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May 9, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Brendan Ryan was a hidden hero in Mariners’ 2-1 win

(Mariners celebrate after 2-1 win Wednesday at Safeco Field. Photo by Associated Press)
Much of the focus, and rightly so, will be on Jason Vargas’s pitching and John Jaso’s clutch hitting, not to mention the huge pinch-hit double in the eighth inning by Michael Saunders with two strikes that got the winning rally started. There was also the single and stolen base by Ichiro in the fourth and the two-out RBI by Kyle Seager, who specializes in two-out RBIs.
But I want to focus on shortstop Brendan Ryan, who went 0-for-4 and still played as big a role as anyone in the win. Ryan is taking a lot of heat because of his offensive struggles — his average fell to .157 — but it’s games like this that remind you what a high-caliber shortstop he is. Eric Wedge is well aware of that fact.

“Brendan Ryan had just an unbelievable game at shortstop,” he said. “That’s why we’re working to help him get his bat going, because he’s so valuable to us. Obviously, he’s a guy that saves more runs than probably any shortstop in the game, and that was very evident tonight.”
Ryan had many highlight reel plays, but three stood out to me: an Omar Vizquel-like barehand play in the third on speedy Austin Jackson, a robbery of Prince Fielder on a ball up the middle in the fourth, and the huge double play he started in the ninth.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Vargas said. “The plays Brendan makes, he gets short-changed sometimes because he makes them look so easy. He can really play shortstop.”
Said Seager: “Brendan was unbelievable tonight. Anytime Vargas is throwing, they take different swings on him because he has such good stuff. If you make plays behind him you know he’ll have a good game.”
Here’s what Ryan said: “It’s fun to get reactions like you do from guys like Prince. I got some opportunities like that when I was in the NL Central, him and (Ryan) Braun. Any time you take a hit away, it’s a hundred times better than getting one yourself.
“It’s fun to rob one and see the reaction. Even more important, the way Vargo was pitching, it was just one out closer. It would have been nice to get him more runs and let him feel a little more comfortable, but geez, the way he’s throwing, it was pretty outstanding. Gotta love that.”
Of the barehand play, “That’s always a fun one. You mess around with it in BP. The important part is catching it. You can get caught up in trying to make the throw. You have to stick it, and let the throw take care of itself.”
Ryan was asked if he let the ball in the ninth, a scorcher right at him by Brennan Boesch, drop on purpose.
“No comment,” he said, smiling. “That was about as hard a ball as I’ve had hit to me this season – no offense, Leaguer (a reference to closer Brandon League). That ball was whistled. It worked out it rolled in front of me. I’ll take it.”
And the Mariners will take Ryan’s offensive struggles, at least for now, as long as he provides defense like he did tonight.

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