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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 20, 2008 3:27 PM

Yuck, squared

Posted by Larry Stone

Well, that might have been the worst game I've ever seen (from the Mariners' standpoint, that is. I'm sure White Sox fans loved it).

I'd have to say that was rock bottom for Seattle -- for now. They were completely non-competitive. I've gotten a few e-mails complaining about the effort, but I don't see it as an effort problem. It was just a totally out-classed team. Dickey's knuckleball was getting ripped around, but I cut him some slack. As Riggleman said after the game, he's been jacked around so much between starting and relieving, and both, that maybe somewhere along the line it sapped his knuckleball.

But whatever the cause, when you fall behind 8-0 after two, it's going to be a long, ugly game, and it was. They are now 46-80, With 36 games to go, the M's must finish at least 17-19 or better to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 1980. In other words, they have to have at least a .472 winning percentage the rest of the way. That doesn't seem too much to ask, right? Well, consider that their win percentage for the season is now down to .365. And consider that their win percentage since the All-Star break is .290 (9-22). It doesn't look too good.

It looks terrible, in fact. I'd suggest they just throw the kids out there and let them learn under fire. Today's lineup had Clement, Balentien, Reed and LaHair. Good. They're taking their lumps, but that's OK. As Riggleman said, "I've tried to impress on them, your character as a man is judged in bad times, not good times. We're going through some bad times. They're passing the character test. Now we have to get over the hump and start winning some games.''

On that note, I'm heading for the airport. Geoff will return to his rightful spot here tomorrow.

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August 20, 2008 10:35 AM

Game thread, 8-20, Mariners vs. White Sox

Posted by Larry Stone


UPDATE 11:49: Well, that was something to see: Ken Griffey Jr.'s first White Sox home run, which was his first American League home run since 1999 with the Mariners. It was the 609th homer of his career, tying him with former White Sox and Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa for fifth on the all-time list.

UPDATE 11:45: Just got an update on Jim Thome. He was scratched because of slight soreness in his right leg. The White Sox offense has really struggled without him.

UPDATE, 11:30: To answer my own question (see below): Doesn't look like it.

So, will I get to see a Mariners' victory on this road trip? Remember, Geoff was in Anaheim, so he got to cover the lone win. I'm 0-for-Minnesota and Chicago. Trust me, the trudge into that visiting clubhouse after each defeat is not pleasant. One time in the early 1990s, I was covering a bad Giants' team, and after a loss, one of the writers was chuckling about something as he walked into the clubhouse to do his interviews.One of the Giants' players -- I believe it was Will Clark -- started screaming at him, "What are you laughing about?" It got pretty ugly. Ah, the memories.

Anyway, Balentien is back in left field after a spell in center. I asked Riggleman if he had a feel for what Balentien's best outfield position is. Here's his answer:

"He's OK in center. The thing about it is, he's got such a good arm that we probably would like for him to settle in in left or right. If our necessity is that he plays center, that's what we'll do. But it's hard to throw guys out from center. Basically, you throw peopl;e out from left and right. We probably would like to have him play one of those two eventually.''

Could Ichiro wind up back in center? "The makeup of the ballclub is going to determine that. I'm pretty sure Ichiro prefers to play right. I know for the team he would go to center."

More tidbits: Felix is fine after getting hit on his left ankle by a line drive on Tuesday. Carlos Silva is penciled in to return to the rotation on Aug. 31 against Cleveland. And don't pencil in Erik Bedard for anything. Apparently, his last throwing session didn't go so well.

"What I'm hearing is he's not as encouraged by his previous outing as he was with his others,'' Riggleman said.

The immediate upshot: Bedard's Saturday bullpen session will almost certainly be delayed. The long-term upshot: His chances of pitching again this season are up in the air.

"I guess I'd look at it as kind of gravy if he does,'' Riggleman said. "I'd love for him to pitch for us. I'd love to have him feel good about how he pitched going into the offseason, with a plan for him, but I can't make it happen."

I'd say the chances of trading Bedard in the offseason are extremely slim if he can't get back on the mound this year (or even if he does). So look for the big lug to be back in the Mariners' rotation next year -- provided his left shoulder allows it.


Lineups

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Jeremy Reed CF
Raul Ibanez DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Lopez 2B
Jeff Clement C
Wladimir Balentien LF
Bryan LaHair 1B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS

R.A. Dickey P

White Sox

Orlando Cabrera SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Carlos Quentin LF
Ken Griffey Jr. DH
Paul Konerko 1B
Nick Swisher RF
Alexei Ramirez 2B
DeWayne Wise CF
Juan Uribe 3B

Gavin Floyd P

(The White Sox made a late lineup change, scratching Jim Thome, moving Griffey from RF to DH, Swisher from CF to RF, and DeWayne Wise to center field. Not sure yet what's wrong withThome. Interesting that Griffey was originally playing right and not center).

