Game 23 Notes: Lee returns, Wak hands the game over

Cliff Lee had an amazingly promising first seven innings of his Mariners career. His return was the story of the day, but mismanagement was the story of the night.

Twice the Mariners had a man on third with less than two outs in extra innings, and twice they came away with no runs.

-In the 10th, the Mariners were beneficiaries of Ron Washington forgetting how well Milton Bradley hits left-handed pitching. With Eric Byrnes on first base, after pinch-running for Ken Griffey Jr., Bradley roped a liner down the left field line. After an ugly swing, and weak fly ball by Casey Kotchman (who is like the ultimate enemy of small ball and reducing unforced outs at the plate and on the basepaths, terrible call tonight not included), Adam Moore was intentionally walked.

Pinch hitting for Jack Wilson makes some sense. He puts the ball on the ground quite a bit, and even his fairly inflated line drive percentage includes a lot of line drives without a lot of steam behind them.

But pinch hitting with Mike Sweeney was asinine. At this point in his career he’s no better hitter, especially against a submarine-throwing righty, than Matt Tuiasosopo. But Tui at least would have made for a close play at first base on the double play that ended the 10th.

-Then, with the team’s two fastest runners on the basebaths in the 11th, Franklin Gutierrez failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt, and struck out swinging on a fastball from Frank Francisco. Gutierrez seemed to struggle most of the day, putting some pathetic swings on Colby Lewis’ slider, all the way through the eighth inning, where he saw Lewis for the fourth time.

Then Eric Byrnes, who is a redundant piece of this team (redundant in his bad fielding and success against lefties with Milton Bradley, to perpetuate the redundancy), pulled back on a suicide squeeze. Or so I assume, since Ichiro was bearing down on home plate as the pitch in the dirt was fielded by Matt Treanor .

The first rule of a suicide squeeze play is that no matter if the pitch is thrown in the first base dugout, it’s the batter’s responsibility to lay some wood on it. The pitch wasn’t so far off the plate that Byrnes thought it was going to certainly be fielded poorly.

If it was a safety squeeze, where Ichiro should be waiting for contact (or a fielding miscue) to run, then the fault belongs to Ichiro. Chances are, a ball in the dirt is either going to be fielded poorly, but not poorly enough to allow him to score, or reach the back stop (like the one that broke the tie in the 12th inning, when Brandon League threw a pitch about 59 feet). If a ball is that far off, chances are, Ichiro could walk home before being thrown out.

Terrible management means that the Mariners end April under .500, out of first place, and tied with Texas for last place. That their each only a half game out of first makes the hyperbole of the previous sentence evident, but nonetheless, it’s disappointing.

– Lee looked really sharp at the beginning of the game. Andrew has been talking about either Hyphen or Ian Snell ending up in the bullpen. Obviously, something has to give, but the decision will be tough.

Either way, Lee looked tremendous tonight. He had everything working, and had command inside and outside the strike zone.

– Colby Lewis has pitched against the Mariners twice this year. In those two games, he’s pitched 15 innings, struck out 13 Mariners, given up one run, five hits, and five walks. He’s absolutely dominated the Mariners this year, which seems very much a result of his slider, which will probably end the year with about a 15 run value according to Fangraphs.com.