There were only a couple of ways for Seattle Mariners fans to view their team’s 2-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday – and neither was favorable.
The first was to wonder how in the world a major league team, even one as offensively challenged as the Mariners, could lose a game in which it allowed only two hits?
And the second: Of what value is Ichiro Suzuki to a franchise clearly building around a young foundation?
To make it clear, Ichiro wasn’t alone in losing this game. His fifth-inning single pushed a mini-hitting streak to eight games and was one of the four hits Seattle managed.
“I’m not very pleased right now,” manager Eric Wedge said, “but we’ll keep sending them out there. There’s not a lot we can do to shake it up. The guys up here need to figure it out – here.”
The Athletics, who might be a little further along in the development process, took two of three games – by scoring a total of five runs.
“Good teams find a way to win low-scoring games,” said Oakland manager Bob Melvin, who managed the Mariners from 2003-2004. “You let the pitching take over in the low-scoring games. To come out with two wins?
“You can’t be upset with that at all.”
Well, the Mariners certainly could be.
“Inconsistency,” Justin Smoak said quietly. “You can’t do it one day, not the next. Not at this level.”
John Jaso, who homered and had two of the Mariners’ four hits, balked at the inference that Seattle is a different team at home than it has been on the road.
“This is a pitcher’s park,” he said of Safeco Field. “How many runs did the A’s score in this series? Not many. Teams don’t come in here and see their run production jump.
“You have to play differently here. You have to be aggressive on the bases – challenge an outfielder’s arm, take a base on a pitch in the dirt. The two-run home run isn’t going to be there as often in this park.”
Asked about his success in the game, Jaso said it was in his approach.
“The first pitch I saw from (Jarrod) Parker was a fastball in the right spot, and I jumped on it,” he said of his second-inning home run. “Being aggressive on that pitch paid off. Sometimes, being aggressive can eat you up. The key is to swing at what I feel I have the best chance to be productive with.”
Which brought the game back to Ichiro.
The Mariners squandered a point-blank shot at seizing control of the game when Oakland’s Parker inexplicably walked Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan with two outs in the second inning.
Jaso had already homered. Ichiro came to the plate with the chance to give his team the lead with a single.
Icihro struck out, swinging wildly at a high fastball.
“Our kids have to make adjustments,” Wedge said. “Our veterans have to do more.”
Veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood left a game tied at 1-all in the third inning, when the right groin muscle that he strained on June 8 tightened up on him again.
Seattle’s pitching held, though, with Hisashi Iwakuma, Lucas Luetge and Brandon League stopping Oakland on one hit over the final 6 innings. That one hit?
A Yoenis Cespedes home run off Iwakuma in the seventh inning.
In the eighth inning, Kyle Seager doubled with one out, but neither Jesus Montero nor Michael Saunders could push him home. That took the game to the ninth.
With closer Ryan Cook pitching for the Athletics, the Mariners got a huge break when Smoak’s hard ground ball went through the legs of third baseman Brandon Inge.
With two outs, Cook hit the No. 9 batter in the Mariners’ lineup, shortstop Ryan, who is batting .180.
And there it was. Two men on, two outs, Ichiro at the plate.
Cook threw four pitches. Ichiro swung at and missed three of them.
Even Ichiro’s fifth-inning single with one out felt empty. On first base in a tie game, he had the green light to run if he wanted. Ichiro didn’t. Not with one out. Not with two.
At 38, Ichiro is the most senior of the Mariners. At $18 million this season, he is their highest-paid position player. After batting a career-low .271 a year ago, he’s at .276 today.
After games like this – Seattle’s 45th loss of the year – it’s not hard to ask what Ichiro’s value is to a last-place firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLaRue