Eric Wedge may have wanted to start Miguel Olivo on Wednesday. He may believe that Olivo did everything in his power keep the previous evening's second inning wild pitch in front of him. He may not take issue with Olivo's latest no-hit, multi-strikeout showing at the plate. But one day after benching Brendan Ryan in what has been described as a lesson in accountability, Wedge couldn't risk having his own accountability brought into question.
Jesus Montero was due for a start behind the dish; the second-stringer probably had Thursday's game circled on his calendar-- a day game after a night game. Instead, the call came a day earlier as Olivo sat.
Replacing Montero at designated hitter: John Jaso, the last Mariner position player to have his 2012 season validated. But if Wedge's apparent unwillingness to play Jaso wasn't already suspected given his preference for playing someone as terrible as Olivo, having Jaso not catch and hit ninth behind the inept Brendan Ryan drove it home. This was not Jaso being freed. This was Wedge throwing Jaso a bone.
But after Wednesday's performance, Jaso won't be watching six games from the bench before sniffing the field again.
The Mariners were improbably engaged in a second consecutive pitcher's duel with arguably the league's most potent offense in one of the league's best hitter's parks before Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus each took reliever Steve Delabar deep in the seventh inning, extending the Ranger lead to 3-0. Facing a 23 inning scoring drought, the ballgame seemed out of reach as Jaso dug in to lead off the top of the eighth against the oft-unhittable Alexi Ogando. Jaso worked a full count before turning a 95 MPH fastball into a line drive that shot past first baseman Mitch Moreland and right fielder Nelson Cruz. Jaso hustled into the third base (pictured) and a bit of hope was restored. The reliable Dustin Ackley drove him in to cut the deficit to two, but the ralley was quickly extinguished.
Enter the ninth.
Joe Nathan comes in for the save. The Mariner offense has been quiet all series, but Justin Smoak rifles a single into right field to kick off the inning. Kyle Seager ropes a line drive into the right field corner for a double. Jesus Montero hits a deep fly to bring in a run. Michael Saunders drives in the tying run with a hustle double, then steals third. Nathan does his best to quash the rally by striking out Brendan Ryan.
Two outs, tie game, go-ahead run on third, and up strides our hero-by-default, John Jaso.
The 24-hour, tongue-in-cheek "Free John Jaso" microcampaign wasn't about getting Jaso playing time so much as it was about reducing Olivo's impact on each game, but by this point Jaso was rewriting the script. Suddenly, Jaso was a gladiator, surrounded by mangled corpses, one kill away from earning his freedom. Overstated? Certainly. Six games into the season, Jaso sitting on the bench is a non-story. But the narrative is a fun one, and we're gearing up for a long season.
Nathan offers up a steady diet of curveballs before Jaso does his best Luis Gonzalez impression and corks one up the middle for the go ahead run. Brandon League shuts the door in the bottom of the inning. Mariners win 4-3.
John Jaso is free.
It's a start.
More after the chart.
Kevin Millwood: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 R
An amazing line from Millwood considering that he gave up a double, single and two walks in the first inning. This one had the makings of a blowout before Millwood escaped with a bases loaded strikeout of David Murphy, who chased multiple would-be ball fours.
Millwood doesn't have good enough stuff to challenge hitters, so he nibbles. He seems to have pretty good command but because of the limitations of his stuff his success will depend on the aggressiveness of the opposing batters and the size of the umpire's strikezone. It started out rough, but once he cleared the first he did a great job of inducing weak grounders and sneaking his 90 MPH fastball past hitters for swinging strikes. From the second inning on, Millwood threw the same game as Beavan one night before.
Steve Delabar throwing BP
The 28-year-old rookie has now given up 4 home runs in 4.2 innings this season after giving up just one in 63 professional innings last season. It's a command issue, nothing more. He's throwing meatballs.
How much time does Delabar have to prove himself before Chance Ruffin, Shawn Kelley or someone else gets the call?
Jesus Montero behind the dish
Scouting reports on Montero's defense portrayed him as blind and gloveless, but he made it through this game just fine. Which isn't to say he looked good. He stabbed at a couple pitches that he probably should have gotten in front of. His release was slow and throw wide on a steal attempt. He didn't seem to do a very good job framing Millwood's borderline pitches. But he blocked a couple pitches in the dirt and the one wild pitch he did surrender was a truly wild pitch from Brandon League.
I see no problem running him out there a couple times per week, if not more.
Lucas Luetge with another strong outing
Cool story here: Texas native Luetge enters the game to face superstar Josh Hamilton, only the second hitter he's faced as a big leaguer. He strikes him out on a nice slider, extending his MLB line to two batters faced, two strikeouts. Then he comes back out for another scoreless inning, showing that he is capable of getting righties out by retiring Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Craig Gentry. Then, thanks to Jaso, he comes away with the win.
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