By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — It’s not like the Mariners haven’t seen Jason Vargas do this before. He spent four years here in Seattle, and his career numbers at Safeco Field generally range from solid to impressive.
So getting shut down by Vargas, as happened Friday to the Mariners in a 6-1 loss to Kansas City, can be viewed through a hey-these-things-happen prism.
Maybe that’s all this was, a blah night all around for the Mariners.
Defensively, they slopped their way through the game. And starter Brandon Maurer, while he only yielded singles in his 7 1/3 innings, yielded 14 of them.
That’s the most hits this year allowed by any pitcher in either league.
Vargas (3-1), in contrast, allowed just three hits, also all singles in seven shutout innings before the Mariners avoided the shutout by nicking reliever Aaron Crow for a run in the eighth.
“What pitchers like Vargas do so well,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “is they disrupt the opposition hitters’ timing. He got them with the fastball. Then boom, off the accelerator with the change-up.”
It amounted, pretty much, to an all-around fiasco for the Mariners. And coming on the night of their “Girls Night Out” promotion…well, just insert your own “bad date” joke here.
“We played terrible,” said Willie Bloomquist, who started at third base when Kyle Seager was a late scratch because of the flu.
“I’ll be the first to admit, I played terrible. We’ve got to clean it up. We’ve got to do a better job. If we’re going to be a winning team, we’ve got to play better than that.”
Maurer (1-1) had a fascinating night, actually, in becoming the first pitcher in nearly 96 years to allow at least 14 hits, without allowing an extra-base hit and without a strikeout or a walk.
The last guy to do it was Brooklyn’s Dick Robertson on Aug. 21, 1918 in a 3-1 loss to the Browns in St. Louis. The Armistice that ended World War I was still 10 weeks in the future.
For all that, the general view among the Mariners was that Maurer pitched well. Manager Lloyd McClendon said: “The results were tough, but … if he continues to throw it like that, good things will happen.”
Maurer also chose to accentuate the positive.
“It’s not like I went out there and gave up 10 hard-hit balls and the rest found holes,” he said. “The rest of them were either bleeders or just hit perfect to the right spot.
“I can definitely build off of that. Make the same pitches next time.”
The Mariners could have used some of those bleeders against Vargas.
“He changed speeds and threw strikes,” Bloomquist said. “That’s a recipe for good things to happen for them. We’ve got to do a better job of swinging the bats.”
The Mariners’ attack, in fact, shows signs of flat-lining as it did last month in an eight-game skid. They have just two runs in their last three games but got a 1-0 victory Thursday behind a brilliant outing by Hisashi Iwakuma.
“We know, from time to time,” McClendon said, “we’re going to be challenged offensively. We know that going in. Our guys will continue to work hard. We’ll get better. The offense will have their day.”
The Mariners scored their only run on an error by right fielder Nori Aoki on James Jones’ two-out pinch double in the eighth inning. Brad Miller, who drew a one-out walk, scored from first.
That was it, though.
The Royals finished with 16 hits in all, all singles, and they started quickly when Aoki and Eric Hosmer opened the game with singles. Their run in the first broke a 27-inning scoreless streak for the Royals at Safeco.
Maurer gave up another run in the third on a Hosmer sacrifice, two unearned runs in the fourth after an error by Miller at shortstop and single runs again in the sixth and eighth.
“I was trying to throw to contact today,” Maurer noted wryly. “I kept the pitch count down. Not too many hard-hit balls, but they just happened to find holes. It’s part of the game. We’d love it if it was on our side.”