Cool bats back in finale vs. Rays
Johjima's struggles reflected in Mariners' out-of-rhythm lineup
ST. PETERSBURG -- One hit. Just one hit.Struggling catcher Kenji Johjima says that's all he needs to get his hitting rhythm back, and the offensive malaise that he's been going through practically the entire season, will be a thing of the past. Now would be the perfect time for him to get that hit, because the Mariners open a three-game series against the American League West rival Angels on Friday night at Safeco Field. "I am trying to hit everything, which is impossible, even when I'm in the right groove," Johjima said on Thursday afternoon following the Mariners' 7-0 loss to the Rays in the series finale at Tropicana Field. "I have to stop thinking about hitting everything, because that's not going to happen." Johjima went 0-for-3 in Thursday's game, extending his hitless streak to 22 at-bats. He is now 2-for-29 this season, a team-low .069 mark. "Joh is not swinging real good," Mariners hitting coach Jeff Pentland said. "On the road, it's harder to work on things -- especially here because we don't have a cage. He will be a priority when we get home. I'll sit down and talk to him to see where he's at." Johjima said he can't remember going through a stretch like this, although he went through a 2-for-23 skid at the end of last April. Asked if he needed one game to find the stroke that produced a .291 batting average in his first season with the Mariners and a .287 mark in the second, Johjima paused and said, "I need one hit. One hit can change my whole rhythm." Except for third baseman Adrian Beltre, the entire Seattle lineup was out of rhythm in Thursday's matinee finale. He had two hits. The rest of the team had one. "I guess the obvious thing is we didn't hit at all," manager John McLaren said. "We didn't get anything going at all." Rays starter Edwin Jackson held Seattle (4-6) to two hits over eight innings. Mariners starter Miguel Batista also pitched well, allowing the home team two runs over six innings. He departed with two on and none out in the seventh inning and the Rays raked left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty and right-hander Roy Corcoran over the coals, scoring five runs. Three of the runs were charged to O'Flaherty and his ERA soared from 14.73 to 20.25. Batista (0-2) surrendered a solo home run to Eric Hinske in the fourth and another run on a bloop single by Mike DiFelice in the sixth. The way Jackson was pitching, one run would have been plenty. Seattle is known for having a lineup of aggressive hitters and they were hacking away all afternoon, sometimes early in the count. "He was throwing strike one all day and he's a guy you can't wait around too long, because he does have above-average stuff," Pentland said. "He threw very well. We didn't 'square up' many balls." One ball that was hit hard, a line drive by designated hitter Jose Vidro in the fourth inning, ended the Mariners' best scoring threat. Beltre opened the inning with a single and stole second. Raul Ibanez walked, but Richie Sexson bounced into a double play. Vidro drilled a line drive to left field for what looked like a run-scoring single, but Rays left fielder Carl Crawford sprinted in and made a diving catch. "I have seen him do that so many times," said McLaren, a former bench coach with the Rays. "He's fearless out there, sacrifices his body all the time. He's an ex-football player who plays baseball old-school all the way. That was a big play, absolutely." McLaren looked back, and then ahead. "It was not a good road trip, [though] we did win the [Tampa Bay] series," he said. "The Baltimore series [sweep] set us back. "Now, we have to go home and get a winning streak going and that's what we are looking to do. It should be a good series and we'll be ready to go tomorrow night."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.