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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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April 9, 2008 6:17 PM

Mariners at Tampa Bay Rays: 4/9 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

rays2 006.jpg

6:17 p.m.: Jamie Burke finally gives the Mariners the breathing room they've needed, blasting a three-run homer to left off J.P. Howell to make it 7-1 in the eighth. Burke also did a nice job of blocking the plate in the seventh inning, tagging out Willy Aybar, who was trying to score on a single to left field. I didn't think the M's had a shot at Aybar, but Raul Ibanez made one of his better throws and Burke took care of the rest. Seattle will try to win two in a row for the first time this season. A nice, seven-inning effort from Jarrod Washburn, who's now out and being replaced on the mound by Ryan Rowland-Smith.

rays2 008.jpg

5:34 p.m.: Seattle now leads 4-1 heading to the bottom of the sixth, The M's got a run that inning, but again, it should have been more. If they wind up losing this game, they'll be regretting all of these missed opportunities. Richie Sexson drew yet another full-count walk, then Brad Wilkerson doubled -- yes, you heard right. A single to center by Jose Vidro -- yes, you heard right again -- brought the run home. But with runners at the corners and no out, Jamie Burke popped out and Yuniesky Betancourt grounded into a first-pitch double-play. This team does not do things the easy way.

5:21 p.m.: Adrian Beltre just unleashed a solo blast into the left field seats with two out in the fifth to give the Mariners a 3-1 lead. The M's need to create some separation with the teams they play. All of these one and two-run games are wreaking havoc with the pitching staff. We'll see if they can build on Beltre's homer from here. For Chris from Bothel, the leather-lunged fan you refer to is named Robert Szasz and I wrote a feature on him when I was with the Toronto Star. Szasz is actually a transplanted Canadian from Ontario. He used to get on Eric Hinske like crazy. I wonder what he does now that Hinske is with the Rays? Anyway, I looked for him earlier. He's not here tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

5:11 p.m.: The Mariners have a 2-1 lead after four innings, but could do with some additional runs. The M's left two on in the fourth after a walk and a two-base error on a Jose Vidro fly ball to right. But Yuniesky Betancourt grounded out to end the inning. Tampa Bay nearly tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, with Jonny Gomes reaching on an Adrian Beltre fielding error and Willy Aybar doubling into the left field corner. That put runners on second and third, but Shawn Riggins tapped one back to the mound to end the inning.

4:53 p.m.: Jarrod Washburn gave a run back in the third, allowing a leadoff double to deep left center by Justin Ruggiano. He was sacrificed to third base, then scored tagging up on a deep fly to left by Akinori Iwamura. The Rays seem to be hitting a lot of deep fly balls of Washburn. He'd better be careful with these guys. It doesn't take much for the ball to carry in this ballpark. M's lead 2-1 after three.

4:49 p.m.: That third inning started better than it finished for the M's, who scored a pair of runs to take a 2-0 lead, but looked like they were about to put up more. Jamie Burke -- getting the nod tonight so Kenji Johjima can rest and figure out bhis early hitting problems -- and Yuniesky Betancourt opened with singles, then Ichiro doubled to right field to score the first run. There were runners on second and third, still with no out, at that point when Jose Lopez hit a flyball to right. The M's showed good aggressiveness in each moving up a base as Betancourt scored and Ichiro went to third. But then Adrian Beltre struck out -- the big rally killer that inning -- and Raul Ibanez grounded out. Good start, but could have been better.

4:37 p.m.: Great defense from third baseman Adrian Beltre that second inning, barehanding a slow hopper by B.J. Upton and throwing the speedster out at first base. Jarrod Washburn gave up a two-out single that trickled through the left side, but got a Shawn Riggans fielder's choice grounder to end the inning. Seattle went 1-2-3 in the second, Richie Sexson striking out in another full-count at-bat and Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro grounding out. Still scoreless.

4:26 p.m.: One inning in the books already and there's no score. A two-out base-hit by Adrian Beltre was all the m's could manage, as Raul Ibanez popped out to end the inning. Jarrod Washburn got the side in order in the bottom half. Washburm is 10-3 with a 2.69 ERA lifetime in 15 starts against the Rays, the most wins he's collected against any team. He's 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA at Tropicana Field.

