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April 21, 2009 at 9:12 AM

Happy Jarrod Day!

A reminder that Geoff Baker Live! will serve as tonight’s pre-game show starting at 6 p.m.
No, this is not a joke. It really is cause for Mariners fans to celebrate whenever Jarrod Washburn takes the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays. For whatever reason, Washburn has owned the Rays franchise. Owns them so outright, I kept expecting him to order GM Andrew Friedman to keep David Price in the rotation this spring.
Anyhow, back to reality, Washburn has a record of 11-3 with a 2.60 ERA against the Rays in 16 lifetime outings. Some of that isn’t entirely a surprise, since the Rays were an awful franchise for much of that period. But bad or not, for a pitcher to run up a record like that against any team is highly unusual.
And last year, when the Rays were en route to the AL championship, Washburn still tossed seven innings of one-run ball against them in his only outing. His numbers are even better at Tropicana Field — where he’s 6-1 with a 1.29 ERA. But he does well against them at home, too, and that’s a good thing for an M’s team that needs any advantage it can muster right now.
The Rays have struggled on the mound so far, but are hitting the ball — posting a top-five slugging percentage and homer total in the AL. So, the Mariners need Washburn to contain them and put up the kind of outings that he has so far in his first two starts of the year.
In fact, this Washburn outing versus the Rays was largely by design.
Remember last week, when you asked why the M’s chose to start Chris Jakubauskas in that series finale versus the Angels rather than use Felix Hernandez on normal rest? Some of it, no doubt, had to do with Hernandez’s sore ankle. But the more I think about it, the more it appears to be a case of the team looking at the numbers and using its head.
Had Hernandez pitched against the Angels, the M’s would have had to send both Carlos Silva and Washburn up against the Tigers. Silva, as we told you, does not match up well against a fastball-hitting Detroit squad. Well, Washburn matches up even worse. Last year, the Tigers were pouncing on his 88 mph fastballs even when Washburn was deliberately throwing them a foot off the plate,
So, by sending Jakubauskas to the mound, the M’s saved Hernandez for the Tigers and he wound up posting Seattle’s only win of that series.
Meanwhile, Washburn was spared from a matchup he was unlikely to fare well in and now gets to square off against a Rays team he has thwarted time and time again, Even better for the M’s is that, despite the extra rest, Washburn is now still on pace to face the Angels in the series finale this coming Sunday in Anaheim.
In six outings at his former home park in Anaheim since joining the Mariners, Washburn has put up a solid 3.62 ERA. It’s one of the places he’s pitched most successfully out of any ballpark he visits. Had the delay pushed Washburn out of the Angels series and into the next one in Chicago, where he’s been rocked twice since signing with Seattle and historically has fared poorly, then the M’s might have had to rethink the whole strategy.
But, nope. This way, the Mariners have been able to serve up two of Washburn’s favorite dishes while sparing him a potential whupping in two other series that did not bode well for his style of pitching.
Still think that Jakubauskas start was a mere coincidence?
It wasn’t. Good coaching staffs plan ahead for stuff like this.
Photo Credit: Jim Bryant/UPI



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