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07/25/07 1:13 AM ET
Slumping Mariners drop nightcap
Seattle swept in doubleheader despite Washburn's effort
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Mariners have experienced enough difficult times so far this season that they say pushing the panic button anytime soon is not an option. But the third losing streak of at least five games has them searching for corrective measures once again. "The ball is not bouncing our way right now, and we have to find a way to bust out of it, do the little things to turn things back in our direction," veteran left-hander Jarrod Washburn said Tuesday night after the Mariners absorbed a Texas two-step -- being swept in a doubleheader by the Rangers by scores of 2-1 and 4-3 in front of 26,842 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "We're not playing well right now and we know it." After closing to within a game of first place in the American League West last Friday night in Toronto, the Mariners have lost five straight and have been limited to three or fewer runs in four of the games. "We're not scoring a lot of runs, and everything is magnified," manager John McLaren said. "We're going to fight our way through it, and the only way to do that is stay positive. We're going to battle through this. There's nothing else we can do." OK, but how? "Whatever it takes," McLaren said. "It might be striking someone out, moving a runner over, or hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Whatever it is, we need because we have hit a little bump in the road here." The good news is that the first-place Angels also are scuffling so the losses are doing more to keep the Mariners out of first place than spoiling their division championship hopes. "We're not concerned about what the Angels are doing," McLaren said. "It's all about us." After rookie left-hander Ryan Feierabend pitched well in the opener, lost and was optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma to make room on the roster for right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, the Mariners turned to Washburn in the nightcap. He pitched well enough to win most games, but two broken-bat hits played significant roles in a game that included a break that went Seattle's way, contributing to a three-run uprising in the fifth inning that gave the Mariners a 3-1 lead. Raul Ibanez turned what he thought was an inning-ending strikeout into a two-run double that capped a three-run rally. Ibanez appeared to swing and miss a breaking pitch on a 2-2 count for an inning-ending strikeout. He tossed his bat and helmet to the ground in obvious disgust. But plate umpire Jim Reynolds ruled that Ibanez foul-tipped the ball, which wasn't caught by catcher Gerald Laird, and Ibanez wasn't out after all. So he put his helmet back on, grabbed his bat, and on the next pitch, doubled to center field, scoring Willie Bloomquist and Jose Vidro. "I heard something, but I thought [the catcher] caught the ball," Ibanez said. While the hit produced two runs and the lead, it could have been an even more productive inning if not for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt taking a snooze when he was on second base with none out. He singled leading off and advanced to second on Jamie Burke's single to left field. Bloomquist, trying to sacrifice both runners into scoring position, bunted at the first pitch foul and took the second pitch. Betancourt, expecting the ball to be on the ground, wandered too far off the base and was gunned down by Laird. Bloomquist hit the next pitch into right field for a single, and, after Ichiro Suzuki struck out, Vidro tied the game with a single to right. Texas retaliated in the bottom of the inning, when Mark Teixeira delivered a broken-bat single into right field that scored Kenny Lofton from second and sent Michael Young to third. Young scored on Washburn's second wild pitch of the season. Rookie third baseman Travis Metcalf opened the third inning with a broken-bat triple to left field and later scored on a double. "That one went a ways, didn't it?" Washburn said of the ball Metcalf hit off the wall. "But the Teixeira broken bat is the one that hurt the most." It was another of those kind of games for the Mariners (54-44), who must win Wednesday night's series finale or fly back to Seattle for a 10-game homestand against the Athletics (four games), Angels (three) and Red Sox (three) on a six-game skid, which would match two other streaks of six straight losses. "We need to do the same little things we were doing when we were playing well," Washburn said. "Things like having good at-bats, making tough pitches when we have to, getting a ground ball to move the guy over and coming up with big hits. "There are all kinds of little things that help you win games." The regular season reaches the 100-game point on Wednesday night, which means there's still plenty of time to right the ship and get back on track. "There is a lot of baseball to be played," Washburn said. "This is no time to start pressing. We're in the thick of things and are capable of playing better ball than we have in the past week. We can't afford to have many more stretches like this, but we have a good team."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.