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July 21, 2010 at 11:39 PM

Mariners do some little things right after a whole bunch of wrong

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Take away the previous 27 innings and that was some great baseball played by the Mariners offense.
Jack Wilson keyed a decisive 11th inning with his decision to bunt for a single off White Sox closer Bobby Jenks.
“I saw the second baseman was back and (first baseman Paul) Konerko was back so I thought I’d try to take adantage,” Wilson said. And it worked out.”

The big key to the inning, after Wilson was bunted to second by Ichiro, was Chone Figgins coming through with a single and then a stolen base. Chicago had the option of walking Franklin Gutierrez with first base open.
But Gutierrez has been struggling and rather than force a rattled Jenks to throw strikes, the Chisox had him keep on pitching. Gutierrez lined the next pitch into center field.
“It’s huge, man,” he said. “Everybody knows we’ve had a tough time trying to score some runs. We scored in the last inning and that was huge for us to win this game.”
Huge indeed. Felix Hernandez was not happy at being lifted only 93 pitches into a two-hit shutout through eight innings. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu spoke about the need to preserve Hernandez’s arm from here on in.
That’s tough to get a pitcher to swallow when he’s gunning for a Cy Young Award with a 2.75 ERA, but has to contend with a 7-6 record.

Hernandez said he didn’t understand the decision and that it’s Wakamatsu’s call to make. He added that he’d been ready to go back out.
Wakamatsu said that Hernandez didn’t take the news without a fight. Hernandez seemed less happy tonight than he has after prior wins in which he’s been involved. I can’t blame him, as he was enjoying one of his best outings all year – if not, his career.
Then, you have the Jose Lopez adventure. I asked Wakamatsu about it. Yeah, that’s me, the local party-pooper spoiling the victory parade.
“You know, people talk about the base running and there are no excuses, I’m not going to sit here and defend it,” Wakamatsu said. “But I think also you’ve got to look at the fact that when you don’t score runs for 27 innings, there’s some anxiety there.”
There was a lot more anxiety for Lopez and the gang when, as the trail runner at first base, he took off for second before he was certain that a broken bat blooper by Milton Bradley had dropped in for what could have been the winning single. Instead, Andruw Jones, who was once the best center fielder in baseball, turned back the clock with a fantastic catch and an even better throw back to first from his knees.
Lopez was D.O.A. Sort of like he was last night when he staggered up the first base line on a grounder and allowed Omar Vizquel to throw him out from behind third base on what looked more like a punt than a relay.
In this case, though, Lopez had no reason to even leave first base by more than 10 or 15 feet. His run meant nothing. If the ball dropped in, Lopez could easily have chugged the additional ground on in to second because there’s no way Jones could have recovered and made the throw he did. But once Jones caught the ball, yeah, it was easier for him to get rid of it alomst all in one motion towards first base (a much easier throw there than to second given his positioning) and nab Lopez — which is why you don’t wander off as far as Lopez did until you’re sure the ball was dropped.
Not the easiest play for Lopez to judge. But he made it too hard on himself.
Wakamatsu chalked up the earlier Ryan Langerhans baserunning miscue as one of “aggressiveness” and the wrong decision. In Lopez’s case, he added, “you look at the umpire’s call and he didn’t call it (an out) until he (Jones) rolled over and showed him the ball. That’s a tough play for him. But again, it’s about winning ball games. And some of those things don’t matter when you win a lot of ball games. When you lose ball games, those things get magnified.”
Well, yeah, they do.
Again, though, the umpire’s call doesn’t matter here. Lopez’s run meant nothing. He could have stood on first base (or, at least strayed halfway, or even a third of the way to second before committing) and watched Figgins chug on home while Lopez himself could have eased on into second if the ball was dropped. Again, if the ball hits the ground there and is trapped, it’s a much tougher throw for Jones to have to make to second, given the angle his body was at. It would have been the throw of the year needed to nab Lopez at second. Not so much to first base. Especially once the ball was caught, enabling Jones to roll and throw in one motion.
Perhaps this is an unfair question to keep asking Wakamatsu. It’s his job to tell the players beforehand not to keep doing stuff like this. Not his job to keep being their official spokesman when they make basic mistakes.
We can keep asking the players again and again why they did this and why they did that. It’s getting old. I feel like we’ve done it all year and frankly, now, I’m no longer inclined to ask the obvious setup query. The players are what they are. Yeah, the players are feeling it, I’m sure, because nobody wants to play for a team that risks becoming the biggest punchline in MLB. That I understand. So, I’m going to stop being the party pooper for a bit. Party on, everyone. Like it’s 1989. Or maybe 1979.
The Mariners have seen what they’ve got out there and know what they have to work with going forward. That’s what the rest of this season is supposed to be about, right? Going forward, building for the future?
So, I’ll let them keep building and tearing down and we’ll see which players are still here on Aug. 1. After that, we’ll start targeting mistakes again by the players that have been kept as part of the future. And we’ll judge the ability of the coaching staff to get those players to respond accordingly.
Sound good? Hey, the M’s won tonight. I’ll lay off and leave it at that.
Let’s see if things change tomorrow. Hopefully, before the 11th inning.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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