A younger look to the Mariners tonight, with four guys in the starting lineup who were in Class AAA at the start of the season. That would be Wladimi Balentien at DH, Jeremy Reed in CF, Bryan LaHair at 1B and Jeff Clement catching. Oh yeah, wait. R.A. Dickey is pitching. Make that five guys out of 10 if you include hitters and the starting pitcher.
Tell you what, if these Twins hope to be serious playoff contenders come September, they’ll have to learn how to hold a lead. Jose Lopez just doubled home a pair off Joe Nathan in the eighth to put Seattle ahead 8-7 as we head to the bottom of the ninth. What a wild ride. J.J. Putz is still out there. He threw only eight pitches in the eighth. Hang on, folks!
Jim Riggleman had plenty to say about today’s moves before the game. Hear a lengthy clip from him about the DFA of Jose Vidro right here in which he talks about why the team waited so long to make the move. Also, how he was surprised no one picked up Vidro in a trade.
“I couldn’t believe the phone wasn’t ringing for someone to take Jose Vidro,” he said.
Here is some more audio from Riggleman on why Brandon Morrow was sent down now. Just a day or two ago, Riggleman was stressing the need to see J.J. Putz notch back-to-back-to-back saves (never mind just back-to-back). Now, all that’s been forgotten, so I asked him why there was such an about-face in thinking. He told me it had to do with the fragile balance between giving fans their money’s worth (meaning not losing every night) and building for the future.
“Every night, our guys are trying to win and our staff is trying to win,” he said. “But we’re not going to win the pennant.”
No, they most certainly will not win the pennant or anything else. I suspect, as I wrote earlier, that the sudden change has plenty to do with the need to address the rotation. That Miguel Batista start of three innings last night, not to mention some other abbreviated outings, will likely necessitate the call-up of Ryan Rowland-Smith by his next turn in the rotation. Might Batista go to the bullpen? Perhaps. At that point, you’d want to option Morrow down in any event. So, there was little chance of Putz getting three straight (let alone two consecutive) save opportunities by Thursday or Friday. So, you might as well get Morrow down to Class AAA right now. Which the team has done.
And the guy who made tonight’s Seattle lineup possible, Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, down on the field checking it all out before the game.
9:47 p.m.: Seattle fans are getting an early taste of what life at the back of this bullpen could be for a while. The M’s just coughed up a three-run lead in the eighth and now trail 7-6 after a two-run homer by Mike Kubel off Cesar Jimenez and a two-run double by Mike Lamb off J.J. Putz. No, Putz doesn’t look quite back to normal just yet. But this was always going to be the risk. This entire night of pitching by R.A. Dickey, going seven innings and allowing only three runs, has now been wasted. Dickey did solidify his bid to remain in the rotation. If I was Miguel Batista, I’d be a little nervous.
9:08 p.m.: Two more runs batted in by Raul Ibanez in the sixth inning, on a bases loaded, two-out single off southpaw reliever Craig Breslow, have made it a 6-3 lead for the M’s. Ibanez has five RBI tonight. He just tied the club record for RBI in a two-game period (11) and a three-game period (14), both set by Ken Griffey Jr. in April 1999. R.A. Dickey is back out there for the seventh inning, his pitch count at 93.
8:45 p.m.: Jason Kubel led off the sixth inning with a blast into the right field seats off R.A. Dickey, who’s danced in and out of trouble for most of the night. Dickey did a fine job escaping a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning and still has a 4-3 lead as we head to the bottom of the sixth. Seattle could use some add-on runs. It won’t have Brandon Morrow to close things out tonight.
8:05 p.m.: Seattle just took a 4-2 lead in the third inning, courtesy of a three-run homer by Raul Ibanez and a sacrifice fly from Wladmir Balentien. Ibanez now has nine RBI in two days. Player of the Week should be wrapped up by tomorrow night. Ichiro led things off with an infield single, followed by a single to left on a sinking liner by Jeremy Reed. Ibanez stepped up and crushed a Scott Baker pitch into the right field stands. Jose Lopez (having a heck of a game at the plate and in the field so far), then beat out his second infield single of the night. Jeff Clement followed with a single to right center, with Lopez taking third. And Wladimir Balentien notched an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Big inning.
7:50 p.m.: Minnesota has taken a 2-0 lead as we head to the third inning. R.A. Dickey wasn’t hit all that hard in the second, but the Twins scored twice off him anyhow. A dribbler up the third base line managed to stay fair as catcher Jeff Clement tried to blow it foul. An ensuing flair into by Delmon Young put two on and a groundout to first base moved the runners up. Dickey then uncorked a wild pitch to bring one run home and Brendan Harris hit a sacrifice fly to left to score the other.
Seattle had a chance in the bottom of the frame when Jose Lopez beat out an infield single and Jeff Clement walked. Wladimir Balentien skied a ball to right field for an out, with Lopez advancing to third. But Bryan LaHair then struck out and Yuniesky Betancourt grounded out. Younger lineup, same lousy results in a chance for a big inning. At least, so far.
7:20 p.m.: One inning in the books and we’re scoreless. Each team had a hit. Joe Mauer notched a single off R.A. Dickey with two out, but Justin Morneau waved at a full-count offering. Then, Jeremy Reed came through with a one-out double. Raul Ibanez grounded out, Reed advancing to third. But Adrian Beltre then grounded out to the third baseman to end the frame.
2 Denard Span RF
8 Nick Punto 2B
7Joe Mauer C
33 Justin Morneau 1B
16 Jason Kubel DH
21 Delmon Young LF
32 Brian Buscher 3B
23 Brendan Harris SS
22 Carlos Gomez CF
30 Scott Baker RHP
51 Ichiro RF
8 Jeremy Reed CF
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
4 Jose Lopez 2B
9 Jeff Clement C
50 Wladimir Balentien DH
39 Bryan LaHair 1B
5 Yunieksy Betancourt SS
41 R.A. Dickey RHP