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August 20, 2009 at 1:21 PM

Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers: 08/20 game thread

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We’ve seen great defense from both teams today, but Franklin Gutierrez and Josh Wilson may have just saved the game in the eighth inning. With two on, two out and Seattle clinging to a 6-5 lead, Alex Avila gave a Shawn Kelley pitch a ride to the gap in left center.
For the second time today, Gutierrez made a catch on the dead run, then had the presence of mind to fire the ball back in quickly before the speedy Clete Thomas could tag up and go to third. Just outstanding defense there. And then, to top it, Josh Wilson made his second eye-popping glove play of the day, making an over-the-head catch of a blooper by Placido Polanco that looked like it was about to fall in for the tying single.
Seriously, between Gutierrez and Wilson, you’ve got four plays for the year-end highlight reel. Who do you think is Seattle’s defensive player of the game?
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12:48 p.m.: The Tigers just swung their way back into this game, scoring three runs to cut Seattle’s lead to 6-5 as we head to the seventh. Chris Jakubauskas got a groundout on pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff that scored one run, then yielded a two-run single up the middle by pinch-hitter Alex Avila.
That single came on a 2-2 pitch, right after manager Don Wakamatsu and trainer Rick Griffin visited the mound, sensing Jakubauskas was having arm trouble. He had jumped ahead 0-2 on Avila before missing badly on the next two offerings. Much different ballgame now.
Jarrod Washburn is now out of the game, and Zach Miner on in relief. Washburn threw 94 pitches, 59 for strikes.
12:35 p.m.: We’re now back underway, with the Mariners in a heap of trouble. The Tigers have the bases loaded, only one out and pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff up against newly-inserted reliever Chris Jakubauskas. Seattle still leads 6-2 after clubbing four homers off Jarrod Washburn to tie a season high.
12:13 p.m.: Here’s the new challenge now that the tarp has been pulled all the way into right field. The water left behind underneath it is soaking the shallow part of right field, so crew members are out there with squeegies trying to remove it.
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These are high-powered automated ones, not the kind used by guys at street corners in some East Coast cities (here, they just carjack you for the cash). Anyhow, they’ll get the job done, but it could be a while. Actually, we’re now told 20 more minutes. So, a 12:35 p.m. resumption.
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12:00 p.m.: The rain stopped fairly quickly after it started, but the crews here face a challenge in getting water off the tarp, then removing it from the field. That was quite the storm we had. But I see patches of blue sky up there and the sun has been shining. So, we should get this one back underway at some point.
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In fact, I can see the crew members now walking out towards the tarp. They still have to get some of the water off before they can lift the thing. It’s going to be real heavy.
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Remember, the M’s lead 6-2, but the Tigers have the bases loaded with one out in the sixth.
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11:42 a.m.: The rain didn’t come in time to save Ryan Rowland-Smith, who shouted an expletive that could be heard in the press box as he walked the bases loaded on four pitches in the sixth. That’s the end of his day, after 86 pitches and 5 1/3 innings. The game has now been delayed by a monsoon-like thunderstorm that’s sent the patrons scrambling.
Seattle still leads 6-2, but this game isn’t over yet. Then again, it might be if the rain doesn’t stop. Not to be a Chicken Little or anything, but the sky is indeed falling.
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11:29 a.m.: Jarrod Washburn’s home run/flyball rate is taking a beating today. He just gave up two more — making it four on the day — in the sixth inning to make it 6-2 for the Mariners. The first, by Mike Sweeney, was a bit of a jetstream job out to left field. Sweeney broke his bat at the handle on the swing and got clocked from behind by the barrel. He actually turned to look at the broken shard, probably never figuring he’d connected enough to send the ball out. Seems to be a wind tunnel to left today.
Russell Branyan didn’t need any wind help, however, on his ensuing blast, a towering shot to right that landed just below the second deck. They’re calling it 425 feet. Seemed like it went a lot further than that.
11:11 a.m.: This one isn’t over yet. I counted four home run type balls off Ryan Rowland-Smith in the fourth inning and two of them actually did clear the fence. So, it’s 4-2 for the M’s as we head to the bottom of the fifth.
Ryan Raburn led off the fourth with a no-doubter into the right field bleachers. Miguel Cabrera then gave the ball a ride some 400-plus feet to the deepest part of the ballpark, where Franklin Gutierrez made a superb, over-the-shoulder catch look easy. Third play of this game that could be on ESPN’s top-10 later tonight. That catch may have saved the M’s another run. Magglio Ordonez then launched a ball just foul down the left field line that was nearly another homer, before striking out.
But Rowland-Smith had no such luck against Brandon Inge, whose blast into the left field seats was fair by a big margin.
And as I type this, Inge just made another catch right at the stands in foul territory on the third base side. He did tumble into the stands — at least his upper body did — again. But he kept his feet this time. The defense we’ve seen in this game so far is unbelievable. Mariners went 1-2-3 in the fifth.
10:56 a.m.: This is turning into a rough day for Jarrod Washburn, who just gave up another home run in the fourth, this one to his former (if infrequent) battery-mate Kenji Johjima. I can envision all types of jokes already floating throughout the Seattle blogosphere about a bus blowing a tire, or something to that effect. The ball seemed to carry and carry and just made it over the wall in left. So, make that 4-0 for the Mariners.
Ryan Rowland-Smith has given up only one hit, on that ball drilled off his calf in the first inning.
10:46 p.m.: Jose Lopez just made up for his error in a big way, stroking a two-out, two-run homer to left field off Jarrod Washburn in the third inning to give Seattle a 3-0 lead.
Washburn had retired seven in a row, but walked Franklin Gutierrez on a full-count offering, then yielded the blast by Lopez on a 1-1 pitch. Lopez leads the team with 73 runs batted in.
I know Washburn won’t be pleased with himself. He had a chance to put Gutierrez away at 2-2 and missed. And it cost him big.
10:36 a.m.: Still 1-0 for the Mariners as we head to the third inning. We’ve already seen two outstanding defensive plays today, the first from Mariners shortstop Josh Wilson, going deep — and I mean deep — in the hole to his right, then leaping as he pivoted and firing a bullet to first base to nab Marcus Thames by a hair.
That came in the first inning.
Then, in a 1-2-3 second tossed by Jarrod Washburn, you had Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge catching a Jack Hannahan pop-up right at the stands in foul territory along the third base side, then tumbling head over heels into the crowd.
Both should be ESPN Web Gems later tonight. We’ll see which ranks higher. They tend to give the crowd tumblers more credit, but that Wilson play was as good as we’ve seen all year in Seattle — and that’s saying plenty with this team as good as it is defensively.

