CHICAGO – Even if it was the friendliest of wagers, betting the Mariners would’ve beaten the White Sox on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field could easily be deemed as foolish.
Yes, the Mariners came in as hot as any team in baseball, having won 10 of their past 12 games. Still, even hours before the first pitch was thrown, Seattle’s chances of winning fell somewhere between “slim” and “stranger things have happened.”
Sometimes the matchups just don’t work in a team’s favor. It was evident going into the game the Mariners were facing one of those situations, and it was confirmed with a 7-1 loss against Chicago.
Why were the odds so stacked against Seattle?
Well, the White Sox were starting lefty Chris Sale and the Mariners had six left-handed hitters in their lineup.
Sale, a certain All-Star, is tough enough as it is, coming in with a 7-1 record and 2.30 ERA. But he is death on left-handed hitters. Lefties had gotten just four hits – two each from Gregor Blanco of the Rangers and Josh Hamilton of the Angels – in Sale’s 12 starts this season.
Most teams start right-handed heavy lineups against him. The Mariners don’t have that luxury.
With a left-handed heavy roster, manager Lloyd McClendon had little choice but to play the lefties and hope that maybe Sale would have an off night.
He didn’t, and the results were predictable.
“He’s one of the best in the league,” McClendon said. “Left-handed, right-handed, it really doesn’t make a difference. Our lefties for the most part have handled lefties pretty good. But this guy was special tonight.”
Mariners’ lefties did muster four hits off Sale.
Sale tossed the White Sox’s first complete game of the season, giving up just one run on six hits while striking out 12.
For most of the night, it looked like it would be a shutout.
The Mariners got their one run in the ninth thanks to a little help from left fielder Dayan Viciedo. Willie Bloomquist led off with a single. With one out, Viciedo misplayed Robinson Cano’s soft liner. A possible catch or even a single was turned into a double as the ball got by Viciedo, allowing Bloomquist to move to third. Corey Hart drove in Bloomquist with a sacrifice fly to right.
“Everybody knows that guy is filthy,” Cano said in praise of Sale. “You have to take advantage of pitches he leaves over the plate.”
Did he leave any over the plate?
“No, not really,” Cano said.
Otherwise, the only other scoring opportunity for Seattle came in the sixth. The Mariners got runners on first and second with no outs, but Sale struck out James Jones. The runners advanced into scoring position, but Sale struck out Cano on a nasty 2-2 slider to end the inning.
“The slider is the best pitch he has,” Cano said. “He confuses lefties because you don’t know when it’s a fastball or when it’s a slider. It’s really tough to see his pitches. But no excuses, he pitched great tonight and you just tip your cap.”
While Sale dominated, Mariners starter Roenis Elias struggled, giving up five runs in five innings.
A pair of his Cuban counterparts did the bulk of the damage.
Viciedo, a player the Mariners are rumored to be scouting for a possible trade, blasted a solo homer to left in the fourth inning to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. It was his first of four hits on the night.
“I don’t really worry about that,” Viciedo said of the rumors through an interpreter. “That’s something I don’t control. I just worry about coming in and playing the game hard every day. I have no real concern with trade rumors or any of that stuff.”
In the fifth, rookie first baseman Jose Abreu continued his magical season for the White Sox, blasting a two-run homer – his 27th of the season – to highlight a four-run inning.
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