With the way the season has gone, a one-hit shutout loss was probably the least likely way most would have predicted the Mariners to reach the midway point of their 2014 season. Saturday night, that is exactly what the team was handed by Josh Tomlin and the Indians in a 5-0 loss in front of 23,012 at Safeco Field.
Tomlin, 29, was making his first start against the Mariners since April 19, 2012. He underwent season-ending ligament reconstructive surgery on his right elbow that August and spent most of last year rehabbing in the Indians’ farm system. Tomlin (5-5, 3.78 ERA) went the distance for his first career complete-game shutout. He struck out 11.
In bouncing back from a rough start against the Tigers when he was tagged for eight runs on eight hits in four innings, Tomlin changed speeds and worked the corners to keep a currently confident lineup uncomfortable.
“He was tremendous,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I think an extra day of rest helped him. He showed in enough, and commanded tremendously away with his cutter, and his curveball. He took the sting out . . . That’s a lineup that came in feeling really good about themselves.”
Seattle (43-38) entered with considerable success against Tomlin, albeit in small samples. Robinson Cano (5-for-11), Dustin Ackley (3-for-7), Michael Saunders (2-for-4) and Seager (4-for-6) all came in with averages over .400 against Tomlin. So whether it was the amount of time in between appearances or the stars aligning, it was just his night.
“He was throwing a lot of different pitches and all of them were in the zone,” Seager said. “He was obviously really good. This is pretty much the guy we knew. We knew what he threw, he threw exactly what we were expecting, he just threw it really well.”
Cleveland (39-41) took early advantage of a shaky Roenis Elias. Three consecutive one-out hits, two of them doubles, plated two runs to give the Indians a 2-0 lead before the Mariners had a turn at the plate.
Elias (7-6, 3.96 ERA) recovered by retiring 11 of the next 12 hitters, but the Indians were persistent. Mike Aviles started the fifth inning with a one-out single. Michael Bourn followed with a double to score Aviles. After a balk moved Bourn to third, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly to left to give Cleveland a 4-0 lead. A Yan Gomes solo home run in the sixth capped the scoring.
Elias pitched six innings and allowed five runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out two. He was less than perfect, unlike his counterpart who flirted with perfection through four innings.
A brilliant diving catch by right-fielder Ryan Raburn on a deep fly ball hit by Seager, helped Tomlin retire the first 12 batters in a row. It wasn’t until Seager’s second at-bat in the fifth inning that Tomlin yielded his first baserunner.
Seager hit a sharp single to right to put an end to any bid for history by the right-hander. It was the only hit, for the second time this season.
Seager and his teammates hope their current run will allow them to move forward without lingering effects.
“I think when you’re playing good baseball, it’s easier to kinda handle one of these things, but at the same time you’d like these never to happen, obviously,” said Seager.
Despite the loss, Seattle stands five-games above .500, fourth in the majors with a plus-47 run differential and third in a tough American League West, seven games behind the division-leading Athletics. Considerable surprises to the average observer.
“I think we’ve played pretty darn good baseball for the most part,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I’ve said all along that we have challenges. I like where we are. I like my pitching staff, I like our bullpen. My everyday players are very gritty. They give me everything they’ve got. We’ll see.”
McClendon announced RHP Taijuan Walker will make his 2014 debut as a starter Monday. It won’t be made official until the team makes a corresponding roster move Monday. Walker, who has been sidelined all season with shoulder soreness, pitched a four-hit, complete-game shutout for Triple-A Tacoma Tuesday . . . The last one- hit game for Seattle came April 9 against the Angels.