The two Seattle starting pitchers delivered outstanding performances for their respective countries
PEORIA, Ariz. — As he walked off the field following an interminable Cactus League game on Wednesday afternoon, manager Scott Servais wasn’t finished watching baseball for his day.
“I’ve got another game to watch tonight,” he said.
Servais was referencing the World Baseball Classic game between Venezuela and the United States at Petco Park where two of his pitchers — Felix Hernandez and Drew Smyly — were slated to pitch for their respective countries.
For Servais, the rest of the Mariners’ organization and its fans, the game was a hopeful sign of things to come this season from both pitchers. Hernandez and Smyly delivered brilliant outings in their allotted 65 pitch limits. Hernandez won the duel between teammates, exiting with 1-0 lead after the fifth inning and in line for a win. But the United States, thanks to a two-run homer from Eric Hosmer in the eighth inning, prevailed 4-2.
Smyly worked 4 2/3 innings, giving up one unearned run on three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. Smyly was dominant at times, showing a nasty breaking ball and pinpoint fastball location. He struck out the side in the fourth inning — the hitters were Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Rougned Odor.
The lone run allowed came in the third inning. Carlos Gonzalez bounced a soft groundball up the middle to start the inning. Robinson Chirinos then dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line. Smyly fielded it, but threw the ball over Hosmer’s head at first base, allowing Gonzalez to move to third and Chirinos to second. Ender Inciarte scored Gonzalez on sacrifice fly. Smyly came back to end the inning without any further damage. Smyly threw 61 pitches with 44 strikes.
The original plan was for Smyly to pitch once for the U.S. But that could change with this outing.
Hernandez was even better. The Mariners’ ace tossed five shutout innings, allowing three hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Like Smyly, Hernandez found trouble in the third inning. He gave up three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases. After a brief visit at the mound, Hernandez made his biggest pitch of the game, getting Adam Jones to hit a groundball to Jose Altuve to start a 4-6-3 double play. It elicited the traditional scream of excitement by Hernandez as he exited the field.