CHICAGO — This latest outing by struggling Seattle Mariners left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith ranked right up there in sports lore with Randall “Tex” Cobb trying to go 15 rounds with Larry Holmes.
More like Angola’s basketball finest taking on the U.S. Dream Team. Actually, by the time this 11-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox was done on Tuesday night, Rowland-Smith looked like a tuna that had gone head-to-head with a school of great white sharks.
When he was finally pulled, having completed the regulation five innings to spare his bullpen extra work, Rowland-Smith was a bloodied, battered mess. He’d allowed a club record 11 runs on an equal number of hits and the only thing missing was the late Howard Cosell proclaiming it a “travesty” and threatening to never broadcast another baseball game.
Because in boxing parlance, this was a first-round knockout in which the dazed pugilist was allowed back up off the canvas in a semi-conscious state to keep absorbing more blows to the head. In fact, a direct head shot is the only thing Rowland-Smith avoided on the night, just ducking past a screaming liner by A.J. Pierzynski in the fifth that might have taken his noggin clean off.
The crowd of 26,080 at U.S. Cellular Field was kicking back and relaxing just two innings in, courtesy of a 7-0 lead. By the time the fifth was done, Rowland-Smith had yielded 11 extra-base hits, including a three-run homer by Andruw Jones, a two-run blast by Alexei Ramirez and a solo shot from Paul Konerko.
Even the outs were headed for the warning track as a beleaguered Rowland-Smith, fighting just to keep any of his pitches below the waistline, failed to make an adjustment with his front leg he’d been working on for weeks in the bullpen. Instead, he looked off-target and out of sync all night.
The home run by Jones, which capped the Chicago scoring in the fifth, came on an off-speed pitch that hung before the hitter’s eyes like a festive pinata waiting to be walloped.
And now, having tumbled to a 1-10 record and a 6.96 earned-run average, Rowland-Smith may not get another chance. The Mariners have shown extraordinary patience in carrying him this far, looking for more of the positive signs they felt they’d seen over the past month.
But those were nowhere in sight on this night.
Almost forgotten amid the savagery of this beating was that the Mariners were again invisible on offense. Their only real chance against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd came with runners at the corners and one out in the first inning.
But Jose Lopez grounded into one of his many rally-thwarting double plays and the game was all-but-lost a half-inning later. The news grew worse for the Mariners, who pulled Lopez from the game with a tight hamstring in the second inning, pretty much ending any of the slim hopes the Mariners had of trading him before the July 31 deadline.
Lopez could still be moved before the end of next month, providing he clears waivers first. It remains to be seen whether the Mariners hang on to Lopez, or just flat-out cut ties with him once healthy.
Much like they could have to do with Rowland-Smith. His arm could be useful in a bullpen that is perilously close to being overtaxed, with several guys already pushing career limits.
And while the 11 runs he gave up in this one is historic from a franchise perspective, he does join some pretty good names—Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer—who’ve done it as well.
Now, we’ll have to see whether, like Johnson and Moyer, the Mariners allow Rowland-Smith to keep on pitching.
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