M’s can’t hit, can’t field, can’t win

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Friday, June 4, 2004 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – With a scrawny offense playing for the first time without its most productive hitter, the Seattle Mariners’ task was tough enough Friday against the Chicago White Sox.

Freddy Garcia had little room for mistakes and the Mariners’ defense couldn’t wobble.

Garcia did his part, holding the league’s second-best slugging team to seven hits in 72/3 innings. But, while the box score shows another errorless game by the Mariners, two critical plays in center field helped the White Sox beat the M’s 4-2 at Safeco Field.

Two doubles that center fielder Randy Winn didn’t catch led to White Sox runs.

There were other hits that beat the Mariners. Frank Thomas’ two-run homer in the fourth inning wiped out a 1-0 Mariners lead. Timo Perez’s RBI single in the seventh made it 3-1. Carlos Lee’s RBI single in the eighth increased the lead to 4-1.

Two balls to deep center made a difference, especially with the Mariners’ offense having sputtered to a near-standstill.

Before Thomas’ homer, Juan Uribe hit a fly to straight-away center that eluded Winn’s glove and bounced off the warning track and over the fence for a ground-rule double. In the seventh, Jose Valentin hit a high fly to left-center that hit the wall just a few feet above the track before Winn got to it.

Catchable balls?

“On the first ball, maybe,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The second ball was pretty well hit.”

The Mariners knew they weren’t getting a Mike Cameron clone when they moved Winn to center after they let Cameron become a free agent in the offseason. In his period of adjustment early in the season, Winn often broke late on fly balls and took circuitous routes to reach them.

Friday, he did it again.

“He has played better in center field and we knew he would,” Melvin said.

The doubles were two of the seven hits allowed by Garcia, who pitched well again but fell to 3-4.

“He did everything we asked to win,” Melvin said. “He gave up a few runs but we didn’t help him out offensively.”

Already hampered by the loss of Raul Ibanez, who began his time on the disabled list Friday because of a hamstring injury, the Mariners managed just five hits and had only two through six innings.

Melvin tried to help the offense by calling for a sacrifice bunt – despite trailing by three runs – after the first two hitters reached base in the eighth.

“Talk about against the grain, bunting right there,” Melvin said.

Rich Aurilia, who had scored the first run on Ichiro Suzuki’s single in the third inning, started the eighth with a walk before Jolbert Cabrera grounded a single to left off White Sox starter Jon Garland.

With Dan Wilson at-bat, Suzuki on deck and hard-throwing left-hander Damaso Marte warming up for the White Sox, Melvin flashed the bunt sign.

“I’m trying to get Ichiro up there and put a little more pressure on them, try to get a couple of runs in and put a little pressure on their bullpen,” Melvin said. “Very rarely do you do that when you’re down by three.”

Wilson moved the runners, but Marte got Suzuki on a fly to shallow left field. With Winn at-bat and two outs, Marte threw a wild pitch that allowed Aurilia to score, but he struck out Winn on a called third strike to end the inning.

White Sox closer Billy Koch gave up a leadoff single to Edgar Martinez in the ninth but retired John Olerud, Bret Boone and Scott Spiezio to end the game. Spiezio hasn’t had a hit in his last 21 at-bats.

“At times we haven’t pitched very well and at times we haven’t looked the greatest defensively,” Melvin said. “But offense has been the problem. You come up against a team like (the White Sox) that’s scoring a bunch of runs, and hold them to a manageable number, we’ve got to find a way to score more runs.”

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