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August 4, 2009 at 10:37 PM

Mariners beat Royals as Russell Branyan comes through and sets career-best RBI mark

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Geoff Baker
Geoff Baker
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Not the textbook way to win a baseball game, but they all count and Seattle’s 7-6 win tonight came directly because of forcing the opposing starter to throw 112 pitches in five innings. Once Luke Hocheavar was pulled and the bullpen inserted, the Mariners baserunners began piling up like cars on I-5 any time it snows.
The M’s couldn’t get many of those runners home, stranding a dirty dozen, but enough of them crossed the plate for this one to go in the win column. Barely enough, as David Aardsma allowed the Royals to load the bases with two out in the ninth before Ichiro saved the day with a sliding catch down the right field line behind the tarp in foul territory (photo above).
Ichiro’s own dugout had no idea what was going on, the view obstructed by the tarp.
“Not just the dugout, but I’m guessing almost the entire stadium probably didn’t have a good view of that play,” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “I did catch the ball, but even if I didn’t, I probably could have scooped the ball up and put it in my glove and said ‘Hey, I caught it’ and probably nobody would have known about it.”
Russell Branyan had been 1-for-13 at the plate on this trip before coming through with a pair of run-scoring hits in the sixth and seventh to deliver the needed runs.

The two RBI gave Branyan 58 this season, setting a new career high. It’s been a year of highs for Branyan, though his bat has dropped off big time the past month or so. Some folks will call it regressing to the mean, others will suggest he’s tiring in his first complete season as a full-timer. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu keeps hinting it’s the latter, but he could be wrong. Who knows?
“I’ve been pressing a little bit lately, I’ll be the first to admit that,” Branyan said. “I don’t know if it’s the pressure of getting a hit or getting the hit for a team. I look at myself, I’ve been getting out of my approach and swinging at balls…I think it’s time to step back and simplify my approach. Collect my thoughts.”
The bullpen didn’t do too badly after Ryan Rowland-Smith left the game. Shawn Kelley gave uo a run, but got the team through the sixth. Miguel Batista had a perfect seventh and Mark Lowe a scoreless eighth.
A sloppy game at times, with some lousy pitching by both sides. Hard to watch, to be quite honest, with the game clocking in at 3 hours, 37 minutes.
We asked Jack Wilson about that play in which he cut off a throw from Jose Lopez and looked at third base — which Yuniesky Betancourt had already tagged-up from. Betancourt scored before Wilson could get the ball in.
Turns out, the Pirates run that play, where the ball gets cut off and the fielder looks to third, assuming the runner will head back towards the bag and be in position to get nabbed by a throw. But the Mariners don’t have such a play.
They normally let the ball go on through unless the catcher or somebody yells “third!”
Nobody yelled “home” to Wilson — it’s Kenji Johjima’s job to do so — because the Mariners did not expect the ball to be cut off. That’s the explanation anyway. Wakamatsu said they’ll be working on that play in coming days to get everybody on the same page.
But the Mariners will take it. They do need to get some better starting pitching, though, from guys outside of Felix Hernandez and — for one game at least — Ian Snell. This four and five inning stuff from the bottom three starts will catch up to a team in a hurry.
“i wasn’t putting guys away like I was before,” Rowland-Smith said. “A lot of 3-1 counts, 3-0 counts, stuff like that. Counts like that aren’t going to help you.”
But they survived. Barely.



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