Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
April 12, 2009 6:01 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
The voices of reason inside the clubhouse today were pleading with folks not to go too crazy with this latest win, the sweep of the Oakland A's, or this 5-2 start to the season. But it's tough not to sense the growing excitement with this team, especially the way Erik Bedard looked today - like a second ace to go along with Felix Hernandez.
David Aardsma made things interesting in the ninth, walking Matt Holliday to put two on with two out. But then, in an epic, nine-pitch battle with Jack Cust, Aardsma refused to give in and kept throwing fastball after fastball.
Cust finally flied out to left.
"He's a good hitter, but right there I could tell that he was behind it and he wasn't catching up to it,'' Aardsma said. "That's one philosophy I've always had. No matter who it is at the plate, if they're not catching up to it, why change? If I'm throwing sliders and it's working, why throw a fastball? Why throw anything else? And right there,(catcher) Rob (Johnson) came out and said 'It's coming in real good, keep bringing it and let's see what happens from there.'''
Not all pitchers adhere to that reasoning. And many wind up paying a steep price.
"I've had plenty of times where I've gone, switched up my pitches and gotten hurt,'' Aardsma said with a chuckle. "Or made mistakes. But you know, it's not perfect but it's something I live by.''
Aardsma insisted he wasn't pitching around the dangerous Holliday after striking out Jason Giambi. After all, Holliday represented the winning run. But Aardsma also wasn't going to put a pitch in his wheelhouse.
"I wasn't trying to pitch around Holliday by any means,'' he said. "But, I did know we had an open base. Even though he's the winning run, we did have an open base. And that creates a lot more force plays in case anybody has to dive at some point. But I threw a couple of balls and at that point, why give in to him? He's too good of a hitter to give him a chance. He's a very good hitter and I don't want to give him a chance to win with a count like that.''
Bedard was his usual low-key, composed self, which undoubtedly helped him out on the mound as he and Cahill engaged in a tight mound duel.
"I guess there's just more intensity because everybody's trying to get on base and score the first run,'' Bedard said. "But it's really exciting.''
That it was. Mariners catcher Johnson, who has now taken two starters through eight innings, was raving about Bedard's stuff afterwards.
"He was on, man,'' he said. "He was on with every pitch. Obviously, Erik's demeanor is very relaxed. Even more so, he just looked to me like he was real comfortable.''
The key to his success at keeping hitters off
"He was able to throw his sinker to both sides of the plate,'' he said. "And then, obviously they didn't see as many curveballs thrown. And then, late in the game, they saw more curveballs and nobody could hit him. When nobody sees his curveballs right away, it makes him that much nastier after the game.''
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and GM Jack Zduriencik both heaped praise on Bedard, who looked like he finally arrived today -- a full year after the trade of five players to Baltimore.
"It's a long season,'' Mike Sweeney cautioned. "We're not going to get too high or too low this early. But we're playing good baseball and we've come together as a team.''
Sweeney of course, came up with a huge RBI for the second straight day against a right-handed pitcher. When the season began, it was assumed Sweeney would be primarily facing southpaws as either a platoon DH or first baseman.
But on Friday night, manager Wakamatsu let Sweeney stay in against right-handed reliever Sean Gallagher and brought home a key insurance run with a ninth-inning single. Today, Sweeney delivered the winning hit - and the game's only run - in the seventh inning when his line drive off right hander Trevor Cahill got past center fielder Rajai Davis for a double.
"Probably due to my injuries and maybe my lack of production the past couple of years, I've been relegated to mostly hitting against lefties,'' Sweeney said. "Personally, I feel just as comfortable if not more comfortable against righties.''
The wrist injury Saturday to Wladimir Balentien, who still had some swelling in his elbow area this morning and is listed as day-to-day, meant Sweeney got to play instead of having the day off as planned.
This team looked real good this entire week. With two guys looking like aces - at least right now - and a team playing as a team, there is some potential here. Let's see what this next week brings.