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August 15, 2009 at 11:34 PM

Post-game: Not the Mariners’ most shining hour

A lot of things went wrong in this game for Seattle, a 5-2 loss to the Yankees, whose lineup (and pitching staff) juxtaposed against the Mariners’ shows the wide chasm between these two teams.
I guess the place to start would be with Ichiro’s attempted steal in the seventh. To set the stage, the Mariners had runners on first and second, two outs. Ken Griffey Jr. had just struck out, bringing Russell Branyan to the plate. The pitcher, David Robertson, fell behind Branyan, 2-0. And Ichiro, inexplicably, took off for third, where Jose Molina gunned him out handily. End of rally. The pitch was a ball, dropping the count to 3-0, and setting up the man with 27 homers for a possible fat pitch.
I say, “inexplicably,” but, of course, Ichiro had an explanation. The media corps had to wait quite a while for Ichiro to come out after the game, but here’s what he said (through interpreter Ken Barron, of course):
“It is as you see it. I thought about many different things. I was aware Russell was the batter. I was also aware if Russell hit a home run in that situation, we would have taken the lead. I took all that into consideration and made my move.
“Based on the runner on first, I was hoping to create a situation where there were runners on second and third, and we could tie the game with a hit. But I also understand at the end, it was an out. I thought through the process. I understand why it was an out, and why you ask the questions, but at the same time, I didn’t do it without thinking”
Of course, the runner on first, Jose Lopez, didn’t move (in fact, he fired his helmet in frustration after Ichiro was thrown out), so even if Ichiro was safe, it would have left runners on first and third. Not his best decision, as even Don Wakamatsu gently acknowledged.
“We pushed the envelope a little too much there. With Russell at the plate, he has a chance to maybe win the game or put you ahead there. (Ichiro) was probably being a little over-aggressive.”
Ichiro was asked how he felt when he was called out. “That question is not worth asking,” he said. “I think you know.”
Yes, it was a bad decision, but I do believe Ichiro’s heart was in the right place. He was, as he explained, trying to make an aggressive play to help the team, in his mind. Considering his overall contributions to the Mariners, it’s hard to quibble too much with one poor choice.

Two other key situations I’ll go over, and then call it a night. One was the 3-2 pitch on Ryan Langerhans with the bases loaded in the sixth that home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor called strike three, when it was really ball four (too low) to my eyes (and most of yours). That would have forced a run in, cutting the Yankee lead to 4-3, and brought up Ichiro. It would have been an entirely different game.
“I thought he threw him one strike the whole at-bat,” Wakamatsu said. “I came up to Ryan and said, ‘That was a tremendous at-bat.’ Beyond that, it’s baseball.”
Shrugged Langerhans, a last-minute lineup addition when Michael Saunders was scratched because of a shoulder injury: “I don’t have much comment on it. I took it. I thought it was a ball. It was just one of those tough games we definitely felt we could have won.”
Finally, there’s the botched play in the outfield in the second inning that led to the four unearned runs that made the ultimate difference in the game.
Here’s Ichiro’s explanation: “At first, I called for it, then I heard Guit call for it, so I got out of the way,”
Gutierrez wasn’t at his locker and my deadline was rapidly approaching, so I couldn’t get his side of the story.
The Mariners have now fallen 10 1/2 games behind the Angels, their largest deficit of the year. Based on the pitching matchups, this was the game the Mariners should have had the best chance of winning in this series. Sergio Mitre isn’t C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte or Sunday’s starter, Joba Chamberlain.
But the Mariners made too many mistakes, mental and physical; failed too many times in the clutch — and got one bad call when it really hurt.



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