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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 31, 2010 11:14 PM

Daren Brown says stressful innings caused him to pull Felix Hernandez after seven

Posted by Geoff Baker

Lots of talk these days about protecting young pitchers, what with the Tommy John ligament transplant surgery coming up for Stephen Strasburg. Felix Hernandez had an elbow problem three years ago and the M's are keeping a close eye on his workload.

Tonight, he was pulled after only 103 pitches through seven. His last time out, he threw 122 against Boston and then was given an extra day of rest.

But Brown pointed to that bases-loaded, one out jam in the second inning and then another point, in the seventh, in which Hernandez had to escape with a runner on second and one out. If not for those, he said, he might have sent him back out there in the eighth.

"I would consider it,'' he said. "I know he's working in six days' rest and we did give him the extra day this time. But he did throw 122 his last time out. And in a couple of innings, he's working hard to get out of the inning.''

They call them "stressful innings'' in baseball parlance, though I'm not too sure how stressful these were for Hernandez. Other than the one big inning, he allowed just three hits and six runners all night.

Afterwards, I asked Hernandez how much such innings really impact his arm stress-wise. He told me he doesn't put much strain on the arm in those moments because it's too important to make his pitches and avoid overthrowing. Interesting thought.

Not that it matters, because the M's seem to have decided that anything over 100 pitches is getting into risky territory for their ace. That's making this whole Cy Young Award thing a little trickier for a pitcher who has to dominate other categories and hope people forget about his 10-10 record.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 31, 2010 9:47 PM

Mariners 3, Angels 1: M's score three in eighth, but too late for Felix Hernandez

Posted by Geoff Baker

Just as manager Daren Brown planned it, no doubt: get Felix Hernandez out of there after 103 pitches through seven innings, then let the offense score three in the eighth to overcome a 1-0 deficit and win.

The M's stranded 10 runners tonight, but got enough home in the eighth on a Michael Saunders sac fly and singles by Adam Moore and Josh Wilson. Hey, they'll take it.

It's too late to help Hernandez boost his 10-10 record. Hernandez fanned eight, hitting the 10-mark to tie for the league lead. His ERA is down to 2.38 and firmly ensconced in second place in the AL.

His innings pitched are at a runaway 211 1/3 for the league lead.

Yes, he's a Cy Young contender. Anyone who disagrees has not been paying attention.

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August 31, 2010 9:16 PM

Los Angeles Angels at Mariners: Aug. 31, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

Felix Hernandez is done after seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball. He lowered his ERA to 2.38, but once again will be denied a win because the Mariners did not score a single run off Dan Haren despite seven hits so far.

Seattle actually now trails 1-0 after Brandon League came on in the eighth and yielded back-to-back doubles to Alberto Callaspo and Howie Kendrick. Hernandez is no longer the pitcher of record, so he'll stay at 10-10.

But I can't believe Hernandez would be too happy with this decision. He'd thrown 103 pitches when taken out. His last start was six days ago in Boston, so he was working on extra rest. He's the staff ace and he's vying for a Cy Young.

The Mariners, though, seem committed to preserving his arm. It's a tough one, but I don't think sending a staff ace back out for the eighth inning on 103 pitches constitutes abuse.

Seattle is now poised to lose its 81st game after the new pitcher gave up two extra base hits to two batters when his predecessor allowed just three singles over seven innings. Tough pill to swallow -- for Hernandez more than anyone.

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August 31, 2010 5:13 PM

Mariners relief pitcher Shawn Kelley having exploratory surgery tomorrow on elbow

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Shawn Kelley has been away from the team for a bit as his wife was having a baby. Now, he's going to finally have that exploratory surgery tomorrow in Anaheim with Dr. Lewis Yocum on the right elbow that's kept him out of action since June 16. If the surgery uncovers something, the idea is to try to fix it right away rather than go back in for a second operation later on.

"It's just to kind of see tomorrow what's going on and then take care of it,'' Mariners manager Daren Brown said.

Kelley has known for some time he'd need surgery.

"He's been busy for the past couple of weeks and it's something where we pushed back the surgery and now he's going to get that done tomorrow.''

Kelley has already undergone so-called "Tommy John" surgery in 2003, where a ligament is transplanted from another part of the body to repair the damaged ulnar collateral ligament in a pitcher's elbow.

"We all know what he's had done before,'' Brown said. "Hopefully, this is something they can fix and have him ready for spring training.''

And yes, if Kelley needs more Tommy John surgery, Yocum is prepared to do it right away.

Brown was also asked about last night's baserunning gaffe involving Franklin Gutierrez.

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August 30, 2010 10:48 PM

Gutierrez says "it was obvious" he was safe in ninth

Posted by Larry Stone

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(Franklin Gutierrez watches Bobby Abreu's homer in the sixth inning, one of three off David Pauley in the inning. Photo by Associated Press)

After being a yawner for five innings, this one got pretty interesting in the latter stages. Franklin Gutierrez still couldn't believe he was called out at second base in the ninth when he scrambled back to the bag on his double (originally ruled a two-base error on center fielder Peter Bourjos.)

"I don't know what he was seeing,'' Gutierrez said of umpire Jerry Meals. "I thought I was safe; he called me out. There's nothing to say. I saw a replay. It was obvious.''

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August 30, 2010 6:50 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Angels, Aug. 30: Angels win 5-3

Posted by Larry Stone

Scoring change in ninth: Take away two-base error from Bourjos and give a double to Gutierrez.

MARINERS NINTH:They score one off Fernando Rodney, but a base running gaffe by Gutierrez (and a dubious call by umpire Jerry Meals) mutes the rally. Angels win 5-3.

MARINERS SEVENTH:The Mariners score two with lots of help from the Angels, starting with a pop fly that drops between 3B Callaspo and SS Aybar as they each look at the other. Then another hit by Gutierrez, a wild pitch, a Saunders fly to right that Hunter gets a bad jump on and it drops for RBI single, and sac fly by Moore. 4-2 Angels.

ANGELS SIXTH:The Angels end their scoring drought with a vengeance -- three home runs, by Peter Bourjos (solo), Bobby Abreu (solo) and Hideki Matsui (two-run). They had gone 31 innings -- two shy of the club record -- without scoring. But now they lead 4-0.

ANGELS FIFTH:Josh Wilson just started the double play of the year, making a diving stop of Jeff Mathis's hard grounder up the middle, then flipping with his glove to Figgins, who made a nice turn to nail Mathis handily. 0-0.

MARINERS FOURTH:Russ Branyan leads off by crushing a double off the right-field wall. Well, that sounds promising, doesn't it? Uh, not so fast. Lopez: Whiff. Kotchman: Whiff. Gutierrez: Whiff. Still 0-0.

ANGELS FOURTH:Angels get their first hit off Pauley -- a one-out single by Torii Hunter -- and it's promptly erased on a double-play ball by Hideki Matsui (3-6-3). That's 30 consecutive scoreless innings for the Angels. 0-0.

MARINERS THIRD:Another Ichiro single-stolen base combo -- this time with two outs -- goes for naught. 0-0.

ANGELS THIRD:Pauley strands Bourjos at second after Bourjos is hit by a pitch and steals second with one out. I guess my original thought about a 20-inning scoreless tie is looking better. 0-0.

MARINERS SECOND: Tough break for the Mariners, as Franklin Gutierrez scorches a drive off the scoreboard in left field, but is gunned down at third by center fielder Peter Bourjos going for a triple. Close play, but the replay shows he was out, I'd say. 0-0.

ANGELS SECOND: Pauley walks Hideki Matsui with one out, but Angels make two quick outs. 0-0

MARINERS FIRST:They get Ichiro to second on a single (his 166th hit of the year and stolen base (No. 33, on a swinging strikeout by Russ Branyan for the second out. But Jose Lopez's line drive down the first-base line is snared by Juan Rivera for the third out. 0-0.

ANGELS FIRST: The Angels' scoreless streak reaches 27 innings as Pauley has an easy 13-pitch, three-up, three-down first. The Angel record for consecutive scoreless innings is 33 (2004 and 1963). 0-0.

I'm predicting a slugfest, because that's the last thing you'd expect. The Angels are working on a 26-inning scoreless streak, having plated exactly one (1) run in their just-concluded three-game series with Baltimore. And that came on a balk in the first inning of Game 1. No need to detail the Mariners' offensive woes. I'd expect a 20-inning scoreless tie, except it never works that way. More likely, 14-13.

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August 30, 2010 4:51 PM

Michael Saunders returns to Mariner lineup

Posted by Larry Stone

Way back in April, this Mariners-Angels series figured to be a huge matchup with major playoff implications. But the M's playoff aspirations expired months ago, while the Angels are in dire straits, five games under .500 (63-68) and 10 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West. The Angels have lost three in a row, six of their last seven, and 10 of their last 13.

Here are today's lineups:

Angels

Alberto Callaspo 3B
Howard Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu LF
Torii Hunter RF
Hideki Matsui DH
Juan Rivera 1B
Erick Aybar SS
Jeff Mathis C
Peter Bourjos CF

Ervin Santana RHP (13-9, 4.13)

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Branyan DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Michael Saunders LF
Adam Moore C
Josh Wilson SS

David Pauley RHP (2-5, 4.02)

Continue reading this post ...


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August 29, 2010 12:53 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Twins, Aug. 29: Mariners win, 2-1

Posted by Larry Stone

TWINS NINTH:Aardsma gets 25th save, getting a game-ending double play from Cuddyer after a one-out single by Orlando Hudson. The whole thing took 2 hours and 6 minutes. M's win, 2-1.

TWINS EIGHTH:Ron Gardenhire played the Joe Mauer card, and the Mariners survived. Mauer pinch-hit for Butera after J.J. Hardy got a two-out single off Brandon League. Pinch-runner Alexi Casilla stole second, but Mauer, on a 2-2 pitch, grounded out to second. Jim Thome is still available, but he is still bothered by the bad back that forced him out of Saturday's game. 2-1 Mariners.

MARINERS SEVENTH:The Mariners storm into the lead. Jose Lopez started things off with a one-out single -- Seattle's first hit since the second inning. He moves to second on a Casey Kotchman single, and both move up on a Pavano wild pitch. Franklin Gutierrez hit a drive to left that ate up Delmon Young, who allowed the ball to drop in front of him. Should have been caught, but the tying run scored. Adam Moore hit a slow grounder to short, and the Twins could only get a force at second as Kotchman scored the go-ahead run. 2-1 Mariners.

TWINS SEVENTH:Well, there goes the scoreless tie. Michael Cuddyer is green-lighted 3-0, and crushes a ball into the upper deck in left. 1-0 Twins.

MARINERS SIXTH: Both pitchers have two-hit shutouts through six -- 78 pitches for Pavano, 83 for French. Pavano has retired 13 in a row. M's scoreless streak at 15 innings and counting. They have four hits in that span. 0-0.

TWINS SIXTH:French is matching Pavano zero for zero, in a reprise of that classic Fister-Blackburn duel from Saturday. He's got a two-hitter through six, and one was an infield single on which Figgins could have made a play. 0-0.

MARINERS FIFTH:This is starting to look a lot like yesterday. Carl. Pavano looks like another Nick Blackburn. Three up, three down. Ten in a row put down by Pavano -- six on infield grounders. 0-0.

TWINS FIFTH:A leadoff single by Kubel, but French gets a break when Delmon Young's smash up the middle is deflected off him to Figgins, who throws him out at first. Figgins then makes a nice catch on Valencia's popup to short right, and Repko (from Hanford High School in Richland) flies out. Still 0-0.

MARINERS FOURTH:A very quick inning by Pavano, who gets three ground outs from the middle of the M's order. 0-0.

TWINS FOURTH:French gives up his first hit, an infield single by Denard Span, who is wild-pitched to second. But after an Orlando Hudson ground out, catcher Adam Moore gunned down Span trying to steal third. 0-0.

MARINERS THIRD:Three up, three down. That's 12 consecutive scoreless innings for the Mariners. 0-0.

TWINS THIRD:Since walking leadoff man Dendard Span, French has retired nine in a row. He had an easy 1-2-3 third, striking out Drew Butera looking. 0-0.

MARINERS SECOND:They get runners to first and second with two out (single by Franklin Gutierrez, stolen base, walk to Adam Moore), but Matt Tuiasosopo struck out. 0-0.

MARINERS FIRST:Figgins gets a one-out single, but he's nailed stealing second by Butera on a strike 'em out (Branyan), throw 'em out double play. 0-0.

TWINS FIRST:French goes 0-2 on leadoff man Denard Span, then throws four straight balls. But he strikes out Orlando Hudson and gets Michael Cuddyer to hit into a double play. 0-0.

It's Carl Pavano vs. Luke French, who has the good fortune not to be facing Joe Mauer. The All-World catcher gets the day off, and Drew Butera, son of the esteemed Sal Butera, gets the start behind the plate.

Pretty decent bench for the Twins today -- three-time batting champion and reigning American League MVP Mauer, and 582-homer man Jim Thome. The Mariners have, uh, Ryan Langerhans.

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August 29, 2010 11:57 AM

Saunders update, more Pineda talk

Posted by Larry Stone

It's a pretty quiet day here at Safeco Field, as the Mariners try to break their five-game losing streak against the Twins. Overall, they have lost six of their last seven.

Outfielder Michael Saunders, who hasn't played since Aug. 21 at Yankee Stadium, took swings off a tee today to test his right shoulder, which he bruised colliding with the wall on Aug. 5 against Texas. If he responds well to that, the plan is for Saunders to take batting practice Monday, and provided there are no problems, start against the Angels on Monday night.

"Depending on how he responds, he should be ready to go tomorrow,'' manager Daren Brown said.

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August 29, 2010 11:31 AM

Sunday's lineup, Mariners vs. Twins

Posted by Larry Stone

Twins

Dendard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Michael Cuddyer 1B
Jason Kubel DH
Delmon Young LF
Danny Valencia 3B
Jason Repko RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Drew Butera C

Carl Pavano RHP (15-9, 3.56)

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russell Branyan DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Adam Moore C
Matt Tuiasosopo LF
Josh Wilson SS

Luke French LHP (2-4, 4.57)

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August 28, 2010 4:07 PM

It's official: Michael Pineda shut down for rest of year, has "great chance" to make 2011 club, Zduriencik says

Posted by Larry Stone

Jack Zduriencik held a briefing after the Mariners' 1-0 loss to announce that the team has decided, as expected, to shut down 21-year-old pitcher Michael Pineda for the remainder of the year. There are no physical problems, but the Mariners decided to make the move pre-emptively, because Pineda has reached nearly 140 innings. He threw just 47 last year and also had two stints on the disabled list with elbow problems.

"We've been talking about this for a month or so,'' Zduriencik said. "Michael Pineda will be shut down. The simple reason is innings. We had gauged he would pitch between 140 and 150 inning this year...Our decision was that we think this is a prized product of ours, and it's a guy we want to protect. He's been told this morning it's going to happen."

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August 28, 2010 12:42 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Twins, Aug. 28: M's fall 1-0

Posted by Larry Stone

MARINERS NINTH:Twins win 1-0. Blackburn walked Chone Figgins with two outs to end his string of 22 straight outs,and Ron Gardenhire called on Brian Fuentes -- acquired yesterday from the Angels -- to face Russ Branyan. Good call. Fuentes fanned Branyan on four pitches.

TWINS NINTH:League has an easy 1-2-3 inning. M's have been shut out 11 times this year, tied for most in the AL, but they haven't yet been blanked 1-0. Let's see what happens in bottom of ninth.

MARINERS EIGHTH:More of the same: 1-2-3. Blackburn has now recorded 20 straight outs (starting with a double play to end the second after a Ryan Langerhans walk. 1-0 Twins.

TWINS EIGHTH: And another 4-6-3 double play gets White out of a jam. That's four 4-6-3 DPs today. Try to contain yourself. 1-0 Twins.

(Sean White takes over for Fister in the eighth).

MARINERS SEVENTH:Yawn, 1-2-3 for Blackburn. He's thrown 72 pitches through seven. The Mariners haven't had a hit since the first, or a baserunner since the second. 17 in a row retired by Blackburn. 1-0 Twins.

TWINS SEVENTH:Fister rolls through another inning. Delmon Young got a broken-bat single with one out, but two force outs on grounders to Jose Lopez (who barehanded the first one) ended the inning. Fister has allowed six hits and struck out six through seven. It's 1-0 Twins.

TWINS SIXTH: Fister is pitching a nice game. He walked Jason Kubel with two outs, but got Cuddyer on a dribbler to the mound. Earlier in the inning, he fanned Joe Mauer looking. He has five strike outs. But it's still 1-0 Twins.

MARINERS FIFTH: Another 1-2-3 inning for Blackburn, who entered the game with a 6.49 ERA. He's allowed two hits, both in the first inning. He's retired 11 straight. The only other time he faced the M's this year, Blackburn gave up 10 hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings on June 1. 1-0 Twins.

TWINS FIFTH: Delmon Young leads off with an infield single, but Fister retires the next three with no problem. 1-0 Twins.

MARINERS FOURTH: Blackburn has thrown 39 pitches through four innings, which tells you all you need to know. 1-0 Twins.

(For Walla Walla Girl: The game is on FOX).

TWINS THIRD: Fister gives up a run but does a nice job minimizing the damage after a single, double and RBI single by Span to open up the inning. He struck out Tolbert looking, and got the always-dangeorus Joe Mauer to ground into a double play -- the third of the game so far. 1-0 Twins.

MARINERS SECOND: Equally quick for Nick Blackburn, as a one-out walk to Langerhans is ereased on a Josh Bard 4-6-3 DP. 0-0.

TWINS SECOND: A very quick inning for Fister, as a leadoff single by Michael Cuddyer is erased by a double play,and Delmon Young is retired on a comebacker. 0-0.

MARINERS FIRST: The M's rally with two outs but -- stop me if you've heard this one -- they can't score. A double by Branyan and single by Jose Lopez put runners on the corners,but Kotchman flied out to left for the third out. 0-0.

Update: Hudson's injury is being called a right ankle strain. He's day to day.

TWINS FIRST: Orlando Hudson draws a one-out walk but is stranded there by Doug Fister. Hudson injured his right foot or ankle trying to get back to first after a pitch. He stayed in the game, but has just been replaced defensively by Matt Tolbert. 0-0

One quick health update: Milton Bradley, who underwent right knee surgery on Aug. 17 to repair torn lateral meniscus, is progressing well with his rehab, Daren Brown said. There is an outside chance that Bradley could return for the final week of the season, but that's a longshot. The original prognosis was a four- to six-week recovery.

