During his pre-game press briefing Monday night, Lloyd McClendon was interrupted by a ring from his desktop phone. He answered.
“I got the press here, Jack,” he said, and hung up. Naturally, we encouraged McClendon to put the the Mariners general manager on the speaker, but he politely declined. Then I imagined what I would have said if I were the Seattle manager taking that call:
“#$%^&, Jack! We were one hit in two games from sweeping the Angels on the road — they’re the best @#$%&* team in the game. Thirty-seven #$%^& innings, we lose two and burn up the bullpen and Cano’s legs are sore. What the &%$#@ are you doing?! Get me a %$#@& hitter before both our asses get fired!”
Something like that. McClendon would have been saltier.
Before the relatively easy 5-2 win home win Monday night over the New York Mets, the Mariners lost eight of their past 13, and five of the losses were by one or two runs. None were more agonizing than the weekend pair in Anaheim: 3-2 in 16 innings Friday and 6-5 Sunday.
Even McClendon, usually sparing when it comes to characterizing one game or series over another, could not mask the chore of playing hard and well and coming up short.
“Nothing,” he said, “was more grueling than the series in Anaheim.”
The teams featured brilliant pitching that thwarted offenses, which says much about Mariners pitching. Yet margins for error were minuscule.
Which is a large part of why many fans were agitated about Fernando Rodney’s imaginary arrow routine at the end of the eighth inning that seemed to irk the Angels into sarcastic mimicry after beating him in the ninth.
McClendon was having no part of the pantomime show influencing the outcome.
“I heard somebody say (Rodney’s arrow gesture to the dugout) fired up the Angels,” he said. “That’s a bunch of baloney. They understand the importance of these games as well as we do. The fact is, they had the best all-around player (Mike Trout) in the game up there, and a Hall of Famer (Albert Pujols) hitting behind him. That had a lot to do with winning the game, not Rodney’s arrow shooting.”
After the game, Trout and Pujols denied any malice toward Rodney, a former Angel who had his run-ins with manager Mike Scioscia. It’s highly doubtful that the next time the teams meet, Pujols and Trout seek to hit the ball harder when Rodney is on the mound.
McClendon even sounded a little Pete Carroll-ish in indulging the hijinks.
“This is an entertainment,” he said. “Guys have all these signs for (hitting feats). I don’t know what they mean. Everybody’s got celebrations in the dugout. Somebody shoots arrows.
“In the old days, a guy does something you don’t like, you go out and fight. They don’t do that anymore.”
In the absence of someone charging the mound, bat in hand, I’ll buy McClendon’s view that an exchange of 14th-century imaginary weaponry is not even up to the standards of a sorority pillow fight.
But the fact that sideshows suddenly become topics of baseball intrigue suggest that fans are increasingly up for growing the romance. The exhausting weekend drama that went to the Angels 2-1 left Seattle 3-3 in the most recent series against the teams ahead of them in the AL West, Oakland and Anaheim.
They are close.
That only intensifies the drumbeat to add hitting talent. McClendon was asked if the paucity of offense against the Angels ratcheted up the pressure to deal prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
After a pregnant pause, he said, “My job is to to manage the team. I’m not trying to dodge your question . . . Our job to go out and do the best we can.”
Question dodged, Lloyd. I get it. You can’t say anything.
The facts speak for themselves. To cite one example, the DH position, Detroit, McClendon’s old club, leads the American League with a .314 average and a .944 OPS. The Mariners DHs are last, hit .193 with a .567 OPS.
A drop of nearly 400 points from what he’s used to must be a shock to McClendon. But the show must go on, without conveying that anything is #$%%&* wrong.
Smoak optioned; starter to be summoned
After the game in which he was o-for-3 with a walk to drop his average to .208, first baseman Justin Smoak was optioned to AAA Tacoma. He’s making roster room for a starting pitcher Wednesday, as yet unnamed. Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 4.58 ERA) is starting Tuesday.
“We have three first basemen, so it’s tough,” McClendon said, referring to Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. “It’s the numbers.”
Smoak was recalled from Tacoma July 11 after rehabbing a strained left quad, but his production hasn’t picked up.
Displaying hops no one knew he had, Dustin Ackley in the sixth inning reached over the fence to snag away a home run from Travis d’Arnaud. “I wasn’t sure I had it until I came down,” he said. “I felt like something was in there.” . . . Mike Zunino’s third-inning home run, his 14th, traveled 415 feet into the second deck . . . Starting pitcher Roenis Elias was pitching a stout game, allowing only a run on six hits with eight strikeouts, when he had to come out after 5.1 innings because of a cramp in his left forearm. It was not a big deal, “but I didn’t want to take a chance,” McClendon said. He won his first game since June 22, but it added another long evening for the bullpen. Four relievers allowed no earned runs and four hits . . . Brad Miller was given the night off at shortstop, and Willie Bloomquist responded with two singles and a double in his first three at-bats in the leadoff spot. He’s batting .284 as a starter.