Had you never heard of Rangers starting pitcher Miles Mikolas before he handcuffed the Mariners on Monday night, you were not alone. Here is your primer:
He’s 26 years old. He’s in his first season as a starter in the major leagues. And he began the night with a 7.48 ERA this season.
But Mikolas looked nothing like his numbers or inexperience hinted at heading into the night. Whether the Mariners were reverting back to form or coming down from sweeping the Red Sox in Boston, the Mariners’ offense offered little resistance to Mikolas in a 2-0 defeat in front of 21,620 people at Safeco Field.
The Tigers didn’t play on Monday so the Mariners’ lead in the American League wild card is now down to a half-game.
The Mariners were shut out for the 15th time this season, tied for the most in the American League.
Sure, the Mariners hung around, always staying within a couple well-placed hits of creeping right back into the game. But those hits never came. In fact, hits in general never really came.
The Mariners had just three of them through eight innings – a two-out Logan Morrison single in the second inning and leadoff singles from Robinson Cano in the fourth inning and Morrison in the eighth that were quickly wiped out by double plays.
Austin Jackson singled with one out in the ninth inning, but Dustin Ackley followed with a well-hit line drive to right field and Cano flied out to center field.
Mikolas gave up only three hits in eight scoreless innings before turning over the game to Neftali Feliz in the ninth inning.
Roenis Elias, the Mariners’ rookie starter, has shown bright flashes of potential this season, including a three-hit complete game earlier this year. But it seems entirely plausible that Elias, in his first season in the big leagues, has started to hit the wall.
In his last seven starts, he hasn’t lasted six innings. He walked six batters in his last start, and he had three visits to the mound from pitching coach Rick Waits during his five innings on Monday.
Elias struggled with his command from the get-go, and although he only gave up one run in five innings, he never settled into a rhythm.
Elias worked himself into a jam in the fourth inning. He walked two batters and allowed two singles, including one to J.P. Arencibia that gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Elias’ second walk of the inning loaded the bases with two outs, but he escaped further damage thanks to another brilliant defensive play from Cano.
Cano covered about 25 feet to his left to reach a ground ball from Tomas Telis, then spun and threw the ball to Morrison for the third out of the inning.
The Mariners’ offense provided no room for error, and the pitching staff couldn’t hold that one-run deficit.
Brandon Maurer found trouble in the seventh inning. Cano barehanded a slow chopper and fired it to first, but his throw sailed into the dugout and allowed the runner to take second.
Maurer gave up a bunt single, and the Rangers took a 2-0 lead on a groundout from Rougned Odor.