A solid win for the Mariners and a brilliant outing from Cliff Lee. With temperatures in the 90s and humidity at 50 percent, Lee seemed perfectly comfortable in the sauna that was the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
He pitched nine innings, allowing seven hits - all singles - giving up just two runs, walking none and striking out seven. He needed just 107 pitches to go nine innings. Miguel Batista used to throw at least 40 in an inning.
Here's a comparison. Lee threw 107 pitches with 84 strikes in nine innings, while Rangers starter Matt Harrison went 5 2/3 inning, throwing 120 pitches with just 75 strikes.
We've seen this before with Lee, and I can't tell you how enjoyable it is to watch him pitch. He works fast, he throws strikes, he doesn't dawdle or get rattled. Basically, he's the exact opposite of Batista in every way.
“In my mind when it’s that hot, I have to throw first pitch strikes and get ahead in the count,” Lee said. “Let them know I’m coming right at them.”
And once he did that Rangers hitters started swinging, after a few hiccups in the fourth and fifth, he retired nine straight from the sixth to the eighth.
“It was due to the fact that I had been going right at them early and they realized that, so they were swinging early and it led to some quick outs,” Lee said. “It allowed me to get deep in the game.”
It appeared as though he was headed for his fifth career shutout, but the ninth didn't go so well. He gave up back to back hits to start the inning and later an RBI single to Josh Hamilton. He looked like he would get out of it. But he dropped an awkward throw from Mike Carp on a ground ball to the right side when he was covering first.
“I just missed it,” Lee said. “It was kind of a weird play. I tried to barehand it and I just missed it.”
But Lee was plenty satisfied with the complete game and more importantly the win – his fourth of the season.
“They got a few ground ball hits in the ninth,” he said. “If they are five feet one way or the other, they could be outs. They found some holes. That happens over a course of the game. It’s hard to go nine and not give up any runs. I came close, but we still got the win and that’s all that matters.”
But not all was pleasant in the clubhouse after the game. Chone Figgins seemed to be a little irked about being dropped to ninth.
When asked before the game about being dropped to ninth, he told us to go talk to Don Wakamatsu about it first and then he would talk to us.
Well here was some of Wak's reasoning.
"It's just a way to see if we can generate more offense that way," Wakamatsu said. "What we are looking at is that we've went down the road with him in that position (No. 2) and we're not getting enough run production (as a team). We're just looking at any we can. It's not a knock on Figgy. It's not just pointing a finger at him. It's looking if we can more production out of the whole lineup."
When Figgins was told that Wakamatsu said the move wasn’t a reflection of his performance, it offered little solace.
“Obviously it is, because he moved me,” “Figgins said. “I’ve been getting on base and swinging the bat pretty good. Obviously it has something to do with me. "I think I've earned enough respect as a player and I'm still battling and I'm doing good, I should stay where I'm at."
When asked if he was motivated on Monday night - he had three hits and a stolen base - he said it didn't.
"I'm motivated every day," he said. "Like I said, there's nobody that can doubt what I do on the field. I'm come to play every single day, not matter the situation or anything. I'm come to play every time."
Figgins was asked if he was able to share those feelings with Wakamatsu.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "I don't have anything to say. The fact is that I come to play. Anybody that ever knew me or watched me play this game, no matter where you hit me first, second or tenth, I'm going to come to play. If I come off the bench, I'm going to come to play 110 percent. Not anybody in this game can take that away from me."
So what does he do now?
"The same thing I do all the time, come to play every day," he said. "Every time something happens, when he took me out the first time to pinch hit for me, I still came to play. It's never going to change. There ain't nobody in the front office or in this game or any part of what this game is about can tell me any different, cause they will never see me not come to play?"
I've been having good at-bats. I was hitting a little too many fly balls early int he season. I was still putting together good at-bats. But I was having good at-bats.
So are you frustrated by all of this?
"No, I'm never frustrated," Figgins said. "I'm just saying I come to play every single day no matter what the situation is. I never get frustrated at anybody."
I respect that about Figgins that he does play hard, and I don't think there's ever a question of that. It's a matter of producing and finding something, anything to make this team go offensively.