We’re on to the eighth inning, the Mariners somehow still trailing only 4-2 despite just three hits off Chris Sale and a satrting pitcher — Kevin Millwood — who lasted four innings. Great relief pitching by Stephen Pryor (one inning, two strikeouts) and Lucas Luetge (two scoreless) to keep the Mariners close.
Kevin Millwood didn’t have it today. Yeah, the ump squeezed him a bit, but he also was the author of his own misfortune. Too many missed targets. You have to adjust to every umpire and he did not.
12:45 p.m.: Kevin Millwood continues to struggle, giving up two more runs in the fourth inning to fall behind 4-2, but again keeping things close by not imploding completely.
The inning began with a pair of singles and then a one-out RBI single to left by Gordon Beckham. Millwood then walked Adam Dunn intentionally and got Dayan Viciedo to fly out to shallow right.
Millwood was almost out of it, but deflected a hard shot back towards the middle by Alex Rios. Brendan Ryan made a terrific barehand of the ball and a strong throw to first on what would have been the Play of the Year had he gotten the runner. But Rios can move and just beat the play at first base. That scored another run.
The big question now is whether Millwood gets another inning. He’s at 95 pitches already, but has a struggling Orlando Hudson leading off the next inning…actually scrap that, O-Dog grounded out to end the last inning. I think Millwood’s done.
12:22 p.m.: Kevin Millwood has pulled off a Houdini act in two straight innings and is fortunate to still be tied at 2-2. Millwood has walked four batters, including Brent Lillibridge to force home a run in the second inning. He began the third by walking a batter, then hitting another before yielding a tying single up the middle by Alex Rios.
But Kosuke Fukodome came out of the game after the second inning — we haven’t been told why — leading to defensive shifting and the entrance of Orlando Hudson in the game at third. Hudson has looked brutal this series and stared at a third strike down the middle by Millwood to help start his escape from the third.
An ensuing double-play grounder by Alexei Ramirez ended the inning. But at 71 pitches already, he’s not long for this game.
12:04 p.m.: Miguel Olivo has endured a lot of grief this season because of a dreadful opening three weeks. But the thing is, he started hitting again before going down with an injury that sidelined him for a month. Had an eight-game hitting streak at the time.
It took him a few games after coming back, but he’s got his bat going again now as well. He just hit a 448-foot bomb to dead center off Chris Sale to give Seattle a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Justin Smoak had drawn a leadoff walk and was still on-base when Olivo went deep.
I understand the consternation some people have about playing veterans over younger players. But Jesus Montero isn’t ready to catch every day, John Jaso has shown he can hit in key situations, but is also a bit of a defensive liability — especially with the running game.
Olivo is an everyday catcher who had to get his bat going. Since the first three weeks of the season, he has, putting up a .745 OPS since that time coming into today — before the latest home run. That’s why he continues to get playing time. The team waited three weeks for him to get the bat going and he did. They aren’t going to be foolish enough to keep holding the first three weeks of the season against Olivo at the expense of an every day catcher who is actually hitting.
So, that’s the mystery solved. Really not that complex. If he struggles for several more weeks at a time, you sit him down. Not now when he is being productive. That’s just dumb. There’s no reason to, other than something agenda-driven. Real baseball teams can’t afford foolish agendas like that.
11:09 a.m.: We’ve seen some good outings out of Kevin Millwood of late. Even when he doesn’t have good stuff, he’s managed to plow through and deliver innings.
He’s allowed just two earned runs his last four starts combined.
But Millwood lasted only five innings against a slugging team in Texas last week. He’ll need to do more today against another hot-hitting club from Chicago. The Mariners are a tad short in the bullpen and could use at least six frames out of their starter.
By the way, turns out Felix Hernandez’s next start may indeed be in trouble. Hernandez tweaked his back in the second inning of Friday’s game and manager Eric Wedge told us this morning that it’s still bothering the pitcher today.
Tomorrow will be the big test. If Hernandez is feling better, he could start on Wednesday in Anaheim. If not, look for a replacement.