After left-hander Clayton Kershaw struck out 12 Seattle Mariners and watched his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates collect 14 hits Saturday, he summed up the game in five words.
“Thank God Hairston played today,” Kershaw said.
As good as Kershaw was – and he was back in Cy Young Award form at Safeco Field – without second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. the Dodgers likely wouldn’t have beaten the Mariners, 8-3.
“Hairston killed us,” starter Jason Vargas said.
Coming in, Hairston had one home run and seven RBI for the Dodgers in 31 games, but on Saturday he homered, doubled, singled and drove in a career-best five runs.
“The scouting report said we wanted to get him with fastballs in and that’s what I threw in the first inning, but he put a good swing on it,” Vargas said.
The result: A two-out, three-run home run that put Kershaw ahead for good.
“You can’t give a pitcher like Kershaw a big lead, and after the third inning, he was up 5-0,” Vargas said.
That was because Vargas left a pitch over the middle to Hairston, who doubled home one run and scored another.
Kershaw made it stand up.
“I’ve faced him before, so I had some idea what was coming,” Brendan Ryan said of the Dodgers starter. “He’s good. Against a right-hander, his fastball is always boring in on you. He paints the inside corner, and he’s got a good mix of pitches to go with it.
“His fastball is 94 mph with movement, his slider is sharp. You get a pitch to hit, you just can’t afford to miss.”
Kershaw stumbled once, in the fourth inning, when Justin Smoak singled with one out and Kyle Seager drew one of his two walks to bring up Miguel Olivo.
“He was throwing me mostly fastballs and sliders all day,” Olivo said, “and his fastball was tough, always in-in-in on you. He’d thrown me a good fastball and I was looking for that again.
“He threw me a slider, and it wasn’t a bad pitch. Maybe up just a little. I got a little lucky.”
Olivo hit it over the left-center field wall, and a game that seemed gone was suddenly a 5-3 affair. Vargas seemed reinvigorated and got through six innings, holding that score.
“We thought if we kept them close we had a chance, but they extended on us,” manager Eric Wedge said.
The Seattle bullpen, brilliant in a six-man no-hitter Friday night, stumbled against the Dodgers this time.
Hisashi Iwakuma went 1 innings and allowed one run.
Shawn Kelley worked two-thirds of an inning and gave up two more – both in the top of the ninth inning.
Seattle not only didn’t score after Olivo’s homer in the fourth, the Mariners didn’t have a hit after that. Kershaw went seven innings, and 12 of the 21 outs he recorded were gained without a Mariner putting the ball in play.
Most of the Mariners had never seen Kershaw, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season, except on television. Turns out, that didn’t help much.
“You can watch all the video you want, but it doesn’t tell you when you’ll pick up the pitch after he’s thrown it,” Seager said. “You get an idea what he does, but then he makes good pitches on you and it looks a little tougher.
“He’s as good as anyone we’ve faced all season.”
Kershaw’s fifth win of the season may not have been a huge surprise. Good pitchers do well in Safeco Field – especially, it seems, against the home team.
The loss was Seattle’s 14th in 24 home games this season. A night earlier, winning a no-hitter was made tougher by the fact the Mariners managed only one run.
This time they got three – and lost by five.
Hairston is not a great hitter, but he has been one in limited action against Vargas. Counting this game, he’s 4-for-8 against Vargas with two doubles, a home run and eight RBI.
“They made me work hard, they got some balls to fall in or get through the infield, and except for Hairston I got out of most trouble I got into,” Vargas said.
Both times Vargas hurt him, it was with two outs.
“You get that close to getting out of the inning with no runs scored, you’ve just got to execute your pitch,” Vargas said. “I didn’t.”
“Any time we seemed to threaten, he seemed to have another gear,” Wedge said. “He made real good pitches at the right times, and we couldn’t hold them.”firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLarue