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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 9, 2008 11:15 PM

Bullpen carries team to win

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Strange game this baseball. Two complete games tossed by Mariners starters the first two nights here both ended in losses. Tonight, Miguel Batista lasts just two innings and three pitches before going down with a right groin strain. Of course, the Mariners rally to a 6-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Batista won't pitch again before the All-Star break. We saw Batista hopping off to the training room, his leg in an ice pack. Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said the injury isn't serious, but he won't risk sending Batista back out to the mound until he knows he's right.

"I hope that we can get this behind him and he'll be in the rotation when we come out of the break,'' Riggleman said, not too convincingly. "That would be the No. 1 option. And when we work out over the break we'll test it out and see. And if it's not ready to start and give us significant innings, then we’ll use him in pieces.''

Brandon Morrow, above, gets the save for Roy Corcoran, who notches his first big league win.

"It feels good,'' Corcoran said after tossing 2 2/2 shutout innings. "It's been '03, '04, '06, three years up and down and I never got one.''

Mariners closer J.J. Putz soon crept up on the post-game interview session and treated the pitcher to a shaving cream pie to the face.

"Now, I've got to shower again,'' Corcoran moaned, his eyes stinging.

It was only the fourth time all year the M's have overcome a deficit of two or more to win a game. It was just the second time they have rallied from three down to win. They trailed 4-1 in the fifth, then put up a five-spot against Joe Blanton. Jose Lopez doubled home three of those runs.

"That's a big inning, especially when you've lost three games in a row,'' Lopez said. "We didn't play bad those first two games here.''

Lopez said he held up at third the previous inning, after being waved home on the Jose Vidro double, because the ball didn't get by the right fielder and go to the wall. He said he didn't want to make the second out of the inning at home plate when the team had two runners in scoring position with one out. He wound up scoring on an ensuing single by Adrian Beltre.

By the way, Jeff Clement said he didn't think Jack Hannahan running over him at the plate was a dirty play, though he wants to see it again on replay. Clement said the throw started carrying him back across the plate again, causing him to get drilled.

He's being political. The play was very borderline.


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July 9, 2008 8:36 PM

Mariners at Oakland Athletics: 07/09 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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UPDATE -- Miguel Batista came out of the game with what the team says is a right groin strain, three pitches into the bottom of the third.

Seattle just scored five runs in the fifth to take a 6-4 lead in this see-saw game. Jose Lopez drove home three runs with a double, then Raul Ibanez doubled in the go-ahead marker. Ibanez then scored on a bizarre infield hit by Adrian Beltre off first baseman Daric Barton's glove. Ibanez was hung up between third and home, then broke for the plate. Barton bought him time by throwing to third instead of home. The throw home had Ibanez beat, with Kurt Suzuki completely blocking the plate. Ibanez tried tip-toeing around him, with Suzuki draped all over his back -- and was ruled safe. replays showed he was out. A break for the Mariners there.

I see some of you are having laughs over Jim Riggleman's explanation for using Jose Vidro. Hey, what did you expect him to say? That he thought Vidro was the second coming of Barry Bonds? I'd like to see the M's get this whole Vidro thing over with as well if he isn't going to hit. But for me, the sad thing for M's fans is, this is the solution the team feels is its best bet for now. Says a lot about where this team is right now and where it's headed.

Continue reading this post ...


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July 9, 2008 6:35 PM

Why Vidro is batting cleanup

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Another hot one here, today. If you folks can tear yourselves away from insulting each other for a bit, I did manage to ask Jim Riggleman about why he keeps batting Jose Vidro fourth. Riggleman's answer was long and multi-faceted. It isn't black and white. Several shades of gray. But here goes. Even with an OPS of .571, easily making him one of the worst hitters in all of baseball, Riggleman feels that Vidro offers him the best shot at "protecting'' Raul Ibanez when a righthanded pitcher is on the mound.

