By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
OAKLAND — Every baseball player has their “welcome to the big leagues” moment. Brandon Maurer’s came quite early on Thursday afternoon in his major league debut against the Oakland A’s at O.co Coliseum.
With one out in the first inning and Coco Crisp on first base, the Mariners’ rookie was trying to put away A’s No. 3 hitter Josh Reddick. Maurer had a 1-2 count and planned on throwing an elevated fastball to Reddick. If he chased, it would be a strikeout swinging. If he didn’t, Maurer could try something different on 2-2.
Instead, Maurer didn’t elevate the pitch quite as much as needed. In Class AA, a player might still swing and miss or foul it off. In Class AAA, a hitter probably rips it for a single.
In the big leagues?
Reddick crushed the ball over the right-center wall for a two-run homer.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
“Just a bad pitch,” Maurer said.
The intention was good, the execution was bad.
Maurer’s debut didn’t follow any feel-good movie script. He gave up six runs on eight hits — including two homers — in six innings pitched, and the Mariners were drubbed 8-2 to wrap up the series.
Still, there were positives to be found. Maurer didn’t look overwhelmed. His stuff looked legitimate the entire game, and after the rough start in the first inning, he allowed just one run on two hits over the next three.
“He really settled in nicely, and was throwing the well for a while,” Wedge said.
Things fell apart for Maurer in the sixth. He gave up a back-to-back doubles to Jed Lowrie and Reddick for a run. Then he hung a slider to the one guy you can’t do that to. Yoenis Cespedes took advantage of the mistake and sent the ball out of the park with a screaming line drive for a two-run homer.
“His stuff started leaking back out over the plate,” Wedge said. “There were a couple mistakes that he made. He’ll learn from those and big league hitters will let you know.”
Wedge let Maurer fight his way out of the inning. He got some help from Michael Saunders, who threw out Brandon Moss at second as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Maurer got Chris Young to pop out to end the inning, and his start.
“I wanted him to finish that inning,” Wedge said. “I wanted him to walk off the field, and he did.”
Maurer’s official line was six innings pitched, six earned runs on eight hits with a strikeout, a wild pitch and a hit batter. He threw just 74 pitches with 52 strikes.
“It was definitely the first one,” Maurer said of his start.
And they usually get easier after that first one.
“You get a lot of firsts out of the way in that first start,” Wedge said. “I’m sure he learned a lot today, and he’ll continue to learn. It’s part of it.”
One thing Maurer learned is not to be afraid of his fastball.
“I started getting away from my fastball and falling behind in the count,” he said. “It was the location with my offspeed. I know what I need to work on now. So I will take that and work on them till my next start.”
Of course, his next start will be a little more normal, too. There will be an experience to work off. There also won’t be the constant questions about his big league debut or having to deal with getting tickets for a group of more than 20 friends and family and then pitching in front of them.
“That’s not easy either to try and go out there and trying to impress them,” he said. “I think I will be a little more comfortable the next time.”
Perhaps his next time also will include a little more run support. Seattle managed just two runs, despite getting eight hits.
A’s starter A.J. Griffin held the Mariners scoreless for the first four innings. In the fifth inning, Dustin Ackley led off with a single and came around to score on Michael Saunders sacrifice line-out to left field to cut the lead to 2-1.
The only other Seattle run came in the sixth inning when Michael Morse led off the inning with a solo home run to left field. It was his fourth home run of the season — most in baseball.
“I’m seeing the ball pretty good and putting some good swings on it,” he said. “I hit the ball where it’s pitched. I don’t go up there trying to pull everything. I go up there trying to get a good pitch to hit.”
The Mariners looked like they might be getting to Griffin when Justin Smoak followed Morse’s homer with a hard single to right. But Seattle mustered nothing more the rest of the way, getting one hit in the final three innings against the Oakland bullpen.
“It’s a new ball club and we’ve got a lot of guys here that are now just getting settled in,” Wedge said. “It takes a little time to get your feet underneath of you and find that groove as club, but we will.”