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July 5, 2011 at 9:58 PM

Mariners survive collapse in ninth, pull it out in 10th

If you missed Geoff Baker Live! this afternoon (replay above), a viewer asked whether Jack Cust was “safe” at DH for now. Sure, he’s safe in the respect that Mike Carp won’t be replacing him. But I also replied that Ichiro was about due for another DH “rest” and what do you know? Ichiro is in there at DH tonight.
Another viewer wanted to know how close the Mariners have to be to first place for the front office to consider them deadline “buyers”. I also re-state my case for why this team should take a shot now. On that note, somebody asked me why CEO Howard Lincoln would want to fight for a payroll increase and add a bat this year when he wouldn’t do it nine years ago with Lou Piniella still around and packed houses at Safeco Field. Somebody also asked me about why the team won’t play Jack Wilson at third base. I used the Wilson situation to offer up a comment on how the M’s have failed to maximize their 25-man roster at times.

On to the post…
This was a two-man, two-run show for the Mariners for most of tonight. And it didn’t look like the Mariners would need 10 innings for a 4-2 victory over the Oakland A’s because Felix Hernandez produced eight innings of one-run ball in which he struck out 10.
And because Dustin Ackley supplied all of the offense until the 10th.
Ackley singled, stole a base and forced an error that sent him to third in the second inning. He then tagged up and scored on a fly ball that wasn’t really hit deeply enough by Carlos Peguero. But Ackley challenged the arm of left fielder Ryan Sweeney and it paid off as the resulting throw was just offline enough. Ackley then made sure throws didn’t factor into it in the seventh inning when he drilled a Trevor Cahill pitch over the center field wall.
But it wasn’t enough.
Kurt Suzuki narrowed the lead with a two-out solo homer off Hernandez in the bottom of the eighth. And then, Jemile Weeks hit a leadoff double in the 10th off Brandon League, then wound up scoring when Carlos Peguero couldn’t get to a Coco Crisp blooper to shallow left field.
So, blown save for League and extra innings we went.

But Franklin Gutierrez singled in the 10th and wound up scoring when Cliff Pennington threw away the back-end of a double play that would have ended the inning. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good. Adam Kennedy added a double to bring home an insurance run and Jamey Wright finished off the 10th.
Speaking of Hernandez, he was excellent tonight. Not as usual. He hasn’t always looked this good, including last week against the Braves.
Yeah, it helps when you’re playing a team almost as poor as your own at scoring. The A’s have the second-worst-scoring offense in all of baseball and looked the part in this one.
But Hernandez didn’t even allow them to breathe until it was too late.
Only one Oakland batter reached second base against Hernandez, that being David DeJesus in the fifth. And that threat was ended with a strikeout.
Hernandez himself admitted he has lacked the start-to-start excellence he demonstrated in the latter-half of last season. Perhaps that was too big an act to follow. Hernandez has still been pretty good.
Tonight, though, he was great. And his team needed every bit of it. Even that wasn’t enough in the end. But it was enough to buy the Mariners some time. And that, they most certainly needed.



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