By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — A Mariners home stand that opened with so much optimism continued its downward spiral Friday night.
One week after the Mariners returned home from a winning road trip and no-hit the Dodgers in their first game back at Safeco Field, they suffered their sixth consecutive loss, this one a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in front of 29,818 fans, a surprising number of whom were clad in orange.
Following that odd, six-pitcher no-hitter a week ago, spirits were high for the Mariners, who had won six of 10, and more importantly, had seemingly found their bats on the road, scoring 66 runs in nine games. Since returning to Safeco, however, the Mariners have gone back to squandering opportunities, and have scored just 14 runs in seven games on this home stand.
“When you have opportunities early, you have to take advantage of it,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. “You’ve got to put one or two on the board and that changes the feel of the ballgame, the momentum. We’re doing a much better job on the road — the last road trip in particular — but we’ve got to get over that hump here. We’ve had a tough stretch, we’ve had some hard outs, but these guys have to make their own breaks, they’ve got to take advantage of their opportunities, and we need guys to step up.”
Wedge expressed frustration at two players in particular who were responsible for some of the offensive struggles: Jesus Montero, who was doubled off of second after he misread a line drive to center field, and Ichiro Suzuki, who popped out to second base on the first pitch he saw with two on and nobody out in the third, and finished the game 0-for-4.
The Giants took an early 1-0 lead in the second thanks to a Buster Posey home run that reached the second deck in left field. A second run came in the fourth inning, this one the result of a Joaquin Arias sacrifice fly that scored Angel Pagan, the only Giants batter Mariners starter Jason Vargas walked on Friday night.
The Mariners had plenty of chances to get back into the game in the early going, but the few opportunities they did have went nowhere. Montero doubled to lead off the second inning, but for the second time in three games, he was quickly doubled off of second because of a base-running error.
“It can’t happen,” Wedge said. “That happened the other day and it happened again today. We talked about it, that just can’t happen. He has to read that better … When you make a mistake once it’s one thing, but twice is another. That just can’t happen out there.”
Montero explained that he simply misread the ball, and was trying to get a good jump to make up for his lack of speed.
“I thought that ball was going to land, and I was ready to score,” he said. “… I’m not that fast, so I was trying to get to home plate. That was my goal at that moment.”
An inning later Miguel Olivo doubled with one out, and Brendan Ryan followed that with a walk, but they were left there after Suzuki popped on the first pitch, and Franklin Gutierrez grounded out to third.
“We need more from him, it’s as simple as that,” Wedge said of Suzuki. “We need him to do more. He’s obviously our most veteran guy, and when he has those opportunities, we need him to step up. We can’t always put it on the kids. We need the guys who have been around a little bit to step up as well, and obviously he’s been around here longer than anybody.”
The Mariners got their first two runners on in the fourth, but that rally died after a Michael Saunders lineout and a Justin Smoak grounder that turned into an inning-ending double play.
The Giants added what would end up being two much-needed insurance runs in the top of the eighth when Melky Cabrera hit a two-run home run that just cleared the center-field wall while eluding the leaping effort of Gutierrez.
“We keep it two runs there and we’ve really got a chance to win,” Vargas said. “It’s frustrating … Without that, we’re in the ballgame.”
That homer became a big factor half an inning later when the Mariners bats finally awoke from their long slumber. OK, the bats didn’t so much wake up as they did hear the alarm clock, open their eyes, roll over and hit the snooze button. But hey, for a struggling team, scoring a pair of runs on groundouts is better than nothing, right?
The Mariners eighth started when Dustin Ackley reached on an infield single. Olivo and pinch hitter Casper Wells followed with singles to load the bases, the Suzuki drove in Ackley with a chopper up the middle that might have been a double-play ball had it not hit the glove of pitcher Javier Lopez — or an out at home had Lopez fielded it cleanly. That slowed the ball up enough that the Giants could only get the force out at second base. The Mariners avoided another double play when Gutierrez’ sharply hit groundball bounced off of the chest of third baseman Pablo Sandoval, allowing Olivo to score while Sandoval threw to first for the second out of the inning.
The Mariners were unable to carry any momentum into the ninth, however, and went down in order against Giants closer Santiago Casilla to end the game.
“We had some opportunities, we hit some balls hard, but we didn’t take advantage of opportunities,” Wedge said. “That’s the difference in the ballgame for us lately … We had some opportunities and didn’t do anything with them.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.