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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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August 6, 2008 4:10 PM

Minnesota Twins at Mariners: 08/06 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Mark Lowe got knocked around in the eighth inning, yielding two singles and a two-run double to right center by Brendan Harris. Jared Wells came in to make his M's debut with Harris at second and one out and fielded a bunt to his right by Adam Everett. Wells made a poor choice to throw to third and was far too late to nab the runner. That put runners at the corners with none out. After a Carlos Gomez popout, Denard Span -- a mighty fine looking player -- legged out a bunt single to score the third Minnesota run of the inning. Jose Lopez dropped the relay from Bryan LaHair, enabling lead runner Everett to advance to third. Span then stole second base, still with only one out. Wells then walked Nick Punto to load the bases, struck out Mike Redmond with the count full, then got Justin Morneau to fly out. But the damage was done. Seattle trails 7-3.

Hard to believe Seattle came within a hair of taking the lead a half-inning earlier, when Adrian Beltre smoked what looked like a two-run homer to right field. But Span made a leaping catch at the wall for the inning's final out. The roof caved in on Seattle from there.

3:25 p.m.: Jarrod Washburn looked like he might go seven innings after retiring the first two hitters in quick fashion in the sixth. But after jumping ahead 1-2 on Brendan Harris, he suddenly threw seven straight balls to walk a pair of hitters with Carlos Gomez coming up. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre paid Washburn a visit -- there was no way he wanted to face Denard Span after Gomez. Washburn buckled down and fanned Gomez on three pitches for his sixth strikeout of the day.

Some of you were quick to write in (from Colorado especially) asking whether I was sticking with my Washburn "snapshot" and I guess I will. He notched seven flyball outs today. By my count, four were popups. There was a fifth that caused the outfielder to move about two steps and wasn't hit all that hard, but I'll count it as a flyball. Other than that, he struck out six. So, no, the Twins didn't exactly crush the ball outside of that one inning. So, the "snapshot" of the past two months remains largely in-play. As opposed to the snapshot of last week's lone game. If he's pulled from today's contest -- and his pitch count is at 102, so I assume he's done with the top of the order coming up -- he'll have notched seven "quality starts" in his last 11 outings. Not too many Mariners pitchers have done that. I know some of you are disappointed and want to see Washburn implode to satisfy some groundball-flyball theory, but seriously...you're looking at the wrong stuff. He is what he is. A middle of the rotation, league average pitcher who keeps teams in games and does it by getting hitters to swing and make poor contact. Outside of today's one inning, that's pretty much what he did. Has been that type of flyball pitcher for most of his career and for the last two months. It's not going to change by throwing groundball-flyball rate stats out there at me every five days. You have to analyze the quality of the flyballs. Today wasn't his best work. There were a couple of extra-base hits, one on a particularly well-hit flyball by Brendan Harris. But I'm sure, given how the game began, that he'll take the result.

Anyhow, we're on to the seventh, the M's trailing 4-3 thanks to that unearned run. Washburn is indeed out of the game and Mark Lowe is on. Washburn allowed three earned runs on five hits.

Bet none of you thought Mariner Moose had to wait for elevators just like the rest of us? At least he gets a security detail to escort him.

daygame0806.jpg

For AD in the comments thread, what are you, some kind of tattletale? Or the Moose's distant cousin? From the squirrel part of the family?

3:17 p.m.: Seattle just scored twice in the fifth to cut the deficit to 4-3. Yuniesky Betancourt was hit by a pitch, then Ichiro singled to put two on with none out. Jeremy Reed, having a good series, singled to bring one run home and then -- after a groundout by Raul Ibanez advanced the runners -- Adrian Beltre grounded out to third to score another.

Jarrod Washburn is three outs away from a "quality start" despite that second inning. No, he wasn't at his best today. But he is one inning away from avoiding the diasater this outing could have been. I think he's done a good job of keeping the M's in the game. Plenty of mis-hit pop flies to the infield and outfield. He has to continue that now. This is a big inning.

