Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
April 8, 2008 7:20 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
A very different feel here as there is actually a crowd in the stands numbering more than the usual 3,000 or 4,000 (never go by the announced totals they give you here). They are calling it "a new beginning" in Tampa Bay (or St. Petersburg, if you'd like). We'll see. The devil may be in the details, but it's no longer in the name. The local team is now the Rays, not the Devil Rays. The M's have to beat them.
7:20 p.m.: A tough eighth inning for the M's, who see Ichiro and Jose Lopez get on with singles, then leave them there. Adrian Beltre lined out to left, Ichiro advancing to third. But Raul Ibanez, finally getting a crack at the clean-up spot with runners on, grounds into a double play. Another nailbiting finish apparently in store.
Had one heck of a time getting here today. My flight from Baltimore to Newark was an hour late, causing me to miss my connecting flight to Tampa Bay. Hopped on another flight an hour after that and made it here just in time to hear McLaren speak. Continue to follow me along on this road trip, via our latest video offering down below.
The Latin American M's players like to horse around pre-game with a game called "flip" in which they bat a ball around with their gloves while standing in a circle, trying to not let it hit the ground.
7:05 p.m.: The M's got a bit lucky that inning, though Adrian Beltre did a great job blocking third base to prevent B.J. Upton from sliding in safely with a triple. A close call. Great throw by relay man Jose Lopez after Brad Wilkerson took his time fielding Upton's double to right. Instead of a guy on third with one out, Roy Corcoran notched his second strikeout of the inning to carry a 6-5 lead to the eighth. Fans here are livid at the Upton call. Booing every pitch now, whether it's the Rays or M's up at-bat. They were even booing the "Kiss Cam'' on the scoreboard between innings. These aren't your older brother's Rays fans. A sellout crowd of 36,048 here tonight and they're making noise.
6:57 p.m.: Erik Bedard is out after six innings, 107 pitches, and Roy Corcoran is on to protect a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Corcoran has pitched rather well since being called up. I think the M's will need to score another run or two if they want to win this game, though. These Rays have so much speed that it's very likely they'll be able to scrounge together another run. Bedard pitched OK. Nothing special. Gave back leads too quickly via home runs and walks. He kept the lead when he had to in that sixth inning. Don't think he's close to hitting his stride yet. Sort of like last April. But he left with his team ahead.
6:39 p.m.: Richie Sexson just put the M's ahead, 6-5, in the sixth with some good hitting, falling behind 1-2 on a close strike call, then reaching out and poking a pitch into right field. Sometimes, you have to go out and get one when you're protecting the plate. Sexson knocks in two runs. The Rays had walked Raul Ibanez to load the bases. Sexson is now 1-for-1 with a walk and three RBI in such cases. If he keeps doing that, teams will have to pitch to Ibanez. Jose Lopez took a huge gamble going to second on that foul pop-up to the catcher. How many times do you see that? But it paid off with an extra run and has the M's ahead.
6:22 p.m.: Seattle now trails this see-saw affair, 5-4, after booting the ball around in a 35-pitch fifth inning by Erik Bedard. Bedard walked back-to-back hitters, then saw Adrian Beltre scoop up a Jonny Gomes grounder and try for the force at second. It was a bad choice by Beltre, since the runner, B.J. Upton, arrived ahead of the throw. It was also a bad throw by Beltre and wound up in right field, allowing the tying run to score. Upton and Gomes then pulled off a successful double-steal, Upton sprinting home to give Tampa Bay the lead.
5:40 p.m.: Seattle regained the lead, 4-3, in the fourth when Yuniesky Betancourt doubled past the third base bag, took third on Ichiro's groundout and scored on a Jose Lopez sacrifice fly to left. Good job by Lopez getting the run home with less than two out. To Vortex in the comments thread, I never said Raul Ibanez won't cost his team some runs in left field. It was games I said I didn't see him costing the team very often. If you're insinuating he should have had that blooper last inning, fine, but it's not costing Seattle the game. Not with the M's now having the lead. Sorry, but if you want Ibanez's bat and RBI, you have to put up with some less-than-Gold Glove. The way this team is built, anyway.