"Four weeks would put us with about a week left,'' Brown said. "If he's feeling good and everything, you're looking at maybe four, five, six games. At that point, we'll have to assess if it's worth it, or just go into the winter and know he's healthy. That's kind of where we're at with him. To sit here and say, 'Yeah, he'll be back the last week,' I don't think that's fair. We still have a long ways to go as far as the rehab process. As I sit here, my thoughts would be probably we're looking at just making sure he's healthy going into the winter."

And one quick anecdote: As the Mariners headed out onto the field for batting practice, Felix Hernandez passed the media in the dugout and said, "Listen, listen'' while he ran past. As Felix stood on the field smiling a few moments later, the PA system boomed audio of his grand slam off Johan Santana at Shea Stadium in 2008.

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August 28, 2010 11:47 AM

Michael Pineda update and other pre-game notes

Posted by Larry Stone

Here are today's lineups:

Twins

Dendard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Joe Mauer C
Jason Kubel RF
Michael Cuddyer 1B
Jim Thome DH
Delmon Young LF
Danny Valencia 3B
JJ Hardy SS

Nick Blackburn RHP (7-8, 6.49)

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Russ Branyan DH
Jose Lopez 3B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Ryan Langerhans LF
Josh Bard C
Josh Wilson SS

Doug Fister RHP (4-9, 3.87)

There is much speculation that the Mariners will shut down 21-year-old pitcher Michael Pineda, the top prospect in their farm system, for the rest of the season. I talked to Jack Zduriencik, who said that there will be an organizational meeting "in the next day or so" to discuss the matter.

"We'll make the decision that's best for his future, that's in his and our best interests,'' Zduriencik said.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 27, 2010 6:33 PM

Twins at Mariners game thread --- Aug. 27

Posted by Bob Condotta

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POST-GAME --- You can read the game story here for the post-game comments, such as they were. Basically, Jason Vargas said he thought he pitched okay other than a cutter to Danny Valencia that he left too far out over the plate for the triple in the sixth inning. Daren Brown agreed, saying he pitched a lot better than the game against the Yankees last week and that the Twins simply did a good job hitting.

As for the seventh and eighth, Brown just said that the Mariners need to keep getting base runners on and eventually the hits will come.

Reality is that the M's were 3-12 with runners in scoring position today, essentially the same as their overall batting average of .236. So it's really not that they don't hit well with runners in scoring position but that they don't hit well, period.

As for David Aardsma, he hadn't pitched since Aug. 18 when he was hit in the ribs with a batted ball at Baltimore. So Brown said he wanted to get him in the game.

"His stuff was good,'' Brown said. "That was good to see. He looks fine.''

IT'S A FINAL!!!! --- Figgins got a two-out single to score a run in the ninth, but that was it as the Twins leave here with a 6-3 win. Seattle has now lost five of six after starting out 7-3 under Daren Brown.

M'S BLOW GOLDEN CHANCE IN EIGHTH --- The M's had a chance here, loading the bases on a single, error and walk with no outs. But Franklin Gutierrez then popped in foul ground to first on a 2-0 pitch from new reliever Matt Guerrier and Adam Moore then bounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

So much for that.

RALLY ENDS --- Ichiro reached via an infield single to load the bases. But Figgy then puddined' it to short for a 6-3 that ended the rally. So Minnesota leads 6-2 heading to the eighth.

M'S TRYING --- Three hits here in the seventh have knocked Twins starter Scott Baker (is he related to Geoff?) out of the game. So Seattle is down 6-2 with two on, two out and Ichiro up against Randy Flores.

MAURER DOUBLE SCORES ONE MORE --- Getting pretty perfunctory now as the Twins now lead 6-1 heading to the bottom of the seventh after doubles by Hudson and Maurer, the latter just getting by a diving Matt Tuiasosopo in left.

OLSON NOW PITCHING FOR M'S --- Nothing for M's in sixth and Garrett Olson now on to pitch.

TWINS OPEN IT UP ---- Vargas got beat around in that inning as two straight hits and a Drew Valencia triple to right-center made it 4-1. Valencia then came home on an infield single by Alexi Casilla to make it 5-1. We've got the hydro races going on as I type this and that --- and the Ichiro bobbleheads --- may turn out to be the highlights of this night.

VARGAS SETTLING DOWN --- After throwing 28 pitches in the first inning, Jason Vargas has now thrown 77 through five. He got hte Twins 1-2-3 in the fifth leaving the M's down 2-1.

STILL 2-1 AFTER FOUR --- Nothing much in the fourth for either team so still 2-1 heading to the fifth. Gutierrez is 0-2 and is in an 0-17 slump.

ICHIRO TRIPLE LEADS TO A RUN --- What may be the most exciting play at Safeco Field --- an Ichiro triple --- led to a run in the top of the third. It's a unique sound to hear the cheer steadily rising as it becomes evident he's going for third. A Lopez double play killed the inning, however, so it's 2-1 Twins.

TWINS, A HIT AND NOTHING ELSE IN THIRD --- Maurer had a one-out hit to right, but then followed two popups to first base and the waiting glove of Kotchman, so still 2-0 Twins.

NOTHING FOR M'S IN SECOND --- Single by Moore and walk by Tuiasosopo with two outs ignited a little excitement. But Wilson then broke his bat on a grounder to short and that was that.

TOUGH ERROR FOR ICHIRO? --- Twins get another on a walk, hit, passed ball and then a sac fly to right. Ichiro tried to get the runner (Repko) at home but the throw bounced in front of Moore and then got away for what was called an error on Ichiro for allowing the other runner (Casilla) to advance. So it's 2-0 Twins.

1-0 AT END OF FIRST --- Figgings walked with one out and Branyan then hit a long foul down the right field line. But that was all there was as Branyan then struck out and Lopez grounded out.

TWINS GET ONE --- The Twins got three straight hits to start the game, but got just one run out of it as the M's threw Denard Span out at the plate after a double by Orlando Hudson on a nice throw by Franklin Gutierrez and tag by Adam Moore. So it's 1-0 Twins.

PRE-GAME --- Well, I'll be curious to see if there's anyone out there following along tonight (pictured above is the scene about a half-hour before first pitch on what will be a chilly night out here by the time it's done). With football a week away, lots else going on in Seattle this weekend, and the Mariners more out of it than Jerry Garcia in the '70s, feels pretty irrelevant out here. On the other hand, it's a Major League Baseball game, and even the worst of those is better than the best of most other of life's activities.

Anyway, I'll pass along the highlights from here as they occur.

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August 27, 2010 4:52 PM

Mariners pre-game notes --- Littlewood in the house

Posted by Bob Condotta

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Covering the Mariners in place of Geoff Baker tonight, and lots has changed since I was last here in June on what was the team's Family Day. My last memory of this press box before today was seeing Cliff Lee and his family posing for pictures along the first base line.

The focus of this season obviously changed long ago.

But it was reinforced here today when the big pre-game news was that the team's second-round pick, Marcus Littlewood, was in town to take some batting practice (that's him being interviewed in the dugout).

Littlewood, a switch-hitter who will start his Mariner career at shortstop, signed on the deadline last week for a reported $900,000.

Not that he's gotten to enjoy it yet --- he won't get any money until 30 days after his physical, which he took last week.

Littlewood took some batting practice early, then was expected to take some more in the last group of the regular session.

"It's awesome,'' he said of hitting in a Major League park in a Major League uniform. "Hopefully in a couple of years I have the same opportunity.''

Littlewood spent the last few days at the Arizona Rookie League. He said after his weekend here he'll get ready for the Instructional League in September, then take the off-season to prepare for spring training.

He was the 67th overall pick in the draft and had already signed with University of San Diego, which he said complicated his decision to sign.

"It was stressful for about a month coming up to the deadline,'' he said. "It was such a relief to sign and get it over with. Every single day it was contemplating the pros and cons of both sides, school or pro ball reall. I'm happy I got the chance to sign.''

Littlewood said he's 6-3 and 195 --- he was the Utah state high school player of the year last spring as a senior, hitting .538 with eight homers and 27 RBI.

While he'll start at shortstop, he said he's happy to move if the team wants.

"If i have to move, it's fine,'' he said. "I don't have any problem with moving. I played every infield position, so I feel comfortable at any of those spots.''

Littlewood said he didn't know if he hit any out, saying that he didn't look because
"it's not what you do. You kind of hit it and go after the next one.''

IN OTHER NEWS. ...

--- In the only real news to emerge from manager Daren Brown's pre-game meeting with the media, he said that an MRI on Michael Saunders' right shoulder showed no damage and he could be back Monday. Saunders hurt his shoulder running into the wall against Texas during the last homestand. He'd still been bothered by it during the last road trip so they had the MRI. "There's no damage,'' Brown said. "It will be a couple days before he's ready to go as far as throwing and swinging the bat, but we're looking at he should be ready to go on Monday, which is good news for us and frees his mind up a little bit that there's nothing wrong.''

--- There's been lots of conjecture about the Mariners shutting down prized AAA pitcher Michael Pineda for the rest of the year. But word here today is that no decision has been made yet, though it could come in a couple days.

--- The Twins acquired reliever and former Mariner Brian Fuentes today from the Angels for a player to be named later (though probably not Joe Maurer). But he won't be here until Saturday.

Finally, here's the lineup for tonight:

MARINERS
Ichiro, RF
Chone Figgins, 2B
Russell Branyan, DH
Jose Lopez, 3B
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Franklin Guiterrez, CF
Adam Moore, C
Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
Josh Wilson, SS

TWINS
Denard Span, CF
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Joe Maurer, DH
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Danny Valencia, 3B
Jason Repko, RF
Alexi Casilla, SS
Drew Butera, C

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August 26, 2010 9:37 AM

Felix Hernandez selling East Coast on his Cy Young Award credentials. How about the West Coast?

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Good morning to all of you. The Mariners flew home last night, having salvaged a .500 record on their longest trip of the year. Considering they went to New York and Boston, that rates as a bigger accomplishment than most probably thought they'd manage. Of course, it helps to have Felix Hernandez in the rotation and the M's did, in fact, ride him to win their only games against the Yankees and Red Sox.

Hernandez allowed just one earned run versus those two AL East behemoths over 15 1/3 innings. That's one reason why he's starting to win over fans in that part of the country when it comes to his Cy Young Award credentials.

This guy writes the obvious, from Red Sox territory in Maine: Everything about Hernandez screams Cy Young except for his record.

There's this bit from Knox Bardeen over at Fanhouse.

Felix Hernandez was, once again, fabulous on Wednesday. In 7 1/3 innings he struck out nine batters and gave up just four hits, lowering his ERA to 2.47. Everything about Hernandez screams Cy Young, except his 10 losses. Playing for Seattle has really hurt him in 2010.

But why should it hurt him?

At the risk of borrowing from a widely-used writing format, let me again make the point:

PITCHER A -- 3.02 ERA, 187 2/3 IP, 151 K, 3.88 xFIP

PITCHER B -- 2.47 ERA, 204 1/3 IP, 192 K, 3.26 xFIP

PITCHER C -- 2.97 ERA, 157 2/3 IP, 151 K, 4.00 xFIP

On all planets, pitcher B should be the top guy. Pitchers A and C are C.C. Sabathia and David Price, respectively, the two guys a lot of folks -- including readers of this blog -- are touting as front-runners for the Cy Young race. I don't get it. How can Price even be called a frontrunner when pitcher B -- Hernandez, obviously -- has thrown 47 more innings than him? That's a diference of more than five complete games! Of nearly seven more seven-inning starts! How does that compute?

The only way is, if people still think won-loss records mean something.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 25, 2010 4:04 PM

Mariners at Boston Red Sox: Aug. 25, 2010 Game 2 thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Well, the Mariners lost their fourth in a row, 5-3, earlier today, to the Boston Red Sox. Seattle wasn't really in the game until they got a three-run seventh inning, thanks to homers from Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman, who is suddenly streaking.

But before that, it was 4-0 and the M's had an infield hit in six innings off John Lackey. It is what it is. The team is now 5-6 on the road trip and caps it tonight with Felix Hernandez going against Tim Wakefield, who replaces Jon Lester, who will start later in the week because of the health of Daisuke Matsuzaka.

A bit of a break for the M's there.

For me, Hernandez is the one thing worth watching about this team now. Hernandez is slowly working his way into Cy Young Award consideration and it isn't just me noticing. Folks around the country are picking up on how good he's been when you remove a won-lost record beyond his control.

This website I've linked to allows you to see what ESPN's Buster Olney thinks about the race. He's a pretty influential guy.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 25, 2010 10:40 AM

Mariners at Boston Red Sox: Aug. 25, 2010 Game 1 thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

We've got David "Rain Man" Pauley taking on Josh Beckett in this afternoon's delayed opener. There was a deluge of rain all night long and it didn't start to taper off until about an hour ago.

Pauley has been a wet weather pitcher all season down in Class AAA Tacoma. So, he's got the conditions he's been looking for.

I'm working on an assignment this afternoon, so my posts to this blog will be infrequent throughout the day.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 25, 2010 8:34 AM

Cliff Lee controversy on ESPN radio is just plain dumb

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Sitting here on a pouring Wednesday morning in Boston. Don't see how they play baseball today unless they do it under water.

So, let's dive into a nice topic that I first read about yesterday while trying to swim to Fenway Park. It seems that ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd, who can be heard locally in Seattle and used to work in Portland, suggested over the airwaves this week that an anonymous source told him that Cliff Lee hates it in Texas.

Cowherd then used that information to jump to a conclusion that Lee was "mailing it in" against the Baltimore Orioles this past weekend because his heart wasn't in it. That he only gets up for the better teams.

That conclusion is just plain dumb on so many levels that I don't know where to begin. First off, Lee just may hate it in Texas. He may have hated it in Seattle too for all I know. Not like he had much of a summer to enjoy. Two days worth.

But to say he's tanking it? Now? OK, if you're going to make the accusation, just like prosecutors in a courtroom, you need a motive. What is Lee's motive?

If he was going to tank it, he'd have done so in Seattle, where his team was falling apart around him. Instead, Lee was simply the league's best pitcher at the time and even helped call a team meeting. Sound like a guy tanking it?

Now, with Texas, he has a shot at a Cy Young Award and at achieving a history-making 15-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He's on the verge of the biggest payday of his career and will be printing even more money this off-season with each added victory and lower ERA score. Oh yeah, there's that whole winning a division title thing to get a shot at a World Series.

So, where is the motive to tank it? I don't see it.

Lee doesn't see it either.

"It's a lie," Lee told a local ESPN website reporter. "Write that. Are you writing? Write that it's a lie. I did not say that and nobody close to me would say that. Either say who the source is or shut up because I am saying it is not true."

Does Cowherd have information to the contrary? If so, he'd better step up or back down.

We discussed this yesterday on the blog when we talked about the perils of anonymous sources and how they should be used selectively.

Photo Credit: AP

Continue reading this post ...


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August 24, 2010 4:51 PM

Mariners rained out, doubleheader tomorrow

Posted by Geoff Baker

No, it's not merely raining outside. It's a monsoon. And tonight's game has been cancelled and will be rescheduled tomorrow as part of a day-night doubleheader. First game is at 10:35 a.m. (Pacific), followed by another at 4:05 p.m.

The Mariners will keep their rotation on-course, with David Pauley in the first game and Felix Hernandez after that.

The Red Sox will counter with Josh Beckett and then Jon Lester.


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August 24, 2010 7:56 AM

Call me an idiot, Mariners fans. Just don't call me an idiot on steroids

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Now that I've got your attention with the headline, one of our longtime readers sent me a link to this story in our newspaper. And wow, do I wish it had been published back in June of last year.

You'll remember how we engaged in one of our typically healthy debates back then about Jerod Morris, a blogger who seemed to suggest in a headline and the text of his post that Raul Ibanez was taking steroids.

That spurred all type of arguing back and forth, but the more depressing upshot I took away from it was that there are thousands, if not millions of people out there who believe that blogs are not held to as high a standard as traditional media when it comes to truth and libel law and that just about anything can be written on the internet.

Not true. And the story I've linked to spells that out.

Let's not get into the technicalities of what was written in the whole Morris thing again. I know some of you don't feel that he intended to accuse Ibanez, while some of us think he tried to soft-pedal his way in there and did so sloppily. That's ancient history and only the reminder I'm using to bring up the greater issue here.

That even though the public at large now has the power of the written word in its hands like never before, it's a power that must be used wisely.

And once again, let me be clear: nobody has ever produced evidence or made even the most remotely substantiated claim that Ibanez has taken steroids. He is as "clean" as Ken Griffey Jr. or anyone in the game based on what we know. There is a lot we don't know about ballplayers, but nothing we know that can tarnish Ibanez.

I've got to say, I continue to see stuff written on blogs about people -- some public figures, some not -- that I find to be skating on very thin ice.

Here's an excerpt from today's story.

In western Pennsylvania, a judge recently ruled a community website must identify the Internet address of individuals who posted comments calling a township official a "jerk" who put money from the taxpayers in "his pocket." The official also owned a used-car dealership, and one commenter called his cars "junk." The official sued for defamation, saying the comments were false and damaged his reputation.

So, in the Ibanez case, if it could be proven that Morris was accusing him, or implying that he took steroids, the same claim could be made. After all, it is illegal to possess steroids without a specific perscription for them. In this case, it would be akin to accusing Ibanez of doing something unlawful and hurting his reputation. And could a harmed reputation cause real damage? Ask Roger Clemens. Ask Rafael Palmeiro. Ask Mark McGwire. Ask Barry Bonds. How much is entry to the Hall of Fame worth to them? How much have they spent on legal bills defending their reputations? Those are real damages that could be re-claimed later in a lawsuit.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 23, 2010 8:12 PM

Mariners lost tonight because they couldn't make a play when they really had to

Posted by Geoff Baker

One of the many quirks at Fenway Park, which you can't see on television, is how the clubhouses here are right off the main concourse where fans piur out from the stands after games. So, for us reporters trying to get to the clubhouse door, we have to take an elevator down to the main level, then fight upstream like salmon against thousands of fans exiting at the same time. The clubhouse door opens 10 minutes after the game ends, so you have toi file your post-game internet story and blog post, ride the elevator, then fight through the crowds.

Tonight wasn't as bad as it's been before, since many of the fans actually got a head start towards their cars before the game ended. But I've been meaning to take a video of this for years and thought I'd post one.

Anyhow, Ryan Langerhans learned all about the quirkiness of Fenway in the fifth inning when he tried to catch that Jed Lowrie pop-up down the left field line. Problem is, the stands here are about a foot away from the foul line.

So, when the ball popped out of his glove, Langerhans barely knew what had happened before it hit the wall, bounced back towards him, went off his hip and into the crowd.

Two-base error, three unearned runs later score.

"It's a ball that I should have caught,'' Langerhans said. "I just kind of gator-armed it a little bit. I don't know if I took my eye off it. I haven't had a chance to take a look at it (on video). But it's a play that I probably make 99.9 times out of 100.''

