Mariners Insider

Rangers 2, Mariners 0 (12 innings) — a not so merry Cliffmas

Post by Ryan Divish on April 30, 2010 at 11:55 pm with 5 Comments »
May 1, 2010 12:02 am
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Well that was one of the most interesting games I’ve ever seen. I honestly don’t know what to think. I wonder what Cliff Lee and the rest of the pitching staff think.

Lee was unbelievable, pitching seven scoreless innings and allowing just three hits, while striking out eight.

“Lee was probably as good as you can ask for,” Manager Don Wakamatsu. “He was near perfect. To see the velocity, the quality of his pitches and him being able to dominate their line-up … it was pretty special.”

The bullpen was almost as good. They pitched five scoreless innings until the 12th.

“You just can’t ask the pitching staff to do any more than they did tonight,” Wakamatsu said.

Indeed, but you can ask for more from the offense.

“Offensively, it was pretty anemic,” Wakamatsu said.

Slightly, Colby Lewis might have been better than Lee. Lewis threw nine scoreless innings, allowing just three hits,  and striking out 10 while walking one.

But it was after Lewis left and the game went into extra innings where the game got really strange.

Gregg Bell of the AP said we witnessed history tonight — “You just saw the worst at-bat in the history of baseball.”

He was referring to the at-bat in the bottom of the 11th where Eric Byrnes stepped to the plate with bases loaded and one out. He took a strike from reliever Frank Francisco. On the 0-1 pitch, manager Don Wakamatsu called for a suicide squeeze play. Ichiro Suzuki was on third, broke for home as Francisco began his delivery to home.

Byrnes squared to bunt. Ready to bunt it fair for the game winning run. In a suicide squeeze situation, the hitter has just one rule – make contact with the ball, preferably on the ground. No matter where the pitch is, you must try and find a way to put the bat on the ball. If it’s too high, too low, or too anything, you try to just bunt it foul.

But for some reason Byrnes inexplicably pulled the bat back on the low pitch from Francisco. At this point, there was nothing Ichiro could do. He’d already committed to going home. Catcher Matt Treanor picked up the ball off the ground and tagged Ichiro at home.

AP photo

On replays it looked as though Byrnes pulled the bat back and then remembered it was a squeeze and tried to set it back out there again.

No one could believe that Byrnes pulled the bat back, not even Ron Washington who was ejected for arguing that home plate umpire Jim Wolf should have called it a strike because no one pulls a bunt back on a squeeze play.

“From my angle, he looked like he bunted at the ball,” Washington said. “He’s telling me that he pulled the bat back, I couldn’t fathom that, with Ichiro running down the line. He was right and I was wrong.”

So after the brief break for Washington to argue a call he was clearly wrong on, Byrnes stepped back in the box, waved at fastball right down the middle for strike two, and stared at another fastball down the middle for strike three. In a way, he accounted for two outs and killing the rally without even leaving the batters’ box — hence Bell’s worst AB ever theory.

Obviously, we would have liked to talk to Byrnes about it. But as we waited to get into the clubhouse, he stormed out of the clubhouse, pushing his bicycle. He jumped on it and road down the hall, past GM Jack Zduriencik, and apparently out of Safeco.

Manager Don Wakamatsu didn’t have much to say about the play.

“I will discuss that tomorrow,” Wakmatsu said. “I don’t know what happened on it.”

He never got a chance to talk to Byrnes after the game, and I’m sure when Wakamatsu watches replays of it, he won’t be pleased. I fully expect Byrnes to say that he messed up on the at-bat.  He knows what went wrong, and he’s the type of guy to “wear it” as the players say.

But Byrnes’ miscue was only half the problem with that inning. Another issue came before that when Franklin Gutierrez failed to get down a sac bunt with runners on first and second with no outs. I know people will complain about the three hitter being asked to bunt. But that’s what Wak wanted. And perhaps Lopez has a chance for a sac fly with one out. Most likely, they walk Lopez and Byrnes is still in that situation.

That wasn’t the only opportunity they wasted. They could have won the game in the 10th too.

Ken Griffey Jr. led off the inning by singling through the hole at shortstop left by the Rangers infield shift to the right side of the field off of lefty Darren Oliver.  Wakamatsu brought in Eric Byrnes to pinch run for Griffey. Milton Bradley followed with a soft double to left that put runners on second and third with no outs.

But Oliver was able to get Casey Kotchman to hit a check swing pop up to shortstop Elvis Andrus. He then intentionally walked Adam Moore to load the bases in hopes of a double play.

Wakamatsu called on Mike Sweeney to pinch hit for Jack Wilson, while Washington brought in right-hander Darren O’Day to pitch to Sweeney.

Sweeney swung at the first offering from O’Day and promptly grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning

“We had a chance to win the ball game pretty easily twice and we couldn’t do it,” Wakamatsu said.

I really have no words for how much this team can struggle offensively. If it’s frustrating for fans, it has to be double that for Wakamatsu and the players.

That’s it for me — back to back extra innings games is enough.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. comment_tayter says:

    Mr. Z to the rescue!

    Help! Get us some bats!

  2. Skysport says:

    That was one of the most depressing extra-inning games I’ve ever seen in my life. Can’t wait for today’s game to wash the bad feeling away. Felix and the boys will win today for sure.

  3. I have to agree with Skysport. That was agonizing. I know I’m probably over-reacting, but the EPIC failures of Byrnes and Sweeney in those situations make me think that Jack and Wak might have made the wrong choices about how the roster is composed. Those are EXACTLY the scenarios that those guys are supposed to handle to justify being on this team. I’m a big fan of Sweeney and I thought keeping Byrnes on April 1 was the right move, but that at-bat was inexcusable. Byrnes has really been pretty awful this year.

  4. westside_guy says:

    This is the problem when your DHs are Junior and Sweeney. Staying away from the fact that neither one can hit worth a darn at this stage in their careers – neither one can play the field. So when we’re carrying 12 pitchers, you’ve only got two non-starters to cover every other position. It’s really tying Wak’s hands in these sorts of games (but he put the roster together, right?).

    And Byrnes… IT WAS A SUICIDE SQUEEZE! WHY DID HE PULL THE BAT BACK? I could understand if he’d missed it – the pitch was in a bad spot – but IT WAS A SUICIDE SQUEEZE! He’s got to TRY to hit it!

    I’m not sure I can keep watching this team. Without some roster changes, we’re obviously going nowhere but .500. I understand the “get a bunch of high on-base guys and pair them with good pitching” – but then putting Junior or Sweeney in there to hit weak ground outs and HIDPs when those guys are on base totally negates the whole premise! Lopez drives me nuts with his awful approach, but he does OCCASIONALLY show some pop at least. I’m willing to give our young catchers some slack, so they get a pass. But does anyone think we’ve got a chance to resign a Cliff Lee when he sees that he’s starting every game with 2 strikes against him (no pun intended, but I can’t think of another analogy)?

  5. We need to either extend Lee SOON or trade him. This team will not be in serious WS contention this year.

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