String of series victories ends at nine with 11-3 loss to Blue Jays
By Kirby Arnold
SEATTLE — Long before it ended, Lou Piniella had filed this one in the "it was bound to happen" department.
The Seattle Mariners, who couldn’t seem to avoid a nail-biting game in their first 30, finally experienced a blowout in No. 31.
The Toronto Blue Jays clubbed 14 hits and five home runs to beat the Mariners 11-3 Sunday at Safeco Field. It ended the Mariners’ string of series victories at nine, and they became the last team in the majors to allow 10 runs in a game.
"It was probably our worst game of the year," Piniella said. "These things are going to happen, and it’s not going to be the last time."
When you’re still leading your division by eight games, with a 23-8 record that remains the best in baseball, it’s easy to shrug off the two errors, one wild pitch and four unearned runs that beat you. That’s not to mention the six-hit attack from an offense that showed its soft side in the homestand.
The Mariners hit three home runs Sunday — two solo shots to right field by Bret Boone and one by Tom Lampkin — but got only three other hits. One was a bunt single by Carlos Guillen, one an infield single by Boone and the other a leadoff single by Ichiro Suzuki that extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Otherwise, the Mariners were smaller than small-ball, finishing the homestand with a .226 team batting average and no real indication that some of their struggling hitters are about to break out.
Piniella again kept Al Martin (.136), David Bell (.183) and Dan Wilson (.193) on the bench as he continued his Stage II theory of bringing hitters out of a slump: Let them sit and think about it after trying the let-them-hit-their-way-out approach.
Javier went 0-for-4 Sunday and Lampkin 1-for-3 with the homer and a walk, and McLemore 0-for-3 with a walk that left him 0-for-7 in his two starts at third in place of Bell.
McLemore also committed the most ill-timed of errors when Jeff Frye’s routine grounder in the third inning got under his glove. Starting pitcher John Halama, who had retired the first eight Blue Jays with ease, then gave up back-to-back singles to Shannon Stewart and Alex Gonzalez, a three-run homer to Raul Mondesi and another single to Carlos Delgado before he escaped the inning. By then the score was 4-0.
Boone and Lampkin hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the third, but the Blue Jays added a run in the fourth on Darrin Fletcher’s first homer of the season, one in the sixth on Tony Batista’s homer off relief pitcher Ryan Franklin, and five in the seventh when Brad Fullmer hit a 416-foot drive off the Hit It Here Cafe and Fletcher launched one just short of the cafe later in the inning. That outburst made it 11-3.
"We kept coming back at the front half of the game," Piniella said. "But when they added that five-spot, that was it. The game was over.
"We didn’t pitch particularly well in this homestand. We gave up eight, five and 11 runs in this series. It’s hard to beat teams giving up that many runs. They hit a variety of pitchers and a variety of pitches, and we’re going to have to make some adjustments the next time we face them."
One adjustment Piniella isn’t sure about is his batting order, and whether Bell will return at third, Martin in left field and Wilson behind the plate when the Mariners begin a three-game series on Tuesday in Boston.
"I gave a few guys some breathers," Piniella said. "But I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’ve got a day to think about it. Everybody’s going to play. We’d like to get a few people hot.
"But you know what? All in all, you’ve got to be pleased with 23-8."
After getting beat 11-3, that’s the only blowout number worth remembering.