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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - Page updated at 08:31 PM

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Jarrod Washburn makes sales pitch

A gassed Jarrod Washburn walked off the mound in the sixth inning having accomplished what his team needed. Not to out-pitch his opponent...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Seattle's Jarrod Washburn delivers a pitch in Monday's 4-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Washburn gave up two runs, allowing seven hits over 5-2/3 innings.

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MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Seattle's Jarrod Washburn delivers a pitch in Monday's 4-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Washburn gave up two runs, allowing seven hits over 5-2/3 innings.

Willie Bloomquist grimaces after striking out in the third against Boston's Jon Lester, leaving a runner stranded at third.

Enlarge this photo

MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Willie Bloomquist grimaces after striking out in the third against Boston's Jon Lester, leaving a runner stranded at third.

Jon Lester didn't allow a run in 7-1/3 innings.

 

Jon Lester didn't allow a run in 7-1/3 innings.

Today

Boston @ Seattle, 7:05 p.m. FSN

A gassed Jarrod Washburn walked off the mound in the sixth inning having accomplished what his team needed.

Not to out-pitch his opponent. Or to leave Monday night's game with his Mariners ahead on the scoreboard. Or to set any records for strikeouts, or for even hitting the strike zone with a high percentage of his pitches.

Washburn did none of those things in this 4-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on a night Puyallup's Jon Lester stole the show for the visitors. But what the Mariners' left-hander managed to do was not embarrass himself against a higher-caliber opponent, something his critics say he hasn't done during a midseason stretch of success.

What remains to be seen is whether the 5-2/3 innings of two-run ball turned in by Washburn, in front of 37,861 fans at Safeco Field, will be the final piece of evidence needed to convince opposing scouts he is indeed worth trading for.

"They're definitely in the top three or four offenses in our league," Washburn said after his team's third consecutive loss. "The Yankees, Detroit and Boston. Even without [David] Ortiz in that lineup, it's an awful good lineup. They've got some speed in there and they've got guys who put the ball in-play, take their walks and they've got power."

That power is what ultimately did Washburn in. He had just walked Coco Crisp with one out in the fifth inning when Jason Varitek stepped up and smoked a full-count pitch into the left-field bleachers for the game's decisive runs.

Boston added two more in the eighth, both charged to reliever Mark Lowe, when Jed Lowrie smacked a single to left off Cesar Jimenez. Lester pitched into the eighth, until closer Jonathan Papelbon came in and coaxed a double-play grounder from Raul Ibanez with the bases loaded and one out to end Seattle's final threat.

"Lester stepped up," said Papelbon, who retired the side in the ninth for the save. "He's stepping up for us. He's a guy right now we're kind of leaning on."

Washburn, on the other hand, fell to 4-9, but lowered his earned-run average to 4.75. As a middle-of-the-rotation arm, he could prove attractive to teams in need of pitching as the July 31 trade deadline nears.

After entering with a 2-1 record and 2.58 ERA his last seven starts, all against losing teams, Washburn held his own against the 58-43 Red Sox. He got them to mis-hit the ball in key situations, notching double plays in the first two innings and pop-outs to escape jams in others.

"I'm going to get in trouble if I throw balls in the middle of the plate," Washburn said. "I'm successful because I throw a lot of balls and get guys to swing at a lot of balls, pitches that are just out of the zone."

Washburn wasn't as sharp as he's been, despite this being his seventh outing in eight starts in which he held an opponent to two earned runs or fewer. He fell behind in counts, including the key at-bat by Varitek, though much of that was due to the Red Sox's selectivity.

Lester faced no such issues from the Seattle hitters in allowing eight hits, with six strikeouts and no walks. He breezed through the first six innings on just 61 pitches, before the Mariners finally slowed him down in a 22-pitch seventh inning.

Seattle put two on with one out that frame, but Lester struck out Miguel Cairo, then got pinch-hitter Jose Vidro to fly out to right.

Lester lasted just five innings in each of his two previous outings in Seattle, the second of those coming last August after his return from a battle with lymphoma. A lot of good things have happened since, including his victory in the deciding fourth game of last year's World Series and a no-hitter May 19 against Kansas City at Fenway Park.

"My family was here," a smiling Lester said Monday. "Most people [who know him] stay home and watch in on TV. That's easier."

Washburn was going to have a hard time topping anything Lester did. But he did what he had to in order to keep trade fires alive for a pitcher owed $13.6 million in salary through 2009 but who won't cost an armload of top prospects.

Whether that pays off where Washburn's trade value is concerned remains to be seen. The New York Yankees are said to have some possible interest in Washburn as a fallback plan if their bid to land Toronto starter A.J. Burnett fails.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the National League team most often mentioned in Washburn rumors.

"He really did a good job," Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. "Washburn has given us a chance to win the ballgame just about every time out there and he did it again tonight. When he leaves, it's 2-0, and when you've only given up a couple of runs to Boston, you've probably done a pretty good job."

The only job that really mattered to the Mariners.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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