It’s a lonely mound out there when you’re Miguel Batista and have just given up the game’s decisive blast in the eighth inning, a two-run homer by Jack Cust. The M’s lose 5-3 and are now the second team in franchise history to go 0-11 on a road trip. They are the third team in club history to go winless on a trip of 10 or more. It happened in that 11-game stretch in 2006 and then on an 0-10 sojourn in 1992. That’s it.
Batista looked awful today. Manager Jim Riggleman was fearful of bringing him in to face A’s deep threat Daric Barton. So, he let a tiring Brandon Morrow stay in the game and watched him walk Barton on his 113th pitch.
In came Batista and, moments later, pinch-hittier Aaron Cunningham ripped the second double in a row over Raul Ibanez’s head in left.
“Those balls were hit,” Ibanez said. “They were rockets.”
Yes, they were. The balls caromed off the wall and past ibanez both times, but you know what? This minor league style relief isn’t going to cut it. The bullpen is a disaster at the moment. If the games are going to come down to outfielders making miracle plays on laser shots, this team won’t win another game all year.
I’m serious, it won’t.
Never has Richie Sexson looked so good. Never has Jose Vidro seemed like a savior as much as he does now. And no, that was not meant as a compliment to either player.
This team scored 2.5 runs per game on average in the 11 losses. The final seven of those came against some pretty bad teams. This is not a major league product being put on the field. And when Ibanez strikes out a career-high tying four times, as he did today, there’s little else to get this offense going.
That’s why it’s entirely possible this club could lose out the rest of the way.
I asked Ibanez how the team avoids that.
“Keep fighting and make it happen,” he said. “It’s a feeling. It’s a mindset that you’re going to make it happen. And expecting to win when you go out there.”
Right now, this team is playing — and managing — like it expects to lose. Jim Riggleman has no bullpen options to speak of. He’s afraid to throw lefties out there against lefties. His hardest throwing setup man, Batista, can’t get anyone out.
“It’s a guessing game,” pitching coach Stottlemyre said of the bullpen. “Everybody that we go to has trouble getting that first batter out.”
Brandon Morrow had command issues as the game wore on. The five walks didn’t help his cause. He chalked some of it up to a loss of concentration once he got two outs in an inning. It’s part of the learning curve. Stottlemyre chatted with him about it after the game.
Poor Riggleman doesn’t seem to know what to do anymore. This has to come from the players now. They have to reach down and find a way to prevail. Or at least hold a lead for an inning or two.
“It’s just been a miserable road trip, really right through top to bottom,” Riggleman said. “It can’t get any worse.”
Wanna bet? Stay tuned.
September 21, 2008 at 4:51 PM