SEATTLE: The host Mariners pushed their season-high winning streak to seven games while the Indians continued to stumble out of the gate in the second half, as Seattle took the first game of this series at picturesque Safeco Field 2-1 Monday.
Coming off a three-game weekend sweep of the Houston Astros, the Mariners continued their success against the visiting Indians in a game in which all three runs came via solo home runs.
Nick Swisher scored the Tribe’s only run in his first at-bat as the Indians No. 2-hole hitter, promptly working a 3-2 count against Mariners starter Aaron Harang before launching a home run to left field to give the Indians the early lead.
Meanwhile, in Asdrubal Cabrera’s first at-bat in Swisher’s old spot in the four-hole, the Tribe shortstop was hit by a Harang pitch.
Both team’s starting pitchers managed to work their way out of jams in the third inning before the Mariners pulled even in the fourth.
The Indians had runners on first and third with just one out in the top of the inning via back-to-back singles by Michael Bourn and Swisher, but Harang escaped after striking out the next two hitters he faced in Jason Kipnis and Cabrera.
In the bottom of the inning, Mariners catcher Mike Zunino led off with a double into the left field corner. Then with two out, Ubaldo Jimenez walked Nick Franklin, leaving men at the corners. Although Seattle’s slugging left fielder Rual Ibanez smashed a liner up the first-base line, a perfctly-timed diving catch by Swisher ended the threat.
It wasn’t base runners, but instead the long ball, that got Jimenez in trouble in the fourth and fifth innings, as designated hitter Kendrys Morales sent his 2-2 fourth-inning offering into the right field stands to knot the score at 1-1.
The homer marked just the first given up by Indians’ pitchers in 88 innings. However, it followed a disturbing trend in that it was the 11th of Jimenez’s 14 home runs this season that he’s dished up to a left-handed batter.
Proving Morales’ streak-busting home run wasn’t an abberition, the Mariners pulled off the feat again in the following inning when Zunino lauched an 0-2 Jimenez pitch into the left field stands for another lead off homer, this one giving Seattle a 2-1 lead in the fifth.
Indians rookie right-hander C.C. Lee took over for Jimenez with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, looking to keep his team trailing by just a run. With Zunino up, it was a perfect time to bring in a different look. In his first time facing Jimenez, Zunino had hit Jimenez hard for a line driuve double and line drive homer – both to left.
Lee quickly got Zunino to ground out to get out the frame, but it was the only batter he faced, as left-hander Rich Hill came out to start the seventh. While Hill was tossing his warm up pitches, Indians manager Terry Francona and a trainer came out to the mound to check on him briefly before retutning to the dugout before being waved off.
Meanwhile, with Jimenez on his way out of the game, Harang became more efficient. He needed only 11 pitches to retire the next six consecutive batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings.
Jimenez somehow managed to give up just two runs on five hits and four walks, striking out six in 5 2/3 innings. But he was still one-upped by the equally, wildly-effective Harang, who held the Tribe to a first-inning run on four hits to earn the win.
Hill and Bryan Shaw each gave the Indians scoreless innings of late relief to keep the Mariners advantage to just one run. But the Tribe batsmen couldn’t scratch a run across against Seattle relievers Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmsen in the eighth and ninth innings, despite having runners on base in each frame.