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Braves 5, Mariners 4: “It was a weird game tonight.”

Post by Ryan Divish on June 29, 2011 at 1:25 am with No Comments »
June 29, 2011 1:28 am

BOX SCORE

Perhaps Mariners manager Eric Wedge said it best as he wrapped up his postgame media session.

“It was a weird game tonight,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “A lot of things happened – some good, some bad. In the end, we had our opportunities. We had opportunities to score enough runs to win a ballgame and we didn’t do it.”

Weird?

Jack Cust getting a rare start and going 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a homer.

Michael Pineda walking the bases loaded for the first time since he can ever remember.

A botched double steal that cost the Mariners a run.

Two missed calls by the umpires – one that cost the Braves a big insurance run, but showcased Ichiro’s cannon for a throwing arm.

An odd, and sometimes, floating strike zone from home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman that left hitters and pitchers often shaking their head in disgust.

And the Mariners having to have leave their back-up catcher Chris Gimenez in the game, despite a strained oblique muscle since their starting catcher, Miguel Olivo, left with cramps. And in a pivotal situation in the seventh inning with two outs, Gimenez physically couldn’t swing bat, being forced to try and bunt twice with two outs and runners on first and second and then hope for a walk. Instead he struck out looking.

Weird? Definitely.

Starting third baseman Adam Kennedy tried to take full responsibility for the loss after the game.

“I pretty much single-handedly lost that one,” he said. “That wasn’t good. A lot of guys had good games, battled. (Gimenez) played hurt the whole game back there. Pitchers did their job today. I just didn’t do mine.”

Kennedy did strike out with the bases loaded in the second inning and he struck out to end the fourth inning with runners on second and third.

And then there was the controversial botched double steal in the seventh with the Mariners down 5-4 with one out.

With Ichiro Suzuki on second and Kennedy on first, Ichiro took off for third on a 3-0 pitch to Justin Smoak.

Why?

“It’s obvious,” Ichiro said through translator Antony Suzuki. “There’s a 3-0 count, we had a good hitter at the plate, one hit could bring in two runs with a runner on second and third. It’s an obvious play.”

Ichiro made it to third easily. But Kennedy, who was on first base and broke for second when Ichiro left, wasn’t so successful. Brian McCann gunned him down.

This was not a play called by Wedge. This was Ichiro deciding to go and Kennedy following.

“I was ready for Ich to go the whole time,” Kennedy said. “I wasn’t late. He just threw me out. It didn’t catch me off guard or anything. He just threw me out.”

While Wedge didn’t call it, he understood it — or at least said he did.

“Ichiro had it no problem,” Wedge said. “Adam had a pretty good lead. He felt like he could get it. He was working off Ichiro. They throw behind him and got him. It was an aggressive play on their part. Adam is a good baserunner but they got him. I’ve got a lot of faith in these guys as baserunners. They’re working off each other and that’s something that happens. McCann made a great throw.”

It was a great throw because McCann knew it was coming.

“I had a feeling that Ichiro was going to try and steal third and we had the right play on throwing down to second,” McCann said. “Looking at Kennedy, I knew he was going to go just the way he was set up. We had the right play on and luckily I put the ball where it needed to be.”

It cost Seattle a valuable out and a runner in scoring position. It came back to haunt them when Smoak walked and Dustin Ackley singled to center. So instead of scoring two runs, and tying the game, they only got the one and were down 5-4.

It brought the ailing Gimenez to the plate. After Olivo left the game in the fourth inning with cramps, Gimenez strained the oblique sometime in the fifth inning. He stayed in and played, but swinging was impossible and throwing was painful.

So as he faced Scott Proctor, Gimenez tried to bunt twice and then could only look at a called third strike.

“He couldn’t even swing the bat,” Wedge said. “He either had two shots to bunt for a hit or just take it like a man or take a walk.  He really sucked it up just to catch and block.”

Olivo’s issues with cramps don’t seem to be serious as Gimenez, who seems destined for a DL stint. Usually this would be an easy  decision — just call up Josh Bard from Triple A Tacoma. However, Bard has missed the last three Rainiers game after taking a foul ball off his big toe and losing the toenail on it. Could he suit up for the Mariners? Probably. Bard is pretty tough. And the Mariners do have an off day Thursday.

The other catcher at Tacoma is Jose Yepez. He’s a career minor league catcher – mostly as a back-up – who never advanced higher than Triple A before this season. Most scouts will tell you he’s a competent minor league backup catcher and that’s.  It shows you the lack of depth at the position in the organization when they lost Adam Moore to knee surgery.

My guess is that Bard could tough it out because Yepez isn’t a big league catcher. The Mariners may bring both to Seattle and figure out what to do. Tacoma is off (Wednesday) and they are flying back from Las Vegas early in the morning.

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