By Scott Hanson
The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — This was not going to be an ordinary baseball game.
That much was clear from the time it was announced that Seattle Mariners starter Mike Leake was a late scratch from Tuesday night’s matchup against the Houston Astros because he was feeling ill.
With short-inning relievers getting the starts — Nick Vincent for Seattle and Brad Peacock for Houston — it had all the makings of a strange game.
Strange indeed, unless you were expecting the game to come down to a pitchers’ duel between the Mariners’ Ross Detwiler and the Astros’ Framber Valdez, two pitchers who began the day expecting to start for their Class AAA teams.
Detwiler threw six solid innings, but Valdez was even better, and Houston defeated the Mariners 3-2 in front of 24,515. Seattle fell 4 1/2 games behind Houston and Oakland, co-leaders of the American League West.
“It was a crazy game,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “When Mike Leake wasn’t able to start, we pivoted, and fortunately we (were) able to get Ross Detwiler in here. … He came in and did an unbelievable job. A great job.”
Detwiler, who took the loss, began the afternoon at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma getting prepared to start for the Rainiers against Reno.
“It was a pretty quick whirlwind,” said Detwiler, making his first big-league appearance in two years. “I got to the field in Tacoma at 3:30 and got called into the office and was told to get up to Seattle as quick as possible. I got here at about 5:30 and here we are.”
Valdez, who got the win, began Tuesday expecting to be starting for Fresno at Sacramento. Instead, he caught a flight to Seattle and threw 4 1/3 innings of relief in his major-league debut, allowing just an unearned run.
Detwiler, who began the season in an independent league, allowed three runs, giving up eight hits and two walks. He helped himself by getting Houston to hit into five double plays (the Mariners had a team-record tying six for the game).
“He kept us in the game and that’s all you can ask for,” Servais said. “If what happened this afternoon, you would have told me it would be a 3-2 game late, and guys on base, and the right guys up, I would take our chances.”
The Mariners had a great chance to get Detwiler off the hook in the eighth inning, cutting their deficit to 3-2 on a Ben Gamel single. That left them with runners on first and third with one out, but pinch-hitter Nelson Cruz and Dee Gordon struck out against Roberto Osuna to end the threat. Hector Rondon worked a perfect ninth to close out the game.
“We just didn’t get the big hit tonight,” Servais said. “We got the big hit last night and weren’t able to get it done tonight. We gave ourselves a chance to win, we just needed more offensively.”
The teams knew they would have to get creative to fill up innings.
It was the first start of Vincent’s career. His longest outing of the season was 1 1/3 innings, and his longest career outing was three innings in 2013 with San Diego.
The Mariners got everything they could have hoped for from Vincent, who threw two scoreless innings.
“He handled it great,” Servais said of Vincent. “We told him not do anything different (as a starter).”
Peacock, whose longest outing of the season had been two innings, threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings for Houston, basically battling Vincent to a draw. So it came down to the next guys in, Detwiler and Valdez.
“I didn’t have much time to think,” Detwiler said. “It was nice to be kind of rushed. It didn’t let me think at all.”