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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 4, 2008 5:49 PM

Green, Lopez key victory

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Some ninth inning fireworks as Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is thrown out of the game after arguing about a leadoff at-bat in which Brandon Morrow struck him out. Rodriguez had to be restrained from going after umpire Brian Knight.

A big day for both Sean Green and Jose Lopez in a 4-1 win by the M's over the Detroit Tigers. Seattle looked a lot more in this game, on both the mound and in the field, than it did on Thursday night. Erik Bedard held the Tigers to a run over five innings before Green came in a tossed 2 2/3 scoreless frames with his team clinging to a 2-1 lead at the time.

Morrow notched the final out of the eighth and went on to record the four-out save.

But in between his first out and the final three in the ninth, Lopez came up big. With runners at first and second, he drove a ball to the gap in right center off Kenny Rogers -- only the sixth hit of the day by Seattle -- to bring home a pair of huge runs. Lopez also came up big defensively in the top of the eighth, holding his ground at second in turning a 5-4-3 double-play after a leadoff single by Miguel Cabrera.

On the double-play ball by Marcus Thames, Cabrera came in hard at second. Lopez had to twist acrobatically out of the way. But he did and got the throw off in time to first base.

"I didn't even think about it with that play,'' Lopez said. "I caught the ball, heard the runner close to me and knew I had to jump. You need to make one out first on that play. Especially leading by one run. I heard the runner close and needed to jump on that one, or I'd get killed.''

Lopez appeared to surprise himself in actually pulling off the leap-and-throw.

"It was my first time,'' he said. "I never practiced it. It's just instinct. You catch the ball and try jumping and making a good throw.''

As I said, a much better game for the M's all-around. They are 9-5 under Jim Riggleman.

Erik Bedard dressed quickly and sped out of the clubhouse without talking to reporters. Riggleman and Jamie Burke did his talking for him yet again.

Riggleman thought Berdard did a good job.

"Erik did a great job,'' Riggleman said. "That's a heckuva ballclub over there and they make you throw a lot of pitches. He was throwing so many pitches that were very close and -- rightfully so -- they were balls. But most teams would have taken a cut at some of those pitches, which would have kept his pitch count down. They just forced him into a very laboring five innings and they did a good job.''

I agree with him on most of that. The issue isn't the work he did on the scoreboard. He allowed just the one run. It's the longevity. This team didn't trade away five guys for a pitcher who needs his bullpen to hold off the Tigers for four innings.

Burke thought Bedard was missing his spots at times rather than the Tigers merely not swinging. Has also noticed that Bedard simply gets tired as his pitch count climbs towards 100.

"Once he gets that 90 pitches, 95, you can tell he gets a little bit tired and starts cutting the ball off a bit too much,'' Burke said. "You can just see it on the way the ball comes in on the plate. You can just tell he's starting to get tired.''

Riggleman said he didn't want Bedard going back out in the sixth with those big sluggers due up. Can't blame him. He made the right call.

Thing is, this is now what the team has. A five or six inning pitcher who can hold teams to a run or two. In case you hadn't noticed, that's what Jarrod Washburn has done lately.

So, to the reader who wrote in below, asking my take on Bedard as an alternative to C.C. Sabathia, I'd say it's a rather poor second place. Sabathia logged well over 200 innings last year. Bedard is on pace to throw about 153 innings. He hasn't gone seven in a game since May 28. He's a poor man's Sabathia right now. Cheaper than Sabathia, granted, but giving far less on the mound.

Seriously, there's a better comparison to be made between Washburn and Bedard, at least over the past month. Bedard had a devastating curveball today, I'll give him that. But if he can only use it for five or six innings, you'd almost rather he abandon the strikeout approach and pitch to more contact. That's my take. I think teams will take a cautious app[roach towards trading for him. But all it takes is one rogue willing to gamble, We'll see. Remember, he's under club control through next year. That's attractive.

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July 4, 2008 3:16 PM

Detroit Tigers at Mariners: 07/04 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Still a 2-1 game, M's in the lead as we head to the bottom of the seventh. Erik Bedard did indeed bow out of the game after five innings and 99 pitches. Sean Green has done a fine job picking him up for two innings, escaping a two on, one out jam in the top of the seventh by getting Placido Polanco to hit into a fielder's choice out at third base and Edgar Renteria to ground out to shortstop.

A better-played game by the Mariners today, even though Kenny Rogers is still working to them in the seventh inning, his pitch count at a lowly 82. This is the kind of game where one mistake can kill a team. So far, the M's have not made any lethal ones.

