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July 5, 2011 at 11:22 PM

Mariners did the little things right when they needed to in this one

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If you missed Geoff Baker Live! this afternoon (replay below), 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…
The Mariners didn’t get a whole lot right other than Felix Hernandez clicking and Dustin Ackley hitting for the first nine innings. But they made up for it late in this 4-2 win over the Oakland Athletics.
One of the key moments came in the ninth, when Miguel Olivo threw out his third baserunner of the night — the ever-dangerous Coco Crisp. Think about how Crisp has wrecked the M’s with his speed over the years. If this was 2010, Crisp likely would have stolen second, then third and then come home on a sac fly to win the game. In fact, I recall him doing something along those lines last season.
Not this time. With a one-run lead already blown in the ninth and only one out, Olivo delivered with his arm and gunned Crisp down.

Then came the next little thing done right in the 10th. You had Franklin Gutierrez reaching on a single in what manager Eric Wedge said was his best at-bat of the season. Then, after the M’s failed to bunt him over, Gutierrez pulled off a big steal of second base with one out.
That was key because the A’s then walked Ichiro to set up the moment that changed the game.
Brendan Ryan hit a soft-grounder that looked like an inning-ending double play. But then Ichiro came sliding in hard, forcing shortstop Cliff Pennington to throw high and wide to first base. The error allowed Gutierrez to score. Ryan took second and then he, too, scored on an Adam Kennedy double.
So, yes. Ichiro over the years has been accused of not doing the things it sometimes takes to win games. Not this time. No one was doing it this time.
“Typically, in that situation, you want to avoid the double-play,” Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “So, I did what I thought was best to avoid the double-play. That’s what I had in mind.”
Wedge was thrilled. “I told him ‘Hey, way to play the game’,” Wedge said. “He went in there hard. He recognized that it was kind of a soft ground ball. He knew what they were going to try to do, went in there and was aggressive…and that was a difference-maker for us.”

And so, a game that could have resulted in the type of loss that may have killed this team’s contention hopes winds up in another close victory.
The Mariners keep getting it done.
Hernandez got it done all night long. He had all his pitches working and struck out 10, as opposed to in some games where only some of his pitches were effective.
“I had command of all my pitches and I was finding the strike zone,” Hernandez said. “That’s me right there. That’s what I have to do. Throw strikes.”
Hernandez said he’s managed to get by, on occasion, with only two or three pitches. As long as he commands them. He hasn’t always done that as well as he did tonight.
And the Mariners needed it.
Jamey Wright came through in the 10th to notch his first career save in what was his 500th appearance.
“That’s the fun part that it worked out that way,” Wright said. “I’ve never been in that situation before…I’d rather not pitch in the (10th). Leaguer (Brandon League) has been solid for us.”
League has indeed been, but tonight gave up his first earned run in 20 appearances when Carlos Peguero couldn’t get to that bloop single in the ninth. Wedge said he didn’t think Peguero got a bad break on the ball.
It was a tough play because the infield was playing in and Peguero was the only one who had a shot at it. I thought he hesitated initially. Anyhow, the M’s overcame the hit by Crisp and won the game.
Another great performance by Ackley. I really like the way he challenged Ryan Sweeney’s arm on that tag-up play in the second inning. The ball wasn’t hit all that deep and it was close.
“he was deep enough to where he was going to have to make a great throw to get me out,” Ackley said. “I just ran as hard as I could.”
And the throw from Sweeney indeed was not good enough. It was just offline enough for Ackley to beat the sweep tag.
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One more note to end the night with. Somebody told Hernandez after the game about the handful of “King’s Corner” fans perched in the upper decks of the “Mount Davis” bleachers in center field. “Really?” Hernandez said, somewhat disbelieving.
Luckily, I’d snapped the photo of those fans for the blog. Pulled out my trusty iPhone and downloaded the page and Hernandez got to see it.
“Aw, that’s cool,” he said.
Good ending to a night that could have gone very wrong for the M’s.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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