista then walked Gary Matthews Jr. and yielded a single to left by Vlad Guerrero. That brought the dangerous Garret Anderson to the plate, but he swung and missed at a 2-2 offering from Batista to end the inning. This is vintage Batista today. Lots of runners, but no runs allowed so far. What he did in most games over six innings for much of last year. Still a 2-0 lead for the M’s after three.
1:08 p.m.: Richie Sexson goes deep to left in the second inning after a leadoff walk by Adrian Beltre (yes, the M’s actually got a leadoff guy on base to start an inning). So, it’s a 2-0 game heading to the bottom of the second. Brad Wilkerson also notched an extra-base hit that frame, lacing a double just past the first base bag and down the right field line. He needs to get it going. Another guy in that latter category, Jose Vidro, looked to have teed off big on Angels starter Dustin Moseley, drilling a ball to right center. But as was the case with so many Mariner fly balls last night, this one hung up and died in mid-flight.
12:44 p.m.: Raul Ibanez grounds out (photo opposite page) to end a 1-2-3 first inning by the Mariners. A very meek first inning. The M’s are giving Yuniesky Betancourt a rest today. He’s had some troubles at times — slipping and falling last night while trying to make a tough play on an infield hit — and looks a little tired. Willie Bloomquist takes his spot.
As many of you have pointed out, Frank Thomas was released by the Toronto Blue Jays today. The Blue Jays now are on-the-hook for the remainder of his two-year, $18-million salary. Teams can express interest to Thomas during the next 48 hours, the time it will take for him to clear waivers. After that, they are allowed to discuss money with him. He can technically be had for the major league minimum this year. But I’m sure Thomas will be looking for some guaranteed money next year. That’s the part that worries me.
I’ve been hearing, from folks in Toronto, that Thomas was not in the same physical shape this year that he was last. If that’s the case, that sets off major alarm bells for me, especially when it’s considered Thomas is going to be turning 40. (Actually, cancel that — just checked with some folks who clarified the situation a little better. They said it isn’t so much Thomas’s conditioning, but more that the Blue Jays simply felt he’d “lost it” over the winter. Hey, it happens to guys that age. Look at Edgar Martinez). I’m not worried about the clubhouse cancer reputation. Thomas would no doubt be on his best behavior coming over. And, as blogger Brett Miller pointed out to me in an email today, Thomas’s batting average on balls put into play (BAbip) is only .159. Remember, that .290 is considered normal. It would seem to suggest Thomas has been the victim of bad luck. His walks and strikeout rates are roughly the same as they’ve been in the past.
These are all positive signs. That said, I’d be leery of committing too much future money to a guy who may have loaded up his body for one big payday, which the Blue Jays forked over, only to coast now that he’s got the cash coming in. Or, if he’s simply “lost it” his strong numbers from 2007 won’t matter at all. Thomas also seemed very interested in his 2009 option money. Why does he need the option that badly? He’s got millions already. What are his motivations? These are questions I’d be asking if I was a front office type looking to take a seven (or even eight) figure gamble on a guy. It didn’t take long for him to sound off this season once his playing time was cut. And don’t forget, the M’s are in the same option territory with Jose Vidro. You don’t want to offload Vidro and his 2009 option, only to replace it with an even bigger potential money-eater in Thomas if he can’t produce.
So, I’d do my due dilligence on this. Make sure there aren’t any conditioning concerns or money issues outside of ego involved here (and I have no evidence there is on the money side, I’m just saying what I’d do). I’d check out some 2008 videos to see the timing of his swing, or other signs that his approach is significantly off from previous years. If there aren’t and you can get Thomas for a reasonable price (significantly less than Vidro’s option for 2009), I’d say go for it. But any of those other red flags come up? Take a pass.
By the way, early word on Wladimir Balentien, who slammed his knee into some concrete last night while attempting a sliding catch, is that there are no broken bones or torn ligaments. He’ll be re-evaluated today, but that’s obviously a big relief for the team.
51 Ichiro CF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
3 Jose Vidro DH
44 Richie Sexson 1B
6 Brad Wilkerson RF
2 Kenji Johjima C
16 Willie Bloomquist SS
43 Miguel Batista RHP
9 Chone Figgins 3B
24 Gary Matthews Jr. CF
27 Vladimir Guerrero RF
16 Garret Anderson LF
35 Casey Kotchman 1B
21 Juan Rivera DH
6 Maicer Izturis 2B
44 Mike Napoli C
2 Erick Aybar SS
58 Dustin Moseley RHP