By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — After a rough first inning, Brandon Maurer settled down rather nicely.
The problem for the Seattle Mariners and their rookie pitcher, however, was that the damage done in that one inning was more than enough to hand the Baltimore Orioles a 7-2 victory Tuesday night, snapping Seattle’s modest three-game winning streak in front of a Safeco Field crowd of 13,629.
If Maurer and the Mariners could have made like a kid on the playground and declared a do-over after one inning, if he hadn’t given up that leadoff home run, or thrown those two first-inning wild pitches, or allowed four runs before his team had a chance to hit, it might have been a different story for the Mariners on this night. But, of course, do-overs aren’t really an option. So there was no erasing that Nate McLouth home run, or Manny Machado double that followed, or the Nick Markakis single after that, or the wild pitch that scored one run or the Matt Wieters double that plated another.
“They came out real aggressive against him, and things happened quick there,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
The struggles against Baltimore’s aggressive lineup started almost immediately when McLouth jumped all over a fastball in the middle of the plate to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
“That was a terrible pitch,” Maurer said. “I tried to throw a two-seam inside, and it stayed right up and down the middle.”
And after falling behind early, the Mariners offense didn’t have much to offer in the way of a response. Seattle managed some base runners early, but stranded two runners in the first, and two more in the second after Justin Smoak led off the inning with a double.
“We had some chances to score some runs early, we just didn’t get the hit,” said catcher Kelly Shoppach.
Following that Smoak double, Orioles starter Jason Hammel held the Mariners hitless through the fifth. Baltimore then added a pair of unnecessary insurance runs in the sixth on a Chris Dickerson two-run single.
The Mariners finally got to Hammel in the sixth, with Michael Morse striking the first blow, a solo homer to right field giving him eight this season. Jason Bay, Smoak and Dustin Ackley followed with singles to load the bases with nobody out, but after Kelly Shoppach brought Bay home with an RBI groundout, Brendan Ryan grounded into an inning-ending — and rally-killing — double play.
As for Maurer, the young right-hander bounced back nicely after that disastrous first inning, allowing two hits and no runs over the next three innings before leaving having thrown 79 pitches through four innings. The start was a bit of a setback for Maurer, who after two rough outings to start his major league career, pitched very well in his last three starts, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings pitched. Early on, this game was reminiscent of Maurer’s first start at home when he lasted only two-thirds of an inning, giving up six earned runs.
“It felt quite a bit like it,” he said. “They came out swinging. I’ve got to go out there and throw better pitches.”
And Maurer did throw better pitches after that first inning. Unfortunately for the Mariners, however, the damage was done.
“The positive of it are, one, he did get through it,” Wedge said. “I know they scored some runs, but when he was in that situation earlier in the year, he didn’t get through it. On top of that, he was able to go out there and throw three scoreless innings. He had to work pretty hard in that first inning, and the last inning as well, so we got him out of there. But him getting through that first inning then going out and throwing up three zeros to get us to the middle of the ballgame was another step for him, because he didn’t give into it and he found a way to make some adjustments.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org