TORONTO – Chone Figgins saw a change-up he liked in the game’s first at-bat and launched it over the right-field wall.
Dustin Ackley followed by ripping another pitch off the wall in left for a double. And that was about the end of the Mariners doing anything that mattered Sunday when this 7-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays was still up for grabs.
After getting rocked by the game’s first two batters, Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez made some adjustments and didn’t allow any more runs. The Mariners struggled for the second straight game when it counted, going 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position, and saw the Blue Jays put the game away with a five-run eighth inning.
“We had some good hacks at him but he started changing speeds,” Figgins said of Alvarez. “He started taking something off his fastball. I think that he saw we were seeing his pitches pretty good, so I think he started taking something off his fastball.”
In the end, he added, Alvarez’s fastball was coming in somewhere between his change-up speed and the regular 93 or 94 mph he would usually throw at. And the Mariners struggled to adjust, especially on two occasions with runners on second with nobody out.
“We had some good swings,” Figgins said. “It’s just that he made the pitches when he needed to.”
The score stayed 1-0 until the fifth inning, when Kelly Johnson tied it with a single to right off Jason Vargas. Edwin Encarnacion then hit his third home run in three games this series, to left field off Vargas in the sixth, to put Toronto ahead to stay.
The crowd of 22,320 at Rogers Centre was on its feet in the eighth when the Blue Jays went to town on Seattle’s bullpen. Steve Delabar hit Encarnacion with a pitch with a runner already on, causing a long look in at the mound by the hitter and a warning to both dugouts.
Charlie Furbush came on to face pinch-hitter Rajai Davis and the Blue Jays quickly pulled off a double steal. Furbush walked Davis intentionally after that to load the bases and Brett Lawrie followed with a two-run double to left field.
A subsequent throwing error by Miguel Olivo brought a third run in and then Jeff Mathis hit a two-run homer to make it 7-1. Olivo hit a solo homer off Francisco Cordero in the ninth to close out the scoring. But it was too little, too late.
The M’s had their chances against Alvarez, 22, who hails from the same hometown as Felix Hernandez, but could not get Ackley home from second with none out in the first. Then, after a leadoff double by Michael Saunders in the second inning, Olivo and John Jaso grounded out before Figgins later flied out with two on.
Olivo singled and stole second with two out ahead of a Jaso walk in the fourth inning, but Munenori Kawasaki grounded out to end the threat
Kyle Seager hit a one-out double off Alvarez in the sixth and Saunders then walked. But Olivo struck out and Jaso flied out.
Vargas fought to keep the score 1-0 despite a soaring pitch count that reached 91 before he notched his first out of the fifth inning. Three early walks, coupled by a misread fly ball by Figgins and a foul pop-up that dropped in front of Olivo for an error didn’t help much on that front.
“They made me work a little bit, took some pitches,” Vargas said. “Sometimes it was me, but sometimes I was making pitches and they weren’t swinging.”
Vargas still managed to keep it 1-1 until a red-hot Encarnacion came up in the sixth.
“Unfortunately, probably one of the only bad change-ups I threw all night was to him,” Vargas said. “And it was the difference in the game.”
But a more telling difference was the inability to jump on the young Alvarez early. Instead, he worked one batter into the seventh before being pulled.
“We didn’t play very well all day,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said.
E—Olivo 2 (3). LOB—Seattle 9, Toronto 6. 2B—Ackley (6), Seager (7), M.Saunders (8), Jaso (1), Y.Escobar (3), Thames (3), Lawrie (1). HR—Figgins (2), off H.Alvarez; Olivo (2), off Cordero; Encarnacion (7), off Vargas; Mathis (2), off Furbush. RBIs—Figgins (8), Olivo (6), K.Johnson (8), Encarnacion (20), Lawrie 2 (13), Mathis 2 (4). SB—Olivo (1), Bautista (2), Encarnacion (4). S—Figgins. RLSP—Seattle 6, Toronto 3. RISP—Seattle 0 for 14; Toronto 3 for 6. RMU—Ackley, Jaso, Y.Escobar.
IR-S—Furbush 2-2, E.Crawford 1-0. IBB—R.Davis. HBP—Encarnacion. WP—Cordero. T—2:36. A—22,320 (49,260).