Giants hits two homers in 4-2 victory
Desperate times sometimes lead to desperation moves, and Jesus Montero tried one of the more improbable ones at the wrong time Friday night.
Montero had seen his Mariners held to just two runs per game on this homestand and knew the book on the opposing pitcher was to get to him early. But Montero tried a bit too hard to make things happen in the second inning of this 4-2 defeat against the San Francisco Giants, and his Mariners paid dearly for it.
After a leadoff double in the second against Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, the notoriously sloth-footed Montero tried to get a great jump on a Michael Saunders line drive to center so he could score. Problem is, the ball was caught and Montero was doubled off for the second time in three games en route to his team’s sixth consecutive home defeat.
“I was like ‘You’ve got to make it home right now so we tie the game,’ ” Montero said. “I’m not that fast, so I was trying to get to home plate. That was my goal at that moment.”
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The problem is, there was nobody out and it wasn’t imperative for Montero to attempt to score at that exact moment. Saunders hit the ball so hard that even a runner with decent speed would have been hard-pressed to make it any farther than third base.
A much bigger, more obvious problem for this team is that it seems the team’s youngest players are taking it upon themselves to do too much because the older veterans are doing too little.
The Mariners have scored just 14 runs in seven games on this homestand and their .345 winning percentage at Safeco Field is now the worst home mark in the majors.
A crowd of 29,818 saw Ichiro pop out with two on and one out in the third inning of a 1-0 game. He was then fortunate to get even one run home on a bases-loaded, none-out chopper to the mound in the eighth that was deflected and led to only one out instead of a double play.
In truth, the game was over once the Mariners managed just two hits the first seven innings off Vogelsong, a great comeback story last season at age 33 after four-plus years away from his journeyman-level major-league career. The book on Vogelsong is simple: get to him early.
He’d allowed 10 runs in the second innings of his starts this season and now — after Seattle’s late pair in this one — 12 other combined runs in all other innings after that. Vogelsong had a 4-0 lead in the eighth after Melky Cabrera tagged Jason Vargas for a two-run homer to center and hadn’t trailed since a solo homer to the second deck in left by Buster Posey in the second.
“That’s kind of what’s been happening,” said Vargas, who has allowed 15 homers this year compared to 22 all of last season. “I think I’ve said that before. The last eight starts, home runs have killed it.”
In fairness, though, he’d kept the Mariners in this one long enough to get something going. Trouble is, they couldn’t do anything until it was too late, explaining the desperate measures by rookies like Montero.
Montero was also doubled off two nights earlier. That time, he said, the angle of the ball and outfielder confused him.
This time, he merely wanted to score a little too much.
“That can’t happen,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He has to read that better. As soon as that ball is hit, it’s going to be tough to score on anyway. He’s probably not going to score, so he has to read the ball and make sure that the ball gets down.
“Making a mistake once is one thing, but making it twice is another. It just can’t happen up here.”
Wedge knows his team has been hard-pressed to score early and says his veterans need to “step up” and help the youngsters more. In fact, the Mariners were fortunate to score at all in the eighth after loading the bases with none out to chase Vogelsong and get reliever Javier Lopez in the game.
They got one run on Ichiro’s deflected fielder’s choice, then another on a bobbled Franklin Gutierrez ground out. But the big hit needed all night long and most of this homestand was elusive yet again.
Ichiro’s batting average fell to .259 with a .286 on-base percentage.
“We need more from him, it’s as simple as that,” Wedge said. “We need him to do more. He’s obviously our most veteran guy and when he has those opportunities to step up. You can’t always put it on the kids.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners