SEATTLE – The Seattle Mariners left spring training with a bullpen comprised of youth and uncertainty, especially with closer David Aardsma working his way back from hip surgery.
A week into the season, those relievers came together and reeled off a streak of 17 straight scoreless innings.
Then Chris Ray pitched the eighth on Wednesday, hung a slider to Jose Bautista and everything unraveled, especially a one-run Mariners lead against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Bautista’s three-run homer was the launching point to a six-run inning by the Blue Jays, who beat the Mariners 8-3 in the final game of the opening homestand at Safeco Field.
The rally overhauled a 2-1 Mariners lead provided by Justin Smoak’s opposite-field home run in the sixth inning and 6 2/3 strong innings by starting pitcher Jason Vargas, who allowed five hits and one run.
“It was a heck of a ballgame up to that point,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Vargas did a tremendous job. He really threw the ball well against a tough lineup. But that game got away from us quick.”
After Vargas struck out John McDonald with his 105th pitch of the game for the second out in the seventh, catcher Chris Gimenez hardly had time to throw the ball back to the mound when Wedge was out there to make a change.
He brought in right-hander Jamey Wright to face Jose Molina, who’d doubled and singled in his two at-bats against Vargas, and the Mariners’ stretch of strong relief pitching continued.
Wright struck out Molina for the third out, giving him 16 2/3 scoreless innings this year including 12 innings at spring training.
Even though Wright threw only five pitches, Wedge replaced him in the eighth with Ray against the top of the Blue Jays’ batting order.
“We’ve done a good job in the bullpen. The guys have been set up and we’ve had them in roles,” Wedge said. “Jamey came in and did his job.”
By the time Ray got an out, the Jays had taken the lead.
The loss prevented a series sweep.
Blue Jays 8, Mariners 3
E—J.Nix (2). LOB—Toronto 9, Seattle 10. 2B—Y.Escobar (1), J.Nix (2), Encarnacion (3), J.Molina 2 (3), Bradley (4). HR—Bautista (3), off Ray; Smoak (1), off Drabek. RBIs—Y.Escobar (6), Bautista 3 (5), Arencibia (6), Encarnacion (4), J.Molina 2 (3), Bradley (5), Smoak (5), Ryan (3). SB—Snider (3), J.Nix (2). S—L.Rodriguez. RLISP—Toronto 4, Seattle 3. RMU—L.Rodriguez.
|Rzpcznski W, 1-0||2||0||1||1||1||2||1.17|
|J.Wright H, 2||1/3||0||0||0||0||1||0.00|
|Ray L, 1-1||2/3||5||5||5||0||0||15.43|
IR-S—Rzepczynski 2-0, Rauch 1-1, Lueke 1-1. WP—Drabek. T—3:23. A—12,407 (47,878).