BY Anthony Dion 12:22AM 07/11/2014

Twins’ rookie baffles Mariners; Saunders hurt

On a warm Thursday in July, the Mariners turned back the clock to March. Instead of starting Felix Hernandez on normal rest, manager Lloyd McClendon trotted out much of his bullpen, spring-training style, to salvage a split in a four-game series with the Twins.

Opening with a first-time starter — and using five relievers— the Mariners fell 4-2, dropping s second consecutive series for the first time since May, for a myriad of other reasons.

Over the past six games, Seattle is 4-for-43 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners left 10 men on base, a night after leaving 12.

Slugging is another problem. Of the team’s 32 hits in its past three games, three were for extra bases.  One came with a runner on.

Base-running has been equally troublesome. Worst was James Jones’ miscue in the seventh inning in which he made the third out at third while trying to advance from second on a fly out to left. There were opportunities to stretch singles into doubles, go first to third, perhaps steal a base against Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki, or advance on a ball in the dirt. Instead, Seattle was content to play station-to-station baseball.

Finally failing was defense, an area that was a strong suit over the last two months. Two miscues led to all Minnesota runs and Seattle’s third consecutive loss.

Two runs came in the third when Tom Wilhelmsen, called on to make his first major-league start, walked Sam Fuld with one out. Brian Dozier singled to right. On a double-steal attempt, catcher Mike Zunino airmailed the throw way over third base, allowing Fuld to score and Dozier to advance to third. Suzuki delivered a sacrifice fly to center for a 2-1 lead.

Danny Farquhar took over, ending the threat. His own trouble came in the fifth. Beginning with Fuld, the Twins collected three singles from the first four hitters, only to have one caught stealing.

With runners on first and third and two out, McClendon opted for lefty Joe Beimel to face the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales. That’s when the second miscue occurred. The former Mariner drilled a double over the head of a late-reacting Jones in center, scoring both runs.

Three more relievers — Dominic Leone, Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge — surrendered nothing more than a hit in scoreless work. All in all, a successful night of relief for Johnny All-Staff.

“Our bullpen did a nice job for us,” McClendon said. “(We) came out of it in pretty good shape.”

Had it not been for those missing hits, or the optimal three-run homer, things may have been different. Instead, after Kyle Seager homered to lead off the second, Seattle continued to search for the elusive clutch hit.

Corey Hart left six men on base, twice failing to get on with the bases loaded. In the third  trailing 2-1, Hart struck out on a 3-2 breaking ball. In the fifth, down 4-1, he cued a 2-0 pitch off the end of his bat for a ground-out to first.

Wilhelmsen’s first career start was abrupt, lasting 2.2 innings. Slightly less than what McClendon was hoping for, but still an admirable effort. “The Bartender” allowed two runs (one earned) on one hit and three walks while striking out three.

“We just haven’t gotten that big hit to put us over the top,” McClendon said. “But our guys are grinding it out. I’ve said all year, it’s hard to win games at this level on a nightly basis, and I don’t care who you’re playing, or who you think you should beat . . . It’s the big leagues.

“Stay the course, that’s it. I don’t change, and they know who I am. It’s just the way we go about our business.”

Seattle wasn’t the only side trotting out an inexperienced starter. Yohan Pino, a 10-year veteran of the minor leagues, made his fifth career appearance won his first career game.

In his last start, Pino, 30, allowed one run on three hits and two walks over six innings against the Yankees. The Mariners fared better, but were likewise unable to scratch across multiple runs against the rookie.


The Mariners recalled reliever Lucas Luetge from Triple-A and optioned reliever Stephen Pryor  . . . OF Michael Saunders was pulled from an at-bat during the game with what looked like an oblique muscle or hip issue. McClendon said he will undergo an MRI Friday . . . The Mariners have been limited to three runs or fewer over the last seven games at home since June 27. They are 3-4.


  • jafabian

    Though I understand Lloyd’s reasoning for juggling the rotation I wonder if that didn’t inspire the Twins? The moves could have been interpreted as looking past them for the A’s.

