SEATTLE – Twice in the final four innings, Chone Figgins stood in scoring position representing a run the Seattle Mariners needed.
Both times he never moved.
There’s a reason the Mariners haven’t led a game since the second inning last Sunday. They can’t get key hits with runners waiting to come home.
Cleveland’s Justin Masterson took a shutout into the seventh inning on Saturday night, striking out nine, but Seattle squandered numerous scoring opportunities in a 2-1 loss to the Indians.
Seattle was just 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. During its current six-game losing streak, Seattle is 9 for 51 with runners at second or third base.
“We’ve just been a hit short too many times here early on,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We’ll get better, we’ll learn from it.”
But finding answers to the hitting woes is what Seattle needs to do.
Saturday’s loss reinforced the tenuous line the Mariners walk when it comes to making mistakes.
That was evident in the fourth inning when Cleveland got both of its runs, ruining what otherwise was another strong effort from starter Doug Fister.
The problems for Fister (0-2) came when he gave up consecutive singles to Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo to start the inning, then loaded the bases on a one-out intentional walk to Travis Hafner.
Orlando Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly that was deep enough to easily score Asdrubal Cabrera. Milton Bradley caught the fly and threw to third base in an attempt to keep Choo at second.
No one was covering third for the Mariners. The ball bounced free and in his attempt to back up the play, Fister kicked the ball into the Indians’ dugout.
Choo was awarded home and Bradley was charged with an error for what proved to be the decisive run.
Afterward, Wedge said Bradley made the correct play and shortstop Brendan Ryan should have been covering third.
“It was one of those ’tweeners that was unfortunate to happen,” Ryan said.
Seattle threatened in both the fifth and sixth but failed to come through both times.
Figgins broke a 0-for-26 skid with a one-out single in the sixth and advanced all the way to third on a wild pitch. He then watched Bradley and Jack Cust strike out to end the inning.
Seattle did get a run in the seventh when Michael Saunders dumped a two-out single to center that scored Justin Smoak. But with the potential tying run at third, Ichiro Suzuki attempted a two-out bunt that reliever Rafael Perez fielded and threw to first to get Ichiro.
“That’s part of his game. If it’s another foot to the left, we got a tie ballgame,” Wedge said.
In the eighth, Figgins led off with a double, but that was squandered after Bradley flied out, Cust struck out and Smoak grounded out.
Chris Perez pitched the ninth for his third save of the season and 13th straight dating to last August.
The Mariners are admittedly pressing during the early slump. They are hitting just .171 against right-handers and face another today in Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin.
“We are all pressing a little bit waiting for that big hit,” Ryan said.
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