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July 19, 2011 at 10:20 PM

Mariners have to heed their own advice from pre-game meeting and soldier on

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This was a funny game for the Mariners. Not funny “ha, ha” but more like bizarre. Because in a lot of respects, they played some really tough baseball. Made the Toronto Blue Jays work for every out.
Well, almost every out.
And that’s the bizarre part. On a night when Mike Carp had two doubles and a single — showing that power the M’s could have used a month ago while he was mostly sitting on the bench — the thing he’ll be remembered for is getting picked off second base with none out in the 11th.
Carp said there was nothing complicated about it. It looked like Figgins might be squaring up to bunt, but held off on the outside pitch. Carp appeared to be trying to get a bit of a jump towards third, but strayed too far off second and the catcher nailed him.
“I got picked off,” he said. “It shouldn’t have happened, but it did.”
Carp wasn’t saying this with a shrug. He was as upset as I’ve ever seen him after a game. His words were clipped and he clearly wasn’t thinking about his three-hit night.
Chone Figgins also had a good night at the plate ruined by misadventures in baserunning. Figgins went 1-for-4 with a single and two walks and had a double stolen on a great, diving catch by Corey Patterson in left.
But he’ll be remembered for being picked off first with runners at the corners to end the eighth.
“Carp’s a young kid out at second base and usually when something like that happens to a young player, it just happens one time,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “And Figgy just can’t get picked off there. It can’t happen.”
On the situational stuff, Wedge didn’t want to make a double-move after Jack Wilson pinch-ran for Justin Smoak. So, instead of bringing Adam Kennedy into the game to play first base after that aborted eighth inning, he let Dustin Ackley slide over there for the first time since his junior year in college.
The Blue Jays still had a lefty available in the bullpen and Wedge was holding on Kennedy for a pinch-hit situation that ultimately never came about.
Wedge said he was reluctant to intentionally walk Jose Bautista with the tying run at second and two out in the seventh. Wedge didn’t want to put the go-ahead run on base with Adam Lind — who’d already gone deep — due up next.
He went with Jeff Gray instead of David Pauley or one of the other late-inning guys in that situation because he plans to use Gray more in key roles going forward. Wedge also didn’t want to use Pauley for more than one inning to protect a lead.
“I’m not going to ask him – in a lead situation – to go one-plus in a lead situation with the way he’s been pitching,” Wedge said of Pauley. “So, I think one inning was going to be good for him if we had the lead. If it ends up being tied, then we’ve got to extend Jeff (Gray) like we did. And it was a good opportunity to see him against some tough hitters.”
Gray gave up the tying single to Bautista, but then got out of the inning and pitched the next two.
Pauley worked three scoreless after that. But the M’s couldn’t score and have now gone a dozen innings without doing that.
That pre-game meeting we discussed earlier was indeed called by Jamey Wright and Jack Cust. As you might expect with those two leading it, this wasn’t a “yell at everyone” type of meeting. It was more laid back, I’m told, with very little on-field baseball discussion.
It was more about the players remembering the fun they had competing together as a group and winning the hard-fought games. It was to remind them to still play the season as if it means something, so that the final two-plus months can be fun and memorable and not disintegrate.

“It was about how we’ve got to bear down and do the second half just the way we did the first,” Pauley said. “That’s something that we all see, but once it’s said it’s in the back of everybody’s mind now.”
Brendan Ryan, whose bat drilled a homer, double and a single while his glove made several terrific plays, looked like he was on fire out there. Ryan threw his heart into this one, trying to will the losing streak to stop.
And in the end, the loss showed in his face. He wasn’t happy with the lack of results in the latter part of the game or some of the miscues. But he did feel the team came out of the gates the right way and has to try to build off it so that this season doesn’t turn into something more awful than the losing streak has become.
Ryan said the meeting was a reminder to “just play good baseball like we know we can. Let’s have fun, pick each other up and let’s see where we’re at. Starting from today.”
And with those five early runs, the M’s seemed on their way.
“The first half of the game, you had to like what you saw,” Ryan said. “But after that, it was disappointing.”
Still, if they can come out like they did against Brett Cecil, they might have a chance against Brandon Morrow tomorrow night. What they can’t do is be scoreless in the fifth or sixth like they have too many nights.
They likely won’t always fall apart when they start strong. It gives them a better shot, in any event.
Because this losing streak now risks undermining everything they’ve worked for. If they can’t get at least one win the next two games against tough pitchers, the road only gets more difficult and the streak risks becoming historic.
The M’s lost a team record 14 in a row in 1992 and that’s a distinct possibility here with the Red Sox looming. Seattle would do best to take at least one of these next two, They can’t let up before they leave Toronto or this longest month will get longer than they ever imagined.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins


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