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February 26, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Mariners at Padres: Cactus League opener

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Eric Hull, pictured above, had retired the first two hitters in the ninth, then got what looked to be a game-ending grounder from Cedric Hunter. But the ball hit the first base bag and bounced away for a single. Up came Drew Macias, who launched a double to right center that tied the game 4-4.
Jorge Lugo came on and got the inning-ending flyout to send it to extras.
The Mariners had a chance to score in the top of the 10th, but Calix Crabbe got thrown out trying to advance from second to home on an infield single. What else is new? That’s five baserunners thrown out today.
On to the bottom of the 10th. This will be the last half-frame, no matter what.


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14:25 p.m.: Tracy Thorpe, an enormous pitcher Ken Griffey Jr. has dubbed “Baby Shaq” just hit a batter to force home a run in the bottom of the eighth. So, it’s now a 4-3 game as we head to the ninth inning. This is the silly portion of spring training games, when guys with no shot at the big league club get called upon and often wind up torching the work done throughout much of the ballgame. We’ll see whether that happens here, but nothing really matters much from this stage on.
The Mariners pitched OK when they had to, made the fielding plays when they had to and carried a two-run lead into the eighth. They ran the bases poorly and walked a few too many hitters, which will leave lots of work for tomorrow’s situational drills and one-on-one meetings. But they also picked some runners off when they had to, three some others out from both behind the plate and at the plate, and did what they had to in order to win.
Get used to these kinds of affairs. I have a feeling this team will win and lose a lot of close, low-scoring games based on the handful of small plays they either make or don’t make. Only 2,402 fans on-hand here. I’m told that total tickets sold are down this year compared to previous springs. The economic meltdown does appear to be affecting this spring’s affairs. The crowds here watching workouts the first two weeks were smaller than I’d remembered from previous years, while restaurants and bars in the area are definitely less crowded. You used to have to wait in line to get in. Not this year.
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2:18 p.m.: Been down talking to Felix Hernandez in the clubhouse, where he’s recovering from his two-inning stint. He threw four pitches in the first inning, then 19 more in the second — giving up two runs on four hits. He said his biggest interest today was in spotting his fastball on both sides of the plate. Threw a handful of breaking pitches, but all fastballs other than that.
Seattle now leads 4-2 as we enter the seventh inning. The baserunning has been attrocious on both sides today. The Mariners have had four runners thrown out — once at home, once at third, once on a pickoff move (see photo below) and another caught stealing at second.
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The fourth M’s run came when Jeff Clement reached base on a fielder’s choice, then scored on a double to right center by Mike Morse. Morse was promptly thrown out at third while trying to advance on the throw home. You can’t make the final out like that when you’re already in scoring position with two out.
Mark Lowe tossed a scoreless, one-hit inning. Jarrod Washburn walked a pair, but picked a guy off and escaped his lone frame otherwise unscathed.
David Aardsma also tossed a scoreless inning, but walked two. Can’t have a closer doing that. Saw his mother today as we were finishing up taping the Geoff Baker Live! segment. She waved hello and told me she’s been following the show from back home in Texas.
1:38 p.m.: The Mariners just botched a chance to add to their lead in the third inning after back-to-back walks drawn by Jeff Clement and Mike Morse. Chris Shelton struck out and, after a single to left by Greg Halman, Clement was easily thrown out at home to end the inning. Jarrod Washburn came on in the bottom of the third and issued a leadoff walk to Jody Gerut, but then picked him off first base. Good thing, too, because Washburn then walked the next guy, Chris Burke. We’re still in the third with one on, one out.
Felix Hernandez threw 23 pitches over two innings, yielding a pair of runs on four hits — one of them a homer.
12:45 p.m.: Felix Hernandez gave back a pair of runs in the bottom of the second and is fortunate not to have yielded more. A one-out double by Emil Brown was followed by a bloop single to left center from Kyle Blanks. Left fielder Endy Chavez (playing in center today) picked the ball up and was able to nail Brown trying to score from second on the play. But just as it appeared Hernandez might escape the inning unscathed, Henry Blanco came up and parked a ball over the center field fence.
I have a soft spot for Blanco. We’re coming up on 10 years to the anniversary of the death of his brother, Roger, a professional ballplayer murdered outside his home in Caracas, Venezuela. Thieves tried to rip a gold chain off Blanco’s neck, he resisted and was shot to death on the spot. I wrote a story about it back then because Blanco’s best friend was Kelvim Escobar, now with the Angels and formerly of the Blue Jays. The killing and general crime wave in Caracas was one reason Escobar decided to leave that city and move to the coast. Henry Blanco was still a minor leaguer back then, but I’ve been rooting for him ever since.
Mariners still have a 3-2 lead as we head to the third.
12:39 p.m.:Mike Wilson hit a one-out double in the second and wound up scoring on a double down the left field line by Chris Woodward. Chris Shelton homered off Padres pitcher Justin Hampson earlier on in the inning, on more or less a pop fly that carried over the left field fence in the wind.
Woodward wound up scoring on an error so, it’s 3-0 for the M’s, still batting in the second inning.
Felix Hernandez retired the side in order on three quick grounders in the first and will come out to work the bottom of the second.

Comments | Topics: Chris Woodward

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