Langerhans wasn't making excuses. And he probably didn't need to. Few on his team seemed up to making a big play when it mattered most.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 23, 2010 6:35 PM

Red Sox 6, Mariners 3: Not quite a UZR demo tonight

Posted by Geoff Baker

Fans of the Gold Gloves, or Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) were likely covering their eyes by the middle innings of this affair, played on a wet, unseasonably cool night in Boston.

The Red Sox helped the M's open the scoring in the third inning on an error by second baseman Jed Lowrie, before Ryan Langerhans booted a popup down the left field line and accidentally knocked the ball into the stands for a two-base error that led to three unearned runs.

Another Red Sox error helped the M's tie it up 3-3 in the sixth, but Boston scored the winners in a three-run seventh that began on grounders that second baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Chris Woodward hardly showed great range on.

Anyway, first game to Boston.

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August 23, 2010 6:08 PM

Mariners at Boston Red Sox: Aug. 23, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Doug Fister was greeted by a pair of seeing-eye singles to start the seventh inning and Sean White couldn't stop the bleeding as Boston scored three to take a 6-3 lead. Jed Lowrie and Daniel Nava opened with hits, then were sacrificed ahead one base each on a bunt by Ryan Kalish.

White came on and Marco Scutaro lined a ball to center to score a pair of runs. J.D. Drew followed with a single to right, with Scutaro taking third. Victor Martinez then hit a sacrifice fly to deep left for the third run.

Scutaro had four RBI tonight. The M's are on their way to a third straight loss and a 5-5 record on this trip.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 22, 2010 1:46 PM

Yankees 10, Mariners 0: Reality hits M's -- and their pitchers -- pretty darned hard

Posted by Geoff Baker

For the first 9 1/2 innings of this series, the Mariners had to be on Cloud Nine. They had outscored the New York Yankees 8-0 by that point and life was looking good. Thing is, it always helps when Felix Hernandez is the guy throwing all the innings for you to that point. From the moment Jason Vargas took the mound yesterday, followed by Luke French today, the M's got outscored 19-3.

Hey, this isn't meant to jump all over the M's. They are what they are. They were a pretty bad team two weeks ago and still are. The same problems that were there the first four-plus months of the season were still around last week when the M's were beating Baltimore. Seattle can't score runs in big bunches and the bullpen is pretty weak outside of Brandon League and -- sometimes -- David Aardsma.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 22, 2010 1:08 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: Aug. 22, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Chris Seddon replaced Luke French after the 57-minute rain delay and promptly walked three batters and gave up a "double" to Eduardo Nunez that stopped dead in a puddle in front of Ichiro. Instead of a single, it became a double, Derek Jeter hit a sacrifice fly and then Robinson Cano a two-run single to make it an 8-0 game.

Seddon was done, Brian Sweeney came on to pitch and Jorge Posada just hit a solo homer to lead off the seventh, making it 9-0.

Only good news for M's? The rain forced C.C. Sabathia to come out of the game. So, he only gets to dominate the M's for six innings. Bad news? The M's can't hit the Yankees bullpen either.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 22, 2010 8:51 AM

Lou Piniella announces he's done after today game

Posted by Geoff Baker

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This has nothing to do with the 2010 Mariners, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella obviously touched a great deal of folks in Seattle over the years. Well, this morning, not too long ago, he made the stunning announcement that he's leaving the team after today's game.

His mother is seriously ill in Tampa. Fla. and Piniella wants to be with her.

Mike Quade is to take over as interim manager.

Here is the press release from the Cubs, quoting Piniella:

"When I previously announced my intentions to retire at the end of the season, a primary reason for my decision was that it would allow me to spend more valuable time with my family," said Piniella. "That time has unfortunately gotten here sooner than I could have ever expected. As many know, the several weeks since that announcement was made have been very difficult on a family level, requiring two leaves of absence from the club. While I fully intended to manage this club the rest of the season, a family situation at home now requires my full attention.

Photo Credit: AP

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August 21, 2010 2:21 PM

See video of where the epic Russell Branyan home run blast landed

Posted by Geoff Baker

Russell Branyan today became the first player ever to hit a home run into the fourth deck at the new Yankee Stadium. Mark Teixeira had gone deep twice previously in the third deck. But this shot by Branyan was epic. No measurement involved. But to say it was close to 500 feet or more would not be an overstatement. It was a rocket.

In the photo below, look just above the orange rim and to the far left of the deck itself.

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Branyan is used to these types of questions about freakish home runs he's hit at ballparks throughout the game over the years. He was highly reluctant to talk about this home run in detail, especially after a loss, but finally opened up a bit after much prodding by reporters.

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"Guys were excited to see the ball,'' Branyan said of the greeting he received in the dugout. "I mean, it's fun. I'm not going to downplay it. When somebody hits a ball, even when it's with the other team, our team, it's fun to watch. I mean, I like watching when A-Rod gets a hold of one. Or (Mark) Teixeira, or (Robinson) Cano. It's neat to see a ball hit that far.''

Branyan told a story about how some players had gone to Central Park during Thursday's off-day with trainer Rick Griffin to throw a long-toss session. By the end of the session, a huge crowd had gathered.

"People enjoy watching us do our jobs,'' Branyan said. "When you get a hold of a ball and hit a ball a long way, it's kind of neat to see.''

Continue reading this post ...


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August 21, 2010 1:02 PM

Yankees 9, Mariners 5: New York piles on five late runs, ends Casey Kotchman's errorless streak

Posted by Geoff Baker

Seattle not only lost today's game, but saw Casey Kotchman's MLB record of errorless games played at first base come to an end.

Kotchman had played 274 consecutive errorless games before a Curtis Granderson grounder ate him up in the eighth inning. The Yankees tacked on a pair of runs that frame to put things out of reach. The last time Kotchman made an error at first base was on June 20, 2008 when playing for the Braves in Philadelphia.

The M's lost today, though, because they could not get to the Yankee bullpen after chasing starter Javier Vazquez three-plus innings in. They had a chance in the eighth when Michael Saunders was up with two on and two out, representing the tying run.

But with the count full against closer Mariano Rivera, Saunders popped a ball up and it was caught in foul territory by second baseman Robinson Cano.

Seattle scored a meaningless run in the ninth.

M's are now 7-4 under manager Daren Brown.

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August 21, 2010 12:25 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: Aug. 21, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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A fantastic job of hitting the ball through the open right side of the infield helped the New York Yankees score three in the seventh for a 7-4 lead off Jason Vargas and the Mariners.

With one out, Austin Kearns and Curtis Granderson lined balls to right field, the second one coming on a hit-and-run that put runners at the corners. Eduardo Nunez came up and, with Casey Kotchman glued to the bag at first base because of the runner, drilled another ball through the right side that scored the go-ahead run.

It was the first hit and RBI of Nunez's career and ended the day for Jason Vargas.

Jamey Wright came in to pitch and Derek Jeter grounded another ball through the open right side -- the fourth straight single that way -- to bring another run in. Wright then walked the bases loaded and Mark Teixeira delivered a sacrifice fly for New York's third run of the inning.

So, Vargas gets tagged with all seven runs. That'll hurt the ERA. I thought he actually pitched quite well, retiring 15 in a row at one point. But the bookends of that stretch were a four-run first and a three-run seventh. Not good enough.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 21, 2010 8:55 AM

Mariners second-rounder Marcus Littlewood to visit Safeco Field next Friday

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Good morning to you all. Quick turnaround after last night's gem pitched by Felix Hernandez to thrust himself into Cy Young Award discussion.

Matt Tuiasosopo is not in the lineup today. Michael Saunders in back in there. So is Josh Bard, getting his first action in exactly one week since hittng a grand slam and notching four hits against the Indians.

Tough to crack the lineup of this juggernaut, it would appear. The Mariners are 7-3 under manager Daren Brown. They have won nine of their last 13 overall.

So, I'm told that second round draft pick Marcus Littlewood, who just signed with the Mariners on Monday for $900,000, will be touring Safeco Field and taking batting practice with the team this coming Friday.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 20, 2010 8:36 PM

Felix Hernandez knew he had no shot at complete game; still causes big buzz in Big Apple

Posted by Geoff Baker

Felix Hernandez told us after the game he knew he wouldn't get the complete nine innings in once he reached 101 pitches through seven. Hernandez said Jose Lopez greeted him in the dugout after the seventh and asked whether he thought manager Daren Brown might pull him.

"No, I think I've got one more,'' Hernandez replied.

But there was no big lobby job by Hernandez after the eighth. He fanned Mark Teixeira with a runner on -- his 11th K of the game -- and pumped his fist like a guy who knew it was Mission Accomplished.

"I knew,'' Hernandez said.

Was he hoping at all for the ninth?

"Nah,'' he said. "They told me before.''

Meaning, previous games. Earlier this season, against the Yankees pre-All-Star break, Hernandez was allowed to go 126 pitches. Prior to that, versus San Diego in mid-June, he went 128.

The New York media here, for the most part, seemed vocally puzzled that new manager Daren Brown was pulling Hernandez after eight with his pitch count at 117. They're big on their history here in New York. Everyone knew no one had thrown four consecutive complete games against the Yankees since Dave Stieb did it 26 years ago. Stieb is safe.

And why wouldn't they be surprised.

They'd just seen World Series winner Joe Girardi leave A.J. Burnett out there for 122 pitches through six innings of a game that was pretty much done by the fourth. Burnett has had injury issues already this year and will be a key part of a playoff rotation.

I asked Brown whether Hernandez had a chance at a complete game once he got beyond 110 pitches in the eighth.

"Nope,'' he said. "No. Again, I've said it before. This kid's valuable to our future. I'd love to give him an opportunity to go back out. If he can keep his pitches down a little bit...we're looking, if he goes back out, at maybe 125 or 130. And that's maybe, at this pont, a little bit much.''

Ideally, he said, Hernandez would have to be around 100 though eight to get a shot at the ninth. Unless it's late in the season and the game "has a little bit more meaning'' for Hernandez.

The "meaning" could be a shot at a Cy Young Award. Hernandez generated a lot of buzz here tonight.

Some folks think that Cy Young hype/buzz/.whatever only involves media members actually voting on the award for the BBWAA. There are only two in each city.

But that thinking is uninformed. A lot of the media agenda and storyline is set by leading opinion-shapers from right here in New York. If Hernandez was ever going to get folks talking about how a 9-10 pitcher should be considered for the award, this was the place to do it.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 20, 2010 6:53 PM

Mariners 6, Yankees 0: Felix Hernandez fans 11, makes statement on baseball's biggest stage

Posted by Geoff Baker

Felix Hernandez went out and manhandled the defending World Series champs tonight, notching 11 Ks and holding the Yankees to four hits over eight scoreless innings. No pitcher had notched four consecutive complete games against the Yankees since Dave Stieb in 1983-84.

But manager Daren Brown pulled him with a pitch count of 117. Well, at least Brown is consistent. I'd have let Hernandez go for it, see if he could notch a quick out or two.

Hernandez is now 9-10. His ERA is 2.51, second best in the AL.

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August 20, 2010 6:10 PM

Mariners at New York Yankees: Aug. 20, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Felix Hernandez just blew a called third strike by Robinson Cano to end the sixth inning with a 6-0 lead. Hernandez gave up a two-out single to A-Rod -- only his third hit allowed -- but has now lowered his ERA to 2.54, tying with Trevor Cahill of Oakland for second-best in the AL.

Russell Branyan provided a sixth Seattle homer with his second blast of the game off A.J. Burnett in the top of the frame. The 14th multi-homer game for Branyan, first as a Mariner.

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August 20, 2010 2:52 PM

Healthy left fielder Michael Saunders sits out against right hander so Matt Tuiasosopo can play

Posted by Geoff Baker


Well, this is an interesting development. Michael Saunders is feeling healthy and ready to play and his manager agrees he's pretty much 100 percent. But Saunders is not playing tonight against right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett of the New York Yankees. Instead, it's Matt Tuiasosopo getting his third straight start.

"He was in there against a right-hander on Wednesday and handled it pretty well,'' Mariners manager Daren Brown said. "The guy's at two days in a row with seven RBIs. That's two pretty good days. And again, you're talking about a young kid and I think it's important to show some confidence in him. And I think, by the same token, Saunders needs to play too. We'll hopefully get in a position where I can give them both a lot of at-bats.

"But right now, Tui will be in there today and I think he's earned it.''

No doubt.

But there is that little thing about getting the young guys at-bats. Brown knows this, as he mentions above.

Continue reading this post ...


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August 18, 2010 8:36 PM

Mariners manager Daren Brown agrees Matt Tuiasosopo needs more at-bats

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Well, you've got to hand it to Daren Brown. He didn't waffle any tonight when I put the questions to him about the importance of rewarding young players who respond to challenges.

That's what Matt Tuiasosopo did tonight with his second straight three-run homer and a game-saving catch in the eighth inning. Brown said Tuesday night that Tuiasosopo has to show more consistency at this level and he responded with a second straight gem of a game.

\Now what? How important is it, I asked Brown, for this to be a two-way street? Where if you challenge a player and he responds, you reward the behavior? Sort of like giving a dog a cookie for doing backflips. Or something like that. The catch Tuiasosopo made in left field may have been tougher than that, given his size.

"I think it's important,'' he said. "There are different philosophies on things, but I do like when a kid goes out and...it wasn't just getting a couple of hits for Tui last night. It was a three-run homer and a double in the gap. It was two big hits. And I thought, confidence-wise for him, I put him back out there again tonight and he showed up and hits a big three-run homer to come right back after they'd scored two.

"So, I think it shows a little confidence in him. But at the same time, we've got a few young kids that we need to see. Hopefully, they'll all answer the challenge and do something like Tui's done the last two nights.''

Brown had told us moments earlier, when asked whether he was prepared to keep putting Tuiasosopo out there: "We've got two young kids here in (Michael) Saunders and Tui and I feel like both of them need at-bats. We need to see what both of them can bring to the table on an everyday basis. It's good to see what we're seeing, but at the same time, both of them need at-bats.''

Fair enough. But that said, is Brown prepared to play Tuiasosopo at other positions to get him those at-bats once Saunders returns to left field?

Photo Credit: AP

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August 18, 2010 6:49 PM

Mariners 6, Orioles 5: Matt Tuiasosopo steals show at the plate, in the field

Posted by Geoff Baker

Make that two good games in a row for Matt Tuiasosopo. And not just with his big bat, which clubbed a second three-run homer in two nights.

Tuiasosopo's biggest contribution tonight came in the field, when he did a fully extended dive in left field to rob Matt Wieters of an extra-base hit that would have tied the game. This wasn't just a pretty finish to a play. That's about as athletic as it gets for a big guy like Tuiasosopo, who had the presence of mind to hang on to the ball as his body hit the ground.

Hey, he's a football player, what did you expect? He can take a hit.

I'd say the ball is now in manager Daren Brown's court when it comes to finding Tuiasosopo some playing time.

Brown suggested, rather bluntly, that it was one thing for a player to have a big game, but in the majors, it's about consistency. OK, then. That's two big games in a row. As consistent as anyone can be in two games.

Now, it says here Brown has to put his money where his mouth is and play Tuiasosopo in the opener at Yankee Stadium.

I mean, he answered the challenge.

The plan going into tonight was to give Tuiasosopo his "reward" for last night and rest Michael Saunders and his shoulder one more day and again with the off-day tomorrow. But now, how do you bench Tuiasosopo when he has two homers, a double, seven RBI and a game saving catch in two nights?

That's easy, you don't. Last I checked, Tuiasosopo can also play second base and third base. Did Jose Lopez or Chone Figgins have seven RBI the last two games? Nope.

So, Saunders can play. And so can Tuiasosopo.

Brown can thank me later.

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August 18, 2010 6:04 PM

Mariners at Baltimore Orioles: Aug. 18, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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David Pauley's last pitch wound up costing him two runs as Matt Wieters belted it into the right field seats with a runner on to cut Seattle's lead to 5-4. Jamey Wright came on from there, with Pauley done at 101 pitches over six-plus innings.

Wright walked Josh Bell with one out to put the tying run on, but escaped the inning. On to the eighth in a suddenly very close game.

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August 18, 2010 2:53 PM

Matt Tuiasosopo earns another night in the lineup

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Breaking news: MLB has made a scoring change from an Aug. 8 game versus the Royals in which Ichiro was awarded a hit. It's now been changed to an error, meaning Ichiro now has 153 hits and not 154. Ichiro is trying for the 10th 200-hit season of his career, which would pass Ty Cobb and tie Pete Rose for the most all-time.

There was a point last night when Mariners manager Daren Brown wasn't sure whether he'd be able to get Matt Tuiasosopo back in the lineup tonight after his three-run homer, double and four-RBI outing. In fact, when I asked him about that, he brought up Josh Bard, who has yet to make it back in the lineup after his grand slam and four-hit night against Cleveland last Saturday.

But Brown has decided to give Tuiasosopo another go at it in left field tonight.

"I think it's important, especially with a young kid when he has a night like he had, to give him an opportunity to get back out there,'' Brown said. "On the flip-side of it, it works in two ways. We can use (Michael) Saunders if we needed to, in an emergency. Or defensively, to pinch-run. But at the same time it gives him another day and then with the off-day tomorrow, he should be at 100 percent, or as close as we can get, going in Friday.''

Saunders is still coping with soreness from that shoulder he slammed into the outfield wall while making a catch two weeks ago.

Ryan Langerhans is feeling a lot better today, by the way, after the migraine headache that sidelined him last night and got Tuiasosopo in the game in the first place.

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August 18, 2010 8:36 AM

Great comeback story percolating in Mariners minor league ranks

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Thought I'd take a little time this morning to acknowledge a great comeback story that is just starting to brew inside Seattle's Class A Clinton team. Tom Wilhelmsen was just named Pitcher of the Week in the Midwest League for the second straight time.

You may remember Wilhelmsen from a story we ran back in spring training. The former big-time Milwaukee Brewers prospect, who made it to Class A ball, was suspended for the entire 2004 season after testing positive for marijuana use.

Once his suspension ended, he tried to come back, but realized he wasn't happy playing baseball any more. So, he grabbed a backpack and went out to see the world, earning money as a bartender in Arizona when he wasn't traveling. Then, one day in 2008, he had a moment.

"I've changed a lot of things about my life and thought a lot about what my priorities are," Wilhelmsen told us back in spring training. "One of them is I wasn't sure I wanted to be a bartender for the rest of my life."

So, a guy who had not pitched since 2003 got back into baseball shape. He played independent ball with the Tucson Toros, then got called back by the Brewers -- who still owned his rights -- for a tryout. But Wilhelmsen hurt his arm and was subsequently released. He showed up at Mariners spring training on an invite from GM Jack Zduriencik, who knew Wilhelmsen from his days as an executive with the Brewers, and did some pitching on the side.