5:30 p.m.: Erik Bedard gave the lead right back in the third inning, letting the Rays tie it 3-3 after first surrendering a monster home run to right field by Carlos Pena. It almost hit the catwalk perched high atop the stadium. The big play of the inning, though was the inability to nab baserunner B.J. Upton on what looked like a successful pickoff move by Bedard. Upton broke for second as Bedard made his throw over to first. But the speedy Upton managed to beat Richie Sexson's throw over to second base and slid in safely. That prolonged the inning. Bedard hit Jonny Gomes with a pitch to put two on and Willy Aybar blooped a double to left that tied the game.
5:14 p.m.: Big inning by the Mariners in the third, scoring three runs to take a 3-1 lead with plenty of help from an erratic (and apparently hurt) Matt Garza. The M's got a pair of singles from Ichiro and Yuniesky Betancourt to start the inning off. Both advanced on a Jose Lopez groundout to the right side. Adrian Beltre, not looking very selective at the plate tonight, went down swinging and Raul Ibanez was walked intentionally to load 'em up for Richie Sexson. Garza jumped ahead 1-2, then tried to get Sexson to chase some slop that he wisely laid off of. Sexson has shown a very good eye at the platye this first week. Garza's payoff pitch was below the knees. Sexson drew the walk (he sometimes gets called out on low pitches because his knees are higher than some umpires might think) to force home the tying run. Brad Wilkerson then worked the count in his favor and lined one to right center for a two-run single. Big hit for him. Won't set any records, but he needed that. His first two RBI for the M's.
Jose Vidro then drew a five-pitch walk, sending the Rays' trainers and coaches to the mound. Garza was pulled with an apparent injury, leaving reliever Scott Dohmann to enter the game with the bases loaded and still two out. Dohmann fell behind 2-0 on Johjima, but got him to hit into a 6-4 fielder's choice.
4:47 p.m.: Tampa Bay just opened the scoring when Shawn Riggins tagged an 0-1 pitch by Bedard for a solo home run to left field in the second inning. First career home run for Riggins. Seems like Bedard has given up a long ball in every game he's pitched in calendar 2008, doesn't it? Have to call Navan, Ontario and see what his results in pick-up games were. Bedard had been pitching well to that point.
Brad Wilkerson turned up the heat on himself by grounding into a double play after Richie Sexson had led off the top of the second with an infield hit. Jose Vidro later singled as well. That's three singles in two innings by the M's without a runner reaching second base.
4:30 p.m.: Good job by Erik Bedard to get out of that first inning after the first two hitters reached on chip-shot singles, then advanced one base on a flyout to center by Carlos Pena. But Bedard got a big strikeout of cleanup hitter B.J. Upton on an 0-2 pitch, then a groundout by Jonny Gomes. No score after an inning of play.
Seattle got a single by Jose Lopez in the first inning, but Adrian Beltre swung and missed at an 0-2 fastball that was impossible to connect on for anyone other than a giraffe. Raul Ibanez then flied out to the warning track in left.
4:00 p.m.: Some lineup changes by Seattle as Raul Ibanez hits fourth.
"We had a little staff get-together and discussed some possible changes,'' Mariners manager John McLaren said pre-game. "It's just to give us a little different look."
Speaking of different looks, check out the top of the Rays order against southpaw Bedard. Guess they don't like splitting the lefties up.
Here are the lineups:
51 Ichiro (L) CF
4 Jose Lopez 2B
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
28 Raul Ibanez (L) LF
44 Richie Sexson 1B
6 Brad Wilkerson (L) RF
3 Jose Vidro (S) DH
2 Kenji Johjima C
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
45 Erik Bedard LHP
1 Akinori Iwamura (L) 2B
13 Carl Crawford (L) LF
23 Carlos Pena (L) 1B
2 B.J. Upton CF
31 Jonny Gomes DH
16 Willy Aybar (S) 3B
9 Shawn Riggins C
43 Elliot Johnson (S) RF
8 Jason Bartlett SS
22 Matt Garza RHP
The Mariners do have some representation in the crowd.