ARLINGTON, Texas – Mariners catcher Rob Johnson sat stoically by his locker stall, initially not wanting to discuss a third-inning play that helped change the course of this game.
What became a 7-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night may have gone in a far different direction if not for a key baserunning gaffe by Johnson with two on and none out in the third inning. Johnson was the lead runner at second when he thought he’d been flashed a hit-and-run sign by new third-base coach Lee Tinsley with the count 2-1 and Chone Figgins at the plate.
Johnson was caught in a rundown, the inning died from there, and the Rangers broke through for five late runs off Felix Hernandez to win with ease.
“Obviously, you don’t want to get the sign wrong when there are runners on first and second with nobody out,” Johnson said. “I thought I saw it.”
Johnson didn’t go into great detail on the play and it was unclear whether there had been a miscommunication with Tinsley and who was at fault. Tinsley could not be immediately located for comment.
Hernandez was plagued by some control issues, walking three batters and hitting two more.
“They did a good job of not swinging at pitches that were real close to being strikes,” Johnson said. “That’s what they did.”
Vladimir Guerrero obliterated a pitch off the second deck in left field for a two-run homer in the seventh that finished Hernandez’s night.
“I was going to throw him a sinker,” Hernandez said. “I knew he was going to come out swinging. Every day, every at-bat, he does the same thing. But the pitch stayed straight and he hit it pretty good.”
The game was long over by then, with Seattle’s offense held to just four hits by Texas starter Colby Lewis, now 2-0 with a 0.78 earned-run average in three starts against the Mariners this year.
Mauricio Robles is quickly looking like the prize of the trade last year when the Mariners sent pitcher Jarrod Washburn to the Detroit Tigers.
The Mariners also got a more major league-ready pitcher in Luke French in that trade. But while French struggled and bounced between the Mariners and the minors, the 21-year-old Robles has flourished, especially this season with the Double-A West Tennessee DiamondJaxx.
The left-hander is 5-2 with a 3.32 earned run average and a 1.28 WHIP (walks and hits per inning), and won his past two starts when he allowed two earned runs in 11
The Southern League named Robles its pitcher of the week for the second time this season.
Robles and fellow starter Michael Pineda have been important factors in the DiamondJaxx’s recent surge.
Pineda pitched seven innings and beat Mississippi 4-1 Monday night, West Tennessee’s ninth straight victory.
Pineda is 6-1 with a 2.10 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP with victories in his past three starts. He has allowed four earned runs in his past 20 innings.
Second baseman Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, had hit safely in eight of 10 games entering Tuesday with a .424 average in that span. For the season, Ackley has overcome a slow start and raised his average to .246 with a .401 on-base percentage, .351 slugging percentage and a .752 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Bedard shows progress
Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard reported no arm discomfort following Monday’s 40-pitch bullpen session.
Bedard will throw in the bullpen today before taking the next step in his rehab from left shoulder surgery.