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Zduriencik liked what he saw. Wilhelmsen told him of his arm troubles and was immediately placed on a rehab program. So, it was another two months before Wilhelmsen could even think about pitching in a game.

But since that happened, he's been lights-out.

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August 17, 2010 8:27 PM

Mariners 4, Orioles 0: Luke French and Matt Tuiasosopo make most of opportunities

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Sorry that the first post-game blog entry did not go up. I thought I'd sent it, but it turns out it did not run. So, here is the extended entry.

That was quite the showing by Luke French and Matt Tuiasosopo tonight, two guys who do have a lot to show the M's when it comes to securing a roster spot in 2011. French seemed the forgotten man in Class AAA despite his 11-3 record and 2.94 ERA while Tuiasosopo had just 71 at-bats with the M's and a .155 average coming in.

French took a no-hitter into the sixth before Josh Bell broke it up with one out. But he tossed 7 2/3 innings of three-hit before Brandon League notched the final three outs.

And that was a huge three-run homer in the ninth by Matt Tuiasosopo to take some of the pressure off League. Tuiasosopo drove in all four runs tonight with the homer and a double.

"Playing here and there only a few times a week, it's tough,'' Tuiasosopo said. "Right now, that's the challenge. Just trusting it. You do the hard work every day in batting practice. You do all the defensive work. And when the game starts, just go play. Play your game. Tonight, I was able to do that. Just be loose and play my game, go out there, have fun and contribute.''

It hasn't been an easy adjustment. Tuiasosopo really has not gotten the playing time.

His manager, Daren Brown, who had him extensively in AAA, said he's like to get him some more at-bats. But he'd also like to see Tuiasosopo step up and start doing the things he did in Tacoma.

"Tonight would make you think that he could,'' Brown said. "I've seen him swing the bat well in Tacoma. We've got to project guys at what they can be. He's got a chance to become a good offensive player from what we've seen at the level below this, but he's yet to show it on a consistent basis here. And that's what it's about up here. You've got to be able to do it every day.''

Indeed it is.

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August 17, 2010 6:20 PM

Mariners at Baltimore Orioles: Aug. 17, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Close call there as Luke French gave up his second and third hits of the game in the eighth inning. But with two on and two out, Brandon League got Nick Markakis to roll over on a grounder to shortstop and the threat is neutralized.

League will have to get a multi-inning save tonight with the 1-0 lead. No David Aardsma.

Josh Bell got a two-out double -- his second hit of the game and the only two off French to that point -- followed by an infield hit from Brian Roberts. M's shortstop Josh Wilson knocked the ball down with a diving stop, but had it roll away. Had Bell been watching the play, he might have been able to score.

But he stopped at third and the M's caught a break.

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August 17, 2010 3:01 PM

Milton Bradley pretty much done for year after surgery to repair meniscus tear

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Breaking news: the Mariners just re-signed infielder Tug Hulett to a minor league deal. Now, the symmetry with 2008 is complete.

Milton Bradley had his knee surgery today. A torn lateral meniscus was found and repaired. Bradley will be out four-to-six weeks, all-but-ending his 2010 season.

Am I surprised about this? Not really. This sounds a lot like the team telling Bradley: "You're barely going to play anyway because we have to look at Saunders and have Branyan at DH. You might as well get that wear and tear in your knee looked after.''

Now look, a torn meniscus is painful. But it is something you can play on. I've had that same surgical procedure done many times in both knees, including two years ago after walking around with a torn meniscus -- and running on a treadmill regularly with it (dumb) -- for the entire 2008 season. If this team was in a playoff hunt, Bradley probably could have played. I say probably because there are always degrees involved with every injury and no two people handle pain the same way.

But for those of you wondering whether Bradley will rehab for a month, then play the final two weeks, I'd say no. And the stuff above is me spelling out for you exactly why I think that. Feel free to disagree. But there's no room in the starting nine for Bradley these days as the team looks to figure out which youngsters will be invited back in 2011. Might as well take care of the usual knee problems that can crop up often for pro athletes. This appears to be a good excuse to get him out of the way.

"That's what it looks like,'' manager Daren Brown said when asked whether Bradley is indeed done. "Doing the math, that's right close to it. If it's on the four-week side, we'll see. But I would say it looks like that (his season being over) right now.''

If that wasn't enough of a hint, Brown was then asked whether it would be important for Bradley to try to play again this year.

"I would like to think it would be, but at the same time, when you're doing something like that this late in the year the health is more important,'' Brown said. "So, if it takes a little bit more time, that's fine too to have him healthy.''

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August 17, 2010 8:49 AM

More on Felix Hernandez and his Cy Young Award chances

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Wanted to get back into this topic this morning after reading what a lot of you had to say during yesterday's blog post. Some of you are wondering why I'd bother mentioning that Felix Hernandez even has Cy Young chances. One or two people even accuse me of being a homer.

All I'll say is, when I see a Mariners player, or ex-player, that I consider to be worthy of an award, or special honor, I will go to bat for that player as hard as I can. Not because he is a Mariners player. But because I consider him deserving.

Many of you suggest that Hernandez threw away any Cy Young credibility because of the six unearned runs he allowed after the Chone Figgins error the other day. Not buying it. Do we eliminate Cliff Lee from consideration because of the four runs he allowed in the eighth inning last night when protecting a 4-2 lead at Tampa Bay?

Of course not.

All pitchers have nights like those. Hernandez is no more a "tanker" than Lee is a "choker". They both had bad finishes to good outings. Maybe Hernandez did lose his focus a little when he threw that meatball to Travis Hafner for the grand slam. And maybe Lee lost his focus a little last night, distracted as he was by the heat of his mound duel with David Price against an opponent the Rangers could face in the playoffs. Maybe the pressure got to him. Maybe not. As I said though, one off night should not ruin anybody's Cy Young chances.

As for the argument that Lee outpitched Hernandez when he was here, playing for the same bad Mariners team, yes, I agree on that. But I'd also point out that since Lee has gone to a much better Texas Rangers team, Hernandez has actually outpitched him.

So, the earlier point means nothing. In a close race, it isn't how you start. It's how you finish.

Further, I'd suggest that if Hernandez was pitching for a contender the way Lee is, he'd be allowed to finish off more games than the M's are letting him. The Rangers are pitching Lee like a team that knows he won't be around for them in 2011, letting him go until his arm is ready to fall off. Hernandez has not been given that leeway and could be tied with Lee in complete games -- instead of trailing 7-5 -- had the M's not been overly cautious. Don't forget, he was pulled early last week by Daren Brown after eight innings, 110 pitches of shutout ball.

Hernandez was pulled by Don Wakamatsu after eight innings, 91 pitches of shutout ball on July 21 because it was 0-0 and the manager felt his inept offense wasn't going to score in any event before extra innings.

So, on a normal team, there's your sixth and seventh complete games right there.

In other words, we can play the whole "what if" thing forever and it swings both ways. Let's just look at what the raw data tells us right now.

And, more interestingly, let's look at what Lee's outing means right now. It means that Hernandez has passed Lee in earned run average, 2.62 to 2.71.

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August 16, 2010 9:29 PM

Mariners sign second-rounder Marcus Littlewood, but not third-rounder Ryne Stanek

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Tonight was the deadline for the Mariners to sign all of their draft picks with remaining college eligibility. As of the 9 p.m. PST deadline, they had agreed to terms with Utah high school shortstop Marcus Littlewood, but not with their third rounder, high school pitcher Ryne Stanek.

So, that's the news for now. Littlewood gets a reported $900,000.

There was some good news tonight, outside of the Mariners striking out 12 times, stranding 12 runners, blowing a 10th inning lead and losing 5-4 in 11 innings to the worst team in the American League. Make that, the team with the worst record in the AL. We're still not sure exactly which team is truly the worst.

The Mariners did their best to look the part through much of this one, taking some awful swings issuing some ugly walks a wild-pitches and generally, well, just losing the game. Baltimore didn't win it. The Mariners lost it. 'Nuff said.

One reason they didn't lose it much earlier was because of two throws in the ninth by Moore from his catcher's spot. Moore didn't hesitate as he picked up a Brian Roberts bunt in the bottom of the ninth and threw the lead runner out at second.

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August 16, 2010 7:55 PM

Orioles 5, Mariners 4 -- 11 innings: Worst. Game. Ever

Posted by Geoff Baker

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This was finally ended with fans chanting "Let's! Go! Home!" Don't think they were rooting on the home team. Just fed up with the 100 degree humidity and all the runners being stranded by both teams.

The two squads left 24 men on base -- 12 apiece.

Seattle struck out 12 times. The M's blew a lead in the 10th after Adam Moore had gone deep in the top of the inning.

Moore had a great night, notching a career-high four hits, while making two great throws to second in the ninth.

But Sean White gave up a leadoff double in the 11th. With a runner on third and two out, Adam Jones drops a bunt towards Jose Lopez at third and beats it out.

Time to jump in the freezer.

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August 16, 2010 7:41 PM

Mariners at Baltimore Orioles: Aug. 16, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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This game is officially terrible. Yes, it's a good sign to see the career-high four-hit night by Adam Moore, including the go-ahead homer off. Alfredo Simon in the 10th. Moore also threw out two baserunners at second in the ninth inning to send this thing to extras.

Not so good? David Aardsma allowed the O's to load the bases with one out in the bottomof the inning. Then, he got Cesar Izturis -- having an awful night -- on a fielder's choice out at home.

But then he walked Julio Lugo on four pitches to bring the tying run in.

The M's escaped the inning after that. Actually, the game should be over since the O's were denied a bunt single on a nice throw to first by Jose Lopez. But the throw wasn't in time. The umpire blew the call. That would have left bases loaded, none out and we know what would have happened next.

Or, maybe we don't, because these two bottom-feeders have combined to strand 23 runners tonight. The O's just took that lead 12-11.

Get me out of here. Get me water, at least...

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August 16, 2010 2:53 PM

Orioles manager Buck Showalter will be shocked if former Mariners field boss Don Wakamatsu isn't re-hired soon

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Lots of heat here in Baltimore, but none in the visitors' dugout anymore as new manager Daren Brown is here to check in on former pupil Adam Jones, now the Orioles' center fielder. Over on the other side, new O's manager Buck Showalter, a veteran in dugouts with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rangers and now, Baltimore, says his old buddy Don Wakamatsu won't have trouble finding a new job.

"I would be shocked if he did,'' Showalter told reporters in his pre-game scrum. "There will be some people standing in line for Donny.''

Actually, I've spoken to a few people here at the ballpark, and on Baltimore radio this afternoon, who would be shocked themselves if Wakamatsu isn't Showalter's new bench coach next season. They are talking about it here like it's a done deal. I'm hearing people saying that Wakamatsu would be bench coach and tutor young catcher Matt Wieters while Brian Butterfield would be brought in from Toronto to school the infielders and be a base coach.

Talk about your all-star staff, as Butterfield is one of the game's best infield coaches, having gotten Derek Jeter ready for the majors years ago. Orlando Hudson as well.

Back to Wakamatsu, Showalter said he's pretty sure Wakamatsu has a handle on what happened to him in Seattle. Understand, please, that the two men have had recent conversations.

"I think Don understands managing and coaching,'' Showalter said. "It's not always a reflection on him."

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August 16, 2010 11:05 AM

Felix Hernandez should be on every Cy Young Award voter's shortlist despite scarcity of wins

Posted by Geoff Baker

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An interesting situation is developing in the American League Cy Young Award race with seven weeks to go in the season.

Felix Hernandez keeps on losing even as his ERA continues to get better and better. Hernandez is now 8-10 with a 2.62 earned run average. We heard last year how Zack Greinke was going to put to the test the notion that wins for a pitcher are overrated and should not matter.

Well, if that was the case, Hernandez is going to have to make the case that wins for a pitcher are completely irrelevant.

Greinke won 16 games in an AL where there were three 19-game-winners and a 17-gamer. Tim Lincecum actually won the N.L. Cy Young with a record-low 15 wins, but there was only one 19-game winner and a 17-game winner, so the lack of wins by him stood out a bit less.

But Hernandez could very well turn the entire notion of victories and the Cy Young on its ear because there could be a half-dozen AL pitchers with 18 or more wins this year. Hernandez will be fortunate to reach 12 or 13.

Take away wins and losses, though, and let's see where he fares:

INNINGS

HERNANDEZ 189
Sabathia 174 2/3
Pavano 168
Weaver 163
Lee 161 1/3

ERA

Buchholz 2.49
Cahill 2.50
Lee 2.58
HERNANDEZ 2.62
Lester 2.80


STRIKEOUTS

Weaver 182
HERNANDEZ 172
Lester 165
Liriano 150
Morrow 151


COMPLETE GAMES

Lee 7
HERNANDEZ 5
Pavano 5
Braden 4
Romero 3

Notice that Hernandez is in the top-five of just about every pitching category of Cy Young significance?

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August 15, 2010 2:01 PM

Bang the drum slowly for Felix Hernandez and this Mariners season

Posted by Geoff Baker

About the eighth inning, I noticed that one of our readers in the game thread was wondering about the guy who sits high atop the center field bleachers here banging a drum. No matter what the score, how bad the hometown Indians are, or how sparse the crowds may be. That's dedication. Anyhow, our reader was wondering whether the Indians let the guy store the drum here. Or, whether he has to carry it in and out each time.

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The M's were in the process of getting throttled today, the game was dragging, so I decided to go and get the reader's question answered. I hustled down from the pressbox and made it all the ay to the bleachers just as the bottom of the eighth was beginning.

First off, the drummer's name is John Adams, 58, who works for At&T during the day, but has season's tickets and brings the drum in with him. He's been doing this for 37 years, so, no, as you'll hear in the video above, the security people don't bug him about it anymore.

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Actually, he did have to buy tickets for the drum, since it's so big and takes up a seat. But the ballclub did give him his own bobblehead doll a few years back. He's been to more than 2,000 games and Aug. 24 will be his 37th anniversary of doing this.

So, that was our diversion from the game and the total collapse by Felix Hernandez and the Mariners in a 9-1 defeat. The game was actually scoreless in the bottom of the seventh inning, believe it or not.

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August 15, 2010 12:55 PM

Indians 9, Mariners 1: Felix Hernandez, M's collapse after Chone Figgins error

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Yes, it's tempting to get all over Chone Figgins for what happened in that seventh inning. Figgins isn't the most popular Mariner right now, for deserved reasons. And it's easy to pile on after that error put Luis Valbuena on and extended the seventh inning of a scoreless game.

But this is on Felix Hernandez as well.

I mean, Valbuena is the No. 8 hitter on one of the worst teams in baseball. Hernandez will never admit it, I'm sure, but he got thrown off his game by the error.

So, 21 pitches later, the Indians have six runs on the board and that was it.

Sean White gave up another home run in the seventh, to Jayson Nix. And Chris Seddon yielded a two-run blast in the eighth to Michael Brantley.

So, instead of sweeping here, the M's get routed.

They scored one run by virtue of an infield hit in the eighth but also stranded eight runners. Again, not enough offense to get the job done. Nobody really got it done today. Not Figgins, not Hernandez and certainly not the M's.

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August 15, 2010 12:16 PM

Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians: Aug. 15, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Felix Hernandez was nearly through a 1-2-3 seventh inning. But then, Chone Figgins bobbled a grounder by Luis Valbuena and threw high and late to first base. After that, the roof caved in on Hernandez and the M's, who now trail 6-0.

Whoops, make that 7-0 because Sean White just came on and yielded a solo homer to Jayson Nix.

Yes, you read that right. Hernandez threw 21 extra pitches after the error and the last of those was belted over the center field wall for a grand slam by Travis Hafner. Ugly. None of the runs are earned, so Hernandez's numbers actually go down ERA-wise. But he's going to be 8-10 on the season barring a miracle comeback.

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Valbuena was safe on the Figgins error, then, moments later, Lou Marson singled to put runners at the corners.

Michael Brantley then singled to center for the game's first run and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to right center to make it 2-0 on Hernandez's 100th pitch.

An intentional walk to Shin Soo-Choo loaded 'em up and Hernandez fell behind 2-1 to Hafner before he went deep.

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As we mentioned in the pre-game blog, this is kind of what happened to Hernandez here last year. He'd given up just two runs by the sixth inning in a close game, but then second baseman Jose Lopez made an error on a routine ball and -- four runs later -- Hernandez was done.

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August 15, 2010 8:49 AM

Josh Bard out of lineup one day after making history for the Mariners

Posted by Geoff Baker

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You can see Josh Bard, in the photo above, describing how close he was to a 5-for-5 night and getting that missing triple for the cycle in his final at-bat. OK, maybe that's not what he was discussing. We're taking some artistic liberties here, since eavesdropping isn't our style.

Bard becomes the first Mariners catcher to ever have four hits and a home run in the same game. He's the second MLB catcher to do that this year, after Bengie Molina did it when hitting for the cycle a few weeks back. Buster Posey also did it, but was playing first base at the time instead of his usual catching role.

All that and Bard still isn't in today's lineup. Adam Moore is because, with the team vying to avoid the AL basement, it's not about playing the team's best guys. It's about taking a look at the future and Moore -- despite his struggles -- is still a big part of that.

"We need to see Adam,'' manager Daren Brown said this morning. "We need to see a lot of him. Bard's done that. He's done that job before. Like I said last night, he puts his work in, he's ready to go. Obviously, the way he's swung the bat, you like to get him back in there. We'll see.''

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August 14, 2010 8:36 PM

Mariners "jabroni" Josh Bard celebrates a night of singlehandedly pushing Jason Vargas to victory

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The fireworks are out again at Progressive Field as the Indians move one game closer on the Mariners in the race for the No. 1 overall draft pick and/or top-five slotting. In other words, the Mariners won the actual game, rather easily, 9-3, behind the bat and defense of Josh Bard to support the usual strong pitching of Jason Vargas.

Bard bailed Vargas out of trouble with two on in a 2-2 game in the fourth when he picked off Andy Marte at first base to end the frame. He then smoked his first career grand slam in the fifth inning, blowing the game open and making good on a birthday wish mentioned by his daughter, Hannah, 4, prior to the contest.

"It's super exciting,'' he said. "It's my daughter's fourth birthday today, and she told me to hit a home run for her so I'm really excited about that.''

Bard even got the ball back out of the right field stands. "It's amazing. All I have to do is give them my lousy autograph.''

As one of the team's backup players -- who've dubbed themselves "jabronis" (which meand "idiots" in Italian-- Bard understands his role. He knows he's here to be a mentor to young guys like Adam Moore and help pitchers like Vargas when called upon.

It's a bit of a switch from the 90 games he played for Washington last season. He's at 29 games now and every one counts in the off-season when you're trying to negotiate your next deal to stay alive in the majors at age 32.

Bard said he's used to it.

