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May 24, 2009 at 5:45 PM

A good win to end the homestand

The Mariners still haven’t won back-to-back games since April 24-25 — a very telling statistic — but their 5-4 victory today was encouraging. However, as one member of the Giants’ contingent told me, “A word of advice — don’t write a “the Mariners are back” story.”: In other words, beating the offensively challenged Giants two out of three isn’t a harbinger of anything.
The Mariners have their own offensive challenges. Getting a pair of home runs was big, but they had just five hits overall. That’s not going to get it done.
Manager Don Wakamatsu had a good game. He moved Yuniesky Betancourt to the No. 2 hole, and Betancourt walked twice and put down a sacrifice bunt ahead of Adrian Beltre’s three-run homer in the fifth. Betancourt didn’t draw his first walk of the season until May 4, in his 97th plate appearance. He has since drawn seven walks in his last 56 plate appearances.
Wakamatsu started Ken Griffey Jr. against the left-hander Barry Zito, and Griffey hit a two-run homer in the first. Saturday’s switch of Griffey to the cleanup hole and Beltre to the No. 3 hole seems to be working out as well. Those two drove in all five runs with their homers.
The Mariners have to find a way to get more production out of their cleanup hitter. They have had four hitters at cleanup — Beltre, Russ Branyan, Wladimir Balentien and Griffey — and coming into Sunday, they had combined to hit .198 (35-for-177), the worst average among cleanup hitters in the majors. The group had 12 doubles (tied for second in the American League), but just three homers (last in the AL). Make that four homers.
Ichiro, by the way, extended his hitting streak to 18 games with two more hits. He’s tied with Jacoby Ellsbury for the longest active streak.
Branyan went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts but still finished the homestand with a .406 average (13-for-32) with two homers and four doubles.
David Aardsma , who earned his sixth save, said he tried not to get too amped up facing the Giants, who drafted him in the first round (22nd overall) in 2003, then traded him to the Cubs less than two years later.
“You know what? This is, I believe, the third time I’ve face them. I try not to think about it. When I was a little bit younger, the first time I faced them, I was with the Cubs. You have that added adrenalin, like, you have to go out there and do it. I’ve come to realize it’s just another team. The more I can manage those feelings, the better I’m going to do.”
Here’s what Aardsma had to say about Ichiro snaring the slicing foul by pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz in the right-field corner with one out and a runner on first in the ninth:
“If there had been a wall there, he probably would have gone through the wall. How can that not pump you up?”
Finally, the Mariners have to say their thanks on a daily basis that Zito didn’t take their $100 million offer a couple of years ago, opting instead to sign for seven years and $126 million with the Giants. Zito has been a little better this year but now has a 22-35 record as a Giant. And lots more money to be paid to him.



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