Given some of the games the Mariners have seen vanish on them this season, we probably should not get too hung up on the style points of this one. Yes, we all saw the Mariners strand a runner at third with fewer than two out on three separate occasions. And yes, they did it twice with none out.
So, no, I’m not about to make any grand pronouncements about how the team is now cured. We all saw the ninth inning, when the M’s failed to score despite having runners at the corners with none out.
But hey, they did win the game 6-1.
And winning matters more than style points at this stage. Every win buys this team more hope of figuring a way out of this. The Mariners are at least getting runners on base. It’s doing something with them that’s become the problem.
For me, there were two key turning points in this game, other than Russell Branyan’s home run, that really made a difference. The first was Yuniesky Betancourt finally – finally! – doing what he was supposed to with that sacrifice fly in the seventh to make it 4-1.
And then, just as important, there was Sean White coming in with two on and two out in the seventh and retiring Orlando Cabrera on a soft liner to third. We saw what happened to a three-run lead in the seventh last night. White made sure it didn’t this time, then held the three-run lead through the eighth.
We haven’t talked enough about White on this blog. The Mercer Island product is putting together quite a season, sporting a 1-0 record and 1.90 earned run average over 23 2/3 innings. His eight strikeouts and 12 walks don’t raise eyebrows compared to the more heralded, hard-throwing relievers in his group. But he’s getting things done.
I spoke to White before the game and he told me he sat down and took a real serious look at himself after the season was over. He’d been selected as a Rule 5 draft pick from the Atlanta Braves two years ago, spending a couple of months with the team before an injury. Last year, he went 6-11 with a 5.47 ERA in 22 starts at Class AAA Tacoma, but missed the last month of the season with a right shoulder strain.
He was no longer on Seattle’s 40-man roster, but got a spring training invite and knew he had to leave an impression with new GM Jack Zduriencik and incoming manager Don Wakamatsu.
“My goal was to put out a good impression,” he said. “I knew there were some new guys here and I wanted to at least at some point give myself an opportunity to be here on the team.”
So, that meant going to work this past winter.
“I spent some time trying to get back to where I felt I’d been in the past,” he said. “I never really recognized or understood my delivery, so I tried to spend some time kind of learning the process. It definitely helps me along the way with making adjustments too.”
There were no coaches prodding him.
“It was just me,” he said. “I took my time looking at video and then I’d just sit down and think about what it would take to make me successful.”
In a nutshell, it boiled down to a change in his delivery.
“For me, that’s just staying closed a little longer and having better direction towards the plate,” he said. “I think it helps with everything. I feel like when I used to open up a bit, it took energy away from what I’m trying to do.”
Now, he’s throwing 95 mph — though he claims he has no idea how hard he’s throwing – and getting tighter control of where he puts the ball.
“I don’t necessarily know if I’m throwing harder,” he said. “But it feels better. It feels more in-sync.”
So far, so good. White got called up because of some injuries, but, the way he’s pitched, he might not be one of the first guys shipped out. Been quite a turnaround for him.
May 27, 2009 at 5:45 PM