Orioles starter Brad Bergesen retires 16 of 17 Mariners from the third inning through the seventh. Mariners could send Morrow to Tacoma.
BALTIMORE — Things began well enough for Jason Vargas and the Mariners when, for the second time in six days, an umpire’s video review took an opposing home run off the board.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, they couldn’t get umpire Gary Cederstrom and his crew to erase any of the outs Seattle hitters kept swinging into. It didn’t take long for a 3-1 defeat to the Baltimore Orioles to be sealed Tuesday night, with the Mariners dead-on-arrival by the time they fell behind by two runs in the fifth inning.
And the frustration is evident in the eyes of Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, who he held early batting practice with a dozen hitters before the game in an attempt to rectify the team’s dismal performance at driving runners in.
“Obviously, offensively, until the last inning, we really didn’t put anything together,” Wakamatsu said.
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That final inning was when a two-out single by Jose Lopez off former teammate George Sherrill scored Seattle’s only run and snapped the club’s 0-for-20 slump with runners in scoring position. But that was small consolation for Wakamatsu, whose pitchers have tied a club record by holding opponents to three runs or fewer for seven consecutive games — only to see the team go 4-3 over that stretch.
“You don’t win a lot of ballgames not scoring guys with runners in scoring position,” Wakamatsu said. “We are working on that. We’re going to continue to work on that. We had 12 guys out for early BP and it’s going to work out eventually.
“I can’t say enough about the starting pitching, pitching in general. It was our seventh game of three or less and that’s all you can ask from the pitching. The offense has to step up for us to win some more ballgames.”
This series-opening loss, in front of 17,358 fans at Camden Yards, kicked off a three-city trip in which the Mariners will try to climb closer in the American League West race.
Vargas saw a video review take a Baltimore homer off the board for the second time since last Wednesday after a fan snatched a ball from left fielder Endy Chavez as he attempted a leaping catch at the wall in the first inning. Instead of a two-run homer, the Melvin Mora blast was ruled an out.
“I was very surprised because I was supposed to have the ball in my glove and it wasn’t,” Chavez said. “I knew it was interference because I didn’t even try to go over the fence. I was inside the field.”
But it mattered little. Baltimore had taken a 1-0 lead that inning and starting pitcher Brad Bergesen held it all the way through eight scoreless frames, retiring 16 of his final 17 batters.
As they try to fix their offense, the Mariners also face key decisions about a couple of younger players. Yuniesky Betancourt was benched for a fourth straight game for failing to attend Tuesday’s early batting practice.
There’s also Brandon Morrow, who multiple teams sources are now indicating will move to Class AAA within the week to become a starting pitcher again. Morrow got a pitch up in the zone and yielded a run-scoring single to Nolan Reimold to make it 3-0 in the sixth after replacing Vargas with two on and two out. Reimold had taken Vargas over the center-field wall an inning earlier.
Morrow is still adjusting to a major mechanical change and says it’s tougher using that revamped delivery out of the stretch position with runners on.
“It’s getting easier,” Morrow said. “I can feel it when I don’t do it right and then I have to think about it again.”
The Mariners could get Roy Corcoran and Ryan Rowland-Smith back from Class AAA within a week. The question now is who will be shipped out to make room.
Morrow looked better the rest of the way in a 2-1/3-inning stint that lasted 33 pitches.
“Our intent was to let him stretch that out,” Wakamatsu said, without elaborating.
An interesting development, indeed. Especially on a night that anything not mound-related for the team was boring and predictable.
For the record
v. AL West: 13-14
vs. L.A.: 7-6
vs. Oakland: 6-3
vs. Texas: 0-5
vs. AL East: 6-4
vs. AL Cent.: 7-11
vs. NL: 2-1
vs. LHP: 10-8
vs. RHP: 18-22
Extra inn.: 4-3