Even with the worst record in the majors, the Seattle Mariners are showing some fight under interim manager Jim Riggleman. New York Mets interim manager Jerry Manuel is among the few doing the same for his team.
The Mariners go for their first series sweep of 2008 as their three-game set concludes Wednesday against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
The firing of general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren last week left the Mariners (28-49) in a precarious state. With a payroll of $117 million, no player is off-limits from being traded or released, and Riggleman all but conceded the rest of the season would be used to determine who would remain to build around cornerstone outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and staff ace Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez did his part Monday, hitting a grand slam and pitching well before spraining his ankle trying to cover the plate on a wild pitch in a 5-2 win, and the Mariners played arguably their most complete game in an 11-0 rout Tuesday.
Embattled slugger Richie Sexson - long rumored to be one of the first players released since he’s hitting just .217 while making $14 million in the final year of his contract - went 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Kenji Johjima homered and had three of Seattle’s 15 hits to break an 0-for-11 slump and raise his season average to .229.
“Kenji, along with Richie, they’ve battled,” Riggleman said. “They’ve had some tough times, but are swinging the bats better.”
Miguel Batista (3-9, 6.26 ERA), making his first start since June 7, will try to put a horrific relief appearance behind him. Pressed into the closer’s role with J.J. Putz sidelined due to injury, he walked two batters, hit one and allowed two hits and two runs without retiring a batter in a 5-4 loss at Atlanta on Saturday.
“I didn’t do the job in the ninth,” said Batista, who needed just 19 pitches to complete his meltdown. “That’s about it.”
Prior to being sent to the bullpen, Batista pitched at least six innings just once in his last seven starts and has walked 44 in 64 1-3 innings in 13 starts overall. He is 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA in nine starts and 19 lifetime appearances versus the Mets, whom he has not faced since 2006.
The Mets (37-39) trail first-place Philadelphia by only four games in the NL East, but looked lifeless on Tuesday. Oliver Perez jeopardized his spot in the rotation after allowing six runs in five innings, and the Mets managed just six hits against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Manuel, in his seventh game since replacing Willie Randolph, roused the Mets crowd coming to the defense of center fielder Carlos Beltran, who argued with plate umpire Brian Runge over a called strike in the fourth. Manuel then appeared to be bumped by Runge before being ejected, which then emboldened Beltran to continue the argument before also being tossed by Runge.
“He really bumped Jerry to get him an excuse to throw him out of the game,” Beltran said, “and I just let him know that that was weak, the move that he did, you know just being able to do that and he throws me out of the game.
“This is the first time that I’ve been so angry in my career.”
John Maine (7-5, 3.78) takes the mound to help the Mets avoid the sweep. He shook off a poor start - allowing two first-inning runs - and a blister on his middle finger that prevented him from throwing a slider for much of his outing Friday to throw 6 2-3 solid innings in a 7-2 victory at Colorado.
New York has lost Maine’s last three starts at Shea as he’s posted a 6.23 ERA.