Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
July 30, 2008 7:27 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Texas did indeed tie it up in the sixth when Kenji Johjima threw a ball into center field on a steal attempt. A leadoff double by David Murphy and an ensuing groundout left a runner at third with one out. Marlon Byrd then grounded out to Willie Bloomquist at shortstop, the runner holding. But Brandon Boggs walked and broke for second on the steal. The throw was high over Jose Lopez's head. No chance there. Chris Davis then flied out to deep left center to end the inning. I can't remember seeing Raul Ibanez make a catch that far over in center.
Seattle loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh. Of course, you can guess what happened next. Ibanez hit a fly ball to medium right field. Bloomquist tagged up from third and tried to score, but was nabbed at the plate by David Murphy. Adrian Beltre then took a called third strike that he did not like very much. So, a wasted opportunity Seven runners left on by the M's tonight.
Batista is now out of the game, somehow making it through six innings with only three runs -- two earned -- allowed. It was a high-wire act. Cesar Jimenez is on.
Had a nice chat pre-game in the press dining area with Andrew Percival, a local guy from the Seattle area now working for the Rangers in their front office and scouting ranks. He interned with the Milwaukee Brewers last season and now has a job in Texas. Says he's getting used to the heat. He's an avid reader of the blog, so we were able to swap some baseball theory about what's gone on in Seattle this season. Educational.
Had another chat, not in the dining room, but on the dugout steps, with J.J. Putz about his outing last night. There are two major things Putz has struggled with all season, both of them related to his rustiness in coming back off injuries. The first is the command of his four-seam fastball. The second is his ability to throw an effective splitter.
Before his latest DL stint, the big issue for Putz was the fastball command problem. He kept falling behind hitters. The splitter becomes useless if hitters know you can't get your fastball over for a strike. Nobody is going to swing at a splitter, which will almost always miss the strike zone, when you aren't spotting the fastball. They'll just let you walk them.
The second problem, the splitter, is what has hampered Putz since he returned from the DL post-All-Star Break. You saw the problems he had in Toronto last Friday. Well, the problems were back again last night. Not so much with the first two hitters who got on. One of them swung at a pitch in the dirt and got a lucky hit. The other one hit an OK pitch. But the double that Ramon Vazquez hit came on another splitter that did not split. And when that happens, the result is a big, flat fastball that gets crushed.
Putz fessed up to this. He admitted his splitter is rusty and that it will take time for it to come back. He's got the final two months of this season to get a feel for it again. Hey, many of you wanted Brandon Morrow to go to Class AAA to start working out in the rotation. You didn't care who the closer was. Well, you're getting a taste of what could happen if Putz is less than 100 percent. Come August, it may not matter. It looks like the M's will go that route in any event.
I'm not saying you were wrong. But I am saying that talking about how games don't matter and how you don't care if the M's lose 99 or 110 games is a lot easier to do than it is to see a gut-wrenching defeat like last night's actually take place. No one wants to see a game play out for eight innings, only to be decided by a closer who can't make pitches. Try doing it three times a week and you could get a sniff at what's in-store for the Mariners the next two months.
For those of you asking me about Josh Fields, please, relax. It's not unusual to wait until after the July 31 trade deadline for teams to turn their focus back towards unsigned draft picks. There are still more than two weeks left to sign Fields. Like Brandon Morrow two summers ago, Fields likely won't pitch in the minors this year so it's not urgent to get his signature down on paper right away.
The M's are all tied up on multiple trade fronts for now. Once those go away, they can turn to other things.
Somebody wake Yuni up...please.
7:04 p.m.: Some excellent defense from Raul Ibanez and Willie Bloomquist in the fifth prevented a run from scoring. Batista did not look sharp after the delay, giving up a leadoff single to Jarrod Saltalamacchia on an 0-2 pitch, then a one-out double to the left field corner by Ian Kinsler. But Ibanez did a good job of getting to the ball, fired a strike to cutoff man Bloomquist, then watched him fire a missile home to Kenji Johjima. The catcher did a good job of blocking the plate and applying the tag on the runner as he tried to reach out and touch home. A close play. But the M's got the call.
Seattle did nothing in the sixth, so we're on to the bottom of that frame with the M's ahead 3-2.
6:38 p.m.: Seattle just regained the lead, 3-2, in the fifth on a Jose Lopez single to left that brought Raul Ibanez in to score from second base. Let's see how Miguel Batista handles this. He's thrown 55 pitches over four innings, got a nice catch from Ichiro at the wall in right to spare him another extra-base-hit against, and has been getting slugged on all game.
A ridiculous between-innings delay has now gone on past five minutes as the grounds crew works to repair the dirt area to the left of home plate. We're not sure exactly what held things up. They kept bringing in extra dirt in buckets. We'll see what impact that has on Batista.
6:01 p.m.: Well, Miguel Batista just gave back both runs after Seattle had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Josh Hamilton hammered the second pitch from Batista in the bottom of the frame and sent it into the second deck in right field. Two batters later, Brandon Boggs sent one over the right field wall to tie it. Only a nice, running catch by Raul Ibanez, who slammed into the wall in left center, prevented another run or two from scoring.
Kenji Johjima doubled in the top of the inning and scored on a single by Willie Bloomquist. Ichiro then reached on an infield single -- barely though, as Ramon Vazquez barehanded the ball and nearly threw him out, When's the last time that happened to ichiro on a ball up the third base line? He seems to have lost a step going to first base. Several scouts have commented on this in recent weeks. Jeremy Reed then singled to give Seattle the two-run lead that Batista quickly gave right back.
You may have seen that near disastrous pickoff throw by Johjima in the bottom of the inning. It was a strong throw to second, but second baseman Jose Lopez seemed to be daydreaming on the play and didn't break for the ball until it was nearly too late. Had to make a circus grab to keep it from going into center field. He was either asleep or something got lost in translation between the pair. They'll have to go over their signs.
5:25 p.m.: Just getting underway here on a downright cool night in Arlington. The gametime temperature was only 90 degrees, so don't be surprised if some of my photos have shots of folks in wool sweaters.
Ichiro led the game off with a walk and Raul Ibanez had a one out single. But Adrian Beltre popped out foul (no, it doesn't count as a line drive, sorry) and Jose Lopez grounded into a fielder's choice. Same old, same old. Miguel Batista retired the side in order, so we're scoreless after one. Now, it's started raining in the second inning. Nice.