Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
March 20, 2008 10:22 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
This one sure ended a lot worse than it began for the Mariners. Now normally, a 6-6 tie with the San Diego Padres in a 10-inning spring training affair would generate a "so what?'' shrug. Not tonight. It wasn't so much the ninth-inning home run yielded by Eric O'Flaherty (pictured above, leaving the park after the game) that erased Seattle's 6-4 lead. It was some other stuff that happened.
Mike Morse nearly gave San Diego the game by misplaying an ensuing fly ball into a triple. The M's survived that. But then the 10th. Oh, the 10th. It wasn't pretty.
The big problem was the baserunner. In this case, sloth-footed Jamie Burke (pictured above), who'd laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases with none out. But Burke wasn't quick enough to sprint by Padres second baseman Oscar Robles on what became a run-saving double-play.
Robles tagged Burke, then was able to shovel the ball to first ahead of Morse.
"You've got to win games like that,'' an obviously frustrated M's manager John McLaren said afterwards.
This was the third time in a week the M's have loaded the bases with none out and come up empty. I asked McLaren whether he saw any patterns and he wouldn't commit either way. One might be to have the hitters be a little more disciplined when they have a pitcher on-the-ropes. Yuniesky Betancourt actually took the first pitch he saw, then swung at a not-so-good offering and lofted a weak fly ball to shallow right that wasn't good enough to get even a speed-burner like Charlton Jimerson home from third. Stuff like that is the reason why I don't see Betancourt as a good fit (at least not yet) in the No. 2 hole. Pitch was probably too high and he got under it. I haven't seen the replay. But that's a familiar story for him.
On the double play chopper by Morse, McLaren felt Burke could have done more. He should have either stopped and forced Robles to run him back to the bag, or plowed into his right shoulder to prevent a throw.
I'll let McLaren explain it right here in this audio clip.
On O'Flaherty giving up the home run: "O'Flaherty didn't make a good pitch at all there to Headley,'' McLaren said.
So, the manager is not in the best of moods. That 10th was tough, because cashing in on scoring opportunities is something the M's have preached all spring. They have a week to address it down here before these blown games start to mean anything.