May 17, 2013 at 9:11 PM
Latest loss shows Mariners indeed improving, still not there
This game looked on paper beforehand like the Cleveland Indians might swing and bash the Mariners and Brandon Maurer into submission. You had the team with the best OPS in the league stacking its lineup with lefties to face Maurer, a pitcher who struggles against opposite-handed bats.
Instead, it was the Mariners who did most of the hitting in this game. They wound up outhitting the Indians 10-7 and really, it was 10-5 with two out and none on in the 10th inning. The Mariners had run up the pitch count of Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez just five innings in and forced him from the contest by working counts, getting on base and making his life difficult.
They just couldn’t finish the job…again.
Instead, the Indians saw Jason Kipnis hit a three-run homer off Lucas Luetge in the 10th inning after two batters got on via a walk and a slow chopper. So, it’s the Mariners taking the 6-3 loss here even though they were the ones doing the most offensively all night.
Seattle pitchers actually had retired 16 batters in a row before Drew Stubbs got the walk off of Luetge in the 10th.
So, once again, the fundamentals are there. The Mariners just need to build off that base.
“We had plenty of chances,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We’re playing good baseball. We still have to do a better job with runners in scoring position. We’ve got to do a better job of stringing hits together and putting to together innings.
“We’ve shown signs at times, of that, but we’ve yet to be consistent with that. That’s why there’s so much reason to believe that we’re going to be a much better offensive club when we start to get to that point.’’
Tough to argue with that contention. The Mariners have spent the past three weeks getting on base and winning more games than they lose. But when they do lose, it’s usually because they don’t capitalize on the many chances they set themselves up for.
The Mariners stranded seven runners the first five innings and 1o on the night. They went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
But on the plus-side, they put 14 runners on base. When you do that and you hit two home runs in the game, you usually wind up with more than three runs.
As Wedge said, when the Mariners start to get some more timely hits, they will be scoring more than this with all those runners on the bases.
These are good teams the Mariners have played lately in some real tight games. I like the vibe I’m sensing off the club. So does Raul Ibanez, who hit his fourth home run in four games tonight.
“I think it’s a great attitude,’’ Ibanez said. “There’s a lot of energy in here before the games and there’s a good, confident vibe on everybody’s part.
“This team seems to really be coming together nicely and battling,’’ he added. “Games like that, those (opposing) guys are battling too. And there’s nothing to hang our heads about. We’ve got to keep fighting. And if we keep playing like that, good things are going to happen.’’
You can see what a little power in the lineup can do. There were times when it was a 3-1 game in the fifth inning and Maurer was struggling a it with two on that it looked like the game might be lost.
But then Endy Chavez makes that nice catch on a hard liner to right and doubles the runner off first base. All of a sudden, Maurer is through the fifth and then — boom! — Ibanez ties it with one swing in the sixth. When you have some bigger bats in the lineup, it gets dangerous for the other team when they put runners on base. That wasn’t the case here in Seattle the past few years.
From there, it was a completely different game. The Indians couldn’t buy a hit and Maurer found an extra gear and kicked it in during that sixth inning.
“That was awesome,’’ Maurer said of the Chavez catch. “A great play. That helped out huge right there.’’
Maurer said he sensed some extra adrenaline in that sixth as he knew the game was tied and he had to keep it that way. He finished with a 1-2-3 inning and a pair of strikeouts.
He said he felt more comfortable than in prior outings and used a bunch of two-seam fastballs and a sharper curveball to offset the string of lefties the Indians sent up there against him.
Anyhow, the Mariners still lost. Luetge tried to throw a slider off the plate in an 0-1 count, hung the pitch and knew the moment the ball left his hand that something bad was about to happen. Luetge was still out there because he is a lefty specialist, there was a lefty at the plate and that’s why the Mariners are carrying the southpaw in their bullpen. That could change, but for now, it is what it is. Wedge was saving closer Tom Wilhelmsen for a possible save situation.
If the Mariners want to win tomorrow, they’ll have to play a more complete game and finish more of the rallies they start. But if they can keep up this foundation of hitting and putting runners on, it will e a good place to start.