Not everyday you get a chance to avoid pitching to Hideki Matsui with first base open and the game’s worst hitter on-deck. Brandon Wood has a .404 on-base-plus-slugging percentage that makes even the game’s worst slap-hitting infielders look like Babe Ruth.
There he was in the seventh inning, looking on and almost praying — we think — that he didn’t have to step in there with two on and two out. But the Mariners and their young battery of Jason Vargas and Adam Moore let Wood off the hook.
With first base open in a 2-1 game, Vargas, who admitted he was “in attack mode” and trying to finish the inning off, elected to bury a fastball in on Matsui rather than pitch around him. Bad mistake.
Matsui is now 3-for-10 lifetime off Vargas — with all three hits leaving the yard. The home run this time became the decisive two-run blast. All of a sudden, a 2-1 lead was a 3-2 deficit. Alberto Callaspo tagged Sean White for another homer in the eighth inning and that was your ballgame.
Vargas was not happy with himself after the home run.
“I was frustrated,” he said. “I feel like I’m smarter than that. He’s definitely a guy who can change the game.”
I asked Vargas whether he’d even thought of Wood and maybe pitching to him instead. You never like to put the go-ahead run on base when you’re winning, but we are talking about the worst OPS in all of MLB by a country mile.
“Right after it happened, that’s exactly what I thought about,” Vargas said, adding that he wasn’t trying to disparage anyone, but, with Wood “you have a guy who, definitely, the odds are more in your favor.”
Moore was also upset at himself in what he termed a learning experience.
“You’ve got to be careful right there and that’s where I should have made a trip (to the mound), said something to him,” Moore said.
Anyhow, the M’s lost another series. That’s now four in a row.
They had chances with runners at second and third with one out in the first and the bases loaded with none out in the fifth. But Russell Branyan struck out — one of his four whiffs on the night — to help snuff the first rally, then a Franklin Gutierrez double-play ball helped ruin the second potentially bug inning.
Gutierrez robbed Howie Kendrick of a home run an inning later. But Ichiro needed stilts to prevent Matsui’s ball from leaving the yard.
“Lefties hadn’t done a whole lot against Vargas this year,” Brown said. “The matchup’s a good matchup. I would guess that he was going to try to be careful with him. He made a mistake. I happens. And like I said, it just happened at a point in the game where it got him beat tonight.”
Lefties haven’t, true. But three homer in 10 ABs for Matsui off Vargas now means the southpaw will likely be thinking things through much earlier on the next time they square off.