There's a Milwaukee Brewers scout in attendance. He's been watching the entire homestand. What do the Brewers need? Some rotation and bullpen help. Particularly of the lefty variety. Remember, that team's GM, Doug Melvin, hails from Ontario, as does Milwaukee assistant GM Gord Ash. Does that mean anything when it comes to an Ontarian like Bedard? Might, or might not. Depends on the asking price. Jarrod Washburn might be a better fit. But I'd think that Bedard, Washburn, Arthur Rhodes and Ryan Rowland-Smith will all be on that team's radar.

Continue reading this post ...

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July 4, 2008 12:28 PM

Holiday optimism

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A Happy Fourth of July to all of you. It's that time of year. At least, for fans of losing teams. The time when everyone gets sick and tired of all the negativity. I know all about it. Been there, done that before covering a losing team that everyone expected to at least be around .500, if not contend. It gets old. This team collapsed two months ago and now, after two months of hellfire raining down on it from all directions, we're looking for the silver linings. The bright spots. No one wants three more months of this. I understand.

It puts me in somewhat of a bind. For all of you writing in saying you're tired of the negativity -- and there are many of you out there -- I see just as many people rooting against the M's. Some of you are afraid that if this team wins too many more of these games (meaningless ones), management might somehow be "fooled'' into thinking this team can contend next year and not make the needed moves.

So, I'm torn. I don't want to be the guy some of you are already accusing GM Lee Pelekoudas of being. A guy who can get duped by this team into standing pat. The last thing I want to do is encourage that by being too optimistic. So, I try to temper that in game stories and blog posts with some reality. But the end result is, it can wind up sounding overly negative.

Just for the sake of balance, I'll point out a couple of positives I've seen the last month.

Jeremy Reed continues to surprise me. I still think of him as a fourth outfielder, but if he keeps playing like this every day, busting his tail in the outfield and hitting like he has, I may have to change that opinion. Reed is hitting .295 with a .755 on-base-plus slugging percentage. As a center fielder, that's OK. Not great, but not the worst in baseball either. He can at least hit for average. In an outfield with more power, he could be an every day player with these numbers. Not completely sold, but to me, this is a positive development.

Felix Hernandez continues to improve. His innings totals are up and his other numbers are headed downwards. He now pitches with a plan and seems to have a grasp on what he's doing out there. As I wrote last week, he's not an "ace'' stopper yet, but he's getting there. A sound building block.

Brandon Morrow has also become a pleasant surprise, considering how his year began. He's now a three-pitch guy, with that changeup added on to the fastball/slider routine. He'll either get a shot as a starter or present an intriguing option as a future closer. On a playoff-type team, having a healthy J.J. Putz closing and Morrow setting him up would also not be a complete waste. The game would be over after seven innings and that would make the team's current starters seem much better. We're still a long way off from that scenario. More things have to happen on other fronts before I'll call this a serious playoff contender again. I thought it would be this year. After what I've seen, I still think wholesale changes are needed. Maybe not a complete blow-up, but a lot more than just one or two repositionings.

My verdict on Jose Lopez is one of cautious optimism. He has hit better. but the knock on him the past two seasons was his second-half fade, We're not even at the All-Star Break yet, so let's hold off on any medals.

I'm not as high on this core group as our friends at Lookout Landing this morning. I see their point. What I don't see, with the lineup mentioned, is a playoff contender. And if this team isn't going to contend next year, then there are trades -- like one involving Erik Bedard -- that might be better off taking place this year. What if Bedard remains a six-inning pitcher next season? How will that impact his value. You've still got two camps out there split on what he is. Some still feel he's a legitimate ace. But that camp will dwindle if he continues to pitch like a No. 2 or 3 starter. So, the guys paid to make this call have to get it right this time.

But hey, we'll try to avoid cliff diving on a daily basis here. I'm not being sarcastic. It's going to be a long season any way you cut it. The future is full of huge question marks. Kenji Johjima is not going to be a $24 million backup catcher. Just isn't going to happen. Plenty has to be sorted out. I'll try to present you the context required to wade through these decisions. Try not to fall victim to overt negativity, because, frankly, I don't want three more months of this and neither do you.

But I also can't lie to you. Yes, an 8-5 record under Jim Riggleman is a first step. But these Tigers are also the first winning team faced by the M's since they got beaten in Boston a month ago. This is an AL team. The record against Detroit is a little more pertinent to discussing the future than how the M's did against San Diego (I mean, Seattle stranded 18 runners in a game and still won, which tells you how bad the Padres are). It's not so much a glass being half-empty or half full. More like making sure the glass is actually made of glass and not paper.

Still, I hear you. It's been a long season. Some tough calls by the front office are coming up and we'll be debating them for weeks, I'm sure. Looking forward to Kansas City next week. Want to hear what Jose Guillen thinks about this team.

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