It would have been a rare sweep of an AL team by the Mariners. But the bullpen could not hold a 4-3 lead with two innings to go. Sean Green gets tagged for three earned runs in the eighth and then Tug Hulett gets thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the inning with Ichiro on-deck.
Seattle loses 6-5.
The Twins tried their best to blow another eighth inning lead. Eddie Guardado gave up an RBI double to Jeff Clement that brought the M’s within one. But then, on a Miguel Cairo single to right — a hard single — third base coach Sam Perlozzo waved pinch-runner Hulett around. But then, Denard Span, who started the game in center but later shifted to right, made a perfect throw and nabbed Hulett.
Raul Ibanez, above, grounds out to end it by swinging at a 3-0 pitch against Joe Nathan.
That kind of day.
I asked Jim Riggleman afterwards about not having a lefty reliever warmed up and ready to face Jason Kubel, the third hitter of that eighth inning rally by the Twins. Kubel dumped that double in between Ichiro and Wladimir Balentien.
“Our lefties have not been getting lefties out,” Riggleman said. “If I’d been looking at a lefty-on-lefty situation, I’d have had one ready to face (Justin) Morneau to lead the inning off.”
It’s true that Riggleman has been in a bind since the team shipped Arthur Rhodes to the Marlins a month ago. Ryan Rowland-Smith is now a starter, leaving Cesar Jimenez as the bullpen’s lone lefty. His OPS against lefthanded hitters was a dismal .884 heading into the game — before he gave up that two-run single to lefty pinch-hitter Brian Buscher.
(And pardon me, I forgot about southpaw Jake Woods. Who wouldn’t? He’s hardly used. His OPS against lefties is .805.)
Yes, the cupboard is pretty bare.
“I just didn’t see the point,” Riggleman continued. “I felt the eighth inning should belong to Sean Green and that’s the way it went.”
It went out the window.
Green has not piched the way he did in the first-half. He had those two long layoffs — when the team tried resting him — and keeps giving up runs and hits.
“Command has been down but I still feel good,” said Green, who endured periodic stretches of inactivity over the past six weeks. “The arm feels good. I’m just not getting it done right now.”
No, he isn’t. Like with J.J. Putz, this may be a case of Green needing several outings — and taking some lumps — before he regains his form. Or, his arm may be tiring from overuse and he’ll have to be eased off. We’ll see which way the M’s go on this one.
The five consecutive “quality starts” by the M’s is the first time that’s happened all season. But again, M’s starters who throw “quality starts” have notched the win on only 25 of 68 occasions this year — an average of just 42 percent when the norm is about 68 percent.
Ryan Feierabend was no exception. He got a bit lucky to go his seven innings with three runs allowed today. Caught a break on that ground-ruled double by Denard Span in the fourth and then that two-out line drive in the seventh that went straight to Raul Ibanez. But pitchers do get lucky at times. Feierabend still did a good job after the fourth, needing only six pitches to get through the fifth and 11 more in the sixth. Then, those 13 in his final inning.
That’s how a guy who has 84 pitches thrown to start the fifth inning winds up making it through seven.
“I started relying more on the two-seamer, got them to swing early a lot,” Feierabend said of his sinking fastball. “I got through those two innings on not even 10 pitches (apiece) and it helped my pitch count for the rest of the game.”
Helped his cause too. Feierabend often seems like the forgotten man of this whole young pitchers debate. With all the talk about Ryan Rowland-Smith and the pending arrival of Brandon Morrow, it’s easy to forget that Feierabend, who started his first major league game in 2006, is still only 23 and will also look to land a rotation spot come 2009.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” Feierabend said. “Those guys are great pitchers. There’s probably a little competition amongst ourselves.”