Seattle Mariners

Ethier, Dodgers deliver Mariners a reality check

LOS ANGELES – On a trip they expect to use as a yardstick for the first half of their season, the Seattle Mariners came up noticeably short Friday.

Against the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, the Mariners didn’t pitch well, came a bit unglued in one inning and blew the one chance they had to jump back into a game they eventually lost, 8-2.

There are plenty of games left against the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox – and plenty of ways the Mariners can improve. If they want to win, they’re going to have to.

Giving up three home runs and six RBI to Andre Ethier, who came in with 11 homers in his first 257 at-bats, was just one sign of trouble.

“This wasn’t much of a contest from the get-go,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “We didn’t get anything going offensively, we didn’t pitch well. When you play like that against a good team, you’re going to lose.”

Jason Vargas couldn’t get through five innings against the Dodgers, and his own team didn’t help him offensively or defensively, and once the bullpen came in and let him down, Vargas had hit the trifecta.

He’d have had to be close to perfect to win this one, and he wasn’t.

Vargas proved that against Casey Blake, who doubled to start a three-run rally in the second inning – when Ethier hit his first home run – and homered in the fourth. By the fifth inning, when Blake was due up a third time, Wakamatsu lifted his left-hander.

It didn’t stop the carnage.

The Mariners used three pitchers – Vargas, Roy Corcoran and Miguel Batista – and Ethier homered once against each.

From the outset, the Dodgers played crisp, solid baseball and took advantages of any Seattle lapse.

The Mariners? They were the team suffering those lapses.

The most glaring probably came in the fifth inning, which began with Seattle trailing, 5-1. The No. 8 hitter in the Dodgers’ lineup, Matt Kemp, lined a ball toward left-center field.

Wladimir Balentien dove for and missed it, letting it skip to the wall. Franklin Gutierrez picked the ball up and threw to his cutoff man, shortstop Ronny Cedeño. Cedeño took the throw but either didn’t hear anyone shouting or was slow to find the runner – and Kemp just kept running until he got to third base.

“That was a case of Ronny assuming the runner was going to stop at second base, and he just got caught flat-footed,” Wakamatsu said.

Pitcher Clayton Kershaw then singled home the first RBI of his career.

“I’ve noticed that with some of our pitchers, especially in opposing ballparks, there’s a tendency to get a little tentative, and I saw some of that tonight with Jason,” Wakamatsu said. “Instead of throwing strike one, it was ball one and then he was behind in the count and it got worse.”

What offense the Mariners did muster basically came down to two players – Ichiro Suzuki and Jose Lopez. Seattle managed six hits and, between them, Ichiro and Lopez had five.

When Ichiro singled in the fourth inning, he got to second on Russell Branyan’s single and scored when Lopez singled.

That cut the Seattle deficit to 3-1, and when Gutierrez walked to load the bases with one out, the Mariners were in position to silence a crowd of 50,752. Instead, Kershaw got a ground ball double play from Kenji Johjima, and that crowd cheered happily.

By the time Ichiro singled, stole a base and scored on another Lopez single in the sixth inning, it was apparent one-run rallies weren’t going to carry the night. And they didn’t.

When Corcoran gave up the second home run of the night to outfielder Ethier – batting seventh – the game got away. When Batista allowed Ethier’s third home run of the night and 14th of the season – that crowd gave their player a standing ovation.

Yes, it was his first three home run game.

“I saw him as a young player at ASU and saw his talent there,” Wakamatsu said. “He hit three different pitches, three different pitchers, and that was awfully impressive.”

Only eight other players in Los Angeles Dodgers history had hit three home runs in a game, none since Hee-Seop Choi in 2005. In his first 257 at-bats this season, he’d managed 11.

“We didn’t pitch well and they did (10 strikeouts worth),” Wakamatsu said. “(Tonight), we’ve got Felix Hernandez going, and it might be another story entirely. When you don’t hit, you look flat. We didn’t hit enough.”

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

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