SEATTLE: The Indians’ bats cooled off, signaling the end of a modest four-game winning streak, as the Mariners’ pitching staff carried the day in a 4-1 win tonight at Safeco Field.
And for the third consecutive game, starting pitching has been the problem rather than the solution for the Tribe.
Wednesday night, Derek Lowe was fortunate to pitch into fifth inning, as he struggled from the outset to find the plate.
“”There was a button someone was pressing to move the plate round,’’ Lowe said facetiously. “”Obviously, this was not the best start.’’
The Mariners began their assault on Lowe (2-1, 3.50 ERA) in the first inning, when Chone Figgins lashed a 3-and-2 pitch below his knees into the seats in right for a home run. One out later, Ichiro Suzuki hit a long drive to right-center that landed in the seats to make it 2-0.
In the second, Lowe gifted another runs to Seattle, mostly after two were out. Brendan Ryan blooped a singled to right with one out, and with two outs Dustin Ackley singled and Suzuki walked to load the bases. Lowe also walked Jesus Montero to force home the run.
Seattle added another run in the fourth in a rally that began with a leadoff walk to Ryan. Figgins singled him to third, and Ackley singled Ryan to the plate before Lowe got control of the situation.
“”There were times when I could easily have thrown a pitch and gotten out of an inning,’’ Lowe said. “”But when you throw that many pitches (113), you’re lucky that your position players are still awake.’’
Finally, with one out and two runners on base in the fifth, Jairo Asencio took over for Lowe, who gave up four runs, eight hits and six walks.
“”It’s pretty hard to do, give up six hits and six walks on top of the two home runs and give up just two (more) runs,’’ Lowe said. “”I threw a lot of noncompetitive pitches.’’
In the past three games, Indians starters (Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are the others) have combined to give up 16 runs, 24 hits and 13 walks in just 13 innings. Even so, the Tribe has won two of the three games.
A fourth victory might have been forthcoming if not for the workmanship of Mariners starter Jason Vargas, who stopped cold an offense that had scored 41 runs in the previous four games. Vargas (2-1, 2.84 ERA) had little trouble containing the Indians’ attack, giving up just one run, four hits and three walks in seven innings. He also struck out seven.
“”Vargas was the story,’’ manager Manny Acta said. “”He kept us in check.’’
Vargas gave up a run in the second when Aaron Cunningham led off with a double, took third on a sacrifice bunt by Jason Donald and scored on Jason Kipnis’ sacrifice fly.
Cunningham’s double was so close to being a home run that Acta asked the umpires to do a video review, which they did.
The only other opportunity for the Tribe came in the sixth, when Vargas lost command of the strike zone, running the count to three balls (or four) on the first four batters.
Kipnis led off with a pop fly to the second baseman on a 3-and-2 count. Shin-Soo Choo walked, Carlos Santana singled on a 3-and-1 pitch and Travis Hafner walked to load the bases. But Shelley Duncan struck out, and Jose Lopez bounced into a force play to end the threat.
“”We felt that was our opportunity with Shelley up there,’’ Acta said. “”He hits left-handers very well. Give Vargas credit. He threw a great changeup to strike out Shelley.’’
Seattle relievers Tom Wilhelmsen and Brandon League finished the job, delivering two hitless innings.