Tampa Bay broke things open with three in the fifth, knocking Jason Vargas from the game and taking a 5-2 lead. A leadoff walk to B.J. Upton was followed by a stolen base and a single from Jason Bartlett.
One out later, Willy Aybar singled to left to bring home one run. Ben Zobrist then laid down a squeeze bunt up the first base line and beat it out for a single as the run scored. That brought Ryan Rowland-Smith on to pitch and Kelly Shoppach grounded an infield single to third to load the bases.
Adam Moore was then charged with a passed ball with Carlos Pena at the plate, bringing a third run in. Pena walked to load the bases, by Rowland-Smith escaped further damage on a strikeout and a lineout.
Vargas goes just 4 1/3 innings and is charged with five earned runs. He threw 97 pitches. Not one of his best outings.
Tonight’s lineup features some of the young players who are being looked at as part of the youth movement for 2011 that some keep talking about.
So far, we have:
Justin Smoak .190
Adam Moore .179
Michael Saunders .205
We can also throw in:
Matt Tuiasosopo .179
Now, next year is still a ways off and things do look somewhat more encouraging on the mound. We’ll see Jason Vargas out there tonight, going for win No. 10 with a 3.75 ERA. You’ve also seen the emergence of Doug Fister this season, as well as minor leaguers Dan Cortes and Michael Pineda.
But the future of this team depends on offensive improvement.
And I’ve got to say, I’m not as optimistic as some when I look at the bats that are supposed to be forming the foundation of this club’s future. It’s just a snapshot I’m taking right now, on Sept. 24. But it’s safe to say that some of the guys I’ve mentioned up top have to take a step forward for this team to go someplace in the next few years.
Otherwise, we’re going to be in for quite the drought.
Because what the young guys have shown so far, inexperienced or not, isn’t nearly enough. None of them are hitting their weight. Literally. So, before I get all giddy and jump on any bandwagon for the future, I’m going to temper some of that enthusiasm and take a wait-and-see attitude about it.
Some of the guys, heck, all of them, could turn into something special. But for now, none has looked all that special yet. And we likely won’t know for some time exactly where this latest youth movement is headed.
This is not a call to give up on them. Just an observation that, with extended playing time, none of the guys I’ve mentioned has given anyone a reason to feel smug about the future just yet. And I do think a little skepticism, in this case, is healthy.
5:21 p.m.: Seattle tied things up 2-2 with a two-run fourth inning, snapping a 13-inning scoreless stretch. Chone Figgins led off with a single, stole second, took third on a groundout and scored on an infield hit by Franklin Gutierrez. Guti then stole second on a Justin Smoak strikeout and later scored on a two-out single by Adam Moore.
Tampa starter Jeff Neimann, almost certain to be left out of the post-season rotation, proceeded to walk Michael Saunders after that. Finally, he rallied to strike out Matt Tuiasosopo to finish the inning.
Neimann last won a game back on Aug. 3, then went on the DL with a right shoulder strain. Since returning, he’d been 0-4 with a 14.43 ERA.
5:07 p.m.: Make it 2-0 for the Rays as we head to the fourth inning. Tampa Bay tacked on a run with leadoff double by B.J. Upton in the third, followed by a walk and groundout and a sac fly by Willy Aybar.
Seattle has gone 13 innings without a run.
4:46 p.m.: Seattle trails 1-0 as we head to the third inning. Back-to-back doubles by Ben Zobrist and Kelly Shoppach got Tampa Bay on the board in the second. Jason Vargas did a good job getting out of it from there with a runner at third and one out. Sean Rodriguez lined out softly to third and then Desmond Jennings grounded out to first.
The Mariners had runners at the conrers with one out in the first inning, but Franklin Gutierrez — back in the lineup after an illness — grounded into a double-play.
Seattle has gone 12 straight innings without a run.
4:08 p.m.: The Mariners continue with their three-city, nine-game final road trip of the season and it’s not getting any easier. They face a Rays team that now sits 1/2 game out of first place in the AL East after taking down the Yankees the final two games of their series in New York.
Seattle is on pace for the worst offensive finish since the pre-DH era, averaging 3.2 runs per contest — which factors out to 519 runs over a full season. And that’s in both the American and National Leagues.
2B Chone Figgins
DH Jose Lopez
CF Franklin Gutierrez
1B Justin Smoak
C Adam Moore
LF Michael Saunders
3B Matt Tuiasosopo
SS Josh Wilson
LHP Jason Vargas
TAMPA BAY RAYS
CF B.J. Upton
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Carl Crawford
DH Willy Aybar
2B Ben Zobrist
C Kelly Shoppach
1B Carlos Pena
3B Sean Rodriguez
RF Desmond Jennings
RHP Jeff Neimann