ANAHEIM, Calif. – Throwing a rookie into his first major league game against stud pitcher Jered Weaver is becoming a bit of a tradition for the Mariners in these days of prospect evaluation.
Trayvon Robinson on Friday night became the second Mariners player in four weeks to make his big-league debut against the Los Angeles Angels ace. Robinson actually did better than most of his teammates in this 1-0 loss in 10 innings to Weaver and company, managing a sixth-inning single to left field.
Throw in a highlight catch in left to rob Torii Hunter of a third-inning home run, and it was a dazzling debut for Robinson, acquired Sunday from his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the three-team Erik Bedard trade. Robinson does give the Mariners some options with his speed and ability to play both left and center, giving the team plenty to study the final two months.
But the Mariners just couldn’t get any offense going against Weaver, who looked stronger than he did a month ago in beating Seattle on the night rookie Kyle Seager debuted against him. Weaver threw 127 pitches in nine scoreless innings, used a rare 3-6-5 double play to escape a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth, left with a no-decision and watched his offense win it in the 10th.
Torii Hunter led off the 10th with a single against Dan Cortes, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Vernon Wells single poked into left field.
A crowd of 38,727 fans at Angel Stadium saw this increasingly younger Mariners group continue some of the momentum from its three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics on the pitching and defensive fronts. Robinson’s catch helped a stronger-looking Jason Vargas get through six scoreless innings as his offense tried desperately to manage anything off Weaver.
Vargas had all but eliminated himself from trade consideration with three subpar outings after the All-Star break, leading to concerns he was slowing down for a second consecutive season. But he held tough when he had to against the Angels, spared as he was from early damage by Robinson leaning into the first few rows of bleacher seats to snare Hunter’s would-be home run.
Vargas was left in with two on and one out in the sixth inning and his pitch count up to 99. He responded by getting Peter Bourjos on a broken-bat ground out – with shortstop Jack Wilson making a nifty play on the slow roller – then striking out Jeff Mathis to end the inning.
It was almost like the old times of a month ago, before the Mariners rolled in here one loss into their 17 in a row and suffered a four-game sweep. Back then, Vargas and his fellow starting pitchers were holding opponents to two runs or fewer, the bullpen was taking care of the rest, and the offense was struggling to score some runs.
Weaver did not make it easy, striking out six of his first nine batters and eight of the initial 12. It was mostly pop-ups and ground outs after that, with the odd single sprinkled in to keep him honest.
In many ways, the Mariners’ best chances came the first two innings, when Ichiro Suzuki and Mike Carp led things off with singles. But Ichiro was immediately picked off first by Weaver, and Carp was thrown out trying to steal second.
Seattle didn’t get a runner to second base until the eighth inning, when Casper Wells – another young outfielder the Mariners will be watching closely through September – managed a one-out single. Franklin Gutierrez then drew a walk to put two men on with one out.
Robinson was up next and ripped a grounder to first baseman Mark Trumbo, who threw to shortstop Erick Aybar for the forceout at second. Aybar then bluffed the back-end throw to first, spun and caught the young Wells by surprise on the throw to third.
Wells had taken too round a turn at the bag, thinking the throw was going to first base. He could not get back in time.