Struggling in the first inning against the Evil Empire, Harris battled his way out of a bases loaded one-out jam to take a bite out of the club's worst inning for starting pitchers as he headed for the dugout unscathed after one frame.
Seattle starters have allowed 93 first-inning runs, most of any inning, but Harris' magic act staved off another potential disaster.
The work of the 31-year-old right-hander paved the way for the M's offense to take advantage of a wild Shawn Chacon and the hot power-hitting bat of Ichiro Suzuki to earn the 8-3 victory over the Yankees at Safeco Field.
Ichiro's 15th home run of the year capped off a five-run second inning and gave the Mariners and Harris a 5-0 lead. The hometown nine would tack on three more in the third after the Yankees plated two of their in the top of the inning.
Jose Lopez doubled in Richie Sexson and Michael Morse and one out later Yuniesky Betancourt doubled in Lopez from third making it 8-2 good guys.
Harris cruised through the fourth and other than Alex Rodriguez's 40th home run of the year, he strolled through the fifth and sixth as well.
I will take three runs in six and a third innings against the Yankees every single night. If Jeff Harris can shutdown the Yankees than he can shutdown anyone. He may not have the Felix Hernandez –"stuff", but he knows how to pitch and how to get outs. I don't want Harris in the ‘pen this year or next year, and I don't want him heading back down when Gil Meche is healthy. Harris should start every five days for the rest of the season, and if he continues to get outs, then he should be in the rotation next season - period.
The Mariners are lucky that unfortunate situations lead to Harris getting some starts because otherwise they would have never discovered how good of a starter was right under their nose. Tonight his only mistakes to a very scary lineup were some walks to Giambi and A-Rod that lead to two runs, and A-Rod's bomb. The A-Rod bomb was inevitable since nobody can get that freak of nature out right now, and the Giambi run was a direct result of a Jose Lopez bobble on a for-sure double-play ball.
That leads us into the second most important issue - the development of Jose Lopez. Bad hops, bad reads, bobbles, etc. - it has to stop. No more excuses for this kid, the fielding has to improve. That was a tough hop in the top of the third, but Major Leaguers make that look easy and turn two. His catch in the seventh was great, but I am not worried about his ability to snag line drives, I am worried about consistency with ground balls and turning two. Otherwise I was tickled pink with Lopez at the plate. Two doubles on the night including one to right-center field. When he was called up earlier he was trying to pull everything and that was killing him.
Tonight he showed discipline by going opposite field the first chance he got and it lead to the 2-RBI double. In the fifth he was not hesitant to pull the ball either, when the pitch called for it, turning on a hanging breaking ball for a double down the leftfield line. That may not seem like a big deal since he has done that plenty in the bigs, but it is important that hitters do not lose what they are naturally good at when they are focusing so hard on their weaknesses. If Lopez has really learned how to hit different pitches in different places, then we have a serious power hitter at second base.
To me, the most important thing is the win itself. The factors that got them there are critical, no doubt, but getting a win versus a team like New York is always a big deal. Harris was decent enough and fought his way through 6.1 innings very nicely.
Ichiro's 3-run bomb was cool and all, but I think the big hit was the Lopez double to right-center field. I don't think I have ever seen him hit a ball safely in that direction and from what I hear, that is why he was sent down this last time. His defense can only get better and he isn't all that bad as it stands.
If the Mariners can gobble up a few non-Felix wins and build some confidence down the stretch, it could lead into a different feeling heading into the off-season. A 10-20 final month could leave a bad taste in the collective mouths of the organization. A more competitive September/October could be the first sign of a winning culture.
One small item I'd like to get mentioned is the play of Yorvit Torrealba behind the plate. We aren't hearing a ton about him during the game – and that is good thing. No mistakes, passed balls, errant throws, and he handles himself with the bat, too. He did go 0-for-4 tonight but clearly has a decent idea of how to work a pitcher and swing at the right offerings.
Imagine starting the year with Torrealba and Betancourt over Wilson Valdez and Miguel Olivo.
Jason A. Churchill
The most important thing to me was the starting lineup. Every single guy in the lineup, including the game's starting pitcher, has a good shot to break camp with the team next spring… as regulars, no less.
Whether Morse plays left field in '06 is yet to be determined, but the nine starters in the field, plus DH Raul Ibanez figure to be pieces of the puzzle six months from today.
Morse did not have a ball hit to him all night, but he went deep into the count three times, and though he did make a base running error on a Torrealba fly ball to center in the second inning, he obviously has a clue at the dish.
Lopez did two things tonight to take note of; he walked on a 3-1 pitch – a breaking ball down and away (wow!), and Betancourt did not swing at the first pitch in any plate appearance, drawing a walk and doubling the other way in four trips to the plate.
Jeremy Reed hit second for the first time in six weeks and had two hits, a single and a double, and the M's won a game without Sexson or Beltre driving in even one of the M;s eight on the night.
Tonight's lineup is as close to the 2006 lineup as the club can get at the moment. Nice to finally see it out there – including Sherrill and Putz out there for 3.2 hitless innings to finish off the game.
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