MILWAUKEE – There are losses and then there are losses, and as the Seattle Mariners are learning, there are shutouts and then there are shutouts.
For the third time in a week, the Mariners were shut out on Tuesday – beaten by the Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 – and this was the unkindest blank of all.
Seattle had two hits, both in the second inning. And by the time they got that second hit, there was no one on base from the first one.
“Any time you see zeros, it’s not good for the hitters,” Ichiro Suzuki said.
The Mariners might be seeing zeros in their sleep. Certainly, they’re posting plenty while awake.
“For the first six innings tonight, I didn’t give a sign,” manager Bob Melvin said. “There wasn’t anyone to give one to.”
For the sixth time this season, Freddy Garcia pitched well enough to win and lost. Garcia gave up back-to-back hits both doubles in the third inning that cost him two runs.
A long solo home run in the eighth was frosting. One run would have been enough for Milwaukee.
“Is Freddy frustrated? Everyone is frustrated,” pitching coach Bryan Price said. “Our pitchers aren’t out there thinking ‘I’m not winning.’ What we’re all thinking is that as a team, we’re not winning. That frustrates all of us.”
Coming off a season-best three-game sweep of Montreal at Safeco Field, the Mariners rolled into Miller Field for the first time and were dominated by Victor Santos, Luis Vizcaino and Dan Kolb.
Seattle had one opportunity to do damage all night, and it was so brief if you turned your head you’d have missed it.
Bret Boone grounded a ball just inside third base and rounded first heading into second base. A double anywhere else the Mariners had played this season, the ball caromed off the stands down the line and directly to left fielder Geoff Jenkins.
Jenkins threw Boone out at second.
The next man up, John Olerud, doubled to the gap in right center field. Had Boone been on second base – or even first – he’d have scored.
He wasn’t. And the Mariners never got another hit.
The only other Seattle baserunner Tuesday was Hiram Bocachica, who drew a two-out walk in the fifth inning.
“You don’t want to say their guy didn’t pitch a great game, because they shut us out,” Melvin said. “But we knew what he threw, what counts he liked to throw his pitches in. I’d have expected more offense than this. I thought we’d do better.”
That might well be the theme for the season. Everyone thought they’d do better.
Melvin’s 55th different lineup in 62 games was as hapless as so many others. No matter how he puts the names together, they belong to the same group of hitters.
That meant one batter over .300 Tuesday – Suzuki. It meant only two Mariners over .280 Suzuki and Dan Wilson, who went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .278.
Beyond that, Olerud finished the night at .268, the third-highest average in the lineup.
The issue isn’t how the Mariners have been shut out a league-high eight times, but how they have managed to score in their other 54 games.
Garcia now has been Seattle’s starting pitcher in three of the Mariners’ shutout losses. In 72/3 innings of this one, he walked one batter, struck out eight and left the game with a 3.23 earned-run average and no chance to win.
Afterward, Garcia fielded nearly as many questions about trade rumors as about his pitching. Was he aware of the scouts in the stands from more than a half-dozen teams?
“It doesn’t change my job, what I have to do,” Garcia said. “My job is to keep us in the game, and when we’re not scoring, then you can’t give up runs.”
In that two-run Brewers rally, the player most likely to hurt Garcia – cleanup hitter Lyle Overbay – did so. And he did so on a pitch Garcia couldn’t quite believe got hit.
“It was a bad pitch, up and in,” Garcia said, shaking his head. “I didn’t want it there, but I don’t know how he hit it.”
Overbay did, pushing his hitting streak to 12 games, pushing home RBI 47 and 48. Seattle’s cleanup hitter, Boone, has 27 RBI.
Melvin and his coaching staff will huddle pregame today and probably come up with another lineup, likely one with Ichiro once again batting leadoff.
Hitting coach Paul Molitor will work with his hitters and preach the gospel of situational hitting.
After that comes the tough part. The game. Hitting. Scoring.
Or in the Mariners’ case, trying.