Rookie Brandon Maurer appeared to be past the kind of start he had Tuesday night.
Not so fast.
Maurer was hit hard and often in the first inning during the Mariners’ 7-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field in front of a chilled crowd of 13,629.
The first inning was a tragedy for Maurer. He allowed four runs on four hits. The first batter, Nate McLouth, homered. After two more batters, the Orioles were a triple short of the cycle. Maurer threw 32 mostly misguided pitches during the inning, and his already steep ERA had grown from 5.61 to 6.75 by the time it was over.
Calm came for him the next three innings. He allowed two more hits and threw 47 pitches. But the first-inning implosion, which included two wild pitches — one to move Manny Machado to third and another to give him a free ride across home plate — was plenty to put the Mariners (12-17) in an unrecoverable hole.
It was also the second time Maurer (2-4) has spent the first inning being boxed around in his rookie season. He lasted two-thirds of an inning in his second career start when he allowed six earned runs to lowly Houston.
Maurer appeared heading toward the same dismal brevity Tuesday night before fixing his path. The fact that he had such a poor opening inning was a contradiction to what had been happening of late for him.
His previous start was his best, when he went 6 innings and allowed no runs. He had allowed three earned runs in his prior 17 innings, supplying an 1.89 ERA over those three starts. Against Baltimore (16-11), he surpassed that total six batters into the first inning.
Beyond Felix Hernandez (1.90 ERA) and Hisashi Iwakuma (1.67), the Mariners’ starting rotation has been troubling.
Joe Saunders has a 0.81 home ERA and an atrocious 12.51 road ERA. Maurer’s ERA stands at 6.07 after Tuesday’s bludgeoning. Today’s starter, Aaron Harang, will put an 11.37 ERA to work when he tries to give the Mariners just their second series win of the season.
Michael Morse hit his team-leading eighth home run of the season when he pushed a fastball out to right field in the sixth. Of those eight homers, six have been solo endeavors, explaining his total of 12 RBI.
Following Morse’s homer, the Mariners brewed a rally that fizzled as quickly as it came about.
Jason Bay singled, as did Justin Smoak, who reached base in five consecutive plate appearances before a hard groundout in the eighth. Smoak’s single ended the night for ended the night for Baltimore starter and South Kitsap High graduate Jason Hammel (4-1).
Dustin Ackley followed with a single, providing the Mariners with the bases loaded and none out.
A fielder’s choice groundout from Kelly Shoppach brought in Bay. But Brendan Ryan’s struggles continued when his broken-bat grounder resulted in a double play. Ryan is hitting .149.