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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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March 20, 2008 10:22 PM

Not a happy tie

Posted by Geoff Baker

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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.

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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.

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Posted by marinermex

11:43 PM, Mar 20, 2008

What I can't believe is how Morse looked on that pop up, he is showing that he can hit but if you're going to play like that on the outfield, no thanks.

And Yuni does it again, he needs to show more patience.

Posted by DC

5:38 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Maybe instead of McLaren complaining about Burke not doing enough, he should have had someone else running!

Posted by Mike D.

6:12 AM, Mar 21, 2008

I agree with DC

Posted by rightwingrick

6:26 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Same thing all last year and the year before. The M's have simply not addressed a glaring offensive weakness....poor plate discipline and very low on-base skills.

Posted by G$

7:13 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Nothing will drive you more nuts than seeing the bases loaded with nobody out and us chasing some bad balls an helping the other team get out of the jam. It is absolutely maddening for me to watch. I can only imagine wht it does to Johnny Mc

Posted by wabubba

7:59 AM, Mar 21, 2008

DC and Mike,

It makes no sense to pinch run for Burke in that situation. His run was unimportant and you don't want to remove a catcher (not sure if they even had another on the bench...being spring training they might have). The point is that Burke could likely be in that situation again during the regular season, so he should get the experience now when it doesn't matter. He just needs to be smart, not fast.

Posted by Mint Husky

8:00 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Johnny Mac looked cool, calm, and collected every time they put a camera on him last night.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

8:47 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Betancourt had a .211 average with bases loaded last year. He's the last person you want to swing away in this situation. McLaren is going to cost the M's any chance to beat the Angels this year with his lack of using stat sheets. A suicide squeeze with a fast runner on third would have won the game. Bunting is perfect if one run wins the game, McLaren shpuld only be mad at his gut instincts. I know this was a meaningless game, but it's an example of what we will see all year . Saberheads claim managers have almost no effect on the outcome of a game, real people that have played the game no otherwise.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

8:53 AM, Mar 21, 2008

DC- exactly. Burke had no business being in the game in extra innings. We better get Clemet ready quickly if this is how our cool and collected manager is going to handle Johjima. It defies logic that Burke was still in the game in extra innings. Not only in the spirit of competition, but a disregard for protecting the health of your catcher.

Posted by Big Wil

9:01 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Lessons learned, no harm no foul! This one doesn't count, boys, and they learned some important lessons. Morse did look bad on a couple pop ups. Not sure if it had to do with it being their 2nd night game (maybe his first night start in RF?) or swirling wind (I didn't hear it mentioned in the broadcast, but I was a bit distracted). Either way, I think you guys are WAY off base with your Yuni comments. He's the most clutch hitter on the team, or at least he was last year. I watched him drive in the winning run(s), usually with 2 outs, a handful of times last year. He took a pitch (bravo!) and then mis-hit a ball, to the opposite field like a good ball player, by 1/16th of an inch. If the ball travels 10 more feet, everyone is talking about how awesome and clutch Yuni is.

Burke absolutely could've done more, but it was a bang bang play, in spring, and he didn't. Again, lesson learned. And not by Burke, he knows the game as well as anyone. Yuni, Lopez, and every other kid on the roster or in a uniform saw that and will learn from it. I can't wait until the regular season when we execute these situations flawlessly.

Oh yeah, Potatoes O'Flaherty will be fine. He's our situational lefty and gave up a dong to a rightie on a ball down and away. Wasn't a bad location, but the batter sure knew it was coming. Again, lesson learned! GO MARINERS!!!

Posted by CMH

9:02 AM, Mar 21, 2008

I was at the game - many of the players departed after the 6th and the bench was skimpy - don't know if Jo was still there. Overall, it was a sloppy game. I also went to the afternoon game between the Angels & Giants. Looking at both teams, the M's have a lot of work to do.

Posted by scrapiron

9:02 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Last night was a great example of what decisions should be made on the final roster slots.

Mike Morse - Good hitter, good utility infielder, poor to average outfielder. He is being considered for the fourth outfielder opening. If he gets that role you'll see more errors in the outfield like last night. He should take Miguel Cairo's utility role slot instead.

Miguel Cairo - Poor to average hitter, good speed, good utility infielder.

Willie Bloomquist - Poor to average hitter, good speed, good utility infielder. See Cairo above. Why do we need two of these?

Charlton Jimerson - Great speed, good outfielder, poor hitter. Last night you saw him beat out two bunts with his speed. Should be used in situations where you need speed or defense and hitting isn't as valuable.

Jeremy Reed - Average hitter, good outfielder, average speed. If you want an outfielder that is good, not great, in all areas Jeremy Reed is your guy. Hits left-handed is his only knock. This is bad?

Cairo should be released, and Morse take his spot. Cairo has a guaranteed contract, so the M's won't do that. Bad decision on the contract with him. It should be Jimerson and Reed battling for the fourth outfielder spot now.

How about Jimerson as the fourth outfielder, and release Norton and give the left handed bat off the bench position to Reed?

Posted by jujay

9:23 AM, Mar 21, 2008

I still can't get over watching Reed's terrible performance in 06 when he was the starting centerfield..... I would be happy to get rid of him for anything

Posted by scrapiron

9:23 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Yuni hit .345 with runners in scoring position, second on the team and 14th in the AL. Hit hit .325 with runners on. That's what you are looking for in your #2 hitter, not how well he does with the bases loaded. That stat is for batters lower in the order.

Posted by Walrus

9:41 AM, Mar 21, 2008

You need plate / strike zone discipline batting second...and that is NOT Yuni.
In fact, I still don't believe the M's have a 2 hole hitter on the roster.
They could get Lofton though....

Posted by scrapiron

10:12 AM, Mar 21, 2008

Walrus - Agreed, Yuni needs work, but he is probably the best option on the current roster. Lofton would also not be ideal as a #2 hitter. Put Lofton at leadoff and move Ichiro to #2 and you'd have a dynamite top of the order.

Only two teams have made an offer to Lofton. The Reds offered a minor league deal and he turned it down, and the Rays offered him a $1 mil one year deal and he turned it down.

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