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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 13, 2008 11:15 PM

Balentien ends monkey business

Posted by Geoff Baker

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No Rally Monkey was going to catch that Wladimir Balentien blast to center in the 12th inning. The ball clears the fence for a three-run homer, Roy Corcoran completes a third inning of shutout relief and the Mariners win 10-7. Raul Ibanez opened the 12th with a double, his fourth hit of the night.

This one is over. As things stand, the M's should arrive in Minneapolis by 8 a.m. on Thursday.

"We didn't give up, we didn't give in,'' Ibanez said. "We kept fighting back. It was a great win for us and we did it together.''

A good piece of hitting by Balentien, who'd fanned on four prior occasions on the night.

"I had a rough night,'' Balentien said. "But I stayed positive, stayed focused in the game and waited for an opportunity.''

So much to talk about, so little of it truly matters. But give the Mariners credit for staying in this game and fighting back time after time. A true team victory.

"We've been battling and today, we battled back with the intention of winning,'' Ibanez said. "And that made the difference.''

Indeed it did. It's one thing to make a final score look good by tacking on some runs in a onetime blowout. Quite another thing to keep answering the challenge, puch-for-punch. Tonight, as Ibanez said, this team finally played to win. Like a team not afraid of winning. And it was a difference. On August 13 of a season that began on March 31.

Hopefully, next year, it won't take so long.

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August 13, 2008 9:57 PM

Picture tells it all

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Do I need to say more? I'll admit it. I believe in the power of the Rally Monkey. Was here in 2002 when the Angels, down 5-0 to the Giants in Game 6 of the World Series, found a way to come back. Scott Spiezio had his career highlight, a three-run homer in the seventh. And then Troy Glaus capped a three-run eighth with a huge double to put the Angels up to stay. That capuchin monkey was dancin' up a storm that night.

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Here tonight, both teams caught the fever the minute that ape showed its face.

Back and forth, with the M's tying it 3-3 in the seventh, falling behind 4-3, then tying it 4-4 in the eighth only to fall behind 6-4. How about Seattle then scoring three in the ninth to take the lead over a furious K-Rod, who felt Miguel Cairo had been doubled-off at second on a flyout to right moments earlier.

The Angels argued, but to no avail. Jeremy Reed hit a tying double, then Raul Ibanez a go-ahead single. K-Rod was tossed from the game for mouthing off about the Cairo call. All looked good for the M's. They had been 0-64 when trailing after eight innings.

But oh, that monkey again.

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In came J.J. Putz and out of the ballyard went the baseball. The second homer of the night for Mark Teixeira. We're now in the bottom of the 10th, it's 7-7 and the monkey has come out to play once more.

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August 13, 2008 8:27 PM

Mariners at Los Angeles Angels: 08/13 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Raul Ibanez just tagged Ervin Santana for a solo homer to lead off the sixth, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Was this Ibanez's parting shot as a Mariner?

Felix Hernandez has gotten through the past two innings rather easily and is one frame away from a "quality start" beginning the sixth at 79 pitches.

By the way, R.A. Dickey is likely out of the rotation the rest of the season. He's been scratched from Sunday's scheduled start. The M's are remaining mum on who will replace him. My guess is Ryan Feierabend will be called up from Class AAA. Miguel Batista is sore, so it won't be him. It won't be Jake Woods, who the M's consider strictly bullpen material. And manager Jim Riggleman says the team wants to look at some more guys before the season ends.

Sounds like Feierabend to me. By the way, to answer cesame in the comments thread, Feierabend threw only 2 1/3 innings and 53 pitches tonight. Then, he was pulled early. It was like a bullpen session. He can go again on Sunday.

Below, a shot of Dickey, telling it all to good buddy Mark Teixeira.

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August 13, 2008 6:37 PM

Ibanez, Washburn claimed

Posted by Geoff Baker

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So, I'm going to have to stop listening to scouts at the breakfast table because Raul Ibanez was definitely claimed on waivers today, as was Jarrod Washburn. Ibanez told me he was informed, by someone in-the-know, upon arriving at the park today that a claim on him had been put in. Washburn also received similar information.

The team now has until tomorrow to work out a deal. Actually, it has 48 1/2 "business day hours'' from when the claim was made. So, if it was made today, it would be Friday. If yesterday, which is what folks are saying, it would be tomorrow. Or else, it can pull the players back. Or, allow them to be claimed for salary owed. That won't happen with Ibanez, who is owed less than $2 million and still has value. It might with Washburn, owed roughly $13 million from now through 2009.

In Ibanez's case, we're trying to confirm it, but the Tampa Bay Rays would certainly be a claimant, as would the Boston Red Sox (attempting to block the Rays from acquiring him) and the Toronto Blue Jays (who could secure draft picks if Ibanez leaves as a free-agent after the season). But others could be in on him as well, including the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. We'll see. He has no idea.

With Washburn, it could be limited. I keep hearing the St. Louis Cardinals might be the team but I can't say for certain. I know that's not too precise. But nothing is.

Take the Rays to the bank with Ibanez. They just lost left fielder Carl Crawford for the year. Their pennant hopes are hanging by a thread. Trouble is, the Red Sox and others can block such a deal.

