BY John Hickey 05:34PM 04/13/2011

Mariners humbled in Safeco Field

The Mariners lost a chance for a sweep at home when the Blue Jays scored six times in the eighth inning off Seattle relievers.

Milton Bradley blasts a double to bring home Seattle's first run Wednesday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Safeco Field handed out lessons in humility this week with the Mariners dropping an 8-3 decision to Toronto as the chance for a series sweep fell away.

The first was that winning two games in a row doesn’t mean much when you’ve lost seven straight before that. So twice in three days the Mariners established new all-time Safeco Field attendance lows, including the new record, 12, 407 Wednesday.

The second was that it’s tough to hit a ball out to left field. Justin Smoak hit a ball out in that direction Wednesday in the sixth inning to put Seattle up 2-1. Smoak wasn’t all that impressed.

“I hit a ball (Monday night) much better than that,’’ Smoak said as the Mariners packed up in preparation for the Wednesday night flight to Kansas City for a brief four-game road trip. “The difference was today the roof was closed.

“The roof was open (for Monday’s fifth-inning double); that was the difference. It’s hard to hit one out in that direction here.’’

The third lesson in humility also involved Smoak. It had to do with the infield grass between the plate and first base. With the Mariners up 2-1 in the eighth inning, he opted to let Corey Patterson’s bunt roll with the hope that it would go foul. The grass is far too thick for that, the ball came to a stop and the next batter, Jose Bautista, hit a three-run homer off reliever Chris Ray that initiated a six-run Blue Jays’ rally against the Seattle bullpen.

By the end, the Mariners had won their second series in four tries, taking two of three from the Blue Jays. Even so, Seattle leaves town with a 4-8 record and a solid lock on last place in the American League West.

It hasn’t been the kind of April start the Mariners had been hoping for. The offense has yet to produce with any consistency, and the bullpen, despite a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings that ended Wednesday, has a cumulative ERA of 5.48, which isn’t going to keep Seattle in many games once the starter’s (cumulative ERA of 4.48) are done for the day.

That being said, Wednesday was the first time this year the relievers had been handed a lead (2-1 when Jamey Wright took over with two out in the seventh for Jason Vargas, who’d been brilliant for 6.2 innings) and didn’t hold it.

That scenario played out endlessly in 2010, and the Mariners would do well to not have that one in the playbook on any kind of regular basis. Even so, the bullpen seems to be an all-or-nothing-at-all thing. The inning before the 17-inning scoreless streak started saw the Indians score four times off the bullpen. The inning when the streak ended saw the Blue Jays score six times.

The relievers have also been involved in another four-run inning and a pair of three-run innings, leading one to wonder if the merest hint that bad things are coming is a signal for the bullpen to panic.

Not surprisingly, manager Eric Wedge doesn’t see it that way, even after Chris Ray suffered a blown save while giving up five eighth-inning runs while Josh Lueke and Tom Wilhelmsen both gave up a run Wednesday.

He pointed to the first two hits of the eighth inning – a soft single up the middle that didn’t get out of the infield, then the bunt by Patterson that Smoak made the wrong call on. Catcher Chris Gimenez estimated the two hits off Ray that preceded Bautista’s homer “went a total of about 105 feet.’’

“There were a couple of infield hits there that got it started,’’ Wedge said. “Then the inning spun out of control.’’

Now it’s up to the Mariners to make sure that the season doesn’t spin out of control. Kansas City is off to a good start, but the Royals are a beatable team if the Mariners play well. If not, then April could get ugly in a hurry.

Twitter: @JHickey3


  • Anonymous

    Rankings mean nothing.                

    • cruddly

      While the rankings might not be the most accurate way of determining the order of greatness in college football, it does have its advantages for those teams that manage to hang around the top 10 year in and year out.  It gives these schools recognition on a national level as  their names are constantly mentioned on shows such as “SportsCenter” —  and this can be nothing but helpful when recruiting high school athletes and getting rich alumni to empty their deep pockets.  Just look what it has done for the Ducks.  Basically, being ranked means something because it is a combination of recognition and free publicity.  

  • B.

    You write that “Washington hasn’t beaten the Ducks since 2003, three UW head coaches ago (Tyrone Willingham, Keith Gilberton and Rick Neuheisel).” While 2003 is the last year that I remember us beating Oregon, I seem to recall that 2003 was Gilbertson’s first year as coach and that Neuheisel only coached from 1999-2002.