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April 7, 2012 at 11:19 PM

Mariners trying to exchange their “potential” for actual results

Spoke to Michael Saunders a bit after the game. One of the better sets of eyes in the blogosphere, Jeff Clarke of Seattle Sports Insider, had noticed that Saunders appeared to be swinging a bit too long again, unlike the shorter, compact approach that worked well for him all through the spring. “I don’t like the way his compactness is unraveling,” Clarke suggested.
Saunders hit what turned out to be the deciding home run tonight in an 8-7 win over Oakland. He hit it on a 3-1 pitch, but only after missing an earlier 2-0 pitch that he fouled off because he had too long a swing.
Try as he does to keep every swing tight, Saunders admits he sometimes tends to jump out at some hittqble pitches, causing his body to fly open and the swing to take too long to make solid contact with the ball.
“That’s what wearing those rubber bands was all about,” he told me. “Trying to keep my arms and body in tight and compact. I’m a big guy and that works to your advantage at times because it gives you power. But it can also be a disadvantage because I have long limbs and you can miss pitches if your swing is too long.”
After missing the 2-0 pitch, Saunders forced himself to stay disciplined at 3-1.
“I just told myself ‘I’ve got to put my foot down here and stay short’,” he said. “I knew it was 7-1, or 7-2 at the time and there was no way he was going to put me on base.”
And Jerry Blevins did not. He gave Saunders a fastball that the hitter was waiting on and crushed. It’s all part of the growth process for Saunders. Turning potential into results. He talked about that as well, in regards to the team, though it could have been all about him from a personal standpoint.
“Obviously, when people say you have “potential” that’s a word that means you’re just not doing it,” he said. “You have an opportunity to do it but you’re just not getting it done. Hopefully, we can get rid of at stereotype on us because, yeah, we have a lot of talent. Over spring training and the last two games we have been getting the job done. Hopefully, we can keep the ball rolling and then potential will be a forgotten word around the clubhouse.”

Clearly, Felix Hernandez was not at his best. He admitted he had trouble getting it going after sitting in the cool air during that big third inning in which the Mariners scored six runs and sent 10 men to the plate.
Fortunately, the hot bat of Chone Figgins helped stake Seattle to a big enough lead to hold on. Figgins is on fire, with the triple, double and single tonight. He’s got six hits his last two games and is helping to pace the offense from the leadoff spot.
A key to holding on for the win was Tom Wilhelmsen shutting down the bullpen bleeding with a perfect eighth. As he did last night after struggling early, Wilhelmsen began with some first-pitch curveballs at threw the A’s off balance.
“I just came out there, threw a first-pitch curveball and sort of set the tone that way,” Wilhelmsen said. “It’s a pretty big confidence booster. It’s my go-to ‘out’ pitch and I expect it to be there. It’s good when it is.”
Brandon League also had a perfect ninth. It was his first pressure-packed situation of the season and he handled it admirably. League said the Japan trip kind of threw his rhythm off somewhat and he needed the extra spring training games afterwards to get it back.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said being able to win these types of games is another step in the team’s progression.
“You’ve really got to tip your cap to Wilhelmsen and League there at the end,” he said. “The momentum shifted, obviously, and they came in and shut them down. That’s why they’re in the back end, that’s why they’re in that situation and did a helluva job tonight.”
Wedge said that he let Hernandez start the seventh, despite a tough sixth, because he’s seen his ace rally in such situations and deliver a 1-2-3 inning. That would have set the bullpen up a lot easier for the finish, but did not happen.
Hernandez let two batters on, Lucas Luetge came on for the second out of the inning and then Steve Delabar gave up the three-run homer by Yoenis Cespedes. Wedge said the biggest difference this time — unlike their Friday night showdown — was Delabar falling behind in the count early and having to come back with the fastball, which Cespedes was waiting for.
But still, the Mariners held on for the win. Wedge is 3-1 now as the M’s head off to Texas. Nobody figures these to be easy games, with Yu Darvish going for the Rangers right away on Monday night.
For now, taking three of four against Oakland will do. The Mariners weren’t perfect, but they were just good enough.
“They’ve all been tight ballgames and tough ballgames,” Wedge said. “And different types of ballgames, too. I think that’s a good indicator for us as well.”

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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