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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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July 2, 2008 10:50 PM

Washburn, Cairo pave way to victory

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Another "quality start" of six innings, two earned runs allowed by Jarrod Washburn tonight ina 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He could have gone deeper, retiring the final six batters he faced. But Jim Riggleman pulled him after 98 pitches. Washburn had thrown 119 and 118 pitches his last two outings and Riggleman told us pre-game he wasn't going to push it with the lefty's arm in case of fatigue.

But Washburn is certainly making a case for himself to be used as trade bait, especially for a National League team. Remember, he's owed about $15 million between now and the end of 2009. That's a lot of money. So, a team picking him up won't have to ship off a ton of prospects to get him. And not every playoff team needs a frontline ace. Some just need a steady, middle-of-the-rotation guy. That's Washburn. Right now, it is, anyway. In May, it wasn't.

"I feel good physically, mechanically I feel great,'' he said. “I'm making pitches and guys are making plays behind me.''

Washburn is throwing a split-fingered fastball again. He does it about 6 to 8 times per game, when he really needs it. Tonight, he used it to strike out Rod Barajas on a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning.Called it the best splitter he's ever thrown. Came in at about 86 mph.

Remember back in May, when opponents were combining for a 9.30 ERA off Washburn? Big innings killed him. Didn't want that this time. He'd pitched around Scott Rolen to get to Barajas. You can do that against some teams, like the Blue Jays or in the NL. It worked this time.

"That's big,'' he said. "It's early enough in the game where it could go either way. We'd just put two on the board and I wanted to stay out of the big inning.''

Mariners manager Jim Riggleman wanted to pull Washburn after five. But Washburn persuaded him to let him go one more inning, despite the heavy pitch count his last two starts, and retired the final three batters in the sixth.

Two RBI doubles for Miguel Cairo tonight. He's certainly contributed in some different ways this season. Dustin McGowan had thrown him some high 90s heat in the first inning, foiling a bunt attempt. Cairo knew he had to get his bat "on top of the ball'' quicker the next couple of times.

"When you get that kind of pitcher, you know you're going to get some fastballs,'' Cairo said. "He threw me that pretty hard in the first at-bat and I told myself 'Hey, you'd better get ready' in the second at-bat.''

Brandon Morrow tossed a perfect ninth for the save. He looks more and more like a closer every day. A serious closer. Maybe one of the best in the league. We'll see how he does on three straight nights. Maybe. The M's will have to keep this up -- an impressive 8-4 run so far under Riggleman -- when more serious opposition than the Blue Jays comes to town. Seattle probably just knocked Toronto out of wild-card contention for good.

The Detroit Tigers are in next.


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