The Seattle Mariners’ offense still has some work ahead of it to chase down the Chicago White Sox, but it’s heading in that direction.
The White Sox are 15th, last in the American League in runs scored. The Mariners were leapfrogged Saturday by the Kansas City Royals, sending Seattle down to 14th. The mastery of longtime left-handed magician Andy Pettitte helped keep Seattle’s offense there.
The Mariners had just four hits Saturday afternoon in a 3-1 loss to the Yankees at Safeco Field. Pettitte allowed three. Mariano Rivera surprisingly gave up one, though he struck out the side to pick up the 630th save of his career. He has 36 against the Mariners in his Hall of Fame career.
The fourth inning offered a brief light for the Mariners’ offense. Back-to-back lead-off singles by Jason Bay and Kyle Seager put two on with none out. Pettitte had not allowed a hit prior.
But, the Mariners could only muster one run, on Michael Morse’s sacrifice fly to center. Raul Ibañez struck out against his former teammate to end the inning. Though Seager was on first with none out, the 3-4-5 hitters in the Mariners’ batting order could only push him to second.
Pettitte picked up his 250th career win thanks to savvy and his slider.
Mariners rookies Brandon Batz, who made his big league debut Saturday, and Nick Franklin were still learning to drive while Pettitte was pitching in the playoffs. He was more than capable of manipulating them Saturday.
Joe Saunders (4-6) had another solid outing at Safeco Field. He lasted 6ª innings, surrendering three runs to the Yankees.
The outing was a cardiovascular workout for Saunders. While he averaged 18 pitches per inning, Pettitte was putting together half innings in a flash. He threw just 85 pitches in 7ª.
“I was watching him get up and get down pretty quick today,” Saunders said. “I’m struggling out there throwing 20, 30 pitches an inning, then next thing you know, it’s two outs already, and I haven’t even gotten a chance to (go to the bathroom).”
Seager, Bay and Franklin were responsible for all the Seattle hits. That was it.
Seager’s second hit led off the ninth inning against Rivera, who then struck out Alex Liddi , who took over for Kendrys Morales in the fifth, and Michael Morse. Morales left the game with a stiff back. He is day to day.
Facing Ibañez, Rivera chose to work cautiously, walking him on four pitches.
Franklin was next up and his at-bat lasted all of three pitches. All cutters. All strikes. Game over.
“(I) kind of see him down and away because the cutter’s going to come in,” Franklin said. “It was a lot more than I thought it was going to be when I first got up there. It’s a learning experience.”
The Mariners’ overall run-scoring ability continues to be muted.
Empty at-bats like the one by Michael Saunders in the eighth inning are a large reason why. Up 2-0 in the count against Pettitte, Saunders popped a down-the-middle cutter into foul territory. David Adams casually caught it just outside of third base.
Another reason is Seattle’s limited options off the bench. After Saunders couldn’t come through, manager Eric Wedge pinch-hit Endy Chavez for Bantz with two on. Wedge’s only bench options at that point were Chavez (.273), Kelly Shoppach (.194) or Carlos Triunfel (0-for-13 this year), who was just recalled from Triple-A Tacoma Saturday when Jesus Sucre was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Chavez’s speed was the only thing that kept him from a double play. Getting someone across the plate was never an option.