A pitcher’s duel – between 44-year-old Bartolo Colon and 30-year-old Christian Bergman.
Bergman, the bearded one, pitched the Texas Rangers as if they were the Round Rock Express (the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate). And Colon, the oldest active player in the major leagues, pitched the Mariners as if he was far from turning 45 like he will next week.
Between those two, call it a stalemate. Neither allowed a run and both pitched through seven innings.
Between the Mariners’ and Rangers’ lineups and the Mariners’ and Rangers’ defenses – victory Texas.
The Rangers scored four unearned runs in the ninth inning after their go-ahead score in the eighth on Delino DeShields’ RBI double off of Nick Vincent in an ugly Wednesday for the Mariners – a 5-1 loss at Safeco Field.
“We’re playing good baseball,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We just had a little hiccup today.”
The Mariners (24-18) seemed to show signs that a day like this was imminent.
They all claimed no excuses afterward, but it was clear their lineup and bullpen was fatigued. Their past week included a rain out, doubleheader in Detroit, Sunday walk-off loss, a one-game stop in Minneapolis (for a game then delayed almost two hours by rain), before arriving back in Seattle by 3 a.m. Tuesday only to play 11 innings against the Rangers – all to turnaround for a 12:40 p.m. game on Wednesday.
Oh, and their No. 3 hitter, Robinson Cano, made national headlines Tuesday when he was slammed with an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a diuretic viewed by MLB investigators as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs.
What a whirlwind few days.
“No excuses,” Servais said. “We got beat today. But I think guys getting a full night’s rest and getting back at it this weekend will be really important.”
“Our job is to go out there and play whether you are tired or not,” said third baseman Kyle Seager, who scored the Mariners’ only run with a ninth-inning home run (his eighth this year). “I think guys are definitely tired – but that’s not an excuse to not go out there and play well.”
Entering the ninth inning the Mariners trailed 1-0.
Then the snowball.
It started positive.
Jurickson Profar hit a leadoff double against Vincent to bring in left-hander Marc Rzepczynski.
The veteran seemed to find something he’d been missing on the mound, striking out Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. He intentionally walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa to get to Rougned Odor.
Odor sent a grounder to first base, but Ryon Healy lost in in the exchange to load the bases. Instead of the inning ending, Healy was yelling into his glove in disgust.
But Rzepczynski was still almost out of it.
He got Ronald Guzman chasing an 85-mph slider just below the strike zone, but catcher David Freitas didn’t hang on to it. The passed ball allowed two runners to score after Freitas’ throw to first wasn’t in time.
Freitas was expecting a fastball, Rzepczynski threw slider.
“Unfortunately that ended up costing us the game,” Rzepczynski said.
So Rzepczynski essentially got four outs, including three strikeouts, but the Rangers had a 5-0 lead after Dan Altavilla walked Delino DeShields with the bases loaded.
“It’s been a tough little grind for me,” Rzepczynski said. “But I’ve done this before. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I felt like I got in a groove today, so I’m definitely going to take something positive out of it.”
There's no other way to describe Bergman's outing as positive, too.
The Mariners recalled him from Triple-A Tacoma to a make a spot start, and he was good.
Bergman pitched seven shutout innings, striking out five. Throwing 90 pitches, he allowed two hits and no walks before the Mariners decided to turn to left-handed reliever James Pazos to start the eighth inning.
“Just go out there and throw strikes and get in and out of at-bats as quickly as possible,” Bergman said. “I watched the game last night and I knew their bullpen was used a lot. So just tried to have quick innings.”
Bergman unloaded fastballs, changeups, sliders, curveballs and used them however, whenever. He didn’t unveil them as he went, he unloaded his repertoire from the first inning.
Bergman got better as the game went on, getting each of his five strikeouts from the fifth inning on.
The Mariners weren’t desperate for a long outing, but pretty close. Vincent and right-hander Chasen Bradford were the only two relievers the Mariners didn’t use in their 11-inning extra-innings victory over the Rangers on Tuesday.
“He had a really good changeup early, which is important against the Rangers,” Servais said. “They are a pretty good fastball-hitting team. I thought Bergy threw great. Sequences were good, he was getting ahead in the count and a lot of early contact. That’s what Bergy does.”
Bergman wasn’t even on the 40-man roster. The Mariners added him because they were rained out on Friday in Detroit, pushing their starting rotation back. They weren’t going to have left-hander Marco Gonzales pitch on just four days’ rest after he threw the first game of the Mariners' doubleheader Saturday against the Tigers.
So enter Bergman, who was 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA in eight starts with the Rainiers.
He didn’t allow his first hit until a slow, bouncing tapper just over the mound with two outs in the fifth inning. Shortstop Jean Segura tried to bare-hand it, but it rolled off his hand and Kiner-Falefa reached first safely. It was ruled a hit and not an error.
Some say trust the process. Bergman trusted the defense..
That was the fifth time a Mariners starter pitched at least seven innings this season. James Paxton did it twice (including in his no-hitter last week against the Blue Jays) and Mike Leake the other two times.
“I think it’s always nice to know that, though you are never going to get through a season with five starters, you know where 6-7-8 are and we feel comfortable knowing he can step in,” Servais said. “And he certainly didn’t hurt his chances of coming back soon and helping us again.”
But the Mariners’ lineup struggled against Colon and his run of almost nothing but fastballs. He located them all around the plate and that was enough to tie up this offense in his trip to Seattle – more than 21 years after he started in the Kingdome against the Mariners when he was pitching for the Cleveland Indians.
Colon lowered his season earned-run average to 2.82.
“He was at his best today,” Rangers manager Jeff Bannister said. “I thought the key for him was he varied his speeds with his fastball extremely well. Primarily just dissecting the strike zone with a fastball. Just a masterful job by him.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677