SEATTLE – A day after making history by holding the Dodgers hitless, the Mariners played a game more notable for their sheer number of misses.
Seattle struck out 14 times in an 8-3 interleague loss to Los Angeles at Safeco Field, the Mariners’ second-most strikeouts in a game this season. Twelve of those strikeouts came against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, a left-handed 24-year-old who is the reigning Cy Young Award winner in the National League.
It was easy to see why on Saturday. Kershaw struck out seven batters in the first three innings, none more important than the back-to-back strikeouts in the first inning after the Mariners had runners on second and third with just one out.
“He was able to go get another gear when he needed to,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.
“You saw that early on, and he dialed it up a little bit.”
The Mariners tried to prepare for Kershaw. Wedge juggled the lineup to include more right-handed bats.
The switch-hitting Chone Figgins started in left field and batted second. He struck out three times.
Alex Liddi played third base, and the Mariners put both right-handed catchers in the lineup with Miguel Olivo starting behind the plate and Jesus Montero at designated hitter.
Montero doubled in the first inning, and Olivo hit a three-run homer in the third, but that constituted half of Seattle’s four base hits in the game. Kershaw didn’t allow a hit after Olivo’s home run.
“He’s got a lot of velocity,” said Kyle Seager, who started at second base. “He’s got those off-speed pitches, and he’s just pretty tough.”
That didn’t leave Mariners starter Jason Vargas much room for error, and certainly not enough room to throw the two fastballs that Dodgers cleanup hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. clobbered in the first three innings.
In the first inning, Hairston pulled a two-out pitch into the bleachers for a three-run home run. He hit another two-out pitch even harder in the third, but it didn’t have the elevation to clear the fence, instead ricocheting off the left-field scoreboard for an RBI double.
“I just left it over the middle,” Vargas said of Hairston’s second hit. “I was trying to go away.”
Hairston drove in the Dodgers’ first four runs, and scored their fifth run when he came home on James Loney’s single. Hairston also drove in Los Angeles’ next run for good measure with a seventh-inning double that he hit to right-center field just to change things up.
The Dodgers scored twice in the ninth with two singles followed by a pair of stolen bases and then a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly, but this game was decided much earlier.
Five of Kershaw’s first seven strikeouts caught batters looking. His 12 strikeouts in seven innings were his season high and the fourth time in his career he has struck out 12 or more in a game.