The game seemed over before the Seattle Mariners got five outs Friday, which gave them lots of time for reflection.
No, they never caught the Chicago White Sox after spotting them a six-run lead in the second inning, but the Mariners learned a few things about themselves in their 7-3 loss.
First, Hisashi Iwakuma is alive and can pitch in the big leagues.
Second, rookie catcher Jesus Montero likes his home runs to straightaway center field, thank you.
Third, the Mariners’ offense had no trouble getting runners into scoring position – but almost no luck hitting once they were there.
Well, the Mariners learned you can’t give away Ichiro Suzuki bobblehead dolls to the first 20,000 fans when you only draw 19,947 to Safeco Field.
Hector Noesi’s third start as a Mariner was short-lived, 11/2 innings in which he allowed six hits, two walks and six runs, which forced manager Eric Wedge to go to his bullpen early.
“You go to the bullpen in the second inning, it can be a long night,” Wedge said. “It can make for a long week, too. Erasmo Ramirez and Hisashi Iwakuma saved us tonight.”
Ramirez worked 32/3 scoreless innings and Iwakuma, who hadn’t thrown a regular season pitch, pitched four innings, allowing only one run.
That’s not just solid relief, it gave the Mariners the chance to come back.
They didn’t, but should have.
“Offensively, we have a lot of works in progress,” Wedge said.
In each of the first four innings, the Mariners put runners in scoring position and left them there, scoring just once, on an Ichiro double. Had they done anything in those first four innings, runs in the sixth and seventh might have created a little suspense.
Instead, there was none – at least when Seattle was at bat.
Rookie Ramirez re-established order, shutting the White Sox down on one hit through the fifth inning. That Safeco Field crowd began stirring when Iwakuma began getting loose in the bullpen for the sixth.
“We wanted to bring him in for a clean inning, not have him come in with men on base,” Wedge said. “Going four innings tonight, he saved our bullpen.
“He had a good fastball, a tough split-finger and made it hard for them to get to the ball.”
Catcher Montero liked what he saw, as well.
“He came in with a good fastball and was throwing sinkers in,” Montero said. “His split-fingered fastball was good, and he was hitting his spots. He just came in throwing well.”
And Noesi did not.
Adam Dunn doubled home a run in the first inning, then in the second launched a long home run with two Chicago mates aboard and it was 6-0.
In the seventh, tacking on insurance, Dunn hit a solo home run. A man who couldn’t hit his weight in 2011 (.159 in 415 at-bats), Dunn had a double, two home runs and five RBI on Friday.
The Mariners could only wonder what that might feel like.
As for Noesi, Montero tried to be as kind as humanly possible.
“Those guys came out and put pretty good swings on him,” Montero said.
Wedge was more practical.
“He couldn’t locate his fastball and his secondary stuff never came into play,” Wedge said. “He just didn’t have it tonight.”
Noesi wasn’t alone. Though the Mariners managed nine hits, they couldn’t string them together, couldn’t come up with one when it mattered most.
After putting runners on first and third base with no one out in the first inning – singles by Chone Figgins and Dustin Ackley – Seattle failed to score because Ichiro struck out and Justin Smoak grounded into a double play.
Brendan Ryan struck out in the second inning with runners at second and third base. With Ichiro at second in the third inning and one out, Smoak grounded out and Montero struck out.
And in the fourth inning, with two on and one out Ryan popped out and Figgins struck out.
Runners don’t become runs without help, and the Mariners couldn’t help themselves against the White Sox.
Lefty Chris Sales and three relievers got virtually every important out they needed all night, left the Mariners batting .235 as a team.
Afterward, with about a dozen members of the media talking to Montero, Miguel Olivo – 0-for-4 and now batting .130 – stopped by the adjoining cubicle, slammed a drawer or two, muttered and moved on.
Probably not the best time to let off steam, but understandable. Now 7-8, the Mariners have hit themselves under .500.
Reflecting on that can’t be much fun.