An apparent vacation over, the Mariners get back to work

And just in time. This week they take on the Angels and the Red Sox.
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How bout them M's?

And just in time. This week they take on the Angels and the Red Sox.

Workers in America traditionally like to take a week of summer vacation. Maybe they go to ballparks, loll around and do as little as possible. Many of the Seattle Mariners seem to have agreed about the value of such a custom, excusing themselves from jobs the third week of July while watching lesser entities from Toronto, Texas, and Oakland do all the work. After dropping seven straight games, the M's let out a collective yawn and got up from the bench. Relaxed and with a renewed sense of purpose, they returned to work Friday, July 27, taking three from the A's and resuming what was supposed to be a pennant race in the American League West. As of the Sunday, July 29, marathon matinee (M's 14, A's 10), Seattle actually was even for July, with a chance to go 15-13 if the M's could take a month-ending pair from the Los Angeles Angels. One of the few Mariners who excluded himself from the loss-streak vacation is Adrian Beltre. During July, he's driven in runs at such a pace that, were he to equal it every month this year, he'd challenge one of the most unapproachable records in sports. His 30 RBI for July's 26 games so far would project to 187 for a season, remarkable but still shy of the big-league record of 191. Beltre's been doubling so much he probably should be playing for the Twins. He drove in four Sunday, putting the M's up 6-0 early with a three-run shot to left and scoring Ichiro from third with a timely single in the seventh. For July, at least, Beltre is producing the way he did for most of his remarkable 2004 season with the Dodgers. He'll probably win the American League award for player of the month. Sunday's game featured the M's and A's sporting what had passed for sartorial splendor during the home team's 1977 opening season. Certain fashion arbiters seemed to feel the Mariners looked pretty natty in their icicle-white double-knits with sky-blue trim and gold tridents. Those of us who watched the crop that made up the '77 vintage ferment in obscurity were hard-pressed to remember when that club put together anything as intoxicating as 14 hits and runs in a week, let alone a game. It should suffice to suggest that fans (40,000 plus showed up) wouldn't care if the M's wore skirts (giving new meaning to the term "drag bunt"), as long as they did something to wipe that obnoxious grin from the mug of Oakland's Nick Swisher. The latter has become the latest Rafael Palmeiro in a 30-year line of odd Mariner-killers. His modest .258 average probably would be more like .158 had he not been afforded so many games against the M's. Sunday, he had just one hit, but it was a bases-clearing double that began Oakland's steady march toward an eventual 10-7 lead. In the bottom of the seventh, Ichiro tried a - yes - drag bunt, but he got under the ball and it arced over the pitcher's head. The M's center fielder (who also refused to take vacation this month) then stole second and third while Joses Vidro and Guillen drew outs. Then came what may have been Beltre's key RBI of the month, leading to the M's picking up seven runs in their final inning and a third. M's pitching will have to improve as six games loom at Safeco Field against the Angels and Red Sox, both division-leaders. On the other hand, no big-league team is playing exemplary baseball just now, meaning you never know when an opponent might take an unscheduled vacation for a few games. Maybe it's just as well, then, that the M's obviously have already used up the only one they deserve this season.


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