UPDATED WITH POST-GAME QUOTES
Not everyday do we see the Mariners hit three home runs before the game is even four innings old. But that’s what Franklin Gutierrez, Bill Hall and Kenji Johjima did tonight in a 7-4 win by the Mariners over the Oakland Athletics.
And just to show the M’s haven’t forgotten their roots, Gutierrez even dropped down a bunt to get a seventh run across in the ninth inning. That Gutierrez is quite a ballplayer. You have to like what you saw tonight from the guys who could play a role on the 2010 team. Gutierrez will be there, obviously, but Mike Carp and Hall also came through.
Ian Snell gets the win, but needed all the help he could get. David Aardsma just got his 34th save. I’d say 40 is well within reach.
Snell was fortunate that manager Don Wakamatsu allowed him to stay in the game as long as he did. Cameras showed Wakamatsu engaged in serious conversation with catcher Johjima in the dugout after his homer in the fourth inning made it a 6-3 game.
Wakamatsu told me he was going over the strategy needed to help Snell last five innings in the game. The camera showed Wakamatsu emphasizing his point rather emphatically to Johjima, but the manager insisted there was nothing more to it than trying to get Snell through the minimum.
By the bottom of the fourth, though, Wakamatsu was fed up and made a mound visit of his own. Snell had just allowed a stolen base and was on the verge of letting the A’s creep back in the game.
“That was really just about controlling the running game,” Wakamatsu said. “This is a new guy we didn’t have a chance to go through spring training with. And at that point, we weren’t going to allow any more stolen bases. That was really the gist of the talk. And to be aggressive. We’ve had that talk with everybody. We just really haven’t had the luxury of pounding it into everybody.”
And yeah, Wakamatsu pounded it home. Snell said the discussion was “PG-13” and could not be repeated.
“I think I got a little too relaxed,” Snell said of the 4-0 lead he’d been handed after an inning, only to see it narrowed to 4-3 by the third. “My ball was just moving all over the place. It felt like I couldn’t throw a strike.”
Wakamatsu showed something by leaving Snell in there, though. There were two on and two out in the fifth with a reliever warmed up and the manager still allowed Snell to face Daric Barton — who wound up homering later on in the game. This time though, Snell got a flyball out and qualified for the win.
“We try to give a guy a belief system,” Wakamatsu said. “When you go out there early in a ballgame like that, or you talk to him like that, you, in turn, want to show a belief system that maybe he can get a win out of that.
“So, yeah, I had somebody hot just in case. But I wanted him to at least go five.”
This kind of stuff matters a whole lot more than these games, or even finishing .500. The season is over, for all intents and purposes. But the M’s need Snell to do more next year. They want him with their “program” and not alienated like he felt in Pittsburgh. Keeping him on board, while constructively criticizing him, is a delicate act.
But hey, if it’s good enough for Felix Hernandez, it’s good enough for anybody on this staff.
That’s what I like most about this year’s coaching staff. It doesn’t play favorites as much as I’ve seen previous staffs do. The same rules, for the most part, seem to apply to everyone and players are expected to fall into line.
If they don’t, there are consequences. But the carrot is also dangled along with the stick on nights like this. Because Snell was allowed to pick up his win. A lot of teams would not have let a guy go 107 pitches with what he was throwing tonight.
So, a fourth straight win for Snell, And a third in a row for the M’s.
Three more against these A’s and they aren’;t exactly sending the Big Three to the mound anymore.
Clayton Mortensen has been inserted in the rotation for tomorrow instead of Vin Mazzaro. We could see some more big hits by Seattle before this series is done.