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June 1, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Michael Saunders feels terrible about the loss; Ichiro feeling good about being back at leadoff

Michael Saunders owned this one afterwards and really, what choice did he have? I’ve never seen Saunders miss a ball that routine like the Paul Konerko flyball/liner in the eighth and it cost his team the game.
“It was just a lazy fly ball, a lazy little line drive to center,” Saunders said. “It just kind of moved on me at the last second. And as everyone saw, I got hit in the face.”
Saunders said he never took his eye off the ball.
“I wasn’t running over there lazily,” he said. “It was just one of those things.”
He added: “It’s the first time I’ve ever gotten hit in the face. It’s something where, as an outfielder, you almost have to go out of your way to get hit in the face on a lazy fly ball like that. I feel horrible. This loss, I’m taking the blame for this tonight. (Shawn) Kelley pitched his (butt) off. He should have been out of there. We should have rolled in with more momentum than we did going into the top of the ninth.
“We battled our (butts) off and came back from an early deficit. It’s one of those things where I feel horrible. It’s just one of those things.”
The Mariners did indeed come back. And that had many of the hitters in an upbeat mood about what they were able to do.
“We did a good job of battling back,” Kyle Seager said. “We battled back and just kind of got unfortunate there at the end.”
Seager now has nine hits in his last three games — five of them for extra bases.
Justin Smoak had two more hits — one of them on a dropped pop-up, but the other a tying single in the eighth.
“It’s one of those things, it’s baseball,” Smoak said. “We were able to battle back. Peavy was throwing well tonight, but we were able to get some runs and tied it there late. What happened is baseball.”
Nobody really thought Brendan Ryan had a shot at that Alexei Ramirez grounder that he beat out for an infield single that scored the go-ahead run after the Saunders error. Ryan said he wasn’t sure whether he was juggling the ball or had it in his glove because he had little feel for it.
A couple of us caught up to Ichiro after the game to ask him about transitioning back to the leadoff role. He battled Jake Peavy in a nine-pitch at-bat to start the game, then had that single in the eighth to get the tying rally started. His stolen base off Matt Thornton was not easy because he’s a left-hander and was staring right at Ichiro as he took his lead.
“Being back at leadoff, I feel very comfortable,” Ichiro said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “It feels like getting back to my own spot. There was no hesitation.”

Ichiro spoke about how he’d been a leadoff hitter for 11 seasons prior to this year and that it was a challenge to try to go to the third spot in the order.
“We started the season a couple of months ago,” he said. “But now, it’s like a second start for me. A refreshing start for me.”
I asked him how difficult the transition to No. 3 was, now that he’s had two months to try it out and look back on.
“You have to understand that it’s not just the three-hole,” he said. “When you’re in the two-hole can also be a different task too. So, that’s hard to say from my perspective because I’ve only been at first and third. But then obviously, it’s easier to make the adjustment to a place that you’re used to.”
And he wasn’t used to the three-hole. He is used to leading off, so we’ll see whether it makes a difference.
Felix Hernandez says he’s going to have to work between starts to figure out why his fastball keeps deserting him. Just like in Cleveland a little over two weeks ago, Hernandez didn’t have the fastball working tonight. He couldn’t finish his pitches off.
“The ball was doing nothing,” he said. “It was up. It was in the middle. It was just the fastball because my breaking ball was doing pretty good. But I’ve got to have my fastball to have a good game.”
True that. The Mariners will be back at it tomorrow afternoon.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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