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May 29, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Eric Wedge says Mariners hitters were as good “as they’ve been all year long”

Just in case you missed it earlier, here is my Talkin’ Baseball segment from this morning on Sports Radio KJR’s Mitch in the Morning show in Seattle, with host Mitch Levy.
Here we go again. We’ll try to avoid too much excitement beyond this one game, as the Mariners have been down this road before.
But this is what they’re supposed to look like when they string together quality at-bats. The problem is, they’ll do that during wins like this 10-3 thrashing of the Texas Rangers tonight. Then, they’ll go out and lose five in a row.
So, that equation has to balance out a little more. Right now, this was a nice way to halt a five-game losing streak for a 22-30 team that needs to do a whole lot more with its season.
“I’ll tell you what,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “I felt like our at-bats tonight were as good throughout the course of this game as they’ve been all year long.
“I was as happy with our offense tonight as I have been all year long. And not just about that eighth inning. All the at-bats prior to that, too. Even with a lot of the outs we made, I felt really good about our approach up and down the lineup tonight.”
Wedge looked relieved more than anything else. That six-run eighth inning took a lot of pressure off the bullpen and what would likely have been a save opportunity for Tom Wilhelmsen.
“They’ve just been grinding,” Wedge said. “They’ve been grindng and fighting through it. We’ve been in every ballgame. We’ve had a lot of tough losses this year but these kids keep coming back. It says a lot about their character, a lot about their intestinal fortitude. Everything that they have inside them.
“I’ve said it over and over again, just how much tougher they are. To be able to keep coming back and keep playing and playing hard and giving ourselves opportunities to win ballgames. Granted, we haven’t finished a lot of these ballgames off. But it says a lot about our buys, the way they show up at the ballpark every day.”
It would say a lot more about them if they finished a few more of these games off. Because while losing a lot of close games can be the sign of a team that is close to something, it can also be the sign of a bad club that has losing down to a science.
Thing is, you often never know the real “character” of a team like that until another year or two down the road. So, again, the real test of this squad’s character will be the ability to be disciplined enough to do this type of thing more often than once a week. This team should not have to be shoved up against the proverbial wall in order to bear down and respond.
At some point, the Mariners will have to do the shoving.
They shoved the Rangers around in the eighth inning. Didn’t pick their spots, either, taking down Alexi Ogando and Mike Adams. The Rangers bullpen had not allowed more than four runs all season in any game, but gave up six in this one.

Kyle Seager stepped up big in this game and got that inning started with a double off the top of the right center field wall. I asked Seager about the message Wedge has delivered over and over to his players about the need for quality at-bats.
Seager said the message has been delivered. But that Wedge has also had to walk a fine line and not push his younger players too hard to the point where they try to do too much.
“He knows that you can’t go up there and be pressing,” Seager said. “He doesn’t put any undue pressure on us or anything like that. He just wants us to go up there and battle and everything. Especially late in tonight’s game, it was very good because we had a lot of situational hits.”
John Jaso had an early home run and drove in Seager for the first run of the big eighth inning.
“Everybody was going up there with a plan,” Jaso said. “We had runners on all the bases there and guys were going up with a good approach and trying to get singles in a sense. And that is a good feeling and a good thing to see on a team. It wasn’t any big swings and jam jobs. It was good hard-hit balls on the ground.”
Mariners pitcher Jason Vargas could barely believe it. He’d worked 6 2/3 innings, left with a 4-3 lead and was heading to the clubhouse to ice his arm when the bottom of the seventh ended.
“The last thing I said when I walked out of the dugout, I think Jesus (Montero) and Smoakie (Justin Smoak) were there, I said ‘Come on, let’s get some runs guys’,” Vargas said. “I proceeded to go put ice on. And then I got to take the ice off before the inning was over. So, that’s a good thing.”
Vargas used his curve ball to get him out of jams, like a fifth inning situation with the bases loaded and one out. Ian Kinsler hit a first pitch grounder that Brendan Ryan did a great job of staying on after an initial bobble before eventually starting a 6-4-3 double play.
“That was the biggest play of the game for us right there,” Vargas said. “For Rabbit (Ryan) to keep that in front of him, let alone turn the double play with it, I think that turned the page in the game for us.”
It kept the game at 4-1 right after the Mariners had scored a pair in the top of the inning on an Adrian Beltre throwing error. It also allowed the Mariners to survive a Josh Hamilton homer off Vargas in the sixth.
And this win gives the Mariners a 24-hour reprieve from some of the feelings of gloom starting to descend on this team after the losses. The schedule doesn’t get any easier from here.
So, we’ll take this one game as a sign of success and see from here how long it lasts.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Jesus Montero


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