Far fewer people at this game than the one last night. Why, it looks like...a Rays home game. Here's some news from today. J.J. Putz threw on flat ground from a distance of 60 feet. He hopes to throw again tomorrow, probably from the same distance. He'd like to get it up to 90 feet, then throw off a mound. Both Putz and manager John McLaren say they're taking the cautious approach to the rib injury, rather than an aggressive one.

"If you're not (ready) and there's a flare-up, it's not just a setback,'' Putz said. "It's a week or two setback.''

No. I wouldn't expect him back a week from today, when he's eligible to come off the DL. The team and Putz are being cuatious about their expectations on a return. In part, because they don't know. A rib can feel great one day, drive you crazy the next. The good news? Putz can finally sneeze without pain.

The lineups:

MARINERS (3-5)

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
15 Jamie Burke C
5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS

56 Jarrod Washburn LHP


RAYS (3-4)

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 Wily Aybar (S) 3B
9 Shawn Riggans C
10 Justin Ruggiano RF
8 Jason Bartlett SS

21 Andy Sonnanstine RHP

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Posted by Chris from Bothell

4:23 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Geoff - please keep an ear out for "the leather-lunged fan", as Niehaus likes to call him. With the smaller crowd, you should hear him quite clearly. He's a season ticket-holder who always picks one guy on the visiting team to razz on, near-constantly, during said guy's at-bats. I'm guessing he'll pick on Sexson.

Odd to see Burke in there. Was expecting to see Burke in tomorrow (day game after night). Joh getting a normal day off? Brief bench time to clear his head on the bat side of things?

Posted by Question

4:34 PM, Apr 09, 2008

I'm on MLB Gamecast on ESPN.com and the pitches that are clearly in the strike zone are called balls. Which is off? The Gamecast or the ump!?

Posted by Ben

4:42 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Johjima better watch out for the crafty Burke... a hit and a run already...

Posted by Fukell

4:53 PM, Apr 09, 2008

We really need help on what so-called the heart of the line up. We need to get the guy on third home. oh my god! please bring some help up already! our 4-5-6 hitters look dumb out there. look like the angels is running away.

Posted by David Gee

5:01 PM, Apr 09, 2008

The two-run inning was nice, but somebody explain to why Beltre decided to strike out rather than put the ball in play, which probably would have scored another run or two.

Posted by Squatch

5:14 PM, Apr 09, 2008

David Gee: Beltre did not "decide" to strike out, he was trying to hit the ball.

Posted by tybow

5:16 PM, Apr 09, 2008

I said this yesterday as well, beltre has really struggled in the field so far this year. Not quite his gold glove play we saw last year. I know that the ball took a weird bounce to the left of him but still it was in and out of his glove. That is his third error already this year. And its good to see Sexson back to his old form today, 2 strikeouts already!!!!

Posted by tybow

5:17 PM, Apr 09, 2008

As soon as I submit the post about beltre struggling in the field he goes yard, i gotta get on him more often!!

Posted by Nat

5:18 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Beltre may not be focused in evey AB but that HR did the trick! Now maybe Raul can put something in play here.

Posted by Nat

5:23 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Or not :) I can't imagine it would be easy to maintain intensity throughout this game.

Unless Washburn starts messing up as he goes on and the Rays make it a close game again.

Anybody have an idea how many pitches he's thrown?

Posted by Rob

5:32 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Washburn has thrown 75 pitches through the first 5 innings.

Posted by rossco

5:36 PM, Apr 09, 2008

whoa! what's going on? consecutive hits for sexson, wilk, vidro????? the stars have finally aligned

Posted by antsy in anaheim

5:38 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Yuni's got to stay off the 1st pitch. That's the 2nd straight at bat he went after the first pitch! The Ms could have sealed it w/this inning. Uugghh!

Posted by Nat

5:39 PM, Apr 09, 2008

rossco, that was rather shocking to see...

Posted by rossco

5:42 PM, Apr 09, 2008

yes, well, Yuni straightened everything out. we can thank him for that. avg w/ RISP is a debacle so far this year.

