SEATTLE – An old problem returned to the younger-by-the-week Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.
With their offense limited to just two productive swings by Kansas City Royals starter Felipe Paulino and two relievers, the Mariners struck out 16 times in a 4-2 loss at Safeco Field.
They barely went down swinging. In half of the strikeouts, the Mariners looked at called third strikes.
It spoiled the final Safeco Field start this year by Mariners rookie pitcher Michael Pineda, who rebounded from a three-run first inning and shut down the Royals. Eric Hosmer’s two-run homer in the first was the big hit.
The Mariners had two baserunners the entire game, both on home-run trots – Justin Smoak on his second-inning blast and Mike Carp on his in the fourth inning.
Other than that, it was mostly a slow walk back to the dugout.
Paulino struck out 11 in seven innings, reliever Greg Holland three in the eighth and closer Joakim Soria two in the ninth.
“(Paulino) was throwing 95-97 mph with sink, then a hard 88-90 mph slider,” Smoak said. “You’ve just got to go up there and battle against a guy like that.”
That was manager Eric Wedge’s greatest disappointment, that the Mariners became easy outs when they batted with two strikes. The home runs by Smoak and Carp came after they each fouled off several pitches with two strikes.
Otherwise, plate umpire Brian Runge and his ultra-wide strike zone made for a quick game – 2 hours and 4 minutes, the Mariners’ shortest of the season at home.
“We’re better than the number of strikeouts we had,” Wedge said. “We put it in the umpire’s hand too much, too, with the number of called third strikes. We’ve got to do a better job protecting the plate in those situations, if it’s just a tad off (the plate) or right on. We’ve got to protect the plate better than we did tonight.”
It wasn’t just the rookies.
One day after he got four hits, Ichiro Suzuki went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He remained at 167 hits with 17 games remaining for him to reach 200 hits for the 11th straight season.
DH Adam Kennedy struck out all three times he batted. Every Mariner struck out at least once.
The few times they did make contact, the Royals made plays.
Brendan Ryan hit a hard line drive that first baseman Eric Hosmer caught in the first inning.
And right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who made two spectacular catches in right field on Friday, added another to his highlight reel when he made a leaping catch of Carp’s drive to the right-field wall in the seventh.
Carp got that one back when he made a diving catch of Hosmer’s slicing line drive in the ninth inning, although Francoeur followed that by hitting one where nobody could catch it – a solo home run to center off Mariners right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen.
Despite his rough first inning, when the Royals scored three of their runs on two hits, Pineda pitched one of the best of his 27 starts this year.
He pitched eight innings for the first time and, with eight strikeouts, has 171 for the season to pass Freddy Garcia (170 in 1999) for second in franchise history by a rookie. Mark Langston struck out 204 in 1984.
Pineda won’t get a chance to threaten Langston’s mark because he’ll start only one more game this season as the Mariners hold down his workload in his rookie season. Now at 167 innings, Pineda will skip his next turn in the Mariners’ six-man rotation and make his final start Sept. 21 at Minnesota.
“Michael did a great job,” Wedge said. “It’s the first time he’s gone eight innings this year. To do that in the middle of September, it says a lot about his condition.”
Royals 4, Mariners 2
E—Moustakas (9). LOB—Kansas City 3, Seattle 0. 2B—A.Gordon (43), Moustakas (13). HR—Hosmer (17), Francoeur (18), Smoak (14), Carp (9). RBIs—Butler (85), Hosmer 2 (69), Francoeur (78), Carp (35), Smoak (50). SB—Getz (21). CS—Me.Cabrera (9). RLISP—Kansas City 2. RMU—Me.Cabrera. DP—Kansas City 1.
|F.Paulino W, 3-6||7||2||2||2||0||11||4.10|
|G.Holland H, 17||1||0||0||0||0||3||1.80|
|Soria S, 27-34||1||0||0||0||0||2||4.10|
|Pineda L, 9-10||8||5||3||3||1||8||3.72|
WP—Pineda. T—2:04. A—17,884 (47,878).