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Seattle Mariners

Mariners shut out from sweep against Toronto

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ throws to a Seattle Mariners batter during the first inning in Toronto on Sunday July 24, 2016. Toronto beat the Mariners 2-0. (Associated Press)
By Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

TORONTO — This makes six straight losses for Wade Miley, but the Mariners’ problem on Sunday wasn’t their struggling left-hander. It was their inability to solve one of their former left-handers.

J.A. Happ yielded just one hit in six shutout innings before the Toronto bullpen closed out a 2-0 victory that prevented the Mariners from completing their first sweep at the Rogers Centre since 2001.

“I thought he was throwing the ball well at the end with us,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “Then he threw the ball well at Pittsburgh. With him today, it was similar. When he’s on, he’s a tough guy.”

Miley gave up two runs over six innings for his second straight quality start, which should help boost his trade value this week among the many clubs seeking rotation help prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

“I don’t deal with (trade rumors) at all,” Miley said. “I just pitch. It’s out of my control. Just go out there when it’s you turn to pitch and try to get outs.”

For the most part, Miley did that. He gave up just four hits while striking out four and walking two.

“Something to build off again,” he said. “I’m moving in the right direction. I felt I wasn’t quiet as sharp as I was in my last outing (against the White Sox), but I was able to make some pitches and get out of most of the jams.”

The Mariners just had no answers for Happ, whom they acquired after the 2014 season in a trade for outfielder Michael Saunders. They traded Happ to Pittsburgh on July 31, 2015 for pitcher Adrian Sampson.

Happ became a free agent after the season and returned by agreeing to a three-year deal for $36 million.

None of this worked out for the Mariners.

Saunders became an All-Star this season and hit three homers earlier in the series against his former club.

Happ is now 13-3 with a 3.27 ERA, and Sampson made one big-league start this season before suffering a season-ending arm injury.

So it goes.

The Mariners mounted their only real threat when Happ began the fourth inning by walking Chris Iannetta and hitting Robinson Cano. Then nothing.

Nelson Cruz struck out swinging on a full-count fastball that appeared outside. Dae-Ho Lee struck out looking on a pitch that the PITCHf/x system said was inside. Kyle Seager then fouled out to third.

“There weren’t a lot of opportunities but, in a game like that,” manager Scott Servais said, “you’ve got to take advantage of the few that you get.”

Toronto then opened the scoring later in the inning on Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out homer to center field – a 427-foot drive that brought Miley (6-8) to his knee as he turned to watch it.

“I kind of slipped a little bit,” Miley said. “I was trying to go up and away, and I fell down. Somehow, it ended up middle-middle, and he crushed it.”

It was still 1-0 when Josh Thole started the Toronto sixth inning with a double into the right-center gap. Lee then tried for an out at third after fielding Darwin Barney’s grounder at first.

Thole made a great hand-first slide around the tag by third baseman Kyle Seager. The Mariners challenged umpire Jordan Baker’s call, but replays upheld the call.

Miley avoided a big inning by getting Josh Donaldson to ground into a double play, but Thole scored for a 2-0 lead.

The Mariners did extend Happ’s pitch count, drawing four walks, and forced Toronto to go to its suspect bullpen in the seventh inning. But Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna completed the shutout.

“Too many strikeouts (10) for us today offensively,” Servais said. “Whether it was the zone or our guys not seeing it well, but that’s more than what we usually see.”