By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
MIAMI — At least this one wasn’t gut-wrenching. The Mariners didn’t kick away a late lead Saturday night or suffer any walk-off misery. Nope, this 7-0 loss to Miami was notable primarily for what didn’t happen.
The Mariners weren’t no-hit.
That seemed a real possibility through the early innings when Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez rolled through the first 15 hitters. Dustin Ackley ended that drama with a clean single to start the sixth.
“That wasn’t the pitch that I wanted to throw,” Alvarez said. “It was a little high, and I wanted to throw a change-up down.”
Alvarez (1-2) permitted just one other hit, a one-out double past third by Mike Zunino in the ninth inning. Alvarez struck out four and walked none in a 90-pitch masterpiece.
“He throws 96 (mph) with some power sink,” shortstop Brad Miller said. “He has a wipeout change-up at 90 or 91. It’s a good mix. We hit some balls pretty good. He was able to kind of cruise there. He had great stuff.”
Rookie lefty Roenis Elias (1-2) kept the Mariners close through the early innings; he permitted just two unearned runs (so, yes, the defense remains leaky) before hitting a wall with two outs in the sixth inning.
Elias cracked in yielding an RBI bloop single to Alvarez before issuing a walk to Christian Yelich before Marcell Ozuna crushed a 91-mph fastball for a three-run homer.
“That was high fastball,” Elias said. “I was trying to go in on him and left it over the middle.”
Ozuna’s homer made it 6-0 and, really, pushed the Mariners, in their current state, into need-a-miracle territory. None appeared.
This makes five straight losses for the Mariners who, at 7-10, are already five games behind first-place Oakland in the American League West Division. They occupied first place as recently as April 11.
“Listen, we’re one ground ball away from having a decent road trip to this point,” McClendon said. “I’m not going to blow things out of proportion.”
The ground ball, which Miller mishandled last Wednesday, could have closed out a victory at Texas. Instead, that mistake fueled the Rangers’ comeback victory.
Nothing much has gone right since then.
“This is a tough stretch for us,” McClendon said, “but guess what, everybody in baseball goes through tough stretches. We just happen to have ours now. We’ve got to grind it out.”
Alvarez entered the game with a 4.30 earned run average but threw a no-hitter in the final game of last season — a 1-0 victory over Detroit, when the only run scored on a two-out wild pitch in the ninth inning.
The Tigers’ hitting coach was McClendon.
“He wants us to be aggressive,” Zunino said, “and hunt balls in the strike zone early and try to put good swings on them.
“When you run into a guy who has good stuff on his fastball, and good off-speed pitches, he was able to keep his pitch count down.”
The Marlins opened the scoring in the third after Yelich led off with a drive over Abraham Almonte’s head and center. When Almonte bungled the pickup, Yelich wound up at third base with a double and an error.
Ozuna struck out before Elias put Giancarlo Stanton on first with an intentional walk. Casey McGehee then grounded an RBI single up the middle for a 1-0 lead. The Marlins got another soft run in the fourth after one-out singles by Adeiny Hechavarria and Donovan Solano through the infield.
The runners moved to second and third on Alvarez’s sacrifice but a ball-four pitch to Yelich got away from Zunino for a passed ball. The ball just popped off Zunino’s glove and caromed several feet away.
That run, too, was unearned.
There was nothing soft about the sixth.
Hechavarria beat out a one-one grounder to deep short and moved to second on Solano’s grounder to third before Alvarez flicked an RBI single into center. for a 3-0 lead.
“The pitcher should never get a hit,” Elias said. “He’s not a professional hitter. He should never get a hit.”
After Yelich walked, Ozuna made it 6-0.