By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Only a bloop single Wednesday night by Abraham Almonte prevented the Seattle Mariners from suffering the fourth no-hitter in franchise history.
And that, really, is the only offensive highlight they mustered in a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, who got a dominant performance from right-hander Garrett Richards and their bullpen at Safeco Field.
Albert Pujols’ two-run homer in the third inning against Mariners rookie lefty Roenis Elias provided Richards and the Angels with the only runs they needed.
“I made a bad pitch,” Elias said. “It was a little high. But you’ve got to give credit to Pujols. He prepared for a pitch like that, and he got it.”
Richards, 2-0, won his previous start in an 11-1 rout at Houston after the Angels opened the season by losing three at home to the Mariners. He lasted just five innings against the Astros but overmatched the Mariners.
“His stuff was moving all over the place,” said Robinson Cano, who was hitless in four at-bats. “Most of his stuff was down. But when he struck me out in the first inning, it was straight, straight and then cut.
“You’ve got to give it to the guy. He pitched outstanding tonight.”
Richards yielded just one hit in seven innings — Almonte’s broken-bat looper in the third. Richards did walk three, while striking out six. Two other batters reached on errors.
It added up to zero.
Almonte’s hit was well-placed into short right field, but the Mariners never came close to another hit.
“Listen, when you run into a buzz saw like that,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “where a guy is throwing 96-97 (mph) and he’s getting an 86-89 mile-an-hour slider over, it’s going to be a tough night.”
Elias, 0-1, struggled with command at times — he threw 91 pitches in five innings — but yielded only four hits. Pujols’ two-out blast was a no-doubter, though. The official estimate pegged it at 418 feet.
The bullpen kept the Mariners close by delivering four scoreless innings in continuing an early-season trend. The unit has yielded five earned runs in 252⁄3 innings.
Remove the work of Hector Noesi, who was designated last week for assignment, and the numbers jump to two earned runs in 242⁄3 innings.
All it did Wednesday was keep the game close.
The Mariners raked the LA pen for 13 runs over 132⁄3 innings this season in winning all four previous games, but Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri each delivered a scoreless (and hitless) inning.
Frieri worked around a one-out walk for his first save of the season.
The loss dropped the Mariners to 5-3 and forced them to settle for a split in the two-game series. It also dropped them into a tie with Oakland atop the American League West Division.
The A’s conclude a series today at Minnesota before coming to Safeco for a three-game weekend series. The Mariners have an open date today before sending Felix Hernandez out against the A’s in the opener.
The last time the Mariners managed just one hit in a game was last July 20 at Houston … and they won 4-2. Not this time.
Pujols’ blast was his second two-run homer in as many nights. He jumped an 0-1 changeup that Elias left up in the zone and sent it soaring over the left-field wall.
“I’d throw the same pitch,” Elias said, “but, obviously, I’d throw it a little bit lower.”