M's Notebook | Patient approach at plate knocks Harden out early
A pregame meeting of Mariners hitters on Saturday doomed the opposing starter before he ever took the mound. The Mariners were made fully...
Seattle Times staff reporter
OAKLAND, Calif. — A pregame meeting of Mariners hitters on Saturday doomed the opposing starter before he ever took the mound.
The Mariners were made fully aware that the Oakland A's Rich Harden — in his first start since coming off the disabled list — was on a pitch count of 60 to 65 pitches and that plate patience was the key to victory. Ichiro then went out and battled Harden in a nine-pitch at-bat before hitting a single to open the game.
Harden was at 47 pitches after just two innings, and lasted just two outs into the third before being pulled.
"They told us that he had a pitch count, so we tried to make him throw some pitches," said Adrian Beltre, who clubbed a three-run homer to left field off Harden in the second inning of Seattle's 4-0 victory. "He didn't really help himself. He was throwing a lot of balls early in the ballgame, and that helped us."
Harden had looked strong in three relief outings prior to Saturday, but went on to lose his first game against a divisional foe since Aug. 9, 2005. He also had his five-game win streak against the Mariners snapped, dropping his record to 5-2 with a 1.88 earned-run average against them in eight lifetime starts.
Today | @ Oakland, 1:05 p.m., FSN | M's LHP Ryan Feierabend (1-3, 9.72) vs. RHP Joe Blanton (8-4, 3.09).
Tuesday | 78th All-Star Game, at San Francisco, 5 p.m., Ch. 13
Thursday | vs. Detroit, 7:05 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.72) vs. TBA.
Friday | vs. Detroit, 7:05 p.m., FSN | M's Jarrod Washburn (8-6, 3.72) vs. TBA.
Saturday | vs. Detroit, 7:05 p.m., Ch. 11 | M's RHP Miguel Batista (8-7, 4.54) vs. TBA.
Mariners manager John McLaren was pleased with how his hitters, especially Ichiro, approached their at-bats against Harden.
"That got it off to a nice start," he said of the Ichiro at-bat in the first. "When you know you're pitching only a certain amount of pitches and the first hitter burns about a sixth of them ... we did a nice job the first couple of innings to work counts, foul some balls off and what not."
Mariners reliever Eric O'Flaherty is tired of hearing about how he's a "vulture."
It's a phrase the Walla Walla native has heard repeatedly from teammates and others while amassing a 6-0 record. A so-called "vulture win" is a term that's supposed to be used when a reliever gains a victory after first blowing a save. But lately, it has morphed into an expression used to cover just about any win by a reliever that doesn't involve multiple innings.
"I don't really like it," said O'Flaherty, who has had only one of his wins result from a blown save. "They should call it just a relief win, I guess."
O'Flaherty tossed a perfect sixth inning on Friday against Oakland, then watched Seattle take the lead for good in the seventh to help him set a club record for wins to start a career. Julio Mateo held the previous record of five, which he finished compiling by July of last season.
"I'm just happy to get it done," said O'Flaherty, who had just six wins as a reliever in three years in the minor leagues. "I'm not worried about the wins as much as knowing I did it right. Got the job done.
"Wins isn't really a stat you look for in a reliever. It's not like holds and runners stranded and stuff. I think if somebody's going to evaluate a reliever, they're going to look at those things first."
• The Mariners announced that their rotation for the four-game series against Detroit after the All-Star break will start with Felix Hernandez, then Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista and Jeff Weaver. McLaren refused to name a starter beyond that series.
It's widely assumed that Ryan Feierabend will be dispatched back to Class AAA soon after his start today and be replaced in the rotation by Horacio Ramirez.
• George Sherrill pitched the ninth inning Saturday after doing the same on Thursday. Sherrill jokingly termed it "mop-up" work, but agreed that such efforts could help the team decide to use him in longer situations in the second half.
"I guess it could," he said. "Whatever they need, that's what I'm here for. I'm just trying to win a pennant and help us do some damage in the playoffs. Whatever I can do to help out, whether it's one hitter or five, I will."
• McLaren said before the game that backup C Jamie Burke, who started Saturday, will catch every day game after a night contest from now until season's end. The manager added that Burke could see action twice a week if the team thinks Kenji Johjima needs a rest.
For the record
vs. AL West: 14-11
vs. L.A.: 2-7
vs. Oakland: 6-2
vs. Texas: 6-2
vs. AL East: 15-7
vs. AL Central: 10-9
vs. NL: 9-9
vs. LHP: 15-7
vs. RHP: 33-29
Extra innings: 3-1
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.