Vexed for most of seven innings, the Mariners finally broke through against former Cy Young winner (2011) Justin Verlander with a two-out RBI double by Kyle Seager, followed by an RBI single by Endy Chavez, defeating the Detroit Tigers 2-0 in the final of a three-game series Thursday at Safeco Field. Seattle recorded its third shutout of the season.
The Mariners (7-10) won despite striking out 12 more times to go with 19 whiffs Wednesday and nine Tuesday — 40 for the series, to go with a three-game team batting average of just .218.
But the Mariners had timely hits Thursday.
Verlander opened the seventh by striking out catcher Kelly Shoppach and Dustin Ackley, his 11th and 12th punch-outs. But Robert Andino singled to left field. Eric Wedge called Brendan Ryan back to the dugout and sent out Seager to pinch hit. Seager laced a double to left, scoring Andino. Chavez, the next batter, blooped one into left and Seager trotted home for a 2-0 lead.
As advertised, the game quickly became a pitching duel between Verlander and Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma, who delivered another outstanding start, allowing three hits with two strikeouts and one walk in 6.0 innings. Forty-nine of his 70 pitches went for strikes, but he was forced to the dugout with a blister on his pitching hand.
Iwakuma (2-0) took his second no-decision in four starts, but lowered his ERA from 2.18 to 1.69.
Iwakuma’s exit brought on Carter Capps, who allowed two hits in 2.0 innings, struck out three and earned his first victory of the season.
Wilhelmsen came on in the ninth to face Detroit’s 3-4-5 hitters. He got Miguel Cabrera to bounce to Seager at third, retired Prince Fielder on a short fly to left on which Chavez made a nice, running catch, and induced Victor Martinez to ground out to second. Wilhelmsen has six saves in six opportunities.
Detroit, which entered the series ranked No. 2 in the American League in hits, had just five Thursday. The Tigers also struck out 16 fewer times Thursday than they did Wednesday (21).
The Mariners, 4-6 on the homestand, hit seven home runs in the re-configured Safeco Field. In the first 10 games at Safeco last year, with the fences farther back, the Mariners also hit seven home runs.
The Mariners begin a six-game road trip at Texas and Houston, starting Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. LHP Joe Saunders will oppose Yu Darvish of the Rangers. Game time is 5:05 p.m.
NOTES: The Mariners recalled RHP Hector Noesi from AAA Tacoma and optioned LHP Bobby LaFromboise to the Rainiers. Noesi started the year with AA Jackson, going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts to earn Southern League Pitcher of the Week honors. The right-hander did not allow a run and scattered five hits in 11.0 innings (12 strikeouts, 3 walks). He was transferred to AAA Tacoma Monday, but did not pitch. Noesi appeared in 22 games (18 starts) for the Mariners last season, going 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA. He was acquired from the New York Yankees with Jesus Montero in exchange for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos Jan. 23, 2012. LaFromboise, 26, appeared in three games for the Mariners, posting a 7.71 ERA (2 ER, 2.1 IP).
Too bad the team will be on the road next week when the weather warms up. Nice to see Endy Chavez and Franklin Guiterrez platooning the CF position successfully.
There is an article in this week’s Sports Illustrated arguing that the Mariners are just a step or two away from becoming the next Nationals. I wonder what the writer was smoking? Interesting, though, that the writer ranks our farm system as second to the perennial class MLB organization–the St. Louis Cardinals. Obviously you do not typically get the luxury of stockpiling this purported talent that the Mariners have in the minors unless you play years of pathetic baseball, unless you are the Cardinals of course, but still, it will be interesting to see if the talent actually amounts to something. Going for Josh Hamilton in the off-season, however, does not place the organization in an intelligent light, but picking up Justin Upton would have been a coup. Of course Upton did not dance around the issue like other free agents or plays typically do, but rather said flat out that he was not going to the Mariners. Now look at Atlanta and what he is doing there. And as for today’s game, while Verlander obviously pitched well, he really has not been his self since he got rocked in the World Series. In fact, today may have been his best outing since.
I also found it amazing to read that our GM–I never try to spell his name, it took me long enough to figure out how to pronounce it–has never met the owner of the club. Amazing thing we have got going here in Seattle.
What game were you watching? Seager was barely safe sliding under the tag, strolling indeed. Chavez’s spectacular diving effort on Fielder’s blooper was a bit more than a ‘running catch’, though he made plenty of those too.