M's Batista goes 7-2/3 solid innings, may have new method
The final three outs of Sunday afternoon's game proved tougher for Miguel Batista to watch than the first 23 were for him to notch. But the veteran Mariners...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Baltimore @ Seattle, 7:10 p.m., FSN
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The final three outs of Sunday afternoon's game proved tougher for Miguel Batista to watch than the first 23 were for him to notch.
But the veteran Mariners starter, having tossed one of his better games of the past couple of seasons, was able to exhale from the visiting clubhouse as teammate Ryan Rowland-Smith got the game-ending strikeout with the bases loaded in the ninth. An important 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels firmly at-hand when the cagey, sometimes offbeat Batista let fly with a piece of news that could prove huge for his team if it turns out to be true.
It seems there's a reason Batista logged an impressive 7-2/3 shutout innings and eight strikeouts on a day his fastball was down several miles per hour in velocity.
"I might have found something that I wish I might have found years ago in my career," Batista said. "I don't know if I'm right yet. It's going to take me at least four or five more starts to figure out if it's going to be able to work as good as I believe it might work.
"And if it does, I might be able to pitch another five years."
Strong words from the 37-year-old. But then again, he offered up even stronger stuff on the mound.
Batista lasted seven innings in only six of his starts last year. His longest outing, an eight-inning affair only a third of a frame longer than Sunday's, came in a rather meaningless contest in his final outing of the season.
The longest he had gone in any of his previous three starts this season was a lone, six-inning effort. So, the ability to silence another sellout throng of 43,631 at Angel Stadium in a game that held some pretty serious consequences for his team, is something worth taking a second glance at.
Batista, in typical fashion, won't say what his new discovery is. He said it involves learning to pitch a certain way when you don't have your best stuff -- and his 91 mph maxed-out fastball wasn't his greatest -- and that he had previously seen Greg Maddux and other veteran pitchers do the same.
Whatever he was doing helped him carry a second-inning lead, spotted to him by a two-run homer from Richie Sexson off Angels starter Dustin Moseley, all the way to the eighth. Seattle tacked on a pair of runs in the fifth inning as Ichiro tripled home Willie Bloomquist and Jose Lopez followed with an RBI single.
Batista scattered eight hits, but allowed six of those with two outs in an inning to limit the damage.
Arthur Rhodes got the final out of the eighth after Batista was pulled with a runner on. But Mark Lowe came on in the ninth and walked the first two batters he faced on only nine pitches.
Lowe rallied for two quick outs, including a bang-bang play at first base where he quick-tossed the ball to a covering Sexson -- standing only a couple of feet away -- in time to nab the speedy Erick Aybar.
"It was kind of a scary deal because that guy flies," Sexson said. "That's one of the harder plays at first base because the guy's right on top of you."
The out on Aybar, a controversial one judging by the crowd's reaction, loomed large after Lowe walked the bases loaded and Gary Matthews Jr. singled to right to bring home two runs. Brandon Morrow came on and walked Vladimir Guerrero with the count full to load the bases again.
But Rowland-Smith came in and froze Garret Anderson with a 3-2 slider to end the game.
"It was a big game to win," said Sexson, who had three home runs this series and nearly two more on balls stolen by outfielders at the wall. "To be down two in the series and come back and get a win in a day game ... sometimes, that's the easiest win for the other team. They're up 2-0 and they can relax and good things tend to happen when they do that."
The game was equally important to the Mariners, back to .500 at 10-10, in the American League West standings. They moved to just two games out of first place instead of falling four back with the season only three weeks old.
Mariners manager John McLaren added that it was important to leave the trip on a winning 3-2 note after taking the first two games in Oakland. McLaren has no way to know whether Batista's "discovery" will provide unexpected dividends for his club down the road.
But this type of outing, at this ballpark, from the fifth starter in the rotation is something any manager dreams of.
"A lot was made of him being our fifth starter," McLaren said. "We never considered him our fifth starter. That's the way we came out of the blocks. Now, he's a No. 1 like the rest of them."
|Matthews Jr. cf||4||0||1||2||1||1||.238|
|Seattle||020 020 000||—||4||9||0|
|Los Angeles||000 000 002||—||2||9||0|
|Batista W, 2-2||7-2/3||8||0||0||1||8||110||4.38|
|Rwlnd-Smth S, 2||1/3||0||0||0||0||1||7||4.26|
|Moseley L, 1-2||4-2/3||8||4||4||2||3||90||7.78|
How the runs scored
Mariners second: Beltre walked on a full count. Vidro flied out to right fielder Guerrero. Sexson homered to left on a 3-1 count, Beltre scored. Wilkerson doubled to right. Johjima popped out to second baseman Izturis. Bloomquist grounded out, shortstop Aybar to first baseman Kotchman. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. M's 2, Angels 0.
Mariners fifth: Bloomquist singled to center. Suzuki tripled to center, Bloomquist scored. Lopez singled to right, Suzuki scored. Ibanez singled to right, Lopez to second. Beltre struck out. Vidro grounded out, first baseman Kotchman unassisted, Lopez to third, Ibanez to second. Sexson walked on a full count. O'Day pitching. Wilkerson grounded out, second baseman Izturis to first baseman Kotchman. 2 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 3 left on. M's 4, Angels 0.
Angels ninth: Lowe pitching. Rivera walked on four pitches. Izturis walked, Rivera to second. Napoli struck out. Aybar grounded out, pitcher Lowe to first baseman Sexson, Rivera to third, Izturis to second. Figgins walked on a full count. Matthews Jr. singled to right, Rivera scored, Izturis scored, Figgins to third. Morrow pitching. Guerrero walked on a full count, Matthews Jr. to second. Rowland-Smith pitching. Anderson struck out. 2 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 3 left on. M's 4, Angels 2.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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