We’ve discussed the lack of athleticism by catcher Jesus Montero before and it came into play at a couple of key moments in today’s 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
The biggest play was the one in the bottom of the ninth, when Brendan Ryan made that diving snag of a Mark Reynolds shot that appeared headed into left field. With the bases loaded and none out, Ryan had to come home with his throw and made a pretty stellar effort to get the ball there.
But catcher Montero — wanting to catch the ball before the runner touched home — took his foot off the plate in making his stretch. To be fair to Montero, catchers don’t practice stretching for balls the way a first baseman would and it was pretty evident on that play.
“That’s the reason right there,’’ Montero said. “We usually block the plate. But in that moment, I was thinking ‘Just touch the plate and catch the ball.’ But the ball was a little far.’’
Mariners manager Eric Wedge had not viewed a replay yet, but said he felt Ryan’s throw would have beaten the runner had Montero stayed put.
“You have to stay on the plate,” Wedge said. “If the throw pulls you, that’s fine. But if there’s a spot to stay on the plate, you have to do it. And then either he’s out or he’s safe. You have to give yourself a chance there.”
Montero also didn’t help matters in the third inning when he was the lead runner with men on first and second. Endy Chavez squared to bunt, but held up and Montero — having strayed too far off second in an attempt to cheat towards third — was nabbed in a rundown by catcher Yan Gomes.
Once again, the lack of athleticism and speed by Montero played a part.
“That’s happened to me before,” Montero said. “I tried to get t third base and I never made it to third base because I’m so slow. I tried to cheat a little bit and when I saw Endy was not bunting, I was like ‘Oh, God!’ So…I gave up, because I’m not fast.”
No, he is not and the Mariners know full well about Montero’s limits as a baserunner and as a defensive catcher. They are trying to work on those aspects of his game ut there is only so much that will wind up being accomplished.
He’s here to hit and at some point, he’ll either have to do that or the team will have to make some decisions.
As somebody pointed out, even had Montero kept his foot on the plate, there still would have been bases loaded and only one out.
The Mariners, as we pointed out earlier, took far too long to wake up on offense today, mustering only four hits the first seven innings and entering the eighth down 4-0.
That they came back on a late homer by Ryan in the eighth and then two more by Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak in the ninth was as much a testament to the pitching by Seattle as anything else. Danny Farquhar had a stellar debut, retiring all eight batters he faced — five via strikeouts.
Prior to that, Joe Saunders had toughed it out for 5 1/3 innings on 120 pitches. He escaped jams for the most part, but got hurt in the sixth when he allowed two of his four runs. Saunders had trouble finishing some innings off after good starts and could have used a reak or two along the way.
But he hasn’t had many this season on the road, where he’s still winless.
“We’re going to sacrifice a live chicken before my next road start,” Saunders quipped. “Just bad breaks. I threw some great pitches, they made some good swings on great pitches and I didn’t get the breaks again. I battled my (butt) off today and tried to keep us in the game as much as I could. I told Wedgie (Eric Wedge) and I told (pitching coach) Carl (Willis) after the fifth, ‘I’ll throw 150 if I have to.’ ”
Saunders said he had nothing left by the time he was pulled.
“That was everything I had,” he said. “Everything humanly possible to keep us in the game today. I battled my tail off and tried to make as many good pitches as I could.”
In the end, it wasn’t enough.
But it did prove enough to allow the Mariners to tie it with those improbable late home runs.
Smoak now has his team-leading OBP up to .374 after drawing his 12th walk in the last 12 games. Smoak leads the club with 24 walks and says the power will eventually be displayed if he keeps swinging at hittable pitches and lays off the rest.
“In the past, I’ve gotten too pull-happy trying to be a homer guy and it’s not good for me as we’ve seen in the past,’’ Smoak said. “So, I’m trying to have good at-bats and hit the ball where it’s pitched. It’s a long season and good things are going to happen.’’
The emotion in the dugout when Smoak hit his home run was there for all to see. The Mariners erupted like they’d just won a World Series. But that only turned out to prolong the wait for a final result many in the stadium had seen coming since the early innings.
“Oh, man…that was pretty awesome,’’ Ryan said of Smoak’s tying blast. “He hit it off the closer, with two outs. That was pretty awesome. That was a big knock for him and we felt good about our chances after that. Again, momentum was on our side and it’s too bad.’’
Comments | More in analysis | Topics: justin smoak; jesus montero; brendan ryan; joe saunders