"I've been around long enough,'' he said. "I've started, I've backed up, I've platooned, and ultimately, my job is...when it gets hard and the season's like this, you've got to love the game. You've got to come in ready to play every day. Because you never know what's going to happen. As a catcher, you're one foul-tip away from being in there all the time.''

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August 14, 2010 6:57 PM

Mariners 9, Indians 3: Josh Bard pounds his former team

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Josh Bard helped wreck the ballclub he broke into the majors with back in 2002, clubbing his first career grand slam and compiling four hits tonight. Homers by Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman gave Jason Vargas his best run support all year in an easy 9-3 win.

Bard had a five-hit game back in 2007 with San Diego. But this one had a home run while the other's slugging moment was merely a double.

The Mariners have waited a long time for a night like this one. They are 8-4 their past dozen and 4-1 under Daren Brown.

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August 14, 2010 6:11 PM

Mariners at Cleveland Indians: Aug. 14, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Mariners are taking batting practice here as Casey Kotchman hit a two-run homer in the top of the sixth to make it a 9-2 game. That's the third homer by the Mariners the last two innings. Josh Bard added a single for his fourth hit of the night. Believe it or not, his career high is five. This is his fourth four-hit game. Dude's been around.

Went on the M's pregame show and team president Chuck Armstrong was in the booth watching. I tried to ask him afterwards, as he hurried off to his seat, about the M's rebuilding plan now compared to other rebuilding jobs the past seven seasons. Whether or not this, comparatively, was going to be a more "ground-up" approach.

Armstrong didn't really want to talk about it, steering me instead towards GM Jack Zduriencik -- even though he wasn't here before 2009 and is not really in a position to compare and contrast.

"I'd rather have Jack talk to you because it's his plan,'' Armstrong said.

He kept saying "It's Jack's plan" and "Jack is the GM" over and over.

Just thought I'd put that out there because I found it interesting. Armstrong will leave after this leg of the trip and rejoin the team in New York.

The Mariners have promoted pitchers Mauricio Robles and Dan Cortes to Class AAA Tacoma. Robles was acquired in the Jarrod Washburn trade while Cortes was secured in the Yuniesky Betancourt swap.

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August 14, 2010 2:39 PM

Mariners outfielder Milton Bradley to have arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Milton Bradley had pretty much been reduced to a bit player before going on the DL with undetermined knee problems. Now, his season is pretty much done, with Bradley off to Cincinnati on Tuesday for arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

This exploratory type of surgery normally takes about three weeks to recover from, depending on what is wrong. If it's just normal wear and tear, with maybe some bone chips to be cleaned out or torn meniscus to be shaved. There will be six weeks left in the season when Bradley has it and really, there is no rush to get him back on the field. Maybe for some games towards the end of September but any meaningful contribution by Bradley pretty much ended with today's announcement.

"I've got nothing to say,'' Bradley said when approached by reporters as he was playing on a Golden Tee arcade game in the visitors clubhouse here at Progressive Field.

So, we let his new manager do the talking for him.

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August 14, 2010 9:20 AM

What the Mariners' competition is up to

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Well, it's safe to say the Mariners no longer have to worry about just the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. The Texas Rangers are running away with the division this season and just got taken over by a group headed by Nolan Ryan.

Up to now, M's fans could count on bankruptcy proceedings keeping the Rangers in check. No longer. And one of the first moves by the news ownership group? Lowering prices for parking and some concessions and merchandise. Interesting.

Read this blog post to get the details. One thing you should know about the stadium where the Rangers play. It's out in a suburban area, with limited public transportation and it hasn't always been easy for them to pack the place. Even in good times. So, they're doing something in order to draw more fans to the park. Interesting idea.

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August 13, 2010 8:30 PM

David Pauley hopes to parlay strong 2010 finish into something more

Posted by Geoff Baker

There was a huge post-game fireworks show here tonight. The Indians were no doubt celebrating having gained a game on the Mariners in the race for the No. 1 overall draft pick.

On the flip side, Seattle losing ground in that battle means a win for pitcher David Pauley, who notched his first big-league victory tonight. Might not seem like all that much to you, since he'd only played nine big league games prior to this year. But Pauley has been a pro ballplayer since 2001 with San Diego. He bounced from Boston, to Baltimore last year and then was out of work.

So, yeah, it was nice to get this one off his back.

"I have no doubt that it goes through a guy's mind when he's out there,'' Mariners manager Daren Brown said. "He's been up here before and hasn't gotten that first win out of the way. And he's a guy who's been a starter for us. So, I think, no doubt, it probably frees him up a bit. Frees his mind up a bit.''

I kind of razzed Brown a little afterwards, saying he oughta know since he had family experience in the zero wins thing. His father, Paul, pitched for the Phillies on and off from 1961 to 1968 and went 0-8.

Naturally, I was kidding, since it's a big deal to make the majors and I'm not going to get on a guy who does with any degree of seriousness.

But it was interesting to look at the comparison between Brown's father and Pauley.

First off, they were born exactly one day apart, Pauley on June 17 and Paul Brown on June 18 -- allowing of course, for the four-decade difference in years. But Brown's father pitched his final game at age 27. That's the same age Pauley is now in collecting his first win.

And there should be a little urgency, career-wise on Pauley's part. It's not a coincidence Brown's dad pitched his final game at this age. Nor that Pauley had to grovel for a minor league invitation this past spring.

This is about the age where fringe, or journeyman major leaguers either do it or they don't. The age where you establish yourself as a full-time big leaguer or get consigned to a life of hoping for that one final call-up that may never come. These are an important seven weeks for Pauley.

"My whole career, especially the last four or five years, I've just been looking for an opportunity,'' Pauley said.

And if he does well enough, he could get an opportunity next spring. And maybe even something more than a minor league deal.

"It's hard to say,'' he said. "I'm just going to go out and keep trying to do well these next seven weeks for the next of the season. And hopefully, give myself an option or a chance to make this team next spring and help them out all year.''

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August 13, 2010 6:35 PM

Mariners 3, Indians 2: David Pauley records first career win with lights-out bullpen closing things down

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Great job off the mound by the Mariners tonight, especially by David Aardsma in the ninth. He fanned the first two batters, then notched the save. Brandon League allowed just a single in the eighth and Sean White pitched a perfect seventh.

That's how David Pauley hung on for his first career win at age 27 and making his 11th start, sixth this season. Pauley went six innings, allowed just two runs, fanned five and didn't walk anyone. His offense kept stranding guys in scoring position and needed an error to score the decisive run.

But they'll take it. That's 6-4 over their last 10, 3-1 under manager Daren Brown.

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August 13, 2010 6:10 PM

Mariners at Cleveland Indians: Aug. 13, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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That's the best we've seen Sean White look in a while, as he pitches his team through the seventh clinging to a 3-2 lead for starter David Pauley. White got a routine groundout, caught Lance Nix looking at a called third strike, then got Mickey Brantley's kid on a grounder to first.

The Mariners got a leadoff double from Josh Wilson in the seventh but could not bring him home. We'll see if they hang on in front of 26,425 here at Progressive Field.

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August 13, 2010 3:04 PM

Michael Saunders in the lineup, ready to go after shoulder scare

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Say, look at who just showed up to inspect the merchandise. Yes, it's team president Chuck Armstrong, who walked in here with GM Jack Zduriencik as the Mariners were taking batting practice. Armstrong was just as the owners' meetings in Wisconsin, along with Zduriencik, so it's a quick hop over here to Cleveland from there.

This way, they can keep a close eye on the new coaching staff and see how things are progressing. Make sure there are no mutiny attempts, stuff like that. Or, just do some routine evaluating.

One of the players they'll be evaluating these next several weeks is left fielder Michael Saunders, back in the lineup today after sitting out the weekend and much of this week with a bruised rotator cuff. He got it colliding with a wall in the Kansas City series last week.

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Saunders was a bit nervous at the time, since it's the same shoulder he had labrum surgery on. But team medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan, who did the labrum surgery on Saunders, was at the park the night of his latest collision and checked him out right away.

"He told me it had good mobility and strength in it, so it was going to be OK,'' Saunders said.

Saunders knows he's auditioning for a job next season. But he isn't putting pressure on himself because of it.

"Trying to be consostent is the big thing,'' he said. "I've learned a lot from last year. Learning from failure sometimes, I think, is a lot better than learning from successful seasons.''

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August 13, 2010 9:15 AM

Mariners should seriously consider pulling trigger on any Chone Figgins deal with Atlanta

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Going to try to write this without ticking everybody off. By now, most of you know that Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is out for the season. We discussed, prior to the trade deadline, how the Braves had approached the Mariners about dealing for Chone Figgins. I've since been told the Braves viewed Figgins as a player worth $6 million per season, not the $9 million per year guy the M's made him. So, at the time, had it gotten that far, that's what Atlanta was prepared to eat on the contract, maybe throwing in a player with a pulse.

The Braves needed Figgins to play center field and were looking at him as a third base replacement for Jones next year, since the latter planned to retire. They hate the idea of Figgins at second base, feeling it's his worst position.

Well, things have obviously changed. The Braves need a third baseman now, or could blow their playoff race with the Phillies. If I'm the Mariners, my goal will be to shed as much of that Figgins contract as possible and the desperation factor now introduced to the Braves might make that more possible now than next winter.

Never mind the player coming back this way. I'd go for a prospect if possible. But it's the money that's the big factor here.

This post yesterday on USS Mariner did a pretty good job of laying out why the M's should move the Figgins contract. It doesn't matter that he's hitting better in the second half. The Mariners signed Figgins when they were planning to "go for it" this year and next. That's also why they traded for Cliff Lee and, more tellingly, dealt Brandon Morrow for a reliever with two years of club control in Brandon League.

Now, that contention plan is shot. The M's flipped Lee for prospects, as they should have. And they now must jettison the Figgins money since this team will not contend next year and he'll be 34 before he can contribute to anything that matters.

But there's another, important reason the Figgins deal should be made ASAP and it has nothing to do with contending. More like the team's payroll and the way this roster will have to be structured for years to come if Figgins remains.

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August 12, 2010 10:43 AM

Who is grading the performance of Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong? Jack Zduriencik had best pay attention

Posted by Geoff Baker

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It's become open season this week on Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong. And much of it is deserved in the wake of the firing of Don Wakamatsu, the blunders by second-year GM Jack Zduriencik and what looks to be a second 100-loss season in three years after this team was picked by some to contend.

But what I keep seeing overlooked in all the Lincoln and Armstrong critiques is an understanding of why they continue to hold on to their positions. And if I'm Zduriencik, I'm making that required reading if he doesn't know it already.

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For me, the big reason is the fact that the team's majority owner, Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Yamauchi, has never seen a Mariners game live. In fact, after I heard a radio commentator say yesterday that Yamuachi had been to a game, I double-checked with a senior team official and was assured this was not true. In fact, he told me, Yamauchi has not been to the United States since assuming control of the team in the 1990s.

So, let's work off that assumption. And also, please understand, that Yamauchi transferring control of his assets a few years back was a move done merely on paper, for estate-planning purposes. He is getting on in years and that is something commonly done by people with hefty assets. He is still the top decision-maker for the team. The buck, or megabucks, stop with him.

So, how would his living in Japan and not visiting the U.S. impact team decisions that are made?

Well, let's be realistic. I heard from a Japanese reporter yesterday that Yamauchi is not pleased with the Mariners this season. Well, OK, join the club. Long line for that one. But to what extent is Yamauchi not pleased? How irritated is he, sitting thousands of miles and an ocean away from the people who are living and breathing this team daily?

Because the distance factor cannot be overlooked. No matter how adept we've become at instant electronic communication.

Imagine, for a moment, that Yamauchi had a pad in Bellevue and decided to throw a barbecue for the neighbors this weekend. How do you think the conversation would go? Something along the lines of: "Hey, 'Rosh, that's a mean Kobe steak you cook up, but man, does your team ever stink!''

Or, "How could you let Jack Zduriencik get away with canning his handpicked manager four months after an 85-win rookie season? Hey, pass the ketchup!''

And maybe, "Gee, 'Rosh-Meister, Chuck has been president since back in the days when the Japanese Little League team was losing to the Bad News Bears. The ones with Tatum O'Neal on the team! Don't you think you oughta', I dunno, shake things up a bit? Great salad, by the way. Your wife make it?''

Hearing that two dozen times a day, whether at a barbecue, running to the store for a quart of milk, or simply sitting in the owners' box with 10 or 15 of his closest friends might make Yamauchi a little more hands-on when it comes to his yearly evaluations of who is running his baseball team.

Yes, Yamauchi still gets daily reports. But they are sent from afar. He still speaks to Ichiro once the season's over and gets a gauge of what's happening. But that's going to be seen through the eyes of another. And a player at that. Players aren't always the best judges of how a team should be run.

These are the cards we've been dealt in Seattle. And Yamauchi has put up a lot of money for this team's yearly payroll. He didn't "Moneyball" it when that was the trend early on last decade. But the setup here has its limitations and this is one of them.

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August 11, 2010 6:19 PM

The fun and serious of Mariners baseball

Posted by Geoff Baker

Some of you were getting all riled up by the previous post, even dropping the "c" word (condescending) on me for my references to fans having a stompin' good time in the midst of a 5-1 loss by the Mariners to the Oakland Athletics.

Hey, I support fans of all stripes. If you want to be serious, by all means do so. And if you want to fill up Safeco Field for two hours, 17 minutes of fun watching hydro races and banging your "I-chi-ro!'' drum in the ninth inning of a four-run game, knock yourself out. That's why I've decided to make this an all-inclusive blog post. A little something for everybody. So, if you want your Mariners coverage serious, with no monkeying around, I've included a post-game video of new manager Daren Brown up above. he's pretty upbeat after a 5-4 homestand and a 2-1 record at the helm.

And for those of you who just want a little fun with your M's coverage, I've included a video down below of a mountain goat using nature's air conditioning in 80-degree temps last week in Glacier National Park in Montana. Shot it myself. Real family entertainment.

OK, let's get serious again.

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August 11, 2010 2:58 PM

Athletics 5, Mariners 1: Seattle fails to complete series sweep

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Mariners scored 10 runs the final five games of this homestand, but still managed to win three of them, so that has to count for something. Very spirited and energetic crowd of 31,560 fans today, which included the usual assortment of matinee kids groups cheering and dancing in the aisles.

They were cheering "I-chi-ro!'' in the ninth like it was a tie game. I'm sure they enjoyed the hydro races, too.

In the end, though, the M's hit into three double plays, managed only four hits all day off Dallas Braden and squandered their last real chance when scoring just once in a bases-loaded, one-out seventh. Chone Figgins saw his nine-game snapped.

Other than that, a good time was had by all.

Chalk up another good day, business-wise, for Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.

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August 11, 2010 2:04 PM

Oakland Athletics at Mariners: Aug. 11, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Just two hits by the M's as we head to the bottom of the sixth, Oakland leading 4-0 after scoring a pair in the fifth. Mark Ellis, trying to win one for Wak, doubled home a pair of runs off Luke French.

New manager, same old offense. Hey, at least the M's went 5-4 on the homestand. Yeah, the bottom of the sixth just whizzed by in the time it took to type two paragraphs.

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August 11, 2010 11:22 AM

Matt Tuiasosopo playing left field today for Mariners

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Another day, another interesting lineup trotted out by new Mariners manager Daren Brown. Matt Tuiasosopo is in left field, as Michael Saunders recovers from crashing into that wall six days ago. Saunders is taking BP today and should play in Cleveland on Friday after tomorrow's day off.

Yes, I have another day off. Start the emails. Only have to fly to Cleveland, then I'm home frree.

So, there's Tui in left. Russell Branyan is back in, as expected, at DH, with Jose Lopez over to third base.

Speaking of manager Brown, one of the first calls he took after his inaugural win as a major league manager on Monday was from his father, Paul.

Paul Brown went 0-8 with a 6.00 ERA for the Phillies in 36 appearances, 12 of them starts, from 1961 to 1968. His FIP was 5.28. Not sure what his xFIP was. He was also one heckuva football coach, but that's a different guy. The baseball guy had the distinction of being the 6th youngest player in the majors in 1961, turning 20 in June of that year.

Anyhow, to get back to the original point, he was 0-8.

"He talked about going 0-8 and that I won my first game my first day in the majors," Brown said. "That was special to me, hearing that from my dad."

Brown's son is now 2-0 as a manager. So, we have no right to make fun of his lineups yet, no matter how quirky they may seem at first glance.

By the way, the visiting A's are almost universally confounded by the inability of the Mariners to play for Don Wakamatsu. You'll remember, Wakamatsu was a very popular bench coach for Oakland in 2008.

A's second baseman Mark Ellis told reporters after the A's lost Monday's series opener that the defeat was doubly hard to take: "Especially seeing our friend get fired from their team, it would have been nice to win this game.''

Wow. We knew Wakamatsu's own team couldn't win for him. Now, his opponents can't either.

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August 10, 2010 11:03 PM

Dead Cat Bounce or regression to the mean? Mariners revival makes little difference to Felix Hernandez's season

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Dead Cat Bounce theory appears to be alive and cooking with the Mariners so far in the Daren Brown era. Seattle has actually won two straight under Brown, three in a row and four of five for the first time since...well, since the Don Wakamatsu era. Or was it the Jim Riggleman era? The John McLaren era? Maybe the Mike Hargrove era? Who can count that high? Thing is, they are playing winning baseball -- scoring just enough runs to support some outstanding pitching.

So, is it real, or just a Dead Cat Bounce?

You know the theory. Even if you throw a deader-than-Eric Byrnes'-career feline off a building, it will still bounce and go up just a bit. Of course, it comes crashing back to earth soon after. We saw it with the Riggleman-managed Mariners after he took over from McLaren last week...er, back in 2008.

Over the past week, we have:

Chone Figgins -- .481 avg.
Jose Lopez -- .304 avg.
Franklin Gutierrez -- .269 average

That's some noted improvement near the top and middle of the order. Meow! Meow?

Or is it sustainable? The Mariners certainly hope so in at least two of the cases. Figgins and Gutierrez look to be a big part of this team going forward in the post-Wakamatsu era.

Of course, it's a little too late to help Felix Hernandez win, oh, you know, a Cy Young Award. The Mariners took a month just to get Hernandez another victory after he took out the Yankees with a complete game right before the All-Star Break. Hernandez had a 2.88 ERA back then. He's now lowered that to 2.71.

But instead of being 7-5 a month ago, he's just 8-9 today. The fewest victories by a Cy Young winning starter is 15. Nope, no one is counting Hernandez in just yet and it has nothing to do with him. More to do with an offense that has scored just nine runs the past four games despite winning three of them.

