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May 31, 2009 at 2:58 PM

Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels: 05/31 game thread

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We’ll have Geoff Baker Live! coming up at 5 p.m. Pacific time today, just in time to discuss what could be a surprising sweep by the M’s
Don’t know what third base coach Bruce Hines was thinking in that eighth inning, waving Adrian Beltre around from first base on the Ken Griffey Jr. double. Yes, first base would have been open and Russell Branyan would have been walked intentionally. But that’s exactly the type of bases-loaded situation Jose Lopez likes. Bad decision there and Beltre is out by 10 feet.
The bullpen will have to hold on here, with the M’s up 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth.
2:55 p.m.: Garrett Olson had his first real trouble in the bottom of the sixth, giving up three straight hits to start, though a shortstop with good range might have got the third of those — a bounder up the middle by Bobby Abreu — and turned it into a DP. Instead, Yuniesky Betancourt waved at the ball and it bounced into center field for an RBI single that left runners at the corners. Vladimir Guerrero then hit a sacrifice fly and Torii Hunter followed with a two-run homer on the first pitch Olson threw him.
All of a sudden, it’s now an 8-5 game. Miguel Batista came on and gave up a double, but then got consecutive pop-outs to on to try to end the inning. What a difference not getting to that Abreu bounding ball has made.
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Naturally, this guy woke up, too.
2:02 p.m.: Mike Napoli broke the shutout bid with a solo homer off Garrett Olson in the fifth inning, but Ichiro just went deep to right in the sixth to restore the six-run cushion and Ken Griffey Jr. followed with a sacrifice fly for an 8-1 lead for the Mariners. Yuniesky Betancourt doubled to the left field corner for Seattle right after Ichiro’s homer, brining out the boo-birds for Ervin Santana, who was promptly pulled. I’ll tell you what: they might be off the DL, but I don’t like what I’ve seen from either Santana — charged with eight runs over 5 1/3 innings today — or John Lackey so far. If this keeps up, the Angels might not be the division factor everybody assumes they will be. It’s still early and both are coming off significant injuries. But it sometimes can take a season to get back to normal. If that happens, all bets are off in the AL West.
1:23 p.m.: We talked pre-game about Guillermo Quiroz working on using more of his hands instead of his body when he swings. Well, he just laced a ball to right center to bring home a pair of third inning runs. A three-run outburst by Seattle makes it 6-0 as we head to the bottom of the third. Who saw this coming after the first 8 2/3 innings last night? Maybe the pendulum is finally swinging the M’s way in this whole offensive streakiness thing?
Ken Griffey Jr. got the inning going by drawing a walk — he is very good at that — and then Russell Branyan doubled to right center. Jose Lopez was walked intentionally and Quiroz came through. With a runners at the corners, Endy Chavez hit a potential double-play grounder to second but beat the back-end relay to first, allowing another run to score.
1:07 p.m.: Endy Chavez, of all people, just took Ervin Santana deep to right on a full-count offering to make it 3-0 for the Mariners heading to the bottom of the second. Don’t forget, Santana had only allowed 10 runs combined in four starts against the Mariners since the end of 2007. Now, he’s given up three already. Santana started in a 17-3 loss to Chicago his last time out, giving up seven runs in just one-plus innings. So, maybe he’s a tad vulnerable.
12:50 p.m.: Ichiro gets the pressure out of the way, doubling on the game’s first pitch to extend his hitting streak to 24 games. That’s the second longest in club history, one behind his own high-water mark. And it helped the Mariners jump out to a quick 2-0 lead.
Yuniesky Betancourt then bunted Ichiro to third base — again, I think it’s too early in the game for the No. 2 hitter to be giving up outs and essentially playing for one run — and Adrian Beltre knocked him home with a single. Beltre coming around would really help this team.
The Mariners then went the extra mile, with Russell Branyan getting hit by a pitch and Jose Lopez — speaking of coming around — lining a single to center for the second run.
There is no simpler way to put it: the Mariners need to find a way to win today’s game. Two other times this season, they’ve taken the first two games of a series with the Los Angeles Angels only to lose the finale. It may sound like enough, simply capturing a series. But it really isn’t. Not this time. The Mariners got a gift last night and now have a very surprising chance to do the unthinkable: walk into Angel Stadium and sweep a pretty good team that has many of its stars back off the DL.
If a team wants to jump right back in a race, it’s moments like these that help determine whether it becomes reality. Easy? No way. Not with Ervin Santana around. But these types of “sweep” games have two-game swings in either direction. Win this and the Mariners will be tied with the Angels. Lose it, they’ll be two back.
And let’s not forget the division-leading Rangers, still 6 1/2 games up on the M’s, though ESPN columnist Buster Olney just gave Texas the kiss of death.
Those two-game swings have gone the wrong way twice before for the M’s this season. They would still be leading the Angels in the standings had they pulled off those previous sweeps. Teams that want to do something in a given year have to take a series like this once in a while.
And trust me, with a clean-up hitter like Ken Griffey Jr. riding an 0-for-19 slump (now 0-for-20 after today’s first AB) in an offense where only Russell Branyan and Ichiro have consistently produced, this team is quite fortunate to be harboring ideas of anything but trades as we head into June. Who knows? The sell-off could begin next week if these guys lose a few in a row. Or, the M’s could take care of business today and ensure their ride lasts a little longer.



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