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May 29, 2009 at 9:08 PM

Mariners at Los Angeles Angels: 05/29 game thread

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Wow, just wow. A tremendous performance by Sean White yet again with limited margin for error. And Jose Lopez just helped the team out big-time as well, connecting for a solo homer in the eighth just moments after left fielder Juan Rivera robbed Russell Branyan of a home run with a leaping grab — his glove going beyond the wall to snare the blast. Rivera made a lunge at Lopez’s ball as well but it was just deep enough to give the Mariners a 5-2 lead. About time Lopez did something productive. The team needs more such power out of his bat than he’s shown so far. But this one helped.
The Angels got to Jason Vargas for a run in the seventh, cutting the Seattle lead to 4-2 and had runners at the corners with one out when White came on and got a key popout on Mike Napoli. Then, with the count full, he appeared to strike out Howie Kendrick, but catcher Rob Johnson could not squeeze the foul tip. White came back and struck Kendrick out on the next offering, preserving a multi-run lead, which Lopez just added to. Vargas had been doing a good job at avoiding walks until issuing two those last two innings he worked. You see what can happen when runners start getting on base.
8:30 p.m.: Russell Branyan made like a bowling ball to catcher Mike Napoli’s pin in scoring that sixth-inning run to give the Mariners a 4-1 lead. Branyan hit a leadoff double and then Jose Lopez sacrificed him to third. Not what I want my No. 6 hitter doing this early under normal circumstances but Lopez has messed up so many rallies of late it’s a good thing he got the bunt down. Endy Chavez then hit a line drive right at left fielder Juan Rivera. Now, had Rivera not stumbled in setting up for the throw, Branyan would have been out, It was a very good, off-balance throw Rivera got off and it arrived in time — albeit a bit high. Branyan took out the catcher’s legs and the three-run lead was restored.
Miguel Batista is warming up. The hotlines are now open.

8:19 p.m.: Juan Rivera just hit a solo homer to left to cut Seattle’s lead to 3-1 after five innings. Not a critical homer for Jason Vargas to give up because no one was on base. You can see now, the difference between scoring that third run against John Lackey earlier on and having only an early two-run lead. Vargas still has a multi-run lead in the sixth. Less margin for error now, but the cushion served him well for a couple of innings. He can still make another solo homer mistake and keep the lead. Four of Rivera’s five homers this season have come against the Mariners so one of the Seattle guys needs to run over his foot with a golf cart during BP tomorrow.
8:09 p.m.: And that, my friends, is only 45 pitches through four innings by Jason Vargas, who takes a 3-0 lead into the fifth. The Angels are not known for being patient at the plate and he’s letting them swing away. A good night in center by Franklin Gutierrez thus far and only one hit allowed by Vargas. A big key for him? he isn’t walking anybody. You can’t put these guys on because then you start having to nibble to folks like Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero. As long as the bases are empty, with a three-run lead, he can go right at the big guys and risk a solo home run. So far, the lethal duo is 0-for-4 with two popouts.
7:46 p.m.: A well-executed hit-and-run by Franklin Gutierrez at the plate and Endy Chavez on the basepaths set the Mariners up for a nice third inning and a 3-0 lead. With one out and Chavez on first, Gutierrez laced a ball to right field for a single that put runners at the corners. Ichiro then extended his hit streak to 22 games — third longest run of his career — with a single to right that opened the scoring and again put runners at the corners.
Yuniesky Betancourt drew another walk (!!!) to load the bases and bring up ole’ faithful, Adrian Beltre, who tapped an infield single to the left side that brought in the second run. That left the bases loaded for Ken Griffey Jr. Now, this was a critical at-bat. We’ve seen John Lackey let off the hook before and this was shaping up like a pretty big inning. Griffey fell behind 1-2 in the count, but battled hard, fouling off a series of pitches before getting enough air under one of them to loft a sacrifice fly to left for another run. That was a big plate appearance right there. A huge difference between a 2-0 lead and a 3-0 lead the way Jason Vargas has pitched this season and so far tonight. You don’t put up three-spots against Lackey all that often.
7:25 p.m.: The Mariners will have to find a way to beat John Lackey and the Angels.
And they’re not going to do it the way Jose Lopez swung the team out of the second inning. Lopez grounded into his 11th double play of the season, trailing only the 13 by Mike Lowell of the Red Sox in the AL. The sad thing is, that GIDP only puts Lopez ahead of Adrian Beltre (10) and Yuniesky Betacourt (8) by a nose for the team lead. Yes, the noses have it. Lopez stinks right now.

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