Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
August 21, 2008 10:45 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Yuniesky Betancourt, pictured above (photo may not be according to scale), did not receive an error when he failed to catch that low throw from Jeremy Reed in the ninth inning. It wasn't a very good throw to second by newly-installed first baseman Reed, after the M's had picked off a would-be base-stealer. But it was also a very difficult throw. And low, but not an impossible one to catch. But yes, it was low. I would like to see the so-called best defensive shortstop in the AL (which I hear from folks around baseball all the time, if not necessarily those watching him actually play every night) make a play like that once in a while. Betancourt does not make enough of them.
Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said he wanted to keep Bryan LaHair around as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, which is why he put Reed at first base for the top of the frame. Had Seattle tied the score in the eighth, LaHair would have gone in the game defensively. But they didn't. So Reed had to make a tough throw withoiut much preparation at doing it.
"It's not an easy throw,'' Riggleman said. "It's probably easier for a lefthanded thrower (which Reed is). But with Jeremy getting some work at first base before the ballgame it's not a play you usually work on. He probably hasn't made that throw since he was in college.''
But plenty of shortstops make that catch, or at least do a better job of getting their glove in front of the ball to keep it from getting to the outfield. I don't want to make this "Pick on Betancourt Week" because he's had a rough go of it this year. And I don't want to make it sound like it was an easy catch to make with the ball at the runner's feet. But if you're going to be a starting shortstop in the majors, you have to be able to do something special once in a while to help your team win. When's the last time he's done that? On offense or on defense? If he's stopped being special, it's time to take a hard look at his future. Because just being ordinary with the glove isn't going to cut it for a .600 OPS guy.
And so, the Mariners give up a valuable insurance run on an ensuing single which changes the entire complexion of the following half-inning when Tug Hulett hit a one-out double off Brad Ziegler to put runners at second and third.
I mean, if you're only down one run, you have a pretty good shot to tie the game (even if you are the M's and excel at blowing such chances). But Ziegler had the two-run cushion thanks to the throwing error by Reed and was able to pitch out of the jam. How did he do this? Well, by getting a certain Mariner to hit into a double-play with the bases juiced. You can see it in the photo below. How did I know to train my camera on the action beforehand? Lucky guess.
So, Betancourt gets tonight's honorary lunchbox handed to him. A 2-0 loss. Seven losses in a row.
Ryan Rowland-Smith pitched a great game, allowing the one run over seven innings.
"There have been times, in the fifth or sixth inning, before I was stretched out, that I would get tired,'' Rowland-Smith said after striking out six and yielding only four hits during his 114-pitch performance, his longest since joining the starting rotation full-time two weeks ago. "Not physically, but more mentally. Now, I'm used to it.
"I think it's more just staying within myself, having a good pace, but then slowing it down and executing pitches when I need to.''
The rest of his team needed to follow suit.