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July 20, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Mariners looking to carry some of their strong hitting on to a bigger stage

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These aren’t exactly a bunch of Class AAA promotions the Mariners will be facing this weekend, even if they do get to miss David Price. Tonight, it will be James Shields, a guy whose recent history against Seattle hasn’t always been stellar.
But still, he’s a step up in class from some of what the Mariners saw in Kansas City.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was in a positive pre-game mood.
“I think it’s the best we’ve been overall as a ballclub in my short time here,” Wedge said. “And that’s talking about everything we’re looking for and what we saw. And that includes the vibe in the clubhouse, and on the bench and before, during and after each game too. Not just the tangibles but the intangibles, too.”
But Wedge didn’t really want to take the bait when asked whether he was looking forward to seeing how his club would fare against what should be a more-challenging pitching staff.
“There are so many good pitchers in this league,” Wedge said. “You’re always facing good pitchers and every team is good. So, I don’t look at one challenge as more of a challenge than everything else.”
Well, not quite. Prior to the Kansas City series, Wedge had openly mused about the challenge that awaited his hitters facing four consecutive Royals left-handers. Could be that he anticipated his hitters might light things up against a Royals crew that was either struggling big-time (Jonathan Sanchez), or was coming up from the AAA ranks.
Now, not so much. The last time the M’s were here, they lost four straight games in a hard-fought series. So, it will indeed be interesting to see whether these hitters have taken a step forward from back then.
What is again worth noting: the Mariners are now the No. 2 team overall in baseball in runs per game on the road, having passed the New York Yankees yesterday. Seattle is averaging 5.02 runs per game on the road, compared to 5.00 for the Yankees. The Mets lead all of baseball at 5.06.
So, while we can talk about pitching challenges the M’s face here, we are obliged to give them their due. Being the No. 2 scoring road team in MLB is not too shabby.


There was still some talk about yesterday’s interesting Jesus Montero home run in which Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson forgot to look for the wall and collided with it hard as the ball left the park. Dyson went down in a heap but shook it off and finished the game, slightly red-faced.
The Mariners were all talking about the play in the dugout, even as Montero circled the bases after his homer.
Michael Saunders can sympathize with Dyson. In spring training, Saunders was shagging fly balls in the outfield and was heading back fast fort one near the fence. Veteran pitcher Scott Patterson, who was trying out for the team, was standing there and yelled to Saunders that he still had room.
Saunders crashed full-on into the fence, sunglasses, cap and all flying from his face. He eventually picked himself up off the ground and glared at Patterson.
“He said ‘I thought you’d played with me long enough to know I was kidding’,” Saunders said.
Saunders quickly added that he could tell Patterson felt badly about what had happened.
Saunders, at least, had the advantage of crashing into a chain-link fence, which has some give to it. That wasn’t the case with the wall Dyson hit.
“That always hurts,” Saunders said.
Casper Wells — tonight’s starter in center field — said that, in situations like that, the warning track doesn’t really help because you can’t feel it under your spikes when focused on the ball.
“They should put a puddle of water out there,” he said. “That way, you’d feel your feet splashing first.”
Wells later admitted that having water puddles in the way probably wasn’t the safest thing for an outfielder sprinting back for a ball.
By the way, I asked Wells what his favorite outfield position was.
He told me, right field. Wells likes to try to throw runners out and gets more chances to there.
We’ll leave Yuniesky Betancourt out of this discussion today.
TV TRIVIA: For you late-1970s TV buffs, what will we have in the first inning when B.J. Upton faces Hisashi Iwakuma?
Why, B.J. and The Bear, of course. Greg Evigan lives on.
The lineups:
MARINERS
2B Dustin Ackley
RF Ichiro
CF Casper Wells
DH John Jaso
C Jesus Montero
3B Kyle Seager
1B Justin Smoak
LF Carlos Peguero
SS Brendan Ryan
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
RAYS
CF B.J. Upton
1B Carlos Pena
2B Ben Zobrist
RF Matt Joyce
3b Jeff Keppinger
DH Luke Scott
LF Desmond Jennings
C Jose Molina
SS Sean Rodriguez
RHP James Shields

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jesus Montero

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