SEATTLE – After a week of tight games, the Seattle Mariners were probably due a laugher, although they probably would have preferred to be the team doing the laughing.
Instead, they fell behind the Chicago White Sox by a run in the first inning and, five runs and an awful lot of hits later, the Mariners were quietly rushed out of Safeco Field with a 6-0 loss.
How one-sided was this one? Chicago piled up 17 hits, the Mariners managed all of three – all in different innings.
“They’re an aggressive team, and I pitch to contact,” Doug Fister said. “The game plan was to use that to our advantage, let the defense make the plays behind me. It didn’t play out that way.”
Fister allowed 14 of those White Sox hits, in 52/3 innings, and while he gave up five runs it might not have been his struggle that did Seattle in.
That honor went to Gavin Floyd.
Chicago’s starting pitcher wasn’t the likeliest man to shut down Seattle – the Mariners position players were batting a combined .297 lifetime against him. Then Floyd threw eight zeros on the board and walked off with his fourth win.
Against American League teams in his first six games, Floyd’s earned run average was 4.39. Against the Mainers: 0.00.
“We never got anything going today,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Not taking anything away from their guy, but we didn’t do a very good job at all. We’ve done a better job of putting at-bats together, but today was the flip side of that.”
Then there was the Chicago offense – batting .202 in its last 24 games.
That’s the sweetness of baseball. On any given night, all the numbers we so lovingly keep track of can mean nothing.
Just ask Fister about the Chicago offense, or the Mariners’ hitters about Floyd’s pitching.
“I live or die by contact,” Fister said, “and when you do that some balls falls in, some get through. My job is to keep the other guys off balance, and I didn’t do that tonight. I didn’t command the strike zone.”
While the White Sox hit their share of balls hard, at least a third of their hits were of the bloop or bleeder variety. Adam Dunn, the big designated hitter, had a pair of high pop flies drop for hits – and the hardest ball he hit all night was run down in center by Michael Saunders for a sacrifice fly.
Then again, it could have been much worse for Seattle – Fister got three double plays in the first four innings.
“I was kind of worried about it in the first couple of innings, when we had 12 hits and one run,” Ozzie Guillen said of his team. “Then a couple innings later we got three hits with two outs and got a couple runs.”
The Sox got two runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth, all four off Fister, and this one was gone. Chicago had five runs at that point, the Mariners hadn’t pushed a man as far as third base.
They never did.
With a crowd of 26,288 on Little League night, fans had to save their cheering for the bullpen. Aaron Laffey went 1 scoreless innings, then rookie Dan Cortes was called into his first game since being brought up from Tacoma on April 25.
“I was nervous when I got the call to warm up,” Cortes said. “I did my breathing technique and calmed down.”
A right-hander clocked last year at 100 mph in minor league games, Cortes threw his first pitch in this one at 91 mph, just trying to get a strike.
“I remember what David Aardsma told me, ‘Throw strike one, then you’re in the hitter’s head,’ ” Cortes said.
After that, the velocity climbed and topped out at 98 mph. He allowed one hit, a single, and held Chicago scoreless in the eighth inning.
“I don’t think he could have done a better job for not being out there in that period of time,” Wedge said. “He was under control. He didn’t try to come out and blow them away. He pitched.”
The loss cost Seattle an opportunity to get to .500 for the first time since it was 2-2 four games into the season. When one man – Ichiro – had two-thirds of their hits, the Mariners weren’t likely to do much damage.
Which may beg the question, how have these Mariners been winning?
At night’s end, four starters were batting under .210 and three of those were under .200. Against Chicago, the Mariners struck out seven times and went a perfect 0-for-4 with men in scoring position.