SEATTLE – Let’s just say it could have been worse Tuesday, a lot worse, when the Mariners’ four-game winning streak came to an end in a 5-0 loss to the Miami Marlins at Safeco Field.
Mitch Haniger’s one-out double in the ninth inning saved the Mariners from the indignity of a no-hit loss. It came against reliever Kyle Barraclough after Wei-Yin Chen and reliever Brad Ziegler held the Mariners hitless.
“It’s still not a good feeling getting shut out,” Haniger said, “but at least we didn’t get no-hit.”
Chen exited the game after seven innings because he was at 100 pitches. Marlins manager Don Mattingly opted for his bullpen.
“The guy had a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) tear last year,” Mattingly said, “and he’s coming back. He’s been healthy, but I’m not going to let him go 130 (pitches)…in our minds, he had no chance to make it nine innings.”
Ziegler got three quick ground-ball outs before Barraclough started the ninth inning by striking out pinch-hitter Mike Freeman. Haniger then drove a clean double into the right-center gap.
“Every at-bat in my mind,” Haniger said, “it doesn’t matter how many hits we have or whether we’re winning by eight, getting shut out or getting no-hit.
“I’m still going up there with the same intent to swing at good pitches and hit the ball hard.”
That was it, though. Barraclough struck out Robinson Cano before ending the game by retiring Nelson Cruz on a fly to right.
The Mariners had no near-misses before Haniger’s double. There were no great defensive plays by the Marlins. Just two walks, one hit batter and 25 pretty routine outs.
“We know Chen and how he pitches,” manager Scott Servais said. “You look at video, and you have reports. We just didn’t make quick adjustments on what he was doing to us.
“We did expand the strike zone a little bit, too, there to help him out.”
So the Mariners avoided the fourth no-hit loss in their 41-year history. The last one was a perfect game by Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox nearly four year ago – a 4-0 loss on April 21, 2012, also at Safeco Field.
Miami built a early four-run lead for Chen by scoring single runs in the first two innings against Mariners starter Yovani Gallardo (0-2) before Justin Bour hit a two-run homer in the third inning.
“I just wasn’t able to put away guys early in the game,” Gallardo said. “I was putting myself in bad counts. And when I was up in the count, I wasn’t able to put them away.
“After that…it’s not easy for the guys to be down four runs early in the ballgame.”
The Mariners didn’t get their first baserunner against Chen (1-0) until Cano worked through 10 pitches for a two-out walk in the fourth inning.
Chen started the seventh inning with another walk – to Haniger, who worked back from a 0-2 hole. After Cano’s grounder to second erased Haniger on a force, Chen nicked Cruz with a pitch.
Kyle Seager struck out by chasing an outside fastball on a 1-2 count, and Chen then nursed his no-hitter – and shutout – into the eighth inning by retiring Taylor Motter on a pop to third.
“He was good tonight,” Cano said. “We had a couple of jam swings, but you’ve got to give credit to him. He was mixing his pitches tonight.”
Gallardo gave up single runs in the first and second innings, although he limited the damage each time, before surrendering Bour’s two-run homer in the third.
It got better after that. Gallardo closed his evening with three scoreless innings, but the Mariners had no answers for Chen.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Left fielder Guillermo Heredia saved three runs by pulling back a homer with a leaping two-out catch at the left-field wall on Marcell Ozuna’s drive in the first inning.
PLUS: Haniger’s double extended his hitting streak to 12 games…relievers James Pazos and Tony Zych had strong one-two-three innings.
MINUS: The near no-hitter made a lot of ugly averages a little worse. Danny Valencia is down to .154 after going 0-for-3; Jarrod Dyson is at .196 after going 0-for-3; and Leonys Martin is at .128 after grounding out as a pinch-hitter in his only at-bat…catcher Mike Zunino had a throwing error that led to an unearned run after entering the game in the ninth inning.
STAT PACK: The Mariners managed just one hit for the 23rd time in their history – and they’ve won four of those. It was the 17th one-hitter in Marlins history.
QUOTABLE: Cano on the difference between a one-hit loss and a no-hit loss: “It’s a big difference. Nobody knows tonight (because it’s a one-hitter). It would have been all over the place (if it had been a no-hitter).”
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