Posted by Funky5

5:43 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Wow, the angels are going very good considered their aces are on the DL. Their hitters keep them in the race. We need to get the guy from 3rd home. 2 on and no out we scored only 1. WTF????already strained 2 guys on 3rd and about 5 risp. Yuni sucks ass today. At least sacrifice or something.Just watch it'll come back and haunt them in late inning.

Posted by Nat

5:48 PM, Apr 09, 2008

a.i.a. I've noticed Yuni hasn't really got with the new 'taking pitches program' yet.

I've been very impressed with Lope and Sexson learning to take a few after being such hackers!

Yuni might need some incentive. Hmmm, will have to think about this...

Posted by rossco

5:51 PM, Apr 09, 2008

a manufactured run here would be key...

Posted by rossco

5:54 PM, Apr 09, 2008

shoot.

yes - you have to like was Sexson and Lopez are doing so far this season.

Posted by Nat

5:55 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Sims saying "Jarrod Washburn and the 7th inning" in the same sentence sounds like an oxymoron. Just like "Raul chasing."

Posted by BrettJMiller

5:56 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Why does no one ever point out that Raul cannot hit left-handed pitchers? He's never hit them. Go to www.baseball-reference.com and look up his split stats. He's gotten worse and worse and worse vs. LHP ever year. He's awful against them.

Why is he ever allowed to bat against them? Geoff, I know you have to answer to players, but it's something that the mainstream media NEEDS to address, if no one knows Ibanez struggles vs. LHP then the issue will never be addressed simply because Raul is a "fan favorite" and it's perceived that he's consistent vs. LHP when there is mounds of evidence to the contrary.

Posted by rossco

5:57 PM, Apr 09, 2008

For anyone watching on tv - was that Aybar double legit or Raul's absurdly slowness?

Posted by tybow

6:01 PM, Apr 09, 2008

rauuuuuuuuullllllllllllllllll

Posted by i heart Morse

6:01 PM, Apr 09, 2008

poor USSM subscribers...

Posted by Nat

6:04 PM, Apr 09, 2008

rossco: a little of both.

Posted by Frankie

6:05 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Very nice play by Raul...

Posted by Nat

6:08 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Please don't fly out Burkie!

Posted by i heart Morse

6:10 PM, Apr 09, 2008

wow...gotta feel good for JB

Posted by Pokenour

6:11 PM, Apr 09, 2008

It is the top of the eight with Richie Sexson on first, Wilkerson bunts him over to second but there might of been a play had the Rays played it right. Tell me, why in the world do you not pinch run for Sexson at this point in the game? This lack of tactical engagement is a glaring sign of McLaren's failure as a manager. He just does seem to have have clue when it comes to seeing the whole picture and using all his assists. All ends well with a homer, but still there is a lack of intelligent engagement by McLaren.

Posted by Frankie

6:12 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Finally....no 1-run game


.....yet :)

Posted by Nat

6:12 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Way to hit it, Burkie!

Did I really hear TB fans booing that? So not cool...

Posted by markus

6:15 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Does McLaren know that he doesn't have to bunt with his #6 hitter? He has right handers on the bench to pinch hit so that he doesn't have to punt in the middle of his order. It's kind of frustrating when your bottom three are better than your middle three (and that includes Vidro, who isn't hitting right now)

Posted by Ben

6:15 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Johjima better really watch out now... Way to go Burke!

Washburn too.

Posted by rossco

6:16 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Pokenour - YES. it's like he's waiting for Grover to make the call to throw JImerson out there for Sexson. either that or he's just really clueless (which was made apparent when he called the Wilk bunt...why!?)

Posted by m

6:17 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Burke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by dc

6:19 PM, Apr 09, 2008

I think you gotta keep Burke in the lineup tomorrow. Let Johjima back in the line up when they get home Friday. He's had a great night.

Posted by i heart Morse

6:21 PM, Apr 09, 2008

AH the highs and lows of following this team...why in the world is RRS in the game right now...is this not the perfect opportunity to mix in some fresh arms who need to pitch in "non-pressure" situations?

Mac seems to make intentional efforts to hurt this team's chances of winning

Posted by Ben

6:21 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Is RRS now the anchor of our bullpen? He does well one day so we send him back out the next? I hope that's not a trend that continues all year long and we do the whole ride a horse til it dies thing... Although i'm sure RRS can handle two days in a row.

