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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

Category: postgame analysis
June 3, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Raul Ibanez walks the walk as Mariners win opener

Raul Ibanez is greeted at home plate by Kendrys Morales after the two-run homer that decided tonight's 4-2 win over the White Sox. The homer came in a 13-pitch at-bat, the longest in Mariners history to result in a long ball since detailed records began to be kept in 1988. Photo Credit: AP

Raul Ibanez is greeted at home plate by Kendrys Morales after the two-run homer that decided tonight’s 4-2 win over the White Sox. The homer came in a 13-pitch at-bat, the longest in Mariners history to result in a long ball since detailed records began to be kept in 1988. Photo Credit: AP

Probably the best thing I’ve always liked about Raul Ibanez is how he can selectively talk the talk and then boldly walk the walk. And Ibanez isn’t really all that big a talker. But when he does say stuff, people wind up listening.

Why? Well, hey, if you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s probably too late. The guy’s 41 years old, he keeps taking everything folks throw at him — and I’m not talking about John Danks deploying the kitchen sink on him tonight before Ibanez’s third-inning home run on the 13th pitch of the at-bat — and then does something that makes you sit up and rub your head in amazement. Maybe it’s those two clutch home runs in last year’s pivotal division series game while with the Yankees. Or the fact he scored a three-year, $30-million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies at a time many felt his career might be winding down.

Perhaps it’s the fact he’s still playing four years after that Phillies deal began and nearly five since signing it.

Ibanez has heard folks knock his defense for years, but is still around manning the outfield. He’s heard the talk about how he should never be used against left-handers, but then he goes out and does that versus Danks. Sure, the platoon splits for Danks are not as pronounced as for some other lefties, but then again, there’s C.C. Sabathia three weeks ago in New York and look at what Ibanez did to him.

Ibanez walks the walk. He has his entire career, from the time folks put him down as a limited talent bench player who’d never be full-time to present-day, when some still suggest he’s a limited talent role player.

But players listen to Ibanez in the clubhouse. Not just because he’s older than them, either. It’s because he’ll say something and then go out on the field and do it — really, really well.

So, when Ibanez talks about the Mariners needing to never give in, no matter how tough the first two months have gone, what does he do tonight when he gets down 0-2 in the count? He doesn’t give in. He fights and fights, fouling off three 0-2 pitches in a row.

“You have to protect the whole plate,’’ Ibanez said. “When you’re 0-2, you have to protect everything and I was barely alive. Just fighting, battling.’’

Ibanez’s Mariners are barely alive right now, even after improving to eight under .500 with tonight’s 4-2 win. It’s the team’s equivalent to being in an 0-2 count. But Ibanez just showed them how it’s done.

“That was one of the best at-bats I’ve ever seen up here,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “I mean, you’ve seen at-bats similar to that, but the left-on-left, him fighting through so many different pitches and fouling them off, tough pitches. And neither guy was giving in.’’

And nobody in the Mariners dugout was turning their head away once the at-bat got to about the eighth pitch.

“It could have been a broken bat single,’’ Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “It could have been anything and it wouldn’t have mattered because it was just such an awesome fight and that’s what he’s all about – sticking his nose in there and competing and not letting that guy beat him. That’s what he talks about and he exemplified it right there.’’

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: raul ibanez; john danks; eric wedge; brendan ryan

May 26, 2013 at 7:47 PM

Veterans come through to help Mariners end streak

Mariners stream from their dugout in celebration after Jason Bay hits walkoff single in the 13th inning.

Mariners stream from their dugout in celebration after Jason Bay hits walkoff single in the 13th inning.

We’ve heard a lot of talk about the team’s dismal numbers with runners in scoring position this season, something manager Eric Wedge has suggested is largely because an inexperienced squad has lacked ice in its veins and chokes the bat too hard when tight situations arise.

But today, Wedge saw some veteran performers come through with some of the most clutch at-bats we’re liable to see all year.

The biggest was Jason Bay’s broken bat single to left in the 13th inning, delivering a 4-3 walkoff win over the Texas Rangers. Bay had nearly won the game in the 11th but was robbed of a home run by David Murphy. He also had a pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth to put two on, but Dustin Ackley and Jesus Sucre could not deliver from there.

