Remember when the Mariners were hitting up a storm? Not so much the last two games. They got three hits in a loss in Toronto on Sunday, and just five in a 4-1 defeat to the Pirates tonight.
Facing Jeanmar Gomez, a late replacement for the scratched James McDonald, they mustered just two hits over the first five innings. Trailing 2-0, their first (and only) shot in this game came in the seventh, and Eric Wedge began pushing every button he could to make something happen. By the time the inning ended, Wedge had used four-fifths of his bench – and the Mariners got one run out of it.
“That was the one inning we had a chance to do something,’’ Wedge said. “We were going to try to take every opportunity we could. Knowing where the matchups were, we got the matchups we wanted. We pushed it and we tried to do everything we could to try to make it work there. We just came up a little bit short.”
Facing reliever Tony Watson in the seventh, Dustin Ackley reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a ground out.
That’s when the wheels started turning. Wedge sent up Jesus Montero to hit for Brendan Ryan, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle countered by bringing in veteran Jose Conteras, a right-hander. Wedge promptly called back Montero and pinch-hit with left-handed Raul Ibanez, who was 9-for-15 off Contreras in his career.
Sure enough, Ibanez laced the first pitch he saw to the gap in right-center, scoring Ackley. Robert Andino ran for Ibanez, and Endy Chavez pinch-hit for Harang, leaving Kendrys Morales as the only remaining reserve on the Mariners’ bench. Chavez grounded back to the pitcher, and the threat ended.
I know some of you are wondering why Chavez and not Morales in that situation. Here’s what Wedge said:
“I was figuring if we were going to have a chance to win the game, we were going to come around to the pitcher again, and we had Morales there waiting. We’re not looking to tie, we’re looking to win, so we wanted to make sure we had someone there who was able to do that. But you have to put something together to be able to get to that spot.”
It became pretty much moot in the bottom of the eighth when reliever Carter Capps gave up a two-run homer to Garrett Jones on a 2-2 pitch with two outs. Jones is left-handed, and lefties are now 8-for-20 with three doubles and two homers off Capps this season. He realizes he needs to make an adjustment.
“Just get them looking for something besides a fastball,’’ he said. “Right now, they’re just sitting dead red on the fastball and taking uncomfortable swings on everything else. I just didn’t execute with that fastball.”
With Jason Grilli on the mound for the ninth, I’m not sure it would have mattered. Grilli is now 13-for-13 in saves after retiring the Mariners in order (strikeouts of Michael Morse, who fanned three times in the game, and Justin Smoak, who whiffed twice, and a ground out by Ackley). Grilli lowered his ERA to 0.64.
The Mariners can still finish with a winning record on this road trip if they win Wednesday’s game, with Felix Hernandez on the mound against A.J. Burnett in a nice pitching matchup. Burnett is a tough guy to get out of an offensive funk against, however.