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August 10, 2010 9:33 PM

Mariners 2, Athletics 0: Felix Hernandez strikes out career-best 13 to win for first time in a month

Posted by Geoff Baker

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That was some needed insurance the Mariners provided Felix Hernandez in the eighth inning as Chone Figgins led off with a single, followed bt a hit-and-run single from Jose Lopez that put runners at the corners with none out. Franklin Gutierrez delivered a single from there for a two-run lead.

Hernandez was not allowed back out in the ninth. Instead, David Aardsma came on to notch the save.

First big decision by new manager Daren Brown, who decided not to give Hernandez the shot at a complete-game shutout. Instead, he pulled him with a pitch count of 110.

Hernandez has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 12 straight outings, but has won just five of those. None of the victories had come in the past month. Hernandez's previous win was on July 10 against the New York Yankees, moving him to 7-5 with a 2.88 ERA and positioning him for a possible second-half run at a Cy Young Award.

He's since lowered that ERA to 2.71. But with only eight wins in an 8-9 season, Cy Young voters would have to bend over backwards to give him a first-place vote. There are still seven weeks left and wins are overrated, yes. But the fewest by a Cy Young-winning starting pitcher is 15. He's a long way from that.

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August 10, 2010 9:09 PM

Oakland Athletics at Mariners: Aug. 10, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Felix Hernandez just set a new career high with his 13th strikeout to end the eighth inning. It's going to take a near career-best to win with this offense, but Hernandez is three outs away from doing just that. He leads 1-0 as we head to the bottom of the eighth. It would be nice if this M's team could, you know...score again.

Daren Brown said before the game that he would try not to deny Hernandez things like a complete game or a shutout, even though the organization is conscious about his pitch counts and innings totals as the season progresses.

Hernandez is now at 109 pitches. I assume we'll see him again in the ninth.

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August 10, 2010 3:37 PM

Don Wakamatsu says plenty by saying absolutely nothing about his final months managing the Mariners

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu took the high road today, declining to say anything about the tumultuous final months in the dugout prior to his dismissal. Wakamatsu did say he was aware of all that had been written about him. When I asked him whether he was surprised about his dismissal, he said: "Obviously, with the things that were in the paper and the state of the club and everything, I don't know if I was...I was a little surprised at the time, but I thought there was probably a move coming. That's the best way I can describe it.''

What Wakamatsu did not do was try to correct or smooth over anything that's been written the past 24 hours -- or even the past two weeks -- about his relationship with Ken Griffey Jr., his loss of support from a segment of his clubhouse, or the lack of support by the front office of GM Jack Zduriencik.

"Again, I don't want to get into all that stuff,'' he said.

He repeated that contention when asked whether it was true the Zduriencik front office had bypassed him and the coaching staff when it came to telling him in advance who they were acquiring in the Cliff Lee deal. Don't forget, the trade was with the Rangers, and Wakamatsu, Rick Adair and other coaches have been with that organization in the recent past.

So, Wakamatsu isn't going to say anything bad about his former employers, which is a good strategy if he wants to gain employment elsewhere. But he also isn't about to put a band-aid on any of the bleeding that's been caused to the organization by the way it has handled this season.

He's moving on and letting Zduriencik and company pick up the pieces of a situation they helped create.

As far as his coaches go, Wakamatsu had dinner with pitching coach Adair in Seattle last night.


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August 10, 2010 10:00 AM

Sad ending for both Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and franchise icon Ken Griffey Jr.

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Just over a year ago, I snapped a series of batting practice photos of Ken Griffey Jr. hamming it up with Don Wakamatsu's 12-year-old son, Luke. Later, after publishing them on the blog, I received a request from the Mariners PR staff -- Wakamatsu wanted to know if he could have copies of the photos.

At the time, I promised them yes. Wakamatsu later thanked me. He clearly had great respect for Griffey, as a player and a man, and wanted the keepsakes for down the road. Thing is, as the season unfolded, I never got around to emailing them. Now, I know for sure that it would be the wrong thing to do.

How could a relationship between two men go so wrong, so fast?

I tried to spell some of that out for you this morning in the paper.

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong is quoted in the story as saying that I'm "connecting the wrong dots" in trying to link the firing to Griffey. That Griffey did not have a call in what happened yesterday -- that it was all Jack Zduriencik.

And maybe Armstrong is right about that on a technical front. Maybe Griffey doesn't really care who is running this ship and would have come back for a retirement ceremony next spring regardless. Now, we'll never know. But what we do know is, Wakamatsu lost a significant portion of the clubhouse after the May 10 Sleep Gate story written by colleague Larry LaRue in The News Tribune. In our story today, I quote a player who was there saying that Griffey quickly came to suspect that it was Wakamatsu who leaked the story to LaRue. Not only that, Griffey is said to have shared his opinions with others in the clubhouse.

Some of you would prefer that we not use anonymous sources for such stories. Well, hey, so do I. I also wish the tooth fairy would have left me $10 million as a kid. But let's deal in reality. Who is going to put their name to this kind of stuff? You wouldn't know a thing about what's really going on with this team, or any other, if all we went with were on-the-record quotes. Zduriencik gave you a nice "Don is our manager" quote for the record last week. What did that tell you? How educated about the team were you for it? Here's a quote for you: "It's sunny outside". But does that tell you whether it's going to rain tomorrow? Nope.

All I can say is, I've used anonymous clubhouse sources to bring you accurate stories before. In 2008, I told you of the festering clubhouse problems between Ichiro and a group of his teammates -- all of whom have since been cleared out by the new regime. Think it was a coincidence Griffey and Mike Sweeney were brought in last year to police the clubhouse?

This year, we used anonymous sources to tell you that Milton Bradley had left the clubhouse early during a game and why.

And now, I am using this one. You'll have to trust me based on my track record. A belief system, if you will. My paper knows who the source is and there is a copy of the conversation with the player on file that a handful of people will have access to for legal reasons. But that's it. The source will never be revealed.

So, if we're going to talk about how Wakamatsu was unable to lead his players, it's just about impossible to avoid the conversation about the 5,000-pound elephant in the room, going by the name of Griffey. Wakamatsu was tolerant -- to a fault -- of the mistakes made by his players. That much we know. But Wakamatsu was the same way last season. And when he called out Felix Hernandez in May of 2009 for a lack of preparation and focus, he had the "juice" of Zduriencik and the entire organization -- and Griffey and Sweeney in the clubhouse -- to back him up.

Not so this year.

Wakamatsu was forced to deal with a number of strategical decisions by Zduriencik that just never panned out. Right out of the chute, he was preoccupied on a daily basis with the trials and tribulations of Milton Bradley, a player Griffey was also spending an inordinate amount of daily energy trying to get on-track.

Eventually, that problem was dealt with by getting Bradley professional help a month into the season. By then, several veterans imported by Zduriencik for key roles had floundered miserably in the season's opening month. Bradley, Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman, Eric Byrnes. The only guy who showed promise of actually hitting was Sweeney, who was glued to the bench in April as Wakamatsu continued to play Zduriencik's hand-picked imports.

Not sure how much of an impact Wakamatsu was supposed to have in making those players hit better. I know he cut Figgins a ton of slack because of the difficulties in switching positions and spots in the batting order. Jose Lopez was also cut a lot of slack because of the position switch and his second-half track record from last year.

A belief system, if you will.

But by the season's second month, with the Mariners unable to score more than two or three runs per game and starting to teeter out of division contention, it was time to make some changes.

Instead of bringing in reinforcements, the front office decided to fire hitting coach Alan Cockrell. The message was loud and clear from above: these may be the guys we chose, but you're stuck with them and could lose your job if they don't get better.

Faced with that gauntlet thrown, Wakamatsu began the unsavory task of trying to make the team better. And the most obvious place to look was at Griffey, a 40-year-old hitter on his final legs and with a potential replacement at DH in Sweeney.

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August 9, 2010 10:41 PM

A crazy day ends in victory and beer

Posted by Larry Stone

While Don Wakamatsu and his fired coaches no doubt spent a distressful night wondering where the heck it all went wrong, life went on at Safeco Field.

The Mariners turned their first triple play since 1995, got Doug Fister his first win since May 14, and handed interim manager Daren Brown a victory in his first game as a major-league manager.

I feel badly for Wakamatsu, a genuinely good guy who was dealt a very bad hand. And I feel badly for Rick Adair and Ty Van Burkleo, who went down with the ship, along with Steve Hecht. But you can't help but feel good for Brown, a minor-league lifer who is going to get a seven-week taste of big-league managing.

For Brown, the night ended with him being wheeled in a laundry cart into the shower room, where the players toasted his first win with a beer bath. Lots of whoops and laughter could be heard emanating from the distance, and everyone emerged with big smiles.

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August 9, 2010 6:55 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. A's, Aug. 9

Posted by Larry Stone

Lineups

A's

Coco Crisp CF
Rajai Davis RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Jack Cust DH
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Mark Ellis 2B
Chris Carter LF
Jeff Larish 1B
Cliff Pennington SS

Vin Mazzaro RHP (6-3, 3.86)

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Russ Branyan DH
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jose Lopez 3B
Ryan Langerhans LF
Adam Moore C
Josh Wilson SS

Doug Fister RHP (3-8, 3.98)

The Daren Brown era begins. I've got other stuff to do (as you can well imagine), so I won't be doing much with the game thread. Have fun.

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August 9, 2010 6:22 PM

Wakamatsu issues statement

Posted by Larry Stone

Don Wakamatsu just issued the following statement through the Mariners' public relations department:

"I would like to thank the city of Seattle and all the baseball fans here in the Northwest for the great support offered to me during my time as Mariners manager.

"My single biggest disappointment is that we were not able to finish what we wanted to finish here, bringing a championship club to the fans.

"I can not tell you how great the fans were to me, and to my family. The support I received here will always mean a great deal to me."

Wakamatsu relayed that he will conduct a conference call tomorrow afternoon once he's had a chance to digest everything.

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August 9, 2010 2:30 PM

It's official: M's fire Don Wakamatsu

Posted by Geoff Baker

Sorry for the delay, folks. We had technical problems earlier that delayed posting to this blog. By now, you've all heard that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu has been fired, along with pitching coach Rick Adair, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo and performance coach Steve Hecht.

This comes just six days after all of those "Don is our manager" quotes from GM Jack Zduriencik, proving once and for all how overrated direct, on-the-record quotes can be in this business.

As we've told you since the Wakamatsu-Chone Figgins flareup 17 days ago, the manager had received zero backing from the team's front office. This is almost always a sign that a manager has become a "lame duck" and that his days are numbered.

Had Zduriencik planned on keeping Wakamatsu, Figgins would have either been disciplined or forced to apologize. That's how good teams operate -- with a chain of command. In this case, with Wakamatsu's days numbered, the team appears to have seen little reason to irk Figgins, a player with three contract years remaining.

The writing was on the wall and every coach -- including Wakamatsu -- saw it coming from a long way off. Mariners catching consultant Roger Hanson, now on the coaching staff after today's moves, was called to a meeting with Zduriencik in Seattle even before the Figgins flareup.

Wakamatsu was done weeks ago and has been Dead Man Walking ever since. When was his fate sealed? Probably when the team fell out of contention as early as it did.

Ken Griffey Jr. left the team on June 2. Wakamatsu lost part of the clubhouse that day and never really got it back.

If you want to do an autopsy on Wakamatsu's tenure here, that's as good a place as any to begin.

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August 8, 2010 5:36 PM

Figgins is on fire; correction, he's only smoldering

Posted by Larry Stone

Chone Figgins is starting to look like the guy the Mariners envisioned when they signed him to that four-year, $36 million contract.

But when I mentioned to him after the game that he was on fire, he replied, "On fire is if you're getting a hit every single time. I'm not getting a hit every single time, so that's not on fire.''

OK, he's not on fire. But Figgins is hitting .481 (13-for-27) during a seven-game hitting streak, .522 (12-for-23) on the homestand, and .407 (24-for-59) since the dugout incident with manager Don Wakamatsu.

He, along with Ichiro, was in the middle of just about everything positive that happened for the Mariners today in their 3-2 win over Kansas City. Figgins had two singles, a walk, a stolen base, scored a run and drove in a run. Ichiro had two singles and scored the other two runs.

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August 8, 2010 12:59 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Royals, Aug. 8: M's win 3-2

Posted by Larry Stone

ROYALS NINTH:Alex Gordon gets a pinch-hit homer off Aardsma to close the gap to 3-2 with one out, but Aardsma gets the next two outs for his 20th save. Mariners win, 3-2, take series two out of three.

MARINERS EIGHTH:M's get a big insurance run on a one-out infield single by Ichiro, who made it to second on a wild throw (the whole play probably should have been a two-base error, but that's another issue). With Ichiro taking off, Figgins singled to bring him home. The top three in the order are really producing today -- five hits, three runs, three RBI. 3-1 Mariners.

ROYALS EIGHTH:Brandon League works out of a major jam to preserve Seattle's lead. With one out, back-to-back singles by Betemit and Pena put runners on the corners, but Aviles bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. As some have noted, League gave up more hits after three batters than Brandon Morrow -- for whom he was traded -- gave up in nine innings. Morrow had 17 more strikeouts than League. 2-1 Mariners.

MARINERS SEVENTH: A promising inning went off the tracks. Singles by Gutierrez and Lopez, and a sacrifice by Bard put runners on second and third, one out. The M's tried the suicide squeeze with Langerhans up, but the Royals sniffed it out, called a pitchout, and nailed Gutierrez. Langerhans made a valiant effort to get the bunt down (unlike Eric Byrnes months earlier) but had no chance. And then he struck out. 2-1 Mariners.

ROYALS SEVENTH:Jamey Wright replaced Vargas and gave up a leadoff infield single to Willie Bloomquist, who moved to second on a sacrifice. But Wright speared a comebacker by Gregor Blanco for one out and got Kendall to fly to center. Still 2-1 Mariners.

MARINERS SIXTH:The Mariners storm into the lead with two runs, both coming on Casey Kotchman's one-out single. That followed back-to-back hits by Ichiro and Chone Figgins, and a stolen base by Figgins. 2-1 Mariners.

NOTE: The Mariners just announced shortstop Jack Wilson has a fractured fifth metacarpal in his right hand from an accident in his bathroom last night, in which he fell and put his hand down to cushion the ball. Wilson will see a hand specialist tomorrow.

ROYALS SIXTH:The Royals push across a run on Mike Aviles's infield single with runners on first and second, one out. Chone Figgins fielded the ball ranging to his left and looked for the force out on slow-running Billy Butler at second. That play wasn't there, and Figgins held the ball, but it looked like he had a chance to get Aviles at first. Meanwhile, Jason Kendall scored from first. 1-0 Royals.

MARINERS FIFTH: Quite the pitchers duel between Davies and Vargas through five. Each has given up one hit. Vargas has walked three, Davies two. Each has thrown 74 pitches. Davies has four strikeouts, Vargas two. Still 0-0.

MARINERS FOURTH:Figgins leads off with a walk but is promptly erased on a Kotchman double play. Branyan walks, but Gutierrez's drive to center is run down by Blanco. 0-0.

ROYALS FOURTH:Vargas gets into, and works out of, his first jam. With one out, Billy Butler breaks the no-hitter on a drive to right that Ichiro ran down, but had it pop out of his glove. Butler got a double, and Betemit walked, but Vargas struck o ute Brayan Pena and got Mike Aviles to fly out. 0-0.

MARINERS THIRD Well, the Mariners won't be a no-hit victim today. Josh Wilson delivers a two-out single to center off Davies, but is forced at second by Ichiro to end the inning. 0-0. So far, most of the action has been provided by the Blue Angels.

ROYALS THIRD:An ultra-quick inning for Vargas, who has allowed just a walk to Billy Butler through three innings. Only one ball by the Royals has left the infield. 0-0.

MARINERS SECOND: No hits for either team through two. Not sure if that's a reflection on the pitching or the hitting. 0-0.

MARINERS FIRST: Twelve pitches for Davies, M's go down 1-2-3

ROYALS FIRST:Nice play by Figgins, roaming far to his left and spinning to make a throw that nipped Wilson Betemit at first for the final out, after a two-out walk by Vargas. 0-0

The Mariners are trying to win their first series since taking two of three from the Yankees in New York on June 29-July 1. Their record since then: 8-26.

The roof just opened up in time to witness some Blue Angel stunts in the distance. This should be fun. The Safeco roof has been closed or moved during play this season in 20 of 57 games. The record is 23 in 2007.

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August 8, 2010 11:57 AM

Shawn Kelley could be headed for elbow surgery

Posted by Larry Stone

Mariners lineup

Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Russ Branyan DH
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jose Lopez 3B
Josh Bard C
Ryan Langerhans LF
Josh Wilson SS
Jason Vargas LHP (7-5, 3.19)

Adam Moore was in the original lineup but was scratched with a stiff back. The Mariners are giving Michael Saunders (shoulder) one more day, but he should play tomorrow.

The big news today was Don Wakamatsu's assertion that reliever Shawn Kelley will likely have surgery on his right elbow, which has been bothering him since mid-June. Kelley threw an inning in Tacoma on Monday but had to be scratched from a scheduled outing for Everett on Thursday when the elbow pain returned. Since then, he has undergone numeorus medical tests.

"I think he's going to have to have surgery no matter what,'' Wakamatsu said. "It's just a matter of when they go in there, and what they find. It could be a year, or he could be ready for spring training. The MRI and CATscan haven't been real conclusive on what's in there.''

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August 7, 2010 5:53 PM

After 2 . . .

Posted by Bud Withers

Post-script, M's-Royals

"It's about scoring runs," said M's manager Don Wakamatsu, echoing the season's endless refrain. "And we didn't score any runs tonight."
Russell Branyan, who accounted for the only Seattle run with a fourth-inning homer, said KC starter Bruce Chen was deceiving, changing arm angles, keeping the M's off-balance and not giving them much in the middle of the plate. But Branyan added, "We're all professionals here. We've got to do a better job with guys like that. He wasn't overpowering. I know I swung at a 3-2 breaking ball out of the zone. We could have done a better job of waiting him out, getting a better pitch to hit."
Series finale Sunday at 1:10, Jason Vargas and Kyle Davies. Then a three-game series with the A's starts Monday night and will end a nine-game homestand Wednesday afternoon.


Final: KC 2, Seattle 1

It was at least interesting in the 9th, but still frustrating for the M's, who got Chone Figgins aboard on a leadoff single before Royals ace closer Joakim Soria got busy. He retired Casey Kotchman on a slow roller, blew three fastballs by Russell Branyan, and then put a fastball on the outside corner that Franklin Gutierrez fanned on to end it.
It's Soria's 31st save, and tied a club record of 24 straight also held by Jeff Montgomery.

Heading into the 9th . . .