2:47 p.m.: Jarrod Washburn did a good job of keeping it a 4-1 game in the fourth inning, getting out of a jam with a runner on third and only one out. He struck out Carlos Gomez on a 2-2 pitch, then retired Denard Span on a comebacker. Washburn knocked the ball down, then, lunging from his knees, heaved the ball to first in time to nab the lightning-quick Span -- who gets down the line to first base the way Ichiro used to. Washburn has allowed three earned runs through four innings. Adrian Beltre got back the run he gave away with his glove in the second inning, driving in Seattle's only marker in the third with a two-out single to center. Jose Lopez lined out with two on after that to end the rally.

2:15 p.m.: A disastrous second inning by Jarrod Washburn, aided and abetted by an Adrian Beltre error. Washburn allows four runs -- one of them unearned -- by not making quality pitches when he had to and trails 4-0 as we head to the bottom of the second. The big pitch was an 0-2 offering that Denard Span laced down the right field line for a three-run triple. You can't let an 0-2 pitch catch that much plate. It broke right down the middle. If you don't believe me, I happened to snap a picture of it you can see below.

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Prior to that, Washburn allowed an RBI single to .175-hitting Adam Everett. But the pitch that will haunt him was a full-count offering to No. 9 hitter Carlos Gomez that resulted in a walk that loaded the bases. Whenever Washburn runs into trouble, it's usually a walk that does it. The one positive is that, with Span at third and only one out, Washburn got out of the inning on a popout and a soft grounder to keep the M's within striking range. But it was not a good inning for him, error or not. The one thing the error did was change the complexion of the inning. With two out, you pitch the hitters differently. You aren't as hesitant to allow them to make contact, or to waste a pitch. But with the bases full and one out, you have to be more cautious.

2:09 p.m.: Jarrod Washburn just struck out the side in the first inning, yielding a two-out single to center by Mike Redmond in the interim. Washburn is not a strikeout pitcher, but he'll take it.

Seattle got singles from Jeremy Reed and Adrian Beltre in the bottom of the inning, but Jose Lopez flew out to right to end the threat.

To answer Bill in the comments thread, it makes sense for Seattle to carry three catchers, where with other teams it might not. Jeff Clement is the future, so you've got to figure out what you've got in him. What you don't have, from the looks of things, is an arm capable of throwing anybody out. Runners are 11-for-11 in steals off him and he's hardly tearing the cover off the ball. You need a second guy at the position and, unfortunately, Kenji Johjima hasn't hit this season and pitchers don't enjoy throwing to him because of how he frames the ball and approaches game-calling. So, you've got Jamie Burke, by far the best defensive catcher on the team and the "real" backup -- or late replacement -- that you want in a pinch, or with the game on the line. Johjima's contract situation, with three more years, is really going to hurt this team going forward unless a solution is found.

An important start for Washburn this afternoon. Washburn did not look sharp against the Baltimore Orioles last week. There is still a chance for the team to move him to a contender this month, particularly the New York Yankees, given the uncertain status of Joba Chamberlain, who is headed to the DL according to a New York Times report. The injury to Chamberlain gives New York an "out" in the Washburn talks. They can make a deal with the Mariners, one that would include a better prospect than they offered before the July 31 deadline, and explain it away to Yankee fans as being the result of Chamberlain's injury rather than a capitulation to Seattle's demands.

But it all hinges on Washburn performing well. Forget groundball/flyball ratios. He's a flyball pitcher. It's not going to change overnight. It's the quality of the flyballs that count. Are they hit hard to the gaps? Or popped up to outfielders who have all day to camp under them? When Washburn's going well, it's the latter. When he isn't, the flyballs turn into extra-base hits.

The lineups:

TWINS (62-51)

2 Denard Span RF
8 Nick Punto 2B
6 Mike Redmond C
33 Justin Morneau 1B
16 Jason Kubel LF
56 Randy Ruiz DH
23 Brendan Harris 3B
12 Adam Everett SS
22 Carlos Gomez CF

53 Nick Blackburn RHP


MARINERS (44-69)

51 Ichiro RF
8 Jeremy Reed DH
28 Raul Ibanez LF
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
4 Jose Lopez 2B
9 Jeff Clement C
50 Wladimir Balentien CF
39 Bryan LaHair 1B
5 yuniesky Betancourt SS

56 Jarrod Washburn LHP

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