Here’s a look at why it’s sometimes great to have well-pitched, fast games. It’s now raining as badly as it was last night. Had these teams played extra innings in a four-hour opener, then slow-footed it through this one, they’d still be at it tomorrow morning — or at some other point down the road.
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Anyhow, the Mariners had brilliant starting pitching all day, getting 16 consecutive scoreless frames out of Felix Hernandez and Chris Jakubauskas. Had the hitting been even moderately timely in the opener, we’d be talking about a 14-7 team right now. Instead, the Mariners had to content themselves with a split.
Why? Because the stuff they did in the nightcap was missing in the opener. The little things done well. We mentioned Ichiro leading off with a single, then getting bunted over by Endy Chavez and later stealing third with one out. That positioned him to score on a hard hit ball by Mike Sweeney that went into center field for a single. If Ichiro’s on second, he probably doesn’t score. And the way Adrian Beltre has been swinging, now down to .169 in the clean-up role, him driving in Ichiro from third with only one out is no longer a sure bet.
“You look at the little things, and Endy with the bunt moves Ichiro over, Sweeney gets the hit and we score a run right out of the chute,” he said. “With Felix on the mound, if you can score first, momentum-wise, you feel pretty good about it.”
Wakamatsu also singled out Wladimir Balentien for moving runners over and getting that sacrifice fly to right in the fourth that helped chase White Sox starter John Danks from the game. Danks entered with a 2-0 record and 0.95 ERA, but was down 5-0 when he left after four innings.
“It was a great effort,” Wakamatsu said. “To face Danks and get an effort like that team-wise was just outstanding.”
He then added: “I think it was a good shot in the arm to get that many hits and be able to play that well offensively against a pitcher like that.”
Hernandez didn’t get to the ballpark until the second inning of the opener. He tolld me he didn’t watch the Chicago hitters to look for tendancies, merely stuck with his previous game plan of attacking the zone and not changing anything to fit in with what went on in the opener.
I spoke a lot about Russell Branyan and interviewed him for my game story in the paper that will be online soon. So, I don’t want to duplicate that.
For me, his five hits helped make the difference, but the three-run homer by Yuniesky Betancourt was probably the biggest hit on the night. Hernandez isn’t going to blow many four-run leads and that’s what Betancourt’s blast gave him.
But the M’s didn’t stop after that blast. They kept adding on and that was a positive sign. So, now, they have a chance to take the series with Erik Bedard on the mound tomorrow. That’s a guy you want out there. Keep winning most series, you’ll be a playoff-bound team.
It’s been a long day all around, even with the short games. The Mariners will take the split. They could have had more here and know it. But a win in the finale tomorrow will put a nice stamp on this trip if they can manage it. If not, I’d have to think a .500 record would be a little disappointing, considering they began the six-game swing 2-0. Let’s see what they do.
April 28, 2009 at 9:40 PM