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July 8, 2010 at 11:11 PM

Familiar culprits bring down Mariners: Offense and bullpen

The Mariners are once more in freefall mode. That mini-spurt (nine wins in 12 game) is fading from memory as they dropped their fourth straight, and seventh in eight games, on Thursday, 3-1 to the Yankees.
The M’s are now 34-51, and you have to wonder how much worse it can get in the second half, what with their best pitcher, Cliff Lee, likely to be traded any day now. They’re going to have to battle not to lose 100 games. Right now, they’re on pace for 97 losses, and that’s with Lee and Felix Hernandez both at the top of their games.
I’m sure everyone is focusing on David Aardsma, who fell to 0-6. But to me, the game was lost in the sixth when the Mariners got a gift run when Andy Pettitte threw wildly on Ichiro’s bunt. That left runners on second and third, no outs. But as has happened so often this year, they couldn’t capitalize with even one more run as Chone Figgins grounded out, and after an intentional walk to Franklin Gutierrez loaded the bases, Pettitte struck out both Russ Branyan and Jose Lopez (Lopez looks completely lost at the plate right now, as an aside. I can’t imagine any team which is scouting him right now getting anything but gloomy reports).

You just knew that would come back to haunt them, and of course it did in the ninth, when A-Rod delivered the tie-breaking two-run single off Aardsma with two outs.
“It goes back to the offense again,” Don Wakamatsu said. “You have to be able to score some runs to take some of the pressure off this bullpen.”
Asked why he didn’t walk A-Rod (who had hit a two-run homer off Aardsma last week at Yankee Stadium) in the ninth with runners on second and third, Wakamatsu said, “You look at their lineup – it’s pick your poison.”
All-Star Robinson Cano, who came in with a .337 average, was up after Rodriguez.
“Cano is awfully tough,” Wakamatsu said. “Alex has a reputation, but we had the ability to pitch around him. The first pitch was the best one Aardsma threw all night, a 98-mph fastball at the knees. He got the (next) pitch up and a little in, and Alex took it to right.”
Said Aardsma: “I was trying to go away, and the pitch came back over the plate. It kind of jammed him, but he muscled it through the hole. What are you going to do?”
After having Brandon League and Aardsma struggle on successive nights, Wakamatsu was asked if he was going to deploy his late-game relievers any differently.
“Because of the use of the bullpen, we’re going with whoever can pitch in the seventh, eighth and ninth right now,” he replied.
The Mariners, at least, have Lee and Hernandez scheduled to pitch the next two nights (and I used the word “scheduled” for obvious reasons, when it comes to Lee). That improves their outlook, but with the Mariners’ offensive and bullpen struggles, even their gems are at risk of being squandered.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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