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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 29, 2008 9:50 PM

Mariners blow another in ninth

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Just a short programming note, my Talkin' Baseball segment on KJR AM 950's Mitch in the Morning show tomorrow will run an hour later -- at roughly 9:20 a.m. -- to accomodate some scheduling issues with the start of Seahawks camp. Should be lots to talk about.

The crowd at Rangers Ballpark erupts as a two-run double to right center by Ramon Vazquez off J.J. Putz ends the game. An 11-10 loss for the Mariners after they'd overcome deficits of 7-0 and 9-3 to take a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. By the way, it was a year ago -- on July 25 -- that Vazquez hit a homer off Putz to hand him his first blown save of the 2007 season. I'd say he's about done with the guy.

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Yes, that's Jarrod Washburn pinch-running at first base for Kenji Johjima in the top of the ninth inning after the latter was drilled on the left knee by a C.J. Wilson pitch. The Seattle bench is depleted, so Washburn was called on to run. For those asking, Jose Vidro has a bad neck, which is why he wasn't used tonight. No, Washburn did not enhance his trade value. He did score the inning's go-ahead run when Ramon Vazquez threw a ball away at first for a two-base error.

Asked to assess his baserunning, he quipped: "I thought pretty good. Freezed up on the ground ball to third and then showed my speed. Now the secret's out. They're going to want two prospects for me.''

Mariners manager Jim Riggleman also wasn't impressed with Washburn's running ability.

"He was at the wrong place,'' he said. "He was back at second base when the ball was thrown. Lucky the throw was so bad that it didn't matter.''

Washburn was so stunned to get the call that he had to race back to the clubhouse to put on his game jersey and spikes. He usually doesn't wear them on the bench between starts. He wound up forgetting his belt, so Riggleman pulled his off his waist and handed it to him.

The fact that Washburn was out there at all tells you what kind of game this was. A bizarre one on a night where pitching and defense took a back seat to everything else. Long balls, errors, blown plays, miscommunication. You name it.

One of the bigger gaffes was Yuniesky Betancourt failing to get a bunt down with one out in the ninth and Jamie Burke racing in from third. Burke was a dead duck when Betancourt missed the ball.

Putz even got away with trying to make a near-impossible out at third base on a bunt with two on and none out. Instead of throwing to first for the out, Putz tried to nab lead runner Marlon Byrd. The throw appeared to arrive late, as expected, since Byrd was only a few yards from the bag when the throw was made. Byrd is not very fast and he somehow, by the most microscopic of margins, was called out. Either that or the umpire blew the call. I'm still not sure. But Putz got away with one there (sorry Jack in the comments thread, 99 times out of 100 the runner beats that throw). It wound up not mattering moments later.

"It just seems like we've been involved in so many games like this that are decided in the ninth and 10th, 11th and 12th,'' Riggleman said. "There were an equal amount of things to be disappointed about and I'm disappointed in all of them.''


Putz battled his control throughout the ninth-inning stint. It was his second blown save in four days as he works his way back from injury.

Ichiro could not catch up to that last hit as it drifted out of his reach in right center. He's had trouble on quite a few balls hit in the air on this road trip. Not saying he should have caught it. He just didn't look as confident chasing after that ball.

Riggleman said the other day that Ichiro was having trouble seeing the ball off bats in Toronto. Looked like something similar tonight, though he had a long way to run.

Bottom line is, you can't give up 11 runs and expect to win.

Carlos Silva apparently wasn't happy at being pulled so early. Well, the only solution to that is to pitch better.

On to Ichiro's big night, I asked him about the perception that his 3,000 hits weren't as big an accomplishment because many of them came in Japan.

"People that want to say things like that...all I'm going to say is that in Japanese professional baseball, they don't use metal bats,'' he said through an interpreter.

In other words, it's not a cakewalk. The hits there don't come any easier.

"If you look at it, my pace at getting hits in the U.S. is quicker than in Japan,'' Ichiro said. "So, if people are going to say those kinds of things, I'd like them to take a look at that stat.''

Not hits per at-bat, as someone commenting on the blog mentioned earlier today. But certainly per season.

I spoke to Warren Moon earlier tonight by phone, just after the 3,000th hit. As you know, Moon's 21,228 passing yards during six seasons in the CFL did not count when his Hall of Fame credentials were assessed. He can sympathize with Ichiro and suggests critics consider he's done all he can in the places he was allowed to play. Remember, players in Japan have to spend nearly adecade with their teams before becoming eligible for free-agency. Unless those teams "post'' them to U.S. bidders.

"You can't blame him for where he was born and where he played,'' Moon said. "Just like me. You can't blame me for the NFL not wanting me to play quarterback.''

Ichiro didn't spend his post-game complaining about critics. He seemed relieved and pleased at having notched the hit and also was happy at the reaction he got from the crowd here. At first, he didn't know how to react, having notched the hit in a visiting ballpark. But when the feat was announced and the crowd gave him a nice round of cheers, he returned the favor with a tip of his cap.

"I got my first hit in 1992, and looking back on it it seems that from that point to this point, it wasn't a very long time,'' he said. "But for some reason, the last week, to me, seemed like a long period of time.''

We'll end of that. On a night of awful baseball, in an awful season, let's at least go out on a high note.

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