By Shannon Drayer
A big thank you to those who appreciated what I tried to do with the last post. I wanted to focus in on something specific that I thought some of you would find interesting and was happy to see that the comments stuck to the post, even though I am sure there were some questions about the bench management and bunting strategy in Saturday's game. I wanted to give you something a little different with the inside look at that at-bat, but today we can take a look at what we saw on Saturday as well as the road trip.
I am writing this on the bus-ride to the plane, which does not have Wi-Fi, so it will be rather quick.
Today's loss was a disappointment, which was a surprise for me because I tend to be a little more patient about how a baseball season unfolds and realize that usually one game is just that – one game. This year is different, however, as I have different expectations. We all should. The young core is a year older and help has been added in the form of veteran hitters.
The Mariners went just 10-for-48 with runners in scoring position on their opening road trip, including 0-for-7 in each of the last two games. (AP)
Eric Wedge said after the game that the team was still settling in. Despite the words I got the sense that his patience level isn't where it was this time a year ago. I don't think you are going to hear a lot of "it's early" this year. Some is warranted, but after an appropriate amount of time I don't think it will be all about waiting for this or that player to come around.
Wedge is giving the team an opportunity at least to get their legs under them, playing everyone fairly frequently on this first trip. He also was giving guys the benefit of the doubt in some situations and not going to pinch-hitters at a time which he considers too soon. In Saturday's game, for example, he chose not to go to a pinch-hitter when Raul Ibanez was going to be facing a tough lefty in Donnie Veal in the sixth inning. One reason he didn't was because he knew that there was a good chance they would be facing righties late in the game.
Another reason had less to do with strategy and more to do with the long haul.
"You know what type of game you are in, but with Raul, especially in this time of the year, or Jason Bay or [Robert] Andino, whoever it may be, you want to give them opportunities to do things early on," he said.
"What you don't want is guys looking over their shoulder when they go to home plate."
Ibanez struck out against Veal but sure enough came up again with runners on in the eighth and a righty on the hill in Jesse Crain. There were no other lefties on the bench so by sticking with Ibanez in the sixth Wedge had the matchup he wanted in the eighth. Ibanez did not come through, but the thinking was there.
Ultimately I hope we see more use of the bench because there will be more bench to use this year. It will be interesting to see if Wedge settles in on more of a regular lineup or if he continues to get significant playing time for Ibanez, Bay and Andino.
On the pitching side of things it would appear there is some settling in that needs to happen as well. I am willing to give the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 starters a pass their first time through, but I am anxious to see quick improvement from Joe Saunders in particular.
With the bullpen, it seemed Wedge had the most early confidence in Stephen Pryor. He also was quick to mix and match, utilizing the lefties. Today I would have liked to have seen him go longer with Carter Capps. We may see that in the future.
One last note: A very nice effort from Hisashi Iwakuma today. Yes, he gave up the home runs and his groundout/flyout ratio of 6/7 was a high for him, but he is pitching with a blister on his middle finger. This is significant as it makes his splitter difficult to throw. For not having his splitter that was a very impressive performance against the White Sox.
Going 3-4 on the first road trip against two tough teams is not bad, but I think we can hope to see better going forward. Wheels up, talk to you opening day.