SEATTLE — In an effort to save some bullpen arms, the Seattle Mariners switched up their plan for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Orioles. Instead of using an opener ahead of Tommy Milone, as they have his past three appearances, the Mariners ran the left-hander out as a true starter for the first time in three weeks.
Milone has pitched in parts of nine major league seasons in varying roles, and doesn’t appear to get rattled, regardless of the situation he’s asked to throw in. He seemed just as calm making the adjustment against Baltimore, and didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning.
But, when the Orioles finally did break through, stringing together a single and double in the fourth, followed by a three-run home run from Jonathan Villar, it was enough to hand Milone his first loss since May, and break up Seattle’s three-game win streak.
The three earned runs Milone allowed matched a season-high, Seattle’s often-erratic bullpen allowed the lead to further slip away in the later innings, and the Mariners became the first team to drop a game to the reeling Orioles since June 11 with the 8-4 loss at T-Mobile Park.
As much as the Mariners have sputtered in the first inning lately, Milone pitched a clean frame, retiring the Orioles in order, and giving Seattle an opportunity to grab an early lead in the bottom half of the inning. After Domingo Santana drew a two-out walk, Daniel Vogelbach put the Mariners in front 1-0 with a double center. Seattle carried the lead into the fourth, but never recovered from the Villar home run.
Despite walking a pair of batters in the second with one out, Milone preserved the lead by whipping around and firing a pick-off attempt back to Dee Gordon at second. Villar came up short of the bag trying to get back, and Gordon chased him down for the second out. Milone struck out Anthony Santander on the next pitch to retire the side.
He worked another quick inning in the third before the troublesome fourth, when Pedro Severino and Renato Nunez reached on back-to-back one-out hits ahead of the Villar knock that made it 3-1. Severino’s single was Baltimore’s first hit of the game.
Milone pitched through the fifth and allowed the three earned runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out six on 75 pitches before Seattle turned to its shaky bullpen. Each of the first three relievers who appeared for the Mariners allowed at least one run in their inning of work.
A two-run Baltimore lead suddenly turned into a four-run lead in the sixth, when Gerson Bautista, after recording a pair of quick outs, served up a two-run homer to Santander. Making his first appearance since returning from Double-A Arkansas, Dan Altavilla allowed a leadoff single to Richie Martin in the seventh, and he eventually came around to score on a sac fly. And, in the eighth, the Orioles tacked more on off Jesse Biddle on a two-out RBI single by Hanser Alberto that scored two runs to make it 8-2.
Matt Festa was Seattle’s only reliever to post a scoreless frame, retiring the Orioles in order in the ninth, but the game was far out of reach by then.
Seattle’s offense couldn’t manage much against Baltimore starter Andrew Cashner. After the Vogelbach RBI double in the first, the Mariners didn’t scratch across another run until the sixth, and produced just three hits through the four innings in between.
It didn’t help that Baltimore’s defense flashed some impressive glove work. Keon Broxton robbed Vogelbach of another extra-base hit to center in the fourth with a running grab, and a sliding catch on a Kyle Seager pop fly in foul territory by Alberto ended that inning. In the fifth, Tim Beckham appeared on his way to a leadoff single until Martin made a diving grab at short, and his throw just beat Beckham to the bag at first.
Santana led off the sixth with a double, and eventually scored on an error to cut the lead to 5-2. Santana added to his day with a solo homer to center in the eighth. It was his 17th of the season.
The Mariners scored once more in the bottom of the ninth when Mallex Smith ended a string of consecutive strikeouts in his previous three at-bats with a two-out RBI double to left center that scored Mac Williamson.