Speaking of clutch hits, the one by Raul Ibanez in the 11th might be the biggest the Mariners get all season. Seattle was down a run and facing Joe Nathan, who hadn’t blown a save all season, when Ibanez launched a ball into the right field seats. Ibanez has hit big home runs late before, including two of the biggest in last year’s playoffs with the New York Yankees.

The key, he said, is to try not to let the enormity of the situation overwhelm you. He was once driving his car in Kansas City while playing for the Royals and heard Hall of Famer George Brett on the radio discussing how he’d try to get calmer and more relaxed as the game’s situation grew tighter.

That’s something Ibanez has worked at ever since.

“I think you just take the midset of getting a good pitch to hit,” he said. “You try not to do too much with it and barrel it up. Fortunately, I was able to get that pitch and get it airborne to right field and get it out.”

As I mentioned earlier, the stakes of losing this game were likely growing exponentially for the Mariners as this game got deeper into extra innings. A loss would have been even more devastating after such a long period, given the context of the losing streak and how hard the Mariners worked to get back in it.

“That’s something that, when you’re in the game, you know what’s been going on but you can’t think that way,” Ibanez said. “You just think about winning this game one pitch at a time and trying not to overdo anything. If you start thinking about the circumstances of the situation and what’s been going on, then you might try too hard. That usually doesn’t work out in your favor.”

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: jason bay; raul ibanez; kendrys morales; hisashi iwakuma

May 17, 2013 at 9:11 PM

Latest loss shows Mariners indeed improving, still not there

Jason Kipnis is mobbed at home plate after his walkoff three-run homer in the 10th hands the Mariners a 6-3 loss.

Jason Kipnis is mobbed at home plate after his walkoff three-run homer in the 10th hands the Mariners a 6-3 loss.

This game looked on paper beforehand like the Cleveland Indians might swing and bash the Mariners and Brandon Maurer into submission. You had the team with the best OPS in the league stacking its lineup with lefties to face Maurer, a pitcher who struggles against opposite-handed bats.

Instead, it was the Mariners who did most of the hitting in this game. They wound up outhitting the Indians 10-7 and really, it was 10-5 with two out and none on in the 10th inning. The Mariners had run up the pitch count of Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez just five innings in and forced him from the contest by working counts, getting on base and making his life difficult.

They just couldn’t finish the job…again.

Instead, the Indians saw Jason Kipnis hit a three-run homer off Lucas Luetge in the 10th inning after two batters got on via a walk and a slow chopper. So, it’s the Mariners taking the 6-3 loss here even though they were the ones doing the most offensively all night.

Seattle pitchers actually had retired 16 batters in a row before Drew Stubbs got the walk off of Luetge in the 10th.

So, once again, the fundamentals are there. The Mariners just need to build off that base.

“We had plenty of chances,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We’re playing good baseball. We still have to do a better job with runners in scoring position. We’ve got to do a better job of stringing hits together and putting to together innings.

“We’ve shown signs at times, of that, but we’ve yet to be consistent with that. That’s why there’s so much reason to believe that we’re going to be a much better offensive club when we start to get to that point.’’

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: lucas luetge; raul ibanez; jason kipnis; brandon maurer

May 16, 2013 at 9:06 PM

Mariners agree this was ‘playoff’ type win tonight

Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen gave up a one-out single in the ninth, but held on to preserve a 3-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen gave up a one-out single in the ninth, but held on to preserve a 3-2 win over the New York Yankees.

I’ve been in Seattle quite a few years now and I’ve also covered plenty of playoff games at Yankee Stadium over the years, including the two fabled ALCS against Boston in 2003 and 2004 and numerous World Series here and at other places between 1998 and 2005.

And I’ve got to say, watching this game in this park tonight, it felt like a playoff game. I’m not the only one who thought so, either. I asked Brendan Ryan about it post-game.

“Absolutely, that’s what I was going to say,” Ryan told me, when he heard the word “playoff” mentioned. “I mean, every guy was in it. On the bench and on the field. That was playoff stuff right there. Everybody was ready to make a defensive play and our bullpen was coming in and executing pitches. That’s as fun as it gets there at the end with Tommy (Wilhelmsen) on the mound. I looked at Ack (Dustin Ackley) and I was like ‘This is awesome, this is truly awesome! This is good baseball here’.”

