The Mariners Wake Up

It was only Tampa Bay, but still.

Mike "Hard luck" Hargrove may not have heard the early murmurings of fed-up fans, but when and if he returns home to Perryton, Texas, as one of the Seattle Mariners' many managerial exes, he'll always have Saturday, June 4, to lull him into a grinning slumber. With two out and the bases loaded in the eighth that night, Grover benched hitless shortstop Willie Bloomquist for designated pinch hitter Dave Hansen. With a full count, Hansen slapped one into center, where a misplay made it 6-5 M's, the final score. The same tally held up the next day, when Adrian Beltre's thousandth career hit preceded a melodramatic double by Richie Sexson. With that, the 24-31 M's completed their season's half-dozen with Lou Piniella's 20-37 Tampa Bay Deviled Eggs with a 4-2 record.

The locals moved this week to the East Coast for the first of a dozen straight interleague meetings. At .436 and eight back a third of the way through the season, the M's aren't exactly what fans had in mind. Would a new skipper help? My own choice would be Ron Howard, because he'd probably bring Russell Crowe, who has happy melodramatic endings contractually guaranteed (to the chagrin of those of us who liked Max Baer over Jim Braddock in the title fight of Cinderella Man).

In truth, the only Aussie who could help this club is Chris Snelling, hitting about .700 in Tacoma. The rub is that the M' don't need help at positions playable by the oft-injured Down Under outfielder. Yes, offense has been Seattle's compelling problem, but mainly at catcher, shortstop, and second base. Aside from providing an occasional base hit just when you least need one, these batting-order holes have been coffin-sized since opening day. Bret Boone, who should be padding his Hall of Fame–bound stats, instead is having the antithesis of a career year at second. The M's best catcher, Pat Borders, is 42 (older than Russell Crowe), and we've lost count of how many guys have tried and failed at shortstop. When club officials yearn for the arrival of not-quite-okey-dokey Pokey Reese (career average: .248), does it tell you something?

Sunday, June 5, Jamie Moyer (also older than Russell Crowe) threw 60 times to get the first six outs but stayed six innings. Boone uncharacteristically had a pair of hits, two RBI, and an acrobatic transfer behind second. Borders' pair of bunts figured prominently, and Mike Morse, the shortstop du jour, redeemed an early error with a bloop single.

It was all somewhat less than convincing evidence that the M's would climb back into the race of the weak American League West, though Raul Ibanez and Randy Winn are hitting as if they could. Through it all, Mike Softgrove, so passive lately (think Lou on 'ludes) that he couldn't even curse hard enough for an ump to boot him a few games ago, seemed to stay awake. Maybe taking a trio of three-game series has him suddenly thinking about Texas in terms of catching the first-place Rangers rather than catching a nap on the sofa back home in Perryton.

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