SEATTLE – It says plenty about these Seattle Mariners that their last real chance to score Thursday night began and ended with nobody swinging a bat.
Tampa Bay Rays starter Jeff Niemann had thrown 11 straight pitches without landing a strike in the second inning at Safeco Field, had the bases loaded behind him and was one more ball from walking Rob Johnson to force in a run. Johnson let three more pitches go by and, unfortunately for him, the last and worst of the trio was still called a strike by plate umpire Doug Eddings to end the only shot Seattle had at getting back in the game.
Instead, this dismal series ended in an 8-0 defeat for a home side that has dropped six in a row and looks to be a gang whose season is teetering very close to the brink.
Nobody ever wants to muse openly about a season being at risk only one-sixth of the way to the finish line. But the Mariners, four games out in an American League West Division that has looked awful so far, appear to be a team incapable of scoring enough runs to win most games.
This was the ninth time in 10 games that Seattle has scored three runs or fewer. Not so coincidentally, this was also the 10th loss for the Mariners in their last dozen contests, with the two lone victories coming as the result of eighth-inning rallies against an equally bad Kansas City squad.
A crowd of 17,617 fans saw struggling left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith give up a pair of runs in the second inning, before Johnson was called out on strikes to end a Mariners threat in the bottom of the frame.
Rowland-Smith yielded another run in the fourth, then three more in a fifth inning in which he was replaced partway through by former rotation-mate Ian Snell.
Carl Crawford capped the Rays’ onslaught with a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Snell, a guy some people felt should have stayed in the rotation at Rowland-Smith’s expense. Neither pitcher looked all that great in this one, but the truth is, the game was over the minute Eddings called Johnson out on a full-count pitch that looked extremely inside.
That they played another seven innings after that was almost incidental.
Rays 8, Mariners 0
|Griffey Jr. dh||4||0||1||0||0||1||.214|
LOB—Tampa Bay 9, Seattle 5. 2B—Bartlett (7), Crawford (11), Longoria (9), C.Pena (4), B.Upton (7), W.Aybar (2). HR—Crawford (3), off Snell. RBIs—Crawford 2 (15), Zobrist (13), Longoria (23), B.Upton (17), W.Aybar 2 (6), Kapler (6). SB—Kapler (1). RLISP—Tampa Bay 6 (Bartlett, Kapler, Jaso 3, Zobrist); Seattle 3 (Ro.Johnson 2, F.Gutierrez). RMU—Jaso, Kotchman. GIDP—Jo.Lopez. DP—Tampa Bay 1 (Bartlett, Zobrist, C.Pena).
|Rowland-Smith L,0-2||4 1/3||7||6||6||3||2||6.21|
IR-S—Snell 2-1. WP—Snell. T—2:47. A—17,617 (47,878).