What gave the game its playoff feel was the way every pitch seemed to matter from about the fifth inning on. And every play, too, like Kendrys Morales diving to snag a Ryan throw in the seventh inning on an infield hit that scored one run. The tying run would have scored on the play as well had the ball gotten by Morales. But it didn’t and Carter Capps got the final out of that frame.

The Mariners would never yield again and the score stayed 3-2 until the final out was recorded.

“I don’t know if you get a Web Gem on something like that but that was the difference in the game,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I could bear hug him strong enough, It’s hard to get my arms around him but I mean, that was one heck of a play.”

The pitching down the stretch, in high-leverage, high-stress moments was just remarkable.

You had Oliver Perez getting out of that jam in the fifth with runners at the corners and one out. Perez struck out three more guys and was credited with the win.

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job,’’ Perez said of the bullpen. “We’re like a family right there. We support each other, we have fun. It’s a long season and we treat everybody like family because sometimes we spend more time together than we do with our families.’’

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: tom wilhelmsen; carter capps; oliver perez; hector noesi

May 15, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Raul Ibanez says he isn’t sure the ballpark has anything to do with homer barrage

This game was over long before Tom Wilhelmsen notched the final three outs with some rare mop-up work. Raul Ibanez had two home runs and a career high six RBI on the road.

This game was over long before Tom Wilhelmsen notched the final three outs with some rare mop-up work. Raul Ibanez had two home runs and a career high six RBI on the road.

Raul Ibanez was asked post-game about his performance at Yankee Stadium last year and now, in the first two games here this season. Ibanez hit two more homers tonight in a 12-2 win by the Mariners and now has three in the two games so far. He also has hit nine in his last 11 games at this park dating back to last season, including the playoffs.

His play here is one of the reasons Eric Wedge put him in the lineup last night against left-handed starter C.C. Sabathia, although Ibanez’s career numbers versus the southpaw had much to do with it as well. But asked about the park afterwards, Ibanez still would not submit to the obvious.

“I’ve been feeling better at the plate coming into this series,’’ Ibanez said. “I try not to make too much of it. I try to grind out every at-bat. I think I’ve been feeling better late at the plate and it’s carried over.’’

So, um, it’s not the park?

“I try not to think about it too much,” he said. “It’s too much information for me, personally, to think about. They’re all valid questions. I just don’t really have an answer.”

In Ibanez’s defense, his two homers tonight went to right-center and to left field. So, it wasn’t the short porch coming into play this time.

Ibanez says he’ll never forget his late-season heroics for the Yankees last year, with season-saving homers in September and then the two big ones in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Baltimore. But the fans here might have forgotten a bit.

They’d greeted Ibanez with the familiar “Rauuullllll!” seranding at the game’s start and last night as well. But after the second home run he hit tonight, those were boos mixed in to the cheers.

“It sounds the same,’’ Ibanez said, with a slight grin. “I don’t want to say that because I don’t want it to get louder.’’

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: raul ibanez; phil hughes; kyle seager; eric wedge

May 14, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Mariners didn’t do enough damage against C.C. Sabathia, bullpen when given the chance

Look, I watched the game as well and I know that Charlie Furbush didn’t get the strike calls he needed in that seventh inning. I know that plate umpire Jerry Layne had a rather interesting strike zone for most of the night and wasn’t thrilled by the interpretation on that obstruction call in the fourth.

But hey, folks. Welcome to Yankee Stadium.

The rule employed here over the years by many a visiting team — and many of them much better than the Mariners — has been a simple one. If you need an umpire’s call to go your way to win, then you probably are not going to win a game at this ballpark.

In other words, yes, the Mariners losing 4-3 here to the Yankees might be linked directly to some non-strike calls against Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano when facing Furbush in the seventh.

But more importantly, the Mariners stranded 11 men on base. They did not get a hit with a runner in scoring position tonight. The only run-scoring hit they had with a man on base — other than a Raul Ibanez homer — was a double by Kyle Seager in the third.

They had the bases loaded in the fourth and didn’t score. They left a man on second in the third and the fifth.

The Mariners had two on in the second inning and came away empty.

All that was against C.C. Sabathia, who had to throw 112 pitches to get through 6 1/3 frames.

