By Scott Johnson
Already down a manager as Eric Wedge continues to recover from a July 22 stroke, the Seattle Mariners can probably cross the name of legendary star Ken Griffey Jr. off the list of possible fill-ins.
Griffey tried his hand at an inspiring pre-game speech Saturday, telling Mariners players during his Hall of Fame ceremony that they were well on their way to big things. The Mariners then responded with an all-too-familiar performance for this generation of Seattle baseball.
A meager four hits from the Mariners and a nightmarish seventh inning from starter Hisashi Hisashi Iwakuma paved the way for a 10-0 loss to the lowly Milwaukee Brewers on a night when Safeco Field hosted its first sellout of the season.
An announced crowd of 46,027 was on hand as Iwakuma was at the top of his game again for six innings – only to have nothing to show for it. He was involved in a scoreless game until the seventh inning, when Milwaukee erupted for six runs on just 13 pitches to take a 6-0 lead.
Iwakuma was so unhittable over the first six innings that the Brewers took to bunting on him – often with the bases empty. Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez finally got a rally started with a bunt single to lead off the seventh, thanks in large part to a contortionist dive to first base as Gomez avoided Justin Smoak’s attempted tag along the baseline.
Iwakuma tweaked his back while running over to cover first base on the play, and things quickly spiraled out of control after that. Over his next 12 pitches, Iwakuma gave up four hits and and allowed six runs — the final three coming by way of a home run off the bat of No. 9 hitter Scotter Gennett.
Iwakuma admitted afterward that the back injury, which he called “nothing major,” was a factor in the sixth-run, seventh inning.
“I don’t like to admit it,” he said of the injury, “but ever since that play my pitches were up. I don’t like to make excuses, but I’m sure it had some kind of effect.”
That set off a six-run outburst before the Mariners recorded a single out. Milwaukee rookie Scooter Gennett delivered the big blow with a three run homer to right field, his ball glancing off the glove of Michael Morse to serve as yet another reminder of how far this team is from the days of Griffey.
Gennett’s three-run homer glanced off the glove of rightfielder Michael Morse, serving as yet another reminder of how far this team is from the days of Griffey.
By the end of the night, the Mariners had just four hits while suffering their seventh shutout loss of the season.
“You would hope to win on a good night like this, with Griffey getting inducted,” Morse said. “But you have bad days.”
Over the first two games of the Milwaukee series, Seattle has been outscored 20-5 while giving up 27 hits.
“It’s frustrating,” said acting manager Robby Thompson, who fell to 7-11 since taking over while Wedge recovers from a July 22 stroke. “This one here you want to forget about. We didn’t do much offensively.”
Griffey had to be cringing at what has become of the Mariners offense. The closest thing to a rally Seattle had over the first seven innings was when a weak pop fly off the bat of Justin Smoak dropped in between three Brewers at the pitcher’s mound to put runners on second and third in the seventh.
Iwakuma faced nine batters in the seventh before acting manager Robby Thompson finally put him out of his misery with a visit to the mound. Iwakuma allowed three hits and no runs over the first six innings, then was tagged for six hits and six runs while the Mariners fell into a 6-0 hole in the seventh.
Iwakuma (10-6) threw 24 of his 81 pitches in the seventh inning alone, and by the end of the night he had suffered back-to-back losses for only the second time this season.
He was only a small part of Seattle’s issues Saturday, when Griffey had to be cringing at what has become of the Mariners’ offense. The closest thing to a rally Seattle had over the first seven innings came when a weak pop fly off the bat of Justin Smoak dropped among b three Brewers at the pitcher’s mound to put runners on second and third in the seventh.
A Dustin Ackley strikeout, the seventh of the game registered by Milwaukee starter Tom Gorzelanny, killed that brief brush with offense. Gorzelanny (3-4) allowed just three hits over seven innings of work, and eventually Seattle suffered its seventh shutout loss of the year.
The Mariners (53-63) fell to 7-11 under acting manager Robby Thompson, who’s filling in while Wedge recuperates.
At the Mariners Hall of Fame ceremony before Saturday’s game, Griffey turned to the home dugout and effectively told the players to keep their collective chin up.
“We were just like you,” he said, motioning toward former teammates Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson as they looked on. “We grew up. We believed in each other, and we made it happen. And you guys can do it too.”
That will have to wait. On what started out as a magical night, this version of the Mariners didn’t have any tricks up the sleeve.