Frustration and fickleness are never a good combination for fans. And given just the right mixture of both, the reaction usually is one of verbal displeasure. Namely, boos.
Just ask Mariners reliever Mark Lowe. In the true spirit of “What have you done for me lately?” Lowe, who had been one of the Mariners’ best relievers over the past two weeks, received a healthy round of boos by a good portion of the crowd of 33,348 at Safeco Field as he walked off the mound in the eighth inning of Seattle’s 5-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Safeco Field on Saturday night.
There have been harsher outbursts from the usually forgiving fans at Safeco, but those are usually saved for Alex Rodriguez’s return visits.
But there the Safeco crowd was displeased after seeing Lowe (0-2) implode in the eighth inning, turning a 1-0 lead into a 5-1 deficit.
When asked if he thought the outburst was unfair to Lowe and his efforts, manager Don Wakamatsu didn’t hesitate, saying, “Absolutely, this guy has jut gotten better and better.”
Mariners starter Garrett Olson thinks the same thing.
“It’s definitely not fair,” Olson said. “It’s amazing how soon people can forget what he’s done. But Mark is the guy you want out there in that situation.”
Lowe was one pitch away from his sixth scoreless outing in a row. He entered in the eighth inning trying to maintain a 1-0 lead and hoping the Mariners could maybe add an insurance run in the bottom of the inning before they turned it over to closer David Aardsma.
He got two quick groundball outs, but Bengie Molina and Randy Winn singled to prolong the inning. Even then, Lowe seemed fine, but a walk to light-hitting Emmanuel Burris (.245 batting average, no homers) loaded the bases for Juan Uribe.
Uribe, who had two hits earlier in the game, laced a 96 mph fastball to the right-center gap, clearing the bases.
“It was one of those days where they capitalize on your mistakes,” Lowe said. “The one pitch to Uribe wasn’t a bad pitch, it was kind of on the outer third and he just went with it.”
Even then at 3-1, a win could be reachable, even with the Mariners’ lack of offense of late. But on the next hitter, Lowe left a 2-2 change-up in the middle of the plate that Fred Lewis hit into the right-field stands for a two-run homer – the Giants’ 23rd homer of the season.
Lowe never made it out of the eighth as Wakamatsu replaced him with Denny Stark. After allowing one run in his previous 10 appearances, Lowe gave up five runs on four hits with two walks. Not a good showing, but perhaps a product of a bullpen that’s had to pitch in high-pressure situations in almost every game.
And the boos?
“That’s just baseball,” he said.
A four-run deficit might as well have been forty for the Mariners in light of their current offensive struggles.
Seattle had 10 hits, but none for extra bases. The lone run came in the third as Franklin Gutierrez led off with a single and Ichiro Suzuki followed with another single, extending his hit streak to 17 games. With runners on first and second and no one out, Endy Chavez sacrificed bunted the runners into scoring position and Adrian Beltre plated the only run with a fielder’s choice.
From there Seattle had two runners get into scoring position.
“We’ve talked over and over about having to manufacture some runs and score to take some pressure off the bullpen,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s awfully tough to keep calling on the bullpen the way we have.”
The Mariners had to call on the bullpen to make a spot start as Olson started in place of ailing Jarrod Washburn, who has a sore knee. Olson pitched six shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out four.
“I thought Olson was good,” Wakamatsu said. “I don’t think you can ask for much more out of a guy making a spot start.”
But Wakamatsu was clearly miffed at the booing of Lowe, making it a point to mention how much Lowe had contributed this season.
As for Lowe, he seemed to harbor no ill feelings about his performance or the fans. He is trying to abide by the relievers’ mantra of having a short memory.
“I’ve got a 20 minute drive home to think about it, by the time I get home and get my bags packed for the road trip I’ll be fine,” he said. “That’s the reason I live a little farther from the ballpark is for moments like this.”
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483