SEATTLE - The Seattle Mariners probably could have pitched better, though Felix Hernandez wasn't available Saturday night.
What Doug Fister and two relievers did against the Cleveland Indians was enough to win – one earned run allowed – so the accountability for Seattle’s 2-1 loss had to lie elsewhere.
There were the point-blank scoring opportunities squandered in the fifth, seven and eighth innings.
“We’re not doing what we did this spring, what we did earlier this season,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We’re not hitting with men in scoring position. You’ll find those two-out knocks are always the key to ball games.”
There was the what-the-hell-was-that throw from Milton Bradley in the fourth inning that sailed over an unmanned third base, then bounced off a sliding Fister and into the Cleveland dugout.
That forced home the Indians’ second and final run.
“That wasn’t on Milton, (shortstop) Brendan Ryan wasn’t at third base,” Wedge said. “We messed it up. It was just a mistake.”
That new Mariners accountability?
Bradley doesn’t talk to the press.
“We got crossed up out there, it was one of those ‘tweeners,’ ” he said. “Was he going to throw to the plate or to third base? Then the pitcher tried to make the play and it ends up in the dugout.”
OK, then it was Fister’s fault?
When the lanky right-hander saw the ball get by third, he scrambled to cut it off, went into a full slide and tried to catch the ball – not an easy thing for a 6-foot-8 pitcher.
“I screwed it up,” Fister said. “It hit me right in the glove and bounced right out and into the dugout.”
Oh, please. Fister went six innings without getting a run scored for him, and if he’s the only one willing to take responsibility for a play he should never have had to attempt, so be it.
But Fister never did bat, so it’s going to be tough to lay this offense on him.
When Adam Kennedy doubled with one out in the fifth inning, Ryan grounded out to first and Michael Saunders grounded out to second.
When the Mariners had runners at first and third with one out in the seventh, Ryan struck out – but Saunders singled home a run. With men on first and third and two out, Ichiro Suzuki tried to bunt past the mound.
Reliever Rafael Perez fielded it, threw to first, inning over.
And then there was the eighth inning.
Chone Figgins, who earlier had snapped an 0-for-27 stretch with a single, doubled to open the eighth inning. A crowd of 30,309 began thinking tie game, extra innings, who knows – maybe even a win?
Bradley flied out.
Jack Cust struck out.
Justin Smoak grounded out.
That all but tied a bow on Seattle’s sixth consecutive loss, a streak that came after the Mariners had won their first two games.
A team built around pitching and defense, the Mariners got plenty of one, enough of the other if only the offense would make the occasional appearance. In those six straight losses, the team has racked up 14 runs.
Ryan, a National League player confounded by the way American League pitchers are working him, said he’s “trying to learn what guys are doing.” It’s no easy process, and eight games into his first season in Seattle, he’s batting .143.
Want a stunning little Mariners nugget?
In the midst of this slump, Saunders is tied for second on the franchise’s all-time list for RBI in consecutive games to start a season.
Saunders has played in four games and driven in a run in each. That ties him with Rich Aurilia (2004) and Henry Cotto (1988) – one game behind record-holder John Olerud (2001).
As for pitching, Fister left after six innings and rookie Josh Lueke took the seventh, veteran Chris Ray the eighth and ninth, and the Indians didn’t score. Their game-winning rally?
Take a deep breath.
After back-to-back fourth-inning singles by Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo, Fister got one out and Wedge elected to intentionally walk Travis Hafner. When Orlando Cabrera hit a fly ball to left field, it was deep enough to score the first run of the game.
When Bradley’s throw was caught by no one, then banked into the Cleveland dugout off Fister, umpires waved home the second run.
That was it. That was enough.
“Guys are pressing,” Wedge said of his hitters. “We had opportunties and didn’t finish them off. We will get better. Guys will learn how to handle those situations better.”
Fister hopes to see it, sooner rather than later. He’s now 0-2, despite a 2.31 earned run average. In his two starts, he’s allowed three earned runs an two unearned runs in 112/3 innings.
A sinker ball specialist who has to pitch to contact, he has been tenacious on the mound and had nothing to show for it.
If his offense and defense won’t acknowledge accountability, he will.
“There are positives and negatives in all games, and I have to learn from the negatives,” he said.