Jack Wilson's hit with two out in the eighth may have turned out to be an albatross for the M's. Instead of Ichiro leading off the bottom of the ninth, probably against ace Royals closer Joakim Soria, it'll be Chone Figgins, trying to add to the M's four-hit total for the night.
It's 2-1, Royals, with David Aardsma coming on for the Royals ninth.
KC may not have to rue the fact Billy Butler cost them in the top of the eighth. After his leadoff double, Figgins cut him down at third on a bouncer on which Butler clearly didn't anticipate a play being made on him. Sean White and Garrett Olson got out of the inning to keep Seattle within a run.


After 5 . . .

Branyan's bomb in the fourth to dead centerfield off a hanging curve from Bruce Chen makes it 2-1, KC.
Aside from that, M's aren't getting much done against Chen.
Maybe this provides a hint: M's, with 360 runs, are last in the major leagues. Two AL teams, the Yankees and Red Sox, have at least 200 more runs than Seattle. Five other AL teams have more than 500 runs, and four more in the National League have more than 500.
The next-worst scoring team in the game is Pittsburgh, at 378. Not often the AL's worst is even more downtrodden than the National's.

Through 3 1/2 . . .

Sorry for the mechanical/operator errors, guys; I blog at about the frequency of Mariner divisional championships, so . . .

M's broke through on Chen for Jack Wilson's two-out hit in the third, their first of the game. But nothing more.
Pauley pulled himself out of a two-on jam in the fourth as Chris Seddon warmed up, so it's still 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth.

Not much stickwork by the M's against a pitcher, Bruce Chen, who has a 2.05 WHIP in his last five starts. So far, it's six up and six down for the locals.
Meanwhile, David Pauley is struggling. He's thrown 46 pitches in two innings and trails 2-0 after the Royals' two-run second.
FYI, Royals, who were tops in the AL in hitting in their last trip in in early July, are now No. 2 to Minnesota, at .278. M's are last in the league at .236 -- 12 points behind the next-worst-hitting team, Cleveland, at .248

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August 7, 2010 5:46 PM

M's-Royals starting lineups

Posted by Bud Withers


Kansas City

CF Gregor Blanco
C Jason Kendall
DH Billy Butler
1B Kila Ka'aihue
3B Wilson Betemit
LF Alex Gordon
RF Mitch Maier
SS Mike Aviles
2B Chris Getz
P Bruce Chen

Seattle

RF Ichiro
2B Chone Figgins
1B Casey Kotchman
DH Russell Branyan
CF Franklin Gutierrez
3B Jose Lopez
C Adam Moore
LF Ryan Langerhans
SS Jack Wilson
P David Pauley

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August 7, 2010 5:41 PM

Mariners-Royals game thread, Aug. 7

Posted by Bud Withers


Bedard's surgery successful


It's become an unwanted part of Erik Bedard's baseball life: Late-season surgery on his pitching shoulder.
And if he's correct, this will be the last one as a member of the Mariners.
Bedard, 31, returned to the Mariner clubhouse Saturday after Friday surgery to remove a bone spur in his left AC joint. It's his third operation in three seasons on the shoulder.
Bedard, who had major surgery on his labrum last Aug. 14, had been ticketed to return to the M's rotation in July. But in his final rehab starts at Tacoma, he felt discomfort, resulting in the latest operation and ending his 2010 season before it could begin.
"That's the most disappointing part," Bedard said. "You get pretty much at the end, when you're going to get (back) to the big leagues, and it breaks down."
Bedard is signed only through this season, with a club option for 2011. Asked if he thought he might return to the M's, he said he'd "love to."
"But I didn't pitch this year," he said. "So why would they pick up the option? It's just common sense."
Manager Don Wakamatsu, asked if he'd take Bedard on for another season, said, "That's strictly Jack's decision (referring to general manager Jack Zduriencik). It's a decision for the front office."
Bedard has had an injury-riddled three years with Seattle that have frustrated Mariners fans. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder late in September, 2008, a season that included two other disabled-list stints for hip and shoulder problems.
His career numbers for the M's: An 11-7 record with a 3.24 earned-run average, 164 innings pitched over 30 starts.
Both Bedard and trainer Rick Griffin expressed optimism that this latest procedure can be overcome in stride. There was no damage to the labrum or rotator cuff.
"It's going to be an easy rehab compared to last year," said Bedard, acquired in the controversial trade with Baltimore early in 2008 that sent Adam Jones, George Sherrill and other prospects to the Orioles.
Said Griffin, "For him to be so close, and to see how hard he's worked and the bullpens he's thrown . . . this year, especially, he's been phenomenal. He's done everything he's been asked to do."
Griffin said he talked to a Yankees scout who had seen bullpen sessions by both Bedard and ex-Mariner Cliff Lee on the same day as Lee was recovering from an abdominal-muscle problem in April.
"He (the scout) told me Bedard's bullpen was better than Cliff Lee's, and he thought Bedard was going to come back before Cliff Lee," Griffin said. "So that's how good Erik was throwing.
"It gets frustrating. You throw, feel good, go to bed and you wake up, and feel those pains. It's a roller-coaster, especially when you've gone through it three times."

Notes

 LF Michael Saunders is still stiff, Wakamatsu reported, from a collision with the outfield fence Wednesday night and will sit another day or two.
 C Josh Bard, bothered by a stiff neck since July 31, should be able to give Adam Moore a rest Sunday or Monday, when the M's open a home series with Oakland.
 Wakamatsu had no update on a CT scan undergone by pitcher Shawn Kelley, out with elbow problems.

End it

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August 6, 2010 6:21 PM

Kansas City Royals at Mariners: Aug. 6, 2010 game thread

Posted by Mason Kelley

IMG00142-1.jpgFinal: Mariners 7, Kansas City 1.

9:24 p.m.: Seattle tacks on a run in the eighth on Casey Kotchman's RBI single to right field. It's 7-1 Mariners heading into the ninth and Brandon League is in to pitch the final frame.

8:52 p.m.: Langerhans is having quite a day. He's 3 for 3 with a homer, double, single and two runs scored. He's a triple away from the cycle and the M's now lead 6-1 after six.

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August 6, 2010 5:18 PM

Michael Saunders gets a day off and other pregame notes

Posted by Mason Kelley

GYI0061237538.JPG
When asked about the hardest hit he ever endured as a forward playing hockey, Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders said, "I don't remember."

Since he clearly remembers the blow he suffered crashing into the wall in the fifth inning of Thursday's loss to the Rangers while trying to track down David Murphy's three-run homer -- it left him with a sore neck and shoulder -- it's safe to say that hit doesn't rank near the top.

However, he hit the wall hard enough to get a day off.

"It's stiff, but it will be all right," said Saunders, who left the game in the eighth inning.

Looking back at the play, Saunders said he was playing Murphy, a left-handed hitter, shallow, expecting him to slice the ball to the opposite field with Felix Hernandez on the mound.

When Murphy made contact, Saunders, sprinted to area he expected the ball to travel toward.

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August 5, 2010 11:22 PM

Felix pitches, which means Mariners don't score

Posted by Larry Stone

I hate to flog this angle again, but this is getting ridiculous. Felix Hernandez is 7-9 this year,and the Mariners have scored a total of nine runs in his losses -- seven while he's on the mound.

I admire the way Felix is handling himself in the wake of what has to be a tremendously frustrating stretch for him. It's a sign of his growing maturity.

"He's not a guy who's ever going to complain, but it's got to wear on a young guy like him, especially pitching as well as he has,'' manager Don Wakamatsu said. "He had a tremendous stuff tonight. I thought he had his best velocity of the year. He topped out at 97.''

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August 5, 2010 6:50 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Rangers, Aug. 5

Posted by Larry Stone

MARINERS SIXTH:The Mariners are now 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position as they get back-to-back singles to start the inning (Branyan and Gutierrez) but can't do anything. Lopez popped to shortstop Elvis Andrus in shallow left, Moore grounded into a force at second (Branyan moving to third) and Saunders popped out. 0-0

RANGERS SIXTH:Michael Young's two-out single ends a streak of 14 straight retired by Hernandez, but he starts a new streak by getting Josh Hamilton to ground out to second. 0-0

MARINERS FIFTH:Another opportunity falls by the wayside. Ichiro ripped a one-out double down the left-field line, but Figgins grounded out to third, and Kotchman flied to center. The Mariners have strand one runner at third, three at second, and two at first through five innings. 0-0

RANGERS FIFTH:Felix is really rolling, retiring the Rangers in order again. He's retired 12 in a row now. 0-0.

MARINERS FOURTH: The Mariners get runners on first and second with one out -- a Branyan walk and Lopez single -- only to have Adam Moore and Michael Saunders both whiff. Still 0-0.

RANGERS FOURTH: Another quick inning for Hernandez, who has retired nine in a row since Cruz's double leading off the second. But can the Mariners get him any runs? Tommy Hunter is coming off his worst outing of the season, giving up eight runs in three innings against the Angels for his first loss after eight straigh wins. 0-0.

MARINERS THIRD: Figgins gets a two-out single, but Kotchman grounds out. Heading into this game, Figgins is hitting .386 (17-for-44) over his last 11 games. 0-0

RANGERS THIRD:A strong 1-2-3 inning for Hernandez, including a strikeout of Elvis Andrus.

MARINERS SECOND:Hunter toughens after giving up a leadoff single to Gutierrez on a pitch that sawed off his bat. He struck out lopez, got Moore to fly out, and struck out Saunders looking. 0-0.

RANGERS SECOND:The Rangers also couldn't get home a runner from third with one out, as Bengie Molina grounded out to short, and Mitch Moreland struck out looking. 0-0.

MARINERS FIRST:The Mariners had the kind of inning that typifies their season. Ichiro leads off with a double and moves to third on Chone Figgins sacrifice. And the M's can't get him home. No. 3 hitter Casey Kotchman fails to pull the ball to the right side, grounding out to short as Ichiro has to hold. Russ Branyan fouled out. 0-0.

RANGERS FIRST:Hernandez got off to a frustrating start when Elvis Andrus, on a 3-2 pitch, hit a nubber up the third-base line for an infield single. But Jose Lopez started a nice DP on Michael Young's smash. Josh Hamilton singled, then Vlad Guerrero grounded out. 0-0.

Felix Hernandez is on the mound, giving the Mariners -- who have lost 24 of their last 31 games -- a better chance than usual for a victory. But they'll have to score more than usual. In 23 starts this year by Hernandez, they have scored just 76 runs -- 3.3 per game. They've supported Hernandez with 66 runs when he is in the game. In his eight losses, Seattle has given Felix just seven total runs of support.

A note on Ichiro's four stolen bases last night, which tied a career high and also tied a Mariner club record. He become one of 22 players since 1920 in MLB to record multiple four-steal games in a career. The last player in the majors to steal four bases in a game was Texas's Julio Borbon on Aug. 15 of last season against Boston.

The Mariners have lost nine of 12 against the Rangers this year, to go with a 3-10 mark against the Angels, and 3-6 against Oakland. That's a combined 9-25 against the Al West.

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August 5, 2010 5:03 PM

Doctor to examine Shawn Kelley's sore elbow and other Mariner notes

Posted by Larry Stone

The news on reliever Shawn Kelley is a bit ominous. Kelley, who has been out since June 16 with elbow issues, pitched one inning in Tacoma on Monday, and all seemed well. He talked optimistically to reporters on Tuesday about being close to returning to the Mariners. Kelley was scheduled to pitch in Everett tonight.

But while throwing in the bullpen yesterday, Kelley didn't feel right, and he was scratched from today's scheduled appearance. He's been "shut down until we know a little more about his injury,'' manager Don Wakamatsu said. Kelley will be checked out by Edward Khalfayan, the Mariners' team doctor.

"It's just been a little stiffer than normal lately, pretty much since Tacoma,'' Kelley said. "I'm just going to take it easy and not rush like we haven't been. I threw yesterday. I just didn't feel really good after. I was a little sore after throwing. I just decided it would be in my best interest to be pushed back for a few days.''

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August 5, 2010 3:28 PM

Lineups, Mariners vs. Rangers, Aug. 5

Posted by Larry Stone

The lineups are available unusually early today, so here they are:

Rangers

Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Nelson Cruz RF
David Murphy LF
Bengie Molina C
Mitch Moreland 1B
Andres Blanco 2B

Tommy Hunter RHP (8-1, 3.31)

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Russell Branyan DH
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jose Lopez 3B
Adam Moore C
Michael Saunders LF
Jack Wilson SS

Felix Hernandez RHP (7-8, 2.90)

Felix is going for his first win since July 10, going 0-3 in four starts in that time, with a 3.00 ERA.

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August 4, 2010 11:49 PM

Doug Fister feels fine physically, says bad pitches doing him in

Posted by Geoff Baker

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We spoke to Doug Fister after this one and he insists he feels great physically, even though he no longer goes seven or eight innings like he used to. Don Wakamatsu said the radar gun also showed Fister consistently up, meaning arm strength is not the issue.

What is?

Wakamatsu says "poor pitch selection" and location in a handful of key moments.

And Fister agrees. "I felt good, but it was just a lack of execution of pitches and it came back to bite me,'' he said.

There was the wild-pitch that scored the first Texas run of the fifth inning. But mainly, the 1-2 pitch to David Murphy that got golfed into the seats soon after.

Very quickly, a 5-2 lead had become a 7-5 deficit.

The fielding was great in that fifth inning, as Franklin Gutierrez saved a two-run homer with a grab at the wall on Vladimir Guerrero. Then, Chone Figgins saved another run with a diving stop of an Elvis Andrus grounder that went for an infield hit but could not get the runner home from second.

But the fielding was not as great in the seventh.

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August 4, 2010 10:30 PM

Rangers 11, Mariners 6: M's overwhelmed by power onslaught

Posted by Geoff Baker

There is a lot of power on this Texas Rangers squad and we saw it put up seven runs tonight on two swings of the bat.

A three-run homer by David Murphy and grand slam by Michael Young proved the difference in an 11-6 loss by the M's. Doug Fister once again did not look all that sharp. He caught some breaks early on and did not fall victim to a flurry of runs.

Franklin Gutierrez then saved him from a tying Vladimir Guerrero blast in the fifth. Fister walked the usual Mariner-killer, Nelson Cruz, to put two on, only to fall victim to Murphy's blast. The Rangers never trailed again.

Seattle gave the Rangers one too many chances in the seventh when they failed to catch that pop-up in foul territory in a 7-6 game. Two singles later, Young hit his slam and that was it.

Positive signs included Adam Moore's two-run homer and some good speed on the bases by Ichiro -- who stole four bags -- and Chone Figgins early. It was the 1-2 punch long-envisioned by the M's.

But you can't small-ball your way to enough runs to overcome power like the Rangers put up.

Fister still winless since May 14 and full value for tonight's loss.

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August 4, 2010 9:49 PM

Texas Rangers at Mariners: Aug. 4, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Well, that's our ballgame folks. A pop fly towards the Rangers dugout by Mitch Moreland isn't caught by Adam Moore, Garrett Olson or Jose Lopez as it bounces off the rail. Moreland singles, Elvis Andrus beats out an infield single to third to load 'em up and Michael Young hits the grand salami off of Olson to make it an 11-6 contest.

You can't give second chances to a team like the Rangers. It was a very tough play to make, yes, but when a ball hits the rail like that on a high popup, you usually have a shot at it. Moore was closest. Olson was right there. Lopez? Not sure where he was. But I do know that "Jose Lopez is our third baseman.'' Anyhow, part of the development process.

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August 4, 2010 5:52 PM

Mike Sweeney makes special trip in to Safeco Field to say goodbye to team

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Mike Sweeney has to get on a plane to Philadelphia. But he took time this afternoon to drop by the clubhouse and say goodbye to all of his teammates. Gave each of them a hug, I'm told.

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu has always been a huge Sweeney backer. Was instrumental in him coming here to Seattle and then in making the team out of spring training this year. The two had met while working together in Oakland in 2008.

"He just came in and said goodbye to everybody, he was catching a flight a little bit later to Philly,'' Wakamatsu said. "He picked up his stuff, touched as many people as he could and then went on his way. He hugged everybody. Hugged my son. Spread a little love before he left.''

Wakamatsu said he'll remember many things that separated Sweeney from other players.

"The passion,'' he said. "How much he cared about other people rather than himself. How much he played recklessly regardless of his body. He'd go in there and run over the catcher. He'd go in there hurt. He loved the game and he loved the fact that he always wanted to give something back. And he knew how fortunate he was to have the career that he's had. He just cares about other people and that's a special trait to have.''

By the way, I've got some additional information on that whole Chone Figgins to Atlanta trade rumor that surfaced last week. I told you over the weekend that it was the Braves who first contacted the M's on Friday. That was before Braves leadoff hitter Martin Prado got hurt that same night.

The Braves were unimpressed with Figgins as a second baseman and instead wanted him to play center field. They also felt he could be a replacement at third base for Chipper Jones once he retires after this season. But the Braves, I'm told, were not going to take on all of the remaining Figgins contract. They were looking for a discount.

The M's told the Braves they were not going to move Figgins and that was that.

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August 4, 2010 1:42 PM

Mike Sweeney traded to the Phillies

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Mariners have dealt Mike Sweeney to the Philadelphia Phillies for either a player to be named or cash considerations. Philadelphia put in a waiver claim for Sweeney and then worked out the deal with the M's.

Sweeney had been on the disabled list with back spasms since June 27 and had completed his rehabilitation assignment at Class AAA Tacoma. The Mariners had to activate him, as per MLB rules.

"Mike is a true pro and was a contributor to our organization in many ways, both on and off the field,'' Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said in a release. "This is a great opportunity for Mike and we are pulling for him to succeed in Philadelphia.''

Sweeney appeared in only 30 games for the M's this season, hitting .263 with a team-best six homers at the time, while also notching 18 runs batted in. He'd bewen bothered by back spasms off and on prior to being put on the DL.

But that decision may have been more the result of a lack of room for him on the squad than anything else. Right before he went on the DL, Sweeney told me his back was feeling better and that he could play.

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August 4, 2010 9:47 AM

Young guys playing for their futures these next two months

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Adam Moore got called up yesterday by the Mariners and the plan, for now, is to play him almost every day the final two months.

Welcome to 2011. The 2010 version of it, that is.

Moore isn't the only young Mariners hopeful auditioning for a full-time role next season. A couple of guys are deeper into their auditions than Moore is and these final two months could go a long way in determining whether they open 2011 on the MLB squad.

Those would be left fielder Michael Saunders (photo above) and third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo.

Both have already has previous looks at the major league level. Tuiasosopo first came up in September of 2008, before making the Opening Day roster in both 2009 and 2010. Many folks don't like to hear me repeat it, but it bears repeating: young players do not have forever to make an impression on a major league squad.

That's doubly true when the players in question were not the first choice of a general manager. Saunders, Tuiasosopo and Moore are all products of the Bill Bavasi regime and were inherited by GM Jack Zduriencik.

