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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 23, 2008 9:51 PM

Quick, efficient loss

Posted by Geoff Baker

wash0823 015.jpg

Jose Lopez goes down swinging in the ninth as the Mariners are retired 1-2-3 and handed a 5-1 loss by the Oakland Athletics. Jarrod Washburn takes the loss, providing much celebration around parts of the blogosphere, I'm sure. Anyhow, this was one night in which he pitched well enough to lose. He wasn't all that sharp and the game seemed over when Daric Barton opened the scoring with that two-run homer in the fourth.

A sad commentary on his team, no doubt.

By the way, to Lucky in the comments thread, nice poem. Funny stuff. Beltre did hit the ball hard three times tonight and no, he did not get lucky.

To Bruce, if you don't like what I'm writing, stop reading. Please. There are tens of thousands of others reading this every day, even now. If you want straight reporting, you can read our paper's city hall overage. This is a blog.

I know Oly Mike in the comments thread -- whose stuff I often agree with -- wants older pitchers on this team to "fess up to reality" but here's some reality for you:

Washburn has thrown nine "quality starts" in his last 14 outings. He's got three wins to show for it. I've never seen that happen in 11 years of covering baseball. I'm sure it has happened before. But it's unusual, no matter what his flyball rate, or line drive rate happens to be.

That's the pitcher he is. He was 19 games over .500 when he arrived in Seattle in 2006 and he's been 20 games under .500 as a Mariner. Is it the pitcher or the team? The reality is, if pitchers with a 3.83 ERA, throwing six or more innings most times out over three-month stretches can't win more than once a month in Seattle, it's time to blow up the team around those pitchers.

Or else, the only way Felix Hernandez will ever be a Cy Young contender is by throwing complete-game shutouts every time. You've got another year, tops, to convince Hernandez that Seattle is a place worth sticking around. It isn't going to happen with an offense and defense playing like this around its starting pitchers. You had three straight solid outings by starters against the A's and none could notch a victory.

We know Washburn is a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. We know. Should he have been traded? Probably.

But has his stuff been Jeff Weaver awful? No. Yes, he makes a lot of money. A whole bunch of Mariners make too much money, in the eyes of folks around baseball. But what are you going to do? The Mariners paid it to them. I understand your frustration at that.

"As usual, Wash gave us a chance,'' Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said, adding that his pitcher had been feeling banged-up heading into the game. "He kept us in the game.''

Not everyone on this team is going to throw like Hernandez. But when a guy gives up only three runs over six innings, you expect him to win maybe half the time. Not a third of the time.

"I don't get it,'' Washburn said. "It would make sense to me if it happened for a year. But not for three.''

Again, he's no 20-game winner. But Miguel Batista won 16 games last year pitching roughly as well as Washburn did. He's frustrated by the lack of results. Pitchers don't go home at year's end and say "Hooray, I kept my line drive rate under 20 percent!"

Things are a lot more basic than that in the big leagues. Believe me, Hernandez is taking notice. Why wouldn't he? He's pitched outstanding at times, and has seven victories to show for it.

Washburn's stuff was not his best tonight. He fell behind a few too many hitters. Said his splitter hasn't worked well for much of August and he did indeed bounce some in the dirt tonight. But he doesn't use it all that often and was more upset with himself for falling behind Frank Thomas and then Daric Barton in that home run at-bat.

Anyhow, the sun has set on another loss. If the M's can't do better than split or lose three of four to an Oakland squad this bad, then the franchise record for defeats should be well at-hand. And then, perhaps the Mariners can go out and land that Steven Strasburg guy.

But here's the thing. It won't matter one bit if Strasburg throws qualiity starts every time out and loses every game. This franchise needs help. It has too many players who don't do what it takes to win. Night after night. This is a team that can entertain and make some games look good. Just like the Washington Generals. That's what you have here. With the Harlem Globetrotters finishing them off every time.

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