Sun or no sun, the Mariners did not make the routine defensive plays they had to in order to win today. And as a direct result, they suffered a 7-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
The go-ahead run scored in the fourth after a fielding error by Brendan Ryan and then a flyball lost in the sun by left fielder Milton Bradley. It was still a 3-1 game in the seventh when Ryan Langerhans lost another fly ball, this one in center, to give Coco Crisp a leadoff double.
Josh Lueke couldn’t get it done after that, walking two batters to load the bases with one out. David Pauley came on, hit a guy, then walked another, then yielded a sac fly for three more runs.
And that was the game.
The big story for the M’s? Tom Wilhelmsen completes his magical story by making his major league debut, getting the A’s 1-2-3 in the eighth. He got a groundout to first, then a magnificent, diving catch by Bradley of a blooper to left and then a strikeout on Daric Barton.
Pretty good debut.
The Bradley catch was the defensive highlight by Seattle, along with an earlier diving grab by Langerhans. But those catches don’t make up for the ones that weren’t made.
The M’s couldn’t string together the hits when needed today. And the A’s did not give them extra outs with their own miscues this time.
Hence, the M’s are now 2-1.
“We weren’t making plays,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Obviously, the sun got us a couple of times. A couple of other balls dropped in there. We opened the door for them and they took advantage of it. That’s going to happen at this level.”
And now, it’s on to Texas for the Mariners, where they should face a different type of team — a red hot one. The Rangers have everything going their way to start the season, having just bombarded the Boston Red Sox in three straight games.
This should be an interesting test for Seattle, going with Erik Bedard tomorrow night in his first game since July 2009.
After that, you have Michael Pineda in his pitching debut. Then, Felix Hernandez trying to improve to 2-0.
Tough to beat that combo when it comes to storylines.
The storyline this series? For me, it was the M’s actually winning two of three in Oakland. That rates as a surprise and has already causing some questioning in Oakland about just how the A’s came to be rated as highly as they were by some pre-season prognosticators.
Yes, it’s early, but it’s also evident that the A’s don’t have a whole lot of offensive firepower. Their defense looked real shoddy. And some of their best pitchers are hurt ahead of a very tough, three-city road trip. If they’re not careful, it could get late real early. You don’t win pennants in April. But you sure as heck can lose them.
And the M’s showed that, when they keep their intensity up and make playes, they can compete. When they don’t, it’s tough to win. The offense still appears to be struggling a bit to score runs, even if winning two of three. They scored six runs in the opener, but also had 21 base runners. They had only two last night before the ninth inning, when the A’s again booted the ball around.
And today, just the Langerhans homer. So, even though they’re averaging four runs per game (not exactly setting records with that, either) it has been a struggle at times when it comes to leaving guys on.
The big offensive sign for me was Justin Smoak having the series that he did, especially against left-handed pitching. That’s huge. Smoak now has a 13-game hitting streak dating back to last season.
This year, he’s hitting .333 (3-for-9) with a .538 on-base percentage. He’s taking his walks and getting some hits — all three of them off lefties.
Having Smoak develop into a middle of the order hitter just could be the the best thing that happens to the M’s in 2011, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. We know he hits well down in Texas, so let’s see what this week brings.