SAN DIEGO – Yes, the Seattle Mariners can hit well away from Safeco Field. They are continuing to prove what has been evident all season on this road trip. But for all the runs and hits and homers the offense has produced, the Mariners have only one win to show for it in four games.
For the fourth consecutive game, Seattle received a subpar showing from its starting pitcher – this time Kevin Millwood – and simply couldn’t recover in a 9-5 loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday at Petco Park.
The Padres (25-46), who came in with the second-worst record in baseball, have defeated the Mariners (30-42) four times this season.
“Our starting pitching has been struggling a little bit on the road,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It makes it tough. You end up having to get to your bullpen earlier.”
Millwood looked nothing like the pitcher that was part of a six-pitcher no-hitter at Safeco Field two starts ago.
Instead, he looked much like Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez and Jason Vargas – the starters that preceded him this week.
Millwood lasted five innings – the last two torturous at-best – giving up eight runs (five earned) on eight hits with three walks (two intentional) and struck out three.
“The ball was up, the breaking balls weren’t good,” he said. “I just didn’t pitch good, bottom line.”
On a night when long reliever Hisashi Iwakuma was unavailable after being overused in the past two games and Wedge didn’t want to use Shawn Kelley because of overuse too, Millwood “wore it” for the Mariners’ bullpen, pitching the fifth inning even though he clearly didn’t have anything left.
“We were hoping Kevin could get through it,” Wedge said. “It’s tough to go get somebody in the fourth inning.”
It’s really tough when Wedge had to do it the past two games in Arizona – both times going to Iwakuma out of the pen.
“If we would have pitched Iwakuma, that would have been three out of four days,” Wedge said. “We are still building him up in that role in regards to his frequency of use. We have to be respectful.”
The Mariners gave Millwood an early 4-0 lead, while showing some power in a park where most teams struggle to do so.
Ichiro Suzuki opened the game by reaching on an error. Franklin Gutierrez, who homered in his previous at-bat Wednesday in Arizona, crushed a 1-1 pitch off Clayton Richard into the left field stands to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead. It was the first of four hits on the night for Gutierrez.
“I lost a lot of playing time, and I told you before, it’s going to take awhile to get back in time,” he said. “Right now, I’m seeing the ball a little better. I’m trying to put a good swing, trying to be calm at the plate. It seems like it’s working right now. Just trying to concentrate every at-bat and do my job.”
Seattle pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second inning as Miguel Olivo led off the inning with a solo homer to left. And the Mariners weren’t done. They added another run in the third when Ichiro scored on Justin Smoak’s sacrifice fly to center.
But the lead didn’t last.
An error by Kyle Seager to start the bottom of the third inning led to a pair of unearned runs. Then the start fell apart completely for Millwood in the fourth. He hit Yonder Alonso to start the inning, allowed a single to Logan Forsythe and gave up an RBI double to light-hitting Everth Cabrera.
Millwood (3-6) battled back to strike out Nick Hundley, bringing up what should have been a sure out in Richard.
Instead, it was one of the hardest hit balls Millwood gave up. Richard turned on a pitch and ripped it down the right field line to score a pair of runs.
“That’s no fun,” Millwood said. “But you tip your hat. He did what he needed to do.”
The landslide continued as Millwood gave up another RBI single, Seager booted another ball at third to keep the inning alive and the Padres added a sacrifice fly. When Millwood finally got Carlos Quentin to ground out to end the inning, the Padres had sent nine hitters to the plate and scored five runs, taking a 7-4 lead.
“Kevin was up in the zone,” Wedge said. “When he’s at his best, he’s down and makes hitters dig the baseball out. He just wasn’t able to do that consistently tonight.”
Millwood came back for the fifth after the Mariners added a run in the top of the inning. With two outs and a runner on second, he intentionally walked Hundley to get to Richard. The move backfired. Richard dumped a single into center to score a run and push the lead to 8-5.
Giving up two hits and three RBI to the opposing pitcher isn’t exactly helpful in winning.
“Yeah, it’s not something that happens very often,” Wedge said. “(Richard) got a couple of knocks that hurt us tonight. Obviously, those are the guys – the pitchers – that you want up in that situation, but he really hurt us tonight.”
The Mariners were done. The early offense never returned.
After the early burst of offense, Richard (5-7) stymied Seattle hitters for the next 32/3 innings allowing just one run. He threw 62/3 innings in all, allowing three earned runs, while walking three and striking out six. He was also 2-for-2 with three RBI and a run scored.
San Diego tacked on an insurance run in the eighth.
Seattle had its chances against the Padres bullpen. But the Mariners stranded two runners in the seventh and the ninth.
“We were still in the ball game,” Wedge said. “We just weren’t able to generate anything offensively late. We were able to create some situations for ourselves, but we didn’t get that big two out hit.”
Gutierrez and Ichiro accounted for seven of the Mariners nine hits in the firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish