CHICAGO — So, it was easily the worst start of Mike Leake’s brief tenure with the Mariners. And it wasn’t even close.
To be fair, Leake’s bar for being bad isn’t typical. Acquired last September, he’d made a total of nine starts with Seattle, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.38 ERA.
He’d been decent, good or outstanding in pretty much every outing for Seattle.
He was quite the opposite Monday, resulting in a 10-4 trouncing by the White Sox.
“It was his 10th start with us and really the first time he’s had a rough one,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ve seen Mike struggle in the first inning before, but the ball was up tonight and he had a hard time getting it down and out of the middle of the plate. Mike’s been outstanding for us. He just didn’t have it tonight.”
The veteran right-hander was pummeled by Chicago hitters from his second pitch (an 88-mph sinker to Yoan Moncada that was turned into triple into right field) until his last pitch (an 86-mph cutter Jose Abreu ripped past a diving Jean Segura for a single). And, well, many of the other 63 pitches also were struck crisply.
Leake allowed eight runs on 12 hits with no walks and a strikeout in 31/3 innings.
Some pitchers struggle to throw strikes or get the ball near the plate, Leake’s problem was he threw too many strikes, most of them leaking over the middle part. That’s not ideal for a pitcher who doesn’t have overwhelming stuff or velocity.
“They were aggressive, really aggressive today and I was giving them too many pitches to hit in the middle of the plate,” Leake said.
The first inning was brutal.
Following Moncada’s leadoff triple, the next six batters all registered hits:
1. Moncada: triple to right;
2. Avisail Garcia: run-scoring single to right;
3. Abreu: single to right-center;
4. Nick Delmonico: single to right;
5. Welington Castillo: run-scoring single to left;
6. Yolmer Sanchez: run-scoring single to right;
7. Matt Davidson: run-scoring double to the left-center gap.
Seven batters came to the plate, all seven got hits. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to do that was the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 17, 2014, against the Dodgers.
In that span of seven batters, Leake recorded one out — picking off Garcia at first base — but he also allowed a run to score on a wild pitch.
Leake did retire the eighth and ninth batters, so the lineup didn’t turn.
“I kept trying to make the adjustments down and off the plate so I’m not giving them meat pitches to hit,” he said. “But you also have to get ahead too and not fall behind.”
It didn’t matter. His ensuing pitches still found too much of the plate and the White Sox found them too hittable to miss.
Moncada doubled to start the second and scored on Abreu’s two-run homer to right that made it 7-0.
At that point, Leake went into “wear it” mode. To “wear it” in baseball parlance means to stay in the game no matter how bad it feels. Leake wanted to get as deep as possible to save the Mariners bullpen.
“The hitters are going to dictate how far you are going to go sometimes,” he said. “I just didn’t go deep.”
He worked a scoreless third, but gave up a leadoff homer to start the fourth to Moncada, who got three parts of the cycle against Leake.
With Leake still getting knocked around, Servais finally went to left-handed long reliever Wade LeBlanc. He gave up two runs on six hits in 42/3 innings.
“Wade LeBlanc was awesome,” Servais said. “The tank was really empty for him at the end. I asked him to try and give us one more inning and he did. I really appreciate his effort and how he went about things tonight.”
This was just the third time in his career that Leake had given up eight or more runs and the ninth time he’d given up seven or more.
Upon a closer look in Baseball Reference at that list of clunker starts, there was only one season — 2015 — where it happened twice, so the Mariners hope this outing was the aberration.
“You try to have zero, but if you can minimize it to one, that’s pretty good,” Leake said.
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ offense didn’t do much against White Sox starter Carson Fulmer. He worked six innings, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
His only big mistake came in the fifth. After allowing a Mitch Haniger double, Fulmer threw a 91 mph fastball Mike Zunino blasted past left field for his first homer of the season.
“First hit was nice,” Zunino said. “I know the timing is going to come back. Once the body gets back to full speed, the mechanics build from there. It’s feeling good. Hopefully I can build off that.”
Haniger continued his torrid run with a solo homer in the seventh, giving him a homer in four consecutive games and eight this season.
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