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Thursday, September 1, 2011 - Page updated at 11:00 p.m.
Mike Carp's clutch double powers Mariners' comeback win
By Geoff Baker
Seattle Times staff reporter
Another link to the Mariners team that began the 2011 season was severed Wednesday when Jack Wilson was dealt out of town.
Wilson began the year as Seattle's starting second baseman, but had become largely forgotten and was shipped to the Atlanta Braves for a player-to-be-named in a move that saves his team about $833,000.
A Mariners team that later went out and won a 2-1 pitcher's duel with the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night has now replaced four members of its opening-day lineup, while dealing two of its initial five starting pitchers as well.
Some of the new faces to emerge in the interim, one of them being left-handed slugger Mike Carp, played a prominent role in a comeback win and series victory for the Mariners. Carp came through with a two-out, two-run double to left-center in the eighth inning off southpaw reliever Scott Downs to help Felix Hernandez record the complete-game victory and match his total of 13 wins from his Cy Young Award season of a year ago.
"It's meaningful for us," Carp said of the outcome, a blow to an Angels squad fighting to keep pace with first-place Texas. "We're building toward next year, so it's nice to have games like that. Let them think about that next year and let us think about that and remember that next year. Hopefully, let us play well and be in their position next year."
The Mariners will start adding more faces Thursday with the first September call-ups. No rookies will be added until the Class AAA season ends next week, but relief pitcher Shawn Kelley and catcher Chris Gimenez will likely immediately be added after completing injury-rehabilitation stints.
Carp's two runs batted in gave him 25 for the month of August, tying him with Danny Tartabull for a club record set in 1986. The ball by Carp was hit so hard and deep that even lightning-quick Peter Bourjos — perhaps the fastest center fielder in all of baseball — could not outrun it.
Hernandez notched a pair of strikeouts in the ninth, finishing with nine on the night. But he held his breath as power threat Mark Trumbo drilled a ball to the warning track in right before it was finally hauled in to end the game.
"He's got big-time power, so I was like 'No, way ... no way ... ,' " Hernandez said. "Then, finally, it ended."
Hernandez had been winless in his previous eight starts the past two years against the Angels despite a 3.29 earned-run average in those games. This contest looked headed for a similar result as Dan Haren limited Seattle to one hit the first six innings and got a bases-loaded ground out by Brendan Ryan to end the seventh.
There were two outs in the eighth when Franklin Gutierrez and Dustin Ackley came through with singles. The Angels opted to go to Downs, despite the fact Carp was 14 for 42 (.333) off southpaws this season.
Carp jumped ahead 2-0 in the count, took a strike, then laid into a fastball left too high in the zone. The rookie slugger, who's been playing first base with Justin Smoak injured, has been more aggressive against left-handers and says the approach has paid off.
It's the style of hitting manager Eric Wedge has spent all season trying to convince his hitters to adopt. The lack of such aggressiveness is partly what cost former DH Jack Cust his job and allowed Carp to ascend to a full-time role in the middle of the order.
Cust was one of four players — along with Wilson before Wednesday's trade — to lose his opening-day starting assignment in the months since. Milton Bradley was cut by the team in May while Chone Figgins, now injured, lost his everyday job at third base to Kyle Seager, who had two more hits Wednesday.
Throw in the late-July trades of Erik Bedard and Doug Fister, and the Mariners are indeed a dramatically different team than they were to start the year.
Not only that, but the Mariners now have only two active position players left — Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez — from the squad that finished general manager Jack Zduriencik's first season in 2009. Zduriencik was given a multiyear contract extension by the Mariners on Wednesday.
Wedge noted that the younger talent helped soften Haren up in the seventh inning, with Carp and Seager notching singles ahead of an error on a Casper Wells grounder that could have been ruled an infield hit. Though the Mariners didn't score that inning, Haren wasn't as dominant in the eighth.
"I felt like we did a real good job of making Haren work there ... and that had a lot to do with it," Wedge said. "We put up some tough ABs."
Complete effort Felix Hernandez pitched his fifth complete game of the season in Wednesday's win over the Angels. Date Opp. Result H K April 1 @ A's W, 6-2 5 5 May 6 White Sox W, 3-2 5 6 Aug. 7 @ Angels L, 2-1 4 12 Aug. 19 @ Rays L, 3-2 7 9 Aug. 31 Angels W, 2-1 5 9
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