Posted by Frankie

6:23 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Didn't RRS pitch yesterday?

McLaren is making a bad habit of using pitchers back-to-back days.

Posted by markus

6:24 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Honestly, can Mac only remember one reliever's name at a time? What the duece? I'm this close to screaming!! Is he actually in the dugout or is he in the clubhouse betting on horse racing and guys come in and ask him what to do? And he just blurts out the first name that comes to mind?

Posted by Frankie

6:24 PM, Apr 09, 2008

I would bring in O'Flaherty for the 9th....

(No sarcasm)

Posted by Nat

6:26 PM, Apr 09, 2008

RRS is fun to watch. What a relief, no pun intended, to see him pitch so well with the series with the angels coming up!

Posted by Alex

6:26 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Yesterday people are calling for Beltre to bunt and today people are freaking out because Wilkerson bunted....basically Mac can't do anything right. Its nine games into the season and he is a moron to everyone. Yet Wilkerson and Vidro are a combined .277 and until the last two nights people really haven't been hitting, not to mention the closer is down. And guess what, it's nine games into the season, yes 5.5% into the season and ninety percent of you are ready to throw Mac under the bus

Posted by markus

6:26 PM, Apr 09, 2008

No Frankie, he needs soft landings. six runs with three outs to go apparently is not a soft landing, but a good time to burn your newly found favorite lefty.

Posted by Pokenour

6:27 PM, Apr 09, 2008

McLaren appears to simply be clueless in the manner he uses his bench and bullpen. No Jimerson for Sexon in the eight, RRS again tonight - lets ware him out because he was successful last night. Where is the foresight in these moves? McLaren is a bench coach promoted beyond his means, as rossco pointed out he seems to be waiting on Grover to make the call - he is simply clueless.

Posted by wally

6:28 PM, Apr 09, 2008

No one should have been yelling for Beltre to bunt last night. And no one should have been asking for Wilk to bunt tonight. Your middle of the lineup guys shouldn't be bunting but driving in runs. The fact that they can't drive in runs is the problem.

Posted by Donovan

6:28 PM, Apr 09, 2008

RRS threw 17 pitches yesterday. Big deal.

Posted by Alex

6:33 PM, Apr 09, 2008

And sometimes making the basic plays you are suppose to do, gets you out of a funk...such as getting a runner over or if you have to bunting. Either way the fact that the middle of the lineup is having struggles producing has little to do with Mac and a heck of alot more to do with Bill Bavasi

Posted by Nat

6:33 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Tampa Bay really has some classy fans, doesn't it? Booing the other team when they hit it out of the yard, or score- especially after last night when Upton got called out at 3rd - this is what I'll remember about TB this year.

Posted by BandwagonJumper

6:34 PM, Apr 09, 2008

I think Mac might be doing things right. By pitching RRS tonight he won't pitch tomorrow but is sharpening up so he will be ready for when we play the Angles Friday.

Posted by blazers91

6:37 PM, Apr 09, 2008

I am not sold on using RRS two nights in a row either, but what happens if they put in O'Flaherty and he starts a gasoline fire? Everyone is screaming that the MGR even managed to screw up a sure-fire win, maybe?

They needed a two-game win streak, and some momentum, and RRS ensurs the game doesn't get INTERESTING as some others have recently.

Posted by Pokenour

6:37 PM, Apr 09, 2008

While I don't mind the bunt, as a means to manufacture a run something McLaren always talks about but never seems to effect with this team, I think you need speed on the base path when engaging this plan - manufacture a run. And it doesn't hurt to take Sexson out at this point when you are leading by three and there is only one inning remaining. The point is to effect a consistent strategy necessary to achieve your goals. McLaren is very inconsistent in effecting the outcome of a game, he simply await outcomes as a matter of faith - "good things will come to he who waits" - but baseball is a game of strategy and an effective manager can create wins in the face of defeat with a good strategy.

Posted by Nat

6:43 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Bandwagon, re: RRS: that's a good thought. Let's hope Mac has learned his lesson from putting EOF out there three nights in a row.

Game over, way to go, Mariners! And if we win tomorrow we'll be at 500, can't be unhappy with that- Thank God for Tampa Bay!

