I'm sitting in the press box now wonder how the Mariners exactly won that game. Not that they shouldn't have won it. They did a great job in the 11th of executing and Franklin Gutierrez came up with the big hit.
No, really they should have probably won it in the ninth inning.
I am still stunned at Jose Lopez's base running mistake in that inning. Stunned.
Let's set it up ...
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It's a 0-0 game in the bottom of the ninth. Chone Figgins had reached on an infield single and Franklin Gutierrez had sac bunted him to second. With a runner on second and one out, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen decided to have Sergio Santos intentionally walk Lopez to get to the lefty Casey Kotchman. Guillen then brought in lefty Erick Threets. The Mariners countered by having switch hitter Milton Bradley pinch hit.
Threets then sawed off Bradley on a 1-2 pitch. Bradley hit a bat-exploding blooper into right. Andruw Jones came on and made a diving catch. Lopez inexplicably had broken for second on the play. And was easily doubled off.
The entire press box exploded in disbelief.
What was he thinking?
Here's manager Don Wakamatsu's explanation of it.
People talk about the baserunning, and there’s no excuses so I’m not going to sit here and defend it. When you don’t score runs for 27 innings, there’s some anxiety there. You look at Langerhans, he’s trying to get to second base and overruns it a little. The pitcher got in the way a little bit but didn’t make contact with him. Out of aggressiveness, he made the wrong decision. With Lopez, you look at the umpire’s call, and he didn’t call it until after [Jones] rolled over and showed him the ball. That’s a tough play for him. But again, it’s about winning ballgames, and some of those things don’t matter when you win. When you’re losing ballgames, they’re magnified.”
Hmm. Well, Wakamatsu has never been a guy to throw his players under the bus, which I respect on some level. So why would he start now.
But that was inexcusable. And the idea of Lopez not reading the ball is hollow.
BECAUSE HIS RUN MEANT NOTHING!!!!
What does a second run mean in a 0-0 game in the last inning? Figgins was the game-winning run. Could Lopez have been thrown out at second if Jones drops it? Perhaps. But Figgins would have been able to advance to third and the Mariners would have had runners on first and third with two outs. If Lopez even takes say seven to eight steps off the bag, he still has a plausible chance at making it to second on a drop, and getting back to first on a catch. This is basic baseball stuff here.
Instead, he takes off for second, Jones makes the catch, and he's doubled off to end the inning.
That is inexcusable. If you add it to the fact, that he dogged it running to first on a double play earlier in the game, he shouldn't be starting Thursday's game against the Red Sox.
It isn't like this is the first time Lopez has played relatively unfocused. In fact, it's a major knock against him.
On a night when there were several scouts on hand to see him and David Aardsma and others, Lopez certainly wowed them - and not in a good way.
The Mariners have a $ 4.5 million club option on him for next season. At this point, would you pay that or pay him the $250,000 buyout and bid him adieu. Why keep him around? He's not providing any production. His work ethic is questionable and he seems to have no place in this organization.
You could move Figgins back to third and play Dustin Ackley there if he's ready.
Speaking of Aardsma ...
Felix Hernandez was not at all pleased to be lifted after eight innings for the Mariners closer.
“Felix, that may be the best stuff I’ve ever seen him have,” Wakamatsu said.
Hernandez worked eight scoreless innings allowing just two hits, while striking out and walking none. He carved up White Sox hitters with ruthless efficiency, retiring 17 straight hitters from the third through the eighth inning. And after eight innings, he sat at just 93 pitches. But David Aardsma was called on to pitch the ninth.
Earlier in the day, Wakamatsu talked about lowering Hernandez’s pitch count and limiting his innings in the second half of the season. He re-iterated it after the game.
“We talked a little before the game about the necessity at this point in the season to curtail his innings, and he’s sitting there with 93 pitches,” Wakamatsu said. “Do you send him back out after eight innings of two-hit baseball? In any other situation, to ask him to go pitch that well in an eight-inning period, you take it. It’s that time of the year where you have to protect him a little bit.”
Hernandez wanted to hear none of that, and was clearly miffed.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Talk to Wak, or talk to somebody else. I was going to go out (for the ninth).’
When told of his all the pitches in recent outings, Hernandez didn’t think it mattered.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “Talk to the manager. I don’t care about the innings. I feel good. I feel strong.”
There rumors of a bit of a tantrum in the dugout before the ninth inning when Hernandez was told he was done. But I can't confirm it.
Of course, if you take the cynical and possibly realistic view, the reason Aardsma was brought was not just to save on Hernandez's innings, but to also showcase him for the scouts in attendance. He does have some value for teams like the Tigers and Twins. It happens often. Do you think Wakamatsu wanted to play Yuni as much as he did last season?
But Wakamatsu is right, they do have to monitor Felix's innings and pitch counts. But it's tough to say that and set him down at 93 and when they sent him out with over 105. Wednesday was the fewest amount of pitches that Felix has thrown in a game since May 7, when he last just 3 1/3 innings.