John Jaso strikes out in the photo above to cause the Mariners to equal their club record for strikeouts with 20. The Mariners also tied the major league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
How crazy was this game? So nuts that the Mariners had a record-tying 20 strikeouts, but only two of them were by Justin Smoak and Miguel Olivo.
In fact, Smoak and Olivo combined to go 5-for-7 with two homers, two doubles and a walk.
Smoak hit two home runs — one from each side of the plate. That’s the fourth time in club history a Mariner has done it and the first time Smoak has since his minor league days.
It was strange enough a night that Zack Greinke struck out 13 batters, then had to leave the game after five innings. That hasn’t happened in 92 years.
Usually, when a pitcher is good enough to fan 13 batters, he stays in the game a bit longer. That’s because he isn’t supposed to give up seven hits that drive his pitch count to 111 while he’d dominating hitters to the tune of 13 strikeouts.
Talk about your paradoxes.
“You even put 10 of those balls in-play, it’s a different ballgame,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said of all the strikeouts. “And that’s the bottom line…we’re getting guys on and creating situations for ourselves, but you’ve got to make them play defense.
“You’ve got to put the ball in-play and you’ve got to battle through at-bats. We’re battling through at-bats but we’ve got to do a better job of squaring up on balls that we’re missing early and putting the ball in-play with two strikes.”
Wedge is right in that the Mariners were battling through at-bats. They had to be in order to get the starter’s pitch count that high. And to get all of those hits. Heck, they even had two walks against Greinke.
But of those nine baserunners the Mariners managed in facing Greinke for the first time in over two years, only Smoak came around to score. And he hit a home run.
The M’s otherwise went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against Greinke. They were 0-for-18 in those situaitons dating back to last Saturday before Angels reliever Scott Downs decided to make things interesting by turning a 5-1 game into a 5-4 contest before anybody coud blink.
Franklin Gutierrez finally delivered with a runner in scoring position by doubling home Ackley. Then, Smoak got hold of a pitch from the right side and blasted it over the left field wall.
Smoak has looked better the past week or two. You saw it tonight when he outlasted Grienke for a full-count walk on a checked-swing in the fifth. How often have we seen Smoak go fishing for pitches out of the zone in situations like that?
“It’s just one of those things where I feel like I’m in a better position to hit,” Smoak said. “And I don’t have to speed up to try to catch up to the fastball.”
So, there’s some positive news.
On the not-so-positive front, the difference in the game may have been the first inning, when Kyle Seager made an uncharacteristic error to start the game off. Eric Thames then made one of his too-frequent outfield mistakes by not getting a good enough jump on a ball hit to right.
Instead of catching it, the ball dropped a couple of feet in front of Thames and then a grounder rolled through the right side opened the scoring. Thames then made a poor throw home on a pop up pretty shallow in right field. Torii Hunter scored rather easily from third and it was 2-0.
Before he knew what was going on, Erasmo Ramirez was playing catchup the rest of the night.
Anyhow, like I said, it was miraculous the Mariners even kept this game interesting after the Angels took a 5-1 lead in the sixth. With all the swinging and missing going on, it’s hard to believe the Mariners still managed 13 baserunners on the night.
They had 11 hits. The Angels only had 8.
But they couldn’t capitalize when they had to. Instead, they struck out. Ackley whiffed four times.
“I just missed pitches to hit,” Ackley said. “I didn’t feel like there was anything crazy going on. I was just missing everything.”
Trayvon Robinson and Brendan Ryan whiffed three times apiece. Mike Carp pinch-hit for Ryan and he struck out as well.
Jaso struck out in the fourth inning and didn’t like it, especially since he was about to flip his bat and head down to first after the full-count offering. Jaso declined comment on the strike zone after the game, but guys like Greinke — a former Cy Young winner — do tend to get some lattitude from umpires.
The Mariners had enough trouble putting the ball in-play tonight. The last thing they needed was to deal with an expanded strike zone.
But they still made this a nail-biter. In fact, the Angels took some downright awful at-bats all night long. The Mariners arguably had better ABs overall throughout the night.
And yet, they struck out 20 times and lost.
Like I said, strange, crazy game.