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August 20, 2008 8:45 AM

How winning teams do it

Posted by Geoff Baker

No, I'm not going to get into a whole dissection of Felix Hernandez's bad night. Been a while since he got shelled like that. It happens. Pitchers have bad games. In fact, he hasn't given up two home runs, gone only five innings and given up five runs or more all at the same time in a game all season. Last time he went at least five innings and failed to get a strikeout in any game? It's never happened. That was a first. The only other time he's failed to log a strikeout in a start came in April of last season when he was sidelined by an elbow injury in the first inning against the Twins.

Anyhow, if not for Hernandez buckling down, which he did in that fourth inning, he probably would have allowed six runs over just 3-plus innings. So, it could have been worse. These White Sox have made good pitchers look bad all season, so don't sweat it. It's one game.

On to today's topic. We've spilled a lot of words this season over the M's clubhouse culture and the things they don't seem to do right. Bill Bavasi got the ball rolling back in May, and the subject keeps coming up. I know many of you have followed the happenings with the Tampa Bay Rays, specifically the travails of young phenom B.J. Upton, a good player with some bad habits. These habits include loafing it on the basepaths. He's already been benched twice in the past few weeks for not running hard down to first base.

After the first benching, some of you compared his situation to how the Mariners might have handled a similar event with one of their young players. You were surprised that a team in first place might take such action for a first time offense. But, as many of you noted, good teams do tend to try to snuff out these little brush fires with quick, decisive action, rather than letting them grow into something more serious.

It's August. Players do tend to loaf all across the game.

Anyhow, Upton was at it again a couple of nights ago, this time getting thrown out at second after cruising in to the bag on what should have been a double. He apologized for his actions when speaking to reporters on Tuesday. And this time, he wasn't benched. No, what interested me was how manager Joe Maddon decided to deal with Upton this time. Here's the account from the Associated Press version of the story:

Maddon, however, did not take him out of the game Monday night. Instead, he left it to veterans such as Cliff Floyd and Carlos Pena to take up the issue with Upton.

Floyd vowed, "He's going to get it right, trust me."

And that, folks, short and sweet, is what good clubhouses do. Some of you might not like the methods, which can include throwing folks up against walls if talking does not drive the message home. But the message will eventually be driven home, one way or the other. I have no idea how Floyd planned to make his point. I mean, he seems supremely confident that Upton will listen to him. Must be an engaging fellow. I don't know, Floyd has always seemed a nice enough guy, so perhaps he merely plans to talk to Upton over some coffee. But at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he can probably be pretty persuassive with somebody who tries to blow him off. Pena is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Upton is 6-foot-3, 185 pounds. It helps that both Floyd and Pena are sporting on-base-plus-slugging percentages above .800. Talking is always easier when you can do it on the field as well as off. But, sometimes you make do with what you have.

The New York Times version of the story says:

Maddon did call upon ''the other 24 people'' in the Rays' clubhouse to handle Upton, who is as popular among teammates as he is now frustrating.

So, let the debating begin about what the Rays should do next.

"It's the way it should be,'' Maddon said (of clubhouse enforcement). "And it's how these things should be handled. I really want to move beyond all this. The focus needs to be on how well we are playing and the accomplishments of these guys in (Monday's) game.''

There's more.

Floyd was very hurt by the event and told reporters he would "put his butt on the line" to fix the situation.

By the way, Floyd is talking to reporters, referring directly to Upton and saying he plans to take action, before actually speaking to the player. Just thought I'd point that out. In fact, this whole thing, I'd say, has been handled rather publicly by Maddon, Floyd and the Rays. Not really being kept "in-house". Or is it? What constitutes in-house? Maybe that's something else to talk about today.

Anyhow, I'm pretty sure Upton won't be goofing off on the bases again anytime soon. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing. As can be staring down the wrong end of a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder's cocked fist as the wall presses against the back of your neck.

Sigh.

As for the Mariners? Heck, Hernandez could have thrown nine innings of one-run ball and still lost this game. So much for Seattle's 15 hits on Monday being a sign of something to come. The Apocalypse, maybe? For me, seeing Jarrod Washburn get out-slugged the night before was more disappointing because his team had at least done a few of the things necessary to win.

But when you don't score runs, nor help out on defense, a pitcher will usually wind up losing the game. Hernandez wasn't helped all that much by Wladimir Balentien's defense on that A.J. Pierzynski double in the third inning. But he's used to that, I'm sure. The Mariners defenders have made a lot of starting pitchers work harder than they had to this month. I think I heard somewhere that they aren't happy.

Oh well, so Hernandez couldn't "stop" this onslaught. What a road trip. It concludes today with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, the way these White Sox have scorched any balls up in the zone. We'll see. Happy Dickey Day?


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