Tonight’s game is a prime example of why Mariners fans have grown so frustrated with this team. The M’s began the night with seven hits the first three innings, taking a 3-0 lead with three in the third.
Then, they failed to get another hit after Russell Branyan’s two-run homer in that third inning.
Doug Fister, meanwhile, after a leadoff single to begin the game, had retired 15 batters in a row. Then came the sixth inning and he couldn’t get anyone out.
Six hits by the next seven batters later and Cleveland has a 4-3 lead.
Oh yeah, throw in five RBI by former M’s outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, traded by Bill Bavasi for some bucket of used balls in one of the more delusional attempts at a playoff run you’ll ever see, and you’ve got enough frustration to…to…well, I suppose, to demand something better.
Choo closed out the night’s scoring with a two-run homer off Jamey Wright, allowing the Mariners to increase their lead on Cleveland in the race for better draft picks. The M’s are now two up on the Indians in the race for the basement, falling to 52-82 compared to 54-80 for the Tribe.
But let’s be honest. There’s no way the M’s should have lost a game like this to an Indians team this bad. Not with Fister on the mound. Not with the Mariners pounding Indians pitching like they had the first three innings. It’s not Josh Tomlin turned into Felix Hernandez in a half inning. Looked like he’d turned into somebody else, though.
So did Fister. I’ll say this for him, as good as he’s looked at times this year, he’s got a razor-thin margin for error. And when his pitches start missing their marks, he’s got to make adjustments real quick because his stuff isn’t good enough to fool anyone without pinpoint accuracy.
“Any time I get hit, it’s going to be up,” he said. “When i keep the ball down, use the defense, things are all right.”
But he couldn’t get the ball to stay down, for whatever reason, in that sixth. Fister tried and tried.
“My coach back in college used to say ‘You’ve got to make one-pitch adjustments’,” Fister said. “So, it’s a fine-tune thing. You’ve got to learn as you go and sometimes, it’s harder than others.”
Mariners manager Daren Brown had started to warm Garrett Olson up in the bullpen by the time Choo came to bat with the bases loaded and one out. But Fister was imploding so quickly, Olson just didn’t have time.
Choo tied the game with a double. Two singles later, it was a 4-3 game and Olson was finally ready.
“It was hard to see that coming,” Mariners manager Daren Brown said. “I didn’t see that coming.”
Nobody did, in all honesty.
“It was just one of those nights,” Mariners catcher Adam Moore said. “He had everything going until that one inning.”
It’s been just one of those years, too. The M’s, having played so well for Brown to begin his tenure, have lost four series in a row since and are now on their way to a fifth without a victory if they drop tomorrow night’s game.
Seattle will lose 100 games if it goes 10-18 the rest of the way. There are some pretty good teams coming up on the schedule, including Texas, Tampa Bay and Toronto on the road and an Oakland-Anaheim duo — also away from home — next week.
As for Fister, there is a reason some of us consider him no better than a fifth starter. That’s nothing to sneeze at. I think he’s a fifth starter for a good baseball team. Maybe even a championship team. But it’s stuff like tonight that prevents folks from rating him any higher.
As good as he can be, he has his limits. And when he’s off, even by a little bit, his game can collapse rather quickly.
So, we’ll see how he rebounds next time. For the first five innings tonight, he was nearly perfect. Frustrating season.