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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 23, 2008 7:29 PM

Post-game notes

Posted by Danny O'Neil

There aren't a lot of follow-up questions to ask when a guy offers the point-blank admission that he messed up and the mistake is his alone. That was Willie Bloomquist's response to questions about the center-field drive that he was in position to catch, but didn't in the 12th inning.

"I just flat-out missed it," Bloomquist said. "I can't sit here and make an excuse. It's a ball I should have caught, a ball I've caught it in the past and I hold myself accountable for it. I should have caught it and unfortunately it cost us. In the end, I'm not going to sit there and make any excuse."

Hmmm. No evasion there. Bloomquist's error loaded the bases, but didn't allow a run. The next two batters had base hits, scoring a total of three runs.

On Saturday, Bloomquist lost a ball in the sun at Safeco Field. Was that a factor in Wednesday's play?

"Nope," Bloomquist said. "The sun's no factor. There's no excuse. It's just flat-out a ball I should have and I didn't."

OK. No excuses. No ambiguity there. He goofed. Bloomquist started the game at shortstop, but moved to center field after Yuniesky Betancourt entered the game to pinch-hit for Jeremy Reed.

  • Putz power

    J.J. Putz pitched for the second time in four days, throwing two innings this time and looking every bit as impressive as the day he came off the disabled list. Putz struck out three in the two innings he pitched, all on fastballs in the mid-90s.

    Velocity isn't the only the thing that differentiates Putz's recovery from his first stint on the disabled list back in spring with a rib problem.

    "Right now the quality of pitches has been a lot better than it had been the first time I came back," Putz said after the game. "The last few years I haven't been a guy that's walked a whole lot of people and this year, mechanically, it just hasn't been there. And having the time and the coaching staff to have the patience to let me find my delivery again has been huge. I think the results on the field are going to show."

    Putz walked 17 batters in the 19 innings he pitched before going on the disabled list in June. He has not walked so far since he was activated.

    "It's just a matter of being able to put the ball where I want to when I want to," Putz said. "The first time coming back from the rib injury just for some reason, I don't know if I was thinking about the rib or something like that, mechanics just weren't there. The delivery was not very consistent. All through my rehab assignments and then the last couple times up here, the deliver has been consistent. That's when you're able to repeat and make quality pitches. That's what we've been able to do."

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    July 23, 2008 2:42 PM

    Are you nuts? Not in two sections at Safeco Field.

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack?

    Not in sections 311 and 312 at Safeco Field on Aug. 5 and Sept. 9. Those will be peanut-controlled zones on those days, the Mariners announced this week, cleaned thoroughly the night before and all peanut products will be banned on those games. Peanut products will not be sold at nearby concession stands. Tickets will be $10 each for those days.

    It is estimated 12 million people in the U.S. have food allergies, about one-quarter of them children. The incidence of peanut allergies among children doubled over the five-year period from 1997 to 2002, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

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    July 23, 2008 2:22 PM

    Game thread, July 23

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

  • Top 11th: Sean Green came in to relieve Brandon Morrow, who pitched a pair of scoreless innings. I was under the mistaken impression that Green had a chance to become the first pitcher to ever appear in 162 games in a season. That's wrong, though. This is the 50th game he's pitched this season so he really only pitches every other game, not every day.

  • Top 8th: J.J. Putz stayed in to pitch the eighth after throwing 17 pitches in the seventh. He struck out Mike Lowell and got two fly balls to end the inning. He struck out three and allowed only an infield hit in his two innings of work.

  • Top 7th: It's not the ninth, but J.J. Putz is on the mound for the Mariners, so cue up that AC/DC, right? You bet. "Thunderstruck." This qualifies as a pressure situation. Putz gave up a leadoff single to Dustin Pedroia, who beat out a throw from shortstop Willie Bloomquist for an infield hit. Putz struck out J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis, the latter on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play that ended the inning.

  • Bottom 6th: I was curious earlier today on whether Jose Vidro had been more productive at the plate than C.C. Sabathia in the three weeks since Cleveland traded the big fella' to Milwaukee.

    Well, entering today's games, Sabathia batted in three games for Milwaukee, he had two hits in nine at-bats with a double and a home run. That's a batting average of .222 and a slugging percentage of .667.

    Going back to July 8 -- Sabathia's first game with Milwaukee -- Vidro had nine hits in 33 at-bats (.273 average), but his only extra base hits were a pair of doubles (.333 slugging percentage). So what happens Wednesday? Well, Vidro has a walk and a single in his first two at-bats and then hit a game-tying two-run home run in the sixth inning, making the comparison to Sabathia seem very smarmy and ill-timed. Score: Seattle 3, Boston 3.

  • Top 6th: Felix Hernandez gave up base hits to the first two batters he faced, walked a batter and faced the bases loaded with no outs. So what does Hernandez do? He strikes out the next two batters, getting Jed Lowrie on a full-count check swing on a pitch in the dirt and striking out Jason Varitek on three pitches. What happens then? He walks Coco Crisp on four pitches bringing in a run.

  • Top 3rd: J.D. Drew was in his trot, Ichiro was on a run, though, and caught a drive about a foot and a half above the right-field wall. Ichiro's leaping catch turned what would have been a three-run home run into the second out of the third inning.

    The next hitter, though, Ichiro's glove let a run in. Kevin Youkilis hit a single into right field, which skipped under Ichiro's glove and past him in right field. Ichiro would have had no chance to keep Coco Crisp from scoring from second base on the play. The play did allow Dustin Pedroia to score, and Ichiro was charged with an error on the play.

