By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SEATTLE — A pitchers’ duel was expected Thursday at Safeco Field, and a pitchers’ duel was provided.
In the end, three Seattle Mariners pitchers combined to beat Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers, 2-0, at Safeco Field.
“Good ballgame,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Once again, good pitching: Both starters were good. They got one big hit — two out and a base hit — and the pinch hitter came through for them. … Good game.”
Verlander and Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma swapped zeroes through six innings before a finger blister got the best of Iwakuma.
In the bottom of the seventh it was a two-out rally that got the best of Verlander.
The three-hit rally began with a single from Robert Andino. Sensing there would be precious few chances available, Mariners manager Eric Wedge sent Kyle Seager in to hit for No. 9 hitter Brendan Ryan.
“It’s not a normal situation where you pinch hit, but any opportunity — albeit slight — you’re going to try to take advantage of it,” Wedge said. “… Until we get everything going, any opportunity you can try to create for yourself you’re going to try to do.”
Seager made the move work, slashing a double down the left-field line as Andino motored all the way around for the game’s first run.
“Against a guy like Verlander in that situation I think you have to be aggressive,” Seager said. “When it comes to pinch hitting, you have to be aggressive — especially because you’re not necessarily in the feel of the game, haven’t had any at bats that day. It’s good to get up there and be ready to go.”
Endy Chavez followed with a single to left, and Seager was able to just beat the throw home.
“Give (Andino) credit for running fast,” Seager said. “… And then (Chavez) did a great job afterwards knocking me in. It was three good at-bats with two outs.”
That left a two-run lead for the bullpen to protect.
Carter Capps, who had relieved Iwakuma in the seventh, got through the eighth easily. Then he handed the ball to closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who went through a one-two-three ninth.
But it wasn’t just any one-two-three ninth, because one, two and three were Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.
“That’s just the way it falls,” Wilhelmsen said. “I can’t go out there and look at it like, ‘Oh, no, I have to get these guys.’ That’s just not the mentality to have when you’re out there. It’s just attack, attack, attack.”
He got Cabrera to ground out to third. However, the second out was anything but routine, as Fielder blasted a ball to right-center, where Chavez chased it down with sprint and a dive.
“That catch was something else,” Wilhelmsen said. “I had to control my emotions a little bit after that one. You can’t get too fired up after that. It’s a tough lineup, and every out is a big deal.”
The final out followed on a ground ball to second. It not only ended the Mariners’ homestand on an up note, but it gave Capps his first Major League victory.
“I love (pitching late in games),” Capps said. “Those are the innings I love to pitch. Obviously, I’ll take any inning I can get; but it’s great to pitch knowing they have that confidence in me, and it builds more confidence in me.”
Detroit dropped to 9-6. The Mariners went 4-6 on the homestand and moved to 7-10 on the season before heading off on a six-game trip to Texas and Houston.
“It was a tough matchup,” Wedge said. “Iwakuma was up to the task; Verlander was on his game. We had a couple of people step up. Endy Chavez had a great game: great catch at the end, but also dropping that (seventh-inning single) in there. Seeger made a nice job with his straight-in slide into home plate. Some good things to draw from.”