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May 1, 2009 at 11:18 PM

M’s-A’s post-game

So you probably could have read War and Peace in the time Jose Lopez stood up there fouling off pitches.
He fouled off nine in all after falling into a two-and-two count with the bases loaded, the crowd — and the Mariner dugout — standing throughout.
“That’s my first time it take so long,” he said later.
But finally, Lopez won the battle, lining the 14th pitch from Russ Springer into right-center field and sending the Mariners to another improbable win in what has so far been a rather improbable season.
The Mariners trailed 6-1 in the top of the third, the kind of deficit that often the last few years would have meant time to pull out a good novel for the rest of the evening — War and Peace, maybe.
Instead, Seattle came right back with two runs in the bottom of the third and four more in the fifth to retake the lead.
“Every time,” Lopez said later “this team play hard.”
Indeed, while there may still be lots to criticize about this team — something has to be done with Carlos Silva — you can’t criticize this team’s effort and will. (As an aside —- Wakamatsu was asked about Silva and said he got too many balls up in the zone that were hit hard. But he also said he just wanted to enjoy this win and would save a more thorough introspection of it for later. He indicated the powers-that-be will discuss Silva and who knows what that means down the road).
While a stand-in for the inimitable Geoff Baker, I covered four days of spriing training, and each day, Don Wakamatsu praised the effort of his team. That can sometimes seem empty coming from a coach, especially of a pro team where effort ought to always be expected. But given where this team was a year ago, Wakamatsu seemed to be trying to make the point that effort might cover up for some ills. And on a night like tonight, it seemed to do just that.
In fact, there were heroes aplenty.
Wakamatsu couldn’t stop talking about the bunt by Yuniesky Betancourt in the fourth inning, even though it ended up meaning nothing as no runs scored in the inning.
But given that Betancourt is usually as antsy at the plate as a high school QB on a prom date with the homecoming queen, Wakamatsu thought it progress. “It leads to bigger and better things,” he said of such plays.
There was also the standout pitching of Shawn Kelley, who threw the last 1.2 innings, including strikeouts of Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday to end the top of the ninth and set up the big at-bat by Lopez.
Each of the strikeouts came on fastballs, Kelley said, saying he had faced each in Oakland a couple of weeks ago. “I felt like I had them both set up looking for sliders,” he said. “I don’t think they were looking for that (fast balls).”
In fact, the entire bullpen was outstanding, going 5.1 with just one run allowed. The much-maligned Miguel Batista, for instance, now has a 1.59 ERA for the season getting seven outs in seven batters (twice getting double plays to erase walks).
“Hats off to the bullpen,” Wakamatsu said. “They were phenomenal.”
But so was the entire team on another night that allowed you to think that while it’s only May 1, this could be a pretty fun summer — and maybe even fall — to come.



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