By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The calendar suggests the Seattle Mariners were likely overdo for a clunker like they turned in Saturday night in a 5-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field.
The last time the Mariners lost by five or more runs was May 24 in a 9-4 loss to Houston. That was five weeks ago.
“When you’re playing good baseball,” third baseman Kyle Seager said, “it’s easier to handle one of those things. But at the same time, you’d like these never to happen.”
And this was some clunker.
The Mariners managed just one hit — a leadoff single by Seager in the fifth inning — against Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin, who struck out a career-high 11.
Tomlin (5-5) retired 12 in a row before Seager’s single and then retired the final 15 batters. And Tomlin was every bit as dominating as that reads. It was, he acknowledged, easily the best start of his career. Even he struggled to explain how he did it.
“I don’t know,” Tomlin said. “I really don’t know. I was finally back to commanding my fastball, and good things happen when I can do that.
“I felt good. I knew I was commanding the ball on both sides of the plate early on, so I felt pretty good about how things were going.”
In contrast, Mariners starter Roenis Elias (7-6) stumbled from the gate in a two-run first inning, then steadied before giving up two runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth. He allowed just six hits, but they came in bunches.
“I just had a bad day,” Elias said. “In baseball, sometimes that happens. They got me early on and late. Sometimes, you make the pitches, and they still hit them.”
Want a positive? Brandon Maurer turned in a second straight overpowering relief outing since his return last Wednesday from Class AAA Tacoma. He struck out two in a one-two-three eighth. That was about it, though.
“It was pretty ugly for us all the way around,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Their guy threw a nice ballgame. It was just one of those days. Quite honestly, we haven’t had one of those in quite a while.”
It means the Mariners reached the midpoint of their season at 43-38, an improvement of eight games over 2013. Also, if the season ended Saturday, they would have qualified for postseason as a wild-card team.
None of that was in evidence against Tomlin.
“He was throwing his pitches,” second baseman Robinson Cano said. “You can’t say anything. He got some calls, but he pitched really good. You’ve got to give the guy credit. It was one of those nights.”
Tomlin said Seager’s hit came too early to amount to a disappointment.
“If it’s the seventh inning or something,” Tomlin said, “then you might start thinking about it.”
Afterward, he also refused to play what-if.
“No, not at all,” Tomlin insisted. “I don’t want to beat myself up on that.”
Elias surrendered a one-out double in the first inning to Asdrubal Cabrera that hopped just fair past third base. That bounce turned out to be an omen, and that double turned into a run when Michael Brantley singled to left.
Dustin Ackley’s throw to the plate was well up the line and over the head of the cut-off man, which permitted Brantley to take second.
That probably didn’t matter; Brantley probably would have scored from first on Carlos Santana’s RBI double into the left-center gap. Elias then walked Jason Kipnis before avoiding further damage with a double play.
Elias didn’t allow another hit until Mike Aviles’ one-out single in the fifth. And that turned into a run when Aviles, breaking on a 3-2 pitch, scored on Michael Bourn’s double into the right-center gap. The Indians led 3-0.
A balk moved Bourn to third and turned into the fourth run when Cabrera sent a sacrifice fly to deep left.
The Indians extended their lead to 5-0 on Yan Gomes’ two-out homer in the fifth just after catcher Mike Zunino failed to corral a pop at the Mariners’ dugout rail. Zunino got his glove to the ball but couldn’t pull it in.
At that point, the Mariners still didn’t have a hit. That came later in the inning, thanks to Seager. It was all they got.