Don’t look now, but that little chat Eric Wedge had with his players two weeks ago in Kansas City appears to have worked. For now, anyway. If they lose five in a row, we’ll all forget about it, but it’s tough not to notice the team has won eight of 12 since that fiery talk in which he implored the team to expect more of itself.
Actually, it was easy to notice the 4-4 start to that 12-game stretch. That would be when the team was getting the pitching, but also the same three runs per game hitting we’d all come to know and love the past year-plus.
That has changed on this road trip. Anyone who picked the M’s to start off 4-0 and outscore the Tigers and Red Sox 31-10 in these four games, raise your hand. OK, now please email me your lotto picks for next week.
This has been a different-looking M’s team in which everyone has done its part.
Michael Saunders had a lousy (OK, on second thought, upgrade that to “so-so”) game at the plate tonight. But when he was needed in that ninth inning, racing to right center to snag a Jed Lowrie blast that traveled about 420 feet, he knew he had to get the job done.
“It gets really deep out in right center and all that’s between you and the bullpen is a solid metal bar,” Saunders said.
Saunders kept his eye on the ball, not looking at that “metal bar” until
“The last second I took a look,” he said. “But with the game on the line over there I was just going to go for it. Luckily, I was able to pull up a little short because it was going to be painful.”
But he got the job done. In the end, if he’d gone 2-for-4 and not made the catch, we might have seen a different outcome to this game.
Plenty of M’s have done their jobs of late. It’s a far cry from what we’d seen. The starters are going deep, the bullpen is getting outs and the hitters are…hitting.
Saunders was naturally asked about the Wedge “talk” with the players and the impact it may have had.
“It might have been the way we were going about it,” Saunders said. “He fired us up a little bit. Maybe that’s what we needed. We knew coming into this season that Wedge was a very intense guy. He’s a professional. He knows how to get the best from each player in the clubhouse. That’s a skill that a lot of managers need.”
Saunders closed by adding: “I think as a team, we’ve picked it up a notch. We don’t expect to lose. We come to the ballpark ready to win.”
Jason Vargas came ready to win tonight. He overcame that fluke shot home run by Mike Cameron wrapped around Pesky’s Pole in right, then the missed call by the umps on what should have been a foul-out, but led to a walk and two Boston runs.
Vargas said he tried to ignore the Pesky’s Pole shot.
“There’s really nothing you can do, so it’s not something I was concerned with,” he said. “The pitch that I made, it was a first-pitch fastball away…so, you just kind of move along.”
Vargas figured it would just be a flyball to right. Until he “remembered where we were” and watched Ichiro keep drifting towards the wall. Finally, he ran out of room.
Vargas didn’t know what had happened after the foul tip. He thought it was a clean strikeout and didn’t realize the batter had tipped the ball. But he shook that off, too, and did what he needed to in order to win.
“I think we’re playing a lot better baseball,” he said. “We’re taking advantage of more mistakes the other team makes, we’re doing a much better job of scoring people when we get them on base. Just doing the little things better. Executing bunts, executing hit-and-runs and playing good defense.”
And winning. They’re doing that, too.