“I thought our guys did a nice job of fighting him and making him work and doing some things,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “But we never really had that knockout blow there to really separate.’’

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: c.c. sabathia; raul ibanez; felix hernandez; jerry layne

April 28, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Mariners showed this series they can fight, not roll over

Listening to the Mariners talk about today’s 2-1 win and first series victory of the season — three of four from the Los Angeles Angels — it’s pretty clear they got the message that was delivered to them last week.

During an embarrassing road trip to Texas, where they went 1-5 against the Rangers and Astros, the Mariners flat-out looked like they weren’t into it for a couple of the games. You could see the emotion on the face of Michael Morse today when he hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning. Many suspected it was because he hadn’t gone deep since April 9 — a span of 56 plate appearances — but Morse told a different story.

“We wanted to win this series bad,’’ he said. “We’ve been fighting. It was a tough game. It was a pitcher’s game. We’re going to have a lot of these one-run games, and to come out on top like that – there’s a lot of character on this team.’’

Indeed, the Mariners were fighting in this series. They showed fight when down 5-0 early on Friday and could have won that game and swept the series with a couple of timely hits. And they showed fight as well last night when trailing 2-0 to the Angels and having again seeing runners stranded for the first five innings.

They showed more fight today after Robert Andino booted that sixth inning grounder that led to an unearned run.

And they also showed fight on the mound. The bullpen kept things close all series and didn’t allow close games to degenerate into blowups. The starters, other than Aaron Harang, also showed plenty of fight like Hisashi Iwakuma today, going six strong and fanning eight even with that blister on his finger.

In other words, more of a complete game all around. The Mariners still aren’t getting timely hits in bunches and big innings. They aren’t quite there yet. But at least they are getting runners on base at this point, while also receiving some MLB-caliber mound efforts in the process.

The biggest thing is, they aren’t just going through the motions.

“You play the whole game,’’ said Jason Bay, whose tying homer in the seventh set the stage for Morse’s late knock. “You’ve seen the last few nights when we’ve gotten down. There were times earlier on in the season when we’ve gotten down and we rolled over. And lately, we haven’t been doing that. We got big hits and it helped.’’

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: jason bay; michael morse; eric wedge; hisashi iwakuma

April 23, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Mariners will have to overcome injuries and roster a lot quicker than they have

Kendrys Morales hit a late home run tonight, but it wasn't enough to prevent a 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros.

Kendrys Morales hit a late home run tonight, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros.

Once again, the season isn’t over for the Mariners but games like this one are not the kind the Mariners can give away if they hope to play relevant baseball come June 1. At this rate, the entire city might be over this 8-14 squad come May 1, with a four-game set against the Angels looming this weekend.

Tonight, we saw the continued impact of the Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders injuries come back to haunt the club yet again. Raul Ibanez has played the outfield far too much already and looked every bit his 40 years of age on that double in the first inning.

Stranding five guys on base his first two times up didn’t help the cause either. His batting average is down to .160 and though he did put good wood on at least one ball tonight, there just have not been enough of them for a guy hitting in the No. 6 spot.

Combine that with the lack of speed at the top of the order with Saunders and Gutierrez out and it’s hard not to view this as a real clunker of a slow team. Endy Chavez has been getting on, but Brendan Ryan has become an automatic out in the No. 9 spot — which eliminates the speed in front of Chavez later on in games. Then, no offense to Kyle Seager, but he’s no speed demon in the No. 2 spot even though he has gotten on with his 12-game hitting streak.

Kendrys Morales had a home run tonight and his hitting has picked up, but Michael Morse — despite two hits tonight — has not been the presence he was early on.

“The at-bats are definitely getting better,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of the team as a whole. “And we did have a lot of hard outs. We did have a lot of long outs. But we’ve still got to do better than that. I do think we have guys headed in the right direction. I think that’s obvious by thew quality of at-bats. But having said that, it’s all about winning and losing.

“We’ve got to do a better job of winning ballgames. We tried really hard tonight to keep it at three runs. Getting (Hisashi) Iwakuma out when we did and matching up with the guys down there. The bullpen did a great job. It’s still not the consistency we need to have.”

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Comments | More in postgame analysis | Topics: eric wedge; raul ibanez; brendan ryan; robert andino