SAN DIEGO – As part of interleague play, major league baseball set up natural rivalries between teams in the American and National leagues to help boost interest. Logically, it was the Yankees vs. Mets, Cubs vs. White Sox, Angels vs. Dodgers, A’s vs. Giants and the most intense of rivalries – the Seattle Mariners taking on the hated San Diego Padres.
OK, so maybe MLB got that one wrong. Most of the others are based on geography. And when there was no close rival for the Mariners in the National League, the Padres were nominated.
The Mariners and Padres do share a spring training facility in Peoria, Ariz., so perhaps there are some bragging rights over fields Nos. 12 and 14 at Peoria involved.
But really the true measure of any rivalry is the possibility of either side being victorious. And that’s where the manufactured feud between Seattle and San Diego falls short, since there seems to be little chance of the Padres winning.
With Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Padres, Seattle has now won eight straight against their rivals and 10 straight at Petco Park. It’s the longest winning streak by an opponent at Petco since it opened in 2004. In the last 20 games against the Padres the Mariners have won 16.
And while the recent record shows Seattle as dominating, the actual wins haven’t always been.
The Mariners (32-33) actually needed a little bit of help from the Padres to continue the streak.
Catcher Nick Hundley’s risky fifth-inning pick-off throw to third to try and catch Franklin Gutierrez not only failed, but it also went very wrong for San Diego and very right for the Mariners. Hundley’s throw was low and to the left of the bag and it got by Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, allowing Gutierrez to trot home with what would be the winning run.
“It’s got to be a high throw there, at least one that doesn’t hit the runner,” said Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, himself a former catcher. “That was low and away. It was an aggressive play.”
Aggressive and costly.
The Mariners, who have had their share of breaks go against them at times this season, seemed to finally get one in their favor.
But being the Mariners, things had to get just a little hairy.
In the eighth inning, setup man Sean White ran into a spot of trouble. After getting a quick out, catcher Jamie Burke was called for catcher’s interference when his glove touched the bat of pinch-hitter Brian Giles. A two-out single from David Eckstein gave San Diego runners on first and third with the most dangerous hitter in the National League, Adrian Gonzalez, coming to the plate.
White clearly wanted no part of Gonzalez or his 22 home runs and pitched around him.
“You don’t want him to beat you, but you don’t necessarily put the winning run on second base either,” Wakamatsu said.
But the move paid off because White was able to get Kouzmanoff to ground out to end the inning.
David Aardsma came on in the ninth to pick up his 12th save of the season and secure Garrett Olson’s second win.
Olson pitched six solid innings allowing just two hits.
But those two hits were a pair of home runs.
The first was to Kouzmanoff on a 0-2 fastball to start the second inning. The second was also a 0-2 fastball to Chase Headley after walking Adrian Gonzalez earlier in the fourth inning. Headley’s two-run shot was a monster blast into the third deck of the old “Western Metal Supply Co.” building that was made part of the stadium in the left-field corner.
“Two 0-2 mistakes,” Wakamatsu said. “Other than that he was really good today.”
Both of the fastballs were supposed to be inside, but Olson didn’t get them inside quite enough.
“In hindsight, maybe I go away or go with something off-speed in that situation,” Olson said.
Admittedly, Olson is still trying to find his comfort level in just his second year at the major leagues.
“Just after being one plus years, I’ve learned so much already,” he said. “I could only imagine what somebody knows after pitching 10 plus years at this level.”
Seattle gave Olson a fair amount of run support, scoring three runs in the fourth inning. Russell Branyan singled to lead off the inning. He later scored all the way from first on Ken Griffey Jr.’s double off the wall in left-center.
“I thought he took some of the best swings he took all year, which is a good sign,” Wakamatsu said of Griffey.
Meanwhile, Jose Lopez continued to swing the bat well, ripping a two-run homer – his 10th of the season – to left.
Lopez has hit seven of those 10 homers in the last 17 games. Since May 29, he’s hitting .333 (22-for-66) and raised his average from .216 to .248.
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