BY John Hickey 10:34PM 04/08/2011

Miserable home opener for Mariners

Ten-run fourth inning against Jason Vargas and Tom Wilhelmsen does in Seattle against Cleveland, leaving opening night already feeling like a closing act.

The home opener was a disaster for Mariners starter Jason Vargas. The lefty lasted just 3.1 innings and allowed seven earned runs. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Friday’s home opener for Seattle was, in many ways, a tribute to longtime broadcaster Dave Niehaus.

A portion of First Avenue South was dedicated to him. His wife, Marilyn, threw out the first pitch. His grandkids announced “Play ball!’’

The Mariners players contributed their own tribute. They played the kind of rotten baseball that was symptomatic of the franchise’s early years in a 12-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

It was the kind of game Niehaus had a genius for making palatable, his words making the teams in the 1980s and early 1990s seems so much better than they were.

Friday night, with Niehaus gone, the game the Mariners played simply wasn’t palatable.

“I should have been able to shut it down, and I couldn’t,’’ starting pitcher Jason Vargas said. “It’s tough to take.’’

The Indians bludgeoned the veteran Vargas and rookie Tom Wilhelmsen for 10 runs in the fourth inning, and by the sixth about half of the full house of 45,727 was gone. Presumably many of them will return at some point, but for the Mariners to ensure that, they’re going to have to do better than their current five-game losing streak.

“It’s a day I learned you have to keep the ball down,’’ Wilhelmsen said. “And you have to locate your fastball.’’

The ball was easy to locate – if you were a Seattle outfielder. Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley were running all over the place tracking down balls hit by the Indians save for homers by former Mariner Asdrubal Cabrera, a solo shot in the first, and a monster homer by Travis Hafner that hit halfway up the glass of the Hit It Here Café above the right field stands.

Seattle hitters reached base just eight times in the six innings that Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco threw, getting just a single run on a fifth-inning RBI single by Ichiro  before getting two runs in the ninth that only prolonged the agony.

Ichiro had two hits, both singles, and drove in two runs. Langerhans, batting ninth, walked four times and first baseman Justin Smoak had a walk and a single. That was most of the offense, and it wasn’t much.

“Offensively we’ve got to keep pushing,’’ manager Eric Wedge said. “We’ve talked all along about wanting to create opportunities. We didn’t get it done today, but we have done a pretty good job prior to today.’’

Either way, it certainly wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Indians, who hammered Vargas for seven runs, one on the solo homer by Cabrera in the first inning and six more in the fourth before Wilhelmsen replaced him.

Vargas faced seven men in the fourth. The first five all got hits, the sixth, Matt LaPorta, added a sacrifice fly, and Jack Hannahan singled to knock Vargas out of the game.

Wilhelmsen, a rookie making his second big league appearance, came in with just Hannahan on base and allowed four hits.

Seattle’s five-game losing streak leaves the Mariners at 2-5 seven games into the season, exactly the same record that the team had last year en route to 101 losses.

Twitter: @JHickey3


  • Lucky Infidel

    “It’s a day I learned you have to keep the ball down,’’ Wilhelmsen said. “And you have to locate your fastball.’’
    He “learned” those things tonight? At the major league level? He truly did not mean that? Was he really allowed to spit that out unchallenged?

  • Anonymous

    Opponent 3rd down coversions: 21 of 30.
    Passing yards the 1st 2 games: 806 (a Husky record for ineptness)

    So tell me, why is Holt getting paid $700K? It appears the guy should either tell Sark to reduce his salary, dramatically, or Sark should show Holt the door.

    As to the offense I was impressed with the routes run and the passing accuracy of Price. The UW is obviously loaded with sure-handed receivers and stretching the field as they did will help Polk. Passes to sure-handed, strong TE’s on seam routes are always solid gainers.
    The O-line seems to be jelling and appears to be a strong part of the team.

  • SpudzDP

    Ty Willingham and his staff positively destroyed the Husky defensive squad.  I never understood why defense was so overlooked and neglected by them.  I mean, his coaching philosophy, recruiting abilities, personality and game time acumen sucked — but that was due to his own short comings and incompetence.  His disdain for defense, however, seemed nearly diabolical —  as if he was told to do so by a voice that only he heard in his tightly guarded, paranoid, little world.  But enough of him.  
    This will be Holt’s 3rd crack at turning the mess left him around, and it looks like he’s finally acquired enough of the talent to so.  But he still needs time.  He has till the end of November.

  • Smoothfox

    Steve says, “Given the threat he is to run, I can see that if Price remains healthy, Nick Montana may leave the UW in three years as an unfounded rumor.”

    What makes you think Nick Montana will stick around UW — if Price remains healthy, Montana will transfer.