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June 23, 2011 at 5:20 PM

Mariners hope their roadtrip improves at Safeco Field

riggleman.jpg
(Jim Riggleman during his final game as Nationals manager on Thursday. Photo by Associated Press).
The Mariners concluded a dreadful series with a 1-0 loss at Nationals Park on Thursday, but the real excitement happened after the game. I had done my interviews and was heading back up to the press box when I noticed, on a television perched in the hall next to the elevator, that Washington’s general manager, Mike Rizzo, was on the podium. Odd. I thought maybe it was some old footage, but underneath Rizzo on the screen were the words, “Riggleman resigns.”
Whoa. I quickly headed back to the Mariners clubhouse, where word was just starting to filter through. The team was hurrying off to the airport, but there were a lot of shocked people.
Not as shocked, apparently, as they were on the Nationals’ side. Few people saw this coming, though it was known that Riggleman was not happy with his contract status. He was working on a deal that ended at the end of the year, with a team option for 2012. Riggleman wanted the Nationals to pick up the option now, and when they didn’t, he quit.


I’ll delve into this a little more thorougly later. As for the Mariners, they now head home to Safeco Field to continue their roadtrip in unorthodox fashion: with three games against the Marlins. As everyone knows by now, those games were supposed to be played in Miami, but a U2 concert at Sun Life Stadium conflicted with the dates, so the games were moved to Seattle. The Mariners will be the visiting team, wear road gray uniforms, and both teams will play under National League rules, which means no DH, and pitchers hitting. (The Mariners will, however, use their own clubhouse and dugout, and conduct batting practice first, as they customarily do at home).
Research by Jeff Evans of the Mariners shows that just one pitcher has ever hit at Safeco Field: Boston’s Hipolito Pichardo (now there’s a blast from the past!) on July 31, 2000. He struck out against Jose Paniagua (speaking of blasts from the past) in the ninth inning.
The Mariners appear to be looking forward to the novelty factor.
“It will be awkward, I guess,” Justin Smoak said with a laugh. “Everything will be backwards being at home. It’s definitely going to weird. It’s not going to be normal. Wearing the grays, National League rules, pitchers hit. It’s definitely going to be different.”
But the more serious business for the Mariners — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — will be getting their bats going. They wasted three great starting performances in D.C., with Michael Pineda following Doug Fister and Erik Bedard with a gem of his own today.
Those three combined to give up just one earned run in 21 innings for a 0.43 earned-run average. But after moving ahead 5-0 in the fifth inning of the first game (a lead that came crashing down with a five-run rally by the Nationals in the bottom of the ninth), the Mariners hit .165 (13-for-79) the rest of the series.
Eric Wedge sounded a familiar refrain after the game: “In a tight ballgame, particularly a nothing to nothing ballgame, someone has to step up and come through, and no one did today. We’ve got to keep harping on getting this offense going. We have to loosen things up a little bit there. Our first game here, we had some real good at-bats. Quality at-bats. We put ourselves in a good position to win the ballgame, and it didn’t work out.
“Each man, each individual has to continue to work hard to get better. The dominos are what you can’t have happen. Someone has to break it up. We have guys that can do that and have done that.”
Maybe a road series in Seattle will do the trick.

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