The Mariners weren’t expected to have the best bullpen in baseball in the first month of the season. And now 11 days into May, it’s certainly won’t be that way much longer.
Set-up men Anthony Misiewicz and Rafael Montero failed to protect leads given to them, combining to give up five runs and squander a strong outing from starter Yusei Kikuchi and three home runs off Dodgers starter Walker Buehler in a 6-4 loss Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
With two outs in the eighth inning and Seattle clinging to a 4-3 lead, Montero served up a three-run homer to Gavin Lux.
Kikuchi gave the Mariners a start much better than his final line indicated: pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits with no walks and a career-high 11 strikeouts.
Kikuchi allowed just one run over the first six innings – a solo homer to Max Muncy – while racking up 10 strikeouts and looking unhittable at times.
He entered the seventh with a 4-1 lead. After allowing a single to Chris Taylor, he struck out Sheldon Neuse to set his career high. But his outing ended on shift-beating infield single on an awkward swing from Lux.
Misiewicz struggled for the third time in four outings. After issuing a walk to load the bases, he struck out Mookie Betts with the help of a questionable call from plate umpire Greg Gibson. But the Mariners’ good fortune in the inning ended when Corey Seager pulled a breaking-ball into right field for a two-run single that cut the lead to 4-3.
The Mariners were aggressive against Buehler and came out swinging early in counts. Buehler, a clone of Justin Verlander does have overpowering stuff, but doesn’t walk many hitters and loves to throw his high 90s fastball at the top of the strike zone. That’s a place where Seattle hitters have hit many balls hard.
But they did against Buehler.
J.P. Crawford, batting leadoff, swung at Buehler’s first pitch of the game – an elevated 96 mph fastball and hit a hard shot to third that Justin Turner was able to field for an out.
There was no fielding Buehler’s fourth pitch of the game. Mitch Haniger was all over the elevated fastball 96-mph fastball from Buehler on an 0-2 count, sending a missile over the wall in deep right-center for his ninth homer of the season. The solo blast gave Seattle a 1-0 lead and had an exit velocity of 103 mph and a distance of 402 feet.
Seattle’s second time through the lineup produced two more runs.
With one out in the fourth inning, Kyle Lewis singled to left and Kyle Seager followed with a towering blast to right field. Buehler left a 1-2 cutter on the inside half of the plate and Seager stayed inside of the pitch. Seager’s seventh homer of the season had a 107.5 mph exit velocity and a distance of 390 feet.
Haniger’s second homer off Buehler came in the sixth inning and his third at-bat. After falling behind 0-2, Haniger received a gift in the form of a hanging cutter from Buehler. The pitch sat up and over the plate, Haniger didn’t miss the mistake, sending it into the left-field seats for his 10th homer of the season.
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