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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 20, 2008 6:20 PM

M's salvage finale

Posted by Geoff Baker

angells3 030.jpg

Sorry for the re-posting delay. I'm at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, waiting for my flight to leave in about 45 minutes. As you might imagine, it was a relieved clubhouse. That was quite the nervy ninth inning, with Ryan Rowland-Smith striking out Garret Anderson (above) with the bases loaded in a 4-2 game. But the Mariners prevailed, finish 3-2 on this trip and get back to .500.

Now, they get an off-day and head home with a chance to pad their record a bit.

In all, they survived this early-season test. Manager John McLaren did not confirm that J.J. Putz is coming off the DL on Tuesday. But he was talking like a mna who knows it's going to happen.

"When we see the big boy coming in from left field, we'll be feeling real good to be honest with you,'' McLaren said of Putz. "But I'd like to say the committee did a nice job while he was gone. They held together pretty good. That's a tough thing to ask young guys to toe the rubber with the game on the line in the ninth inning.''

McLaren was especially impressed with Rowland-Smith, particularly with how he handled Anderson in the final at-bat and the very last pitch.

"He threw some really nice pitches to Anderson,'' McLaren said. "I don’t know if 'froze' was the right word but it was a nasty pitch because Garret is one of the most respected hitters on their ballclub, if not the league. He's not an easy out by any means.''


angells3 033.jpg

No, he isn't. Thought we might see Torii Hunter come up in that situation. He has better splits against lefties, though he hasn't felt all that great since that game-ending catch the other night. Maybe that had something to do with the decision not to pinch-hit for Anderson. Though taking Anderson out of the game, with his track record, would not be an easy thing for any manager to do. Not sure how Hunter does as a pinch-hitter (am at the airport writing this quickly).

The big news afterwards? Miguel Batista says a new discovery is what led him to toss 7 2/3 scoreless innings and strike out eight.

Batista won't say what the discovery was. He isn't sure it's going to work again. But he sounds excited about it. He should be. His velocity wasn't there today, but the Angels were still swining through his pitches all afternoon.

"I might have found something that I wish I might have found years ago in my career,'' Batista said. "I don't know if I'm right yet. It's going to take me at least four or five more starts to figure out if it's going to be able to work as good as I believe it might work.

"And if it does, I might be able to pitch another five years.''

Wow. I'll tell you what. If Batista just became another seven-inning starter on this staff, the season will be a lot more interesting indeed. But let's hold off on the champagne just yet.

On offense, this team needs the day off to regroup. Brad Wilkerson needed that two-hit day. Jose Vidro did look look very good. Ichiro finally seemed to get untracked a bit. Lots of work needed. But we're still only three weeks in. A team can afford to stay at .500 for several months while it works out quirks. The M's have avoided long losing streaks after the Baltimore debacle. Today's win was mighty important. Especially in the standings. Much better to be two games out than four.

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