SEATTLE – With the July 31 trade deadline creeping up, the American League West slipping away and another game painfully out of the Seattle Mariners’ reach in the late innings Sunday, the fire alarms sounded at Safeco Field.
Had someone reached for the panic button and hit the wrong switch?
Not yet and, if you listen to the Mariners, not ever.
A 12-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians completed the Mariners’ worst series of the season. But, like the siren that rang briefly through the stadium in the seventh inning, the Mariners are treating this as nothing more than a false alarm.
“We’ve got two months of the season left,” pitcher Jarrod Washburn said. “Fans can panic. We can’t.”
The Indians, who came into this series with the worst record in the American League, swept the three games by punishing Mariners pitching and turning the M’s already puny offense feeble with their left-handed starters. They outscored the M’s 31-6 and out-homered them 11-0.
The Indians hit four homers Sunday, starting with former Cascade High School star Grady Sizemore’s leadoff jolt into the right-field seats to start the game and ending with back-to-back blasts in the sixth inning by Travis Hafner and Ben Francisco off reliever Miguel Batista.
In between was the crushing blow, Jhonny Peralta’s grand slam off reliever Shawn Kelley after the Indians had loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth off Mariners starter Jason Vargas.
From the good-news department, the Mariners didn’t lose any more ground in the A.L. West to the Angels, who suffered a 10-1 loss to the Twins. The Mariners are third in the division, 7½ games behind the Angels.
“I haven’t seen a three-game series like this in a while,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “And that’s the good news. We’ve been playing awfully well. It just happens in this game. This team has been resilient all year. I expect us to start a good series tomorrow.”
This is a dicey time for the Mariners, who are five days from Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline and have players they could move if they decide the division is out of reach. Their recent stumble has created considerable speculation that Washburn, who’ll be a free agent, could be traded.
The Phillies are interested in Washburn, although he’s considered to be third on their list behind Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay and the Indians’ Cliff Lee, who started Sunday against the M’s. Lee (7-9), who had a complete-game victory against the Mariners in the first game after the All-Star break, gave up a pair of first-inning runs on Franklin Gutierrez’s two-out single before retiring the next 13 straight. He gave up just six hits and two runs in seven innings, while striking out four.
“You look at Jarrod Washburn’s locker and wonder, ‘Will we see him again?’” Mariners DH Mike Sweeney said. “There are probably a dozen teams that could use him down the stretch.”
When asked about the trade deadline, Wakamatsu says he leaves it up to Zduriencik and the front office.
“The way I look at it, we’ve got two months left to play,” Wakamatsu said. “If we can win series, we’ll put ourselves in position to be OK.”
That’s how the Mariners pulled themselves from a bad stretch in May when they lost nine of 10 games and fell from a 2½-game lead in the A.L. West to 4½ out.
They followed that by going 25-16 in a six-week stretch when starting pitchers worked deep into games and the late-inning relievers protected leads.
It’s what the Mariners didn’t get in the three games against the Indians.
Ryan Rowland-Smith pitched seven innings Friday, but Erik Bedard lasted only three innings Saturday and Jason Vargas four Sunday.
The home runs buried the Mariners, but other elements cost them badly especially in the fifth inning of a 2-2 tie.
Vargas walked Sizemore to start the inning, threw a wild pitch and then made a poor decision in attempting to throw Sizemore out at third base on Asdrubal Cabrera’s sacrifice bunt. Vargas was quick not to blame catcher Kenji Johjima for that one.
“I heard someone yell, ‘Three!’ but it wasn’t Joh,” Vargas said. “Then I heard Joh yell ‘One!’ but it was too late.”
Shin Soo-Choo followed with an RBI single and Vargas hit Ryan Garko with a pitch that drew Wakamatsu from the dugout for an animated discussion with plate umpire Delfin Colon. Garko, who sets up close to the plate, appeared to let the ball graze his left elbow without moving out of the way.
Wakamatsu brought Kelley into a rugged situation, and three pitches into it the Mariners’ hole was deeper. Peralta hit a 1-1 pitch into the Indians’ bullpen for a grand slam that made the score 6-2.
Indians 12, Mariners 3
E—Branyan (9). LOB—Cleveland 10, Seattle 6. 2B—Choo (20), B.Francisco (20), M.Sweeney (9). 3B—Valbuena (1). HR—Sizemore (14), off J.Vargas; Jh.Peralta (7), off Kelley; Hafner (11), off Batista; B.Francisco (9), off Batista. RBIs—Sizemore 2 (51), Choo (57), Jh.Peralta 4 (47), Hafner 3 (28), B.Francisco (32), J.Carroll (14), F.Gutierrez 2 (44), M.Saunders (1). CS—A.Cabrera (4). S—A.Cabrera. SF—Hafner. RLSP—Cleveland 4 (Hafner, A.Cabrera, Garko 2); Seattle 3 (M.Sweeney, Cedeno 2). RMU—Branyan. GIDP—J.Carroll, Jo.Lopez. DP—Cleveland 1 (A.Cabrera, Valbuena, Garko); Seattle 1 (Jo.Lopez, Cedeno, Branyan).
Inherited runners-scored—Kelley 3-3. HBP—by J.Vargas (Shoppach, Garko). WP—J.Vargas, Batista. T—2:54. A—30,224 (47,878).
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