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August 13, 2008 3:16 PM

Vidro officially released

Posted by Geoff Baker

There you go, Jose Vidro -- cleanup hitter for much of his final month in Seattle -- is placed on irrevocable waivers and officially released by the Mariners. No takers for him in a trade.

No word yet on what's happening with Jarrod Washburn and Raul Ibanez. Obviously, the news of Ibanez being placed on waivers contradicts what I was told this morning. No doubt there was interest in both players. As we discussed last month, dumping either for cash-only was never going to be a July 31 deadline issue. I'm working on it...

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August 13, 2008 11:38 AM

Mailbag time

Posted by Geoff Baker

It's been a while since we've done one of these, so let's get to it:

In your opinion, is Betancourt the starting shortstop for the M's next year?

-- James Y.

Yes, James, I think he still is. This is a situation much like the one with Jose Lopez last year. Betancourt will have the riot act read to him in no uncertain terms, maybe have some competition brought in next spring to spook him, and then he either plays for his job and wins it in 2009 or loses it. The M's, for all the praise some like to heap on their farm system, don't have a guy ready to step in and replace Betancourt on a day-to-day basis. So, I think he gets 2009 to rebound. But I don't see a new GM putting up with this act for very much longer.

Why don't the M's try moving Clement to 1st base or DH? They have several excellent catchers ready to move up in the minors that are better defensively and now are starting to hit for average. Granted they made the mistake of signing Johjima for three more years. But that doesn't mean they can't improve their defense and hitting at the same time.

-- Brock

They may indeed move him there next year. Part of what this season is about is figuring out how far along Clement is as a catcher. He's made some defensive improvements since being up. His shift in setting up for a pitch is looking a bit more polished. He's learning the staff and their tendencies. Has a long way to go in throwing out runners. Defensively, he's a work in progress. A big one. And he still hasn't hit consistently. But the hitting, for me, is less of a concern than his defense. As you mention, this team has some solid defensive receivers moving up the minor league ranks. This winter, the new GM has to make a call on whether to move forward with Clement as a catcher. And to do that, he or she will need an arsenal of footage and evaluation in-hand, since they aren't around right now. This is where he'll get a lot of that. And in any winter action Clement sees.

Can someone explain how two HRs equals one earned run?

-- Brett in Bonney Lake

The first home run was hit by the first batter of the inning. No other hijinks occured beforehand, so it's an earned run. But the next home run didn't come until after an error by Yuniesky Betancourt. So, the error creates a baserunner. In turn, that creates an ensuing single, since the hole that groundball went through on the right side would not have been there if second baseman Jose Lopez wasn't moving to his bag to cover a runner breaking from first who should not have been there in the first place except for the error. So, you've got two guys on. A bunt moves them over for the first out of the inning. Except, it should have been the second out, since the error let a guy get on. When the guy at third scores on a groundout (the second out of the inning) it does not count as an earned run because the inning should be over. And then, when Guerrero hits a two-run homer, neither run is earned because Guerrero should never have come to bat. The pitcher does not get blamed for his fielder prolonging the inning. Sometimes, the "unearned run" thing over-protects a pitcher. If one error is made, then a pitcher gives up a ton of runs and hits, you don't get a true representation of how bad the pitcher was. In this case, the only big hit Washburn allowed (that led to any scoreboard damage) after the error was the Guerrero blast. The other base-hit likely would not have gone through had there not been a baserunner at first. So, I think the one earned run is a fair indication of what happened in the inning.

We are all being completely misled by Geoff's biased reporting to think removing Yuni magically makes Washburn learn an outpitch, or Silva magically gets a boost in talent and his exceedingly high home run rate deflates. And Geoff you can respond if you want I won't go Miller on you.

-- Resin Isn't Cheating

Why, thank you Resin. But you can come back at me if you want. No one's saying Washburn would learn an out-pitch if Betancourt makes that play. Though Washburn did use his splitter as an "out pitch'' to strike Guerrero out in the third inning after Jeff Clement failed to make a play on that foul pop up. That qualifies as picking up a teammate. But there are only so many times you're going to get away with having one of the best pure power hitters of the past quarter-century face you with men on base when it doesn't have to be. I don't care if it's Johan Santana on the mound. Playing with fire like that will get you burned.

Hey Geoff, other teams are doing things like benching key players for not running hard to first, why aren't the Mariners doing that, or something like it?

-- Bork

Good question. In some cases, they have benched guys. We saw it with Jose Lopez last weekend. Betancourt was benched just before that for a bunch of games. Richie Sexson was benched earlier this season. But no, it hasn't happened all that often, or nearly enough, in my opinion. Part of what Carlos Silva did last week was force Jim Riggleman to take the issue public and have to make an example of somebody last weekend -- especially when the team followed up Silva's comments by making him look like a genius with terrible on-field play. Riggleman is right when he says all teams slack a bit at some point. The Rays are a good team and still benched B.J. Upton for not running out a ground ball. There's a delicate balance here. You could have benched this entire team at one point or another this season. Betancourt has been so bad in the field and at the plate, you could sit him for a month. But who takes his place? Thing is, this is an outcropping of what happens when you hand eveyone a job at spring training, then let them keep that job all season regardless of performance. That has to change. It comes from the top down in any organization. Win your job, hang on to it through performance. If you don't create that expectation, set that tone, early on, it can lead to trouble down the road.

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