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August 1, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Mariners wonder where they go from here

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The Mariners are happy to be on their way home after a week on the road and 18 consecutive days of pretty lousy baseball. But there was no joy in that post-game clubhouse after a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Seattle hit just .158 in the series and did not score a run the final 21 innings. All of those runs came in the sixth inning of Friday’s contest, meaning the M’s were blanked in 26 of the 27 innings here.
“As hitters, we’ve got to wake up,” said Russell Branyan, who went 4-for-21 with 10 strikeouts on this trip, depriving the team of its only real middle-of-the-order threat. “We’ve got to start swinging the bats better. We’ve got to have better at-bats and doing a better job. We haven’t. And we’ve got to figure something out to turn this thing around.”
Branyan discussed how tough it was for the Mariners to face Francisco Liriano, who is as good as it gets pitching-wise this season. Liriano fanned 11 batters today and the Mariners whiffed 15 times total — three by clean-up hitter Branyan and four by No. 5 hitter Casey Kotchman.
“He’s throwing a changeup to righties, but to us to lefties, he was running a good fastball in on us. A good two-seamer in on us. A four-seamer away. He was throwing a little short slider that had some depth to it. So, it was tough. It was tough picking up the ball coming out of his hand.”
So, I asked him, what can hitters do to combat that?
“You battle,” he said. “You just try to have good at-bats, try to let the ball get deep. Try to hit the ball the other way, because you’re not going to jump ship on a guy like that. You’re not going to, you know, bomb him.
“So, you just try to put at-bats together, get in some good hitter’s counts and hope he makes a mistake.”
In other words, all the things the Mariners don’t do well and haven’t done well since the season began.
“It was a (crappy) way to end the road trip,” Branyan said. “We were hoping to at least salvage winning one game today. But we didn’t win it, we lost seven on this road trip. A tough series in Chicago and a tough series here.”

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Luke French said he left the ball too out over the plate to Jason Kubel on the three-run double in the sixth that decided the game.
“The height was right, but the part of the plate was wrong,” French said. “I was pitching him in all day and had success. I tried to get it up and inside a little bit more and just kind of left it over the plate a little too much. And he was able to get some good wood on it.”
French also caught a bad break an earlier pitch to Delmon Young, which was about six inches off the ground when Young reached out and virtually one-handed a liner to left field. Michael Saunders charged in on it, slid, but had the ball hop over his glove for a one out double that put runners on second and third.
In a scoreless game, it was the break the Twins needed.
“It was right where I wanted it,” French said of the pitch. “It was right where Rob (Johnson) wanted it. Rob called a good game and sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat. He hit it and sometimes that happens.”
Saunders nearly came up with the ball. He’d run in on one just two batters prior to rob Denard Span of a hit.
“I think I came within half a foot or so,” he said. “I just made an attempt and I missed it.”
Saunders said his first time facing Liriano was tough. “He kept our hitters off balance,” he said. “When you have his stuff and you’re on and you’re hitting your spots it’s tough to hit a guy like that.”
I asked Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu how the team will regroup from this.
“There are two things,” he said. “Number one, we just completed 18 (consecutive) days. So, there are some guys in there , we’ve had some injuries, that we’ve got to recoup from. The day off’s going to be needed. The rest is going back and giving ourselves a chance to refocus a bit and be back home.
“I think it’s always nice, especially after a road trip we’ve had where we’re all disappointed. There are a lot of guys in there that feel that way. And the coaching staff and everyone at this point. But we’ve got to be able to move forward and try to get better. That’s the bottom line.”
So far, it’s been the rock bottom line.



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