By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
TORONTO — The best this one got for the Seattle Mariners was when Chone Figgins hit the ninth leadoff home run of his career Sunday and put them ahead 1-0.
That was the only run Jason Vargas got to work with in what became the Toronto Blue Jays’ 7-2 victory, a game that left the Mariners pondering their inconsistent offense.
With apologies to the poets, when it’s good it is very good, and when it is bad it his horrid.
Afterward, after Seattle had lost the game and series to Toronto, manager Eric Wedge was feeling overly diplomatic about his team.
“We didn’t play well. We didn’t get runners over, we had RBI opportunities and didn’t take advantage, our defense was definitely sloppy,” Wedge said.
And for all that, after seven innings the Blue Jays lead was 2-1.
With Vargas looking for his fourth win, Toronto didn’t get a hit until Figgins misread a fourth-inning fly ball by the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion and let it drop in front of him for a double.
“It wasn’t the dome roof, it was the swing,” Figgins said. “Encarnacion has been hitting the ball hard, and he took a big swing — I broke back. It was one step, but I felt bad.”
Vargas got through that, and worked six innings, allowing only four hits and two runs.
During that time, the Mariners left seven runners on base, and for the day they were a combined 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position. As Wedge pointed out, that won’t get it done often.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays tied it in the fifth inning on second baseman Kelly Johnson’s two-out single, then went ahead 2-1 in the sixth when Encarnacion continued his long-ball streak against Seattle pitching.
Encarnacion hit his fifth home run Friday night, his sixth Saturday afternoon and, yes. No. 7 off Vargas on a 1-1 pitch.
“That was one of the only bad changeups I threw all day,” Vargas said. “I was trying to get it away, and I left it up.”
The Blue Jays made Vargas work, and so did plate umpire Vic Carapazza, whose strike zone was occasionally the size of a soda can. The Jays took a lot of pitches, and Vargas wound up throwing 111 of them.
“I got behind a lot, went 2-0 to a lot of hitters,” Vargas said. “Sometimes, I threw good pitches, but I guess they were balls.”
Right-hander Steve Delabar took over in the seventh inning and ran into major problems in the eighth inning. With one on, one out and Encarnacion at the plate, Delabar let fly a fastball that hit Encarnacion as he tried to dive away.
A crowd of 22,320 booed loudly, umpires jumped between an angry batter and Delabar and Wedge trotted out to change pitchers, bringing in lefty Charlie Furbush.
A walk loaded the bases, a double by Brett Lawrie scored two runs. A throwing error by catcher Miguel Olivo — trying to pick a runner off third base — scored a third run.
And then No. 9 hitter Jeff Mathis homered to make it 7-1.
“We just didn’t get it done today,” Wedge said.
The Seattle ninth might as well have been their entire game Sunday. Olivo homered and John Jaso doubled to open the inning — promising, yes?
With Jaso on second base, Munenori Kawasaki popped out. Figgins jumped out of the way of a wild pitch, with Jaso taking third base, then struck out.
Dustin Ackley, who’d doubled in the first inning, grounded out to end it.
Too little, awfully late.
The Mariners, who swept Detroit and took the first game of their three-game series here, are 4-2 on a trip that takes them to Tampa for four games.
They will arrive with a .239 team batting average and the knowledge that when they are good, it often coincides with when opposing pitching is poor.
Seattle is 11-12 in April, with one last game this month to get through the month at .550. Pitching for them tonight is Felix Hernandez. Against?
Well, that would be Jeremy Hellickson — 3-0 in his brief career against the Mariners.
No doubt, Wedge will roll out a different lineup than the one he used Sunday, when Alex Liddi was batting fourth and Justin Smoak, Brendan Ryan and Jesus Montero didn’t play at all.
Rookie Montero, the manager said, simply needed a break because the Mariners are in the midst of playing 36 games in 37 days.
What about Smoak (.187) and Ryan (.143)?
“They needed a day off for obvious reasons,” Wedge deadpanned.