Mariners take middle ground
Heart of lineup shows life in loss to Chicago
CHICAGO – While the Seattle Mariners dissected a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, Adrian Beltre talked about the ups-and-downs of hitting. He actually felt as if he’d made better contact on the ball the previous night than he did in notching four hits in this series finale.
Whatever the process, the Mariners will take some of the signs of life they saw from the middle of the batting order late in a road trip that did not end nearly as well as it began. The sudden surge by Beltre, as well as a double by Ken Griffey Jr. in a second straight game, did lend hope that the team’s woeful offense might be finding its way out of the darkness.
“For some reason, the first half, I always find some type of struggle,” said Beltre, who entered the day hitting .169, but lifted that to .207 with his double and three singles. “It can be in April, in May or in June, but it always comes. And this year it came early. Hopefully, it can come quick and I don’t see another one.”
The M’s clearly need more out of cleanup hitter Beltre. And out of Griffey, who entered hitting .196 in the No. 3 spot but clubbed a key, two-run double in the fifth inning off White Sox starter Gavin Floyd that put Seattle ahead for the first time.
Beltre followed with a single to score Griffey and give the Mariners a 3-1 lead. But a shaky, battling Erik Bedard, who admitted later he “just wasn’t throwing strikes,” gave up singles to his first two batters in the sixth, and reliever Shawn Kelley allowed both to score – the first time he’s done that this season after being 4 for 4 in stranding inherited runners.
Kelley then yielded back-to-back, one-out homers in the seventh to Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye that settled the contest. Quentin added an insurance run in the eighth with a single off Mark Lowe.
A glance at the boxscore won’t tell the full story, since the Mariners did notch a dozen hits. But the Mariners also stranded six baserunners in the first three innings, buying the White Sox time to get back into the contest.
Chicago had managed just eight hits total in Tuesday’s doubleheader and just two by the time the Mariners took their 3-1 lead in the fifth. But Seattle time and time again could not put the White Sox away for good.
With runners at second and third and only one out in the third inning, Russell Branyan popped out to second base. Wladimir Balentien, who would go on to make a sensational, fully-extended diving catch in left field in the bottom of the inning, also popped out to end that scoring threat.
“The whole tempo of the game was kind of lost in the first three innings, where we had opportunities to score, maybe put them down a little bit early, especially after the win last night, and we didn’t capitalize,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
Seattle’s final blown chance came in the seventh when, with two on and one out, lead runner Yuniesky Betancourt took off on a soft liner to shallow left by Jose Lopez. Betancourt was halfway to home before he realized the ball had been caught by shortstop Alexei Ramirez and was easily doubled-off on what Wakamatsu termed “a bad read” by the runner.
Wakamatsu was somewhat disappointed with the 3-3 trip, which began 2-0 in Anaheim. He felt his team could have swept the series here, but did take encouragement out of the surging bats.
The Mariners, to a man, expect this solid pitching to continue. They also know that defensive glovework is the one thing in baseball that isn’t streak-prone – meaning the improved defense should stay that way all year.
Offense has been the one missing constant, and there is a team-wide feeling that the Mariners could take off once the middle of the order performs consistently.
It’s happened in spurts. But not on a regular enough basis.
“We were playing good on the road, but the way I see it, we should have done better,” Beltre said. “Our starting pitchers pitched great in this series and I think all of them deserved to win.”
The Mariners expect catcher Kenji Johjima (hamstring) to be activated from the 15-day DL on Friday.
White Sox 6, Mariners 3
|Griffey Jr. dh||4||1||1||2||1||2||.200|
|Seattle||000||030||000 – 3||12||0|
|Chicago||010||002||21x – 6||12||2|
E – Floyd (1), Al.Ramirez (2). LOB – Seattle 9, Chicago 10. 2B – Jo.Lopez (3), Griffey Jr. (2), Beltre (6), Betemit 2 (4). HR – Pierzynski (2), off Bedard; Quentin (8), off Kelley; Dye (6), off Kelley. RBIs – Griffey Jr. 2 (5), Beltre (10), Quentin 2 (16), Dye (13), Pierzynski (3), Betemit (3), Al.Ramirez (9). SB – Beltre (4), Al.Ramirez (5). CS – Beltre (1), Bri.Anderson (3), Al.Ramirez (1). SF – Al.Ramirez. RLSP – Seattle 5 (Branyan 2, I.Suzuki, Balentien 2); Chicago 6 (Konerko, Dye 2, Lillibridge, Owens 2). RMU – Fields. DP – Chicago 2 (Al.Ramirez, Lillibridge), (Pierzynski, Pierzynski, Al.Ramirez).
|Kelley L,0-1 BS, 11||1 1/3||3||2||2||0||2||2.00|
IR-S – Kelley 2-2. IBB – off Floyd (I.Suzuki). HBP – by Bedard (Quentin, Quentin). WP – M.Lowe. T – 3:10. A – 18,023 (40,615).