Ryan Rowland-Smith
took a hard shot off his right calf in the first inning, but looked fine in the second, overcoming a Jose Lopez error and emerging otherwise unscathed.
10:15 a.m.: Yes, that’s Jarrod Washburn out on the mound for the Detroit Tigers. Sure looks funny seeing him out there facing Ichiro and company. The rain has held off and we’ll at least get this one underway. The Tigers have to take off to Oakland after the game, so there’s not a whole lot of leeway as far as delaying things. No sooner did I type this than the rain has already begun, midway through the first inning.
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Ichiro got the Mariners off to a 1-0 lead by doubling to left center, taking third on a Franklin Gutierrez bunt, then — one hit batter later — scoring on a Mike Sweeney sacrifice fly to center. The inning ended with a Russell Branyan strikeout, his sixth in a row.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said pre-game that he has no plans to sit Branyan out, figuring it could be counter-productive at this time of the season. Wakamatsu feels Branyan’s biggest problem isn’t the need for rest, but that he is pressing too hard mentally to keep up his big numbers.
“I think now, it’s at a point where there are a lot of thoughts running through his head,” Wakamatsu said.
He later added: “He’s got to work through things to make him batter for the long term.”
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The lineups:
MARINERS (62-58)
RF Ichiro
CF Franklin Gutierrez
2B Jose Lopez
DH Mike Sweeney
1B Russell Branyan
C Kenji Johjima
3B Jack Hannahan
SS Josh Wilson
LF Michael Saunders
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith
TIGERS (63-56)
2B Placido Polanco
DH Marcus Thames
LF Ryan Raburn
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF Magglio Ordonez
3B Brandon Inge
CF Clete Thomas
C Gerald Laird
SS Adam Everett
LHP Jarrod Washburn



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