SAN DIEGO – Every run scored had the potential to be a game-clincher for the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night with their rookie star on the mound and a hopeless opponent swinging the bat.
Brendan Ryan certainly acted like it in the sixth inning, sprinting up and down the base path between third and home during a rundown situation in which he was eventually tagged out. But all that effort by Ryan paid off, as it enabled two more runners to move up into scoring position and one eventually came home in what wound up a 4-0 win over the San Diego Padres.
Not that Michael Pineda needed that fourth run given that he was en route to a two-hit shutout over seven innings while striking out nine. But the Mariners like to talk about doing the little things right and Ryan’s hustle on a play he simply could have given up on is a perfect example of that.
Seattle has won four in a row against some of the lesser lights of major league baseball, but they all count in the end and these are games on which the Mariners have to capitalize.
Pineda gave the Mariners their eighth straight outing of at least seven innings by a starter, silencing the throng of 34,648 at Petco Park. He did it by again using his upper-90s fastball and wicked slider to confound a weak-hitting opponent that struggles against the worst of pitchers.
Pineda is not one of those.
His nine strikeouts equaled his previous best, reached against Texas a few weeks ago. He improved to 6-2 and lowered his earned-run average from 2.45 to 2.16 in continuing to establish himself as a front-runner for Rookie of the Year consideration as well as a possible All-Star nod.
Everyone in the stadium knew the Padres, with one of the worst offenses in the majors, would be hard-pressed to score more than a run or two against Pineda’s overpowering arm. At one point late in the game, Pineda, David Pauley and Jamey Wright combined to strike out seven batters in a row on their way to fanning 13 overall.
The only question was whether the Mariners – equally inept at the plate – could again find a way to score more than their usual trio-per-game average.
And for the second straight night, they did.
Mike Wilson got it all started with a run-scoring single in the second inning, then came through again in the fourth with a double to right-center that brought Ryan all the way around from first base. Jack Wilson had a sacrifice fly in the fourth and then scored Seattle’s final run in the sixth after alertly moving up to third base during the Ryan rundown play.
Wilson scored moments later when Padres catcher Kyle Phillips threw a pickoff attempt into left field.
That final run pretty much sealed it for Seattle the way Pineda was dealing and given the inability of San Diego’s offense to generate runs in bunches as a general rule. The Mariners have a decisive advantage on this road trip, with six games against teams that struggle as much as Seattle does at the plate, but without the starting pitchers to match up.
Pineda’s only real trouble on the night came in the fourth inning when, up 3-0, he issued a leadoff walk to Chase Headley. Headley promptly stole second, then took third on a fly out to center.
But Pineda reared back and struck out cleanup hitter Brad Hawpe for the second out of the inning. Cameron Maybin popped out to second from there and Pineda never looked back.
Pineda struck out the side to end his seventh and final inning on his 99th pitch.
By then, the Mariners already had their fourth run – courtesy of Ryan’s heads-up play – and the final result was pretty much academic.
E—K.Phillips (1), Richard (3). LOB—Seattle 8, San Diego 5. 2B—Smoak (12), M.Wilson (1), A.Kennedy (5), O.Hudson (5). RBIs—M.Wilson 2 (3), Ja.Wilson (5). SB—Headley (5). CS—I.Suzuki (4). SF—Ja.Wilson. RLISP—Seattle 5, San Diego 3. RMU—Ludwick. DP—San Diego 1.
|Pineda W, 6-2||7||2||0||0||1||9||2.16|
|Richard L, 2-5||5||7||3||3||1||2||4.85|
IBB—I.Suzuki. HBP—Ryan. T—2:46. A—34,648 (42,691).