SEATTLE – Josh Bard hasn’t exactly had a front-row seat to what the Mariners have been doing this season.
But the veteran catcher, pressed into emergency service on Wednesday because of injuries the night before, has seen enough from afar to know what the most pressing issue with this team is. Bard had two hits for a Mariners club beaten 5-3 by the Atlanta Braves and said afterward that Seattle’s hitters can’t just keep waiting around for something good to happen with this offense.
“I haven’t been here long,” said Bard, added from Triple-A earlier in the day after Chris Gimenez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique muscle injured in Tuesday’s contest. “But I know that we’ve got a chance to be a good team. We’ve got to start giving ourselves some leads and start letting our pitching do it. Because we’ve got a really good bullpen and our starters are doing a great job every night.
“Guys are working hard, but I think we’ve got to go out there and set the tone, get some runs early. It seemed like today we kind of waited around for them to do something.”
The Mariners also called up catcher Jose Yepez from Triple-A after Miguel Olivo injured his hamstring on Tuesday. Olivo is day-to-day, but the Mariners had the roster room because of a pregame development in which Erik Bedard was placed on the 15-day DL with a sprained left knee.
Even the presence of Felix Hernandez on the mound, his King’s Court in full throttle in the stands among 30,472 fans at Safeco Field, wasn’t enough to prevent a Braves sweep.
Hernandez kept his team in a 1-0 game until the Braves broke it open in a three-run fifth highlighted by Freddie Freeman’s two-run single.
Seattle managed just four hits in six innings off Braves starter Derek Lowe. Dustin Ackley made things interesting with a two-run homer in the eighth, but that just postponed the inevitable as Braves closer Craig Kimbrel mowed the Mariners down in order in the ninth.
The Mariners, battling for first place when the series began, ended the official halfway point of their schedule in third spot at 39-42 and looking wobbly.
The Mariners will be giving Hernandez an extra day’s rest with the off-day today after he needed 127 pitches to get through 7 2/3 frames.
Hernandez allowed just one hit the first three innings, but then gave up three consecutive singles in the fourth to fall behind. The fifth inning saw Hernandez give up a second run on a wild pitch that got past Bard to the backstop, then two more on Freeman’s single to sew this one up.
“I’m not mad about the game,” Hernandez said. “I made good pitches.”
Hernandez said the pitch Freeman hit was right on the outside corner where he wanted it. On some others, the balls found holes in the infield.
“Just no luck today,” Hernandez said.
Wedge seemed to be attempting to light a fire under his club when he got himself ejected in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes after plate umpire Paul Emmel called Jack Cust out on a close pitch. Bard tried to get something going in the third inning with a one-out, ground-rule double to left.
But Ichiro grounded out and then – after a walk to Brendan Ryan put two on – Adam Kennedy struck out.