By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
TORONTO — One out into the third inning, Kevin Millwood gave up a pair of ground ball singles to bring up Jose Bautista, then threw exactly the pitch he wanted.
Bautista turned on the inside fastball that was down and, rather than hit it into the stands hit it on the ground.
“I got him to do just what I wanted him to,” Millwood said. “He just hit it a lot harder than I wanted …”
Bautista’s ground ball rocketed off third baseman Kyle Seager for a tough error that in essence gave Toronto a three-run inning, which led to the eventual 7-0 loss and end to the Mariners’ four-game winning streak.
No, the Mariners offense couldn’t solve ex-Mariner Brandon Morrow or three Blue Jays relievers. And no, Hisashi Iwakuma’s second big-league appearance wasn’t what he’d hoped — one inning, four runs allowed on an eighth-inning grand slam.
Still, the key to the game was likely Seager’s error, which allowed the first run of the game.
“If I make that play, the inning is over,” Seager said. “I felt like I should have made that play. It was hit right at me.”
The issue wasn’t direction but velocity.
One of the better power hitters in the American League, Bautista got all of that Millwood fastball — he just happened to hit it on the ground.
“That’s a tough, tough play for any third baseman,” manager Eric Wedge said.
“I can’t fault anyone for not making that play,” Millwood said. “It happens. That inning kind of got away, but I got through seven innings and shut them down after that.
“I’m not satisfied, but it was better than my last two starts.”
While the game didn’t officially get away until Iwakuma worked the eighth, allowing two hits, a walk and then Edwin Encarnacion’s sixth home run — and first grand slam — the Mariners probably lost it in the first six innings.
Those were against Morrow, the right-hander Seattle traded for Brandon League in the winter of 2009. He has pitched well as a Blue Jay, but never better than when facing the Mariners.
Coming in, Morrow was 2-0 with a 2.77 earned run average in two starts against his former team, and this time he worked six shutout innings, did not walk a batter and struck out a season-high nine.
It was the 44th time in Morrow’s career he’d pitched at least six innings, and the first time he did so without issuing a walk.
“He’s got a good fastball and today he kept it down on us,” Brendan Ryan said. “That made his slider a lot more effective. And his slider is like 89-90 mph — that’s one of the harder sliders you’ll see.
“I got a couple of pitches but fouled them off, and then he came in with that slider …”
Seattle managed five hits in the first six innings, got Seager as far as second base in the second inning and Michael Saunders to third base in the fifth inning.
After the drama of Friday’s game, when the Mariners scored eight times after the sixth inning, the loss that snapped their four-game winning streak was relatively stress-free.
“We never got much going,” Wedge said. “Morrow was real good. He’s got that great arm and he was ‘on.’”
Six hits in nine innings was all Seattle mustered, with Seager and Ichiro each getting two, Saunders and Olivo one each.
One game after the Mariners used everyone but Iwakuma in their bullpen, Millwood did a ‘save’ job in letting Seattle rest those arms.