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July 4, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Relief pitcher Roy Corcoran the latest Mariners player to step up big

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This is what happens to teams that suddenly find themselves angling for a playoff berth. Guys start to perform in ways not expected. Hitters not known for hitting suddenly do. A team not known for drawing walks suddenly takes five of them, including three in the ninth to win the game 3-2 over the Boston Red Sox.
And yeah, while Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito couldn’t find the strike zone, how many times the past few years have the Mariners swung away wildly in any event?
Nope, these are odd times indeed. The times that make you put away the stats sheets and the flow charts and just watch guys trying to win baseball games. The Mariners came in here with a bunch of subs trying to scrape together runs. Instead, they have won their first series here since 2001 and guaranteed a winning record on this trip, now 5-3, that ends tomorrow.
Which brings us to Roy Corcoran.

Of all the guys who could have come in to pitch that seventh inning, he was the one whose choice was most likely to induce the loudest groaning amongst Mariners fans.
I mean, the guy hadn’t pitched in a week. He’d been limited to mop-up duty for weeks since coming off the DL and has struggled all year to find the strike zone.
Not today. He stepped up huge, as the Mariners have this entire road trip.
Turns out Corcoran went to see manager Don Wakamatsu in his office pre-game. Corcoran knows the score. Knows his status with this team has been in doubt for some time. He isn’t happy with his performances and has to be worried about his future.
“i had a talk with Wak earlier and I told him I hadn’t felt this healthy all season,” he said. “I hadn’t felt this good all year. I was just…I’ll tell you, man, I’ve had my back against the wall all year. kind of beating myself up. Not kind of, I was. It’s a good feeling to get out there, help us out and we ended up winning that game. That’s huge for us.”
Corcoran said he went in to see Wakamatsu just to give himself piece of mind.
“He told me ‘The ball’s in your court. Get out there and throw the ball.’ ”
Corcoran laughed.
“It just happened to be the day I threw the ball well.”
But it’s no laughing matter to him.
“I’ve had it pretty rough,” he said.
Click here to listen to some of what Corcoran had to say.
Wakamatsu said he laid it out pretty straight for Corcoran.
“The biggest difference is, he got to a point where he challenged hitters,” Wakamatsu said. “Instead of protecting, he went out there and was the aggressor today. He set the tone right out of the chute.”
Garrett Olson also delivered a key performance today, lasting 6 1/3 innings against this patient Boston lineup — yielding only a two-run homer by Jason Varitek on the scoreboard.
For me, the key moment was the Russell Branyan at-bat in the fifth, an 11-pitch sacrifice fly to tie the game and help force Brad Penny from the contest about an inning ahead of schedule. I’ve written extensively about that for tomorrow’s game story, so I’ll limt what I say here. But it was huge. Moments like those can turn a game. This team had the right plate approach today and it paid off.
The Mariners are now four games over .500 and two games out of first place.



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