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May 6, 2011 at 11:20 PM

Mariners find a way to win yet again (UPDATED WITH QUOTES)

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NOTE: If you missed Geoff Baker Live! tonight, you can see the video replay below. Right at the beginning, I went on a rant against the “Bobblehead” culture of some of the fans I saw lined up hours before gametime. We discussed Justin Smoak and I played a clip of Eric Wedge telling me why the No. 4 spot feels different than No. 5 to many players and why Smoak is staying put for now. Someone asked whether it’s a good thing that the struggling Seattle hitters are still seeing so many pitches in their at-bats and whether this is a good thing.
On to the post-game post…
The Mariners had only three hits the first seven innings. But they also had Felix Hernandez on the mound and that keeps you in any game.
This time, it helped them win 3-2. Jack Cust and Jack Wilson singled off Matt Thornton with one out in the ninth and then Brendan Ryan hit a two-out single up the middle for the win.
First off, let me clear one thing up now that I’m back from the clubhouse. That mess-up on bunt coverage that led to a Chicago run in the fourth was not Jack Wilson’s fault. I was told by the coaching staff that it was Justin Smoak’s job on that play to hustle back to first base once he saw that Miguel Olivo was going to pick the ball up.
Smoak failed to do it and there was no one at first to take the throw. It was not Wilson’s job to be backing him up. So, I goofed when I pinned it on Wilson earlier. My mistake.
Anyhow, that miscue didn’t cost Seattle the game. Ryan made up for that defensive lapse with a nice play in the eighth to catch Gordon Beckham leaning too far off third on that hard grounder by Alexei Ramirez.
Beckham was caught in a rundown and tagged out.

“The situation dictates that he’s probably going to be going on contact,” Ryan said. “The problem for them was he (Ramirez) hit the ball so hard that he (Beckham) was caught in no-man’s land. So, all I really had to do was catch it and see what was going on.”
Ryan entered the night in a 1-for-23 slump. But he had a double earlier on — his second in two nights — then the winning single. Mariners manager Eric Wedge told me that Ryan has had a better approach the last three or four nights.
Ryan said he’s been working on that. He’s been a little too excitable at times at the plate and says he’s tried to be a bit more “quiet” with his swing. Part of it is also his getting used to American League pitchers.
“I didn’t feel like I was quite right at the start of the season,” he said. “I’m still trying to get there. With each at-bat, trying to get better and learn. That’s part of it too, not having seen any of these guys. So, i might be trying to get some looks and then you wind up behind in the count. But I wanted to be aggressive today with good pitches. Fortunately, that last at-bat, I got a good pitch to hit and I didn’t foul it off.”

Wedge had waited until Jack Cust made it to second base — following the Wilson single — before replacing him with pinch-runner Adam Kennedy. I asked Wedge whether the Milton Bradley ejection limited his bench options and perhaps made him hesitant to burn another guy off the bench right away.
Wedge said that wasn’t the case.
“It’s kind of a two-fold situation,” he said. “You do everything that you can to try to win the ballgame but you’ve got to also be prepared for what’s potentially beyond that, too. So, i wasn’t going to pinch-run for him until he got to second base. We didn’t have a base-stealer on the bench there, but we had guys who run a little bit quicker. Jack (Cust) runs pretty well for a big guy. But once we got to second base, we were going to go with the move.”
That’s Wedge’s story and he’s sticking to it. We’ll never know.
But it remains clear that your bench options are broader if you don’t have to waste Ryan Langerhans to play left field because Milton Bradley got tossed from another game. It didn’t burn the M’s this time. Still, you don’t need to be taking those chances.
Yeah, that wasn’t the greatest strike call on the outside corner by the plate umpire, but Bradley can’t go off like that. He’s a marked man in this game because of his reputation and even then, it looked like umpire Mike Muchlinski was prepared to cut him a bit of slack in his tirade until Bradley did not back off and kept getting into the ump’s face.
You can’t do that. And you can’t hurt your team like that. The excuse-makers can prattle on and on about the “heat of the game” and stuff, but that strike call was far from the worst I’ve seen this season. And Bradley, to be honest, hasn’t done enough at the plate — tonight’s RBI double aside — nor in the field for the M’s this season to offset this type of stuff. Bradley can only up his value to the team if he stays on the field. He has to keep it together because he put his team at a disadvantage tonight.
Luckily, it became a non-issue.
Felix Hernandez was his usual quality self, throwing nine innings of five-hit ball and allowing just the two runs. He struck out only four, but that was OK because letting his fielders do the work kept his pitch count down and let him go the nine frames on 109 pitches.
“He just really, again, controlled the ballgame,” Wedge said. “He commanded the ballgame like we’ve seen him do so many different times. It was tight throughout. Our guys did a good job of pushing a couple across. And he kept us in it.”
And the M’s kept themselves in this AL West race, still three games back of the Angels, two behind Oakland and only one back of Texas.
They still can’t score more than three runs per game. But for now, they are winning. Style points don’t count in the W-L column.
More importantly, they have made the games interesting again.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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