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June 11, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays: 06/11 game thread

11:54 p.m.: Raul Ibanez comes up huge in the ninth, lining a ball into right field off southpaw closer B.J. Ryan to put Seattle ahead 2-1. J.J. Putz is on the mound in the ninth. I would have let Felix Hernandez finish this game. He’s at only 97 pitches. Unless he begged off.%2

11:37 a.m.: Felix Hernandez just notched his 500th career strikeout in the eighth inning, whiffing Curtis Thigpen. A great game pitched by Hernandez today. He’s been in control all the way, with just an unearned run against on the scoreboard and four hits allowed. Hernandez should be able to go nine today — if not 10. He’s under 100 pitches at 97.
Still a 1-1 game. Seattle had its chances to score in the eighth when lefty reliever Scott Downs issued three walks to load the bases with two out. But Kenji Johjima, who is now 6-for-11 lifetime off Shaun Marcum, lined out to cetner against Downs. Hit it hard. But nothing to show for it.
11:09 a.m.: Yuniesky Betancourt just bailed John McLaren, Kenji Johjima and Jeremy Reed out of a big-time mess in the seventh, tripling to drive home Richie Sexson from first base and tying the game 1-1. Moments earlier, with two on and none out, McLaren had Johjima try to notch the second sacrifice bunt of his career. Johjima instead popped up softly and pitcher Shaun Marcum caught it, then wheeled and fired to second to nab lead runner Reed for the double-play. Not well executed.
Felix Hernandez did a masterful job of escaping a jam in the bottom of the sixth after Joe Inglett doubled to put runners and second and third with one out. Hernandez reached back at that point and notched his sixth strikeout of the day, this one on Vernon Wells. Hernandez likely won’t reach double-digits in strikeouts, but none was bigger than that one. As I type this, he just got through a 1-2-3 seventh and is still only at 85 pitches. Scott Downs now in to pitch for Toronto in the eighth. The M’s really ran up Marcum’s pitch count those last two innings.
10:39 a.m.: Five innings in the books already and Seattle still trails 1-0. Felix Hernandez is pitching a gem today. Quick and efficient. The M’s have the top of the order coming up in the sixth against Shaun Marcum. I know it’s only a one-run game, but you get the feeling that — with Ichiro leading off — this might be the team’s last chance to make a dent in this guy. I don’t like what I’m seeing from this lineup today. You get the feeling that 1-0 will be the final score.
10:27 a.m.: Was that the ballgame we just saw played out in the fourth inning? We’ll see. Jeremy Reed gets fooled by a double down the line from Joe Inglett. Ball takes a carom off the short fence in right and scoots by Reed for an error. Inglett gets to third base on the play with none out. Felix Hernandez then comes up with one of those strikeouts we talked about, whiffing the dangerous Vernon Wells. But veteran Matt Stairs comes up with a groundout to the right side for an RBI. Without the error, Inglett doesn’t score on that play. Instead, it’s an unearned run and a 1-0 Toronto lead heading to the fifth.
Shaun Marcum needed only 49 pitches to get through four innings. He’s got seven strikeouts. And Inglett gave the M’s an extra out in the fourth by failing to turn a routine double play. Seattle is in big trouble.
10:11 a.m.: If the Mariners thought Dustin McGowan was tough last night, what are they to make of Shaun Marcum today? Marcum is through the third inning on only 35 pitches. And he’s got six strikeouts as well. Do the math. It means when Marcum isn’t striking guys out, they’re mishitting the ball very early in counts. Marcum did lose his perfect game bid by walking Kenji Johjima, of all people. But he’s got complete game stuff written all over him so far.
Felix Hernandez erased a leadoff walk with the third double-play grounder in three days by Centralia native Lyle Overbay in the bottom of the second. Hernandez later yielded a single to Kevin Mench, but struck out Brad Wilkerson to end the inning. Hernandez then got through a nice, quick bottom of the third.
So, we’re still scoreless after three. The game is only a half-hour old. I like it.
I’ve got a busy day today. After this game, I go downstairs to the studios of TSN (the Canadian version of ESPN) to tape the daily Off The Record show. I’ll be one of their four sports “celebrity” panelists. One of the guys who is supposed to be on with me — in-studio, arguing sports topics — is none other than John Rocker. I have no idea why he’s in town. Hope he liked his subway ride over.
9:45 a.m. : Good morning to all of you from here at the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the SkyDome. It’s an early tilt today. The M’s went 1-2-3 against Shaun Marcum in the top of the first and Felix Hernandez returned the favor in a quick bottom half. Hernandez got two groundouts and a flyout to center. I want to see more of that from him. I talked about that this morning in my Talkin’ Baseball segment on KJR 950 AM’s Mitch in the Morning Show. We all know Hernandez can strike guys out. I’d rather see him get those when he truly needs to — like with a runner on third and less than two out. For now, if he is to become a true staff ace, he needs to become more efficient in his starts. Needs to have innings like that first. Nice and quick. That’s how you go seven, eight and nine innings on a regular basis. David Eckstein isn’t going to hit the ball out of the park. Challenge him, make him mishit the ball into a 4-3 groundout.
Adrian Beltre gets a day off today, with Willie Bloomquist at third.
The lineups:
MARINERS (23-42)
51 Ichiro CF
16 Willie Bloomquist 3B
3 Jose Vidro DH
28 Raul Ibanez LF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
8 Jeremy Reed RF
44 Richie Sexson 1B
2 Kenji Johjima C
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
34 Felix Hernandez RHP
BLUE JAYS (34-33)
11 David Eckstein SS
1 Joe Inglett 2B
10 Vernon Wells CF
24 Matt Stairs DH
17 Lyle Overbay 1B
36 Kevin Mench LF
35 Brad Wilkerson RF
19 Marco Scutaro 3B
7 Curtis Thigpen C
28 Shaun Marcum RHP



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