It was death by a thousand cuts for the Mariners on Friday night at Safeco Field, as they lost to Kansas City, 6-1, in a fashion that was remarkable in its own way.
The Royals sprayed 16 hits around the park — all singles, which constituted a club-record for hits allowed by the M’s without an extra-base blow.
Fourteen of them were surrendered by right-hander Brandon Maurer, who went 71
3 innings and added a couple of more oddities to a statistically strange night. Maurer didn’t walk a batter, nor did he strike out anybody, and his lack of an “out” pitch was instrumental in his demise as the Royals pecked at him with multiple dunkers and grounders that eluded infielders.
“It’s baseball,” said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. “Just a weird, weird night.”
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On the other hand, there was nothing so memorable about Jason Vargas’ effort for the Royals – just seriously efficient. The former Mariner lefty mowed down his old club, allowing just three hits over seven innings with fastballs, curves and changeups.
It was a sharp reversal of form for Vargas, who had been tattooed for 12 earned runs in his last two starts. But it’s May, and he’s now 14-5 over his career in this month.
“What pitchers like Vargas do so well, they disrupt the opposition hitters’ timing,” said Ned Yost, the Royals manager. “He did that extremely well tonight.”
In keeping with the Halloween-like theme of the evening, McClendon and Maurer each departed the premises feeling good about what they saw from the young M’s right-hander. For his part, Maurer said he wanted to pitch to contact, and he succeeded at that, throwing only 73 pitches through six innings.
Problem is, the Royals flared balls to the opposite field, squirted a couple past diving infield gloves and Alex Gordon squibbed a hit maybe 50 feet from the plate in a two-run Kansas City fourth.
“There’s a lot of things I can take out of it,” Maurer insisted. “I made quite a few good pitches out there today. It’s not like I went out there and gave up 10 hard-hit balls and the rest of them found holes.”
Maurer had failed to get past the fifth inning in his previous three starts in 2014. This night, he had a career-long performance and said he’ll use the approach again.
“I’d say I’d stick with it, definitely,” he said. “Unless they get 17 singles, and then 20. Then I might switch it up. No, I’m kidding.”
The Royals had a 2-0 lead when the M’s defense betrayed Maurer in the fourth. With two on and none out, Joey Giovatella grounded to Brad Miller at short, and Miller’s potential double-play toss to Robinson Cano went to Cano’s left and into right field. The play accounted eventually for two unearned runs.
“We’ve been better than that,” said McClendon, referring to the M’s defense.
Meanwhile, Vargas said, “I was able to control the counts, and make pitches down in the strike zone.”
Kansas City continued the attack of the singles against Maurer, but McClendon said he liked what he saw.
“I was pleased with his outing and the way he went about it,” McClendon said. “You never feel good about giving up runs, but like I told him, ‘This is something you can build on.’ ’’
Even so, McClendon had a wry appreciation for the weirdness of the evening.
“Just one of those nights,” he said. “I didn’t look up to see if there was a full moon.”
Saturday night is Kyle Seager bat night, and it’s questionable whether the guest of honor will be in the lineup. Willie Bloomquist played third as Seager was scratched a couple of hours before the game with flu-like symptoms.
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