    Very winnable game, but as usual scoring runs was the issue. The pitchers kept us in the game. The club needs to start treating things as though they’re in a penant race right now if they want to stay close to the A’s. I did like how the relievers handled themselves, especially Wilhelmsen. I wonder if Lloyd might toy with the idea of making him a starter next season? I like how Tom said after the game he’d love another shot at starting. Hated seeing Morales succeed though after he pretty much dissed the M’s in the offseason. If Norm Charlton was pitching he would have drilled him at some point.

    • Trygvesture

      Don’t think treating things like it’s a pennant race will make anybody try harder or do any better. Problem is, they don’t have the personnel to do the job– yeZman can pick great AA players, some good AAA players and that’s IT. He’s a good-boy Lincoln-loving corporate mouthpiece ( “…everyday I look my manager in the eye and ask, ‘what can we do to be better?'” blech. ) but a very poor trader and a poor evaluator of major league talent generally. His record is clear. Look at who he missed or gave gave away: Cruz– over 300 and long ball magic. Morales– obviously didn’t want to play here again. Isn’t Hamilton at 293? Even Ancient Ichi is over 300. The list is long– see Rudman’s last piece. Big league hitters– he simply can’t see them coming if they hit him in the head with Louisville slugger. Got rid of good scouts who didn’t toe the line. See any improvement in talent acquisition as a result? Listen to him: He’s full of himself, pretty much spews pathetically unbelievable pap (see above) to keep the coprporate scam going, but he just doesn’t cut it as a competent baseball GM by any objective measure. But– he’s got a snappy corporate salute and that is all that counts in this organization. Trying harder is not the answer– new ownership is the answer. Cano was right early on. Poor guy, got excited thinking the team really was looking to build a winning lineup– boy,was he clamped down hard and fast in the corporate vice after noting the obvious…
      Fielding a “competitive” team by spending a fraction of the spendable cash they have on Felix and Cano to put just enough butts in the seats to stay profitable is not anything at ALL like really striving and spending and hiring the best baseball people to reach a publicly declared goal of building a championship team.
      That said, the ploy to fill the stands this weekend by sacrificing a probable win in Minnesota ( bullpen only pitching? THAT’S a winning strategy) in exchange for an exciting showdown with the uber-A’s will be fun to see. But it does clearly, clearly reveal the authentic corporate goal. Lincolnland remains Lincolnland, sadly.

      • OpenThineEyes

        Trig, this all makes perfect sense to me. I would also add the theory that Z hired Lloyd under the condition that he have a say in line up decisions as he deems necessary and Lloyd, desperate for “another shot” made that “deal w/ the devil.” Look no further than Ackley still getting starts, but go ahead and add these mind blowing moves to the list:

        1) The Kings Court Special – as you noted
        2) Hart gets Start(s) – something was clearly broke when M’s were winning @ 80% clip… better shake things up!
        3) Gillespie’s a Goner – Ackley (that 2nd overall pick MUST PAY OFF!) undeservedly wins again.
        4) Buck’s out of luck – see #2 above.
        5) Smoak’s back again after tearing up AAA pitching 5 years ago.

        There are myriad moves that any competent manager just would not make, especially amidst a successful run like the M’s had going into chicago (enter Hart and let the dominoes fall from there).

        Lloyd is a competent manager and baseball guy. Ironically he’s the best pick up Z may have made in his entire ego blinded stint as GM.

        But as he continues to inject himself into the day to day moves of his manager, and his manager continues to dance with the devil, as his sold soul dictates he do, us fans will bide our time in baseball’s purgatory.

    • Long-Time Mariners Fan

      “The club needs to start treating things as though they’re in a pennant race”

      Must agree. All the great ball clubs (ever) played hard – every series, every game, every at-bat. You do that in April and May and July so that when you get to October, it’s part of your mindset. That’s how you succeed in the playoffs – you play every game like it’s the playoffs. (For all the Oakland A’s in town that might be reading this, uh, please disregard.)

      “If Norm Charlton was pitching he would have drilled him at some point.”

      Oh, hellz yes! (he said, laughing out loud.)

  • poulsbogary

    Yes Jafabian is correct. The manager, by altering the rotation as he did, was saying the Twins are not important, the A’s are. Now that they promptly went out and got swept by the twins, the whole season hangs on this series with the A’s. If the A’s sweep, then the damage is double, and the season could be declared over.