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September 3, 2012 at 6:17 PM

Mariners let their legs finish what their bats could not in this win

There were a few other things to be pleased about in this 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox than the two hits by Miguel Olivo and a strong outing from Jason Vargas.
As mentioned, the Mariners only had one really good inning on offense, scoring all of their runs in the fourth inning. Otherwise, they were dominated by Clay Buchholz.
But in that fourth, they used their legs to make the most of a rally and press the Red Sox into two big errors that gave Vargas all the cushion he’d need for his 14th win.
First, both Kyle Seager and then John Jaso went from first to third on a pair of consecutive singles. Seager scored the go-ahead run on the second of those, by Justin Smoak, while Jaso took third.
Then, Jaso bluffed tagging up and heading home on a pretty shallow fly ball by Eric Thames that was caught in center. Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury bought the bluff and heaved the throw home.
It wasn’t much of a throw, though, bouncing away from the catcher for an error that enabled Jaso to score a big third run.
“I usually don’t bluff like that unless I see it’s a close play,” Jaso said. “That was close enough where I might have thought about running, so I decided to take a few steps and make him throw to the plate and hope something happened. I guess it worked out.”

Indeed, it did work out. Soon after, Olivo singled to put runners at the corners again. Carlos Peguero then hit a slow chopper to shortstop Jose Iglesias, whose first instinct was to throw to second to get Olivo.
Thing is, Olivo runs really hard and is deceptively quick for a catcher. By the time Iglesias looked up, Olivo was practically at second base already.
An instant later, Iglesias bobbled the transfer to his throwing hand while the ball was in his glove. Perhaps it was the sight of Olivo being so close to second base already that rattled Iglesias, or perhaps he just made the slightest muff of a routine grounder.
In any event, all that matters is that Olivo’s hard running guaranteed that there was no way Iglesias could throw him out after the bobble. Turns out, he couldn’t throw Peguero out at first base either.
In the end, he needed a double play and didn’t get it, allowing another run to score.
Game, set, match.
The Red Sox are falling apart (as are an alarming number of AL teams at this point, far more than I can ever remember to this degree). Boston has lost seven in a row and been outscored 58-16 in seven straight losses on this road trip.
That’s the most losses for the Red Sox since dropping nine in a row in August 2001.
Boston is now 9-23 since Aug. 1 (.281) which puts them right up there with the likes of the Blue Jays (.281), Indians (.219) and Twins (.344) over that same period. The Royals appeared headed for that clip with a .269 month of July but have since rebounded very well to go 18-14 (.563) since Aug. 1, thanks to the Jeremy Guthrie trade, some injury returnees, rotation stabilization and some better play overall.
But still, four teams playing sub-.350 ball for over a month in the second half is not all that common in the AL, especially if that trend holds to the end of the season. Things could pick up in Toronto now that some injured players are back, but I don’t see much potential for an uptick in Boston, Minnesota or Cleveland anytime soon.
This is something MLB might want to look into. Not on the injury front, but especially when it comes to the practice of unloading players and decimating a roster once a team decides it’s “out of it”.
Not sure what anybody can do and I agree that this has been a problem for years when it comes to September rosters full of Class AAA guys, which creates unbalanced competition. But now, we’re seeing teams completely uncompetitive just weeks after the All-Star Break.
It’s a small problem for the Mariners, who are trying to gauge how good they truly are so they’ll know what moves to make this off-season. Beating the stuffing out of crashing teams is good for the self-esteem but can mask potential problems (like this persistent habit of the Mariners scoring all of their runs in an inning or two and getting away with it against the bad squads while having less luck with better ones).
But the real problem is that this impacts pennant and wild card races. You’d hate to see the team that gets to play Boston, Cleveland or Toronto the most over the next month walk away with the race because those teams are now shells of what they were in the first three months of the season. With one or two clubs, that’s OK. But with three or four — that’s a quarter of the league and not everyone will have gotten an equal crack at those teams after Aug. 1.
Anyhow, this doesn’t concern the Mariners much now. But if they are indeed hoping for a second wild-card next season, it might. I’ll look into this deeper down the road, but this seems like an awful lot of teams staggering to the absoluate worst of depths at a key point late in the season, allowing certain playoff contenders to potentially pad their records through an unfair scheduling advantage.
You can’t help injuries. But teams being deliberately gutted through a more cyncial approach to cost-cutting than we’ve maybe seen in years past is something else. Like I said, I’m not sure there’s anything that can be done about it.
But if you’re a playoff contender, how’d you like a backloaded schedule against Boston right now?



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