SEATTLE – Baby steps aren’t getting the Seattle Mariners any closer to turning around what matters most – their mounting string of losses. But at least the Mariners avoided the sting of a last at-bat defeat Wednesday night at Safeco Field.
This time it was a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays that wasn’t decided until Mike Sweeney’s drive deep into the left-center field gap was run down by Toronto left fielder Fred Lewis for the final out of the game.
“What I care about is playing games like we did tonight,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “These guys came out and played hard and it was a good effort. That’s a start in trying to turn this thing around.”
After the week that was, with the uneasiness of the Ken Griffey Jr. situation and four last at-bat losses on the recent road trip, Wednesday’s game was a relative success. Well, except for the loss.
The Mariners managed 10 hits and put runners on base in every inning except the sixth. And in the ninth, they had a chance themselves to walk off as winners.
Trailing by a run against Jays closer Kevin Gregg, the Mariners put runners on first and second after Chone Figgins walked and Franklin Gutierrez singled with two outs.
Designated hitter Sweeney, who’d gone 0 for 4 and hadn’t hit the ball out of the infield, worked Gregg to a full count before driving a pitch to the left-field gap. Lewis caught it on the run at the warning track. Game over.
It left the Mariners 4-11 in one-run games after yet another quality start soiled by lack of runs.
M’s starter Doug Fister pitched eight innings for the fourth time this season. He was burned only in the third inning on Lewis’ sacrifice fly, then in the fourth when Alex Gonzalez hit an RBI single and Fister hit John Buck with the bases loaded and one out.
“Trying to go in and unfortunately it hit him,” Fister said.
At that point, Wakamatsu had reliever Jesus Colome warming up. Fister made sure he didn’t leave the bullpen.
The tall right-hander struck out Edwin Encarnacion and got Lewis to fly out, beginning a run of 14 straight Blue Jays he retired before David Aardsma pitched the ninth.
“That’s what you like to see as far as maturity of a pitcher,” Wakamatsu said of Fister. “He gave up the three runs, and from that point forward retired 14 in a row.”
The Mariners teased Fister with a semblance of run support against Jays starter Brett Cecil.
They scored twice in the seventh on RBI singles by Ichiro Suzuki and Figgins to make the score 3-2, but had runners at first and third with one out before Gutierrez struck out and Sweeney popped up.
In the ninth, the Mariners created a stir but nothing else.
Ken Griffey Jr., pinch-hitting for Josh Wilson, popped up to second base for the first out – dropping his average to .183.
“I have to remain pretty strong through this thing so the club can,” Wakamatsu said. “I believe we can turn this around.”
Jays 3, Mariners 2
|Griffey Jr. ph||1||0||0||0||0||0||.183|
E—Cecil (1). LOB—Toronto 5, Seattle 11. 2B—Lind (7), Overbay (10), J.Bautista (10), J.Bard (1). RBIs—F.Lewis (14), Ale.Gonzalez (30), J.Buck (24), I.Suzuki (8), Figgins (11). SB—Figgins (9). SF—F.Lewis. RLISP—Toronto 4 (A.Hill, F.Lewis 2, J.Buck); Seattle 5 (F.Gutierrez 2, M.Sweeney 3). RMU—Ale.Gonzalez, Figgins.
|Cecil W,3-2||6 1/3||7||2||2||1||4||4.98|
IR-S—Camp 2-1. HBP—by Fister (J.Buck). T—2:36. A—19,208 (47,878).