Tommy Milone’s first pitch of Tuesday night’s game was announced at 7:10 p.m. By 7:11 p.m., the scoreboard of T-Mobile Park had placed a “1” in the score column for the Texas Rangers.
It was a suboptimal beginning to a forgettable start for the Mariners’ starter in what became a 7-2 loss. Working without an opener for the first time since June 22, the veteran left-hander pitched six innings, allowing six runs on nine hits and three homers to fall to 1-5 on the season.
Shin Soo-Choo, a Mariners prospect many years ago but lost in one of the many bad trades in this organization’s history, ambushed Milone’s first pitch of the game — an 86 mph fastball on the outside of the half — sending an opposite-field line drive over the wall in left-center for his sixth leadoff homer of the season.
“First pitch of the game, I’m just trying to throw a strike right there,” Milone said. “And a lot of guys take it. But in the back of my mind, I think I knew I’ve seen Choo swing at the first pitch of the game before. I’m just trying to attack and get strike one. But the ball was up and he was able to lift it.”
It was the 11th time in his career that Choo hit the first pitch of the game for a home run.
The 1-0 deficit belonged to Milone alone. There was no opener for him in this game to hand him a deficit before entering the game. With the Rangers starting four lefties in their first six spots in the batting order, Mariners manager Scott Servais felt using one of his untested right-handed relievers to open for one inning might be counterproductive.
But he also expected Milone to have a little bit of command and feel of his pitches — an absolute must for any level of success. Instead, it meandered just enough to make him hittable on a warm evening where the ball was carrying. Something an opener can’t alleviate.
“Early in the ballgame, Tommy wasn’t quite as sharp,” Servais said. “They were on him and very aggressive from the first pitch on. Certainly Choo jumped on the first pitch of the game. You don’t often see that. It took Tommy a while to get into some rhythm and locate his pitches. He left some pitches in the middle of the plate.”
The Mariners did answer with a run of their own in the bottom of the first on Omar Narvaez’s two-out RBI single off of Texas opener Brett Martin to tie the game. But any hopes of victory died over the next two innings.
Milone gave up a pair of runs in the second when back-to-back singles to start the inning eventually scored. The Rangers broke the game open in the third. Nomar Mazara annihilated a 1-1 fastball that didn’t appear to be a strike. He turned on the inside pitch and sent a towering blast into the third deck in right field. Mazara became just the fourth player to hit a ball into that area in right field in the stadium now known as T-Mobile Park. Earlier this season, Daniel Vogelbach put a ball into the third deck.
Rougned Odor pushed the lead to 6-1 with a two-run blast to right off of Milone. It was the first of two homers on the night for Odor, who also smashed a solo blast off of recently-acquired right-hander Matt Magill.
To Milone’s credit, he was able to save the bullpen and work the fourth, fifth and sixth innings without allowing a run.
“I continued the same plan, but when I got ahead I made sure I finished pitches,” he said. “I didn’t leave it over the plate like I was the first three innings.”
Magill became the 56th player and 37th pitcher to appear in a game for the Mariners — both the most in MLB.
Earlier in the afternoon, manager Scott Servais talked about his team’s need to score runs to have a chance in games, admitting “we aren’t going to win many 2-1 games.” They don’t seem to be winning many games in general. The last time they won back-to-back games was on June 25-26 in Milwaukee. Since then they are 4-15.
The offense did little against right-hander Pedro Payano, who served as the bulk pitcher. He was recalled from Class AAA Nashville to make the appearance. He entered in the second inning and worked five frames, allowing one run on three hits. That lone run came on J.P. Crawford’s RBI double. The Mariners were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and stranded six men on base.
Any comeback hopes were made more difficult when Domingo Santana, the team’s best run producer in its patchwork lineup, exited the game after the second inning with soreness in his right elbow. Servais said Santana has been bothered by elbow issues since the all-star break. A pair of hard throws, including one that was off-balance aggravated the injury. Santana is expected to undergo a MRI on Wednesday morning.