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September 19, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Adam Jones, lack of offense combine to defeat Mariners in another long ballgame

Michael Saunders was thrown out at second base to end this 3-1 game on a steal attempt woth runners at the corners in the 11th inning and John Jaso at the plate. The initial reaction is: “What the heck was he thinking?”
Until you stop and think for about five seconds and realize the context.
The Mariners had scored just one run in their last 24 innings to that point. Adam Jones had just drilled a two-run homer to left off Josh Kinney in the top of the inning to once again rub the 2008 trade in Seattle’s face and force the Mariners to score twice in order to keep another marathon going.
Baltimore closer Jim Johnson was on the mound and the way he’s pitched this year, chances are he was going to get one more out before giving up two more hits.
So, unless you think that:
a) Jaso was going to hit a three-run homer
b) The Mariners were going to get two singles or more with the bottom of the order coming up
Then, it made sense for Saunders — the trail runner in a first and third situation — to try to move himself into scoring position. And that’s exactly what Saunders was thinking.
“Johnson has been solid this year and with Jaso at the plate, all we’d need is a single at that point and we tie the ballgame,” Saunders said. “If I don’t get to second base, it’s going to take two hits and that’s tough off a guy like him.”
Saunders was hoping Johnson would throw a sinker. Instead, the pitch was up and outside, making it a good one for catcher Taylor Teagarden to throw on. And throw the ball he did — a perfect strike to second base.
“He’s trying to make something happen and we’re not doing anything offensively,” Wedge said. “I trust him out there. Trust has to be a part of the fact that he has a pretty good feel out there and he’s not taking off unless he thinks he can make it.
“The catcher happens to make a good transfer, makes a perfect throw and her gets him. If he makes it anywhere else, then he’s in there.”

Look, let’s not get all silly here. The Mariners lost because they are not a very good offensive club. They’ve shown spurts of it from time to time, but are still going to have trouble scoring 600 runs this season and believe me, that’s no high-water mark.
They lost because Miguel Olivo couldn’t get a bunt down after a leadoff walk drawn by Saunders in the 10th. Olivo became the third Mariners hitter to pop out on a bunt attempt the last two days.
Seattle lost because it scored only three runs in the 29 innings it took to play these last two games. Two runs came on Olivo’s homer last night and one more on Franklin Gutierrez’s solo shot in the fourth tonight.
That’s not going to cut it for more than three ballgames worth of action.
The Mariners lost because the Orioles walked three guys in the 10th to load the bases and Seattle couldn’t buy a hit when it mattered.
Seattle lost because, after Gutierrez tied it 1-1 in the fourth, the Mariners had a hit or walk in every other inning but the seventh and could not get a run home.
That’s why they lost.
“That’s not the ballgame,” Wedge said of the Saunders steal attempt. “The ballgame is the offensive side of it. There were opportunities for people up there that need to be doing better. And that’s the end of it.”
This team needs offense. It was obvious last month, when Felix Hernandez was winning 1-0 almost every time out. And it’s been obvious this month, when Hernandez hasn’t been at his best and there’s still been no offense to pick him up.
He could have used some when he took a 2-1 lead into the eighth against the Angels and lost 5-2.
And he could have used it tonight when he carried a 1-1 tie through eight innings, striking out eight against a hungry Baltimore team that looks like a playoff squad. The Orioles made some spectacular plays in the field when they had to this series and delivered the key hits when needed as well.
What separates playoff teams from ordinary ones isn’t the final score on the scoreboard and how close its games are. It’s the way they look when playing the game. You didn’t see the Orioles do anything to beat themselves this series. No silly missed balls in the field, no pitching meltdowns and bats that — while struggling as well — finally did deliver.
Hernandez was typical Hernandez tonight. He made a between-starts mechanical adjustment and it paid off.
“I just wanted to be out there as long as I could because our bullpen has been used a lot,” he said. “I wasn’t opening too early. I was just following through straight to home plate and that’s key for me. It’s something I have to do the last two starts that I’ll have.”
Yes, he will. Because chances are, he won’t be spotted any big early leads. Hernandez can’t do anything about that. The Mariners will have to address that part this off-season.
Right now, they are playing a bunch of good teams and getting beat most nights. Hernandez will have to overcome that if he’s to win the Cy Young Award. Right now, it’s very close.



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