We’ve heard a lot this year about how the Mariners play hard in every game until the last pitch, no matter the score. Tonight, though, you had to wonder where their heads were at the first pitch of what became a 4-0 loss to the Angels.
In an inning of the Mariners’ nightmares…
• Starting pitcher Doug Fister left pitches up and was knocked around. That happens to just about every pitcher who needs a while to settle in.
• The defense behind Fister seemed like it was an inning late to the party. Chone Figgins cut off a throw from the outfield that appeared to have a chance to get Erick Aybar at the plate. But even then, Figgins caught Torii Hunter in a rundown between first and second only to have Justin Smoak throw too soon to second base, allowing Hunter to retreat safely back to first.
• Fister gave up two more hits as the Angels scored their second and third runs.
• Third-base umpire Chad Fairchild added to the Mariners’ misery when he ruled Peter Bourjos’ liner down the left-field line fair when TV replays showed the ball landed an inch or two in foul territory.
We hear a lot in sports that one play doesn’t make the difference in a four-run loss, but if you listen to Mariners manager Eric Wedge, one play tonight had a huge impact. It was the play when Figgins cut off Mike Carp’s throw home in his attempt to get Aybar in the first inning. Wedge didn’t fault Figgins, but he didn’t like how the rundown was handled.
“You’ve got a chance to have one run in and get an out there with nobody on the bases, but we just didn’t execute the rundown,” Wedge said. “Early in the ballgame that’s fine … taking the out there and really controlling the damage. Obviously you saw what the flip side of that was. If we control the damage right there, it’s very feasible to believe that it’s one run and it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Maybe, although in this game one run looked like plenty for Angels ace Jered Weaver. He held the Mariners to five hits in his third complete game this season, giving him an 8-4 record with a 2.06 ERA.
It seems to pain Wedge to give opposing pitchers too much credit, but he gave Weaver his props tonight. In the clubhouse, there was the expected hat-tipping to the Angels’ right-hander.
“He’s got a little twist going on, a little deception,” said shortstop Brendan Ryan, who’d had only two previous at-bats against Weaver in his career. “He’s also kind of reaching into the glove a little bit with that length. He’s raising your eye level and mixing it up. That’s tough. He got momentum and he just never looked back.”
Or, in a little more succinct description, here’s how Mariners second baseman Adam Kennedy described Weaver tonight.
“I went 0-for-4,” Kennedy said. “I would have gone 0-for-20. He has deception, command and, oh, three or four great pitches.”
For all Fister did in every other inning he pitched _ two hits from the second through the seventh _ neither he nor the Mariners could overcome the first.
That’s been a bit of an issue. The Mariners have been outscored 29-21 in the first inning this year, and through 68 games they’ve been outscored in each of the first four innings (29-21 in the first, 25-24 in the second, 37-30 in the third, 37-20 in the fourth). They’ve definitely been a late-inning team, outscoring opponents 34-29 in the seventh, 33-32 in the eighth and 24-13 in the ninth.
That’s a nice quality to have and speaks to he never-quit approach this Mariners team takes.
Tonight, a little better start may not have made a difference considering how Weaver pitched, but it might have kept some suspense in the game until the final pitch.