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April 15, 2012 at 5:39 PM

Mariners wrap up this series well, now need to step it up a notch as quality of opponent increases

You can’t knock the Mariners for going out and taking care of business against the Oakland Athletics today, winning 5-3 to take the series. The Mariners have now played the A’s seven times in 11 games and recorded five of their six wins against them.
They have played the Texas Rangers four times and needed a dramatic comeback in the ninth inning to avoid being swept all four games.
You know where I’m going with this. And there’s no sense pretending the issue doesn’t exist. But we really don’t know how full value the M’s are for their 6-5 record when they have just one late, dramatic win against a team not wearing the A’s uniform.
Today’s game was one where the opponent was still hanging around in the middle innings despite the M’s seemingly being in control all day.
So, yeah, celebrate. But then, it’s time to see this team get down to business. The off-day tomorrow should be nice because these guys really haven’t had much time to get settled after that Japan trip. They’ve since gone to Arizona, Oakland, Texas and now back to Seattle where they’ve yet to even have a day to unpack.
That stuff is real and I get it. So, hopefully, they use the off-day well and get ready to come back and step things up a notch. The opposition is about to get tougher, with Cleveland and the White Sox coming in, followed by a tough road swing through Detroit, Toronto and Tampa Bay.
Not all of those teams are world beaters. But they aren’t the A’s either.
“These guys still haven’t had a chance to really get settled in,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Getting back late Thursday and running through this weekend. It’s much needed. These guys get a chance to spend some time with their families tonight and tomorrow. Get settled in to their houses or apartments, or whatever it may be. Then, hopefully, we get back to the normal grind, if you will, once we come back on Tuesday.”
There’s been nothing normal about facing the A’s this often and in three different cities and two countries. Seattle really didn’t have to break a sweat in today’s affair and it seemed to stun even the A’s when Eric Sogard hit that three-run homer in the fifth to tie a game they really had no business being in.
And Oakland, true to form, wasn’t in it for long, fumbling away two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning to close out the day’s scoring. Blake Beavan was in control the entire seven innings he pitched, save for one three-batter stint capped by Sogard’s homer.
“You’ve just got to have a short-term memory,” Beavan said. “You give up a couple of runs and if you stop going after guys the way you were before that, you end up getting hurt and giving up more runs.
“Once I gave up the home run, I just had to stop the damage right there, keep trying to battle and make pitches.”
And that he did. Unlike the Rangers series, where every mistake by Seattle seemed to lead to a flurry of runs, the A’s never really showed any life after Sogard’s swing.
The A’s also allowed some struggling Mariners to show signs of life. Brendan Ryan was one of those, after coming in with a .200 average. He battled starter Graham Godfrey in an eight-pitch at-bat in the second — fouling off three in a row with two strikes — before launching his first-ever Safeco Field home run.
In one of the funnier moments you’ll hear about, Ryan was asked by reporters after the game about how excited he is to have a day off on Monday. Ryan looked absolutely floored.
“I didn’t know that,” he said of the off-day. “Are you serious?”
Told there was indeed an off-day tomorrow, he added: “Good, I’ll get some furniture and stuff. I’ve got to get some stuff for the condo.”

The Mariners don’t need Ryan to hit .350. But they do need him to show signs of offensive life and to be the baserunning catalyst he was in the first half of 2011. He began doing that on Saturday and continued it here with the home run.
Some others need to follow suit.
Justin Smoak admitted after the game that he still feels like he’s been grinding out at-bats from both sides of the plate. The home run he hit off Godfrey in the third inning should help him a bit.
Smoak is hitting .186. Ichiro had four hits in the season opener, then hit just .194 since until notching a double and single today. The double was big because it drove home the go-ahead run with two on in the fifth. More of that is needed from Seattle’s No. 3 hitter.
Dustin Ackley’s batting average isn’t terrible, but seeing him with a sub-.300 OBP is a little strange. Chone Figgins also dropped below a .300 OBP today even with that nine-pitch at-bat to open the game.
So, that’s the top four guys in the lineup not exactly performing up to top levels right now.
Throw in Miguel Olivo’s .111 average and the .200 for Michael Saunders and there is a lot that playing the A’s seven times in the first 11 games has helped the M’s obscure up to now. A whole lot that can go wrong when playing better teams than Oakland starting on Tuesday.
On the positive front, you have strong pitching performances of late from the bottom three guys in the rotation, including Beavan today. Tom Wilhelmsen seems to be figuring out the eighth inning a bit and Brandon League converted the save in the ninth today after allowing a single.
Jesus Montero is looking better at the plate and just had an eight-game hitting streak snapped today.
So, it’s far from the disaster it could be with so many bats and bullpen arms scuffling early. But the M’s have to turn it up a notch.
That isn’t raining on anyone’s parade. Or trying to find negatives where there aren’t any.
The M’s did what they had to do against Oakland. They have a winning record. Will this same level be enough when playing somebody else? It wasn’t against the Rangers. We’re about to find some of the rest out. Should be interesting.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero


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