That doesn't automatically make them persona non grata. It only means that any GM, not just Zduriencik, will be evaluating them closely to see whether they fit the mold of the team he is trying to construct. With Justin Smoak, who Zduriencik just traded for, he had time to study the player's skillset and decided this was exactly the type of guy who could help what he was building.

And so, it stands to reason that Smoak will get more time -- not unlimited time mind you, but plenty more -- to develop the skills Zduriencik sees ready to blossom just beneath the surface. Not so with the Bavasi holdovers, who now have to show Zduriencik they have what it takes to fit his style of team.

With Saunders, Tuiasosopo and, to a lesser extent, Moore, the next two months will go a long way. And there's a good chance that at least part of the trio won't be around next spring.

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August 3, 2010 10:33 PM

Post-game notes: Mariners break their seven-game losing streak, win 3-2

Posted by Larry Stone

So the Mariners will win again this season after all.

It was actually a well-played game all around for the M's as they broke a seven-game losing streak. As I said in my game story, if they had played more games like this, the burning story of the day wouldn't have been Don Wakamatsu's job security.

But it is what it is -- they are 40-67, no matter how you slice it -- and so it's hard to get too worked up about any single game.

The key play of the game was turned in by Chone Figgins in the eighth inning. The Rangers were threatening to tie the game off Brandon League and had runners on first and third, one out. Nelson Cruz hit an absolute smash to Figgins' left. He somehow managed to spear the ball and flipped to Jack Wilson to start a lightning-quick, inning-ending double play. If that ball gets through, the Rangers probably go on to win.

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August 3, 2010 6:56 PM

Game thread, Mariners vs. Rangers, Aug. 3

Posted by Larry Stone

RANGERS SEVENTH:Jamey Wright replaces Vargas and gives up a two-out double to Mitch Mooreland, but gets pinch-hitter David Murphy to fly out. Vargas's line: 6 ip, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 earned runs, three walks, two strikeouts. 3-2 Mariners.

RANGERS SIXTH:Vargas is breezing -- nine in a row put down. He's allowed just three hits through six, and leads, 3-2.

MARINERS FIFTH:M's take their first lead of the night on Franklin Gutierrez's 10th homer of the year, an opposite-field drive on a 2-2 pitch by Colby Lewis with one out. 3-2 Mariners.

RANGERS FIFTH: An easy 1-2-3 inning for Vargas, who has had a nice outing so far.

MARINERS FOURTH:The M's mounted a two-out rally to tie the score, but stranded two more runners (7 LOB through four). Jack Wilson scored the run on a wild pitch after getting a single and moving to third on Ichiro's perfectly executed hit-and-run single. 2-2.

RANGERS FOURTH: Texas regains the lead as Nelson Cruz walks, Jorge Cantu singles, Cristian Guzman moves them up with a sacrifice bunt, and Bengie Molina gets Cruz home with a sac fly to left. 2-1 Rangers.

MARINERS THIRD:The Mariners tied it on a squeeze bunt by Franklin Gutierrez that scored Ichiro, but after loading the bases with no outs, they could have had more. Branyan struck out, and after Gutierrez's bunt, so did Adam Moore -- looking. Moore hit a ball hard into the right-field corner, but it was foul. 1-1.

By the way, Vlad Guerrero, who is in the midst of a slump, gets a rest today, which I'm sure didn't make the Mariners heartbroken. Guerrero hit .210 in July, the second lowest full month average of his career.

RANGERS THIRD:They push across the first run on a walk by Julio Borbon, who moved to third on Elvis Andrus's single and scored on Michael Young's sac fly. But Vargas got Josh Hamilton to hit into a double play to end the inning. 1-0 Rangers.

MARINERS SECOND:This was the futures inning -- all youngsters. Moore, in his first at-bat since his recall from AAA, struck out. Michael Saunders flied out. But Matt Tuiasosopo lashed a ground-rule double to left. He died there when Jack Wilson struck out. 0-0.

RANGERS SECOND: Vargas gives up a two-out single to Bengie Molina (Tuiasosopo just missed a leaping catch, the ball glancing off his mitt), but struck out Mitch Moreland. 0-0.

MARINERS FIRST: They get a couple of runners aboard with two outs but shockingly can't get any of them home as Franklin Gutierrez flied out to left. 0-0.

A few notes that have got lost in the shuffle today (my contributions to this thread may be minimal because I have to write a story for the newspaper):

--Jose Lopez will rest his hamstring one more day but is expected to play tomorrow.

--Shawn Kelley, after an impressive one-inning stint with Tacoma last night, will throw Thursday for Everett (because Tacoma is heading out on a road trip).

--The Mariners are facing a decision on Mike Sweeney, who hit two home runs today for Tacoma and played first base. He has one more day left on his minor-league rehab, and the current plan is for him to spend it with Everett. Manager Don Wakamatsu gave no indication of the Mariners' plans for Sweeney.

--Catcher Adam Moore joined the team from Tacoma and was thrown right into the starting lineup.

"We're going to play him just about every day,'' Wakamatsu said. "Obviously we'll look at some matches and when it's a night and day we might give him one off and let Bard catch in that situation, but he's up here to play."

Moore believes he's ready for the challenge.

"I've been working a lot down there on being more consistent,'' he said. "I'm going to bring it up here, stay with my plan, and continue to work on it."

For Kelley, meanwhile, the last remaining hurdle is showing he can pitch multiple innings, and back-to-back games.

"I'm pretty close to being ready now,'' he said.

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August 3, 2010 6:25 PM

Wakamatsu: Fans "have every right" to question him

Posted by Larry Stone

Don Wakamatsu was asked a lot of questions today about his job security, starting with how he feels about being questioned by fans.

"They have every right,'' he said. "I came in here last year with some high expectations. We had a good year last year.(This year) we've had some disappointments and injuries, but everything that's come out of my mouth is we want to put a product on the field the fans can respect. We haven't done that.

"To point the finger or look at me, they have a right to do that. I feel it every day. I don't sleep at night. That means a lot to me. The city of Seattle and fans mean a tremendous amount to me, to give something back. We haven't given anything back. What I have to do and continue from this day forward is look at our club, look at each individual player, dialogue with them about mistakes and areas we can get better in."

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August 3, 2010 5:45 PM

Zduriencik addresses Wakamatsu's status, Figgins' aftermath

Posted by Larry Stone

Jack Zduriencik made himself available to the media before the game, as I suspected he would in light of the recent turmoil surrounding the team and the speculation about manager Don Wakamatsu's future.

The key phrase, as you'll see, is "Don is our manager." In light of the fact that many people thought Wakamatsu would get fired yesterday, it was no doubt meant to curb some of that speculation. Yet Zduriencik, as I mentioned earlier, fell short of committing to Wakamatsu returning next year. With a team that's heading for 100-plus losses, that's not surprising, either.

One of the first questions to Zduriencik was whether Wakamatsu has the support of the front office.

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August 3, 2010 5:13 PM

Erik Bedard to undergo shoulder surgery Friday

Posted by Larry Stone

Today's lineups

Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young DH
Josh Hamilton LF
Nelson Cruz RF
Jorge Cantu 3B
Cristian Guzman 2B
Bengie Molina C
Mitch Moreland 1B
Julio Borbon CF

Colby Lewis RHP (9-7, 3.40)

Mariners

Ichiro RF
Chone Figgins 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Russ Branyan Dh
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Adam Moore C
Michael Saunders LF
Matt Tuiasasopo 3B
Jack Wilson SS

Jason Vargas LHP (6-5, 3.20)

The details are still sketchy, but we've just been informed Erik Bedard will undergo shoulder surgery on Friday. It will be the third straight season in which Bedard's season has ended with shoulder surgery. This year, he never threw a pitch, so it's not quite accurate to say it's season ending surgery.

The operation will be performed by Edward Khalfayan, the Mariners' team physician, assisted by Lewis Yocum, the Angels' renowned orthopedist. Yocum did the previous two operations on Bedard.

A press release just arrived. The surgery will take place in Seattle. The decision to operate was made after Bedard was examined by Khalfayan, Yocum and Dr. David Altchek.

Lots of stuff to come from Don Wakamatsu and Jack Zduriencik on the fragile state of the Mariners -- and the manager. First, however, I must transcribe the tape. Zduriencik said several times, "Don is our manager,'' but sidestepped questions about whether he would be back next year -- or make it through the season. He disagreed that he had left Wakamatsu to twist in the wind after the Chone Figgins incident. Zduriencik had dinner last night with Wakamatsu and Don's teen-aged son.

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August 3, 2010 10:44 AM

Did switching to the No. 2 spot in the order with Mariners mess up Chone Figgins? Looking like it

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Mariners just made the Adam Moore call-up official. Rob Johnson goes to Class AAA.

For now, I want to talk about another guy just as important to this team's future success. He's in the first year of a $36-million deal that runs through 2013, so he will be taking up a good chunk of payroll as well as playing a key run-scoring role for years to come as long as the M's hold on to him. I'm talking, of course, about Chone Figgins.

Lots of fiery opinions when it comes to Figgins these days, obviously. He is becoming a symbol for all that is wrong with the team in the eyes of some fans. Reading the comments section for the feature I had published in this morning's paper tells me that. There is a limit to the amount of stuff we can publish in any newspaper story and I wanted to expand a bit more on the topic of Figgins batting second in the order as opposed to his No. 1 job last year, when he posted a league best .395 on-base percentage among leadoff men.

"It's not an adjustment,'' he said. "I think I wasn't attacking the game the first two months of the season. And my type of game is attacking the game and making things happen. And I wasn't doing that. I was a little too patient at the plate and when I did get a pitch to hit I was ppping balls up instead of getting on top of them and hitting hard grounders and hitting hard line drives. Over the last couple of months it's been getting better.''

In other words, it's not the stats he's looking at or trying to boost. Indirectly, yes, but he feels the stats will be there eventually if he makes this fundamental adjustment to hitting more over top of the ball.

"I feel like I'm closer to myself because I am hitting more ground balls,'' he said. "If I keep the ball out of the air the stats ae going to be there. I'm still getting my walks, still having good at-bats. But for me to keep hitting fly balls is still good for me.''

Hitting coach Alonzo Powell feels the switch to No. 2 did impact Figgins.

"There's a big difference between hitting first and second," Powell said. "A lot of times, when Ichiro gets on base, you're trying to give him an opportunity to steal a bag. Certain pitches, you're not going to swing at. And it takes away some of your aggressiveness."

Powell feels Figgins has made definite improvement the past two months in getting the balls he hits to spend less time in the air.

Let's look and see whether Figgins actually is improving in this regard.

Here are his ground ball, line drive and fly ball rates for each month of the season.

APRIL -- (GB) 37.5%; (LD) 16.1%; (FB) 46.4%

MAY -- (GB) 46.1 %; (LD) 19.7%; (FB) 34.2%

JUNE -- (GB) 44.3 %; (LD) 19.0%; (FB) 36.7%

JULY -- (GB) 48.8 %; (LD) 22.6%; (FB) 28.6%

So, very clearly, he raised his ground ball and line drive rate to season highs in July. In April, when he got off to that horrible start, hitting .200, he hit his highest number of flyballs and fewest grounders and line drives.

Let's see how that translates to stats like batting average and on-base percentage.

APRIL -- (OBP) .330; (AVG) .200

MAY -- (OBP) .319; (AVG) .220

JUNE -- (OBP) .355; (AVG) .271

JULY -- (OBP) .333; (AVG) .255

Well, as we can see, his last two months were much better than his first two. But still, there is not a direct correlation in the numbers. After all, he had better line drive and ground ball rates in May than in June. But his June stats were superior. Why is that?


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August 2, 2010 12:27 PM

Judging the performance of the 2010 Seattle Mariners

Posted by Geoff Baker

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ADDITIONAL NOTE 4:38 p.m.: I'm told Adam Moore is still supposed to catch Michael Pineda in Class AAA tonight. But Moore will be called up tomorrow by the Mariners and Rob Johnson will be optioned to Tacoma. Makes sense, since Moore will likely be catching Pineda in Seattle come September.

Here's a statistical look at your 2010 Seattle Mariners.

Winning percentage

First half: .398
2nd half: .222
Road trip: .000

Park adjusted OPS (OPS+)

First half: 78
2nd half: 57
Road trip: 54


Average runs per game scored

First half: 3.4
2nd half: 2.6
Road trip: 2.0

Average runs per game allowed

First half: 4.3
2nd half: 4.9
Road trip: 6.4

W-L day Griffey walked out: 21-31 (.404)
W-L since Griffey walked out: 18-36 (.333)

Runs per game before Griffey walked out: 3.7
Runs per game since Griffey walked out: 2.8

Runs per game allowed before Griffey walked out: 4.1
Runs per game allowed since Griffey walked out: 4.7


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August 1, 2010 3:25 PM

Mariners wonder where they go from here

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The Mariners are happy to be on their way home after a week on the road and 18 consecutive days of pretty lousy baseball. But there was no joy in that post-game clubhouse after a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

Seattle hit just .158 in the series and did not score a run the final 21 innings. All of those runs came in the sixth inning of Friday's contest, meaning the M's were blanked in 26 of the 27 innings here.

"As hitters, we've got to wake up,'' said Russell Branyan, who went 4-for-21 with 10 strikeouts on this trip, depriving the team of its only real middle-of-the-order threat. "We've got to start swinging the bats better. We've got to have better at-bats and doing a better job. We haven't. And we've got to figure something out to turn this thing around.''

Branyan discussed how tough it was for the Mariners to face Francisco Liriano, who is as good as it gets pitching-wise this season. Liriano fanned 11 batters today and the Mariners whiffed 15 times total -- three by clean-up hitter Branyan and four by No. 5 hitter Casey Kotchman.

"He's throwing a changeup to righties, but to us to lefties, he was running a good fastball in on us. A good two-seamer in on us. A four-seamer away. He was throwing a little short slider that had some depth to it. So, it was tough. It was tough picking up the ball coming out of his hand.''

So, I asked him, what can hitters do to combat that?

"You battle,'' he said. "You just try to have good at-bats, try to let the ball get deep. Try to hit the ball the other way, because you're not going to jump ship on a guy like that. You're not going to, you know, bomb him.

"So, you just try to put at-bats together, get in some good hitter's counts and hope he makes a mistake.''

In other words, all the things the Mariners don't do well and haven't done well since the season began.

"It was a (crappy) way to end the road trip,'' Branyan said. "We were hoping to at least salvage winning one game today. But we didn't win it, we lost seven on this road trip. A tough series in Chicago and a tough series here.''

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August 1, 2010 1:29 PM

Twins 4, Mariners 0: M's can't score, hit, or even make contact -- striking out 15 times

Posted by Geoff Baker

mari0801 018.JPG

The guy in the photo above, watching today's latest belly flop by the M's, is Carmen Fusco, one of Jack Zduriencik's inner circle of assistants. Think he'll be making a happy report back to the boss?

Tough to have a week any worse than this one. The Mariners went 0-7, only the 11th time in team history they've failed to win on a road trip of at least five games.

The last time they had a winless trip was in September of 2008, when they went 0-11.

The M's scored only three runs in this series and have not scored since the sixth inning of the series opener, meaning their runless streak is now at 21 innings and counting.

Seattle scored only 14 runs in the seven games -- with 10 of them coming on consecutive nights. That left just four runs the remaining five games.

Opponents outscored the M's by a 41-14 count.

Rock bottom? We'll see. Don't forget, the Texas Rangers visit Safeco Field on Tuesday.

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August 1, 2010 12:51 PM

Mariners at Minnesota Twins: Aug. 1, 2010 game thread

Posted by Geoff Baker

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We've finally got some runs in this game, with the Minnesota Twins scoring four off Luke French in the sixth inning to take a 4-0 lead.

The key play of the inning was a sinking line drive to left by Delmon Young with a runner on first and one out. Michael Saunders slid in on the ball, but had it hop just by his glove. Saunders was fortunate that the ball got stuck in the high outfield grass, limiting Young to a double.

So, with runners on second and third, the M's intentionally walked the bases loaded to get to lefty Jason Kubel, who was in an 0-for-13 slump. But with the count 1-2, French left a ball too high in the zone and Kubel got all of it. Would have been a home run in most parks, but the ball hit the high wall in right center and came back down for a double.

Not sure what the baserunners were thinking, because it was obvious the ball would not be caught, but they took their time getting around the bases. I thought cutoff man Chone Figgins had a shot at the trail runner, Michael Cuddyer, but he double-pumped and did not throw home.

The whole homer/double point became moot when the next batter, Danny Valencia, lined a single to left to score Kubel.

Game over? Looks like it.

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August 1, 2010 10:23 AM

Don Wakamatsu suggests opposing pitchers taking liberties with Ichiro, other Mariners because lineup lacks intimidating presence

Posted by Geoff Baker

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The inevitable Ichiro question came up this morning when Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu gave his morning press briefing. Ichiro struck out three times last night, only the third time he's done that in his career.

Wakamatsu was asked whether he felt Ichiro was fatigued as the season heads towards its final third.

"I don't see a lot, in his actions, that he's tired,'' Wakamatsu said. "I think the other thing is, you look at an offense that, maybe they're pitching him a little bit tougher than normal. He's the one .300 hitter in your lineup He's a guy that doesn't normally walk. I think they're forcing him to swing at pitches maybe a little bit further out of the zone than normal.''

Because of the other guys in the lineup after Ichiro?

"I think with scouting reports, different clubs approach...you look at all that stuff,'' he said. "But I see him fouling off a lot of pitches a lot more than I did last year. Not because he's missing, but I think they're not as good as pitches he was afforded last year. That's just my opinion.''

So, in other words, I said to Wakamatsu, opposing teams are not afraid to put Ichiro on base?

"Yeah, I mean, I think if you have a real productive lineup, or somebody that they're worried about, all of a sudden it's a two-run home run or a three-run home run, I think that's as much of a factor. But if you walk in that situatation, where you're not intimidated maybe by the meat of the order then I think that's the case, yeah, where they're going to pitch him a little bit tougher.''

So, how much of a reality is the "intimidation factor" in baseball? How much can the presence of bigger bats throughout the order have an impact on other guys? After all, the Mariners have seen a number of players plummet below their career norms and expected projections so far.

"I do believe that teams do pitch guys accordingly according to their bubble gum card, yeah,'' Wakamatsu said. "The biggest factor with this (Twins) offense is (Delmon) Young. To pick up or to to have the year he's having, especially now that (Justin) Morneau is out. It doesn't give you that big option to walk (Joe) Mauer in that situation. You've got a guy hitting .330 with 80-something RBIs, you're picking your poison. So, the deeper you are in that middle, yeah it does affect you. I think the home run, obviously, is another factor. You look at matchups and you look at everything else, but power in that middle of the order is always a threat.''

And other than Russell Branyan, the M's have none. Haven't had any since the season began.

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