Posted by Alex

6:48 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Hindsight is 20/20...I mean we can sit here and second guess Mac all we want but the man will do well. Why aren't all of you guys Major League managers...I see you have the passion and it appears the time, so go for it. Then I'll sit here and laugh at all your decisions, when you dramatically revamp your lineup every third day...failing to realize a baseball season is 162 games. Its patience and Mac realizes it...so sit back and watch the division champs work it out

Posted by Pokenour

6:49 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Nat,
you can be unhappy because at least three games have been lost that did not need or should not have been lost. They would not have been lost, if McLaren had an effective game plan - strategy that compensated for the injury problems. For example, "closer by committee" has never work and never will, it is the reason you develop closers in the first place. Why not move Batista to closer while Putz is out, much better chance to win the the there lost games, and Batista has experience closing. Baek, a starter, on the other hand sees no action and simply takes up a roster soot on an already short bullpen, use him as number five starter while Batista closes.

Posted by Alex

6:56 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Pokenour,

Everything isn;t as simple as lets throw this guy in here and this guy in there and it'll all workout. What happens when Baek gets lit up and we lose and Batista blows a save. Unfortunately, the answers aren't that easy to find, or else you could probably manage

Posted by Pokenour

7:05 PM, Apr 09, 2008

This challenge that bloggers can manage defeats the blog, baseball is like life and it is built upon reflection and using your best components to effect the best result. Years ago I used to watch Sparky Anderson manage the Big Red Machine and he was always thinking ahead two - three innings like a chess player. He stole many games from the jaws of defeat because he gave effectively used the pieces he had available to him - it was his trademark - like other good managers. It is nonsense to dismiss hindsight as 20/20 because in life we learn by contemplating our mistakes and compensating for them in the future.

Batista has a history as an effective closer, Baek has been effective as as starter and has potential, at the very least this combination you are giving yourself the best chance to win using you best pieces in their most effective role, Batista more frequently and Baek every fifth day. One must consider who offers the best chance to win, had this combination been in effect in Baltimore, there was every reason to win those three giveaway games that were lost by ineffective managing.

Posted by Pokenour

7:43 PM, Apr 09, 2008

For what it is worth lets examine McLaren's strategic moves in this win.

First, he continued his revised batting order - proved effective; good move.

Second, he inserted Burke for a slumping Jojima - proved effective, Burke hero of game: good move.

Both of these moves were predictable and expected by a good manager. The Burke move could have as easily have failed but it was worth a try and timely.

Third strategic move, the Wilkerson bunt in the eight with Sexson on first, a good strategy to manufacture a run - but made with a lack of consistent foresight - you use a speedy runner at this point when trying to make it happen. Hence, a tactical error by McLaren - he should have inserted Jimerson or another speedy pinch runner. Worked out by the homer, but more luck that sound strategy.

Fourth strategic opportunity - choice of reliever - you are six runs up, RRS pitched the day before to wonderful effect giving hint that he can handle closer situations, but this is not a closer situation and RRS does not need the work, he may need to be available for tomorrow night to close a close game. 17 pitched the night before is 17 pitches, something that you do not throw away, as your closer must be kept rested and used for a few pitches as possible for frequent closing. Putz would not have been used tonight were he healthy, RRS appears to be simulating Putz's role, so inappropriate to use him for mop up. Green was subsequently used to finish, but now can RRS be called upon to close tomorrow if necessary. Not a sound tactical decision by McLaren.

These are real concerns that ought to be carefully studied and considered as the season progresses. In my opinion, they suggest that McLaren is not an effective strategist and therefore unlikely to give his team the best chance to win.

Posted by PRchef

9:30 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Jamie Burke is my new hero!!!

And exhale (for the bullpen)

Posted by Seattle Sports Blog

10:00 PM, Apr 09, 2008

Burke over Kenji? Can you say catcher controversey? Maybe the Seattle pitchers like a catcher who calls a game and can speak with them without a translator? Just a thought...

Posted by kingk

4:01 AM, Apr 10, 2008

Good thing it only takes luck to hit in the Major Leagues...Oh and Raul is awful, he is costing us many many losses...

Posted by JON R.

7:56 AM, Apr 10, 2008

Does anyone else think that Burke could be the regular starter, trade Jojima, and bring up Clement??

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