SEATTLE – There was no stirring comeback, no feel-good finish for the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night. This time, baseball’s April surprise yielded to something that beats all teams good or bad – pitching.
Right-hander Edwin Jackson held the Mariners to five hits and little opportunity in the Detroit Tigers’ 2-0 victory at Safeco Field.
The loss was the Mariners’ fourth this season and their second in the past three games. They remained 2½ games ahead of Oakland on a night when every team in the American League West lost.
Friday night, the Mariners made a midgame adjustment to Justin Verlander’s pattern of first-pitch strikes and beat him. Saturday, nothing worked against Jackson, who mixed a 96 mph fastball with a deceptive slider and occasional changeup.
“He’s got great stuff – a fastball from 91-96 and he’s got a filthy slider that keeps you off balance,” Mariners catcher Rob Johnson said.
Johnson was surrounded by quality pitching.
His starter, Erik Bedard, scattered seven hits through six innings but was singed only in the sixth when Brandon Inge singled to right field with two outs. It scored two runs, only one that should have crossed the plate.
Ichiro Suzuki’s throw from right field sailed so high and wide that it carried into the camera well near the Tigers’ dugout, an error that allowed Gerald Laird to score Detroit’s second run.
“I think the ball might have been a little wet. It just slipped out of his hand,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I’ve seen him make some tremendous plays, but this just got away from him.”
The Mariners again did enough little things to keep themselves in position to win.
Adrian Beltre made a lunging backhand stop of Marcus Thames’ smash down the third-base line to start the second inning, then threw from his knees. That was a certain run-saver because Laird followed with a single to left field.
Mariners left fielder Endy Chavez saved another run in the seventh after the Tigers put runners on first and third with one out against reliever Roy Corcoran.
Miguel Cabrera hit a high fly to medium-depth left field and, even with speedy Tigers leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson on third, Chavez caught the ball and made a perfect throw to the plate for a double play.
It kept the Mariners within a mild rally of coming from behind, which they’ve done four times to win games already this season. This time, Tigers pitching stopped them.
Franklin Gutierrez made it as far as second base with one out in the sixth inning before Jackson got Chavez and Ken Griffey Jr. on fly outs.
Johnson led off the eighth with a single but, with one out and Gutierrez batting, he broke for second and was thrown out by Laird.
Missed sign? No, just aggressive baserunning that didn’t work.
Jackson has a slow delivery to the plate, in the 1.4- to 1.5-second range, and Johnson saw an opportunity to steal.
“I know I’m not a blazer, but I can run a little bit,” Johnson said. “I felt like I had that base stolen.”
Left-hander Bobby Seay struck out Ichiro to finish the eighth and Tigers closer Fernando Rodney recorded his third save, getting three straight outs after walking Chavez.
All the Mariners could do was salute some strong pitching, including their own.
Bedard struck out eight, including the first six on strikeouts looking when he set up the Tigers’ right-handers with his cutter, then surprised them with a sinker that broke back over the plate.
Relief order materializes
Wakamatsu has tried different combinations with his relief pitchers, but he seems to have found his most effective grouping for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings with Shawn Kelley, David Aardsma and Brandon Morrow, in that order.
Those three shut down the Tigers on two hits and a walk in the final three innings Friday night, bringing a high-velocity finish to the game. Kelley’s fastball ranged from 91-93 mph with late movement, Aardsma hit 96 and Morrow lit the Safeco Field board with 98.
Have the Mariners already settled their bullpen roles only 11 games into the season?
“Yes and no,” Aardsma said. “We’ve got Morrow in the back end, but any one of these guys can come in and throw, whether it’s the fourth inning or the eighth inning. It’s kind of a matter right now of who hasn’t thrown yet, or who’s the freshest.”