In the narrow context of a single infant season, Robinson Cano was right.
“You don’t want to look at anything negative right now,” said the Mariners star and well-compensated proponent of the party line. The 3-0 loss Sunday was the fourth defeat in six tries against Oakland, and again featured feeble hitting reminiscent of the past season, and the season before that, and the season before that.
Two singles from Cano and one from Brad Miller was all that stood in the way of no-hit infamy, which the Mariners narrowly avoided Wednesday when they were one-hit by Angels starter Garrett Richards and crew. The 3-0 road sweep of the Angels that opened the season is now looking like a fading dot in the rear view mirror.
This time the opponent “buzz saw,” to use Lloyd McClendon’s expression, was Scott Kazmir, an off-season, free-agent acquisition by the A’s that looked suspicious (two years, $22 million) for a guy who was on a long, slow recovery from a mid-career meltdown.
Now, of course, the acquisition looks audacious, because audacity is what the A’s do. Another audacious acquisition, left fielder Yeonis Cespedes, was the offensive difference, his two-run homer in the eighth inning off Charlie Furbush breaking the Safeco Field shut out.
At 6-5, the Mariners’ audaciousness is less obvious. When McClendon, the Mariners manager, was asked if he was concerned with the offense, he said, “I was today. When I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be just fine.”
As with everyone else, a good night’s sleep can fix a lot of things. Unfortunately, when he wakes up Monday, he’ll be in Texas, which is rarely a good thing for anyone. It’s the start of a seven-game road trip from Dallas to Miami, and maybe the renewal of hitting, or at least attempting it in warmer ballparks.
But if Cano is right, that mid-April is time no to be looking under the bed for monsters, then the Mariners could at least be pleased Sunday with the performance of Chris Young, the newcomer plucked from the spring training scrap heap who delivered six shutout innings.
Whether his pickup could be described as audacious or lucky, it worked Sunday. At 34, Young made his first MLB start since Sept. 29, 2012, and his first American League start since 2005. He had surgery last year to fix thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that irritates nerves and blood vessels in the neck and chest.
He went to spring training with the Washington Nationals, where he pitched well but was a late cut, about the time the Mariners unexpectedly parted ways with Randy Wolf, the forecasted No. 5 starter, in a contract dispute.
The 6-foot-10 righthander earlier pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and after six more in the start Sunday, suddenly took a load off the rotation that has been pickled with injuries.
“I was really, really pleased with his outing,” said McClendon, who is temporarily missing with injuries Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. “He fatigued a little bit at the end, but he was great for us.
“I think this guy is real close. I saw his breaking ball start to come a little bit today, and I think when that pitch comes for him, he’s really going to be tough.”
In light of the team loss, Young was quick to low-key the achievement.
“I can pitch better,” he said, lamenting the three walks that went along with four hits. But for a guy who thought he was done last summer because of shoulder pain, he was entitled to champagne and confetti. Instead, he was happy just to be able to sleep pain-free.
“I couldn’t sleep at night,” Young said. “Couldn’t play catch at the field, much less pitch, and I thought, ‘This isn’t fun. I’m tired of being in pain.’ And I was ready to walk away.”
Well, it appears that Young and McClendon are sleeping well these days. So Mariners fans, if you prefer to panic, you may end up doing it alone.
McClendon unhappy with replay
McClendon was willing to go along with MLB’s new replay system, but after a couple of weeks is not happy with the the results.
“I’m really worried about where we’re heading with replays, the effect it’s having on the game, the effect it’s having on the fans,” he said. “It’s confusing.”
The new outfield transfer rule, where umpires must see the ball transferred cleanly to the throwing hand, has proven a vexation. The Mariners already have had three such plays this season. McClendon said he is instructing his baserunners to watch the umpires for a signal instead of the outfielder for a catch, to decide whether to advance or hold.
“I think the players are struggling more than the managers,” McClendon said. “Initially, I thought I’d be a fan of it. But I’m not so sure now.”
The Mariners are 3-5 in games not started by Felix Hernandez . . . Not counting left fielder Willie Bloomquist and his four seasonal at-bats, the Mariners started Sunday with only two hitting better than .238 — Robinson Cano (.316) and Mike Zunino (.281) . . .The Mariners had one runner reach third base, and the only other real scoring opportunity died when Miller’s sixth-inning drive to the fence was caught by RF Josh Reddick . . . Each of the last eight Mariners games have been decided by three runs or less . . . The back-to-back losses were the Mariners’ first this season. They were one of final two to say that . . . Walker (shoulder) is scheduled to make another rehab start Tuesday in the minors. Blake Beavan is likely to be called up from AAA Tacoma to make the start in Texas.