Struggle continues for Mariners pitching staff in 9-5 loss
For the fourth straight game, Seattle received a subpar showing from its starting pitcher — this time it was Kevin Millwood — and simply couldn't recover from the early-inning carnage in a 9-5 loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday at Petco Park.
The Padres (25-46), who came in with the second-worst record in baseball, have defeated the Mariners (30-41) in four straight games.
“Our starting pitching has been struggling a little bit on the road,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It makes it tough. You end up having to get to your bullpen earlier.”
Millwood looked nothing like the pitcher who was part of the six-pitcher no-hitter at Safeco Field two starts ago.
Instead, he looked much like Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez and Jason Vargas — the starters who preceded him to the mound this week.
Millwood lasted just five innings — the last two torturous at-best — giving up eight runs (five earned) and eight hits. He walked three (two intentional) and struck out three.
“The ball was up, the breaking balls weren't good,” he said. “I just didn't pitch good, bottom line.”
On a night when long reliever Hisashi Iwakuma was unavailable after being used in the previous two games and Wedge didn't want to use Shawn Kelley because of overuse, Millwood “wore it” for the Mariners' bullpen, pitching the fifth inning even though he clearly didn't have it.
“We were hoping Kevin could get through it,” Wedge said. “It's tough to go get somebody in the fourth inning.”
It's really tough when Wedge basically had to do it the last two games in Arizona, both times with Iwakuma.
“If we would have pitched Iwakuma, that would have been three out of four days,” Wedge said. “We are still building him up in that role in regards to his frequency of use. We have to be respectful.”
The Mariners gave Millwood an early 4-0 lead, showing some power in a park where teams are not supposed to produce home runs.
Ichiro Suzuki opened the game by reaching on an error. Franklin Gutierrez, who homered in his previous at-bat during Wednesday's game in Arizona, crushed a 1-1 pitch off Clayton Richard into the left-field stands to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead. It was the first of four hits on the night for Gutierrez.
“I lost a lot of playing time, and I told you before, it's going to take awhile to get back in time,” he said. “Right now, I'm feeling I'm seeing the ball a little better. I'm trying to put a good swing, trying to be calm at the plate. It seems like it's working right now. Just trying to concentrate every at-bat and do my job.”
Seattle pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second inning as Miguel Olivo led off the inning with a solo homer to left. The Mariners added another run in the third when Suzuki scored on Justin Smoak's sacrifice fly to center.
But the 4-0 lead didn't last.
An error by Kyle Seager to start the bottom of the third inning led to a pair of unearned runs. The start fell apart completely for Millwood in the fourth. He hit Yonder Alonso to start the inning, allowed a single to Logan Forsythe and gave up an RBI double to light-hitting Everth Cabrera.
Millwood (3-6) battled back to strike out Nick Hundley, bringing up what should have been a sure out in Richard, the pitcher.
Instead, it was one of the hardest hit balls Millwood gave up on a night of hard hit balls. Richard turned on a pitch and ripped it down the right-field line to score a pair of runs.
“That's no fun,” Millwood said. “But you tip your hat. He did what he needed to do.”
The landslide continued as Millwood gave up another RBI single, Seager booted another ball at third to keep the inning alive and the Padres added a sacrifice fly. When Millwood finally got Carlos Quentin to ground out to end the inning, the Padres had sent nine hitters to the plate and scored five runs, taking a 7-4 lead.
“Kevin was up in the zone,” Wedge said. “When he's at his best, he's down and makes hitters dig the baseball out. He just wasn't able to do that consistently tonight.”
Millwood came back out for the fifth to save the bullpen. With two outs and a runner on second, he intentionally walked Hundley to get to Richard. The move backfired. Richard dumped a single into center to score the run to push the lead to 8-4.
Giving up two hits and three RBI to the opposing pitcher isn't the way to win.
“Yeah, it's not something that happens very often,” Wedge said. “He got a couple of knocks that hurt us tonight. Obviously, those are the guys — the pitchers — that you want up in that situation, but he really hurt us tonight.
After that, the Mariners were basically done. The early offense never returned.
When he wasn't driving in runs off them, Richard (5-7) was holding the Mariners without runs. After the early burst of offense, Richard stymied Seattle hitters for the next 32⁄3 innings allowing just one run. In total, he threw 62⁄3 innings, allowing three earned runs, walking three and striking out six.
San Diego tacked on an insurance run in the eighth.
Seattle had its chances against the Padres' bullpen. But the Mariners stranded two runners in the seventh and the ninth.
“We were still in the ball game,” Wedge said. “We just weren't able to generate anything offensively late. We were able to create some situations for ourselves, but we didn't get that big two-out hit.”
Gutierrez and Suzuki accounted for seven of the Mariners' nine hits in the game.
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