May 17, 2010 in Sports

Rowland-Smith struggles against A’s

By Larry Stone Seattle Times
 

OAKLAND, Calif.—By most accounts, Ryan Rowland-Smith was pitching for his rotational life Monday against the Oakland A’s.

If so, his demise came quickly. Rowland-Smith lasted just 22/3 incendiary innings as the A’s blasted the Mariners, 8-4, at the Oakland Coliseum.

“We’re not going to make that decision tonight, but obviously, it’s something we’re going to dialogue about,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said of Rowland-Smith’s future as a starter.

Rowland-Smith entered the game with a 6.44 earned-run average, and left with a 7.62 ERA. The left-hander was pummeled early and often, giving up 10 hits—including two homers and three doubles—that accounted for seven Oakland runs.

“More of the same,” he said glumly afterward. “It seems like anything I threw in the zone, they hit it and hit it hard. It seems like no matter where it was in the zone, they were crushing it. I don’t know. I’m lost.

“Baseball is just not happening right now, you now? I’m trying to be positive, but it’s hard right now. Everything in my life is working out fine, except for the one thing in my life that matters most, which is baseball. It’s just not happening.”

Nor is much positive happening for the flailing Mariners, who fell 10 games under .500 for the first time this season at 14-24. They dropped to 61/2 games behind first-place Texas in the AL West, matching their largest deficit of the season.

Wakamatsu came out with the hook for Rowland-Smith after a two-run homer in the third inning by Adam Rosales, the No. 8 hitter in the Oakland lineup. Kevin Kouzmanoff had belted a two-run homer in the first inning, and Rajai Davis had a two-run double in the second to account for much of the damage.

As Oakland manager Bob Geren saw it, “Their pitcher left a lot of balls out over the plate. We didn’t miss them.”

“I thought everything was up,” Wakamatsu added. “You watch him throw in between starts, watch him throw in the bullpen or warm up before the game, and everything looks good. Then he gets out there in the game, and everything is up, similar to his last start.”

Now the Mariners must decide the fate of Rowland-Smith, who fell to 0-4 and has lasted 41/3, 3 and now 22/3 innings in his last three starts.

“He’s a guy who can really help us long term,” Wakamatsu said. “Now we have to talk about what’s best for the club, and him in the same breath. We know he can do it. He’s proven he can pitch at this level and be very successful.”

Because Rowland-Smith is out of options, it would be dicey to send him to Class AAA Tacoma, which would require that he clear waivers. Despite his struggles, the M’s are unlikely to risk losing him to another team.

That would leave the bullpen as the most likely option. Among the candidates to replace Rowland-Smith in the rotation would be left-hander Luke French, who is 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA in eight starts for Tacoma; or Ian Snell, who began the season in the rotation but was demoted to the bullpen when Cliff Lee was activated.

Snell worked 2-2/3 innings in relief of Rowland-Smith, giving up five hits and one run.

The Mariners, meanwhile, didn’t do much offensively, getting just six hits (nine fewer than Oakland) off A’s starter Gio Gonzalez and four relievers.

One of those was the second career homer by Matt Tuiasosopo, which should come with an assist by center fielder Davis. On Tuiasosopo’s drive to center in the fourth, Davis made a leaping effort, but the ball tipped off his mitt and over the fence.

Jose Lopez accounted for the three other Mariners runs with RBI singles in the first and sixth, and a run-scoring ground out in the eighth. They were the first runs driven in by the Mariners’ cleanup hitter since May 1.

“I’ve felt good the last two weeks,” Lopez said. “I’m taking more pitches. In Baltimore, Tampa, I was swinging good. Today, I found holes, especially with men in scoring position.”

The Mariners’ last legitimate chance to get back in the game expired in the sixth after Gonzalez walked the first two hitters, and Lopez brought in a run with a single.

Ken Griffey Jr., making a rare start against a left-handed pitcher, grounded into a double play, and Tuiasosopo flied out. Griffey went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .182.

As Wakamatsu pointed out, the damage had been done early against Rowland-Smith, who will continue searching for answers.

“I’ve pitched at the major-league level since 2007 and had nothing but success, when you look at it as a whole,” he said. “This year, I’m searching and searching and searching to find out what it is. It’s not going to last forever—I have to keep saying that to myself. One of these days, I’m going to get back to being me. The sooner, the better.”


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