The reason for this has little to do with Vidro's current numbers. In the past, though, he's been close to a .300 hitter from both sides of the plate. Against righties, he figures Vidro will offer some incentive for pitchers not to walk Ibanez intentionally, or pitch around him. This type of thinking began under John McLaren, but Riggleman was part of it as the bench coach and is continuing to implement the thinking into his nightly lineups.

He said it was not the same when Adrian Beltre or Richie Sexson was hitting behind Ibanez in the order.

Ibanez has been intentionally walked a team-high nine times (tied with Ichiro for the lead). None of those occasions has come with Vidro batting fourth.

Riggleman admitted to me that it was not a traditional use of a clean-up hitter. That he'd love it if the guys who were expected to hit in certain spots had performed up to expectations and they could go with a traditional type of lineup. Against lefties, he'll move Vidro away from the clean-up role.

But this type of allignement is actually what Riggleman used to use in Chicago, when he managed the Cubs in 1998 when Sammy Sosa hit 66 home runs. Sosa didn't bat clean-up for that team. Mark Grace did. Same reasons. Riggleman knew that teams were going to hesitate to put Sosa on base, knowing that Grace was a guy who could put the ball in-play.

Vidro is also a guy who puts the ball in-play. Not like he once did. Not like Grace in his prime (or, in 1998, that's for sure). But he can put it in-play. And reputation still matters in this game. Sometimes, it carries as much weight as current stats. Teams know Vidro has hit from both sides before, know he's driven in some runs this year. And that he is not easy to strikeout with men on base.

Is this logic perfect? Of course not. Vidro has a sub-.600 OPS. But for now, on this team, it's the best shot the M's feel they have to help Ibanez see as many pitches as he can.

I asked Ibanez whether he'd noticed a difference and he laughed and told me he had not. But he never notices things like that. He's too zeroed-in on his job. He admits he stays away from thinking about things like "protection" and other stuff at the plate. One time, he told me, the M's had Ken Griffey Jr. hitting behind him for protection. Pedro Martinez was the opposing pitcher.

"The count went to 3-2 and I thought for sure he was going to groove the next one over,'' Ibanez said, figuring Martinez would not risk walking him with Griffey on deck. "Next thing I know, he drops a curve ball in on me. After that, I stopped thinking about protection and trying to guess what guys would do because of who is behind me.''

So, there you go. Hope that answers your question.


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July 9, 2008 10:51 AM

M's need a bidding war

Posted by Geoff Baker

The one thing yesterday's trade of Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs did was establish Erik Bedard as one of the top remaining options for contenders on the pitching front when it comes to trades. In fact, I'd say Bedard is the best option right now. If it's between him and A.J. Burnett, or Daniel Cabrera, I'd go with the lefty every time. But will the Philadelphia Phillies? In this story, Bedard is refered to as the "B'' list option. Frankly, given the fact Bedard will likely go on the DL tomorrow, retroactive to July 4 (he isn't pitching until July 21 anyway, so the DL is just a formality to clear room for Felix Hernandez), the window for the M's showcase him much more is quickly closing. There is a lot of pressure being put on the front office in Philadelphia to make a move. This story was written before yesterday's Harden deal, but you can see the premise.

At this point, I don't see the M's getting back much more than Class AAA starter Carlos Carrasco, the top pitching prospect in Philadelphia's system. And that's only if GM Pat Gillick, who is not afraid to "Stand Pat" in the face of public heat come deadline time, swallows hard. What might make him swallow harder? Some competition for Bedard's services.

Right now, the best chance of that happening would likely be from the St. Louis Cardinals, who have all sorts of pitching needs and yet somehow find themselves within sniffing distance of a playoff spot. The Cards just watched their division rivals beef up on pitching. This writer, about the only guy in town in a limited media market, isn't sure the Harden and C.C. Sabathia deals will put the Cubs and Brewers over-the-top.

But if you're the Cards, contending unexpectedly, can you afford to take that chance?

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