There was the usual optimism tonight over Adrian Beltre finally looking ready to be a clean-up hitter. And the six-run outburst by the Mariners after scoring four runs combined the past four games. But that optimism was tempered a lot more than usual by the reality of the team’s situation.
The Mariners have lost six in a row. Their 9-6 defeat to the Minnesota Twins came at the expense of Felix Hernandez. And no, he wasn’t happy about it. He was upset with himself. The coaching staff took him out of the game because he seemed to be favoring his arm at times. Hernandez insists nothing was wrong, but they weren’t taking any chances.
“Today was the kind of day I just wanted to go out and win the game,” he said. “We’ve got a five-game losing streak, so today was like ‘You’ve got to go out there and pitch your game.’
“That’s why I’m pissed. Because I lost the game, we had a five-game losing streak and I just wanted to win the game for the team.”
That’s why Hernandez and most others weren’t prepared to celebrate Beltre’s hitting return too loudly.
“We don’t need only Adrian,” he said. “We need everybody to be together. We play as a team, we win as a team, so we need everybody. We need Beltre, we need Lopez, we need everybody.
“It’s kind of tough. But every team has some losing streaks. We’ve got to go out there and win some games and then we’ll be fine.”
Mike Sweeney was sounding the same tune. Sweeney is usually as optimistic as they come. But you could feel the urgency in his voice when he talked about the need of this team to get everything firing on all cylinders.
“Is it easier to swallow this one than yesterday’s shoutout?” he said. “No, because a loss is a loss. One positive is that we swung the bats better.”
But Sweeney also lamented the team’s inability to put struggling Francisco Liriano away in the fourth inning. Seattle had scored three runs and Liriano had just walked the bases loaded before Yuniesky Bbetancourt swung at the first pitch and popped out.
Sweeney wouldn’t point a finger at Betancourt or criticize his decision to swing. He was merely stating a fact: that this team has not executed when it has chances to score. That’s what has killed the Mariners all week.
And now, Sweeney added, it’s time to go out and get things done.
“We’ve got a lot of season left,” Sweeney said. “We’ve just got to keep these guys together, try to win the battles every day and hope that, at the end of the year, they add up to winning the war.”
By the way, Beltre made an adjustment to his approach at the plate after conversations with hitting coach Alan Cockrell, who’d noticed something and suggested a change. Beltre agreed with the logic and says it worked for him this game. We’ll see how his contact goes tomorrow.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu felt Beltre’s hitting was the brightest spot today. The rest, he said, has to start coming together on the mound and in the box.
“I think we’re looking, obviously, for a start where we’re not down three or four early,” Wakamatsu said.
The team coming back was a positive.
“It was a feeling that we haven’t had in the dugout in a little while and it’s something that we need to build on,” Wakamatsu said.
But those feelings have been there before and nothing’s come of it. That’s likely why no one was talking too loudly after this one. The players and coaches seem to understand that now is the time to turn words into action.
Back to the drawing board tomorrow. The Mariners are now 15-16. One game to go here and then — shudder — down to the launching pad in Texas. If the M’s don’t pull one out tomorrow, this could get real ugly in a hurry.
May 9, 2009 at 8:44 PM