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May 8, 2008 at 9:18 PM

Texas Rangers at Mariners: 05/08 game thread

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9:18 p.m.: Smoke has cleared after the big “fight” but the M’s still trail, now 5-0, after Ryan Rowland-Smith yielded a double to Gerald Laird in the sixth and an RBI single to Ramon Vazquez (who is killing Seattle with four straight hits tonight). Felix Hernandez was pulled after five. I’m amazed he made it that deep. He threw 109 pitches, but had thrown 68 after two innings. One run by the M’s in their last 28 innings of play. By the way, Kason Gabbard left the game with “bruised legs” — no jokes please. Although, maybe he bruised them hitting the ground too fast when he saw a 6-foot-8 tree charging at him with his batting helmet primed and cocked. Maybe not.
8:47 p.m.: The first solid contact by the Mariners all night came when Richie Sexson scored a direct hit on Texas starter Kason Gabbard with his batting helmet in the fourth inning. Gabbard threw up around Sexson’s head area (though he didn’t come close to hitting him). Sexson charged the mound without hesitation, ripped his helmet off and landed a direct hit on the ducking Gabbard, who simply went for the 6-foot-8 behemoth’s knees and held on for dear life. The dugouts and bullpens emptied. Felix Hernandez was doing the same crazy act he pulled in Oakland last year — the old ‘hold me back” routine as several teammates took turns flinging him out of harm’s way. See the far right corner of the photo below. I hope for Hernandez’s sake that he fights as well as he yaps because one of these days, someone’s going to get through the melee and put him to the test. The franchise player can’t be doing that. He’s too valuable to go looking for fights unless they come directly to him like it just did for Gabbard.
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Hernandez had hit Ian Kinsler with an inside pitch in the top of the inning that the latter did little to get out of the way of. The pair exchanged some words. Earlier on, Hernandez had plunked Gerald Laird. Laird had to be picked up piggyback style by teammate Milton Bradley (a true peacemaker if there ever was one, right?) when he did his own “hold me back” thing and got too close to reigniting the fracas. Sexson didn’t hesitate. I think he expected this might happen and knew what he was going to do before the pitch was thrown. Anyhow, nothing wrong with what he did. Ballplayers have to protect their turf — and their livelihoods when brushback pitches get too high up and in. But Hernandez has to cut it out.
The M’s got their loudest ovation of the week when the field was cleared. Sexson is out of the game, replaced by Miguel Cairo, who drew a walk off the rattled Gabbard. Texas pulled the pitcher when Yuniesky Betancourt hit an infield single to shortstop and both runners advanced on an error. Through all this, the M’s still trail 4-0 heading to the fifth. But at least they got the pitcher out of the game. Now they have to get a hit with something other than fists and helmets.
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7:51 p.m.: Stunned is the best way to describe the mood in this ballpark right now. Felix Hernandez trails 4-0 after serving up a two-run home run to Ian Kinsler. Even more concerning is that Hernandez has already thrown 68 pitches in just two innings of work. Miguel Batista seems to be rubbing off on him in more ways than one. This is a mighty hurdle for the M’s to overcome right now. If they lose, they will sit eight games out of first place. John McLaren argued with the plate umpire for a second straight night, but didn’t get tossed this time. McLaren felt that Kenji Johjima had caught a foul tip in the dirt by German Duran on a 2-2 pitch. But that’s not the way it was called by umpire Chad Fairchild. Didn’t matter since Duran lined out to third with a runner on.
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But the next batter, Kinsler, lined one into the Mariners bullpen. The crowd booed as McLaren walked off the field and into the dugout. Not sure if they were booing him or the umpire’s call. Ichiro led off the bottom of the first with an infield hit, but new DH Jose Lopez grounded into a double play and the rally fizzled. We’ve seen that before from the DH spot.
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7:25 p.m.: The Mariners are going to put that two runs or more thing to the test already tonight, down 2-0 after a half inning of play. Remember, this team is 0-16 when trailing by two or more at any point in a game. Felix Hernandez was his own worst enemy in the first inning, allowing a one-out single by Ramon Vazquez, then walking Josh Hamilton on four pitches and Milton Bradley with the count full. David Murphy delivered a sacrifice fly to left for the first run and Brandon Boggs singled through the right side past Richie Sexson to make it 2-0. Hernandez and the M’s have their work cut out for them already.
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7:11 p.m.: By the way, Ben Broussard, pictured above in a photo taken yesterday, just got designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers. So much for his going back “home” to be near his family. That stint didn’t last very long. When I spoke to Broussard yesterday, he didn’t think the Rangers would DFA him and eat his $3.8-million guaranteed contract. Guess he was wrong. The Rangers have 10 days to trade, release, or send him to the minors.
The lineups:
RANGERS (15-20)
5 Ian Kinsler 2B
12 Ramon Vazquez SS
32 Josh Hamilton CF
21 Milton Bradley DH
7 David Murphy RF
41 Brandon Boggs LF
27 Frank Catalanotto 1B
15 Gerald Laird C
6 German Duran 3B
13 Kason Gabbard LHP
MARINERS (14-21)
51 Ichiro CF
4 Jose Lopez DH
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
44 Richie Sexson 1B
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
50 Wladimir Balentien RF
2 Kenji Johjima C
16 Willie Bloomquist 2B
34 Felix Hernandez RHP

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