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    July 23, 2008 12:23 PM

    Jeff Clement probably out until Saturday

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Jeff Clement didn't require any stitches for the nail that tore off the thumb nail on his throwing hand early in Tuesday's game. He was sore, though, and isn't in the lineup Wednesday. Kenji Johjima is catching with Jose Vidro as designated hitter. Manager Jim Riggleman said Clement can swing OK, but throwing is the issue. He didn't completely rule out Clement playing on Friday, but said since the Mariners are scheduled to face left-hander John Parrish in Toronto, Clement's return likely will wait until Saturday.

    "If he's totally 100 percent we may get him in there," Riggleman said. "But if he's anything less than 100 percent I might wait until Saturday when a right-hander's pitching."

    Carlos Silva left Sunday's game with a lower-back issue, but Riggleman said before Wednesday's game that Silva is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday and is expected to make his next start, which would be Saturday in Toronto. Miguel Batista will start on Friday for Seattle.

    Riggleman also said he doesn't expect left-hander Erik Bedard to pitch before the end of the month, however, the magnetic-resonance image (MRI) seemed to be a boost to the pitcher.

    "He seemed encouraged by the results of the MRI," Riggleman said.

    Riggleman said that it told Bedard that the soreness he's feeling in the shoulder is "pretty normal" and allayed questions if there was a more serious problem. Now it's just a matter of when Bedard starts feeling well enough to throw some.

    "His tone in the whole thing is kind of a little more positive," Riggleman said of Bedard.

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    July 23, 2008 12:17 PM

    Manny Ramirez sits out

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Manny Ramirez has a sore right knee and isn't in the lineup on Wednesday. Jacoby Ellsbury is in left field in his place.

    Manager Terry Francona said the soreness in Ramirez's knee is something that came up out of the blue.

    Ramirez had an icebag on his knee in the Red Sox clubhouse before the game, he demonstrated that there is nothing wrong with his voice, singing along to music from his iPod. He even had the theatrics down, rolling up a magazine and singing into it as if it were a microphone. He even asked for a little help, asking me if I spoke Spanish (the language the lyrics were in).

    "Un poco," I said.

    Well, he tilted the magazine/mic out for me to join in. One problem. No idea on the lyrics, however, the chorus included the word "todo" on an extended hold. I was able to chime in for at least a second.

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    July 23, 2008 10:52 AM

    Fans keep coming

    Posted by Geoff Baker

    ****see additional note at end of post ***

    An early start time today, and I'm told there will be more than 40,000 fans at Safeco Field. So, as the losses pile up, the fans of Seattle keep coming out to watch the Mariners. Is that a good thing? I'm torn. Obviously, a successful business helps any franchise. There is a reason the M's are spending $117 million on their payroll while the Oakland A's will take years to get to that level.

    Yes, Safeco Field has a lot to do with that.

    But new ballparks don't last forever. The new stadium buzz usually wears off in about five years. I'd say the Mariners have done a pretty good job of getting fans to come out to their ballpark, which turns 10 next season. Safeco still has the appearance of a new park, even though it's getting up there in years. And any team averaging 29,000 fans per game while winning fewer than 40 percent of the schedule has something going for it. Anyhow, I touched on this breifly during last night's game story, printed in our morning edition.

    This wasn't meant to be the ultimate attendance story. Simply something else to raise the level of discussion other than simply posting last night's game score. Sure, there were other attendance issues we could have touched on more in-depth. But not in a game story of 800 words. The limits of the newspaper world as opposed to being able to blog on endlessly.

    Anyhow, I was looking for a way to show that the Mariners, for all of their losing, still do pretty good attendance-wise. So, I simply took their average game attendance and divided it by the number of wins. Got myself a nice number I could compare to the numbers of other teams. Is it very scientific? Nope. It's a quick and easy snapshot. Meant to give you an idea. Sort of like batting average. You get an idea. Sometimes, when you scratch below the surface, you get a vastly different idea. This usually involves guys like Jose Vidro in 2007, or Yuniesky Betancourt this year. But you get the picture.

    Of course, much of a team's attendance is pre-ordained. It is determined before a season even begins. Those attendance counts go off of "tickets sold" and many are sold way ahead of time. Season ticketholders can't get refunds simply because a team loses. Some of the "buyers" don't even show up for games any more but still get counted in the nighly attendance figure put out.

    The walk-up crowds at Mariners games -- folks who show up right before the contest to buy a ticket -- are only about 1,000 to 2,000 of those 29,000 or so at the ballpark every night.

    Sure, there are folks buying single-game tickets a few days, or weeks, or sometimes months in advance. But season-ticket buyers are where it's at in the baseball business. And that's done in advance of a season. When every team has a shot at the pennant.

    That said, being down nearly 4,000 "tickets sold" per game on average over last year can't be great news for the Mariners. Don't forget, the bulk of last year's tickets were sold coming off a last-place 2006 season. There wasn't all that much optimism in the air, despite the fact the team surprised folks and wound up winning 88 games. So, the nearly 33,000 per game last season was built on pretty modest hopes. If the team is now down 4,000 per contest, given all the excess hopes going into 2008, with the Erik Bedard trade and the signing of Carlos Silva generating optimism, along with the Angels losing two key starters, then how does this bode for next year?

    Do you think "playing the kids" as a marketing strategy is going to send fans scurrying off to buy season tickets? So, if the M's are feeling a slight pinch now, it stands to reason they could be feeling a full-throat squeeze come next year -- the residual impact of this disastrous season.

    Or not.

    Continue reading this post ...

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