SEATTLE – The first signs of offense madness were in his eyes when Eric Wedge spoke to the media following Sunday’s game.
“We are not going to go all year scoring two or three runs a game,” he said. “That sure as hell isn’t going to happen.”
When the Seattle Mariners lost a game to the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings, 5-2, it marked the 14th time in 35 games they’d scored two runs or fewer in 2011.
Oh, some of the names have changed – there’s Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Brendan Ryan, Adam Kennedy – but the numbers seem all too familiar to anyone paying attention.
The Mariners are 14th in the American League – dead last – with a .230 batting average. They are 12th in runs scored, 13th in home runs, 11th in on-base percentage …
Wedge, of course, knows all this.
“To a man,” he said, “we have to do a better job of getting better.”
The Mariners had opportunities to win this game in nine innings but couldn’t, although their pitching held Chicago to two runs. Erik Bedard went a strong five and the bullpen held the White Sox scoreless the next four.
It wasn’t enough.
Trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning, the Mariners ran themselves out of a rally, then scored two in the fifth inning to tie it.
Missed opportunity? Try this one:
Ichiro Suzuki singled to open the fourth and, one out later, Wedge called for a hit-and-run with Milton Bradley at the plate. Ichiro broke, second baseman Gordon Beckham broke to cover the bag and Bradley rolled a ball perfectly toward right field.
Runners at first and third with one out? No.
That’s because Ichiro, who wasn’t looking at the play, was hit by Bradley’s ground ball and ruled out. There was no argument – the ball hit Ichiro.
When Miguel Olivo singled a moment later, what would have been one run and perhaps a multi-run rally was just a two-out hit. Justin Smoak’s fly ball ended the inning.
There were other lost chances, but none as hair-pulling as that one, and Chicago’s Mark Buehrle went eight strong innings. Once he handed off to Sergio Santos, the Mariners’ offense consisted of one walk over the final two innings.
“We’ve got to win that game,” said shortstop Ryan, who had two hits and an RBI. “It’s frustrating to win the first game of the series and then not win that series. It was a very winnable series. We can’t let games like that slip away.”
Wedge felt the same way, and after seeing his team ride great pitching to eight wins in a 10-game stretch, wasn’t at all pleased by the way the Mariners played the past two and lost.
On Saturday night, he said, the team gave away at-bats by not battling once hitters fell behind. On Sunday?
Scoring two runs or fewer for the 14th time didn’t sit well with him, but then it didn’t make Don Wakamatsu or Daren Brown happy last year, either. And while the cast of characters has changed somewhat, the numbers – and results – have not.
Chone Figgins didn’t play, but his .217 average has reminded everyone of 2010. Bradley, he’s batting third for Wedge – and is hitting .218. At cleanup, Miguel Olivo is at .212. Batting sixth, Jack Cust (.198), followed by Jack Wilson (.244), Michael Saunders (.170) and Ryan (.208).
That leaves Ichiro (.308) and Smoak (.293) among the regulars.
Where are the third, fourth, fifth runs a game going to come from?
Bedard, David Pauley, Jamey Wright and Brandon League got the team through nine innings, holding the White Sox to two runs. For most teams, that’s enough for a win.
Adding to the frustration of not scoring was the knowledge that one of Chicago’s runs was unearned – a fourth-inning gift that 26,074 fans probably didn’t appreciate.
With runners at first and second base and two outs, catcher Ramon Castro rolled a single into center field. Paul Konerko scored the first run of the game, beating the throw from Bradley, which was wide left.
Trouble was, catcher Olivo didn’t catch it – he had it bounce in and out of his glove and toward the White Sox dugout. Backing up the play, Bedard was unsure whether to cover the plate or go for the ball and was caught doing neither.
Running from first base, Alex Rios scored when home plate was left open.
The Mariners managed nine hits in the first seven innings, then none after. For all that, they only managed to put five runners in scoring position – and followed with two hits and a sacrifice fly.
And still scored just two runs.
Then there is the matter of wins. A year ago, when they lost 101 times, the Mariners had 14 wins in their first 35 games. This season, they’re two games better.
Maybe that’s progress.
It doesn’t seem to be taking Wedge’s mind off his offense.