Remember back when we were saying spring training wins and losses don’t matter much? Well, keep that in mind now that the Mariners today dropped their fifth game in six tries since that 10-game win streak. Today’s 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks was secured when Hector Noesi, a pitcher who won’t be anywhere near a big league mound when April 1 rolls around — unless he’s traded to the Astros (get used to these jokes from me, Houston) — yielded a three-run homer to Mark Teahen in the fourth inning.
The Mariners started scraping back from a 5-1 deficit in the fifth on a solo homer by Brad Miller and an RBI single by Brendan Ryan. Miller then doubled with two out in the ninth and scored when a Julio Morban pop-up was dropped in the infield. But Nick Franklin grounded out to the right side and that was the game.
Prior to that, we saw Felix Hernandez toss three innings of one-run ball with 38 pitches, then throw another 12 in the bullpen to get his total up to about 50. That sets him up nicely for a 65-pitch outing his next time out. The Mariners didn’t want him starting the fourth inning and having tocome out partway through once he reached 50, hence the bullpen work.
“I had more command,” Hernandez said of the outing. “More command and there was a good finish on the pitches. It was a little bit different.”
Hernandez said he needed work on throwing from the stretch position, something he tried more of in the bullpen.
“It’s coming along pretty good,” he said. “I’m feeling better and better.”
The home run, he said, came when he left his sinker a little bit up to Hinske. Hernandez also cited “Arizona” as a reason, meaning the air here might have contributed to the blast leaving the yard.
“He was strong and using all of his pitches,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He looked great out there today.”
The same could not be said for Noesi, who continues to get hit hard and yield runs.
“He’s just figuring it out,” Wedge said. “He’s had some trouble controlling damage. Once he gets an out, there’s a walk, then another out and then things happened from there. It’s no different than what we’ve talked about before. About finishing his pitches, having conviction with his pitches. He has big league stuff, but he has to continue to learn how to put hitters away and how to control damage.”
I asked Wedge about the decision to use Jason Bay in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career. Namely, was this about testing Bay as a leadoff guy or merely giving Dustin Ackley a chance to bat second. Wedge said today was about Bay.
“I’m looking at a lot of people up top,” Wedge said. “I mean, I’m not sure where Ackley’s going to hit, to be honest with you. I’ve messed around with a lot of different lineups. We don’t need to really lock anything in right now. So, we’re giving a lot of different hitters — both the younger ones as well as the veteran guys…we’re hitting them in different spots in the lineup and seeing how it plays out. We want to be a one-through-nine team this year. It’s probably the first time we’ve been able to do it since I’ve been here but it’s because of the way the younger hitters have come along and the addition of the veteran players too, so, we should have a lot more balance in our lineup and be able to sprinkle the veterans around and hopefully protect those younger kids and let them have something to work off of.”
I asked Wedge what he likes about Bay as a leadoff guy.
“He sees the ball, puts up a professional at-bat,” Wedge said. “He hits the ball to all fields. There’s a lot to like there. Obviously, we’ve seen him drive the ball the other way. We’ve seen him turn pitches around too. He sees tough pitches and gets on-base. We don’t have a prototypical leadoff hitter, really, on our team. But we’ve got some guys who we feel like can do a good job with it.”