July 7, 2012 in Sports

Millwood’s stock rises, unlike M’s

Right-hander improves trade value with deadline nearing
Geoff Baker Seattle Times
 

OAKLAND, Calif. – Some rare goodness to come out of another night of offensive ineptitude just couldn’t make it to the finish line.

The Mariners on Friday watched Kevin Millwood re-establish himself as somebody to watch ahead of the July 31 trade deadline by tossing seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Oakland Athletics. But a lack of offense on their own part finally caught up to the M’s in a 4-1 loss in 11 innings as a usually reliable bullpen couldn’t finish the job.

With Seattle ahead 1-0 in the eighth, Charlie Furbush yielded a double off the top of the right-field wall to pinch-hitter Brandon Hicks, then Tom Wilhelmsen gave up a tying, two-out single to Jemile Weeks. It was the first blown save by Wilhelmsen since May 4 after converting seven chances in a row.

Josh Reddick opened the 11th with a single off Oliver Perez, and Seth Smith followed with a one-out infield single. Steve Delabar came on to face pinch-hitter Chris Carter, who lined an 0-1 pitch well over the left-field wall to win it.

The Mariners had a chance to retake the lead in the ninth when Carlos Peguero – in his first game since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma – lined a ball to left that Yoenis Cespedes dived for and missed. Peguero made it all the way to third base, and a faster runner might have attempted an inside-the-park homer.

Dustin Ackley then grounded out to end another futile attempt to score by a Mariners squad that failed to find home plate in the final 10 innings of the game.

Millwood was making his first start since leaving a June 27 home game against Oakland in the third inning with a groin strain. He had strained the groin a couple of weeks prior and had struggled in some outings afterward, slowing his momentum from an otherwise strong first half.

He didn’t start off this outing – played in front of 10,819 at the Coliseum – looking like he’d eventually last seven innings and tie a season high with seven strikeouts. The first six Oakland hitters put good contact on Millwood’s offerings, notching a pair of singles and chasing outfielders back on some deep fly balls.

But partway through the second inning, it all stopped.

Smith had led the inning off with a single, and Brandon Moss chased left fielder Casper Wells to the warning track for a catch against the wall.

Millwood then turned his night around by striking out Derek Norris. Smith was running with the pitch and was thrown out at second by Miguel Olivo to complete the inning-ending double play.

The A’s never got to Millwood after that. Their best chance came in the fourth inning, when Millwood walked a pair of batters to put two on with two out.

But a strikeout of Moss ended that threat.

Oakland did not manage another hit until Weeks notched an infield single one out into the sixth inning. Millwood went on to retire the final two batters of that inning, then three more in the seventh – the first two of them on strikeouts.

He froze Smith with a curveball that dropped into the zone for a called punch out, then got Moss to swing and miss to match his season high for strikeouts in one game.

Milone was nearly as effective for the A’s, scattering six hits over his seven innings while striking out a career-high nine batters. Unfortunately for Milone, three of the hits he allowed came in the first inning when Wells and Olivo singled, followed by Kyle Seager lining a single to center to bring the game’s first run home.

The Mariners didn’t get another runner to second base until singles by Saunders and Seager put two on with two out in the sixth inning. But Justin Smoak lined out softly to left field to end the rally.

Saunders made it to second base in the eighth by drawing a walk and stealing second. But Olivo flied out to center for the inning’s final out.

Notes

• Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez has a strained flexor bundle in his throwing elbow and won’t make it back into the rotation for his first turn after the All-Star break.

The Mariners will likely recall Blake Beavan from Triple-A in Ramirez’s spot. Hisashi Iwakuma, scheduled for bullpen duty this weekend, will join the rotation after the break and take the spot of demoted starter Hector Noesi.

• Catcher Jesus Montero got the night off as he recovers from a mild concussion suffered earlier in the week. The Mariners are monitoring his progress day to day and don’t know whether he’ll play this weekend.

• Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez continues to slowly recover from the concussion he suffered last weekend. Wedge expressed doubt that Gutierrez would return off the disabled list when first eli


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